I did a thing for James.

I won The Moth- Asheville. If you don’t know what The Moth is – or why you should care, here is an explanation:

https://themoth.org/stories

And here is the story (James’s story) I told in October and for which I won.

https://www.facebook.com/cat.ashe.961

 

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This is grief.

This morning, my alarm went off. On Mondays, I teach in the vet technology program. I love teaching. I love my students. The people I work with are funny and kind and unique. I’ve always wanted to teach.

And yet, for about fifteen minutes, I lay in bed just wanting to stay there all day, in a ball, with the blankets over my head. Why not? What difference does it make to the world if I get out of bed in the morning? The world will go on. The world will go on no matter what happens. No matter the atrocities in Myanmar, the shootings in schools, the natural disasters, the broken mother bearing the loss of her only son as well she can. The world marches forward, and we go with it.

I find it hilarious that I’m supposed to just keeping getting up, keep soldiering through this, rebuild my life. Paying bills. Doing laundry. It seems so mundane and foolish. I’ve seen behind the curtain.

But I did get up. And I faced the day, even though I didn’t want to do it. And when someone asked me how I was, I answered as honestly as I could – not great, not even good, but I’m here.

I feel like my grief is supposed to go underground now. It’s been almost 11 months since he died. It’s time to move on, right?

Every night, before bed, I close my eyes, and I see his little face. I see his perfect lips and his wild brown hair and his endless blue eyes. I yearn to hold him again so desperately, and it is torture to know that I never will. I will never hear his voice again. There is no salve for this wound. There is no band-aid big enough to pull these edges together.

My soul has been cleaved, and there is no undoing it.

Every night, I ask myself, why didn’t we fight harder? Did we fail him? Did we make the wrong decisions? The questions chase themselves round and round, like a serpent with its tail in its own mouth. I hate sleeping these days, and I often stay up well past a reasonable hour just to avoid lying down, closing my eyes, and seeing the last days of his life play like a movie across my eyelids.

Grief doesn’t get better. It doesn’t go away. This is who I am now, a bereaved mother. For the rest of my days on earth, I will be a bereaved mother. There is no fixing it. There is no fixing me. Drugs, counseling, electroconvulsive therapy…it won’t fix that my son is dead. It won’t fix me.

And I won’t stop talking about him. I won’t stop because someone is uncomfortable or doesn’t know what to say. I won’t stop saying his name just because saying his name makes me cry.

I miss you, James. I love you so much. I am so proud of everything you accomplished in your short life an everything that your life continues to do to help others. Every day. Every hour, minute, second.

“Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle
Everything is stitched with its color.”

 

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What to say.

What do I say? What can I say?

Since I don’t know, I’ll be silent.

I’m as guilty of this as the next person. There are people whose loss seems gargantuan in comparison to mine. You may wonder how that can be given what we’ve been through, but it’s true.

What do you say to someone who has suffered a devastating loss? Time and time again, I see articles on Facebook, articles about grief, about infertility, about sadness of every type. Those articles always chastise others for saying the wrong thing. We’ve become so afraid of saying the wrong thing that we say nothing at all. We sit by silently as we watch those around us struggle, afraid of causing more hurt – afraid that we’re overstepping our bounds.

The thing is – silence hurts. Looking away hurts. Fading into the background, assuming that someone else will be there for a struggling friend or loved one hurts.

Do you know what grievers want – grievers of every kind? Someone to listen. Someone to be there with them in their grief. We don’t want platitudes. We don’t want to hear “at least.” We don’t want to be fixed, for these wounds can’t be fixed.

We want someone to be willing to just be with us in our pain. Sometimes that means being silent, holding a hand, offering a hug, sharing a cup of coffee and quiet. Sometimes it means listening, as a griever pours out the worst thoughts – the guilt, the hurt, the sorrow, the what-ifs, the regrets.

It means not trying to fix it or make us feel better. Nothing can fix us. We need to grieve. And we need to do it on our own time line. Grief contracts and expands without concern for what we want or need.

