Do you know what heartsblood look like when it dries? I do. It’s deep, rusty brown. When your heart cracks open and bleeds, the stain never comes out.
I couldn’t bring myself to wash these blankets. James came home from the hospital for the last time wrapped in these, and the site of his PICC line bled into the fabric. I’ve stared at these blankets many a night, trying to understand the riddle of my son’s life. I’ve crushed them to my chest, that precious, spilled DNA – the only physical fragment of my son’s body that I have left.
The days have been passing in a strange sort of fog recently. I’ve had trouble getting out of bed and doing the things that I love. My creative energy has gone from full-throttle to the lowest ebb that I can remember. I don’t want to write. I don’t want to draw. Days seem to pass me by, and I realize it abruptly. At night, I don’t want to sleep. It’s quiet. Jim is usually working. The girls are in bed. In that still space, I can just … be. No one needs anything from me – except perhaps what I need from myself.
His birthday approaches fast. I can’t imagine how it’s been almost a year since our beautiful boy came into this world and seven months since he left it. It’s a colder place. My bed is emptier, even with my husband and two girls piled into it. It’s just not the same. It’s still hard to accept that he’s forever frozen at 13 pounds, 5 months and 1 day.
Today, my husband and I went to our new neighbor’s house. They are re-doing the landscaping and offered us all of the granite and quartz stones that they had lining their gardens. We are using it to create James’s gravesite.
For some reason, in the past 7 months, I haven’t been able to do much with the site itself. I thought it was because I was waiting for inspiration. But today, as we outlined the site with these North Carolina rocks – his only home – I realized that it’s because it’s the last thing. It’s the last thing that I can do for my little boy. It’s the last way that I can take care of him. When that gravesite is finished, some seal of finality has been stamped on his life.
It doesn’t make much sense, I know. He’s been gone for seven months. But somehow, finishing that site is going to rip the barely formed scabs off of all of the wounds. We finished laying out the stones today, and I sat beside his grave and looked at it. It looks like a grave now. It looks like a place that someone is buried. Except, it’s not just someone. It’s my baby boy. It’s James. That vibrant, blue-eyed, crazy-haired chubby little baby who loved his mommy and daddy – he’s buried under that dirt.
Last night, we watched Minority Report. It’s one of my favorite sci-fi movies from eons ago. IF you haven’t seen it, it’s about a police officer (John Anderton) in the future who works for a company that can predict murders before they happen. “Precogs” can see the future. John Anderton’s own son was kidnapped and has been missing for six years. There’s a scene towards the end where one of the precogs has a vision of Anderton’s missing son, as he would be if he had lived, and she tells John about it. I broke down and sobbed.
“He’s on the beach now, a toe in the water. He’s asking you to come in with him. He’s been racing his mother up and down the sand. There’s so much love in this house. He’s ten years old. He’s surrounded by animals. He wants to be a vet. You keep a rabbit for him, a bird and a fox. He’s in high school. He likes to run, like his father. He runs the two-mile and the long relay. He’s 23. He’s at a university. He makes love to a pretty girl named Claire. He asks her to be his wife. He calls here and tells Lara, who cries. He still runs. Across the university and in the stadium, where John watches. Oh God, he’s running so fast, just like his daddy. He sees his daddy. He wants to run to him. But he’s only six years old, and he can’t do it. “
It’s hard not to wonder what my son would look like, my James, if he was here now. How much would he weigh? What setbacks would he have had? What milestones would he have conquered? Would he have had heart surgery?
There aren’t answers to these questions, because that was not the road that we traveled – the road that we continue to travel. This road is often dark and lonely. But still, we must walk it.