The morning is still, at first. I am awake and have hit the snooze button once already. I’m in that a.m. limbo, part of me still sleeping but most of me awake.
Mornings are a flurry (or, depending on how it goes, a cluster) of activities: lunches to pack, sleepy children to turn out of beds and feed, making sure Dan and I have coffee to go.
The fresh grief of losing a child is 9 years behind us now. I saw that grief recently described somewhere as the feeling of an elephant sitting on your chest. That’s about right: crushing.
I survived that — we, Dan and I, survived it, together — and in this quiet morning space before the flurry, I am, again, amazed by that simple fact. To have come through the suffocating, drowning, breath-stealing grief, to be alive nine years later.
To just be sad.
When I do the relativity scale of the baby-loss community, I feel I got off fairly light. We didn’t struggle with infertility. Our babies that came after Gabriel were not … I’m not sure the word to use here: damaged? sick? My pregnancies were fraught, my third trimesters anxiety-provoking, my labors no picnics.
But we got ’em out alive.
And although a baby is nine-years gone, he is loved and remembered. Differently yet alongside his 7- and 5-year-old sisters, along with his 18-month-old brother.
For me, Michael’s toddlerhood, like his babyhood, seems most poignant. Because if Gabriel were going to look like, act like, inhabit the world like anyone, it would be most like his brother.
Maybe. Although I always think Gabriel would have had Flora’s dark hair, not Michael’s light. But blue eyes, I bet. Definitely blue eyes.
But now the morning’s reflection is over, because Michael, my second son, is babbling in the other room. I have to wake Dan to kill a wasp in the bathroom. Kate’s curiosity has her peering over her dad’s shoulder, but I steer her out of the room; I don’t want her getting stung.
I write this in my head, and then on a computer.
Later, I’ll treat the kids to fast food and we will buy six white flowers. I’ll let the children wander among the stone angels while I lay the flowers on Gabriel’s grave.
And another year will come and go, and my other children will grow up, Dan and I will grow older. Probably no less sad, I think we’ve reached our plateau there.
We will carry Gabriel with our other children in our heart. The only place we can carry him now.