“It’s been said that a person dies two deaths. Once when they physically leave this world, and once when their stories stop being told.” –Ellen Frankel
Ever since Isaac was born, I have told anyone who might listen, stories about him, things he said or did. So much so that people often mistook my saying “Isaac” for me saying “I” all the time and it would always make me giggle and wonder if I talked about him too much. But he was the coolest and I just could never stop marveling over that. And he was the center of my world and I could never deny that.
Since Isaac has left, I havent stopped telling those stories. “Oh Isaac liked…” and “Isaac did this too when he was 4, 10, 17”, and even at times it has not felt inappropriate to say “Isaac and I were just talking about…”, even though, officially, it has been:
- 493 days
- 42,595,200 seconds
- 709,920 minutes
- 11,832 hours
- 70 weeks and 3 days
- 1 year 4 months and 6 days
I have recently been questioning when that might naturally stop; I know myself well enough not to force it, it simply isn’t in me. And I resist the part of me that considers other peoples discomfort or awkwardness when I mention him or ask about him. “Do you remember” and “what do you think Isaac thought about…” and “Isaac would have liked/laughed/disliked this, don’t you think”.
There are things I don’t pretend to understand. These things are better left to the wordless realm of understanding that resides in the bones of my bones; formless and watery, like they might slip away if they were to be subjected to the limitations of definition. I have found that much of this story, this tragedy, this journey are quiet, internal shifts, seeking freedom from categorization. And words seem to fall shorter and shorter each day to the deep, humbling, abiding wisdom of healing.
I am living my life each day with a little more of a foothold in the earthly realm. There is a little more levity in my head and my heart. It seems to still truly require just one breath and step at a time, but is less shocking. Where his death initially felt like a free fall from a cliff, this is more like learning to walk a tightrope, I am seriously harnessed and strapped in, but I can see the net below me, far away, but there. So I am putting one toe in front of the next right now, even though I am terrified to truly re-embody, earthside, without that beautiful boy, with my faith shaken, with the ground shaky and uncertain.
My net below is my support system. I could not survive this without these bad ass muthas, let me tell you! It seems almost ridiculous that one team should have such a deep bench, but I do, and I thank God, The Source Of All That I Am, The Energy of the Universe, My Lucky Stars, and The Sky, everyday, all day, for my all-stars. You know who you are and I know how precious this is, to be allowed to be exactly who and where I am and to talk about Isaac as though he is just in the other room and not think me too crazy, and to be loved fiercely…so let me THANK YOU, each and every one. Words could never do justice to what my heart feels for the love and grace you’ve shown me.
“We must move through the pain of the rubble and find our foundation. At some point, we must explore the rubble and look under the rocks of destruction, despite how scary this may feel. We need to take in what we lost, and also to touch what remains. What needs to be cleared out, what is too unstable and unsafe to keep, and what feels like a solid step from which to begin rebuilding? Perhaps the foundation we choose to work with has many cracks, but feels like a solid place to begin. Maybe just sitting on that foundation with its cracks for a while is enough. After all, it is the cracks that let in the light. A Chassid rabbi once said, “There is nothing so whole as a broken heart.” And so now, we move forward in the task of rebuilding with the intention of honoring the past as we move toward our sacred future. A client who was grieving the death of her adult daughter once told me that friends would tell her, “You’ll get over the grief.” She told me she said to them “I will never get over the grief, but I will move through it.” She understood that her life would be forever changed, and that she wouldn’t want it any other way. When we can hold our own pain in such a way, when we can honor it and speak our truth about it, we can grow in new and unexpected ways. Rumi, the 13th Century Sufi Mystic said:
“My heart is so small, it’s almost invisible. How can You place such big sorrows in it?
“Look,” He answered, “your eyes are even smaller, yet they behold the world.”
Part of the grieving process is to find the sparks within the darkness, the treasures within the rubble, to stand on a ground that you now know has the potential to shift, and to still shout out “YES!” to the world, and to your place in it, as you carry your loved one in your broken, whole heart.” –Ellen Frankel