Friday, October 31, 2014

Meditations on Rope, Part 2

Note: This post contains description that may be disturbing for some readers.

For months, I’ve been haunted by an image of myself standing alone on a beach holding a very long rope that is flung out to sea. Out past the horizon, the rope is attached to my dead son, twined around his torso. Noah floats in his beloved ocean, still tethered to me. He needs me to let go so he can float free in his natural element. I hold on, for fear that if I let go, he’ll be lost to me forever. I hold on to be with him as mother-protector in a way that I couldn’t while his life was ebbing. If I let go, I accept that he is truly dead and gone.

Play with the rope, a therapist urges. What if you let it out? What if you reel it in again? What are your options? Extraordinary questions. I avoid thinking about them for a while.

But the rope I envision is taut; there is no coil of excess at my feet. I am at the end of my rope, as Noah was at the end of his. I am holding on for dear life. The tides tug; his body pulls. The rope he used for death I want to be a life-saver—his and mine. The rope is my hope that I can always feel close to him and love him. I wasn't the kind of mom who could easily let go when he left home, so how can I possibly let go when he left everything behind? 

You’ll let go when you’re ready, my husband soothes.

Why the rope, this horrific thing, as what binds me to Noah? Of course, I see: the rope is his death. The rope lay on the floor as I hugged Noah for the last time. It was the last thing he touched. No wonder I seized it in shock and desperation in my mind. I am holding onto the sight of his dead body, the unspeakable scene of his death, my guilt for not shielding him from his demons. It’s those things I need to let go to leave him in peace and find my own. To say goodbye to my dead, despairing son so I can begin to remember him alive and thriving. I feel lighter after saying this out loud in therapy. I've set an intention, even if it takes years to fully accept that he is gone.

The next day, I tell a story about Noah, age six, to my students as we discuss a children’s book on lost tooth customs. The going rate in our house for the tooth fairy was 50 cents. Once after losing yet another tooth, Noah left a note under his pillow: Dear tooth fairy: $2 or leave it! My students laugh. I smile a full smile, sweet, not bittersweet—at least for the moment.

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