Year Two

Last Saturday I was out with Natalie at a local Arts and Crafts Fair. We ran into G., a woman I know from a former job. She’s  also the mom of Natalie’s friend. G. is, in a word, rich.

What’s that mean, to me? Nothing simple, for sure. It’s too easy to say envy, jealousy. What does it mean to envy or be jealous? It’s in my reactions to the world that I learn how to live in it.

There is something exotic and fascinating about That Much Money, but I don’t envy G. In fact, never have I more not wanted to be anyone else or have what anyone else has since Philip died. What I want is Philip here and Natalie safe and sound along with him. I love Philip too much to want to be anything other than his mother. Any wanting for what I don’t have means I lose Philip. Because in order for me to know and love and have had 21 years of Philip, my life had to be exactly as it was.

And I can’t imagine a scenario where I would have done something differently so he wouldn’t have died. There’s the day I could’ve lost him, the day I wrote about in The Story. That would have been disastrous. That would have left me a hollowed-out wreck of a human being. But when Philip died, he was out of the house and mostly on his own. He seemed okay – but he’d gotten mixed up in something bigger than he was, and I’ll never know if the heroin was cut or if his body was compromised or if it was a straight-up overdose. Doesn’t matter. He died, but our relationship didn’t.

So – Saturday. G., who I last saw at Philip’s wake, asked how I was. I’m okay, I answered. Good, good, she said, nodding firmly, as she turned to Natalie. Which is right about when I split, like those people who have NDEs and feel like they’re up high watching what’s going on below them, which, of course, includes themselves. I understood that to G, being “okay” and soldiering on was what mattered. I wasn’t so sure I agreed, but I’m not so sure about a lot of things any more. I stood there doing the work of talking and listening while wondering who the fuck am I because what I am is not okay but I can talk and listen and be at this A&C Fair while my son is dead. My son is dead. And there is some profound crisis I’m in that I don’t know how to write about and that I certainly didn’t want to talk to G. about but it’s some next – what? Phase? Stage? I’m so changed I don’t know what call things, how to say what this is. But if I had to give it a name, I’d call it, “Year Two.”

G. has 5 kids. She told me about the daughter who’s graduated and works in D.C., about the one – Natalie’s friend – who’s been traveling all over the world, about the three kids that are still at home…I don’t know if what came up can be called “envy” or “jealousy,” but I do know the ghosts of guilt and shame were involved, at least for the few minutes I stood there trying to listen. Because she gave her children experiences I wasn’t able to. A lot of what bugged me about money, I told myself, was not about the things it could buy, but about the experiences it could offer. And with the exquisite antenna I had to to find things to make myself miserable about, the ways I couldn’t broaden my kids’ world because I didn’t have enough money became endless.

My kids grew up in a neighborhood with families that were pretty well-off. The people that lived around us vacationed several times a year, did endless home renovations; they had high-end cars, full-time nannies,  and money for college tuition for the expensive colleges that their childrens’ expensive tutors ensured they’d get into. And lest you think otherwise, I had some damn good neighbors. It’s just that I’d moved into a world that was different from the fantasy I’d had about it. I went to the suburbs thinking my kids would be out running up and down the block with a horde of other kids whose parents moved and thought the same. I had to get with the program. Who had time to run around? After school meant sports like soccer because my town’s big on soccer and one mom on my block told me Philip had to play soccer because, well, all the kids played soccer but what did I know of soccer? I came from Brooklyn. We played softball. And even that wasn’t something Philip particularly liked to do.

And summer? The school year hadn’t ended when the exodus to summer sleep-away camp began. Which made me feel like I was doing something awfully wrong because I wouldn’t have sent Philip and Natalie away for two months even if money had nothing to do with it. Life lasted longer than childhood. I wanted my kids around while I could have them.

Which was prescient on my part. Philip’s life lasted longer than childhood, but not by much.

Now, I knew enough to tell myself that whatever I thought I couldn’t give my kids because of money wasn’t what really  mattered. It nagged at me anyway.  I felt a little different, a little inadequate, a bit of a nobody. And “a little” was enough to make me feel like my kids deserved more than I could give them.

You know what? It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter how many vacations we went on or the size of our house or that Philip didn’t want to play baseball or soccer and that when he did, he wasn’t very good at it. The things that used to nag at me even though I told myself they didn’t matter, really didn’t matter.

