To say I have been struggling is an understatement. Every evening, I have a mental list of Tomorrow I Will. "Tomorrow, I will wash my hair, get Damien to school on time, do an art project with Everett, keep the house presentable, and do something for my business." Very, very basic things. "Tomorrow, I will do the bare minimum", essentially. And yet, there have only been two or three days when I have actually completed my Tomorrow list.
I once had two good days in a row. It was after I had made a decision about something, and I felt the possibility of hope. Not hope itself, and certainly not joy. But the sense that maybe, someday, I could be happy again. Never the same, never not missing him, but happy. Functional. Present. I did everything on my Tomorrow list. And even a thing or two that wasn't on there.
But then reality came crashing down again, and hard. Memories mixing with desire, desiring more memories. Oh Atticus, how can I no longer make new memories of you? I want you in my arms again. I want January to have never happened. Ever ever ever. That my future does not contain you is unbearable. I wear my necklace with his ashes, fingerprint, and birthstone every second of every minute of every day, and I think of him almost as often. But he's not here. He's not strapped in his car seat behind me, kicking his legs, taking of his shoes, laughing. He's not opening and closing doors. He's not throwing toys at me when I shower. He's not simply opening doors and walking away, when he decides we're done wherever we are. He's not nodding his head and doing the actions to "Happy and You Know It" as best as he can. He's not demanding that I hold him, and not just hold him, but walk around. He's not putting his fingers in his mouth. He's not making his happy noises.
He's not doing anything.
Many nights, I cry so hard I cannot breathe. Some nights, the shaking and inability to breathe proceeds the crying. Sometimes, I make no noise at all, and the tears just stream down my face. (Like Atticus's fountain. He loved his fountain. My baby, my baby, I am so sorry, I miss you so much, my sweetest pea, please come home.)
Sometimes, it's just that I miss him so much. Atticus was my life, my love, my reason. His brothers too, of course, but he needed me in a way no one else ever has, or ever will. I was irreplaceable for him. And he, oh god, he is truly irreplaceable for me. Sometimes I still expect to hear his voice, to see his little hands reach towards me. But I never do. It takes all of my strength to not let that consume me.
The worst of it is the flashbacks to his final hours. I would trade my soul for one more minute with Atticus, but if I could erase those memories, I would. I have tried discussing them with my therapist, talking about it over and over to rid those memories of their paralyzing power. I have tried ignoring them, yelling at my own mind to shut the fuck up when it goes there. I have written an account as detailed as I can remember, and then burned it. I have pulled my hair and dug my nails into my skin.
I believe with all my heart that I know the exact moment Atticus died, when he ceased to be himself. His heart stopped for the first time almost right afterwards. So, I take comfort in that, in knowing he never had to experience what was done to his body...even though it means he didn't experience the final, peaceful hour when I held him and told him everything I could think to say, before his heart stopped the final time.
Maybe I would keep that hour. I washed his body with a cloth while I held him. I sang to him. The machines were off. He was disconnected from everything except a single IV, a breathing tube, and a heart monitor that the nurse kept an eye on outside of the room. He was surrounded by love, My love, my mother's love, my cousin's love, and my brother's love. And the love of everyone who knew what was happening, but couldn't be there. The love of his father, flying back from California. The love of my sisters. And the love of my most precious friends.
That other people loved him is what enabled me to survive January, February, and March. My love for Damien and Everett is the only thing I can cling to anymore, the only thing that gets me out of bed, out of my head. The truth is, my grief has gotten old. Old to others, and certainly old to myself. The novelty has worn off, and now it just sits there. The blackest of black holes, threatening to suck me in. A well that cannot be filled, not with all the tears in the world. Its gravity is overpowering, pulling me into its orbit. I cling with all my might to Damien, to Everett. To my friends, who do wonderful things like track down Atticus's homecoming outfit and make it into a stuffed animal for me to hold while I cry. (Damien and Everett each have a stuffed bear, which they each call "AttiBear", that contains a silver heart-shaped box, with Atticus's name carved into it, and his ashes inside. Now I have an AttiCat to match.) To people who call me, to people who text me to say they're thinking of Atticus. These threads though, they seem so fragile.
I will continue to exist. I will continue to fake it. I will continue to be the best mother I can be. I will continue to make my Tomorrow I Will lists, and do my best to check items off. But it is hard. And it's not getting any easier.