Talisman

Mothers, I am your worst nightmare, and I am your talisman against the dark. Because I sit here, because you know me, because we have spoken, and I have told you James’s story, you feel protected. His death wards off evil. It keeps the Reaper from your doorstep.

Right?

Sometimes, it’s how I feel – as if my friends feel protected from the most horrific loss that we can imagine just by association with me. I feel like they speak in hushed whispers when I’m around – “that’s her. My friend. Her baby died.” I feel like I’m moving through life alone, attuned to this staggering loss within me, invisible to the naked eye. On the surface, level, smooth. The giant scar in place of my heart is hidden.

Humans can adapt to anything. This is what I am learning.

I was musing aloud with a friend tonight. She’s expecting a baby. We were walking in a beautiful garden, enjoying this unseasonably cool August and the impending rain. We were talking about suicide after a child dies. We were talking about sad things that no one wants to talk about. She mentioned in passing that she’d made a statement to the universe – that just because she is expecting another child doesn’t mean that the universe can “have” her other daughter. I retorted that unfortunately, the universe doesn’t care. There is no protection. There is no talisman. There is only the whim of an uncaring universe.

I cannot believe that one of my children died. You’d think that almost 8 months after the fact, I would be able to accept that yes, it DID happen to me. My worst nightmare DID come to pass. My child did indeed die in my arms. And yet, I still…I just can’t sometimes.

I was in Trader Joe’s yesterday. It was a day of overwhelming sorrow, grief, anger. I was biting back a scream most of the day. The cashier asked me, in the overly friendly, eager way of Trader Joe’s cashiers, how my day was going. I looked him dead in the eye and said “I’m barely holding it together.” He looked slightly offended and didn’t really reply. After that interaction, I got lost in thought. I realized that I’ve joined a very special club – a terrible club. A club of mothers that have outlived their children. It stretches back to the dawn of time. Somehow, in that moment, in a modern day grocery store, I felt my soul reach out and touch those other mothers, all of them in their grief and anguish.

Child loss is such a unique agony. It’s the grief of what could have been. It’s the grief of what if. It’s the grief of never to be. It’s the knowledge that as a mother, you failed in the most important task imparted to you – caring for your child. Protecting your child. Dying before your child.

I am the talisman against the dark. Except there is no talisman.

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