Wednesday, April 21, 2010

There Never Is a Real Farewell

For the two years I've been writing this blog it's always been spontaneous and immediate in the sense that I never wrote the posts offline and edited and polished them. I just sat down at the computer and composed them online in the Blogger window. Sometimes they were long and sometimes just a photo with a short caption or memory. A writer friend says I should call it a journal, not a blog, though the term isn't really important.

The blog evolved from something I started to remember happy times into an honest chronicle of our grief, but it also became something more. It became the story of our lives through memories of Leif. It became a memorial to him. It became a way for me to continue to show my love for him, a place to express feelings I could not say to others except through writing.

At Leif's memorial service I gave a talk I titled "Farewell to My Gentle Giant," but in the two years since then I have learned that I have not said farewell, and I probably never will. Does any mother who loses a child? How can we let them go? I thought when I reached the end of this blog I would be ready, but I am not. I am not ready to let Leif go.

What does that mean? I know he is dead. I know he is not coming back to me no matter how hard I wish for that. I know I can't live my life pining away for him or wallowing in grief. What it means to me is that I hold him in my heart. I remember him, think of him, talk about him, and yes, talk to him. That I look at his picture, my favorite one of him, and all the others, too, and remember that he LIVED. My son lived.

There will be tears. I cry less often now and the tears are less of a torrent, but they come, and I think there will always be moments of this sadness throughout my life.

But I have also learned to go on, to keep living, and to find hours of peace and even joy.

The human heart is a versatile thing, able to love and yearn, feel sadness and joy, grief, pain, and happiness all in the space of minutes, sometimes simultaneously.

I've gone over and over our photo albums, scanned and posted hundreds of pictures of Leif, thought of hundreds of memories, written about them and my feelings, but though I am running out of things to write and pictures to
post, I am not ready to let go of either Leif or the blog. The blog has become a habit, something I look forward to writing, a creative outlet for my feelings about my son and his death. It will be hard to let it go, but it is time.

A mother should not have to write such a blog. She should not have to plan her son's memorial service. She should not have to find her son's dead, cold body. She should not have to clean up his blood and brains. She should not have to look at the gun that killed him. She should not have to call the sheriff to report his death and wait outside while they investigate. She should not have to tell his brother, his grandmother, his extended family, that he is dead. She should not have to give away his clothes and sell his motorcycle. She should not have to arrange to have his car repossessed. She should not have to say goodbye forever.

All those things I did, but I will not give him up. I will not say goodbye.

I am not alone and yet grief is always solitary. There are thousands of parents who have been forced to deal with the death of a child, but even if people try to comfort them, even if they communicate their grief, it is always lonely, always set apart.

It seems as though I should say something profound at the end of this blog, but what is there to say but that I loved my son and I always will? What else really matters at the end of a chronicle like this?

Perhaps what really matters to others, to the readers, is that they remember Leif, too, and somehow deeply take in the message that when they feel they are losing hope, to must find help. Do not take your life; it is too final. It is too damaging to those you love and who love you. Your troubles will end but there will be no possibility of a new beginning. Your loved one's misery will go on for years.

So next time I write, the last few regular posts in the next few days, it will be about my son, and then I will not let HIM go, but I will stop writing here so frequently. I don't want to just repeat myself and post the same photos again, though I know the same thoughts and memories will continue to come to me. I will miss writing here. This journal has become like a friend, and although I know it doesn't really put me in contact with Leif, sometimes it feels that way. I will miss the focus on him, a time to be "with" him, even if only in my mind.

This photo of Leif was taken at Waikiki Beach wit Diamond Head in the background, in Honolulu, Hawaii, July 1980, on our stop in Hawaii during our long move from Germany to Japan. Leif was five-and-a-half years old.

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