Early September is not fall. It is still summer. The pools were still open yesterday, that makes it summer. Gavin was alive during the summer; therefore, I cling to the last days of it. My mood has been black for several days, and I have not been able to find even a tiny glowing ember of his lightness amongst the heavy ashes in my heart. Yesterday I needed to get away by myself to find him. Exercise and spending time outdoors are by far the best things I do for myself. The movement purges a bit of the poison, the fresh air and natural life all around me let a little flash of hope back into my cirrhosed soul. I wrote this yesterday, taking breaks while I rode:
So much beauty
It’s painfully mixed in with the sweetness of what is loved and the sadness of what was lost
The sweet hazy smell of late summer
Coats my face
And clings to my skin
Insect songs crispen the airwaves ringing in my ears
Rising and falling
Carrying my heart
The lightness of vibrating air fills my lungs
Which, beneath suddenly relaxed shoulders, let the fluttering hope of life fill them for a moment
Breeze bends the tops of the trees,
And the stiff clench of grief in my heart
Light plays through the leaves
And through the fog in my head
My children squabble and splash
Calling me back to the present reality
Where there should be three
My heart strains to hear the third voice
Along the bike path
In my solo reverie
A golden-green leaf twirls silently to the ground
Lilting, like his voice
Turn and you miss it
Or, turn and it falls directly into the curve of your ear
Calling me back
To my heart
To my family
As we set out for the park yesterday, I couldn’t remember what we had done last year on Labor Day, which is odd because I typically remember significant days from a year ago with painful clarity when their anniversary rolls around. This day, though, was a blank spot in the calendar of my memory. It was so soon after his birth and death, perhaps we hadn’t even noticed that it was a holiday weekend. While I was on the bike path, relaxing into the movement and the scene around me, I had strong memories of a hike we took a year ago at East Fork. We took a day away from life and drove as a family to a small trailhead and explored what lay beyond. I remember feeling similar things to what I’d felt today, sensations I often experience on a path away from the busy world, where there is time and space to find him.
I cried along the path that day, watching my living children and yearning for my third. We found a blue butterfly in the creek bed, and my boys bent to connect with it. Dragonflies had hung in the air over a small pond, buzzing over to comfort me. I’d stood mesmerized by all of the small movements, colors, and sounds around me. I remember the pain and euphoria of those early days of grief, where every beautiful thing in nature could bring me to my knees and I could watch a flower sway for hours. Time passed slowly, every second full to overflowing with grief and leftover love for the baby I had just delivered but couldn’t hold.
After we got home last night I searched back through my photo roll and sure enough, that hike was Labor Day weekend last year. I was stunned. That happened only been a week after we buried Gavin? At the time it had felt like so much longer. How was I out hiking on a woodland path less than two weeks after giving birth? How was I moving my freshly post-partum body over creek beds and tree roots and graveled cravaces with no newborn in a carrier with me, in a sling close to my body, in my arms? How was I enduring the cruel sting of knowing I’d only ever carry him in my heart, as long as I walked this earth?
I kept moving then, as I do now, as a matter of survival. Stop moving, and I’d die. Some days, it is so tempting to just stop, and I’ve come close. Yet I must seek fullness of life for my living children. I seek joy out of necessity. I seek him out of an unending need to find and connect with and hold and love and mother my child. I will not stop seeking him.
He is always and forever held directly over my heart. The weight of his spirit rests on my chest, and it rises and falls with every inhale and exhale. A little bit of his energy is present in every morsel of love that I give away. This is how I keep him alive. What a gift he was, and is, and always will be.