In moments of early morning half-consciousness, well before I need to wake, I notice the lead weight of reality sitting on my chest. Reflexive panic surges down through my arms and legs, my head contorts uncomfortably, while I struggle to summon the strength to get out from under the dreaded, briefly unidentified load. I want to continue sleeping, to delay the sorrow and emptiness that I know, with sickening familiarity, will come, and stay all day. I squirm, attempting to salvage space for air to enter my deflated lungs. I will the weight to please, please slide off, please leave me be. But it is already too late. I am awake. The shock of it has already worn off. The weight will not move. I remember that it is permanently affixed, fitted precisely to my form, around my chest and neck, over my shoulders. Fused where clasps might have allowed me to loosen or remove it. I will need to carry it all day. Again. Always.
Yes, you remember. Zachary is dead. He was here. He had his health for just one week. No one listened to you when you saw the symptoms, when you knew something was wrong. He tried to show you, to show them, that he was hurting. They thought you were over-reacting, his symptoms explained away. You left him that night when you should have stayed. He was suffering. He needed you and you couldn't help him. He suffered more in those last six and 1/2 days than you have in your entire life. You allowed them to remove his life support. He is dead. Your beloved baby boy is dead. You have two dead sons.
For me, there is something particularly awful about coming to full consciousness each morning. I'm forced to realize, over and over again, that Zachary is gone, that I will face this, and all future days, without him. Sometimes I allow C.T.'s alive-ness into my heart, his Good morning, mama, to bring me a smile. B tells me I'm so sorry each morning, reminding me that he is in this with me, that he feels Zachary's absence, this grief, as tangibly and painfully as I do. I wish that B and C.T.'s presence could lighten the weight of this leaden grief load. That our love for each other, our willingness to carry it , together as a unit, would help. But I know it doesn't work like that. The three of us have our own, individual grief. And despite the bits of light and happiness B and C.T. bring me, they will not, and shouldn't be expected to, lessen my grief over Zachary's death. The loss of my son is not something to be lessened, ignored, masked or medicated, if I can avoid it. I have to learn to live with it.
So, every morning, I begrudgingly surrender to the lead weight on my chest. I haven't adapted to how unbalanced it makes me, to what it restricts me from doing and being, to how exhausted I become because of it, to how unnoticeable it seems to be (to others) despite it's crushing weight. It is much heavier than the weight I carried when I had only one dead son, although I can hardly remember, even tolerate, thinking of myself in that state. (It's strange and disturbing to be pining for the days when my burden was the death of just one of my children.) Maybe one day in my future - truly, I wonder when - the weight of my new reality, without Zachary, won't shock, horrify and debilitate me with each new morning.