If I could go back and write a letter to my husband on the day our son took his last breath and tell him how he could love me best during the years that would follow, it would read something like this…..
Today our beautiful boy took his last breath, and we are left wondering how we will keep on breathing. I know for sure I cannot breathe unless you take my hand and breathe with me. I will need you to hold me, and I will hold you. I will need you to cry with me. Don’t hold it in. I will need you to sit in the horrible space of not being able to fix this hellish mess. I want you to know that you will always have permission to fall apart, and you will be required to watch me fall part too. When it’s time to stand, I will need you to take my hand. I will be reaching for yours.
There will be fearful times when you worry if I will ever be the same. You should know now that I will not. But as you have known, since the day you met me, I am fierce and I am strong. So with that knowledge, please trust that I will rise again. You will watch me rise and fall, rise and fall, rise and fall. You will catch me on days when you have strength of your own, and you will fall with me on days when our hearts collapse under the simultaneous rhythm of grief.
It will crush you that you cannot lift this pain from my heart. It will tear at your very being that you cannot fix this thing we are now forced to endure for the rest of our lives.
I will become the safest place and the most terrifying place to fall. I will be the one who can be present fully and understand your pain like no one else; yet I will also be the one who will be a constant reminder of your own pain. My pain will trigger you. Your pain will trigger me. And we will both have a choice, to lean in and live it together or to drift apart. I’m begging you today to always lean into me, to hold on tightly to us.
You will have to learn the very fragile dance of knowing when to give me space and when to pull me close. You know me enough now to know that mostly I need to be pulled in close. You will see me panic on days when I feel you drifting away. You will see fear in my eyes when I worry about you. I’m begging you to live. Don’t give up on you, on me, on us- we are all we have, my love. And when it’s all too much and you need to escape, please always come home. But whenever possible, escape with me.
Let’s take care of each other. I’m going to need you to remind me to eat and drink, I’m going to need you to take me to the gym, I’m going to need you to help me hold our crying children and parent them in the midst of our own brokenness, I’m going to need you to find a good show for us to binge-watch, I’m going to need you to go buy more wine. I’ll need you to talk to me- about your feelings, about my feelings, and about our beautiful son’s life.
Then the day will come when I will need you to dream with me. Dream about a future that looks far different from what we had planned, a future that somehow will allow us to grab ahold of his spirit as we live, heal, create, grow and explore. In this space of pain and healing, I will need you to love me more deeply than ever before. I will need you to love me as if I am now- not one, but two- because from this day forward I am me and I am him. Death cannot separate either of us from this boy who stole our hearts, so as I love you and you love me, we continue to love our son who is woven into the very DNA of each of our souls.
Today as we hold his body for the last time and find ourselves holding our breath, I ask you to learn how to breathe again with me, and love me like I am no longer one, but two.