Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Leif's 39th Birthday

Thirty-nine years ago I first held Leif in my arms, a big, strong baby, who was a far more beautiful child than this picture shows . . . but I have so few of me and my baby son.

Thirty-nine years ago, this was such a happy day. Our Leif Ashley was born at Irwin Army Hospital, Fort Riley, Kansas.

How I wish he were here with us to celebrate his birthday. Every birthday since his death has been hard for me, glad to remember the joy of his coming into the world, so very hard to realize that his life ended at 33, and these birthdays do not mark another year older, do not bring a celebration, do not see him blowing out candles or opening a present. Hard to realize he will never do those things again.

This is his sixth birthday since his death. Some five years ago, I decided what I wanted to do for his birthday was to do something he would have enjoyed, in his honor, to make the day worthwhile, to seize the life we have and remember him.

And although Peter W. would prefer not to go there, as it is a sad reminder, I would like to visit Bay Pines Cemetery on Leif's birthday. I've wanted to just go there and sit and think or read, and just be.

And, I wanted time to look at photos and savor memories, remember the thirty-three years of his life, his laugh, his smile, his bear hugs, his rascally eyes.

My plans to do any of these things have mostly come to naught. Several of them have been spent taking care of my mother's medical needs. Like today; I spent a total of 12 hours either with her or taking care of things for her. Then I still had to take care of things at home. Now I'm exhausted and it's nearly midnight, and I haven't had any time to spend with my Leif.

It may sound foolish to say I want to spend time with him, but even though I know it's one-sided, even though I know he isn't there, I want to spend the time thinking of him, remembering him. It feels wrong and hurts my heart that I can't take that day "with" him . . . at least in my heart.

I'd like to wish him a Happy Birthday, though he is not here to celebrate it with me. I'd like to wish that somewhere, he is happy, though I do not really believe he is still a part of the universe in any discreet and personal sense.

I would not want my grief and the way I miss him to make him unhappy or sad. He had enough of that in his short life. I would want him to be happy, to laugh, to smile, to find the joy he lost.

Happy 39th birthday, my son.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

"Think of Me"

I tried to post on New Years Eve from my iPad but somehow, the Blogger app would not upload the post. I wanted to post something on Leif's favorite holiday. We were together with his brother, niece, nephew and sister-in-law, and it would have been so good to have him with us, too.

We came back to Florida and I was busy with my mother's medical needs after a fall, busy enough that I didn't get to try the post again for over a week . . . and then it happened.

I went to chorus rehearsal and we got our new music for the spring concert. I was delighted to see that it was all wonderful songs from Broadway musicals.

Then the director told us to take out "Think of Me" from "Phantom." I got choked up immediately. I love that song, but we had it played at Leif's memorial service, and the words will always make me think of him and how much I miss him. I attempted to sing it, but I couldn't get more than a few notes out. I finally just had to put the music in my lap and sit there dabbing at tears while my friend Chris hugged me. I simply couldn't sing.

We went on to other songs and returned to "Think of Me" at the end of rehearsal. By that time I had pulled myself together enough to sing it.

This is such a good example of how we never know how something is going to affect us, or when grief will come unexpectedly flooding back. Most of the time I can talk about Leif without crying, but I can never predict when something will trigger sadness and tears.

It's hard to realize that his birthday is coming up and he won't be here, hard to realize in April he will have been gone from us for six years. I'm still using his computers. His wallet is still here, untouched except for his military ID that I turned in. My mind knows he's gone forever. My heart will never let go.
This photo was a selfie Leif took on New Years Eve 2002.