The finality of Mason’s death hit me like a train.
Ollie and I were laying in my bed when I looked over and saw Mason’s baby blanket. I’d been looking at it earlier and had forgotten to put it away. I showed the blanket to Ollie and said, “This blanket was your brother Mason’s. We used to wrap him up in this before we put him to sleep. This was his favorite blanket.” He smiled at the blanket and quickly went back to chattering about a game.
After a minute, he finally looked up at me and asked, “Mommy, Why do the clouds come down? What if the clouds are clouds from Heaven?” I realized he was talking about fog and smiled at him. “Fog?” I asked. “Yeah. Fog. What if they were clouds from Heaven? But… I guess not, because no people came out.” I smiled at him wondering where this was going. “Who would you want to come out of those clouds, buddy?” I whispered. “I don’t know. Everybody that lived in our family.” He looked down at Mason’s baby blanket, “Like that guy, who used to use that blanket. Then you and Daddy would be happier. Wouldn’t you be happier?”
And that’s when I realized it. Oliver will literally only know Mason as the guy that used this blanket. He’s a complete stranger to him. And while that thought was completely heartbreaking, it also felt amazingly… liberating.
I felt free. Like maybe we’d finally arrived at the actual “new normal”… The part where you realize you’ve actually started to live again. The part where your soul wakes up and you feel a revival. You move from wondering how the Hell you’d survive without them, to being unable to imagine them being IN your life… because you’re used to them being gone. You’ve adjusted to your new normal.
Today as I realized this, I wept. I sobbed, and cried, and yelled at God a little bit more and I felt it in the deepest depths of my soul… I realized that life has indeed moved on. We’ve settled into our new “normal” so much that Mason isn’t a part of normal anymore.
I can’t even describe to you the combination of both heartbreak and joy that this realization brings.
I remember calling my friend Courtney the day after Mason died and screaming into the phone, “How long does it hurt this bad? I mean, I know it will hurt forever, but how long does it hurt THIS much? How long does it hurt this fucking bad? Because I don’t know how long I can take it.” I can’t remember exactly what she said, but she gave me the hope that one day I would love more than I hurt. But what I’ve learned is that the hurt never goes away. You “heal” because you become more tolerant to the pain.
Tonight, as I looked into the eyes of my four year old son, I realized that I’d finally reached the other side- and that this is probably as “over it” as I will ever get. It’s not an all consuming sadness unless I chose to let myself go there. It’s not because I’m cold or in denial, it’s just that I’ve learned how to compartmentalize that part of my life in order to continue living. Because I had to.
Gone are the days where I can’t imagine life without him. Newly arrived are the days where I can’t picture him in ours lives at all. I can’t imagine having four children. The completeness of this feeling shocks me and breaks my heart.
This must be what it’s like for a lotus flower waiting to bloom. I imagine it feels heartbroken as it lays buried under mud and trapped in the darkness… and like me, I’m sure it’s unaware that it’s only because of this darkness that it will soon spring into the light, completely unstained, with a beauty and resilience that can’t even be described.
As long as the sun is shining, I know that the lotus quickly forgets the darkness, enjoying the warmth and joy that the light brings.
And from now on, so will our family.
Our new normal family.