How to explain the pain of standing in the place where your son drew his last breath? One moment, a heart beating in sync with mine, the next moment, gone. That microsecond between life and death, somehow , it stretches out to infinity within my soul. If only I could grab that second, freeze it in time, make it so that it never happened. One second between life and death – a second that I couldn’t prevent, a second that I cannot take back.
Today, I stood in that very place. On the 2nd of every month, we take care packages to the parents in the pediatric ICU. I was late this month, so I didn’t get to take them until today. As I handed them over to one of James’s old nurses, I noticed that his room was empty. The bed was made up. The pillows were fluffed. The shades were open, letting the late afternoon sunlight spill into the room.
I decided to take a moment and be in that space. The space where I held my son as he breathed his last, labored breath. As I stepped from the hallway into the room, it felt as if time suddenly collapsed onto itself, and I was back there, on January 2. The room was filled with the essenceof my loved ones – my mother, my father, my brothers, Jim’s family, my beloved son – they all spun around me. The room seemed to darken in time with the darkening of my spirit.
I rested my hands on the bed. The bed in which I lay so many times, talking to my son, kissing his dark head, holding his tiny clenched hand in my own, singing, talking, laughing, so sure that he would be the one to beat the odds and yet so cognizant of what the future truly held.
In a moment, I was there again, hearing the sounds of the monitor alarm, feeling him slip, slip, slip away from me, to wherever it is that we go when we die. How did I survive it? How do I still survive? Why do I still survive? Shouldn’t a mother die when her child does?
I remember after he died, when I gave him to Jim to hold. I stood up from the bed and paced the room, hugging myself, sobs tearing themselves out of my body. I lay down on the couch bed and let the agony wash over me. I did the same today. I lay there and sobbed until I was spent. I played our songs. The sorrow poured out of me, anointing that room in which other children have lived and died. It poured into the room and joined the spirits of other grieving mothers – mothers that I will never know but whose souls I know all the same.
Four months. It has been four months. 120 days without you here with me, sweet James. It still seems like a dream, as if I might wake up one day and still be pregnant, still feel you kicking and growing inside me. I miss you so.
“If I should ever leave you whom I love
To go along the silent way,
Nor speak of me with tears,
But laugh and talk of me as if I were beside you there…”