At first, though, grief made me insane. It's true. I have been there. I am the one woman standing on the street on a Thanksgiving afternoon, screaming and pulling out my hair. That is my mother coming out the door, yelling my name. That is me, running from her, running down the beautiful street where houses wear plaques announcing how old and important they are. That is me making that sound which is both inhuman and guttural and the most human sound a person can make: the sound of grief. My hair is coming out, not in fistfuls, but in painful tangles, ripped from the root, from my scalp. That is me running, zigzagging, trying to escape what is inescapable: Grace is dead.
I have been there. At the brink of losing my mind. Unable to sleep for more than an hour or two. Unable to think of anything except what happened: how it happened, how it could have happened, why it happened. I ask my friends over and over how I could have stopped it, changed it, seen it coming. My mind only has these questions. Hospital images. My own screams echoing in it.
~ Ann Hood, from her memoir Comfort
Going on with this life makes me feel crazy. I open a desk drawer to attempt to organize the clutter and I gather up six greeting cards I have purchased over the last several years. Beautiful, unused, death-of-a-child sympathy cards I have hand selected. Good ones. Cards that acknowledge the unfathomable, the senselessness, and simply convey the only comfort there is: I am so, so very sorry. I thought I'd need them one day, to give to someone else. To a new bereaved parent. But, no. It is my child who died. Me who received the sympathy cards. Again. I throw the cards on the floor in disgust, my weeping face in my hands.
I go online to purchase C.T. some new fall clothes. The children's clothing vendors are advertising the obligatory "Best Little Bro" and "Coolest Big Brother" long sleeve T-shirts. C.T., my middle child, although he is both a little brother and a big brother, has never been able to (acceptably) wear either of these shirts. I missed the damned window. The two weeks when C.T. could have proudly worn a Big Brother shirt during Zachary's life. I roll back on the carpet, knees to my chest in shaking, suffering sobs.
We are invited to the annual block party. I don't have words to describe what a ridiculous idea it would be for us to participate in this event. Yes, it is a lovely night. Oh, right..,. we haven't seen you since last August. Yes, our son Zachary was born early in January and was doing so well. Then E.Coli killed him at two weeks old. Yes, our son died this year. No. Really, it's okay. We are ready to party. How has your year been? B disposes of the invitation before I can even see it. We collapse on the couch in disbelief, tears blinding our attempt at TV watching.
B.W.'s eighth birthday is coming up on October 1, and the anticipation and dread of this time of year must be submerged daily. Over the next month, we will purchase memorial gifts to donate in his memory on his birthday. We will write on balloons and release them. We will cry as we sing happy birthday to our firstborn, and eat his cake without him as we've done every year since he died. And then, what? I guess we will wait another three months and six days and do it all over again, but for Zachary's first birthday, and then something else for his death anniversary two weeks later. I am physically ill as I think about the reality of this. Somehow I imagined that Zachary would be with us, would be included in all of our B.W. remembrance activities throughout each future year. I feel that I may be truly insane. How is he dead? How do we now have two dead children?
I am tired of being polite. Tired of pulling myself together, tidying up and making everything appear presentable. Tired of people asking me what we've been up to, as if the wreckage of Zachary's death doesn't exist, isn't worth acknowledging anymore. Tired of reserving my tears and outbursts, my misery, for my home, in isolation. I am so tired of talking about minutia, putting on a half-smile, while my mind fixates on my very dead son, on how everything and every medical non-intervention aligned so perfectly wrong, to take him from us.
I feel like taking a bat to something, to something expensive, something deemed important. I want to collapse on the sidewalk, my soaked cheek to scrape against the concrete. I want to sit in the scalding sun, let it sear and ruin my skin. I want to scream at the next person who prays for good weather, for schedules to align, for God to bless an event. I want to throw rocks at the reckless drivers who speed down our neighborhood street. I want to wear the blanket that held Zachary as he died, around my shoulders everyday.
I think what I have been dealt is insane. I think Zachary's illness and suffering are insane. How can I be expected to pretend it is okay?