The Hardest Days
Last night Jim and I were talking about how long it’s been since we’ve seen Ana. 172 days. Being away from her for 2 days used to feel like a long time, but 172 days? Before she died, this length of time was as unfathomable as…forever. Now we’re nearing autumn, the third season to come since she died. Autumn holds so many good and bad memories. Ana was diagnosed in September 2012 and spent forty days in the hospital. She was so sick that we weren’t sure if she’d ever be discharged. That she went on to live another (almost) five years was a gift. I know that. I really do but…
I have been exceptionally sad this month. The hummingbirds are gone except for one brief sighting yesterday. I’ve put out feeders to attract cardinals, woodpeckers and blue jays. The jays hold a special place in my heart even though they’re loud and large. Blue was Ana’s favorite color. One of the first signs I got in answer to my direct pleas for Ana to make her presence known was a blue jay feather in my driveway. The Jays and Cardinals seem too large for the feeders, but I sometimes see them swoop in and grab a seed (or get them from the ground). The feeders have mostly been attracting a type of songbird called a tufted titmouse. They flock in groups of three or four. They are sweet little birds and I think Ana would’ve liked them, but she would’ve loved the hummingbirds the most. I still go outside whenever I can, even on these chilly mornings, so I can sit and shiver and watch the titmice swoop in, grab a seed, and fly away.
I’m worried about winter. All those months of not being surrounded by birds. All that stark desolation.I don’t know how I’ll feel close to her without the birds. Sometimes, like yesterday, I completely give in to missing her. That’s when I watch old videos and look at photos and weep and weep and weep. Jim found me sitting outside by myself yesterday, brooding and crying, in a terrible mood. He said Ana wouldn’t want me to retreat into myself and I said, “I don’t care.” And then a hummingbird appeared, flying from feeder to feeder, hanging around long enough to make sure I saw him. I felt better after that. Still sad, but able to get up and shake the darkness from my soul for most of the day.
I’m worried about people I care about in Florida right now, as many of you are too. When I talked to a friend who is actually in the direct path of Irma (and who lost her son in February to leukemia), she mentioned how similar her feeling of growing dread is to the last days of her son’s life. “All this watching and waiting for something awful to happen… The feeling is too familiar.” Well, I’m paraphrasing. I can’t remember her exact words, but I understand what she’s saying, what she’s feeling even though I’m physically not in harm’s way. Both of us know that disaster can strike directly into the center of what we love most and so there’s a kind of PTSD she’s experiencing (and, to a lesser extent, I’m experiencing) mixed in with the grief.
Grief has weight and this weight changes. Sometimes it’s lighter (like when I sit outside and watch the birds). Sometimes it’s so heavy that I find it nearly impossible to move. I’m trying my best not to let my sadness overwhelm me, but sometimes it does. It does. It’s like I’m trapped beneath the eye of that monstrous hurricane with all of the people I’m worried about, even though I’m safe. It’s like…I’m safe, but I don’t feel safe. Even words are failing me today, and words have always been my lifeline.