Friday, February 20, 2015

Nine Years

Today marks 9 years since the death of our son Theo. Thelonius Luther Helbert Fueglein died on this day nine years ago in my arms and his father’s arms at 3:33 p.m. of a brain tumor. He was nine months old. He would be 10 years old on his birthday this year, had he lived. He would be in the fourth grade. He would still have blonde hair (I think) and his eyes were hazel. He looked a lot like his father and a little like me and had these sweet little lips with a perfect cupid’s bow. He loved the sound of the kitchen fan. He loved music. He loved to hear us sing to him. His fingers were like my father’s. His face was as round and full as the moon, and as beautiful.

Those are things I know for sure about him. There are a lot things I don't know. I don’t know what he would like for breakfast. I don’t know what books he would like to read. I don’t know what super heroes he would like, or even if he would. I don’t know what he would want to dress up for each Halloween. I don’t know if he would be funny or quiet or bookish or like sports or play a musical instrument or all of those. I don’t know if he would like to bake or dance or if he would collect rocks or sticks or insects. I don’t know if he would be mischievous or serious. I don’t know if he would like knock-knock jokes or Sponge Bob. I wish I knew those things.

I used to say I hated this grief. But I don’t hate it. My grief serves only to reinforce my love for him. It exists only because of my love for him. The thing about grief that so many people don’t seem to get is that it is not bad. It is a natural and a normal response to the death of one so precious. I don’t need to heal from it. Which is a good thing, because I’m sure now that is not possible. Does it hurt? Yes. Would I trade it? Never. My grief exists only because of my deep and abiding love for my son. Which will never, ever die. It makes absolute perfect sense that I will grieve for him every day for the rest of my life. This is a normal response to an abnormal situation. Except it isn't quite as abnormal as we would all like to think or wish. How intense the feeling of grief is shifts and changes day to day, month to month. Today it is pervasive. Today, it isn't very heavy. There have been many, many days when it was so heavy I could barely stand. It is not like that today. Thankfully. But, heavy or not, today it is pervasive.

There are many days that his death is not in the fore of my thoughts. He himself is always in my thoughts, just as my living child is always in my thoughts—never far, even if I am busy doing something else—they are there in my mind and my heart, equally. The kinds of thoughts I have about each of them are totally different. I don’t need to worry about the same kinds of things for him that I do for my daughter. The things that occupy my mind regarding each of them is very different. But he is there—always present with me.

There are days like today that I wish I could do nothing else but sit with photos of him, cry as much as I want, spend time thinking back to that day. All of those days when he was here and I could feel the weight of his body, drink in the smell of his skin, kiss his face with my lips, put  my cheek next to his, nuzzle the hollow of his temple, bathe him, feed him, bask in the sensual realness of his presence. I would love to spend time thinking of the days before the tumor when we had no idea that our world was about to crash, that we would be forever and ever altered. When he would look in my face and move his little mouth and, I swear, try to talk to me. I would like to spend time thinking back to the days after the tumor when we had a different Theo, but still our Theo. I don’t spend a lot of time anymore in those places, but I still want to.

I miss the possibilities of all potential futures. The not knowing what he would be like, the mistakes he would make, the successes he might have had, who he might choose for his friends, his lovers, his partners, his career, whether he would get married or have children. All of that I will miss out on for the rest of my life. But what I yearn for, what my heart and my body, and my spirit, long and yearn for, so deeply that the pull of it seems stronger even than gravity itself and which never, ever, ever changes, nor will—not with any amount of time or ritual or writing, or prayer, or candle lighting, or meditating—what I yearn for most is the tangible holding, seeing, feeling, feeding, smelling, touching, kissing, hearing, soothing, bathing, tending, mothering that I lost.

I am grateful for the time I had with him, which was far more than many parents get to have. But there could never be enough. No amount of time to see your child grow and be—just be— is ever enough. And I miss him. With every single cell of my body I miss him and I long for him and I always will. Until my dying breath. When hopefully we will be reunited.  But even then, I cannot imagine it could be better than the moments of shared breath, shared heartbeats, the time of physical Earthly mothering that I had with him and that I long for and that still calls to my body and to my heart and was as holy and sacred as any spiritual union might ever be. I can close my eyes and remember. And that just has to be enough. But it will never, ever be.

Forever missing and loving you Theo. 05/26/05—02/20/06

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Seventh Year

For Theo on this Seventh Year~

Every year I am faced with a blank page. Every year I sit and I try to figure out:

What can I say this year? What more can I say that I have not already said?

What is there to say that can possibly express the reality, the depth, the completeness of being saturated daily in this grief?

What can I say to honor your precious little life, present on this earth for 270 days?

8 months, 20 days.

39 weeks.

You lived a lifetime in those weeks. We all did.

You were born a week before you were due, at 39 weeks, and you lived for 39 weeks.

Something in me wants to fold up into itself. A part of me wants to close my eyes and have none of this. To crawl into a deep cave and stay. To sink deep into the dark earth. But I know that I will not do that. I don’t even think I’m capable of it. It’s not in me. Sometimes I wish it were.

I get tired of this grief. So tired of the pain. It comes, and every time it does, I am surprised by it's intensity and it makes me tired. But really, it's always here. Who knows this about me? So often, only me it seems. But I cannot, would not, give it up. The grief is entwined with the love. There are the same, woven together and mirroring each other. Like the ocean to the sky.
One is not without the other.

But it does get heavy some days.
Days like this.
And some days that are nothing like this.

How impossible to explain to those who don’t know, what it’s like to carry this. And why I feel the need to continue to try and try and try. Again and again and again. And yet again.

I have worked to create this sacred space for you inside my heart that has your name engraved on it, tattooed upon it. The heart that grew anew and belonged only to you when you came into this world. The heart that broke, split, and tore into ragged shreds when you left it. That heart remains broken, pieces sewn, patched, smoothed back, but forever rent.

Also forever open. I remain open to ensure your space, the openness where I hold you. Where you continue on, and where you remain a part of my life daily, a part of our family, irreplaceable.

My heart that holds every single memory, every caress, every inhalation of your sweet skin, every moment our eyes held each other’s gaze –deep, deeper than any ocean.

Every painful crack in the walls of that heart, created bit by bit, as I watched your little body ravaged by surgeries and staples and tubes and poisons and ultimately by the tumor that completely crowded out your beautiful little brain and took your life away.

But even in that, I know, I know you were there, your sweet spirit was always there. You are a force. Stronger than I could ever imagine or that I could ever be. You were then, you are now.

Your immensity when I think on it, humbles me. It gives me cause to wonder and be in awe of the fact that


Your spirit is that of a bodhisattva. An enlightened spiritual teacher, a wisdom-being, a love-being. And you are my son. I saw you shine, with my own eyes.

I saw you shine.

If I know nothing else, I know that.

And I know that you go on.
And because you do, I do.

Thelonius Luther Helbert Fueglein 05/26/2005~02/20/2006