Monday, April 23, 2012

Roadmap, Part Three: The Headlong Flight

All the journeys of this great adventure 

It didn't always feel that way 

I wouldn't trade them because I made them 

The best I could, and that's enough to say 

Rush, Headlong Flight

On a rainy Saturday afternoon I took myself to see Titanic in Imax 3D, 100 years to the day from when the ship and 1,517 of its passengers went down to the bottom of the Atlantic.  I worried a little bit about it to be honest.  When Titanic first came out Kelsey was at that perfect age of impressionable romanticism.  She had started to notice that boys were sometimes intriguing creatures and to experience that little flutter when a cute one might look her way, letting his gaze linger just a little too long.  And she was hungry for knowledge and happened to have a teacher who was simply ga-ga over the legacy of the great ship.  So, before she even saw the movie, she knew everything there was to know about it.  And I do mean everything.  And I had to hear all about it all the time.  Now add that to the intoxicating romance of Jack and Rose - two individuals notably easy on the eyes - and it was a pre-teen's dream.  Of course a lot of people were caught up in it at the time, the movie was a huge success because it had a little bit of everything:  romance, drama, great nobility and great cowardice in the face of death and, of course, stuff blows up - or at least breaks apart in grand fashion.  But, like Rose, my memories of Titanic are sort of stuck in time and there is a price to pay to drudge them all up again.  I did okay with it.  Just like The Lord of the Rings, I managed to take it back from the past so it can be a part of my future.  Speaking of which, the largest bump in the road was the preview for The Hobbit, which I'd actually seen before, but not on a giant screen in 3D.  I cried.  The people around me must of thought I was nuts.  But, I cried for the fact that Kelsey would have loved this film and that she in all likelihood would have been sitting next to me at that moment watching that preview if she were still alive.  I told Greg later, I still plan on being right there at the midnight show the day it opens, but I know it will be hard and my heart will be heavy that I get that chance and my child does not.   And that is the thing about life after loss.  It goes on.  Peter Jackson made his movie despite one of his biggest fans not being around to see it, and the rest of us have to decide how to react to that.  To boycott it because it might be painful is to miss out on the wonder of it.  I reason, therefore, that I might as well go.  I'll have some bad moments, but then Gandalf will come and take me on a journey that has a dragon in it.  I wouldn't want to miss that!

And that is probably the next thing I would say to someone:  don't let your pain stop you from living your life.  Know that the ache of loss is just now a part of it.  It'll dull down over time, but I accept that there will probably always be flair ups, like someone who has broken a bone and can feel when bad weather is approaching.  The thing is, if I hadn't allowed myself to go back to Titanic (and, yes, I said it that way on purpose), I would have shut down a segment of memories of our time as a family that was actually pretty good.  And that would just compound the loss immeasurably.  Kelsey had such a short life and so much of it was hard, that it seems almost criminal to lose touch with the happy moments we shared.

Now, it took me a while to get to where I can say that with confidence.  I could NOT have faced going to The Return of the King or Titanic a year ago.  For you, of course, the challenge will be something else, but you know what I mean:  I'm talking about regaining the parts of your life that you think you can't face again because it will remind you too much of the person you've lost.  Whatever it is for you, my desire for you is to try and reclaim it.  It is reasonable to ask when you will know that you're ready.  But, I'm not the one to ask.  Only you will know really.  All I can tell you is that I'm not sure that I really knew I could handle it.  I just knew I got to the point where I was sure I wanted my life to be controlled by me, not my grief.

The funny thing is that I was so intent originally on remembering the bad stuff - all the issues we had as parents and the mistakes we made, the horror and struggles of ED, the blow back to the other aspects of our lives, including to Kelsey's kid sister - but I seemed afraid to face happier memories at first.   I don't know if that's normal - maybe that's further in that book I didn't finish - but all I can tell you now is I'm glad I overcame it.  Really, really glad.

The moral to this story:  sometimes the way forward is the way to reclaim the past.

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