Monday, May 10, 2010

Philip's birthday

Today was Philip's birthday.

Two hard days in a row.

I went to bed hurting and woke up hurting.

Don't read this post if you want happy thoughts.

When I got up in the wee hours, the temperature was down to 26 or 27 degrees. Brrr. After such a hard winter, I hate cold. Despise it. But I didn't have enough energy to go outside and gather wood to make a fire, so I got my lovely prayer shawl, and bundled up with hot coffee to finish my book and Bible reading. Many tears were shed as I cried out to God for comfort.

When I looked out the window I noticed that someone left a gate open and all the cattle and a ram were down in the hay field. The far end, on the edge of the woods. Patrick and I walked down to drive them back to the house. He took the woods side and I took the field. I thought that a walk would lighten my spirits.

It didn't.

A pain crushed into my chest like a weight. Like a falling tree. Like a heavy implement.

The steers and the bull crashed and lumbered through the timber alongside the creek. Patrick on his side, me, alone in the field.

I grabbed a low branch of locust blooms and plucked some. The smell was like candy.

But it brought no joy.

Just pain.

Everyone tells me that one has to wade through a lot of pain to get through the firsts.

I had no idea that his birthday would hit me so hard. Right next to Mother's Day. Why did Mother's Day hurt so badly?

We moved in tandem, Patrick and I and the cattle, and made our way back to the house. As we moved closer in, Patrick began to identify the different trees. I was surprised by his knowledge. White oak, red oak, birch, hickory, poplar, locust, walnut, beech, dogwood, red bud, more. When did he learn all those trees? The animals moved predictably as we directed them.

So, limping in pain (at least in my heart), we readied ourselves to go to the cemetery for a picnic with a couple of Philip and my friends. Philip's favorite food was a good cheeseburger, so we went to Sonic, bought a huge bag of cheeseburgers (I know, I know, it isn't organic, free-range, local or anything, but it was a great cheeseburger), and carried them to the graveside. We laid down our bouquet of home grown flowers, said a prayer and sat on the grass to eat and remember. I walked down to the office and finally ordered a marker for the grave. Did you know that the cheapest, simplest granite markers, not the standing stones, but the little rectangle stone that lies flat on the ground, costs over one thousand dollars? The bronze one is over two thousand dollars. Because I knew Philip well, I ordered the simple granite.

It wasn't a pleasant task.

The children ran up and down the hill and played mother may I and inspected flowers and dates and names on other sites. We grownups talked about Philip. We laughed a little and cried a little. On the drive home I felt drugged. Shell-shocked. I didn't think I would be able to function but I managed to throw in another load of laundry. Talked on the phone with a friend. The pain was so great I wanted to lie down and never get up. I don't do drugs or condone them, but in my pain I could understand why some people would want to anesthesize themselves. Wanted comfort. Relief.

When it grew near time to milk the cow, I told Rachel I hated milking. I never wanted to milk a cow again in my life. That I never wanted to bake another loaf of bread in my life. That I never wanted to home school again in my life.

Then I said goodbye, walked downstairs, got out the milking bowl and went outside to milk the cow.

As milk streamed into the bowl, I watched the sheep make their journey back to the barn. Listened to the chickens and the guineas and ducks and geese. The chicks in the house were making a racket because a couple had hopped out of their little trough and didn't know how to get back in. After I strained the milk, I helped them. The kids were hungry, so I had Maggie add some ramen noodles to homemade broth made with our non-GMO chicken bones. Seems like life is full of contrasts these days.

I can't explain how surreal it is to live with another person for eighteen years, to sleep together, to fight together, have babies together, work together, renovate together, pray together, learn together and then for that person to be gone.

If he hadn't been born 52 years ago, I wouldn't be here. My whole identity is wrapped up in our life together. I feel very alone today, even though I am not.

"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me."


Greener Pastures--A City Girl Goes Country said...

I want to be happy but I read your post anyway. You'll feel better Ginger. You'll never stop missing him but there will be good days. I know what you mean about it being surreal. That's how I feel about my mother. I've had her for fifty years and now she's gone. It can't be. I actually feel like I will puke if I think about it too hard. What I've been having to do that helps is I sometimes distract myself to get it off my mind. I let my girlfriends know that it's okay to talk about something else. I actually WANT to talk about something else just so I can feel something happier. And I try not to think of the finality of it. There will be plenty of time for that. It makes me feel a little guilty but I know that's silly. I will grieve my whole life. It's okay to rest from it. I suggest you try it if you haven't already. Think of it as recharing your batteries. Philip and my mother, I am sure, would want us to. And so your post has made me happy because I feel better trying to help you be happy. said...

Hi Debi,

You are right, there are good days. Sometimes lots all in a row. But I was surprised at how bad his birthday felt. I decided to let myself go ahead and feel for the day, figuring that I would probably feel better today for it. Thankfully I feel much better today.

But the distraction is a great and helpful tool. Reading is a great distraction for me. I have read dozens of books the last few weeks! And talking with friends about other stuff that is totally unrelated helps too.

Sometimes I am afraid of sharing the intensity of the feelings, but it is intense to have a person missing out of your household.

Thankfully we have been having lots more happy days and moments, and hopefully many more. Gotta keep milking the cow, metaphorically and literally speaking.

I think Philip was happy we all sat around eating cheeseburgers, laughing about his funny stories yesterday. And I am thankful for friends like you you care enough to want to help me feel happy again.

Thanks, friend,

Debbie Millman said...

I miss you. thanks for not sugar-coating. said...

Hi other Debbie,
You know me,
I hate sugar. btw, finally caught up on your posts last night. Thanks for sharing.

Beth said...

I'm glad you're feeling better this morning, Ginger. I wish I knew the right words to say to help you feel better, but I don't. Just know I'm still listening, still bearing witness, still praying, still sad for your difficult days and happy for your good ones.

I have a feeling that Philip was probably with y'all yesterday, enjoying every minute of the cheeseburgers and funny stories.

Greener Pastures--A City Girl Goes Country said...

It IS intense, isn't it Ginger? But that is what great love is all about.

Polly said...

Birthdays are so hard. And I imagine that this is very surreal. You write so well about it. Valleys-mountains-valleys.....

in the midst of it what consistently catches me is your tone. honest, faithful, real and, I think, indicative of a truly genuine faith in the unchanging God. That seems uncommon. your honesty makes it all the more authentic.