Monday, July 19, 2010

Ten Weeks

Another sad day. Well, let’s get real.  Every day is a sad day, of course. Our home is empty, still, quiet, strangely and uncomfortably uncluttered. The only parts of my daughter’s physical body still with me are her ashes and two locks of her hair that we cut in the hour after she died. The dog spends more of her days upstairs under the bed than downstairs with me because she can’t stand to hear me cry. Every day is sad. But some days the sadness just swallows me whole, leaving me wondering if I will ever survive this, or if I even want to. The former question can only be answered with time, and hope, on the days I am lucky enough to feel it. The latter question is always answered by recalling that Hudson loved life so much that to even think that this pain makes it not worth living is to dishonor her spirit. But that reminder is a double-edged sword, because it is also a reminder that she is not here enjoying that life—playing in the pool with her friends on the weekends, seeing her first fireworks, eating her first popsicle in the summer heat and turning her whole face cherry red around that brilliant smile.

It has been ten weeks today since I took Hudson to the ER. Ten weeks today since I last heard her utter a word (the last two things I can recall her saying were “Bye-bye” to the nurses at the pediatrician’s office that morning, and “No” when I tried to offer her something to drink or eat later that day). Ten weeks today since I last believed that no terrible things could ever happen to me again. Ten weeks. One-fifth of a year. Almost one-eighth of the time that Hudson was with us on this earth.

I don’t know what I thought it would be like at ten weeks out. I think I imagined, definitely hoped, that this would feel both more real and less raw by ten weeks. It feels neither. There are still many, many days, including today, when I still can’t bring myself to believe that I will never see her again (at least not here on earth, and beyond that, I have no idea, only a vague hope). I look at pictures of her, of us, and I just cannot fathom how life can be going on without her in it. I cannot fathom that she is not coming back. There’s no trick of imagination my mind can play on me—I can’t imagine that she is just on a business trip or out with friends and will be back soon, because she never did anything without us—but my mind is just set against the concept. My friend Ann sent me an excerpt from a recent book review in the New Yorker. Nox, by poet Ann Carson, is what Carson calls an “epitaph” to her brother, who died after being basically estranged from her for over 20 years, and it is assembled essentially in scrapbook form. The last paragraph of the book review made Ann think of me:
When Herodotus was recounting a story he didn’t fully believe, Carson notes, he wound up “with a remark like this: So much for what is said by the Egyptians.” On the next page she has pasted a typed phrase on a slip of paper, which is folded over on itself so that we must strain to make out these sentences: “I have to say what is said. I don’t have to believe it myself.” It’s a piercing summation of the mourner’s secret position: I have to say this person is dead, but I don’t have to believe it.
My secret position indeed. I have to say Hudson is dead, but I don’t have to believe it. Ten weeks later, I still don’t.

Nor does the grief feel any less raw than in the days following her death. If anything, on some days, it feels moreso. The days and weeks after Hudson died were filled with a million tasks, visits from friends, distractions of many kinds. And a protective numbness brought on by living purely on adrenalin. Ten weeks later, it is a struggle to motivate to do many things, a struggle to feel up to visiting, and distractions only work so well. Tears lurk just below the surface of every word, pain below the surface of every thought.

Ten weeks later, the rest of the world is turning at its regular pace, but our world rotates much more slowly, like we are living at the North Pole—all the times zones converge and it is just one long day or night. I have this way of thinking about time—I used to do it a lot when I was a kid, and still do it occasionally now. When I was really looking forward to something, I would think about how many more days or weeks I had to wait until the big event. Then I would count backwards in time that many days or weeks and think, “OK, great, that doesn’t seem like very long ago, so it won’t be very long until [name my favorite event.]” The last time I really remember doing this was when I was waiting for Hudson to be born. I was so ready to meet her and so burned out at work—I used this counting backwards method all the time so that I could feel better about how soon she would be here. Now, though, it works differently. I think about how many weeks it has been since Hudson died and think what she was doing that many weeks before she died and can hardly believe it. Ten weeks before she died, she was at the doctor for her 15-month checkup, impressing the pediatrician with all her words. We were still reveling in how much fun we’d had in the snow. We were looking forward to the kite festival coming up.

But even as our world keeps turning at a snail’s pace, it is turning. I still try to trick my mind into thinking differently about time. A few weeks ago, I was momentarily horrified to have counted only six weeks since Hudson died. Then I re-counted, and you can’t imagine my relief at discovering that I had counted wrong and it had actually been seven weeks. For some reason, it gave me immense comfort to know that we had survived seven weeks instead of only six—six seemed like nothing, seven seemed like something.

I don’t really know what ten weeks seems like, but here we are, I guess.

