Mon 5 Mar 2007
“… joy and sorrow are inseparable. . . together they come.
when one sits alone with you . . . remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.”
– Kahlil Gibran
maybe it’s the lack of sugar in my system, or a February thing that’s held on like a bad cold, but i have a lot of sad these days.
i don’t especially mind it…it’s not unfamiliar, or unwelcome, even…it’s just not very social, this sad i have. sorrow takes up space. it has lodged itself under my skin, like sweat…and i am contained within it, afloat on my own private sea. it is almost all the companionship i can handle.
i think O can feel it, and that makes me feel bad. but sad has always made me feel bad, i realize. i fear to disappoint. i fear i might cause some discomfort, or unleash some judgement, if i acknowledge my pain or my confusion. it sounds funny – laughable – when i write it out like that. but i do. i was raised to pull myself together, to put on a happy face, to exorcise demons and win. anything less would be vaguely shameful. sadness is an affront to propriety.
but i am sick to fucking death of propriety.
it was only when Finn died that i realized what a desperately uncomfortable weight sadness is in our society. i came home from three weeks in the narrow confines of a hospital ward to a house we’d never slept in, a house we’d only gained possession of the morning i’d gone into too-early labour, a house we’d bought for our new family, for our baby. we came home without that baby. i’d lost my job, because of the indeterminate nature of the bedrest i’d been on to try to keep him in. it all seemed like a bad, bleak joke. it was the week before Mother’s Day. i was unmoored, and very nearly unhinged. the sea of my sadness had no shores…and i very much just wanted to drown.
Finn had held our fingers in his tiny hands, and squeezed. i’d held him for the last hour of his life, touching him, trying to comfort him, memorize him. he’d filled me with wonder, and joy, and a defiant pride.
the evening after he died, my first day out of a hospital bed in nineteen days, i stood in the brambles on the bank of the Halifax Arm at the old Dingle tower, and said into the wind, “i had a son. his name was Finn.” i needed to say it aloud. i was afraid of anyone, even Dave ten feet away, hearing me. but i needed to speak that child’s existence, to sing his birth, to call him my son. so i spoke to the rain and to the water because i did not know how to say it to anyone else. i didn’t know how to lay that sadness at anybody’s feet.
i am not so raw, anymore. almost two years have passed, and the wound of Finn’s death no longer gapes between me and the rest of the world, paralyzing me in the simplest of conversations. “do you have any children?” asked the lady at the paint store that first week home from Halifax in May 2005, three days before Mother’s Day, six days after i’d given birth. i stared at her, choking on the “no” and the “yes” with any answer threatening to expose me and skin me. milk streamed, useless, secret, underneath my shirt. i don’t remember what i said, but i know i hid my suffering as best i could…because i’d already blundered on enough platitudes and awkwardness and outright stupidity even at that early point in the grieving process to understand that freshly dead babies were too much for casual conversation. too much for others to handle. too sad to be simply accepted by those not grieving them, and too sad to be comforted away by the uncomfortable, nervous offerings meant to make those who’d happened upon my sorrow feel better.
it isn’t easy to just live with someone else’s sadness…to accept it, and honour it, and not try to rush it out the door so you can get back to the pleasantries of living. hell, it isn’t easy to live with one’s own. trying to learn to has been the longest journey of my life, and it is early yet.
i don’t know what place i want sadness to live in our house. i know that from the day we moved in, it has been here. i know that O will grow up with it around him, perhaps more than he should…and that makes me sad, too.
but i wonder if that worry isn’t misplaced. because in O’s innocence, his ignorance of that which is proper and socially acceptable, he has greater grace in dealing with another’s sadness than i’ve ever seen in an adult. if he sees tears on my face, he looks at me hard and reaches a hand out. he’ll lay his small fingers along my cheek for a second or two, very gravely. he says nothing…nor does he need to. he just marks the sadness. he doesn’t diminish it, or dismiss it, or trip over it, or turn away in fear of it. and then he smiles and a little of it evaporates, usually. the sea of tears grows smaller.
if Oscar can keep some of this gentle ease with sorrow as he grows…if he can learn that joy and sadness are two sides of the same coin, and not to fear his own or others’, he will be a better human being. and a rare one. perhaps this is a legacy his brother can bequeath him. if Dave and i have the courage not to hide from him. if we allow the sadness and healing to take their sweet time.