On the trip to New York, I wanted to say to the world, “how can you go about your business as usual, do you not know my son is dead?” On the return trip, after days of accepting condolences, paperwork and reports related to Shannon, I was grateful for people who did not know and behaved in a normal indifferent fashion. Somehow, we got through those days. Somehow we put together a memorial and gathering that I think Shannon would have approved. He was a poet and his memorial was a poetry reading with testimonials. The after gathering was at his favorite restaurant.
Back at home I wrapped his cremains in gold foil paper, holding and rocking them those first mornings. We had decorated the house the day before the phone call. Shannon’s sister and boyfriend joined us in watching his favorite movies. We moved the gold box with us from room to room. We went on a moonlight hike and lit candles in Shannon’s memory on hills east of San Francisco. It was still Christmas.
Back at my chilly office in January, I wore Shannon’s black fleece jacket with Cuba on the front. I was still unfocused. At home I would write one thank you for memorial flowers, sweep half of the kitchen floor, look at some of his pictures, take a long hot bath. The numbness continued.
Over time, the numbness abated. My focus slowly improved. We invited Shannon’s California friends for his favorite dinner of corned beef on his Ides of March birthday. Each activity I could plan provided some comfort. I’ve read his unpublished novel many times along with the criticisms. Somehow I needed to continue the quest for publication.
We put together a memorial website prior to the first anniversary of Shannon’s death. It was another project to keep up the sense of doing something for Shannon. The virtual candles that were lit were heartwarming. Each email from a friend of Shannon was like getting back a piece of his life. We still find notes from friends there after two years. They are godsends.
Now I am retired and I have more time to work on publishing Shannon’s novel. He had begun a second novel and had an outline of how he intended to complete it. I had always planned to have a second career as a writer, but I did not know what kind of writing I wanted to do. At first I did not think there was any way I could complete my son’s novel. Now it seems a most fitting first project and I am waiting for feedback from friends who have agreed to read it. I think of Shannon every day. I mourn his life struggles as a poet nearly as much as I do his death. I’ve been reading books on writing and it seems to bring me closer. It is a positive feeling.
There is a saying something along the lines that parental love is the only love intended to grow into separation. I thought the saying used a more eloquent or meaningful word than separation but that was the gist. It is the closest I can find on Google. The saying suggests you must let your children go as they grow into adulthood. You must let them make their own ways, presumably a requirement for them to live independent, happy, healthy adult lives. I have often thought that I could live with not seeing my son again if I thought he was alive and well in some other part of the world or even on another planet. As an artist he often lived on another planet anyway. As much as I miss him, it is the fact that he didn’t get to realize his dreams, that his life was too short that is the greatest source of pain for me. One of his poetry lines is “No wonder poets are paid less than the homeless, they annoy you longer.” I am the mother robin whose baby bird wobbled and crashlanded before he found his wings. I’m learning to live with the scars but I will never be the same.