It’s the anniversary of my son’s passing and I am standing in the bathroom, my hands mindlessly reaching for this and that to get ready for my workday. I glance at myself in the mirror with the wand of mascara at the ready, and I think, seriously? Mascara? How can I possibly wear mascara and lipstick if my son is dead??
I continue with my morning routine as if it’s any other day, rearranging my face to make it presentable to the world, to myself. I continue with the mundane, making the bed, taking down laundry, fixing a sandwich for lunch. I deviate only by treating myself to the largest latte at Starbucks, tears dripping from my eyes unnoticed. Should I tell the barista about my special day and ask for a free drink as if it’s a birthday?
For 4 years we’ve continued with our life, just as we promised Gilad we’d do. We had a mutual lie-fest before he left us, and we assured him, as he did us, that we were ok and that we would be ok later. He insisted on honesty about his disease, but I admit that we completely and utterly lied to each other just to make it easier for all of us to let go. Our son slipped from us, dispatched with the knowledge – albeit falsified – that we could survive his death. It was a glaringly obvious lie yet at the same time hopefully true.
Life will not stop in its tracks today as it did 4 years ago. Nobody official is coming to our door to declare or sign or take away anything. No one will rush from their day’s plans, from their places in all corners of the earth to help us say goodbye to someone who never should have died. The house will be empty; the hugs and wishes will be virtual this time.
I am known to sleep late, even on workdays, and I warn others to keep their distance earlier than 7:00 am because it’s not pretty. But today I awoke naturally at 6:25 am without an alarm, as I do each year on August 26, because my body knows before my heart does. There’s some unconscious and mysterious process at work here, allowing me to sleep through the exact moment of Gilad’s last breath, but waking me just minutes after. I’d like to think it’s a wake-up call from my boy, but I know that it’s simply restlessness and the physicality of grief.
But mascara and a latte? Why should I make myself look and feel better if my son is dead, if he remains dead day after day, year after year? What gives me the right to look pretty and feel good and act normal?
Our minds and emotions whirl, back and forth, up and down, and sometimes we need to grab onto what comes our way or pull what we need towards us. If mascara and a latte is what must be summoned to help me with the pretense that today is just another day on the planet, then so be it. But to get through the rest of my life, I may need a massage. Or more grandchildren to love and and inhale and teach about pampering oneself with coffee and makeup.