Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes. Because for those who love with heart and soul, there is no such thing as separation. Rumi
The house was quiet. Too quiet. So I went looking for the three year old who had been playing loudly in his room just moments before. I emerged from the master bedroom and walked quietly down the carpeted hallway. As I passed his bathroom, I spotted him … standing in front of the mirror with the open end of the grape flavored Elmo toothpaste tube in his mouth. Sensing me standing there, Jimmy whipped around to face me. He dropped the tube on the counter, drew himself up to his full height, put his hands on his hips and said indignantly, “Don’t see me suck the toothpaste!”
Toddlers and little kids have a love/hate relationship with being seen. On the one hand, they crave (what can feel like) constant attention and parental approval or admiration for what they say and do. On the other hand, when they’re up to something, they’d prefer to be invisible.
Grief is like this, too. After a devastating loss, we are desperate for others to see and acknowledge our pain. Yet, going to the grocery store in the early days after your loved one dies can feel as though you are walking down the cereal aisle naked, your pain, guilt, shame on display for everyone to see.
As time goes on, we learn to hide our pain from those who can’t or won’t acknowledge it. We shield our grief from view to protect ourselves from critical or prying eyes. For those who’ve been pierced by harsh or unkind comments, they can become desperate to avoid mentioning their dead beloved for fear of the questions that may follow about the circumstances. For others who’ve been told they’ve been grieving “long enough” or that the source of their sadness (a pet, an ex-spouse, an elderly grandparent) doesn’t merit a lifetime of grief, they may downplay the significance or meaning of their loss.
The finality of death is perhaps the cruelest part. Realizing that your loved one is not coming back. Knowing that you will never hug him, hold him, kiss him, talk to him or see him again. This harsh truth made me desperate to see signs that Jimmy was still here. I looked for him in the vultures that circled overhead whenever Buster and I went for a walk. In the hummingbird that came within inches of my face when I was on my knees in the driveway. In the songs of his favorite artists when they came on the radio. In the penguins that popped up in unexpected places. In the movies he would have loved but didn’t live long enough to enjoy. In the stars in a clear night sky.
Like a work in progress, I am learning that I can still see Jimmy. In the stories friends and family members share. In his San Francisco Giants sweatshirt that I now wear. In the photos that cover our walls. In my memories of him at all ages. In his father’s laugh. In his sister’s smile. In my heart. Deep in my soul. He is gone, and he is everywhere.