Sunday, March 15, 2015

Wrestling with Time

From the day of Noah's suicide almost 2 years ago, time was frozen in shock. It, and we, stayed suspended in disbelief for months. One ruined day or night dissolved into the next. Calendars with future dates, pointless except for memorials; prior dates, precious because Noah was still alive. We hated time, so desperately did we want to wrench it back. The ordinary time we took for granted we would always have with our son, snatched away. How could we possibly move forward?

Time hangs like a hammer, says essence in her moving grief song, “Shape of You .” 
Will it ever, ever be/Time for time to pass?

Grief is supposed to get easier with time and mostly, it has. I feel less buffeted and bereft, with shorter crying spells. My husband and I can usually function in the world, find things to enjoy, no longer see everything through the lens of loss. I can even choose, sometimes, when and how I will mourn rather than being overcome—though I cringe to say such a weird thing. Last night, for instance, I thought of looking through a box of memorabilia, but I felt tired and watched TV instead.

Before the first anniversary of Noah’s death last year, we were re-living the trauma of his decline, his last days at home, finding him dead. If my husband had taken a final hike with Noah on March 5, he was thinking of that on March 5. If my last conversation with him was a Monday, I was ruing that day as the clock ticked down. This second year, the dates are less haunting or triggering.

Still, the other day, when I saw a sign with instructions for CPR, I flashed on the neighbor who rushed to help when I found Noah in the garage. Things could have been even worse without him there, I tell my husband. We go over each moment in that fateful day’s events, weeping at the kitchen table. I wish you didn’t have to be the one to find him, my husband says, twice. It’s nobody’s fault, I say. Except Noah’s. (And not his fault either, if he was ill.)

I want to compile all our photos and videos of Noah in one place, to know they are safe and accessible. What’s the rush? says my husband. He isn’t ready to archive his son. He wants to keep stumbling on stray photos and emails. There's a lifetime ahead of us to mourn and remember Noah. If we do it all now, what will be left?

But if we wait, what will be left? Already, so much has happened without him. The young people in his world have moved on with their lives while he stays forever 21. His untimely death hijacked time, held back the waters for a long, ghastly moment like some parting of the sea. But eventually, the waters close again around his absence, filling it with the onward rush of life. We want to remember, to hold on, to feel the presence of our lost ones, but the traces of them dwindle, crowded out by the present. At least, that’s how it’s been for me as the years go by after a loss. With time, there’s simply less room for the dead in our lives, less occasion to think of them and cry for them. That may be natural. I just can’t bear to think it will happen with Noah.

More experienced survivors would say that with time, we find a new place for the person in our hearts that merges with who we have become since losing them. But right now it feels like another layer of loss: The same time that heals also carries us further away from our loved one--and our love.

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