My mother told me in order for her to get through the pains of labor and birth, she would jump ahead in time and think, tomorrow – perhaps the day after that – it will all be over and she would have a baby in her arms. That is what she focused on during her contractions and pushes of seven children in eleven years. This was long before epidurals, safe drugs and Lamaze. Childbirth was extremely painful back in the day. This thought gave her the courage not to give up and keep going. Her coping words came back to me this morning.
My daughter left last night to head back to her home five hours away. Of course, this made me boo-hoo for awhile. And sometimes, in the midst of my sobs, I will text my besties…and this time was one of those times. I texted how much I already missed my daughter. I texted about my emptiness and numbness on Thanksgiving. I texted the next time I see my girl, we will be going through the most difficult times of our lives as a family. Not only will we be facing a first Christmas Eve and Christmas without Peter, but my daughter is also coming again on Peter’s birthday. We, the three of us, just the three of us, have a closing planned in mind. So when she comes home, there will be three days of looking at, head-on, the most brutal three days we may ever know.
One friend texted back a reassurance that we would get through them because we are strong, and acknowledged how painful it will be to do so. The other friend agreed while suggesting trying to live in these moments before the painful days. It’s something I used to preach – living in the now – but it was another thing Death put in the once-was column. I texted my love, my gratitude and then quoted my mother’s wisdom of getting through the pain.
Thanksgiving was hard. I struggled with the memories that didn’t give me as much comfort as I hoped. Instead set into my heart a deep longing for what used-to-be. I wanted to find Peter in the memories of the past. One day, perhaps I will, but this first Thanksgiving and all I found was emptiness. I also battled with sadness against trying to be happy which only left numbness as the victor. Yet, and this is the important part, I made it through. I made it through the next day for a nice outing with my daughter. I made it through to Saturday where we put up a Christmas Village and a scattering of other decorations along with a family dinner of lasagna. And I made it through to Sunday where my daughter and I went to a movie, and my son came over to carry down heavy boxes. I made it through. We made it through. Together.
As I look ahead to this month, dreading the days of pain awaiting us, I see days at my apartment, writing, Christmas shopping, wrapping gifts, getting groceries, and writing some more. I see nights spent in my pajamas watching my shows on the TV or maybe another Trivia Night. I see days or nights at a holiday party in my apartment complex, having some guests over, and stopping in for a glass of wine/hot chocolate during a happy hour at one of the many hotels or restaurants surrounding me. Those are the days, the nights, I need to see, I need to feel, to be in, to live in, during the nows.
Yes, these sad, painful, dreadful days will be coming. They’re not going to be erased or magically disappear. And I hope, when they come, I will remember my mother’s story of jumping ahead to the future, knowing it will be temporary. I am going to try to see the tomorrows during the pain of today while knowing in order to get to there, I have to live through the pain. Maybe, living through all of these days, my family will become closer and stronger unit. We will get through it, as we always do. I will get through it, as I always do. And I will emerge a different me … through a difficult labor.