Last night, I received a text from someone that I barely know. She’d read something that concerned her. Her words to me (some of them anyway): “None of us can pretend to really know how you feel, if we have not lost a child. But any mother among us knows such a loss is our worst fear. I won’t insult you by saying I understand. But I care…Just know it’s ok not to be ok.” And then she offered to meet me for coffee.

This is what you say. This is what you do. And in turn, I will do it for others. I’ll keep reaching out. Because what’s the point of being on this rotating ball, zipping around the sun, if we’re not going to love and support one another? Call someone that you know is struggling today. Tell them that they’re loved, and you think about them. It’s so easy to do, and it can help pull our fragmented society together.

Where am I?

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9.5 months.

I can close my eyes and go back to that day in a moment. I can remember the icy January wind blowing through me, remember the sharp, wintry brightness of the sun, the harsh, bitter beauty of that day. I remember cradling my son in my arms. How did I hold him, and he was gone? Why couldn’t the flame of my love slip into his icy body, warm him from within, bring him back to me? If only love could’ve sustained him. If only, if only.

Where am I? Am I there, stuck on that winter day, my dead son nestled in my arms? Part of me is. Part of me will always be there.

But a large part of me is here and now.

James life and his death gave me such a gift. They opened my eyes. The agonizing pain of his death could’ve closed them. I could have gone into my pain, submerged myself into the white-hot fire of sorrow that burns within me always. It would be understandable. No one would blame me (at least not outwardly), if my grief consumed me. I could’ve destroyed my own life quite without effort.

And yet, that’s not what has happened. I’ve stumbled. I still stumble. But I keep picking myself up and looking toward tomorrow, because tomorrow is always another chance to turn it around.

James opened my eyes. He opened my eyes to the sorrow in the world. To the pain. To the suffering. To the ways that I can help others. To the way that just one voice reaching out across the void can bring someone back from the brink. He reminded me that I am not alone, and I shouldn’t choose to be alone. He taught me love.

He has taught me gratitude and perspective. He taught me that even though his death is excruciating, I will not refuse to see the gifts of it. I met him. I heard his voice. I saw him smile at his big sisters. I held him warm, cradled on my chest. He was mine, and I was his, if even for a short time. That is a gift. Always a gift, and death cannot steal that from me. Nothing can. I am grateful for that time, even though it was too short. I am grateful that I was there when he came into this world, and I was there with him when he left.

The most important thing that James taught me is not to be silent. You may think that I’m talking about silence regarding his death, and while yes, I am not silent about him, that is not what I mean.

You see, I used to believe that I am just one person, in a world of pain and wrongs. What could I possibly do to help anyone else? What difference could I possibly make? James made me realize that this is the problem. We all feel like “just one person,” and so we remain silent. We see casual racism, our peers sexually harassed and assaulted, and we stay quiet. After all, what can we really do? We can’t change anyone’s opinion, right?

Maybe not. Maybe we can’t undo the wrongs of those before us. Maybe we can’t fix the racism that came before we did. We can’t undo the sexual assaults, the harassment and marginalization of ethnic groups, of women.

But what we can do is speak out against it. When we hear the word racist, we think of the NeoNazis on television and the violence in Charlottesville. We don’t think of the soft racism, the every day racism. It’s hard to stand up to these things, especially when they are perpetuated by people you love.

Just recently, a person that I love very deeply and who means the world to me, used the N-word in a conversation with myself and my husband. In the past, because of the reverence in which we hold this person, neither of us would’ve said anything. But James taught me that this casual, every day racism is just as bad as those people in Charlottesville. How can we expect our children to be better, our world to be a better place, if we sit silently by and let these things slide because of our discomfort?

We didn’t let it slide. And we won’t any longer.

James taught me to stand up and be a voice for those people. James taught me what it’s like to want to help other people, to try to make a difference in a broken world, no matter how small. Am I making a huge difference? No. Not yet. Maybe never. But I am making a small difference, every day, I hope.

So, where am I?