10 comments:

  1. I fear my comments lack credibility because I have not felt what it feels like to lose a child. I know they lack wisdom, too, because I have no formal training in counseling the grief-stricken and little prior experience in giving comfort. But I share your confusion and sadness over Hudson's passing and wish you better days ahead.

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  2. I saw a friend today who lost her term child at birth--nothing like what you and Ed are living through, but even now there are reminders of her little one all around her-- an angel hanging from her rearview mirror, a table in her entry with pictures and tiny handprints, another angel hanging from her daughter's backpack. I asked her right after Hudson died if there was anything at all that we could do that would make it easier for you, and she said that the only thing that would change things for you would be time-- something I'm sure you've heard a million times. I don't know how parents make it through this raw time-- I find myself crying many times a day for Hudson, and I never had a chance to meet her. I know that somewhere in the future is a time for you when there will be more good days than bad, when just breathing in and out won't be so hard. I just wish that my saying it would make it come true sooner.

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  3. We share in this grief; although you and Ed feel it more intensely because you don't get a break from it; wherever you are, there it is also; in much the same way that your love for Hudson will remain constant. Love my dear Mandy, is unrelenting. Love will overshadow the grief, and the day will come when you will breathe again. I have no idea when believing Hudson is gone will be real to any us though. Renee P.

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  4. I read this post and sat staring at the screen struggling. I wondered if others following your posts have moments like this. Moments where I know with all my soul that I can't fix this but I spend hours trying to think of something to say that will bring you just one moment of peace, one moment of comfort, one moment of joy. Just something that will remind you that you are not alone. And most of all, something that will give you hope when yours has been so shattered.

    I scrolled down and read Shawn's post and had to sigh - - knowing his fear so well.

    And what I guess we are all trying to say is that we know and we don't know. We mourn with you, cry with you, laugh with you and hope with you. We love you.

    I know I've said this to you before, but every time I read your posts I think of the Winnie the Pooh quote: "If ever there is tomorrow when we're not together…There is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we're apart…I’ll always be with you.” I wish Hudson could say this to you.

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  5. Kate Ackley ZellerJuly 19, 2010 at 4:12 PM

    Dear Mandy, I am so, so sorry. And I wish, like everyone else, I could come up with some words of comfort or hope. I continue to be amazed that you find words to articulate the pain of living without Hudson -- and that fact makes me hopeful. I’m sorry I don’t have any words. Write on. Scream on. Cry on. Like so many others, I am a witness.

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  6. Dear Mandy,
    Like everyone else, I so wish there were something I could do to bring you some peace. It is an utterly helpless feeling that I'm sure you know much better than I. I'll keep coming here and reading your words and crying with you and for you with hope that time will (eventually) bring you some peace and even joy.

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  7. Mandy, I wish I had some words to say that would somehow make today better for you. I have read and re-read this post with tears welling up in my eyes for you, Ed and sweet Hudson. None of us could possibly feel what you are feeling, but please know that so many people love you, think about you daily, and pray for you constantly. I love Winnie's quote that Sharon posted for you...Hudson is with you always...please try to find some solace in the fact that Hudson is watching over you...I have faith in my heart that you will meet again one day....and until then, I pray for brighter days for you and Ed. Love you guys.

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  8. It is important to you for you to share...but it is important to us who grieve with you for you to share. Your gift of putting into words the heart-wrenching pain you feel brings us who witness your pain the great sadness we feel at not being able to help the hurt. As someone in the grief business, your writings express so much of you and the desperation you feel, and the wished for denial that this has happened. I hope you know what impact these are having for us...Hug yourself in the love that surrounds and supports you as you try to embrace this pain and make sense of it....when there is no way it can make sense.

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  9. Dear Mandy -- It's so completely unfair in every single way. Just surviving one day at a time, one moment to the next, is an achievement. It's a mark of your strength, though, that you continue to write, and your blog is a tribute to Hudson, and to your overwhelming love for her. I can't think what to say except that I appreciate your courage in continuing to try to describe in words the overwhelming pain you feel. Your words help all of us who think of you and Ed so often every day to feel connected to you in some small way, to bear witness to the terrible unfairness of Hudson's death, and to share in your grief.

    Patricia B.

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  10. I know what you mean about the world turning slowly and in a different time setting. My world usually turns at the pace of all the rest. But throughout my day I catch glimpses of Hudson's photo, I see Cecilia playing with her One Good Thing bracelet, I read your posts, someone asks me how you are doing, I am enjoying a moment with my daughter and I think of you, and my world goes in slow motion, in a trance, and I pause and think, and cry, and close my eyes, and I feel for a split second, a fraction of what you feel, and my world is at turtle speed. We are alongside you all day and night long, Mandy and Ed, even when our worlds are going in different speeds. Hugs and love to you.

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