i’ve never said it aloud, so it comes out halting, lurching from me the way old ketchup blobbed from the glass bottles of my childhood.

i don’t know where i think they are, our sons, their souls. i look for Finn, now, but i can sometimes barely feel him, like the connection is weak or i just don’t know how and i feel so…so…discombobulated. like if all i ever get of him is his spirit, some sense of him, that’s okay, it’s okay with me, i can accept that, now…but i don’t. i don’t feel him. and i worry that he’s alone, a baby needing his mother, and i can’t find him.

blurp. or maybe it didn’t come out like that; the words were different, but the shame and the emptiness squeaked out all the same, the wall that unbelief and grief and healing built exposed, me naked for a moment.

she lifted her blond head in the dark room and said whenever i think of him i assume it’s him speaking to me.

and the wall crumpled.

i’ve spent a lot of my life constructing and cobbling together my own coping mechanisms, my own metaphysic, my own personal Jesus or lack thereof. i’m okay with cherry picking a particular piece of comfort to steep with my cynicism, have no qualms actively trying to construct a view of death that involves no angels nor meant-to-bes, but does not entirely cut me off, either, from the child who was my firstborn. i want to believe…but i’m fussy.

and while i’m not sure i will ever be wholly sure in the conviction that every time Finn crosses my mind some part of him stronger than his body has reached out to me…the notion itself will help me nonetheless. allow me to continue to heal without clinging to the immediacy of grief in favour of that bleak nothingness that threatens to swallow all the love i still have for my child. the notion gives me a way to offer tenderness to the idea of him, to reach back. if there truly is nothing there, then i will spend long moments of my life in a dance with myself, i suppose, smiling into the ether, blinking full at heart at unfeeling molecules of air. and when the end comes, i’ll smile ruefully, staring at the worms. but without regret. because that fostering of love will have made me better.

thank you, Kate…for planting that seed. i don’t know if anyone else could have.
she blew in on a Remembrance Day rainstorm, with a sleeping bundle in his carseat and a flurry of brightly coloured cottons, all stripes and patterns and imprints and smiles…graceful, she is; poised and frank at the same time, at ease and funny and generous and searching. sweet, and with the tears still fresh on her. aptly named.

i couldn’t believe she actually came.

i couldn’t believe she hadn’t been here all along.

she came bearing presents for Oscar, generous with funky leggings and a metal Neville engine that marks the beginnings of The Train Age, and he was appropriately taken with her but smitten, i think, totally and wholeheartedly with wee Ben. beautiful Ben, who smiles more directly and with more joy than any baby i’ve ever seen. bright Ben, who started life even smaller than Finn did…who has come so far. twelve pound Ben, who slept snuffling in my arms for hours on the couch while his mother and i sat up talking, reminding my numb forearms of all that i hope is ahead for us again and making me think how lovely it’ll be. Oscar thought Ben was a doll come to life, and even though my boy spent the morning cranky and enamoured of his new high-pitched scream, he still touched the baby ever so gently with his big toddler mitts, still looked for him long after they’d left, wandering the house with a plaintive “baybay? baybay?”

Oscar & Ben

Ben smiling

O&Bthey were beautiful together, our boys.

and somewhere in the long trail of conversation that got started at a comfortable, solicitous pace and tumbled out of us late into the night, the happy and the sorrowful and the bloggy and the gossipy and the motherly, all easy, i realized why this very first meeting with someone whose gift as a wordsmith awes me was so oddly natural: there was nothing we had to say that frightened each other. no space either had to back away from as too sad, or as shocking, or too weighty for the fragility of a conversation between tentative new friends. i do not know anyone else, in real life, who has lost a child, held him while he died, leastways not in the same hospital, both boys born months before a shared due date two years apart. that in itself…that would probably be enough for communion, for the sense of sisterhood that crept over me like an old forgotten remnant, a familiar garment left behind after college nights spent cultivating closenesses and bonds that time and living have not entirely frayed, but mostly.

but it was also that the stories were already unfolded. that i knew the outlines of them from posts i clicked through to frantically in May and June, sometimes with tears in my eyes, that i read now for pleasure or a laugh or just the taste of good writing when the work day grows dull and blurry. i knew this person already. i have never met a fellow blogger, either, before now. and i think our plans for these constructs of ours, these private public spaces for our own souls to get worked into words and therefore some kind of reality, took up nearly as much of our conversation as did our children, and our griefs, and our partners, and our lives.

i forgot to ask her a lot of things i wanted to know, though. she will have to come back. or we will go to her.

soon, i hope.

Kate Bon Ben