Today I have the privilege of partnering with the amazingly talented Brian Miller at WaystationOne. He wrote the first half of this story, so jump on over there to read the beginning, then come back here for the end.
It's been two weeks since he died, and I'm drowning. But I knew that someday I would. After all, there's penance. Penance for sins so great we cannot breathe them out loud. I look at my treasure. This living, breathing proof of my husband, Will's love. A love that I didn't think I ever deserved. And I know it's all my fault his daddy's gone. How am I going to raise this precious child without him? I can't even breathe.
I met him accidentally. I know people say that, and then believe that some higher power arranged it, but not me. I know it really was an accident. I mean, how many times does it happen that you're in a car crash and the paramedic turns out to be the love of your life? I gave up believing such nonsense at an early age. But there he was. His kindness calming me, his reassurance actually believable.
“Mom? Mom? Aren't we going to play”
I shrug the thoughts away, the blanket of them too heavy for my child. We play. I tuck him in.
Evenings are always the hardest. Without his presence, I have no compass. I'd been a silly girl to believe in redemption. In a love so overpowering that the past melted away. “It doesn't matter what happened before we met. What counts is from now on.” I'd actually begun to think it might be true.
I can't sleep in our bed. We'd loved so tenderly that last morning, and I can't bear to go back there without him. Instead I haunt the couch, and try to endure the vacuum my life has become. But the chill always comes, creeps into my bones. Evil. But tonight's chill is different. Tonight Josh said, “Daddy is right there!” And I haven't been able to shake the feeling of a presence, even though I was able to so calmly say, “Well of course, he'll always be with us, honey. In our hearts.” Tonight the chill has weight, and form, and makes me uncomfortable in my skin.
I see it again. I'm in that room, monitors beeping, doctors discussing me in whispers as if I weren't right there, didn't have a voice. Or a choice. “It's either her, or the child. We can't save them both.” Unable to speak, unable to cry out in protest, I fade away.
They saved me. As for our first child, my unborn, precious, miraculous child, he was gone. And I know that's why they took Will. To pay for that, they took him. Took my north, tied these chains of grief around me, and shoved me into this darkness from which there is no escape.
And the dreams have started again. It's always the same. I see our unborn child running towards me, about six years old, golden hair curling, slightly damp at the temples. His little legs sprinting across that meadow, into my eagerly waiting arms. He doesn't see the presence behind him, doesn't see the hooded figures with icy breath, skeleton hands, quickly catching up to him. I know that if I reach him first, he's mine. But my feet always get stuck in the mire, and I never get there in time. He's always just one step out of reach when they snatch him up, take him away. His piercing scream of terror echoing, “Mom! Mom! Help! Don't let them take me!” No words come. I want to say, “I'll find you, I'll rescue you!” But I have no mouth. I can't even scream.
I always fight sleep. Most nights I end up in the hall outside Josh's room, as if I could guard him from that evil by my physical presence. Eventually my body gives in to the sleep, and when I awake, I'm curled up on the hardwood floor.
“Mom! Mo-om! Wake UP! Daddy is taking me to the park!”
I'm startled awake. Sunlight dances in through the sky-light, haloing his perfect little face.
My vision clears and I see Josh. And Will! Propped on his hip is the six year old from my dreams. Will reaches for his son's hand, and I'm suddenly wide awake.
“No Josh! No!”
He takes his daddy's hand, and as the three of them turn and walk down the hallway, I'm paralyzed. Just like in my dreams. I'm screaming, screaming, trying to speak, to run, to stop it from happening, but as always I'm stuck.
I don't know how long I lay there, but I know what I'll find when I get up. Finally, I move. Terror and grief are stuck in my throat, thick like paste, but I can't stop myself. I open the door to Josh's room. And of course he's lying right there. Not moving. Stone cold to my fingers.
His eyes flutter, my heart clenching in a fist of hope, “Mom, I saw dad, and another little boy. He said everything is going to be okay and that he will always love us.”
I pull my son to me, threatening to smother him in my embrace, as I soak up the last cold vestiges of my husbands touch.