Monday, May 2, 2016
Milestones in the Parallel Universe
After each milestone, I expect an arrival of sorts, a sign. I should be in a different place after the third anniversary of Noah’s death, right? I’m further along the mourner’s path but still on that path, as if in some parallel universe. I step onto the treadmill of ordinary life for a while till I tumble off again and onto a parallel track, slower, more circuitous, with blind curves.
The tears come less often now, more a fleeting sprinkle than a drenching downpour. So, too, sadly, do thoughts and memories of Noah. I’m less preoccupied with his life and death, more preoccupied with my own. I wear my loss and my identity as a mourning mom less and less visibly. “Over time, the sadness moves from our skin into our bones,” writes Claire McCarthy, who lost a child. “It becomes less visible, but no less who we are. It changes into a wisdom, one we’d give up in a heartbeat to have our child back.”
I was teary again this weekend. It started at the communal memorial services that mark the end of Passover, when I felt my husband trembling beside me. First I held him, then he held me. This morning, I crumpled thinking of what Noah might have written in a card for his dad’s upcoming birthday. So I wasn’t surprised to learn that yesterday, May 1, 2016, was Bereaved Mother’s Day. I’m gratified that mothers who’ve lost children—mostly through miscarriage or infant death--have organized for recognition of their parallel universe of motherhood. Their efforts bring sweetness to this bittersweet time of year for mourning moms.
Spring is still full of landmines for our family. The anniversary was prolonged this year since there was a month between Noah’s secular anniversary and the yahrzeit, or personal memorial day, on the Jewish lunar calendar. In the weeks before and after the anniversary, my body signaled the date with a dull, persistent pain in the abdomen as if to say it’s always here. This has been happening like clockwork for three years with no apparent medical cause. Like it did at the beginning of this journey, the body still says no and stops ordinary time.
We hosted a Passover Seder again this year, again without our usual energy. Now it's almost my husband’s 60th birthday and he’s said no to any parties or grand gestures; “I’ve kind of forgotten how to celebrate,” he admits.
I seem to have caught my husband’s wariness of planning trips away from home; the prospect feels too complicated and exhausting. But maybe for good reason: We’re planning a celebration of Noah’s life at our home on what would have been his 25th birthday in June. One of Noah’s gifts was bringing people together. So we’re inviting his local and far-flung friends, along with family, and hope it will be a chance for people who loved Noah to meet, reunite, share memories and Noah’s favorite foods. It’s hard to see past this event to know how we’ll feel or what this milestone will mean.
Meanwhile, I’m very pleased about two milestones that coincided with the third anniversary. First, we finally started a small nonprofit foundation, the Noah Langholz Remembrance Fund, thanks to my husband’s diligence. The fund will support suicide awareness/prevention efforts, as well as organizations and activities that interested Noah and shaped his life, like international student exchange and wilderness experiences. Second, I finally completed a draft of my book about losing Noah. Now it will wend its way through comments, revisions, and publisher queries. All of us who loved Noah carry his legacy with us, but it’s largely invisible. Both the fund and the book will make Noah’s legacy visible in ways that we hope will be healing and enriching for others.