This afternoon a little bit of my fortress broke. To be honest I knew that the pressure had been building all week. I had been displaying a lot of my typical avoidance behaviours. Days packed from morning to night, housework and yard work done simultaneously, staying up late so that I would fall asleep as my head touched the pillow, trying not to emotionally connect to anything.
It started back months ago when I received the invitation in the mail. I immediately tucked it behind my huge stack of paperwork. Then many weeks later it resurfaced and I saw that the RSVP deadline was looming. Thinking there was no way my boys would choose anything over Football Camp I thought it was safe to leave the decision to them. When camp was passed over I consoled myself with the thought that it was still over a month away. But then this week came, all the other distractions were gone, and I was on a crash course heading straight for it.
I tried to get as much as I could between me and today. Some things were successful and some things were not; but as I drove to Calgary today I was hurdling, at least, 110 KM an hour towards this reality. And as I pulled into the parking lot of the Alberta Children’s Hospital, for the first time since last summer, walked through those front doors, passed the room where Madeline breathed her last, placed her picture with the handful of others, and heard her name read in memory; it broke.
My wall; carefully crafted, superiorly maintained, with round-the-clock guards could not handle the pressure. And through the cracks I could reach in and pull down that box. The one where I have placed all my heartbreak in losing a child. The one that in all my grief I have not felt that I could take the luxury of even sitting with. Equal parts fear and practicality have kept it inaccessible.
This afternoon at the Celebration of Life service I was able to rest a moment with the contents of that box. The pain was searing and debilitating; and yet there was beauty and healing there too. Being in a room with others who share similar losses at the end of their tragic stories. Meeting staff who were with my daughter for her last hours on this earth, and whose lives have been forever impacted by that brief encounter.
That box is safely back behind the wall, but I can still catch a glimpse of it. And now I know that when I am ready to sit with it again there is a good chance that I will survive. That’s something.