It’s been 3 years. 156 weeks. 1,095 days. 26,280 hours. And yet, it’s still been only half a minute. You’d think by now I would be used to the idea – the fact – that my son died. We’ve gone through birthdays and holidays, milestones, events. You would think it wouldn’t be a surprise to me that Nolan is gone. You’d be wrong. I know it’s real. I even believe it’s real now. Denial has left the building. I can be in the middle of the most mundane task – running errands, folding laundry, even reading a good book, and it hits me out of the blue. My son died. My son died. Nolan DIED. It’s just as shocking as it was 3 years ago today. Time doesn’t heal this kind of trauma. Nothing does. Time allows for you to get used to the pain. It absorbs into your very being and becomes a part of you. Your shoulders learn to bear the weight, and your feet learn to take smaller steps. Your mind still clouds over to protect you from the horror, but every so often, it seeps in. This nightmare is your life. There are no more tomorrows with him. I will live more of my life without him than with him. The ache doesn’t lessen. It seems to deepen as the time between Before and Since grows longer.
Everything has changed in the last 3 years. I have a different job now. I live in a different house. I have some different friends. I look a little different too. Grief has etched lines in my skin and left bags under my eyes. I’ve grown softer. I’m aging faster now. I don’t have the energy for things I once did. I have no tolerance for people who are self-serving or dishonest. I can’t be around people who create drama or who blame others. Those who judge or talk about others unkindly, people who complain about the dissatisfaction in their life but do nothing to change it? Can’t deal with them. I have become adept at holding people in my heart and letting them go from my life. I’ve come to realize that my feelings Before were muted in comparison to how deeply I feel now. It’s a strange, twisted gift of Grief. Only after such a devastating loss do you realize how intensely you can love.
In the time Since, I’ve learned that I, too, have a brain aneurysm. I’ve also developed a heart condition. The doctors say it was caused by medication I was taking, but I secretly believe it’s because my heart broke the moment Nolan’s stopped beating. I feel my mortality. I fluctuate between just wanting to go to sleep and not wake up and wanting to suck every moment from this life that I can. In my stronger times, I know that Nolan is fine now. He’s not going anywhere and will meet me once my own fateful day arrives, so I should live out loud every moment until that happens. On my vulnerable days, it seems like forever and joy is so far outside my grasp that I don’t have the energy to try. It’s a strange dichotomy to exist in – both waiting to die and striving to truly live.
I don’t really have the words to describe what this feels like today. Another year has gone by without Nolan’s smile, without his laughter, without his voice. I wasn’t done parenting him. I’m still not. My arms feel empty, and I physically ache to hold him one more time. I still cry every single day. I think I always will. The first thought each morning is “I love you Nolan” The last thought each night is “I love you Nolan, and I miss you so terribly.”
In a few days, 4 other people will be celebrating their milestone of 3 years post-transplant. They will be filled with love and hope. I know they will shed a tear for Nolan, as they hold him in their hearts, wishing their life didn’t depend on his death. Knowing that parts of him are still alive brings me comfort, and I am so very thankful for each of those people carrying him within them.
I don’t have any words of wisdom. I can’t be anyone else’s guidepost in this dark. This, perhaps, isn’t a very eloquent post today. I struggle to find the words when they usually flow freely. All I can say is, we have today, this very moment. When you have a chance to do something to help someone else, do it. Share a smile, a kind word. Hold those you love closer and longer. Never miss a chance to laugh or to love. Try something new, and think of a boy who wanted nothing more than make the world a better place and follow his lead. We are all One Tribe.
For you, Nolan, I will keep going. I will love. I will laugh. For you, Nolan, I will live.