Grief is a constant companion that moves through my life in waves. I live near the sea for some of the year, and I’m always reluctant to walk my pebbled beach until late in the afternoon sunshine or in the early evening moonshine. It seems, to me, that time of day speaks to memories both glad and sad. I like that. As I walk, I collect stones that make their way to the colored glass containers, or the tiny baskets, or the corners of my desk that overlooks the trees and quiet street outside my window. I name the stones. This one for the children far away, and that one for the child gone away, forever. Another for all the travels in Ireland, and another still, for the travels to England. Still more for the dreams that were lost, and even more for the dreams yet to come. The stones have become, for me, a way of keeping time.
My cherished son was seriously ill for two years, before passing away two years later. During that time, I was assigned a publicist, I was completing my graduate research toward a post graduate degree, I was interviewed by journalists for newspaper articles, television reports, and online media content, I was campaigning for the American & New England Studies program to be saved from elimination at my university, I was consulting and serving on the board of directors for a local museum, I was assisting my husband with his MFA Studio Art gallery show, and I was also traveling – as I was able – across the United States as an assistant for his photo documentary work, The Acting Out Project, I was completing the provenance on the fine art photographic portrait discovery I made, by Julia Margaret Cameron, of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, at the Sarah Orne Jewett House Museum, and, I was planning my wedding…
This list is much, much longer, and includes years of advocating for my child with medical professionals, insurance companies, and hospitals – but what is the point of this list? I was living, working, and loving my life, just as my boy was doing – every chance he got. His death was the final blow to his courageous and heroic fight to save himself from an untreatable seizure disorder that began in his early teen years, as the result of violence and abuse, which he suffered at the hand of one of the most trusted adults in his young life. Nothing would ever save him from an ongoing life of constant medication titrations upward, downward, and across the spectrum of available pharma, prescribed by expert neurologists and epileptologists, who treated the ongoing seizures by a process of elimination, which eventually took his beautiful life. His was a destiny apart from those who loved him, who knew him best, and who could not follow him to where he must go.
The point of this list, then, is found in the stones I collect on my beach. Sometimes, there is seemingly nothing more that can be done to escape an eventual tragedy. No matter how hard I attempted to normalize my life, by remaining engaged with the world all around me, there was simply nothing normal about my life during those years. My family kept calm and carried on, as best they could, each of us working hard and playing hard toward their goals. We achieved much, as we vowed to lose nothing and no one. We were privately cloistered in love with all our extended family, close, and closest friends, each of our respective and growing communities by neighborhood, by profession, and by faith. But, in the end, an unwanted stone was added to my collection. I named it, “Grief.” Others followed with different names, too. They are still in the pockets of some of the clothing in my closet, were I have left them these last few years. Until now.
On Grief, by Robin Whitham McCrady, Copyright, 2020.