A while back I was talking to my niece (this would be the mother of the cutest great nephew in the world). It’s worth noting that unlike most of my nieces, Christie is actually older than me. We are more like cousins than nieces.
We have deals, Christie and I. When we are old and our husband’s have died, we will live together and brew gin in the bathtub. If I am ever in a coma, she will come to the hospital and perform certain grooming services. I will do the same for her. I adore her beyond all comprehension, and not merely because she made me a great aunt. No, I adore her because she is funny and wise and kind and has a great sense of humour.
Christie tried to help when Gabriel died, it’s just that in his death a gulf opened up between me and the rest of the world. When I say tried, I mean it. She and her husband dropped everything and flew out to be with us, they talked on the phone with us, they did everything they could to help. They asked how they could help.
I was not particularly gracious in that help. Sometimes, often times, the help seemed to hurt more. It wasn’t them, it was me. There were a few people that got the brunt of my anger about my son’s death. Make no mistake, I was very angry about what happened to me.
I lashed out. I was hard to live with. My family and friends must have wondered what happened to their usually happy and normal Mrs. Spit. Who was this woman who said and did these things?
Who was this woman who was so angry? Who was she that she was so filled with hurt? What on earth should they do with her?
I can’t have been easy to live with. There was no real consolation. In hindsight, I recognize that waking up and going to sleep without my child was a tragedy that no one could take away from me. People could, and did, come along and hold my hand, but in the end, I alone was the person that woke up with no son, moved through my waking hours with no son, went to sleep with no child, dreamed of a baby that wasn’t with me. There was no one who could change that. There simply was nothing that could ever be enough.
I was sad, I was bewildered, I was despondent, but at the back of all of that was a white hot core of rage. It exploded sometimes.
If I had it to do over, I would spend more time saying “I’m angry. We were good people, we would have been good parents, we didn’t deserve this. I’m angry that people who don’t want their children go home with living babies, and our son died. I’m tired of the platitudes, I just want some respite from how badly this hurts, every moment of every day.”
The problem is that there is no do over. There is no way to take away the white hot words of anger that erupted out of me. Gabriel only died once – you don’t get to try for a better result the second time. Even more than that, when I think back, when I wondered what I could have done differently, the answer is nothing.
I could have done nothing differently. Perhaps there is a great failure in me as a person. I thought about that, you know. I thought about what was wrong with me that I erupted with rage.
Not then, not in the midst of the rage, but after. I called it sin. I apologized, profusely. I hurt the people who loved me most. I hurt people who were trying to help me. It did not seem like there were words enough to apologize to my beloved niece.
I think, in hindsight, there was nothing wrong with me. This was the natural response to so great a tragedy. There is nothing for pain like this – no sedative and no amorelation. There’s just that terrible sadness, the aching lonliness, the white hot anger.
But that still left me in a hard place. I am a person who says “I’ll try harder.” I will try harder even when I should just give up. That time I couldn’t have tried harder, I was truly doing the best I could. Everything was hard. Everything hurt. My skin was raw and flayed, it took almost nothing to set me off.
So, what then? When you have apologized and been forgiven? When you realize that the matter is over and done with, that you did your best and your best wasn’t really good?
I suppose, I have carried this with me. I have thought about it, I have turned it over and realized:
Our best is sometimes not very good. Our best is sometimes all we have to offer, and sometimes in the worst situations in life, it isn’t much. It pays to be a bit kind to yourself when you are broken.