Time drips like venom. Each ticking of the clock strengthens the poison’s paralyzing grasp. The world seems to slow down, making the pain amplify within a body unable to fight its torment. Each second that passes only spreads the sickness through pulsing veins and a broken heart. I lay awake (or is this augmented slumber?) caught reliving the moment the fangs pierced my flesh with its awful truth…
My mind has been subconsciously preparing for a date, a number, a watermark of my life. Dates are like healed scars, forgotten in the commotion of the daily malaise of surviving insignificant obstacles, yet remembered when your fingers accidentally trace the hardened reminder. Most days pass by like a quickly forgotten day dream. Other days make the world stop and lungs gasp for air.
He would have been turning one. There would have been a cake and hats and presents. There would have been family and friends, laughter and memories captured in pictures. He would have been fascinated with a single candle that Steph and I would have valiantly protected his tiny fingers from. He would have eaten too much cake, become too tired to keep awake and would have fallen asleep in my arms. I'd be able to feel him breathing while fascinating sugar inspired dreams filled his head. He would have been one.
For weeks now I have been grappling with this heartache. A mind relives gut-retching memories that chips away your focus, your sleep, your happiness. A mind goes down paths created by 'what if' or 'what about' that only lead into dark recesses of your mind. You fear no one will remember, that your pain and suffering will be isolated and no one will catch you when you fall.
A year ago there was worry and yet we thought we'd be alright, we'd have each other and we'd get through it. We have great friends and family to support us with everything. The adage of 'hope for the best, prepare for the worst' crept into our thoughts. I kept my worries to myself because the odds, the possibilities were just too heavy to carry. An uneducated mind is a danger to itself. I remember us sitting in the waiting room and feeling a tightness in my chest. Looking back there were many aspects I didn't understand, many moments missed out of ignorance and perpetual hope. We sat there for an appointment out of the ordinary; wondering what the results could have shown to bring us here.
There is a series of events I do not need to re-live. I sit here akin to a burn victim sitting in a house caught aflame. The smoke bellows from the windows, too thick to see, inhaling the poison into my lungs. The flames crawl up the wallpaper, searing each piece into a smoldering ash & moving with a sense of villainous purpose. The ceiling is glowing in red and orange fireballs, collapsing as the structural integrity diminishes with every passing second... and I sit here unable to move. My voice too hoarse to scream, my hands tremble and my mind overloaded with a trillion electrical charges attempting to piece it all together... I sit in this inferno attempting to hold onto each memory I can before it all disappears.
A year. There were so many nights where my mind attempted to recover from its inability to fathom this heartache. Who wants to sleep when all you remember are the nightmares. They haunt you when you are awake, sitting in the crevasses of your brain. Those dark thoughts tear pieces of you away, glazing over your eyes and blocking out the sun. Each muscle of my body worn out where even deep breathes takes every ounce of remaining strength. A year.
I tortured myself by not allowing myself to grieve, to reconcile our loss. I stood as strong and as tall as I could during those first few weeks for Steph; her loss exceeded any emotional pain I felt. To have a child grow inside of you, connected to you... to eat the right foods, take all the vitamins & put their needs ahead of yours... to struggle with the knowledge that as we laid there hoping for a kick, a sign of movement, to connect with our baby... how can you overcome that? How trivial and insignificant events become insurmountable obstacles that need immediate resolution. There are those weeks where physical, mental & emotion degradation erodes you.
I sit here overwhelmed despite never seeing my boy. I have kept his memory intact with how I imagine how he would look. There was a sense of connection to simply find out the gender, to give him a name but unable to overcome that devastating loss and see him. I do not regret our decision to look at each other while he was whisked away. I don't think i would ever get such an image of his tiny frame out my head. Hidden within our home is a copy of his tiny footprints. We've discussed when we would be able to open our care package from the hospital; it is not a moment I think I will ever be ready for.
I pushed myself to stay busy, putting as much focus on the election. Overwhelmed in my inexperience; frustrated by the perceived unimportance of whole race. Aching muscles, blisters and a slow breakdown of my body as my frame shed twenty-three pounds. Pushing day after day; for months out alone, as if the more I walked, the more I did, the less time I would have to stop and mourn. I slept better during some nights of the infinite election, what choice was there for a body fatigued. A pipe dream of being committed to a good idea, attempting to represent my community and to subconsciously do it for him.
My eventual campaign loss made me question the whole experience; was it worth it? Was the months that blended into a twisted convolved entanglement worth it? Since the moment I knew officially my valiant effort was in vain did I panic with the realization the hectic schedule was about to end. Ironic on how his birthday falls so close to the deadline of finally ridding myself of the campaign. I'd give it all back to just have him take one breath. I'd give up years of my life to simply hold him, to feel his tiny fingers wrap around mine, to have him hear my voice and to have the ability to tell him how much I loved him. All the wishing and hoping only punishes me, preparing myself for another gauntlet of unbearable dreams tonight.
A year... a year full of so many new wonderful babies in my life. All beautiful reminders of our loss. Happy unbearable moments of looking into eyes still trying to focus on the vastness of their worlds. I fear this year and these new little faces have broken me. A puzzle missing pieces. Despite all my sadness though, I wish only the best for these tiny new beings that have sprung up like beautiful flowers. Their accomplishment to arrive 'with hats' in this world & give so many people Steph & I love happiness cannot be diminished.
Over the past few weeks I have cried more than the rest of the year of mourning. I do not state this out of some masculine pride of how strong I am. Far too often we worry about how the world perceives us, afraid to show true honest emotion. The absolute power of uncontrolled tears is frightening; sitting here trying to gasp for air between shallow moans; my face covered in goop from a steady stream of tears and snot running from my nose. I have had these moments in the dark, alone & away from Steph so I don't pull her into this pit. There is no physical excursion that compares to being unable to stop crying. My whole body trembles, my mind revives every memory. Some call it healing; I call it emotionally breaking.
One year. Today is about reflection. Today is about the journey from being woken up with Steph in a doorway announcing our happiest moment. Today is about the joy of telling all of our family about our kept secret. Today is about remembering the ultrasound where we could see him, his nose outlined, his tiny hands. Today is about one of the worst days of my life, a scar I feel on my heart. Today is about him.
I conclude my randomness of thoughts (which has taken me weeks to write in small segments at a time) by connecting this year to last. Last year I created a playlist for Cooper, a mix of songs relevant to my life that I wanted to share with him. Music is so important because even a song without words can be powerful and understood. I played it constantly for months before I just couldn't listen to it anymore. I started playing it again this year, focusing on a few songs that summed up my emotions. I leave you with this song, Lullaby by Dark Mean - it explains everything.
Thank you for reading, for understanding & for caring.
Coop's playlist 2015
1. Rent – I’ll cover you (reprise)
2. Bob Dylan – Times are a changing
3. Barenaked Ladies – What a good boy
4. The Neighbourhood – Afraid
5. Dark Mean – Lullaby
6. Fred Falke – Everything you wanted
7. Sharon Von Etten – Serpents
8. Daughter – Youth
9. Moist – Break her down
10. The Lumineers – Stubborn Love
11. Bon Iver – Skinny love
12. Alexisonfire – Rough Hands
13. Mumford & Sons – White blank page
14. Single Twin – Came home dead
15. Rent - Without you
16. Counting Crows – Anna begins
17. Tegan & Sara – Dark come soon
18. Florence & the Machine – Only if for a night
19. Lykki Li – I know places
20. Mathew Good Band – Running for home