What matters is the poem that Philip wrote in second grade, where he said that out of all of his friends, I was his best. What matters is giving birth to him exactly the way I wanted to, and the months of nursing him when all the world was his eyes locked with mine. What matters are the stories I haven’t told yet, the things I remember because even if it was just for a moment there was nothing but the truth of love between us, moments that even his dying can’t take away.

To elevate another cliche to the status of truth, all the money in the world can’t buy what matters. And yes – I had to learn it the hard way.

© 2013 Denise Smyth

Some photos…

I’ve added three more photos, at the end of the Photo page. I have to get this scanning thing down. The first two were 8 1/2 x 11, so they scanned correctly. The third was a regular 4×6 that I cropped, but when I inserted it, it shrunk.

Anyway.

My friend Laurie was practicing photography and took pictures of Philip and Natalie. I thank God that I had Philip’s entire childhood. When I look at that sweet little boy in the picture, I don’t feel like I lost him. I lost the young man he’d become; I lost him in form, but never in my heart. That’s where he lives, but that’s also where I’m shattered.

It’s been a tough two days. Help me, I want to say; but to whom? I think when we suffer tragedy, we come to know what it truly means to be alone. No one can touch where we are; but on another level, we so need each other.

Here’s a poem about grief that knocks me out:

THE WELL OF GRIEF

David White

   Those who will not slip beneath
the still surface of the well of grief

                     turning downward through its black water
to the place we cannot breathe

                               will never know the source from which we drink,
the secret water, cold, and clear,

      nor find in the darkness glimmering
the small round coins
thrown by those who wished for something else.

The third photo was taken by Natalie; it’s from the last trip we took as a family. We camped and kayaked with a group and two guides. Well, they camped and kayaked. I rode on the boat with the luggage and a guide who’d actually read one of my favorite short stories by Harlan Ellison: “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream.”

Sounds like a blog post in the making.

That picture struck me so. I don’t know how well you can see it – but I just discovered that if you click on a photo, it enlarges it. (But then, you knew that ;o) Natalie took it when we were hiking up a mountain. Look at him – it’s just Philip and the sky and whatever he was thinking. Because he was looking down and clearly, something was on his mind.

This child of mine…

© 2013 Denise Smyth

A Smidgen

Here’s how it started.

Right after Philip died, I’d managed to drag my battered self into my car to drive wherever. I’m not sure how I got anywhere I was going if Natalie wasn’t driving me because I did more staring than looking – that is, when I wasn’t hunched over the steering wheel howling, my son…my son…my son… so that even the air around me reeked of grief. But I managed to stop at red and go on green and not run anyone over while I was at it, so I’d say there was an angel or two hanging around with me. Because it seemed to me that I wasn’t really in the world, but aware that I could still cause consequences in the world. Like running over a kid in the street and putting that kid’s parents in the same hell as me.

Misery loves company? Oh, I think not. Please, God, give it all to me, I’d think; I can’t feel any worse, so just give me everyone else’s grief and let them go on in peace. Arrogant, if you will, but I meant it in the best way possible.

So I was driving and thinking over and over, I want I a sign, Philip; I want a sign, I want a sign. I was desperate and crazed and when I stopped for a light and saw the license plate in front of me, the chill that blew through my body must’ve lowered my temp a degree or so and it was that that caught my attention before I really saw what I was looking at. The plate read, “PWS201T.”

Philip’s full name is Philip William Smyth. His birthday is the 20th**, and he died when he was 21. Hence, 201. And he was born on 1/20, which is 201 mixed up. I sat there in a haze of holy shit.

(“T” means nothing; I mean, Tuesday was the last day he was alive and Thursday I found out he’d died, but that seems a stretch.)

What do I make of this? Connection. My yearning for a spiritual path is about connection. And I might cry out, “God” much as the next lapsed Catholic, but I don’t call “God” what I’m looking for simply because the word’s been so personalized it’s become polarizing. My God, your God, their God, no-such-thing-as-God. Like someone knows better than the next person about this thing they call God. Whoever said man made God in his own image was right.

But there’s something I’m wanting to know, and maybe I can’t put words on it but I’ll know it when I see it. And I knew what I was seeing. Besides the fact that Philip died when he was 21, the 21st was the last day he was alive. The last text I sent him was at 11:02. My phone extension at the job I left when he died was 201. It was April 20th** when I started to work a day a week for Cindy. Her office is on the 20th floor, her suite number is 2010, her parking spot is #21 and the address of the garage she uses is 1120. I wrote my 21st post on this blog on May 21st. I found my apartment on July 21st and I got the interview for my new job on August 21st.

