I am twelve days away from going through hell. It will be one year since my Tia Mary died on February 3rd which starts off the death anniversaries. First Tia, then Anthony on March 8th, then I turn 41 (its own hell which my body announced last night when I had to get up three time to pee) and finally, two years since the death of my Tio Roy on April 18th. Last year that anniversary was gonna be difficult enough all on its own and when it rolled around I was in a haze of grief over Anthony. I have not even begun to grieve over the lady who was the one and only person to kiss me on the cheek as a grown woman and tell me she loved me. Where exactly was I going to squeeze that in?
So, I sit here today thinking and wondering who I am after all of this. The dust has settled a little bit. I don’t feel like my heart is being ripped out of my chest and put into a meat grinder. The moments where I catch myself not breathing are farther and farther apart. I can laugh, and I can look at pictures of Anthony without begging God to please give me my son back. And I don’t go into the garage anymore to try and put myself in his head and try to figure out what he was thinking or what the last thing he saw was. I know he is not in there.
But when I look in the mirror I do not recognize that person. I look old, tired and like I have lived a life full of heartbreak and death. I look just how I feel. I have gained about forty pounds and each pound shows because I am 5 freakin’ feet tall. My hair is so grey. I have a closet full of clothes that I don’t want to wear because they belong to the old version of me but even if I did want to wear them, I couldn’t because that version of me was 4 sizes smaller. My uniform is a pair of leggings and one of my may Walmart t-shirts, all of which have bleach stains on them because ever since Anthony’s suicide I have been bleaching the shit out of everything in bouts of purging. They are not consistent enough to make my house clean though.
Besides the way that I look, there is this person behind my eyes that I do not know at all. A mother of a dead child. I never thought that this would be my life. For the last 10 ½ months I have looked at that woman and hated her. I have hated everything. My anger is rooted in the idea that my son can die and the world is so callous about it and keeps turning. I alone sit here holding onto his baby memories and his last words. His death was like an explosion right in the middle of my life and I have been walking around dazed and confused in the aftermath.
Now the dust is settling leaving me wondering where I go from here. The first thing I must figure out is who I am. Before his death I knew who I was to some extent. I was a Catholic convert who wanted to fight for justice for the unborn, the poor, the immigrant and tell as many people as I could that Jesus loved them. My entire identity was wrapped up in trying to get speaking gigs and become a full-time writer. I still want those things but more than that, I want to be who God wants me to be. All those things are secondary to becoming a saint so that I can see my son again. How do I do that in this new reality that is my life?
How do I care for my living children? How can I make up for all the times that I have failed them? How do I put my family first? How do I realize that I do not need permission to speak my opinion even if it doesn’t fit anyone’s narrative? How do I move forward with this grief? Because it is not something we get over, it is something that moves in with us. It’s part of my life now like a second shadow. It’s there when I’m laughing, when I’m having fun with my family, when I am texting my friends etc. It does not leave.
This is life now. Who am I in it?