I’m here. Imperfect, perhaps broken, but always willing to get up, to keep walking, to keep trying, to keep loving, to keep speaking for those who don’t have a voice. There are days when I want to throw something through a window. There are days when I don’t want to get out of bed. There are days when the sadness is so overwhelming that I wish I had died with him. Most days are just sad though. Most days, I just miss his sweet voice and his big blue eyes. In that sorrow though, I feel the warm sunshine of his life, the gratitude that he was mine, that he will always be mine.

Thank you, James. I’m so proud of you.

Where there is hope.

 

October is stillbirth and infant loss awareness month.

I didn’t lose my infant. He died. He was 5 months old, and he was the most perfectly beautiful little boy that I’ve ever met. He isn’t lost. I know where he is. He’s buried behind my house in that muddy red North Carolina clay. His headstone simply reads “James Julian Ashe – Beloved Son and Brother.”

What is there to say that hasn’t already been said? We survive this tragedy because there is no alternative. I am not strong. I am not wise. I am a heartbroken mother with two daughters that rely on me to keep getting up every morning. I am wife to a broken husband who needs a hand to hold in the dark. I am daughter to grandparents that weep for their grandson.

You say that you don’t know how I do it. Neither do I.

You ask me how I’m doing, but do you really want to know? Some of you stay, reach out, keep reaching out, even when the text or phone call goes unanswered. Some of you “dissolve into the ether,” as if you never were.

The world turns on its axis. People are afraid to say his name. As if saying his name could somehow deepen my pain. Hearing his name only lessens the pain. It tells me that he is remembered, that others loved him, that others love him still. I say his name. You can too.

I am a walking, raw, hemorrhaging heart. I am his mother. Mothers, above all, suffer when their children die. We suffer so much that we forget others suffer too. We forget that others want to tell us that they are sad, that they miss him, that they weep for us in the dead of night.

I look at my friend, heavy with child, and I see beneath the surface for just a moment, imagine what it must be like to watch your friend lose her beloved child. I look at pictures of his funeral, and I am fascinated by the faces of those in the crowd around his grave. I try to read their expressions, as if they are messages from some other time and place, and if I just study them enough, I will find answers. I will find keys to unlock the vault of grief in which I’m trapped.

One year ago, he was here. Those were the best days of his life. Those were the best days of my life. I was home with all of my children, in the place that I love best.

Those days are gone now, and James is too.

What strikes me here, at nine months since his death, is that I can go on. I do go on. I still laugh, though maybe not as much. I still read books. I still write. I still exist in the world, even when I would rather not. Every morning, I claw back from the abyss. Every night, I slide back into it.

I will never be the same. My world will never be the same.

This picture is one of my favorites. It’s exactly 1 year ago today. James was supervising as I prepared a meal for our family. I miss my sous-chef.

And yet, I’m proud that he was mine. I’m proud that he was here and that we gave him so much love. I’m not sorry for his life, though of course, I wish he was still living it. I can’t be sorry for James. Every morning, I wake up and I keep clawing. And I’m still here. And every day, there are glimmers of hope.

Hope.

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The last good night.

They say that “time heals all wounds.” It doesn’t. Time changes the wounds, but they never go away. That’s how we get scars. Time isn’t a healer. Time is just…time – impartial, blind, ever moving dumbly forward.

I find myself in a land with no map. Navigating each day has become an exercise in stubbed toes, sprained ankles, aches and pains, as I try to find a way through this unknown country of pain. I look in the mirror, and I’m not sure who I am anymore. I go to work. I do my job. I smile. I make jokes. I hold the hands of my nervous students. I cook. I clean. I garden. I read to my lovely children. Time keeps moving.

I’m waiting. But I don’t know for what. Maybe I’m waiting to exhale again – to breathe out and feel the crushing weight lift.

James’s life keeps shrinking. Five months. Five months come and gone like a sigh.

What do you say about a baby that no one really knew? How do you share memories of a baby only here for 5 months? When you lose an adult or an older child, you can share those memories with others. You can look at each other, smile, say “remember when?” With James, only one other person shares that intimacy with me. Jim. No one else knew James like we did. No one else held him every single moment of his life, knew his every baby sigh and coo.