And I’ll be damned if I don’t get nudged by Philip every day, several times a day. I’ll be thinking of him and hitting a low, or listening to him with love and gratitude, or worried and unsure about what the fuck next and 21 or 201 will catch my eye. I don’t look for it – if I walk around looking, I don’t see, and it wouldn’t mean as much. Because I look with my mind, but I see with my heart. If nine times out of ten when something catches my eye, if when I happen to glance up or down or over or around and there it is, it means something. And the simplest thing it means is that Philip is dead but our relationship is very much alive.

So here are some of my stories:

I talked about going to Key Biscayne last year with my cousin; a gift from her, to get me away. Like I didn’t take myself with me. When we got to the airport, I looked at the flight number on the boarding pass. Four digits that meant nothing. Couldn’t you have made it some version of 201, I asked my son? Flight number on the way home:  2110.

Phil and I had a thing for David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks.” The night Philip was born, while I was in our bedroom with my midwife, wailing and whimpering because how the hell was I supposed to split open wide enough to push what felt like a bowling ball out between my legs, Phil was watching Agent Cooper being seduced by Audrey and dreaming of Bob and Midgets and the One-Armed Man. Thus my son was ever associated with “Twin Peaks.”

A couple months after Philip died, I was looking through Netflix Instant Watch to see what next series I could get lost in, and there it was. “Twin Peaks” is odd and bizarre and wicked and I wanted to find a world that trumped what had now become my own odd and bizarre and wicked. Of course, why I thought watching a show that starts with a guy finding a  dead teenaged girl washed up on shore would be a good thing is a question I still cannot answer.

However. Turned out Laura Palmer – said dead teenaged girl – died the same day I found out Philip died – February 23rd.  Turned out both of them had a thing for cocaine. Turned out the population of the town as written on the “Welcome To” billboard in the intro is 51,201. Turned out upon further investigation the population was originally supposed to be 5,120.

When my dad was in the hospital, the room numbers in the CICU ward went from 201 to 210. When it was time to see him, the nurse led us past 201 and headed toward the end. Maybe 210, I thought. No – he was in 209. Okay.

Once in the room, the nurse asked everyone to step back from the bed. The hospital beds had built in digital scales to weigh bedridden patients, and she didn’t want anyone touching the bed and skewing his weight. So we all backed it up and she pressed the button and the thing did its calculating and when it was done, turned out my dad’s weight was 201 lbs.

First Mother’s Day: Driving, thinking, trying not to cry because Natalie’s in the car with me. I noticed the license plate in front of me: PWS. I got a chill, and a second of clouded vision; then I noticed a car passing me on the left. Its  license plate read 2ND LIFE.

Second Mother’s Day: I went to the movies with Kirsten, before having dinner with my daughter. Halfway through the film, I thought, “Philip, it’s Mother’s Day. Can you please give me a sign?” Turned out one of the characters went to a motel. Turned out the room number she stayed in was 201.

Sitting in the waiting room while Natalie had a doctor’s appointment, I was on the brink. Tipping over, about to go down. Then I heard my son. “Mom, there are signs here,” he said. Okay. First thing I did was look to my left. There was a magazine rack. I looked up the row and at the top saw a magazine called, “201 Family.”

This is just a smidgen of all the things I wrote down until I stopped writing them all down because it’s too much and too often and I no longer have to write everything down to remind myself it really happened.

And it’s not only about numbers. More on that next.

**My birthday is April 20th; Philip’s is January 20th, Nicole’s is March 20th, and Gerard’s – who I’ve mentioned and will talk more about – is October 20th (as in, 10/20).  Three I love deeply, and who left this world just way too quickly.

10/19/13 Update – I don’t normally change a blog post after the fact, but I have to add: I was re-reading this post tonight and I realized that I posted it on September 21st. And I swear to God I didn’t know it when I did it.

Just sayin’

© 2013 Denise Smyth

Otherwise

If I wasn’t thrilled enough to be told by the people I work for that I can come in wearing jeans and sneakers, WordPress emailed to say my post “Gone” has been FRESHLY PRESSED!!

It’s an honor and I’m grateful and it’s for Philip, my love, my heart and my muse.

And by the way – Day Five is tomorrow and I am loving this job. So let me tell you something about it.

I didn’t know what to do to find a job. I mean, I was sending out resumes, but who ever gets a call back? Not I. It’s not the first time I looked for a job this way. It didn’t work last time, but then, emailing resumes was at least doing something. I felt utterly, terribly boxed in because I wasn’t being creative about finding work and I didn’t know how to be creative about finding work because it’s hard to be creative about finding work you don’t really want to do, and I was doing that thing I do: Somebody please give me a job or ask someone you know to give me a job because I’m helpless and you are so much better a person than me – Jesus, I don’t even have a degree – that someone will give me a job if you ask them to.

