Saturday, June 14, 2008


Every year, it happens. Sigh... and I never figure it out until I end up somewhere with tears pouring down my face. This year it was while watching Shadowlands with my daughter, and Aidan resting in my lap.

Shadowlands is a sad movie, of course. It is about CS Lewis's brief marriage to Joy Gresham followed by her death from cancer. So I should have been expecting it. But I'm not much of a two-hankie type. Usually the sad parts of movies just make me notice in minute detail every actor- and camera- and soundtrack- effect. I never, well, hardly ever cry over a movie.

But it wasn't really the story, sad as it was-- it had more to do with the hospital rooms in the movie, the hope and fear, the massive looming X-ray machines -- and this time of year, and Aidan quietly drifting off to sleep next to me. So many memories. It takes my breath away just to hover around the edges of it.

I stroked Aidan's dark soft hair as he drowsed. He murmured quietly about our plans for tomorrow to walk to the post office in his purple wheelchair; going through the same script of question and answer over and over. He looked up at me peacefully and said, "I love you, my sweet mama" and then "SCRATCH" (he wanted me to scratch his back).

I realized why I've been pushing the little ones away more than usual, obsessing over planning, and feeling so leaden with fatigue. I realized why I actually scolded him the other day for following me with his clock puzzle -- he kept showing it to me over and over, like a clock himself -- though my reaction completely shocked and puzzled me at the time, it was understandable now.

At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me. A Grief Observed
Aidan was as sick as you can get, he coded twice, yet he survived and eventually thrived. Still those scary moments seem to go on as if they have an eternity of their own. His code-blue before his transplant -- I sometimes feel like I am still standing there, hands up to my mouth and screaming silently. I guess there's a term for it -- I am not surprised, everything has a term nowadays -- anniversary reactions. Here are some ways to cope.

Probably most people have been through something that springs at them at unexpected times. The idea is that you still have some emotional work left to do that you've pushed aside during the actual crisis in order to cope. Much better to deal with it, than to stuff it all down. In fact, the theme of the movie (as opposed to Lewis's actual life, on which I wouldn't want to speculate) was that during his first life-tragedy, the loss of his mother as a child, he chose to bury the pain. As a man, he chose to accept the suffering as part of the joy. This is work. ... something like the work of Simon of Cyrene, if I can see it that way.

Now that I realize why that invisible blanket has been there between me and the ones I love this past week, maybe I can shake it off. And like my daughter, who was nine herself nine years ago and no doubt has her own scary memories of those scary days of Aidan's worst illness-- I can focus on the dear Aidan we have now. And on the rest of my family, who are so precious to me.

(And by the way, the day after I wrote this, I found my little niece had been born. Anna Grace -- what a beautiful name, and she looks beautiful too! Too bad she lives in Canada and I probably will not see her in person for several months!)


Chari said...

WOW, I want to see a movie that made YOU cry. ;)

Seriously, I have been planning to see it soon......but heard some things that made me not.....and now, it is going to the top of my queue. :)

Congratulations and blessings to you, for the Aidan you have now....and for being an Auntie again.....what a very sweet name!

We had anniversary "issues" too occasionally, related to Sarah.....but definitely the first few years. Strange. to see a movie with MY oldest daughter. :)

lissla lissar said...

That's one of my favourite movies. I'm a suck, though- I cry easily at movies. And books. :) Shadowlands isn't very accurate in its portrayal of Lewis' life, but it's wonderful in spite of it.

Hugs to you and Aidan

Us! said...

Yes that is such a good movie. I also rarely cry in movies.

I don't know Aidan, except through your blog, but he seems like such a wonderful boy. And from here it sure looks like he is blessed to have such a loving mother.


Susan L said...

Wow, Willa, this is really poignant. I do understand "anniversaries" of sad, hard things and how they can affect us without us realizing what is happening and why we are struggling or irritable or sad. I understand how little things like the time of year or a scene in a movie (not for the scene itself but for what it represents to *you*) or a million little things can do, even when you've forgotten that it's that time of year again... And, yes, I realize, too, that recognizing what is happening brings hope because we have the opportunity, like you say, to deal with it, to do the work to grow through it, and to heal more. And to be grateful...

Your words touched me, and even encouraged me, today, and I'm so glad for you that you do have your precious Aidan (though I've never met him).

God bless. I've prayed for you.

Marie said...

Thanks, Willa, for sharing this. I've passed on the "anniversary reactions" links to a list where I think they will do a lot of good. Shadowlands is one of my all-time favorite movies; I have always found it very cathartic. I have found that for many years on Sept. 11 I cannot listen to even one mention of those events on the news. In 2002 I went into deep hysterics. Some things are just too big to take in, or even let out, all at once.