I lie still in bed worn down after another day of rebuilding my family. And redefining me. Our dynasty has crumbled and the foundation is cracked. Most days I spend in the rubble trying to figure out what of the old household is still usable and what is not. Some moments are more labour intensive than others. This is one of those days. The sheer exhaustion of each choice and decision made washes over me. The desire to be in a place where I never have to choose anything again beckons.
Ironically I reach for the pillow on Colin’s side of the bed and breathe deep as I embrace it. Though I use some restraint as I am a little scared to smell all the scent out of it. I should probably be more fearful of the fact that it hasn’t been washed in a year and a half, but it is the only thing left that has his aroma. So I am careful to ration my time with it and make sure I don’t wet it with tears too often.
And this is just one of the things around our residence that is out of place yet still at home. Colin’s deodorant in the medicine cabinet. Madeline’s running shoes at the back door. The recorded Calgary Flames game on my PVR. Her bottle brush by the kitchen sink. His Bible next to the seat by the fire.
And I’ve begun to ask myself, “When is it time to put these things away?” Will I be able to recognize it on my own or will I need prompting? How do these things fit into our future? I also wonder if this is good and healthy or maybe it is just stalling my progress through this minefield. Do you just wake up one morning and decide that today is the day to wash your bedding?
It is hard for me to understand how things change between those two moments. Does something have to go from treasure to trash? Could there be a middle ground and then what would that even look like?
Normally I am resistant to change, but there grows this restlessness in my heart. All this monotonous work at ground zero has grown tiresome. And I’m caught between wanting to burn everything to the ground and start again, or run away to a place where nothing is familiar. I’m certain that neither extreme would be a permanent or wise solution so I’m left sifting through all the broken things.
I still lie waiting for a clearer picture or peace to make a move.
For now the pillowcase stays dirty.
I never believed that I would be here.
I never imagined feeling so forsaken.
I never considered being a struggling single mom.
I never thought I would be envious of an entire family dying in a car crash.
I never presumed I could be motivated to take an online quiz about alcoholism.
I never guessed friends would check in to make sure that I wasn’t having thoughts of harming myself.
This is not a plea for help. Just a window into the depths of the darkness that this grief has on me. It’s grip is so powerful, even at my strongest I cannot resist. The fight is dogged and ruthless. As I am engulfed farther into the great abyss I feel as if I am drowning in darkness. I reach for an edge or a reserve, but there is nothing. My screams are silent and my tears are dust. The sting and anguish are harsh and yet they are not enough to keep me focussed and alert. A numbness sets in and the fatigue takes over.
I know the light is there I just can’t see it. I can’t even sense it. But my soul is confident in its existence and so I stop struggling and I wait for it to break through.
I never imagined looking into the face of a person who killed half my family.
And I never would have thought in that moment I could feel compassion.
“Remember how in Disneyland they said dreams come true?” Said Benjamin.
“Ya.” Replied Emmett.
“Well it’s not true. I think they just said that to make things seem more fun. I know MY dreams don’t come true.”
This comes after weeks of daily heartbreaking revelations of his loss and a constant flood of tears from all of us. Of course the practical and realistic side of me is proud of my five year old’s deep grasp of life. Amazed that one so young can understand that just because it sounds nice doesn’t mean that it is always true. And as much as we may want to believe something, that won’t change the fact that they may just be flippant words.
And when I refer to my ‘Practical and Realistic side’ it is probably a bit misleading. It is not so much a side as it is the front and back, top and bottom, in and out of who I am. I probably have a few toes open for optimism and fantasy.
Because of those toes a part of me feels like this is where I should step in and try to rekindle the magic. Convince him that he should keep dreaming big. But I don’t do fantasy very well. Imagination and make-believe I get, and I love to watch my boys play in their own pretend world. But the line between real and made-up is very clear for me. When my boys asked me a few years back if Santa was real, I didn’t say a thing but just from the look on my face Emmett immediately commented, “He’s not is he.” Which officially made me ‘destroyer of children’s dreams’. A crusty, old-soul from the school of hard knocks. But at this point I honestly do not have it in me to advocate for something that I don’t believe. And I know it sounds heartless and barbaric, it makes me feel heartless and barbaric, it is just who I am.
Though I know it isn’t just pessimism. For my boys especially, I believe it ranks closer to self preservation. Most children need a fair amount of convincing to see the importance of wearing seat belts, practicing fire safety, or that people you love can die. But in our home the worst case scenario is a constant reality. The fact that life can hand you lemons is something we have tasted. So living in that space which promises happiness and fulfillment is scarier than facing the reality that dreams don’t always come true. And that isn’t something that I think I can undo or a life lesson to be unlearned. They are past the point of being conned; they have seen the man behind the curtain. This devastating truth is reality and instead of trying to trick them back to their naïveté and innocence I think I might be tasked with a different calling.
The daunting job of keeping purpose and meaning when your dreams don’t come true. Because if life were only about being happy and fulfilled we would have no reason to continue plugging away. We would have an acceptable excuse to pack it in and quit this journey. So I need to model and teach things like resilience, perseverance, grace, and dependency. And all of these traits in the face of disappointment and failure, devastation and heart break. Affirming in them now that it isn’t all about them might be the best thing I can encourage.