Today marks the first day of the fifth year of grief season*. I would call it 'grief month', but when your kid dies just five weeks after their (only) birthday, all of those important anniversaries like birthday and deathday run together, and calling it 'grief season' seems a bit more accurate.
I realized it was coming last week - it is a thought then it becomes a distant flickering light and then with a pop and crackle it explodes in front of me.
I am a veteran now.
Part of the pain this year is in the number. Well, there is truthfully always pain in the numbers; the numbers represent what never was, what never will be. Each birthday becomes the number of years he has been gone plus one, the age he was when he left us. Each birthday is a reminder of the age he will always be; a widening gap and stark contrast to the age he should be.
There is fear in that number - a fear it is so far away - it makes Elijah farther away too. There is fear in saying that number aloud. Fear in the anticipation of how it will be received. Fear that you will expect too much from me, fear that you will quietly judge me: the mother who still grieves her child so deeply. Five years later.
Five years later and still so much is ragged and torn since he left. Five years later and the wound returns to be examined and the edges painfully lifted. Peeking into the same swirling abyss, searching each year for some previously unrevealed meaning. Something to make sense out of it. Still searching.
How does one make sense out of death? How does one ever make sense out of connecting the following thoughts: Oh shit that bronchodilator treatment didn't work...Oh that sound he is making isn't good....We need to get him to the ER, call the pediatrician....OH MY GOD HE IS NOT BREATHING.
Sure, I got rid of the living room rug upon which I administered CPR to my son for forty minutes.
That helped a little.
But even with the rug gone, the ghosts are still there. Not his ghosts so much as the ghosts of that evening, the ghosts of our absolute worst fears being realized, and the ghosts of failure.
Baby's breath is so intoxicating, so very unique, that a flower was named after it.
His last breath hangs in my home like the ghost it is, not the elixir it was.
*Grief Season: the period of time lasting from the weeks leading up to March 31st (Elijah's birthday) through but not limited to May 11th (Elijah's last breath), always including Mother's Day.