As October approaches, I feel the memories building in my mind. As the weather cools, I feel those memories of those days of dread flooding me. I remember the moments. I remember the days. I wonder when it won’t fill me up and drown me. I remember the day I went to the doctor and he told me that we would be going to the hospital to have our little one. I remember coming home that very day to tell Dave and he had me call his doctor who told me that he would need to be admitted to the hospital to be seen by specialists…oncologists. All within the same day, all within the same week, my life changed forever. Not only was joy filling my heart as we welcomed our second son but my heart was equally consumed with the fear of what was to come as Dave was admitted to the hospital. I remember leaving the hospital very early on that Sunday morning in October with our new baby. I remember how the morning light swept over the parking lot as we took our family home. I remember the cool, crisp feel of the breeze. I remember the smell of the fall air. All these memories burned into my mind. I remember the tears five days later as the doctor told us that there was very little he could do for Dave. I remember the cloudy, rainy day that we walked into the oncologist’s office for the plan for palliative care. I can still see the view from the doctor’s office window as I looked out over our neighborhood covered with dark clouds and soaked from the heavy rain that awful day. That October it felt like I had walked through the wrong door when I left the hospital. It felt like we went in as us and we left as some other family. This strange, new family we left the hospital as had only sadness to face. That wasn’t us. We were happy. We were fun. We were joyful, playful, and silly. We laughed so much. Many times I have wondered if I could have another chance to walk out another door of the hospital would we have walked back out as us, not as who we became.
Along with the memories that I can’t control, this year I am realizing something new. I am recognizing how my reactions to these memories effect the way I walk through my life. I know that my experience effects who I am…I have known that. What is new though is the thought of how my fear, my dread, my heartbreak that is awakened in fall really can dictate what I do. I am reflecting on some of my recent decisions and wondering how much my fear of loss is steering me. I often write of hope and risk, but as I move forward, I see myself not really allowing hope and risk into my being. I talk and I write about longing for happiness, for joy, for “thriving” again, but I think I am more comfortable without happiness. I think really, what good can come from being happy anyway? It will only end in heartache, right? If I put my wounded heart out there, it will only be wounded again, right?
My heart has been repaired with the scar tissue that grief creates. As I consider some of the decisions that I have made in the past weeks as October approaches, I wonder if that scar tissue is too tough, too restrictive to let my heart welcome joy again. It feels like when things start to feel better, I retreat. I run back to the sadness I know well…because, really isn’t that where I’m going to end up in the long run? Why not just cut the middle man out and stay there? Why open myself up to feeling the goodness again, the kindness again, feeling blessed again? Happy doesn’t stay around. Happy is fleeting. Happy is for someone else. These are the things that lurk in my soul. Will I be able to survive losing happiness again? I guess I’m not sure anymore. Dread is preventing me, heartache seems to tangle my mind. I have had a slight taste of happy and kind of normal again. I’ve had a glimpse and I don’t think I can dive in completely because October tells me that it will all end again. So I crawl back, I let my scar tissue constrict me. I shy away from happiness in all aspects of my life. I don’t let myself hope for better. I dream of it, but I can’t invest myself in it.
You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness. -Jonathan Safran Foer
My ongoing struggle is how to find the balance between the fear that lurks within me and moving forward with life. I know that his death will always be woven through me. I know I need to transcend the dread, the fear and the heartache. I know the glimpses of happiness that I have known recently are tugging me toward them. What I don’t know is if I have the courage to let myself embrace them regardless of where they take me. As October approaches, my soul aches, my courage wanes, my heart retreats to safety. I will ride it out. I know I’ll come out on the other side. I know that when it comes down to the heart of it all, happy is what I will pursue. But I also know that I must have patience and that I must recognize each step I take toward happy will someday move me closer to a place where my fear will melt away. As another October approaches, as I walk through it all again, as I survive it one more time, fear will move further away, restricting my heart slightly less. Someday, maybe someday, courage will return and my heart will open again to the happiness that I long for…hopefully.