Whew. It’s hard to be me.

“You are not going to think your way out of this,” my therapist said. Which drove me crazy because all I was doing was thinking. I had no direction; there was no way that felt right. I couldn’t follow my heart because it was as confused as me. I was sending out resumes to do administrative work that I hate to do but it’s all I’ve ever done. (That’s a story for another day.) And all along Philip is saying to me, “Mom, it’s okay. Relax.”

For all the misery I felt and all the searching I’ve done, I never managed to become part of any GroupThink. I can’t seminar or retreat or conference my way to what it is I’m looking for. I’ve been cynical and ironic and all I’ve had to say to any NewAge rah-rah is, are you kidding me?? I knew there was something real and authentic about life and I was sure I’d recognize it when I saw it. But what I was seeing was people like Anthony Robbins and that’s just wrong. 

Besides, I was tired of trying to buy my way to salvation. There isn’t any magic formula for peace or enlightenment. Peace is here, now. If I’m looking for salvation I’m never going to find it because I’m putting time in between Me and It. And if the future never comes except as now, then salvation is now or never.

And what I mean by “salvation” is freedom from a life run by my ego, which always misses the point.

I’m bringing all this up because I think I’m about to take the risk of sounding nutty and if I do, it’s not born out of some kind of all-I-have-to-do-is-say-it-enough-times way I’ve lived that’s caused me to bring flowers to my troubled heart. No. If I’ve ever seen things that weren’t there, it was seeing myself as useless, worthless, dull and unloved. I haven’t been practicing any version of light and sweetness in the hopes of being rewarded with nothing less than the presence of God. I was just going about minding my own business until Life decided Otherwise.

And here I am, stuck at Otherwise.

So whatever I talk about when I talk about the stuff I’m about to talk about, it’s because it happened and it keeps happening but there it is. It’s my New Normal.

Philip is behind my right shoulder. That’s where I “hear” him. And I’ve taken to saying a word now and then to my dad. His “voice” comes from my lower left. I can speculate about why, but it doesn’t matter. I’m just saying what it feels like.

I didn’t ask Philip to help me with work. It just didn’t feel right. But about a week before I got the interview for my job, I asked my dad to Please Help Me Find a Job. That made sense because I associate my dad with work. My dad was a hard worker,  a blue collar guy, foreman for the Daily News, up at 5:00 every morning. And when I was young, he worked two jobs for a while. For whatever else he could or couldn’t give me, he took care of me in the way he knew how. By working. He’s the one I should ask for help.

The next week I was sitting at work, scrolling through Indeed.com and Monster.com and Idealist.org and GodHelpMeFindAJobOrI’mGoingtoKillMyself.please. Then I heard the words, “It’s taken care of.” What the?? It came from my left side, where my dad is. Okay, then. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do with that, but I decided I it would be better to continue to send out resumes than go home and take a nap. But maybe I could relax a little.

Next stop was Craig’s List, which I mostly considered a joke, with jobs that demand Microsoft Office Expertise (You must be Advanced Proficient!!) coupled with a $10-an-hour salary and no benefits, juxtaposed with the unlimited-and-unrevealed incomes of Avon and various Work-At-Home schemes. Still, my love-of-a-friend X found The Guy through Craig’s List, so you just never know.

I answered an ad for a job in a town about half hour away from me. Within the hour I got a call. It was from a recruiter in California. It was her ad; she’d been hired by this small company run by a couple to find an administrative assistant. They didn’t want to place the ad on their own and then ask themselves what the hell were they supposed to do with the 200+ resumes that landed on their desk.

So the recruiter set up the interview for that Friday, and I got this terrific job with these terrific people in this terrific town where I can choose my hours as I like and wear sweats and flip-flops if I want and learn all this amazing stuff and become entrenched in the work in a way that feels really, really good and when I’m sitting there learning this stuff that feels really, really good I do not think about my son, just for a while.

And I will point out two things, which will make more sense after my next post, when I talk about Philip and signs and that kind of thing. I found my apartment on July 21st, and I got the interview (“It’s all taken care of”) on August 21st.

Forever 21, this child of mine. Forever. 

© 2013 Denise Smyth

What it Took

I have learned more in the year-and-a-half since Philip died than I have learned in a lifetime.