Grief is isolating. Grieving a baby is even more isolating.

Experienced loss parents told me that some of my friends would slip away – friends that I didn’t expect. I should’ve believed them, but I chose not to do so. And they were right. People that I expected to always be there for me slipped away quietly. Others that I didn’t know that well came forward, sent me cards, letters, remembrances of our son.

Still, at nine months, I feel a sense of “time to move on.” The letters and cards have tapered off. The offers of help have slowly faded away. The texts and messages are less and less frequent. I get it. The world goes on. Other children are born. Loved ones die. We are not unique in our suffering.

So the grief goes a little more underground every day. I’m out there, functioning. I’m working. I’m taking care of my children. I’m “better.” Right? Hysterical breakdowns in public aren’t allowed at this stage of grieving. That’s past. Except it’s not. Every breath I take in and every breath I let out, I feel him with me and yet gone.

I remember the last good night that we had together. It was December 27th, 2016 – the night before his tracheostomy surgery. Jim and I both spent the night with James there in the PICU. We knew that surgery carried such risk for him, and we wanted to spend that last night together. If it was his last night, we wanted it to be a good one.

As it turned out, it wasn’t his last night, but it was the last good one. It was the last one where we could freely hold our precious son. We could cradle him on our chests. We laughed and told him stories. We listened to music – music that took us both straight back to the early days of our relationship…some twenty years ago. We talked about rock climbing, our first apartment, and the life we used to live. James lay between us, half on Jim and half on me. He was awake and alert. He listened. He basked in our love.

It was a good night. It was the last good night.

I cling to that memory when I close my eyes at night and question everything all over again. When the voice tells me how miserably I failed my sweet James, I see our family that night, nestled in the bed together. I see that night. That last. good. night.

 

But now in September

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One year ago exactly.

“But now in September the garden has cooled, and with it my possessiveness.  The sun warms my back instead of beating on my head … The harvest has dwindled, and I have grown apart from the intense midsummer relationship that brought it on.”

September and the slow death of summer. The nights have become cool and moist. With the windows open, we sleep huddled in our strangely empty bed, an extra blanket there to keep us from the chill. My flowers are starting to die. Nothing obvious, just a slow browning and wilt here and there; but I know. I’ve become linked to them somehow, during this long, strange, mild summer.

Sometimes, I just sit in my yard and look at them – at the bright, nodding heads. Purple coneflowers attracting bees, florid marigolds dragging in the heat, delicate Guara flowers waving with the breeze. These flowers, an expression of my inward pain. Somehow, burying my hands in the dirt has brought some modicum of healing.

I fear that when they die, I might die too. When freezing winter comes blasting in, I will be forced into knowledge again. When January comes, I might simply crumble into ash.

September, 1 year ago. Still hot then. The days long and somnolent, heavy with summer’s ripeness. I know exactly what I was doing. How many can say that?

At this time, I would have been sitting on the couch in our living room, likely watching a sitcom, my son asleep on my chest. I might’ve been worrying about the future. Or, I could have been simply enjoying his warm weight on me, laughing at a show I’ve seen a thousand times before.

Those days are gone now, beyond my ability to grasp. I only have the memories. I only have a small grave, outlined in granite, watched over by Mother Nature.

Fall is my favorite time of year. The feeling of an edge in the air, a biting chill, the long nights with the windows open, and the sound of the wind rustling through the trees. But now… now, fall will always be a time of mourning for me. We had one autumn with our beautiful boy, one blazing ember of a season, and then he was gone.

 

An embarrassment of riches

I’ve always been a conservative. I won’t delve into what’s this means for me exactly, but as I’ve aged, I’ve become significantly more liberal. If you asked me today, I would say that I am becoming a moderate liberal. Why, you might wonder, am I talking about this in relation to a blog about my son’s life and death? The reason is simple. My son has opened my eyes to the world. Slowly, the blinders are falling away. One of the (perhaps surprising) gifts of his life and death was tremendous gratitude.

