Small mercies and little memory triggers

It is Sunday, my most difficult day of the week now, because during the 16 months Jesse lived on his own, Sunday was the day he came over every week to have dinner, talk, and do his laundry. Tomorrow will be six weeks since we found out he had died, but we believe he actually passed the day before, Sunday August 7th. He did not show up that Sunday or answer my texts and calls. We thought he had overslept as he often napped on Sundays, his only day off from work.

I have gone over the sequence of events from the previous Sunday — July 31st — to Monday, August 8th, a hundred times. I am now starting to review his whole life, trying to see patterns or clues as to what led to what happened, which is difficult because we still do not know the cause of his death. Tom insists we stop conjecturing because we are just driving ourselves crazy and neither answers nor guesses will change the outcome.

All kinds of things go through your mind at such a time. You look for the smallest mercies. It was not violent…. We don’t think he felt any pain….The other day Aaron and I were making dinner, a delicious baked sweet potato and chicken recipe, and Aaron said he had been thinking what a good thing it was that none of us were out of town that day. Aaron had been on a camping trip the week before and Tom often travels for work.

“It would have been more terrible to be out of town when it happened,” he said, “or I could have been at work and not there.” I felt a pang. It could have been worse, yes, but somehow it’s hard for me to feel grateful right now. That is a bad state to be in and I hope I get over it. The Thanksgiving holiday is a sad thought and I dread Halloween. I wish I could get on a time ship and fly right over December, that looming month that contains his birthday and Christmas. How will I survive these times? How do I survive at all?

In the same conversation with Aaron, while cutting sweet potatoes, I said, “If it had to happen, thank goodness it happened in August, my least favorite month. At least it didn’t happen in October! I’d hate to have October ruined.” As if that makes it better. I will be sad in October just because it is my favorite month and Jesse is not in it. I am sure he will be seeing it though, and seeing more beautiful Autumn colors reflecting on clearer lakes, more splendid than the most splendid Octobers the earth can offer.

imageI have not sought to dull the sharp edge of grief through medication or alcohol. I do not think this would be productive for me. Writing, I guess, is my opium. And, just recently, I admit to a little retail therapy — although I have not found shopping to be particularly effective. Walking around in malls and stores is dangerous. You never know what is going to trigger a flood of memories. At the mall a laughing mother chases after a toddler and I think back to when Jesse was that age when my whole world focused on that little body full of energy, hope, and joy. And I suddenly need to quickly get out the public view.

Even the grocery store is treacherous. Today, by sheer habit, I reached out to pick up a bottle of cherry-cranberry juice and then realized I only buy that juice to have in the fridge when Jesse comes over. I will never buy that juice again.

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Author: CJ

Blogger, illustrator, writer

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