It's interesting how something so horrific can sometimes seem so normal. It's weird when it becomes so much a part of your life that you almost can't recognize it as something that should be unthinkable.
It's impossible to fathom what life after losing a child is like until you're immersed in this very strange world where things that should shatter you are somehow routine.
This morning I found myself needing to sort out Thomas' drawer, the only one in his change table that still remains his. The change table is the one piece of furniture from his nursery that we left up, and all the other drawers are filled with craft stuff and stickers and such. But the top drawer holds all his mementos. Baby shower cards and photos, his untouched baby book, sympathy cards, the video of my 18 week ultrasound, a scrapbook a friend made for me on his first birthday, the package of this things from the hospital, donation notices and a few other odds and ends I couldn't bear to put away in the basement.
I printed off a couple of e-mails from his first birthday that I wanted to put with his things this morning, and it turned into a complete reorganization of the drawer. As I was moving this and that, it suddenly became very important for the box from the funeral parlor to find its way into the drawer too. Up until today it had been kept somewhere else. Partly, I think, because I didn't like the idea of a box from a funeral parlor in the same drawer with all my precious baby's things. But now, two years on, I see that they belong there too. The cards, the cross from his coffin, the death certificate - they are all part of Thomas' story.
And today they all ended up in the same drawer, at last.
I poked through the funeral parlor box before putting it away. I didn't read all the cards, but I leafed through a few, looked at the donation notices and flipped through the baby book the funeral parlor gave us to fill out (a special one for parents in our situation).
It made me desperately sad, of course. All of it. And a few times I felt myself on the verge of those all-too-familiar tears. But at the same time I was keenly aware of how normal it felt. How normal all this feels.
And how strange it is to have a drawer of mementos for a dead boy be so normal.
But what choice do you have but to find a way for it to be ordinary? New ordinary. Your ordinary.
A few weeks ago I was reading the blog of a fellow mother in mourning. She was writing about the ceremony they had for their son on the day they scattered his ashes at a serene lake near their home. The ceremony was achingly beautiful and I was so touched by the tenderness with which she wrote about her painful goodbye.
At the end of the passage I found myself sitting in front of my computer stunned and devastated as I thought about the utter horror of what they had to do that day - to let go of their son and return to their lives without him.
And then I realized I'd done it too. And suddenly I was on the outside looking in, and just as horrified for My Beloved and I as I'd been seconds ago for the other parents who'd lost their darling boy.
I don't look at it that way very often (which is probably a good thing). I don't see our life the way others probably do. Our feelings, our fragility, our anger, our tears, our hopes, our sorrows, our completely different outlook on life, our morbid little inside jokes - it's all so strangely normal.
We look at the world with very different eyes now, both of us. There's no denying that.
And I'm as stunned as the next person that the actual horror of our situation has become something I barely notice anymore. We just keep moving forward - adjusting our thinking, settling in, sorting out, working through - and moving on again.
Because that's what you do. It's just what you do.
And no, I still don't really know how.