Happy 6 month birthday! All of my thoughts today are full of you. I woke up so angry that you had to leave. And as the day has passed, I’ve felt lots of other emotions swirling around. Of course, sadness, because I miss you so much. Fear. Guilt. Weariness. I’ve cried once. So far.
But much to my surprise, the emotion I’ve felt most today is gratitude. I’m so thankful I’m your mom. I’m so thankful for the happiness you brought me. I’m so thankful for the time we shared. I’m so thankful for what you’re teaching me. I’m so thankful to be your dad’s new wife.
This journey is still brand new. And while most of it has been dark and desolate, I’m beginning to realize that it isn’t ALL dark and desolate. Let me try to explain.
Imagine standing at the edge of a forest. One like you see in the movies — the forbidden place that no one wants to enter because it’s so terribly, horribly awful. The trees are mind-bogglingly tall, with thick canopies that block every speck of the sun’s rays. The floor is treacherous, with deep holes and quicksand and fallen logs. The air is damp and thick and too still. There are dangers lurking. Creatures with fangs and claws. And there’s no path to follow. No footsteps to track.
Imagine you have no choice but to enter this place. You are thrust into the darkness by something beyond your control and you must traverse the forest until you come out on the other side. You’re not really even sure what waits for you there, but you’re on your way now and there’s nothing that can stop the Earth from turning to allow you to stay on the safe side of the forest. There are two options. Move forward. Or die.
And so you move. You place one foot in front of the other and step into the darkness. Scared out of your mind, desperate to turn around and run back to the safe. When you turn, now the forest looks exactly the same in all directions. Endless. Pitch black. Deep. Fathomless. And so you move again, in the only direction you can go — forward. Days pass. Some nights you sleep soundly, dreaming of the way it felt in the safe. Some nights you don’t sleep at all. Your heart races uncontrollably and your anxious mind won’t quiet. And each morning you wake with a twinge of disappointment that you didn’t die in your sleep. But again you stand and move. Forward. That’s the only way to go.
The forest stays dark for days and months while you trudge ever onward. You fall. You cry. You get back up. You scream. You cry some more. You get back up. You ache. You get back up. You cry again. You get back up. Unexpected dangers arise and you fight them off. You cry as you get back up. Again. Forward. Forward. Forward.
You come to expect that all days will be dark. That every day you will fall. That certain days will be miserable. And then you glance at your feet to make sure you are still standing up and still moving forward and you blink in surprise. Is that light? You blink again. Still there. So you cast your gaze upward and there in the midnight black of the canopy of trees is a pinpoint of light where the sun is peeking through a miniscule gap and filtering down to the forest floor. It’s hazy by the time it reaches your feet, but it’s there nonetheless. Your eyes are wide with wonder.
Slowly, each day, you begin to notice the light. Pitfalls become just a little easier to foresee. Dangers now have a tiny warning. And with the light comes the ability to see some of the beauty of the forest. A tiny flower. An orange butterfly. A cardinal. A dragonfly. Some soft moss to use for a pillow when you lie down. Dewdrops on the leaves.
Now each morning, you’re still disappointed that you woke, but after you accept that you will spend another day in the forest, you begin to anticipate light instead of darkness. Beauty instead of pitch blackness. Guidance instead of blindness. Yes, most days are still hard and full of anguish and terror. But the light softens the brittle edges of the fallen logs and allows you to see where to step. When you fall, it’s easier to pull yourself back up because you can see your hand in front of your face. You find that you are hoping – yes hoping – to see something beautiful.
I don’t know how long I will be in the forest. I do know that it’s easier to be here than it was ten weeks ago. I don’t know what dangers tomorrow holds. I do know that I am hoping for something beautiful.
I also know that I will continue to get up. Continue to move forward. Continue to put one foot in front of the other until the day I emerge on the other side battered and bruised and bleeding. But oh, so much stronger than I was before.
Your death is my forest. But oh son, your life! Your life is my light, my beauty, my strength, my joy, and yes — my hope.
I kiss you, my sweet, sweet boy.
Love you forever,