My Dearest Dylan,
Today is Thanksgiving, my first Thanksgiving, my first holiday for that matter, without us having one of our long chats on the telephone. It also marks just over two months for me trying to get used to my new world of not having you physically in it. I can’t even begin to describe what it is like, this living without you. To say that it is difficult is an understatement. It is painful and sad and empty and lonely and, oh, so very wrong.
However, lamenting your loss is not the reason for this letter. The reason for this letter, first and foremost, is to give thanks for the wonderful privilege and honour it was of being your momma for the twenty-eight years you were here with me on this earth. It truly was a blessing and the fact that I am grieving your loss so hard is a testament to the love and deep bond we shared.
The second reason for this letter is to give thanks for being able to celebrate you, dear sweet wonderful you, and ensure that your many beautiful gifts including your compassion, empathy, kindness, hearty laugh, terrific sense of humour, infectious smile, hard work ethic, and accepting ways continue to shine through and inspire others. I hope that I can live up to the task despite my encompassing grief as I want to ensure that your name is never forgotten. I also want to ensure that something positive comes from your death. It is my hope that, once I am stronger, I can fulfill my plan of bringing awareness to the seriousness of brain injuries especially those sustained in seemingly innocent falls. I truly believe that if we can save one life as well as stop one mother from experiencing this horrible grief by bringing awareness to this cause, then our purpose on this earth will be fulfilled.
My third reason for writing this letter is to thank you for sending the signs I requested not only today but on the other days as well so that I would know you were okay. Today I needed to know that you were happy with Mark’s and my choice of the beautiful young oak tree in front of our beloved cabin to spread some of your ashes around its base. We know how much the cabin and surrounding woods meant to you and we wanted to honour your memory the best way possible.
So, my dearest Dylan, thank you for soaring across the meadow as a blue heron, the third heron you’ve sent me since I’ve asked for signs since you died. The first was after we as a family sprinkled some of your ashes at your favourite woods; the second you sent the following week when I returned to visit you there. Thank you for sending the heron across Mark’s path on his way home from work that day when he was trying to decide if he should return to golfing or wait until next year to go back. I know you were telling him to continue on. Thank you for sending the heron to Alison and Nadine so that they knew you were with them as they embarked on their new journey in Toronto. Thank you for sending the heron to Emily to let her know how much you appreciated her helping me over the past two months (although, I’m sure she could have done without it/you ‘pooping’ in her flower bed).
Thank you for bringing quiet to the woods this afternoon after we spread your ashes because up to that point, it had been terribly windy. The sun had also been in and out prior to that and afterwards it remained shining magnificently in the sky until dinner time. Sending the whiskey jack to settle in the majestic pine tree beside us so that it could distract us from our sadness by cheerfully chatting us up was an additional nice touch as was having it soar over the cabin to join its other mates. Their hallelujah chorus behind us in the bush in praise of thanksgiving was especially poignant.
When the large tree fell in the bush directly across the meadow, Mark and I were confused as to why you would choose to fell the tree then. We knew it had to be you because there was no wind at the time. It all made sense when we heard the ATV trying to make its way around our bush and, because the tree was blocking its way, it had to turn back and forgo its plan. Thank you for protecting us and keeping our sanctuary as peaceful and serene as we needed it to be today.
The irony of your choosing your winged friends to send me signs is not lost on me. You were well aware of how terrified I am of birds and bats and anything that flutters around me yet you chose to send those seven bats flying around inside our house over a period of seven weeks after you died. Was it some sort of mischievous payback? I know you sent them because I had teased you mercilessly after you moved out west about how the bats stopped visiting us because you were no longer there to leave the doors and windows open after dusk. As if I would ever forget you! Please, pretty please with sugar on top, stop sending the bats. I can deal with the birds from a distance but I cannot deal with the bats!!!!
As for sending your signs via winged creatures, it does make sense to me. You couldn’t sit still in life, so it makes sense that you cannot sit still in death. A bird is the perfect proxy for you because they can’t remain still either. Always flying, always soaring, only stopping long enough to eat, they exist the only way they know how — to keep going and deal with things as they come much like you did in real life.
Despite my appreciation of your signs and knowing that you were here with me spiritually on this Thanksgiving day, I am not going to pretend for one minute that it was easy. The build-up to the holiday and, in particular, the day itself has only magnified my grief and my sadness. The only thing the holiday itself seemed to accomplish was make me miss you more and provide a prelude to how difficult the Christmas holiday season is going to be. How I would give anything to hear your voice and your hearty laugh just one more time. How I would love to share with you my stories and hear yours in return. What I wouldn’t give to be able to tell you how much I love you and hear you say “I love you, too, Mom” back to me. What I wouldn’t do to be able to wish my grief away, will it away, pray it away but the reality of my situation is that none of these are possible.
Instead, I am going to do my very best to reconcile all of the upcoming ‘first’ celebratory holidays without you in my life with my grief. I will not deny my grief nor will I pretend it is not there. I will give my grief its time and its place and, as I promised you after you died, I will be both gentle with and take care of myself. I will also protect myself by doing what is right for me and by taking as much time as I need to grieve because one of the things I have realized today is that grief does not take a holiday. It knows no boundaries, it has no sense of time, and it deepens with every day that passes. I will learn to live with it and learn to live in my new world without you in it. I will learn that it will be okay to celebrate future holidays while remembering and honouring you during them. It is not going to be easy but I promise you here and now that I will handle it with as much dignity and grace as I can possibly muster.
And, so my sweet prince, thank you for today and for everything you have taught, given and sent me thus far (except for the bats; I CANNOT thank you for the bats). I hope your Thanksgiving was as peaceful and as joyous as you deserve and may the love from those of us here on earth have helped you soar higher than you ever could have imagined.
All my love,