Today was a nice day. I worked a little in the garden. I took the girls to Lego Hour at the library. We went to Trader Joe’s and bought our grocery list for the week according to my meal plan. The girls enjoyed fresh fruit samples at Trader Joe’s, and I enjoyed a free coffee sample. After a simple, filling dinner with fresh vegetables from my aunt’s garden,    I went for a walk around the neighborhood.

As I was walking, I was filled with sudden gratitude. Despite the horror of living through the death of my only son, gratitude nearly knocked me off my feet today.

We have everything we need.

Stop for a moment and let that thought sink in. Let it truly sink it.

We have everything we need.

My children are clothed and fed. They have health care. They are able to attend school for as long as they desire, pursue whatever degree they want, whatever its utility in the real world. We live in a small, simple house. It is about 1400 square feet. 3 bedrooms and 2 baths. It is tidy and quiet and peaceful. We have almost a half acre of flat, wooded yard where the girls can play in safety. We live on a friendly cul-de-sac where they can safely ride their bikes and run across the street without looking first. Our cars run reliably, and we own them. I am healthy. My body feels good when I wake up in the morning. I can do physical tasks when I need to do them. Nothing aches. Nothing torments me (physically, anyway). The same is true for my little family.

I’ve believed for a long time that what I have is here because I somehow earned or deserved it – or someone who loves me earned or deserved it. I was raised with the conservative ideals that what my family has belongs to us. Socialism has always appalled me. Why should others get to take away my hard-earned wages? Why should my money support someone too lazy to work and on welfare?

But today, as I stood in my garden and took in the view around me, the view that included our modest but comfortable and safe house, my healthy, happy children, and every other abundance in my life, it struck me that much of it is the result of luck. Not all of it – no. I cannot ignore the giant contribution that my family has made to the way my life has turned out – but again, at the base of it…luck.

We are taught from early on that life is the pursuit of things. We are taught that we never have enough. We are bombarded with advertising that convinces us that we need granite countertops in our kitchen to truly be happy. We need white subway tile in our bathrooms, otherwise our house just looks dated. We need things to truly find happiness. Money and acquisition of nice cars, nice houses, toys, electronics…that will bring us happiness. Buy buy buy. You need more. And capitalism tells us that it is ours. We don’t have to share. We don’t need to share. It belongs to me. It’s all mine.

Meanwhile, our society becomes more and more fragmented. We are isolated in our houses, we are isolated in public while we stare at our smartphones instead of engaging each other. We work too much, we worry too much, we buy and want and consume things too much. The village is disintegrating, and it is much to our detriment. Everyone pursues their own agendas.

All of this is to say that I want to give it away. I want to open my hands and let go of the things that I don’t need. I want to give all those things to others that could use them but don’t have access. I want to give our money to others. When I go to bed every night, I want to think about what I did that very day to lend a hand to another struggling human.

We are all in this together. What is mine is only mine because of a particular set of circumstances. It could easily have been another way. I could be that person sitting on the side of the road with a sign reading “Hungry. Anything helps.” I could be that recovering drug addict mother. I could be the tired woman waiting in line for WIC to feed her family and suffering the judgment of all those around her. I could be dying from cancer, lying in a bed somewhere, hoping that the end is coming soon. I could be sleeping in a bed in the Middle East, fervently hoping that no IEDs explode nearby, killing my entire family.

But I’m not. I’m here, in the mountains of Western North Carolina, in a small, comfortable house that I love, with the family that I love, with vegetables growing in my front yard.

Of course, I must feed and cloth my children first. It’s my responsibility as their mother. But beyond the basic necessities, we really don’t need much in this world to be happy and fulfilled.

So, I’ll say to you this: Open your hands and let your riches go. Give them to others so that they can have these things too – feelings of stability, safety, warmth, gratitude. Give it away. And open your heart to gratitude. No matter how dark the day, no matter how great the sadness, remember what you have and be thankful for it. None of us can take it with us. And nothing lasts forever.

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.

The birthday. Grace. What is lost.

