By Melissa Van Wey
Fumbling in the dark to reach the bathroom sink at 6AM is always a relentless task. Forcing myself out from under the warmth of my perfectly worn duvet, in combination with the 61lbs of body heat that Lola provides when she isn’t accidentally pawing at my face or whacking me with her tail, is always the most jarring part of my day. That is of course, only until I reach the bathroom light switch and catch a glimpse of my mascara-stained cheeks from the night before.
That’s even more jarring.
That first glimpse, followed by the initial remembering of the few hours before when my son’s absence suffocated me into my own feather pillow still throws me a little off balance before I’ve successfully turned the faucet far enough left to create an early morning steam. Life’s funny like that.
14 months post war, and sometimes I forget what that initial battleground felt like. I’ve found myself settled into this new life of mine, without my boy, almost too easily. Or at least that’s how it feels somedays.
But then I see those black-stained lashes of mine staring back at me through the fog building on the mirror, and I’m taken back.
Back to the first few days of life, after my son’s heart stopped beating without reason. Back to the hours when I watched everyone around me moving at a frenzied pace, while I sat in a haze with my eyes bigger than the gaping hole in my now ever-bleeding heart. Those were the minutes when I fantasized about how quickly I could get my own heart to stop beating, too. The seconds of contemplation between staying to see what this new life would be like, and leaving to get back to the one I created for myself. The life that I chose, that I wanted. Not this one that I was given. Even that sounds too polite. It definitely wasn’t handed to me with a perfectly packaged bow. No, it’s the life that was shoved down my throat, when all I was wanting to do was breathe him in, even if for just one minute more.
But here I am, 30 minutes later, face freshly washed and my hair pulled loosely into a bun atop the nape of my neck.
Here; alive, even when I never dreamed of living more than a minute past the death of my 2-week-old son.
Here; newly coated lashes, highlighter grazing my cheekbones. A new coat of lipstick after the Crest is put away. Looking in that same mirror, I am here and I am alive.
That’s what I know with the confirmation of each pounding heart beat and sharp inhale that occurs when I see another pregnancy announcement show up on my morning newsfeed.
Alive. It’s what I feel when I remember that each new day means I’ve earned another chance to make a difference in this world. Another day to live for my son and his legacy, since he is no longer here to do so. Physically, that is, because he is still very much here and alive in my life, every single day.
I feel him in the warmth of the new sun that is ushering out the cold Kansas winter, reminding me of the eternal warmth he feels under the ever burning sun of the Florida baby garden where he now resides. I feel his energy wash over me when I’m faced with the uncharted territory that is a child his age, perched in the front half of a grocery cart, chubby little legs spilling out of designated slots as I’m picking up freshly cut hydrangeas from the local grocery store.
That energy that he is now gives me hope. The glow of a rainbow and the little black bird outside my bedroom window with the same old song have made me hopeful. His life, those 16 glorious days, have given me a hope that I will carry with every breath I take. That hope has become my saving grace. It has also spurred me to make sure I share that hope, and even more, kindness wherever I go.
Now, instead of feeling more anger or sadness when I meet another mother who had to give their child back to the universe entirely too soon, I only feel every incredible ounce of the love that oozes out of her soul, and that feeling helps feed my own soul. When I see her take her own battered wings and loan them out to someone who needs them more in that moment– that gives me hope.
I’ve been blessed with an entire village of women that loaned their wings to me last January when my son gained his. Women who had been, and were still, in the depths of the insurmountable grief that child loss is. Women that held me up and carried me through the first year of my new life without my boy.
But there is hope in this new life of ours, even when we can’t see it through the tear-stained focus of our new blurry vision. The strength that we see in ourselves every day after we’ve said our forever goodbyes is a testament to that. And even if there are still some days when if we could we’d wish it all away, our constant heartbeat and uneven breathing reminds us that we are still very much alive.
Melissa Van Wey is a single mama to one little boy who now lives in Heaven, and a pitbull rescue Lola, who ended up rescuing her. She blog about my experience as a bereaved mother and still finding joy in life after loss on LosingKamrenGrey.com.