Other than poetry, I haven't written much lately. Poems are light, a way to use a few words to capture a feeling. A blog post can feel heavy, at least in the way that I tend to write. I'll talk myself in and out of writing because usually, it's the heavy stuff I want to write about. The stuff that changes me. It's easy to feel that putting these thoughts on paper is unfair--why would I drag you into the darkness with me? But, the reality is that talking about the hard shit is how we grow, it's where we find hope and become resilient together. Thank you for your unremitting willingness to take my hand in the dark, my sweet, sweet friends.
Today is Mother's Day. A day I knew would come when Arthur died this February. The first of a thousand Mother's Days that will ache and tear through his family's hearts. In some ways, though, it's just like every other day since he left, just another day that we can't stop thinking about him. Sometimes I even feel guilty for missing him so much. Arthur wasn't my son or my brother, he shares no blood with me. He's not mine to miss, especially not on Mother's Day. Every time I feel that pang of guilt, I think of May Boatwright, a fictional character from a book I read in middle school called "The Secret Life of Bees". The way I interpreted May was as a living projection of empathy, someone who carried the world's pain on her shoulders. She mourned every injustice she heard wind of as if it were her very own pain. Her character possessed an intrinsic understanding of how deeply we're all connected.
While not next of kin, I feel connected to Arthur and his family on a level I'm only growing to understand through my grief. Guileless and hopeful, children love in a way that is heartbreakingly honest and transparent. Who but a child would declare and display their love for you in public, unashamed? Children make you feel worthy and lovable in a way nobody else can; they hand you their hearts with no strings attached, and have the superpower of being able to see the goodness in your heart, clear as day. As a babysitter, I've spent countless hours with wise and winsome children whom I've fallen in unconditional, motherly love with. Over all these years, it's never once dawned on me that I could lose them. Learning that has turned my world upside down.
We all walk through life knowing that we're mortal, but we opt not to live that way. We avoid uncertainties like the plague. Instead, we like to number things and put them in boxes. We have 401ks, make five and ten-year plans, and spend most of our waking hours alone with technology. We tune out anything our bodies try to communicate to us, and simultaneously deem aging a curse. We invented clocks, cell phones, email, credit scores, and video cameras and let them take the wheel in our lives. Can you recall a day in the recent past where you didn't check the time, spend a dime, look in the mirror, or use any technology? I know I can't. Rather than be present, we numb. With alcohol, with food, with social media, with TV, with anything we can get our hands on, really.
Being present hurts. It's synonymous with being vulnerable in many ways. It means looking our parents in the face and noticing new wrinkles in their skin, all the while being thankful that each wrinkle is a sign we've been blessed with yet another year together. It means sitting at home alone in silence and letting the loneliness and uncertainty of what the future holds sink in until you find the courage to go outside, look up at the trees, and realize you already have everything you need. It is ugly, boring, beautiful, and exhilarating all at once.
My favorite writers turn experiences into metaphors. Arthur's death is far too painful and fresh a wound for that. I don't wish anyone the clarity that comes from something as staggering as the sudden loss of a child, but I do have hope that the hole this tremendous loss carved into our worlds will also serve as a space in which we can come together, wide-eyed, messy, vulnerable, and afraid, and somehow find comfort there.
To parents everywhere, in every conventional and unconventional sense of the word "parent," thank you for doing the work. For loving with everything you have, knowing all the while that there are no guarantees.
This blog post is essentially a remix of some of the knowledge I've soaked up from books, podcasts, and conversations. If what I wrote resonates with you on any level, I highly recommend you read "Tiny Beautiful Things" by Cheryl Strayed and "Becoming Wise" by Krista Tippett.
Here is one quote from an interview with poet Marie Howe in "Becoming Wise" that I can't get out of my head:
"Things are going to happen. The unendurable happens. People we love and can't live without are going to die--one day we are going to have to leave our children and die, leave the plants, and the bunnies, and the sunlight, and the rain and all that. Art holds that knowledge. All art holds the knowledge that we're both living and dying at the same time. It can hold it. And thank God it can, because nothing out in the corporate world is going to shine that back to us, but art holds it."