 

I am 4 days overdue in writing about James’s birthday. It’s mostly because I didn’t know what to say about the day – August 1. He should be here, and he’s not. He should be one year old. But he is frozen forever as a 5 month old. It’s hard to reconcile an event like his birth with his death.

Despite that, it was a relatively lovely day. We had a potluck meal, and people really turned out with the food. I have never had an event before where I wasn’t solely in charge of food, and it was a little (but only a little) nerve-wracking. I needn’t have worried. There was plenty to go around.

We broke bread together and remembered James. We finished his gravesite and placed his headstone the day prior. That was bitter. Seeing his name and the dates of his short life engraved in stone somehow made his life and death seem more final. It sounds ridiculous, because it’s been final since January 2, 2017. But there it is. Grief often doesn’t make much sense.

After dinner, we released butterflies at his gravesite after saying some words about him. I wasn’t particularly eloquent with what I said. I tried to write something, but the writing wasn’t flowing. I didn’t say what I wanted to convey. It was that our children carry our dreams. They are our dreams. We look ahead, at all the hopes that we have for them, and sometimes, when looking ahead, we forget to look right in front of us. Jim taught me to be in the moment with James, because we didn’t know how many moments that we would have. That has led to a greater understanding that none of us know how many moments we have. Just because we’re healthy now doesn’t mean that it will always be true. My uncle didn’t expect to drive out his driveway that day in March and die in a horrific car accident.

Live in the moment. Love those around you. Forgive easily. Love easily. Extend grace when you would otherwise be hurt or judge or be harsh. Do kind things for others. Think of others before yourself. These are the lessons my son’s life and death teach me everyday. Am I good at it all the time? No. I still have the petty hurt feelings, the emotions that well up unexpectedly, the desire to lash out when I perceive that I’ve been wronged. I’m also much more likely to try and see conflicts from the other perspective, to let my cooler head prevail, to realize that most things don’t matter so much.

James also taught me that people don’t want to be fixed. People don’t want advice. People don’t want to be told what to do. I once believed that if people just listened to me – I had the answers. I could help them make their lives better, happier. I’m not sure where this hubris originated, but it’s been a part of me for a long time. Perhaps it is genetic.

Since James has died, I’ve realized that what people want when they are hurting is to be heard. They want an ear and a shoulder. They want a sympathetic nod, a gentle touch on the shoulder. They want support. That is what I want. I want to talk about James freely. I want people to ask about him. I want them to listen. I can’t make anyone understand this pain. The only way to understand it is to suffer through it, and I wish that on absolutely no one. So in lieu of understanding, I ask for a gentle ear. And it’s what I am trying to give to others that labor under different griefs.

Today, I had a heartbreaking glimpse of what we lost. We took our semi-nightly amble around the neighborhood, and in doing so, we came across our neighbor and her 1 year old son. He is just a few months older than James would be. He’s walking in that uncertain way of 1 year olds – excited, mostly confident, with just a tinge of fear and hesitation. The girls ran up to him. They made faces at him and silly noises. Evaline helped him up when he fell. At one point, they were standing around him, forming a little circle, holding hands. For a moment, I saw James there instead of our neighbor’s son. It was a knife into my tender heart.

There is so much pain and beauty wrapped up in the package that is James Julian. He brought me so much. He gave me so much. He lets me give more to others. And yet, he’s gone. Did he do – in 5 months – what most of us can’t accomplish in a lifetime. Is that why it was so brief? He came here, he imparted his gifts to his family, and then he went away? I like to think of it that way sometimes, when the grief threatens to drown me.

For the past few days, I’ve been trying to cocoon at home as much as possible. I’m not planning things to do or rushing around. I’m sitting on the porch with my coffee, listening to the girls play in the yard, watering my plants, weeding my garden, doing the NYT crossword puzzle with my mom, and enjoying this absolutely stunning August weather. I am letting my mind rest. I am in the trough of the wave now, for a while. The day of his birth has passed. But the wave always builds. And it always swamps me again. And so now, I wait, and I rest, and I prepare. Because sooner or later, I’ll nearly drown again.