“First” Birthday — Holy Smokes

Prior to living my new bereaved normal life, most of my life was based on wishful thinking. However, I relapsed into wishful thinking over the weekend. My secret desire was that “My Marsh” would provide me with a gift this past weekend on my birthday. A sign.

Photo by James Wheeler on Pexels.com

This kind of thinking has lead to most of my life presenting itself as a disappointment, but admittedly during my birthday, I felt a childlike sense of a scavenger hunt, waiting for “the sign.”

Though no sign arrived, I did receive bouquets of flowers, candy and other presents from loved ones. Of course, I was grateful, but my mind was soaked with sadness, remembering the last birthday I had spent with my son in 2016, because three days later he relocated 600 miles away for a “new life.”

I, along with others who loved him, was not prepared for his departure. In truth, when I learned about his last-minute move, I felt betrayed. His car packed with his meager belongings, he turned to his Godmother and proclaimed, “If I don’t go now, I will never go.”

I can write down 150 regrets right now about that moment, but I obsessed about every single one of them on my birthday, and it is unnecessary torture to list them yet again.

After he relocated to Bowling Green, Kentucky, one of his first text messages to me stated: “I have more anxiety here than I had there.”

I knew then as I know now, escaping demons feeds them, only for them to grow bigger until they are strong enough to conquer and overthrow. And, despite his remarkable career advances, he eventually lost his battle on earth, isolated and alone. He always ran looking for a kinder place and that is exactly the hope he held onto in the end.

So my first birthday after my 26-year-old son’s death was certainly not a day of celebration. However, under the regrets, guilt, remorse and reliving so many memories that slammed me into a sad state, there was a sobering peace. My greatest healing comes through silence. With that being said, I temporarily deactivated my Facebook profile.

Even though outside interference forced its way in from well-meaning loved ones and they “should” all over me by saying things like I “should be going out,” I “should be celebrating,” and so on, I held onto my own self-care program. I live the principles of “To thine own self be true.” This inscription is on a coin I carry with me everywhere. In fact, a duplicate coin, with this same inscription, I folded into my dead son’s bruised hands before the funeral home staff closed his coffin for the final time.

Actually, somewhat of a miracle it was that under the regrets, guilt, remorse and reliving so many painful memories, I was able to get out of myself periodically and think of others. I gift wrapped a small token of love for a dear fellow who is celebrating her 8-year sober anniversary this month. I cooked for our house full of special need cats. I helped search for draperies for my daughter’s new apartment.

Day’s end, faith was found in a rack of smoked ribs that my significant other surprised me with.

What people don’t realize is that grieving is an exhausting emotional process, at least for me. I have to go slow. Go silent. Not go-go-go as I did in the old days.

I’m in the slow lane now and it may not, like most of my life, be the place I choose to be in, but for today it feels safe and steady. I just have to follow the official road signs and not allow my “heart signs” to lead me in the wrong direction. It feels like I can drive responsibly as long as there is minimal interference, except, of course, when I brake for a smoking’ hearty meal that not only refuels my body, but also my soul. 

Faith Muscle

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