There’s never an appropriate time to say goodbye. I had to just decide and then do it. All while knowing that it would be the last moments I’d ever be able to cradle him and look into his eyes.
On the day he got sick, he had to be rushed into emergency surgery, because it came out of nowhere. He made it through surgery and would need to be monitored for the next two days at the 24-hour clinic to ensure he was healing properly.
It quickly morphed into the type of stress that leaves pit stains and leads your thoughts to dark places when you’re supposed to be doing other things.
I visited him at the clinic, and he was becoming very ill. He tried to jump out of the cage to be with me. It shattered my heart. I spent so much time telling him how beautiful his little, pink nose was, how I was eternally grateful for the gift of his life and what happiness it had brought me. Then, it was time for the inevitable.
I think about him every day; his little box is on my shelf, and recently, I purchased a stainless-steel necklace I could put some of his ashes in. It never feels like enough to just think about him every day or wear him near my heart.
His last days are forever extant in my mind, and it haunts me the way not having closure does. I feel the same kind of sadness over lost items that were lost too soon—like a favorite headband I dropped in the woods when I was drunk as a freshman in college. Or, a set of yoga blocks I bawled hysterically over when my mischievous baby clawed them. They were a gift from my sister, and the pristine concept of them were now battered and destroyed.
But it’s not like that at all. Those are just things.
It’s more like the time I told my mom I didn’t want to go to church with her. She’d often go without the rest of the family, and I would sometimes accompany her. I told her no, and then spent the entire time, until she returned, in the driveway crying, because I lost the opportunity to be with my mother—I may have hurt her feelings.
It’s like the time when I was thirteen and I threw a piece of pizza at my sister’s head while we were arguing and then immediately burst into tears because I could never take it back.
It’s like the dozen times I didn’t reach out to old friends and just let them slip away.
It’s like the loss of my best friend, after choosing a boy, who decided he didn’t want me anyway, instead of her.
Those things are irreparable. They can’t be rewound or edited. They are what they are.
You want to protect those you cherish. Everyone always tells me that he felt so loved and had a good life, but on the day he first got sick, I pushed him off the bed really hard. I didn’t know he was sick. He was pestering me for food, and he was a total nuisance. Sometimes, I had to be forceful about getting him off the bed, and I shoved him roughly. I could have ruptured his bladder. I feel so much overwhelming guilt about that moment. His momma was supposed to protect him, and, instead, I may have hurt him.
I can never undo that moment.
For the past three years, I have held my baby’s ashes each night for the near week of hell he went through before he passed away.
I’ve made a promise to him and to myself that I would keep him by my side me during the days I couldn’t be with him at the clinic. So, since Monday, I have slept with his box in my bed. I have the necklace of his ashes around my neck. He will never have to be alone on these five days ever again.
He’s not here. Truth is, he is resting eternally, and he is okay. I am the one who is not okay.
Along with the necklace of his remains, I am wearing a necklace today with the Sanskrit phrase “Tat Tvam Asi,” which means “You are that.” I see others in myself and myself in others. Maybe this is my urge to protect him postmortem, because, in actuality, I’m really protecting myself.
No mother always does the right thing or can keep pain away from her baby. Yet, like the little girl crying in her driveway for a moment that will never come back, I clasp and cradle his remains, because I made a promise.