Then I read something beautiful written by another grieving dad/husband.
And I stole it.
Because it's beautiful.
We use rituals to allow us to keep contact with the past and provide us with familiar constructs. There are rituals that surround us on a daily basis, and then there are those that come to us once every year. Rituals allow us to maintain contact with those who have gone before us. On a daily basis, I maintain my own ritual. Right after we put Gabe to bed each night, I duck into Alexis' room right next door to Gabe's. I sit in there for a couple minutes. If you look around, it is still pink, still filled with all of Alexis' animals, and it also is filled with much of everything that existed between those four walls on January 14, 2011. There is no reason to change at this point and there is no interest to do so. I speak with Alexis. I talk to her. And then, I bend down and kiss the spot on her bed where she lay for several months and where she lay down to sleep each day. I kiss her pillow as well, and I inhale deeply. I then step from her bed, turn the light off, say a little more to her and shut the door. And then, just before I go to sleep myself, I repeat the entire scenario, except I spend a little more time in her room. This is a ritual that I maintain to ensure that I feel connected with Alexis. Certainly not the manner in which I want to maintain contact with my daughter, but, as everyone is supremely aware at this point, I have little other choice. Some wear bracelets, some have other trinkets that they ritually rely upon to connect themselves with their child. These small measures are repeated too many times by too many parents who have no physical presence in the form of their child.
And then there are holidays. Holidays are ritualistic in nature as well. Some more so than others. Tomorrow is Mother's Day. Of course everyone is aware of that. The rituals of this day include showering mothers with praise for all that they do. Reminding them how much we appreciate them for being mothers. And thus comes the problem. This ritual is and can be a painful one to those who will no doubt turn their thoughts to a child who no longer can give them a hug or kiss, who no longer exist on this plane to say thank you and I love you. And thus, the rituals that once were will be painful reminders of the fact that things have changed for the worse. So what do you do? I have no real answer frankly. I think for some it is a day that is better forgotten and let to pass. That may ultimately be difficult to comprehend in some fashion. Of course the loss doesn't change the fact of the love that was and is still there. And do we appreciate the efforts and dedication of the mother any less should they choose to allow the day to slip away? The answer is no, certainly not. It is a very personal decision ultimately, one that should never be questioned. I suppose I will let you know when the ritual of Father's Day rears its head down the road. I can say though with certainty that tomorrow will be spent as a very difficult day in many households. There will be many houses where a noticeable hole exists that prevents a day from being experienced with the happiness and thanks that should come to pass. I know that this is one of those houses. I for one am truly appreciative of the efforts that Neely has given as the mother of Alexis and Gabe. Herculean efforts in the face of extremely difficult times, with difficult decisions and ultimately an unimaginable loss. Yes, the ritual of tomorrow will be very difficult. To all mothers out there who will read this passage and simply know, I say have a palatable Mother's Day, one that brings you exactly what you want the day to bring you.
There were some signs of Alexis this past week. While playing on a playground with Gabe, we noticed acorns strewn across the ground. Acorns were always a favorite of Alexis. She collected them and in fact our house has them in various locations, including in glass jars on our dining room table from a project Alexis completed. And thus, we collected as many as we could stuff in our pockets so that we could bring them out to her. As we walked from the playground, we noticed three butterflies on the sidewalk. As we walked closer, all but one flew away. I bent down, and it still failed to fly away. It's wings yellow, its body black. And then, I gently stroked one of its wings. It did not move. And then Gabe, as curious as can be, gently bent over and gently stroked the butterfly as well. A simple moment, but a moment filled with other thoughts. It was a short moment, but one that provided some measure of comfort regardless of the reason for that single butterfly being present on that day.
Days move on, our ability to use our memories to recall various aspects of life as we used to know it seems to be more and more difficult. I suppose that is the nature of post tragedy recall in some respects. The time in some fashions moves quickly, and in others it seems to crawl. With every ticking second we move further away, yet closer to Alexis. Soon baby, soon.
Jon, Neely, Alexis and Gabe"
Not sure I could have said it better given a hundred years. He writes very well. Here is their Caringbridge site if you would like to read more.
Personally, I hope everyone who has a mother (or has had one at some time) takes a moment every day to appreciate them.
Oh, yeah, and go hug your babies like there's no tomorrow.