My dearest Dylan,
I cannot believe that one month has passed since I first heard the words, “Dylan’s gone”. These are words no mother should ever have to hear, words which have changed my life forever. They echo continuously in my mind while I am awake and even while I am asleep. I know this because no matter what time I awaken, there is always a sadness within my heart. Sometimes I cannot fall asleep because of the echo. Sometimes it is faint, sometimes it is booming, sometimes it rips through me like a bullet through my heart.
Time has not stood still since you died. As much as I have tried, I cannot reconcile the fact that the rest of the world has kept turning while mine stopped on its axis. One minute you were here, the next you were gone. It is not the way it was supposed to be; it is not the natural order of things. What I wouldn’t give to trade places with you so that you could go on being you, dear sweet wonderful you, with your entire life ahead of you.
This first month without you has been devastatingly awful. At first, I walked around in a fog of disbelief. Then, I ran on pure adrenaline planning your celebration of life events. Now, I am beyond exhausted. I am not surprised by my weariness, however. One can only push themselves for so long and be under so much stress and heartache before hitting the brick wall, a brick wall I have crashed into with such brute force that it feels as though every bone in my body has splintered into a million pieces, much like my heart.
I still find it hard to breathe. It always feels like there is a weight on my chest holding me down, preventing me from breathing normally. If by chance, the weight is lifted, then the caged animal within my chest claws incessantly trying to get out. The evenings are the hardest. I can keep myself occupied enough throughout the day but, at the same time each evening, around 6 p.m., anxiety sets in, smothering and crippling me. Sometimes I try going to bed earlier than usual in the hopes that sleep comes and carries my anxiety away. Other times, I try staying up so late that the only thing I can do is fall fitfully into sleep. Neither has worked so far.
I have also noticed that my life’s timeline has been divided in half. I now speak in terms of ‘before Dylan died’ and ‘after Dylan died’. I hate myself for it but I find it can’t be helped because that is the reality of my life now, the reality of the new me I must get used to. Every moment and experience before you died has that much more significance while every moment and experience after you died seems inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.
My grief is always with me. It never lets up for a moment; it never lessens. And, because my love for you will never die, it will be with me for the rest of my life for the pangs of grief know no time limit, no boundaries, no mercy. It permeates my entire body because it equals the depth of my love for you. And, how could it not? I loved you with all my heart and all my soul for twenty-eight wonderful but terribly short years.
Yet, despite the fact that I still cannot get my head around the fact that you have died, I decided right after hearing those terrible words, “Dylan’s gone”, that I was not going to waste precious time and energy trying to make sense of it all. Instead, I decided that I was going to get up every day, wash my face, get dressed, and carry on. I decided that I was going to face this challenge of living without you by remembering all the beautiful memories I have of you. I decided that I was going to find gratitude in each and every day come hell or high water because there was no way I was going to allow your death to break me. Simply, I decided to choose joy over bitterness. These are all daunting tasks which I have found not only difficult but exhausting to do, but, in order to survive this unfathomable tragedy, I know I must.
So, you see, Dylan, there is joy in the abyss. It is harder to find these days but it is there. There is joy in my memories of you, in your sweet smile, your hearty laugh, your mischievous grin and in your ability to tease the ever living daylights out of me. It is your kindness, your strength, your terrific sense of humour, your determination, your accomplishments, and in your hard work ethic. It is in the love you had for your family and in the love we have for each other. It is in the kindness of friends and in the strength of community who surrounded us in the aftermath of this terrible tragedy and lifted us up when we all we wanted to do was sink into the ground.
There is joy to be found in the outpouring of condolences and tributes to you on Facebook, all testaments to your strength and character. It is in the many visits, cards, texts, emails and phone calls I have received over the course of these past four weeks. When I am at my lowest, I re-read all these messages for they have become the life preserver which keeps me from being pulled under the current of grief that wants nothing more than to drown me in a river of anger and bitterness.
July 30th was the worst day of my life. Now, August 30th, I understand that a date doesn’t have to define you or define me. It doesn’t mean that I have to give up or stop living. It means that I have to adjust to my new life, my new me. So, in your name, Dylan James Bradley, I choose to be joyous and celebratory. In your memory, I choose to carry on, one moment at time for now, with as much dignity and grace as I can possibly muster. And, with the utmost respect I have for you, I choose to treat myself with kindness and take as much time as I need to grieve before heading out into my new world without you. This much, I promise you, for you would expect nothing less of me.
And, for that, I will be eternally grateful.
All my love,