I watched a M*A*S*H episode the other night where Charles Emerson Winchester, the third (I really love this show) has a brush with his own mortality and is reminded of the death of his brother when he was little. He becomes obsessed with death and understanding what happens when you die; asking those around him, awkwardly so, what it is like. Of course, my mind started down the familiar path it has gone down so many times since the earth shattering moments around 2:20am August 18, 2010. It’s remained there and I can’t stop thinking about it.
Certainly it is something I will not understand in this lifetime but that’s the thing about the unexplained, it seems to beg the answer to the question so much more than the easily understood. It is this thought that has taken root again in my head, again.
What was it like?
What is it like?
In those moments of sweet release from your tiny body as it was over taken by the cancer…was the peace of your passing fractured by the screams of our torment in losing you? Are the white hot flashed of grief followed by a joyous memory orchestrated by you to help us survive? I feel you around me, a lot. It makes me happy and sad; happy because our lives are still intertwined, sad because of how they are intertwined.
I sometimes think if I could die (stick with me here people) just long enough to see you and know you were ok…to get some sense of the world you live in, it would help. But would it? Could I lose you again to ease the confusion in my own head? Certainly it wouldn’t be what my family needs. But would knowing help soften the hard edges?
It’s not just me either. Brady and I were talking one night recently at bed time, as we often do, and he turned silent. I know he’s thinking about you when he does this. What he said made my heart shatter and in an instant draw a different and sad connection with him.
“Mom, I want to die.”
(silence)…in case you forgot, Brady is 5.
“You do, huh? Why?”
His reply came in the small squeaky child’s voice, straining to speak through tears, “I want to die so I can go see Declan.”
(heart crushing sense in my chest…and a decision to make, tell the truth or pretend I don’t think the same thing?)
“You know what buddy? I do too. I’ve wanted to die and make sure he’s ok just like you.”
“Do you remember the thing about heaven we’ve talked about? Once you go, you can’t come back.”
“Yeah, I know but I miss him.” …with tear rolling down cheek
“Me too. I would miss you as much as we miss him if you died too. And you know what? I wouldn’t get to see you any more either.”
“Do you think maybe we should stay here for each other and remember how much we love Declan, and each other, everyday? Does that sound like a plan?”
I’ve debated relaying that story but since I’ve watched that episode of M*A*S*H and mulled over what it meant and brought out in me, I realize we’re each dealing with these landmines every day. What is it that makes one day/hour/minute/moment easier or harder than another? Is this how life was intended? How is it that I am talking about dying with my 5 year old to gain a sense of relief from the grief of missing Declan? Sadly, I know these feelings don’t exist in a vacuum in my home. I know they have invaded the fabric of our extended families and friends as well.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any answers. For you or for me. I struggle with these thoughts daily and imagine I will for my lifetime. I hope I operate in a vacuum of grief, hoping the pain of my grief exists only with me…not for selfish reasons but because I can’t bear the thought of knowing it resides in those around me. But I am wrong. I know by looking in their eyes that I am wrong.
If I were able to answer the question, ‘What was it like?’, would it help?