It was a big step for me last weekend to open and warm up a can of Kroger Chopped Turnip Greens With Diced White Turnips. You see, my daughter and I gave away most of my deceased son’s belongings last December when we sorted through them in the state where he lived when he was alive. However, one thing I couldn’t part with was his cans of food. Looking back, our 600-mile return “food drive” home likely symbolized my desire to continue to sustain him. After all, aren’t moms the first to sustain their babies?
Needless to say, I have stored some 12 cans in my garage since that time. Last weekend, I baked chicken and didn’t have a fresh side vegetable. I made a can run. Staring at the can, you’d think pieces of my red heart were chopped in with the green and white turnips. I realized that if I prolonged the task, I’d pass the expiration date. Everything has an expiration date. A limited shelf life, my ex-husband called it.
I beelined it for the kitchen and click! The can opener sliced through the lid quickly. No time to overthink it! I did not spoil our festive dinner feast and mention the turnip green story and what it symbolized. In a purely secular sense, it tasted good.
Later that night while I was on the internet, I discovered an aerial photo of sand inscribed with the following statement: “I decided to stay behind.”
I’ve learned through this grieving process that when a mom loses a son or daughter it is common for her to yearn to follow their child. I will attest to the fact that survivor’s guilt feels like a four-season sunburn under your skin that is painful whether you touch it or not. To top this excruciating state off, I have also discovered that being torn between two worlds, limbo is torture too.
Not to mention, Who abandoned who? That agonizing question impinges on every piece of fabric on my body, mind and soul that, against all odds, escapes from anguish. The kind of anguish that turns you into a state of pulp as you grin and bear life in your new detached normal life, mastering fake smiles like tying your sneakers.
As much as I wanted to hold onto that can of turnip greens, I chose to relinquish control of the chopped greens as well as my shredded heart.
Nourishment along with other things, though, helped me survive another weekend. Maybe in the coming days, weeks I can open the can of corn next and in my mind have the faith that my son is okay with the idea that “I decided to stay behind.” At least for now. And that’s what faith does, strings you along and sustains you, so you can open a can and have the next meal and simply pause, stay. Trail behind just a little longer.