Thomas would have started grade two this week. On the first day of school, I lay in bed and told him about the day that would have been. The special breakfast I would have cooked, the way we'd have walked to school together, the treat I'd have made him to snack on after school while he told me about all the adventures he'd had as a big boy in grade two.
Then I got up and carried on with my day. I don't remember what I did, I just know it was painfully ordinary.
Back to school pictures, which began popping up on Facebook back in mid August as children of my American friends headed back, reached their agonizing peak this week. The annual assault.
I would have done it too, of course. Thomas all dressed up in his first-day best, smiling at the camera as he headed out the door to grade two. I would have sent the picture to his grandma and his Auntie Kathy. And his bubby and nonno too.
I would have.
It was wearying. My last grief-frayed nerve about to snap on Tuesday, when a new friend e-mailed me and asked how I was coping with the onslaught. She barely knows me. We've met once. But she has been a staunch supporter of Thomas' Random Act of Kindness Day since a mutual friend told her about it a few years ago, and she has a rare kind of sensitivity that I'm discovering is like a cooling balm on a sunburn.
A blissful salve on time-worn grief.
It didn't occur to anyone else. And nor should it, really. I'm not the centre of anyone's universe but my own. At seven-years old, my grief is seasoned. And besides, I don't tell people that eleventy-billion milestone pictures coming at me for two solid weeks eventually starts to erode the stitches holding my heart together. So how could anyone have known?
But thank God for that one friend who did think to ask. It's all I needed.
All the bereaved moms I know say the same thing: every once in a while we just want someone to acknowledge our loss. Not all the time and not out of guilt or obligation. But maybe once in a blue moon; just a quiet nod to the ongoing agony of loss that ebbs and flows as life marches on. Especially as life marches on.
Because grief marches in place.