It’s not separate, not really. It’s all of a piece of the work I’ve done because of the particular things I struggle with. Philip’s dying is my own personal Big Bang. But I also feel like the fact that he died is killing me slowly.

What I’ve come to understand is that the reason we’re here is to learn to love. Trite? I think not. A year-and-a-half ago I would’ve rolled my eyes if you said that to me. It took me nearly 55 years to get it; it took Philip dying for me to understand that the simple open heart I had with him gave me joy. I have said I never felt joy. That’s because in my unhappiness, I imagined what joy would feel like. Like if I ever felt it,  I’d rise beaming several feet off the floor. No. Joy was the open heart I had when I was with my son. It was quiet. Soft. It meant the knot that lived in my belly untwined and there wasn’t any other place I wanted to be.

I didn’t recognize it. I didn’t know that the incessant searching I’ve done for decades was because I felt disconnected (read: unloved), and that the way you feel connected to others, to the world, and most of all to your-Self is through love.

Love is one of those words that gets tossed around so much we stop thinking about what it really means. For now, I’m going to keep it simple. I am at the beginning, and it’s going to take me time to go deeper. When my heart opens up to someone and I feel connected, that is love. I’m not saying it’s as intense as with my children, as intense as if someone came along who I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. But if my heart is open, it’s from love. My love; it’s mine because I feel it and I want to share it.

There are people I’ve “met” through this blog that I love. Zoe. Tersia. Lucia. Rose. Nancy. And if I’ve left you out, I love you anyway. And there’s my cousin Lee who I’ve not been in touch with for decades. We’ve reconnected through my blog. Any time between us collapsed and all there is is how much I love her, I’ve always loved her.

Still, it hurts. It hurts to feel anything beyond grief; like I want to stay mutilated because I don’t want to leave Philip behind. How the hell can I be happy if my son is dead? How do I sort the real grief from the drama?

It’s too soon. I don’t yet know how to live.

I’ve said that when Philip died, I’d been going through a real shift in the way I felt about life. I was developing faith. And I know that shift has given me the tools I need to cope with his death. Like that faith. Except mine turned to ashes when he did. I mean, I know what faith is: it’s when I stop assuming the worst and pay attention to what I’m doing. Actually, it’s assuming nothing and paying attention to what I’m doing. Faith doesn’t mean I expect what I consider “good” is going to happen. It means that I know right now, in this moment, I am okay. Do I even know what’s “good” for me? Back in July, when I found an apartment and then lost it because of a technicality, I flipped. I flipped. I called my cousin Carol crying and I called Ed crying and neither one of them bought the drama so by the time I hung up with them, I was done. I let it go. I didn’t think my way out of it – I simply burst from the pressure and once I did, it didn’t matter.  So what changed? I’d still lost the apartment.  But I changed. I’d have to look for another apartment. That’s the sane response.

I don’t mind what happens.

And what happened? I found an apartment that wasn’t exactly where I wanted it, but it’s in a lovely neighborhood. The rent is $200 cheaper, dogs are allowed, the apartment is bigger and nicer, and I’m a two minute drive from Ed. Turned out my loss was actually my gain. My meltdown changed nothing, which isn’t news to me. And faith is not insisting that if I lose an apartment, I have to get a better one. Faith is losing the apartment and doing the work to find another one. Period.

I am talking about faith and the need to feel connected because I want to talk about the signs I get from Philip. They’re not weird or spooky and it doesn’t require me to turn down the lights, put on mood music, light the incense and candles and sit in lotus. It’s just every day things, some profound, some just nudging me on because he knows that when I’m walking around I keep waiting for the ground to open up and swallow me. I see no other way to release this pain that I can’t carry but of course I carry. Like we all carry; like all the people we meet in a day who go about their business and we think, “Why can’t I get it together like she does?” yet we don’t know a damn thing about what it took for her to get up that morning, put on her suit and face another day.

I’m going to stop here or this post is going to turn into a novella. Next, the details.

Gone?

When my dad died I got off the writing track briefly, wondered how I was going to get back to it, realized there wasn’t any “going back,” there was just continuing. But it can be a long time back from that break in the continuity. Losing focus becomes its own excuse. I regress to, “I have nothing to say, and who cares, anyway?” It’s seductive and it’s familiar. Time to pay attention.

It’s exciting to have a new job and a new apartment. I’m busy with sorting and dumping and organizing and buying. And rushing. Hurry up and put up the shelves, install the closet pole, get the new bureau for storage. Get rid of the boxes. One more box and I’ll breathe, I tell myself.  Just one more.

