Life is lived in the meanwhile: that is the only way I can think to describe it. We are brokenhearted, all of us. Just last night our B, five and a half years old, burst into tears at dinner. When we asked him why, he whispered, “I just really love babies and I really, really miss Simon.” No one, least of all a five-year-old, should have to carry that—but we all do, and in the midst of it dinner has to be eaten and the dishwasher loaded and dirty clothes carried downstairs. We laugh at our daughter’s antics and wonder how to parent the challenges of each of our three living children. We read books aloud to them at bedtime, our arms around their small shoulders. We spent the summer cheering on our T-ball players and swimming at the pool and introducing the kids to Star Wars (that was all Daddy’s doing, let me tell you—and they are now obsessed). And through it all there was one missing, and a grave to visit. That makes everything fundamentally wrong and broken, but this is our life now—full of good things and forever felt through a wound, whether or not anyone else sees that.
It’s hard to know how to begin writing about ordinary days again, because our ordinary will never be the same. Everything is entangled now, the laughter with the tears, and I imagine that’s how I’ll write about it. I still have more to say about grief, and I probably always will; it’s part of me now. And I still want to take pictures of my children’s smiling faces, even as their downcast lashes and little noses and neat chins strangle my heart with the resemblance to their baby brother who is not here. And I want to remember them in their presence as I remember him in his absence.
All this to say: I am not better and I never will be. This is not something from which one recovers, any more than a war veteran recovers use of her amputated leg. But I run in the cold dark mornings, hands half-numb holding my phone; I organize fall clothes for the kids; I read library books aloud at lunchtime, run my first-grader to and from school, teach the kindergartener and preschooler at home, clean bathrooms when they get too grimy to bear, work slowly through the stack of books on my desk, and plan for Halloween costumes that are quickly becoming an urgent priority.
Fresh out of things to watch on Amazon, I recently started The Good Wife. This is not an endorsement, as I don’t know your personal taste and we’re only partway through season one anyway. But in one of the first episodes, a line of dialogue took my breath away. A woman in tragic and public circumstances asks the main character, Alicia (who has personally experienced similar agonies), whether it will get any easier. Without pause, Alicia says, “No. But you get better at it.”
I hit pause on my iPad and stared open-mouthed at the screen, stunned by the human truth contained in a television show. That is precisely what I am finding: it doesn’t get easier, but I get better at it. I get better at arranging my day, at allowing myself time to weep when I need to, at drawing boundaries to protect myself where I can, at giving myself grace, at enjoying the moments with the children I get to hold. I don’t get better, but I get better at this—this life that I did not choose, but which is the only one I get to live.
And I get to live this life with small people who didn’t choose this either. We can’t change the fact that they suffer from the loss, too, but we try to weave some happy memories in among the hard ones. Summer fades to fall, and I look back at pictures, and plan for the days to come. My seven-year-old engineer draws cities with skyscrapers and trains. My five-year-old sweetheart tries to read everything in sight, with some confusion because we haven’t reached long vowels yet. My three-year-old fashionista dresses herself in outlandish outfits. The days go on and we go on. That doesn’t mean we move on—just that we live the days together as they come.