Although Lu’s turkey was by far the most tender, flavorful and beautiful bird that has ever graced our Thanksgiving table, in the end this holiday mostly sucked.  Don’t get me wrong, seeing friends and family was wonderful.  The wine and beer, the feasting and laughter, the delicious scents of savory cooking were all excellent, but none of that could mask the feeling of endless emptiness for our missing son Silas.

I thought I had wrangled myself into a good place.  I thought I had achieved a modicum of acceptance, had found a bit of grace amidst this sadness, had yanked and twisted my soul into something that resembled the person I was before September 25, 2008.  It turns out I was way ahead of myself.

I’m still damaged.  My capacities and tolerances are no where near what they were (and they were never that impressive to begin with).  We tried to rock this Thanksgiving much like every other in the past and it was just too much.  Luckily we have amazingly understanding and forgiving families who are perfectly cognizant of our fragile state, but are unfortunately just as lost as Lu and I as we stumble through our shattered lives.  They are damaged, too, and together our grief was reflected and magnified in their eyes and souls.  The pain rebounded and ricocheted as we all tried to navigate through this unfamiliar terrain.

I worked through my actions and reactions, though, and tried to figure out how our grief had changed us. I tried to figure out what would help us stay on a calm and healthy path.  Mundane pressure and life’s minor decisions made me agitated and then all my disaster alarms started to fire.  Things quickly became complicated for me and for no good reason.  It really had nothing to do with whether dinner was an hour later or earlier and it had everything to do with the complete lack of control I felt after three days ‘on’ trying to put the best face forward.

That used to be natural.  ‘On’ was the default setting for me.  It’s not anymore.  Now ‘on’ takes an effort but it is one I like to make because it reminds me of how good it can feel to be alive.  For two months now we have been living fairly controlled lives.  We’ve stayed close to home, we’ve been sleeping, reading, and watching TV.  I’ve been back to work, but it is work that I am in charge of which is wonderful.  I make my own schedule.  I can be flexible and ready, but each week coffee needs to be roasted and delivered, the roast of each batch delicious and correct every time.  I control all of that.

I know our families didn’t need for us to be ‘on’.  It was just something each of us felt happening because it was how we needed to be for ourselves.  For Silas, I thought.  We did okay for a while, but in the end it was a meltdown and those are never pretty.

There were certain things we needed to do that we didn’t even realize.  We should have taken more time to talk about and honor Silas directly.  It wasn’t as though his name was avoided or the reality of the situation denied, but we could have been more present and clear about missing him.  Now we know, though, and can prepare a little better for our next family gathering.  That is where his absence is especially painful, because he is part of these two amazing families, and he is apart from them forever.

I was reminded this weekend that communication and clear expectations are essential.  Patience and understanding for the worlds and worries of others is also key.  I remembered that too late this time–after I was kneedeep in an agitated soup of sadness and adrenaline–but I will keep it mind for next time.

There are going to be so many next times.

I should have been clear about what I needed and less affected by minor inconveniences of everyday life.  More than anything, we needed to remember that we are still very, very early in this healing process and that we must have time to turn ‘off’ and sit on the couch and be sad and alone and slowly recharge for our next foray out into the surprisingly brutal Universe we happen to inhabit.

The problem is, we have been co-opted by Death.  We are part of this group of people that have been touched directly by this elemental force and it doesn’t feel good.  We didn’t ask for this.  We don’t want it to be part of our lives, but in order to touch Silas we have to somehow reach through Death itself.  Crossing that threshold is sickening but it is the only path we have.  So now when we walk into a room it is not just “Oh good here’s Lu she’s so sweet and beautiful and funny and there’s Chris, too!  So alive, so happy, you never quite know what those two might do.”  It’s not just that anymore.  There’s more now.  We carry sadness with us when we walk through the world, and the death of our son Silas sometimes turns us down, down, down to ‘off’ where we can only breathe and think and sit and listen.

We have a long ways to go.  It is raining.  The roads are slick.  There are wrecks and traffic around every corner and beyond every hill.  But the heat is on in our car and I drive with steady precision.  This American Life tells us stories of others in their layered lives.  I remember that everyone has tragedies, and that Death touches all of us at some point or another.  I can see through my tears like I can see through the rain, but the world is soaked in my sadness now.  Our hands are intertwined and the wipers are on and soon, somewhere down the road our safe, cozy, warm home awaits.  We cannot wait to get there.  We cannot wait to heal.  It must be happening with every mile down this road even if it feels like that same cold fall day where a chill settled on my soul.

It must be happening.  It must.