Last time I posted, my life was moving along like a wandering creek, flowing or trickling through its course over sand or rocks, as life will do. June of last year we went to Mazatlan Mexico for my husband's 50th birthday, made a few road trips in the following months, and on April 11th I bought tickets for a two week trip to Berlin to celebrate my 50th birthday, and the completion of my college degree, in my favorite city and alongside my brother who lives there and whom I rarely get to see. I was elated that day, looking forward to a long stay full of free traveling and free time in my favorite place in the world so far.
I had not the slightest clue that the very next day my world would be shattered. Friday afternoon I had chatted with my son on Facebook, satisfied that he was spending the weekend with good friends. He was happy. As a mother, that's pretty much all we ever want, is for our kids to be happy. He returned from his trip Sunday night, April 12. He posted "It's good to be home." It was the last Facebook post of his life. He went for a walk and was killed that night. I learned of it the next morning when my dear husband had to tell me. We hugged and cried and floundered in sadness, doubt and misery. My husband asked if we should cancel our trip. I replied with a firm and adamant "no". I knew we would need that trip more than ever. I was right.
You see, there are many things people don't talk about or understand when it comes to grief. Over the past 5 months since this happened, we have learned all its hard lessons and terrible secrets. We have felt the shattered helpless despair of the bereft, the disbelief, the doubt, the anger. There is a deep sadness that lingers below the surface of even the happiest of days and comes pouring out at the slightest provocation. Sometimes it is a song, or a movie we saw together. One day it was a Facebook meme of a Monty Python reference. On any given day, we find that we have very little control over our emotions and are prone to irritability about everything. At the same time, we find it difficult to care very much about anything, and to quote Pink Floyd, "Nothing is very much fun anymore." I work in customer service and my husband is a truck driver so this emotional instability is a very real and daily challenge. So, as it turns out, I was right about not canceling our trip. We needed it desperately by the time it came. We needed the total change of scenery. We needed to not have to drive anywhere. We needed our happy memories of the last time we were there, when our son was able to come with us for a week. We also needed to confront our new future, together and with no distractions, to find a new purpose and new goals in our lives that no longer had to do with leaving a legacy for our son who could no longer be the focus of our future.
We are now actively trying to move to Germany. I find it is one of the few things that awakens a sense of interest in me these days. We see and feel the shortcomings in our current life much more keenly, feeling more aware of its limitations, its staleness and its frustrations. The one thing I always wanted to instill in my son was the awareness of this big wide world and its endless opportunities. I wanted him to feel its openness, to know that this little box we all grow up in, our hometown, is only one small fraction of many sights and sounds and cultures of many ways of life, all waiting to teach us new ways of thinking, new hopes, new dreams and new purposes.
I know this post is already very long, but I will add some thoughts I wrote while taking a creative writing class last spring, a year before my life was to be up-heaved and redefined, and yet this thread of living life to the fullest remains, including the message to my son, and now my message to you.
#1: Free writing: 4/1/14I can’t wait for the cold and rain to go away. It’s not that I mind it so much, but we bought a new Harley in January and I’m just itching to ride it. I’ve only been on it a couple of times so far. It feels a lot different from our last bike, which was a little smaller, and my seat sat lower to the wind. On that bike, my husband’s body shielded me from much of the wind but on the new one I sit higher and can see above his head without looking around the side of his instead. I feel more wind and it’s colder but the ride is smoother. This new bike is quieter than our old one. We made sure that one was louder, switching the pipes to ones that roar like a Harley should. It made us feel safe, knowing that if drivers didn’t see us they surely heard us! Now I worry a little that this humming quiet ride holds danger, but then, all life holds danger. We ride because we love it and would rather enjoy a short life than regret chances lost over a long one. When my mother died last year, we thought of that often. She used to travel a lot. Sometimes it was to visit me but more often it was just to sunny places that got her out of cold Berlin. But she hadn’t traveled at all for quite a few years. Instead, she stayed home and smoked stinky cigarettes and hid her money in a hole in the floor in a corner of her bedroom. Truly! She had thousands of Euros in the floor, saved to give to my brother and me. I was happy to get the money, but would rather she had used it to buy nice things and go out to eat and travel like she used to, and like I do now. I save against a rainy day, but my husband and I learned from my mom that life is too precious to stash under a floorboard, curled up in the dark like a rat. So we save some but spend more. We ride our Harley on sunny days, with no shelter between the world and us, nothing blocking the scents or the wind. In spring, I can always smell the daffodils, then the lilacs, then the roses. We travel too, where more exotic flowers grow, like Mexico. We’re going there this summer for his 50th birthday. The last few years we’ve gone in December, just to get away from the cold and rain and grayness of western Washington winter, but thanks to my mom, we’re going in summer too, staying in a new place we’ve never been before and next year we’ll see Italy for the first time and see if we’ll love it enough for a second or third visit. And then a year or two after that, we have plans to visit more of Europe. I’m going to visit Jim Morrison’s grave and leave a lipstick kiss on Oscar Wilde’s tomb. I love their writing but I also like that they lived their lives the way they wanted, even when others didn’t approve. I can’t wait to see the history of Prague and Vienna and learn why Paris is called the city of lights. I’ll be done with school by then and we might live there one day. I watch a show on TV called Househunters International about people moving to countries that are not the United States and I think “Yes! I want that!” And I watch and learn what things cost, what jobs the people have and hear the stories of why they’re moving, because I know they are just like me and want a life that is interesting and worthy of being the memories we have left to look back on when in our last dying days we think about our joys and regrets, courage and cowardice. I plan on leaving skid marks on the way to my grave, clear tracks that show I played hard and lived my dreams and saw everything I could before it was time to go. I hope that is the legacy I leave my son and he won’t have to dig it up from a hole under a floorboard.
~ Happy wandering