It's difficult being my friend right now. I'm abrasive. I'm prickly. I'm still hurting in a way that makes other people uncomfortable. No one wants to hear about Mark anymore, but that's all I think about. When I talk about my life, what's going on and how I really feel, people around me get quiet and wait for me to finish. I don't always use pretty language. They don't comment. Or else they try to talk me out of my feelings telling me I shouldn't think or say what I'm thinking and saying. Then they quickly change the subject and steer back to the lighthearted. I'd love for the conversation to be lighthearted, and I can fake it for a while, but my heart is so heavy I can't keep it up for very long. It's as though I have an open, gaping wound, but no one sees it.
How can they not see it?
The blessing of being in the pediatric cancer world is that I know several people who have lost children. A couple weeks ago I ran into a woman whose son died in July. She invited me out for coffee. We talked and cried and laughed and cried, the conversation circling effortlessly from our dead kids to the lighthearted and back again. To her I wasn't difficult, abrasive or prickly. She listened and nodded in agreement as I strung together expletives. She didn't try to talk me out of any of my feelings, just agreed that what we were both feeling really stunk and hoped with me that we wouldn't always feel this way. And while the circumstances of our children's deaths are different, so much else is the same: the wishing for one more minute, one more hug, the worry about our other kids, the feeling of having failed as a parent. Finally someone willing to listen without judgment or fear or discomfort. Finally another mom who knows the desperate, impossible longing to go back in time.
We sat together at Starbucks for three hours on a bitterly cold Wednesday, two moms for whom the open wounds we each carry are so obvious as to need no explanation.