Andrew Kippley died today. It is only 5 in the morning, so some time in the last five hours, he breathed his last breath and flew from this world of suffering. He was truly an amazing young man, just 16 years old. I am awash in sorrow for his mother, my friend, Amber and awash with my own helplessness.
Increasingly newly bereaved parents contact me, reaching out in desperation for a voice that they percieved as strong and knowledgable over the past few years as I detaild Joseph's journey, his death and my grief. I cringe inside when they do. It is not that I do not feel for their loss. Quite the contrary. It tears me up that children are still dying of this disease. That any parent must still watch their baby suffer in this way, fight so hard only to lose and leaving behind forlorn memories of a life fractured by illness and dreams that will never come true. I am overwhelmed by their fresh sorrow, my own face only recently turned from my own shock. I am sure that to most two and a half years seems plenty long to have moved forward and I suppose in some ways I have. But going back to those days with another is not without a price. I am learning I think that "mentor to the grieving", at least right now, is not a role I am prepared to or equiped to fulfill. It simply crumbles me inside, both with the stunned swiftness with which I can be sucked back to those emotions and with the helpless agony of having nothing to offer or give beyond the acknowledgement that others (myself) have been there and lived to tell the tale. There is nothing anyone can say, do or give. Least of all me.
I miss my child daily. Not one morning goes by that his face does not come to mind, not one morning that I don't feel that tanging ache of not having seen him for two and a half years. I miss him. When it rains I think of his grave, so solid and dignified at the foot of that hill at the national cemetary. I think of his sweet young body buried far below and wish I could unearth it and look at him. I do not know if these thoughts are unnatural or normal. They do not consume me. It just passes in and then out again of my consciousness. I am aware of and able to touch the fact that he is not here and never will be again.
I was once told there would come a moment when I could consciously choose to go on living, that I would find some way to say good-bye in my heart. I always imagined that would be a moment of peace and of healing, and I suppose to some extent it has been. But it was not one moment, it was and continues to be a string of them. And there is an air of acceptance more than peace about it all. I accept I will carry this sorrow all my life. I no longer fight it with the fury and rage of the early days. I accept I will never get another day with Joseph and I accept that my soft inward yearning for him will grow more personal and silent as the years go by. So perhaps the word "accept" is stronger right now than the word "peace", though I do have peace much of the time. Not peace in the sense of serenity beyond understanding, like some angel or entity who has infinite wisdom. It again goes back to that word, acceptance. I accept this is mine, just as Joseph was mine. I accept for whatever reason, this has happened and I have to continue onward.
Two weeks ago I got my acceptance letter into nursing school. I have earned the right to achieve the memorial to my son that I whispered to him in our final farewell that I would do. I am proud. I am strong. I am ready. I can do it too Joe-Gi. I can face my fears with the dignity and pride I saw in you every day. I too can focus on the future and minimize the difficulties that come with getting there. And maybe, just maybe, I too can be transformed to something more than just myself through the experience. Maybe I too can change people's lives.