We have, of course, received dozens of sympathy cards since Abraham’s death. I had them sitting on my desk for a few days because I didn’t know what to do with them. I decided last week though to hang them up so that my children and older grandchildren would see them. Each day brings a few more, so each day I add more to the interior glass paneled doors that they are hanging on.
On Monday, I was hanging the ones that had come in over the weekend. Most of them are either Mass cards (we are Catholic) or straight sympathy cards expressing sorrow over “your loss” and so forth. But then I came to one that said straight out on the front of the card, “In Memory of Your Son…” I was taken aback by it and my immediate thought was that the person who sent it was confused. Then I realized that they were talking about Abe. But not really about ABE, but rather about the RUMOR about Abe being dead. The whole time, note, I was well aware – but not fully? – that Abraham was dead.
I caught myself, of course, and the whole thing happened in seconds, if not faster than that. But it revealed to me again this powerful defense that I am clearly immersed in.
The entire week this week, every time I have referred to Abraham – or rather, intended to – I have said Irving (see earlier posts). I catch it a lot, but I don’t know if I catch it all the time. Again, an automatic defense I assume.
But yesterday was the best. I was talking to a friend about what I am going through and how I am getting through it (that is, by not going through anything most of the time except the intense loss of short term memory.) I was trying to explain how odd it is. Finally, I used one of my imaginary scenarios (earlier post). I said that if we were to get to my house, and Gilbert were sitting there, I would be as astounded as anyone. Gilbert was the first of my kids to die and that was nearly twenty six years ago. It simply would not make sense for him to be sitting in the house. But, if we were to get back to the house and (I was about to type “Irving” but caught it)….Abraham were sitting there, I would not only have no surprise, but I would turn to her and say, “See….” Meaning “See, I knew he wasn’t dead. I knew I was right about this. I knew it was all a rumor.”
That’s what I would do. Even though I know he’s dead. It’s not what I would do with Gilbert though. Or Irving. Or Ricky. (earlier posts) If they were sitting there. Them, I’d be taken aback. I’d be surprised. I’d be happy, let me tell you, but I’d be knowing there was something off here. But Abe? No, I would not be surprised at all. I’d be……vindicated. That’s the word: vindicated. I was right and you all were wrong. Especially that poor person who sent me the card saying “In Memory of Your Son.” I knew he was alive is what I’d say……
Now I am sixty one years old tomorrow. I know Abraham is dead. I can’t get him out of my head. His death is there morning and night. It’s there when I wake up and as I go to sleep. But I also can’t believe it. I simply can’t. There’s too much between us; there are too many ties; ties that are too deep for them to be severed. All at once. Just like that. We go back too far. It makes no sense. I know what I am going through; I know that it’s a grief reaction; I have been through it before. Still I was right last (written) post: it’s stronger than real.
I have experience; I have support; I know that I am not crazy despite believing these crazy things. No one is putting me on drugs; no one is forcing me to see a therapist. I am furious but only at those who minimize what’s happened to me and my family. The funeral director – and I’ve seen many in my life to measure him against – was beyond irresponsible: he was incompetent. The so-called-counselors from the organ donation agency would be fired in a second were I running that program. So too their supervisors. By no means am I done with those folks.
Yet, I know that my feelings are raw. I also know that my internal vision, part of my emotional senses, is laser sharp. I could smell disrespect now in doses too small to be seen. I know all this. And I know that I will come out the other side, because I have come out before. Because I am well aware of the boundaries between who I am and what I am experiencing.
But what if I didn’t know better? What if I took from this experience of brokenness the belief that I was broken? What if I took from this experience of craziness the belief that I was crazy? What if I took from this recognition of others minimizing that my perceptions were way off? What if I took from all this that I was less than they? That I was damaged goods – and the evidence is in what’s happened to me?
And what if you then you came and you took from me my house. And my job. And my car. And this computer. And my school. And my friends. And my bike. And my favorite foods. And my church. And then did it to me again next month. Or next year.
And what if you told me that all this was my fault because of my behavior? What if I believed you then and concluded that not only my pain, but that Abe’s death was my fault?
And the only person I had to turn to was my social worker who is off – and took off early – for the Labor Day weekend?
What would I have to do to myself to keep myself sane if that were my lot in this life?
I know that Abraham is dead. I know I can’t bear to feel that loss every day all day. I couldn’t go to work. I couldn’t even talk the pain is so bad. So something inside me simply doesn’t allow me to believe it – without me even realizing it’s at work in me. Except I catch that absurd refusal at odd moments – see above – and I am determined to document it to help me – to help us – figure out how to help all the other hurting, and originally innocent, Abrahams out there. He deserved better. He did.
Jack: All who admire you know how hard this has been for you. To all of your children you have brought honest feelings and comfort; how little we can understand how we affect others. For our family you have brought so much and I haven’t even met you. Please know my grown children have such an enriched life because of all you have done. Thank you.
Mom of Alan & Heather