This weekend I went to a retreat. It was the same one that I attended last year (as the speaker) with Vincent tagging along. This year I didn't do anything, I just hung out, got many hugs and ate way too much chocolate. Yes, men, that is what us ladies do at retreats!! (Plus prayer, journaling, listening, and worship, can't forget those!)
When I walked into the beautiful room where we were staying (I was with a friend who's lost 3 of her children!) I had a huge flashback of walking into my room last year with Vincent.
Except he's not here anymore.
I know some bereaved parents find ways of feeling close to their deceased children. Lighting candles, going to places their child liked to frequent, keeping objects that remind them of their child near... I've done all of this, and really, nothing greatly lessens the pain of loss, nothing makes me really feel close to him.
Vincent loved the beach, loved being near the waves, loved having his bare feet sink into the sand. But when I visit the beach now, when I was there this weekend for the retreat, all I can feel is the deep hole of loss, the black feeling of permanence and overwhelming devastation. I don't feel closer to him.
But I still go to the beach, simply because Vincent loved it.
So I still try to do things Vincent loved to do, go to places he loved, snuggle in his quilt, and wear his fingerprint necklace (which I've lost again! Oh grief, how I hate what you've done to my mind!!). But doing all that merely helps me survive. I don't feel much closer to him as a result of all those actions. In fact, most days I feel far from him indeed.
Even if Vincent were to visit me here on earth for a quick hug, even if an angel were taking him for a field trip to our home, I wouldn't want him to see me in such a messy, angry, destitute state. I'm his mother, for crying out loud. I should be taking care of him, not bursting at the seams as he watches from a distance.
So somehow I need to pull myself together. (eventually!)
And on that glorious day when I do see him again I want him to be proud of me, of what I've done with his memory, of how I invested and cultivated the fruit of our grief... I watched him come into the world, grow, explore, develop, thrive, struggle for life, then slowly die. And throughout all his pain, chemo treatments and medical emergencies Vincent radiated a great presence of spirit, a great generosity of heart. He didn't give up easily. In the end he kept on fighting for eleven days without a feeding tube or IV fluids. We thought he had 48 hours. He surprised us all.
It's very humbling to live in the shadow of your child. Perhaps, like Vincent, I won't easily give up while undertaking this journey of pain. That's the best I can hope for.