Sunday, May 24, 2009

My Second Birthday and Memorial Day Without Leif

I would be fooling myself (I tried) if I didn't admit to myself that another reason for a wave of sadness right now is that today is my 62nd birthday, the second one without Leif, the second one he won't be coming through my door. And tomorrow is Memorial Day, another sad day of remembrance. I've had so many lovely birthday wishes from family and friends, and many, many from Peter W., and they are all wonderful and appreciated. They do warm my heart. But unfortunately, they can't take away the sadness, the finality of Leif's death and absence. I cried when I went to sleep in the wee hours this morning, and I cried again when I got up. It's a hard thing to admit that, especially publicly online, but I promised myself I would be honest about grief.

I have discovered that I, like everyone else I've met who has lost a loved one, particularly a child, feel compelled to try to hide or minimize those feelings in front of others. People have moved on. Their lives were not so inextricably intertwined with Leif's as mine was. Their loss is not so great. It's not just that I don't want to inflict my feelings on others and make them uncomfortable, it's also because they don't understand, don't know how to handle it, may even think it's pathological, worry about me. I know it's not abnormal. I've read enough about the process and lengthiness of grief to know this is normal for a parent who has lost a child and that only those who have experienced this can truly understand it for they, too, have gone through years before there was any real healing, and even then, the wound is only healed, not gone.

But I will "buck up." I will go on our bike ride, swim, go out to dinner and I will enjoy it and try not to think of Leif not being there.

At the post office on Friday, one of the clerks that knows I'm a writer asked me what I was writing now that would make me a million dollars and famous -- as if that would ever happen. I laughed, but then I told the truth, that the only thing I was writing was this blog about my son. He asked me why. I said, "Because that's all I can write right now. It's all that matters to me about writing." Tears came into my eyes.

He said he understood. And he does. Last year when Leif died he knew about it because of things I had to mail and told me that he and his wife lost 3 babies in 9 months, including twin boys. It's been many years for him, but he still feels the loss. He said it is "compartmentalized" now, that he escapes thinking about it at work, but it's in the quiet spaces that it haunts him. I know what he means. Work is the best therapy, being busy, but there are always those moments when the mind isn't busy or something reminds us of our losses. There are always the special days, the holidays, birthdays, that we shared or would have shared.

He said something else that I have thought of a lot, that I have memories, 33 years of them, but he had only hopes, dreams and expectations, no memories of time with his sons. He wonders what it would have been like to have sons. He will never know. Which would be worse? Like Darren said, I did have the gift of Leif for 33 years. But do I feel the loss even more because of all those memories? I think so, but if I'd lost him to a miscarriage or in infancy, would I have grieved any less? Differently perhaps.

I wrote some time ago about the silent sisterhood. It is a brotherhood, too.

The photo above is of my two precious sons by one of the giant stones at the Avebury Circle in England, a circle of stones somewhat like Stonehenge but not preserved as well. It was taken on our June 1980 trip to England, a trip sandwiched into our move from Germany to Japan.

1 comment:

  1. Do I start by saying "happy birthday"? Is there such a thing after the loss of a child? I don't know. I don't know how to start.
    I found your blog this evening when searching for Bay Pines Memorial Day Services...I wanted to go in memory of my father. He passed away 10/16/2008. I suddenly felt selfish for feeling sad about my dad. He had 73 years on this earth.
    I read a few of your posts. I'm sorry. Sorry for your pain. Sorry for your loss. I'm so sorry.
    On "Alex or Leif"...I LOVE the German pronunciation. LIFE. I thought about it as I looked at the pictures of your son. He is a beautiful man. Something stirred in my soul...
    Leif (LIFE) is Beautiful
    You named your son exactly as you should have. And his message in this life for all of us to is beautiful.

    I wrote this the other day in memory of my dad and I would like to share it with you.

    As you sit under the blue skies of summer and a gentle breeze kisses your cheek...think of me.
    And as a bumble bee buzzez sweet secrets in your ear...think of me.
    And as the warmth of the sunshine embraces you...think of me.
    In your most quiet moments. When all you hear is silence. Think of me and I will be thinking of you.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings. I pray that every day memories of Leif bring you peace and love.

    St. Pete, Fl