Last night, in the bath tub, I did what I always do on the anniversary of Gabriel’s death. I looked at his photo’s and I allowed myself some time to remember and weep. The first photo of me holding him, as I sang him a lullaby. Gabe in Owen’s arms, as he called our family and they spoke to him. Gabe being baptized. Gabriel, as my mother bathed and dressed and swaddled him. Gabriel in his grandmother’s arms.
All at once I was filled with a sense of outrage. How can I be a woman who has outlived her mother and her son? I suppose it is natural to outlive your parents, but in the great order of how things are supposed to be, it seems to me that we outlive our parents who are our past, our history, and we reconcile this by handing our history to our children. The past becomes the future in this way.
And then there is me, living in the now. With my parents gone, I have lost my past. I am now an orphan. While I am not alone and very much surrounded by people who love me, some fundamental part of my past, the secrets of my childhood, they are gone.
And those things I would like to pass on, I have no easy place to put them. I nurture my nieces and nephews, hold on to friends and the family I have left, but it is not so simple. It is not straightforward. I must consciously say “I would like to teach you this, I would like to know that in the future, when I leave the world, it will not be gone. I think this matters.”
I usually try, in the post after Gabe’s birthday, to talk about how I survived the day, to reflect on how much I loved my son and how thankful I am that I am still alive. I am still all of those things. It has been 7 years, I see the progress of grief, how things change. It’s just that this year in particular I am aware of how there is so little past and no sure future and there is only now.