I spent most of the weekend alone, which was needed. I needed to think through some things and paint and read and linger over feelings that came up… Again.
When you lose someone the way that we lost Isaac, you wonder if every single day lead to that last one. I look into his eyes in baby pictures– was it there? Was it always there? Was it inevitable? Or preventable?
I want to remember him as he was, right up until the end. I don’t want the story to distort from the sweet funny happy boy I knew and loved. But it is hard not to look harder at times that were challenging and try to see if I missed something. I am always trying to put this puzzle together. And I am always missing a crucial piece or several.
Life isn’t perfect for/with anyone. Isaac was no exception, but he was so much more than a boy who took his life. I am saying this for myself more than anything. I sometimes draw myself and my life and my parenting into a corner with the limitations of black and white thinking. There’s not a lot of room in there, when I’m in that space.
And yet, I cannot help but think of key moments, near the end, where I may have dismissed his behavior– and if I hadn’t, perhaps he would still be here.
He had turned 18 and he was so worried I would have a hard time letting him go. I was foolishly pretending I was ok with it, after a long hard cry where I held onto him for dear life. I needed him to know that I would begin to try to let go– for him– but I also wanted him to know that it was not going to be easy, and why. I needed him to know he would not be easy to get over, that he was adored, that he was my favoritest human being ever, that my pride and astonishment over who he had chosen to become brought me to my knees in prayers of gratitude, again and again. I needed him to know that nothing I had done or would ever do would be as amazing and wonderful and fun and important as being his caretaker, companion, buoy, guide, teacher, student & mama. That it was a thrill and a privilege and that I never wanted it to end & that I never tired of him and I tire of most.
He said “ok mama, I get it, but do you get it?”
And I didn’t. Because how could it not continue to be us, he and I, against the universe, as it had always been? I couldn’t fathom it. But for him, I would try. And for him, I would pretend it didn’t hurt.
And so, when unusual bouts of frustration occurred for him, I, in my cool as a cucumberness, did not say “Relli, what’s up? You’re not yourself”. I’m not even sure I thought that, so in character for this new role of aloof mama, was I. So studious. Not detached– still hanging on for dear life but trying not to be noticed and annoying. Trying to give space. Trying to be respectful of his need to not be smothered. Trying to stay funny and relevant, and show healthy boundaries and lessen codependence and build him up and remind him of his unlimited options and trying to show him how to take some of the pressure off.
Ya know, parenting a normal late teen young man, who I still called Puppy. Who made my eyes water with each swell of pride and joy he brought to every single day. Who wasn’t trying to hurt my feelings but was just trying to be his own idea of a man.
Over and over I wonder if he was suicidal and hiding it. And over and over I think No Way. And then I think Maybe. And then No Way. And then Maybe….
And then, I recycle all my thinks…. Obviously he was!!!
But when, when did it start? When did it become an option? When did my boy, the boy I raised, the boy who I wouldn’t even allow to play with a squirt gun when he was small, the boy who wasn’t interested in hunting with his Daddy or his Paco, when the fuck did this boy think, I am done with this life, I am certain, so certain I will use a gun I know nothing about, and I will stop living today. When? When did this show up on his radar? How?
How is it possible? I see him like I’m watching a slideshow. I pause at each snapshot, trying to remember each moment, so much tenderness, so much laughter, so much bliss, so much life. I get lost watching, caught up in the joy, there again, and then I remember that he isn’t here. That he chose to leave. Or that he felt he had no other choice. And fuck if that doesn’t sting. And burn. And maim. I am injured. I am wounded, from this, but not simply for my missing of that beautiful boy– which is enough, is awful enough all on its own. But worse, worse than my own ache, is the agony he must have felt– the hopelessness, the fear, the darkness, the aloneness. My boy– my child, my heart. That I could not save him or fix him or help him– that he didn’t think I could, that I didn’t. That this was an option for him. That boy who hung the moon. Sometimes it just eats me alive.
And yet, amazingly, I also continue to experience pockets of time filled with wonder and awe and love and hope and joy. I continue to worry over stupid things, occasionally, which makes me feel like a normal person, (sorry not sorry). I find myself slowly becoming more comfortable with the potential for planning ahead– on my terms and very very slow, but progress nonetheless. I laugh with my husband long and deep and real laughter. I weep for & with others, numbness no longer my dominant state. I am amazed every single moment that I am still alive. It is truly miraculous on every level! Survival is mesmerizing.
Isaac’s birth and life taught me how to love unconditionally.
Isaac’s death is teaching me how to be grateful and how to surrender, but also it is showing me first hand the secret of life; the secret that everyone knows but ignores or cannot fathom; it ends. This all ends!
Somedays I think that I could cry forever. That I could die from crying, from longing, from fear.
And other days, mercifully, I breathe deep into my knowing bones and am blessed to truly LIVE another day fully and with wild abandon, for my own self and for Isaac. And on those days the knowing is still with me, the questions are still with me, the memories are still with me. But I feel my spirit, so strong, infused with the love Isaac and I share(d), the love that surrounds me, the love of my creator, the fire in my belly, the will to live. The hope to thrive.
And I carry on.
One day, one breath at a time.
If you’re going through hell, keep on going.
If you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.
Cliches become mantras when shit hits the fan.
Can’t stop won’t stop–
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