“I’m going to wait outside for the hospice nurse,” I stated to my son. He acknowledged with a slight nod of his head, leading me to believe that he was not really entirely present in our world, but understood that I’d be leaving temporarily. A minute to us probably seemed like an eternity to him. I noticed the new bruising on his eyelid, which time-warped me through a wormhole fourteen years prior when he was newly diagnosed as a toddler. Here’s my young man, recently turned seventeen, dying in his bed. I didn’t want to leave his side during those last few days, but his bedroom window was visible from the front door. I guess I felt that being just outside was a safe place to be. And I did find a great deal of comfort in going outside to see all the new developments in my tiny little garden.
Life was happening in the bed directly below the bed that was holding Ben as his life ran out. That wasn’t lost on me. I had to go outside once in a while to see that things were still progressing. I couldn’t feel that in his room. So, when I knew that a new person was on their way to our house, which, during those last few months there was an onslaught of people arriving at our door, I would go stand outside so they’d not drive by the house a bazillion times. We live in one of those neighborhoods that cannot diversify the street names they use. For instance, I live on Yakima Street. Around the corner is a Yakima Way. And directly down from that is Yakima Road. I believe there’s also a Yakima Lane in this neighborhood. Admittedly, I’m severely disappointed by the lack of creativity in my neighborhood. So, delivery drivers and home health aids would often have a heck of a time finding our location.
While I’d wait for them, I’d notice the blue and white Columbine that bloomed under our weird oak tree. The blooms were always gorgeous. And as each year passed, the plant got bigger and bigger, amassing a huge bounty of blooms. The summer Ben died, I’d never seen so many blooms on the Columbine. There was something comforting about seeing all those little faces looking up at me. Like, “We’re here. We know you’re sad. We’re with you.” And then my daisies. Growing like a weed and popping open with a sudden beauty, begging to be picked and conversed with. And the clematis that would grow so much in one day, It overwhelmed me! The changes that can happen so quickly in just a twenty four hour period. They would entwine around each other and cling to anything in the general vicinity, and then when they bloomed, it was breathtaking.
Breathtaking. All this life happening directly below my son’s death bed. But I did take a small comfort in being outside, sharing my grief with my flowers. They’d always listen as I silently wept. Inevitably, the hospice person would pull up, say something like “oh my! what a beautiful garden!” and I’d be all like, yeah, shut up, my kid is dying upstairs and you want to talk about my garden? Totally understanding that they were just trying to make a horrible situation a little more tolerable but why should I be made to tolerate this cancer taking over my son? I know my flowers are beautiful. Shut up and follow me. (But thank you for saying so. It is a nice garden, isn’t it?)
Last year that garden was a point of focus. I cut away the spent blooms as they died, which brought about new growth. And then something else would die and I’d cut it back so something else could bloom forth. And then it was time for that bloom to die, too. And then eventually there was nothing left to prune. I was envious of their short cycle. My son’s short cycle. Each time something died in him, we cut it back. And then he would grow for a while. And then another weed would come in to wreak havoc. Wreak havoc. So much havoc.
What the heck is havoc?
So. When the blooms starting showing themselves this year, it was bittersweet. I was so excited to see them again, a reunion that felt overwhelmingly comforting, but also reminded me of what can only be explained as an empty void. The amount of changes from last year was too much.
and as I told you about what had happened, the mourning began. The bomb cyclone froze you, essentially stunting your growth. Then you got hit with a second bomb cyclone. You started to retreat. The blooms remained small and lacked the eagerness they had the summer before, choosing to hold on to their unopened bloom or dropping off all together. Just when you felt comfortable in opening up, we got snow. Snow after Mother’s Day? The day all Coloradans collectively agree that the threat of snow should be over? What kind of nonsense is that?
My phone reminds me daily of what was happening a year ago. Most phones do that these days, but despite knowing the anniversary of my son’s death is just around the corner, I’m also reminded that the blooms were much bigger last year. I was saddened by the weather that had threatened them so harshly, had stunted their growth or stripped them of blooms. But then, the survivors started opening, ever so slowly. Regained the desire to reach out to entwine themselves around something more stable. To grow toward the sun.
Oh, my Son.
Those flowers made a comeback. And I rejoiced! But yesterday, a hail storm ripped through here and shredded so much of what was left. It does feel like we’re assessing the damage after a tornado, as this storm so violently ripped through my delicate balance, shredding the bits of joy I was so looking forward to: The regrowth of what brought me so much comfort during my time of despair last year.
I’m not going to have that this year. And while I am initially shell-shocked at losing a big chunk of my tiny garden, I understand that we all need time to recover. I was expecting so much of those guys during a time when they just didn’t have it to give. They fought against all odds. And while there are a few survivors, it’s just not the same.
I guess the visual I have is the scar that the plane in Shanksville, PA left on 9/11/01. The point of impact. The destruction of everything that was in the plane’s path. Some of it will never recover. Most of it will be changed forever. But allowing the time to heal, the soft wisps of green grass will eventually find its way into the depths of the damage. Water it. Encourage it. Yes, standing back up is really freaking hard. And you might not be able to stand in the same way you once did. But that just means you’re different. Find the beauty in that difference.
Somehow, we must find a way to celebrate this new reality.