Monday, January 20, 2014

Sometimes, for a Moment, the Sun Still Shines

I've discovered that the overwhelming bouts of grief aren't the only thing that comes in waves for me.

When I began thinking about my grief, it was like walking near the ocean in the dark and occasionally being hit by a large wave that would sometimes pull me out to sea for a while.

My perspective has changed a little. It's no longer dark, although the large waves are still sometimes seemingly out of nowhere and take me completely by surprise. Now my walk feels more like walking on the beach when a hurricane is somewhere in the distance. My steps are often a struggle in the wet sand and the sky overhead is cloudy and threatening and sometimes the waves coming ashore are bigger than I would have expected.

Now I find that during this walk on a cloudy beach, listening to the rush of the water and sand, feeling the wind from the distant storm, sometimes the sun breaks through.

When it does, there are glorious moments when I can accept what has happened and feel a joy in my heart again for Ethan.

I had one of those moments Saturday while out running errands. I was in my car and listening to a CD, maybe even Natalie Grant's "Hurricane," but the music was secondary to the brilliant blue sky arching above me and the chilly radiance of the winter sun.

Suddenly it came to me that Ethan was no longer sitting in his apartment in Galax, and that was a good thing. He was no longer trapped there, waiting for earthly confines to bring us together for a few brief moments that would be fraught with our shared knowledge of his addiction and his lonely knowledge of his pain. I can no longer physically hold him in my arms, but I'll never let him out of my heart, and for just a moment I felt him all around me. He was no longer confined as I am, but he was free and a part of everything I saw.

Last week my father dreamed about Ethan and told my mom his dream. They were together at a house my father used to own and for some reason my dad expected him to be in jail.

"I thought they were holding you in Galax," he said in the dream.

"I got out," Ethan said, and I can just imagine the confident look he would have had. "Just wait until you hear the dogs."

To me my dad's dream had a different meaning.

For a long time, he had been held in Galax. He had lived in a homeless shelter and a cramped apartment. But what had really held him in Galax had been life and his addiction, and he had, indeed, gotten out. I knew in my soul the joy that he felt in finally making his escape and finally being free of the demons that had haunted him for so long.

Ethan got out. He's no longer being held in his physical body and for that reason I can no longer hold him in my physical arms.

I hate the way he left almost as badly as I hate the fact that he's gone, but he's only gone from this part of my life. For 23 years, I held him in my arms whenever I had the chance. But he lived in my heart before I ever held in my arms and he'll be there for the rest of my physical life as well.

And sometimes, I know now, I'll feel him in the sunlight and the very air I breathe.

Perhaps the hurricane will move on out to sea and I'll only battle the occasional waves of sorrow. I know that even when the storm passes, there will always be clouds and unexpected waves, but I also know now that there will be times when I can walk in the sun and be happy.

I know that while I can no longer touch Ethan, there will be times when I feel him touch me and that will have to be enough for a mother's grieving heart for now.

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