My grief has been in a lull for the past few days. The fifth month since he died has passed. It was an anniversary that I dreaded – the time when his days alive would equal his days gone. Leading up to it, I was in a black hole of depression. Since it has passed us now though, I feel better. Or maybe I’m just getting used to him being gone. Or maybe I’m back in denial. Who knows? Grief is a constant surprise.
Since I’ve quit work, my emotional stability has improved 100-fold. I am more patient with my daughters. I have the ability (and maybe some desire) to cook dinner again. Household chores don’t weigh so heavily on me. I guess, in other words, I am enjoying being a stay-at-home-mother.
Seven to ten years is when emergency veterinarians really start to burn-out on nights, holidays, and weekends. I think I was reaching that point anyway, and then James’s death just exacerbated that feeling. It’s hard to reconcile all of the time I spent in school and all of the student debt with being a stay-at-home-mom, but right now, it’s best for my family. It’s also best for me.
My radio show (Calling All Species) had its debut episode last Friday. I’ve been wondering where radio has been all my life. It comes so naturally. Of course, the show is vet-centric, all about animals. It’s a great deal of fun, and it brings me out of my grief. I’m also writing daily. I’ve started a fiction novel. Of course, there is a great deal of autobiographical content, but ultimately, it will be fiction.
I’ve been spending less time on social media and more time working in my yard. I finally got a vegetable garden planted – tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, peppers, and corn. I also finally planted my flower beds. For the past year, they’ve been serving admirably as weed-growing beds, but I finally got around to cleaning them out and planting actual flowers.
On the anniversary of 5 months since James’s death, I did something rather drastic. Growing up, I used to taunt my parents and my aunt with the statement that I would get a tattoo as soon as I turned 18. Once I hit eighteen, I realized that there is nothing that I would want permanently on my body…certainly not a dolphin or a Chinese symbol or something else equally meaningless to me.
When James died, for some reason, it came to me that I should get a tattoo. I’d never really had the urge, and yet, here at almost 38 years old, I suddenly felt the need to have a physical reminder of him on my body at all times (as if the c-section scar wasn’t enough). For weeks, I thought about it, but nothing seemed right. I thought about a line of poetry – especially “nothing gold can stay” from Robert Frost, or “the lowest ebb is the turn of tide,” from Longfellow. Yet, I couldn’t find a font or position I liked, and I decided that it wasn’t “meant to be.”
And then, the day before the fifth month anniversary of his death, it hit me like a bolt of lightning. For days to weeks, I had stared at the beautiful mural on the wall of his PICU room. It was a mural of leaves becoming a butterfly (a Rajah Brooke’s birdwing butterfly). When I thought of it, I knew immediately. On the anniversary, I went to a local tattoo studio and had that mural tattooed on my back. And it is beautiful.
All in all, the days pass me by. The agonizing phase of grief has subsided somewhat. The pain never goes away, and I never, ever stop missing him and wishing he was here. All the same, we keep going. The river keeps flowing, carrying me along in the current. I can’t swim against it to stay with him. I have to go wherever the river goes. It is life. We go on while our loved ones recede into the distance. The human spirit is ever resilient.
I love you James.