I’m rushing to stop. To the finish line and the space I think I’ll find there. I’ve still not learned that I have to breathe every breath and the space I want isn’t about having ten less boxes in the dining room. But I got caught up in movement, and in that movement there were times I thought I outran Philip. Stayed just a bit ahead of him. Don’t think, don’t feel. But I am sitting on my couch with portraits on my left and portraits on my right and I just found a black and white head shot taken when he was two-and-a-half, all dark curly hair and sweetly innocent face. A time he was under my fierce protection.  I hadn’t yet learned from Nicole that I couldn’t protect my kids from what I really feared.

If the past is gone and the future only ever comes as now, what do I do with the memories of my son?

The quality of the relationship you have with a loved one who dies is the quality of the relationship that you continue to have. And I’m not saying it can’t evolve into something else. It’s harder, if only because the cacophony of grief and doubt will leave you a mad and crazy thing. I know this. I also know I’m graced with having the relationship I had with Philip while he lived because it’s so easy to have the relationship I have with him now. You know, mom, he says; you certainly talk to me more now than when I was alive.

It’s true.

I don’t mean there was anything mystical about me and Philip. We didn’t finish each other’s sentences or pick up the phone at the same time to call each other. I mean our hearts were open and the context of our relationship was  one of deep love. For anyone who didn’t read the post about what happened on the landing, when Phil took me by the shoulders and said, “They found him” and I heard my son say, “Mom, you gotta go deeper” I wasn’t surprised or confused. It was Philip, I knew exactly what he meant, but I’d be goddamned if he thought there was anything left for me but the shocking madness I’d now have to call my Life.

Since Philip died another dimension of reality has become obvious, if not satisfying. Nothing’s going to satisfy me except him rising from the dead. But if I’m to find peace, I’ll have to trade satisfaction for interesting. “Interesting,” at least, when I can stop resisting the twin terrors of loss and grief and try to do that thing called living.

I’ve long been fascinated by the mystical and obscure. I believe there are things beyond what my own five senses are aware of and that there are people fortunate enough to have access to those things. In high school, my friends and I decided we wanted to be witches, and our local library had just the book to show us how to do that. The spell we chose to practice was the one that would get us the guy. We bought the triangle incense and correct color candles, waited for nightfall, sat in a circle in the dark. Forty-five minutes later we were trying to figure out how to hide the burn marks on the parquet floor in my bedroom because no one told us incense needed a holder. Maybe that’s why none of us ever got the guy.

Later on, this interest led to the New Age movement, affirmations and Louise Hay. Now, I know people love Louise Hay. And I’m sure people have had wonderful things happen because of Louise Hay. But no matter how many times I walked around mentally chanting the thing that I wanted for my reality (I love my new job! I love being thin! I love my new love!) nothing changed. Because nothing changes when you’re trying to grab something you think is outside so you can shove it inside, no matter what Madonna and her Kabbalah or Tom Cruise and his South-Park-Scientology-Episode-Killing lawyers say.

(By the way – it’s a hoot. You can watch on Youtube ;o)

Don’t get me wrong. We all need help along the way, and if Dianetics or Buddhism or seeing God in your doorknob do it for you, go for it.

What I’m getting at with all of this is that Philip died a short time after I finally understood that my power and sanity lie in me. Life is a force and we are its expression in time. So what do I choose to do with this force, how do I live the life I’ve been given? No one else could tell me how. And I didn’t have to walk around despairing. I was okay. I was responsible for my inner state, for the way I felt and the way I reacted. Nirvana it wasn’t, but I had a way to work with every waking moment. A way that made sense to me. For the first time I can remember, I relaxed.

So it made perfect sense to me that Philip would say, “Mom, you gotta go deeper.” Because that’s the role he has in my life now. I am blessed to have the connection with Philip that I do. He is my guide, my protector, my muse. Many people have stories like mine; others say they feel their loved one not at all. I’ve no idea why one and not another because all of this happens in the larger context of life. I already said that sometimes things feel like they happen because they’re supposed to; I also said we make choices that affect outcomes. I am still holding those conflicting thoughts. Just like I’m struggling with a sickness called grief because this child of mine is not here, yet getting clear and constant communication from him that he is very much here and will I please stop staying he’s gone, thank you very much.

I want to talk a bit about what exactly I mean by “signs.” Another time.  For now, I’ll just say that I feel like I left for a while and it’s so very good to be back.

© 2013 Denise Smyth