There are moments that the words don’t reach
There is suffering too terrible to name
You hold your child as tight as you can
And push away the unimaginable
The moments when you’re in so deep
It feels easier to just swim down…

“It’s Quiet Uptown” – sung by Angelica from Hamilton

When Philip died I couldn’t find the words to describe it. It was easier to just swim down. One year later I started a blog because I had so much to say. I am still a mother whose child has died. I have need to talk about him but I don’t know what I want to say. His name – I rarely say his name to anyone and that hurts. In the car, when I’m alone, I talk out loud to him. I say his name. I love him.

I still want to scream at the world my child has died as if the world would reach round and cover me with a big, fluffy blanket, tuck me in, stand guard. But it’s not about the world and that’s the good news. Because a world that won’t take me in its arms also won’t attack. I don’t think Philip’s death was something done to me. It is something that happened and not a day goes by that I don’t wrestle with it. “There’s a grace too powerful to name,” Angelica sings, the other side of the suffering. And I know this. How can I explain that through Philip’s death I have known grace? I would not have chosen to find it this way, but here I am.

Because of where Philip’s death brought me, what it taught me. For whatever I might give in to, I refuse to let it turn into bitterness. Sorrow, soft and quiet, yes. This might be grace. The depth of my love for Philip matches the depth of my grief. Something inside broke when he died, but that dark and terrible place has another side. There is truth in that depth, there is a way to light if I choose. Philip’s love – our love – is my light and comfort. Whatever comes and goes, love remains. So I turn to him and let myself feel that. That is the big fluffy blanket I long for.

I am lonely for love. As much as I feel Philip’s love, I want to rest my head on someone’s shoulder, be held. I am starving for it. There are times when my insides feel like they’re collapsing for want of pressing against someone I love, someone who loves me. Then I pull back — it’s easier to be alone, I think. I’ve seen too much. And I’m turning 60 next year — is it too late?

I’m reading a book called Sixty by Ian Brown, a diary of his 61st year, which I expected to laugh and commiserate with. Instead I’m horrified. Brown talks of the world having no use for the aging — but what world? Surely in his personal world his friends and family have plenty of use for him. Brown is an active guy. He bikes, hikes, skis, goes kayaking. But he talks of his aches and pains, that come with aging and maybe in part from the wear and tear of exercising. Maybe I’ve no aches and pains because I don’t exercise. This bothers me because I used to all the time, and for years now I’ve refused to move. I’m getting older and think I should take long walks, but I cannot force myself.

Brown seems to be making 60 define his life. I don’t think about it that way — I think I’ll define 60. I don’t feel so much older than those around me, including the young woman my daughter’s age whom I work with. I look good, I feel good, I have a lot of energy, all things Brown complains about. He even questions the way he dresses, while I make an art of it. That’s what scares me about the book. I work to not let the world define me. Why should age matter in terms of what the world expects of me? Yes, things change. There are adjustments coming at me that I can’t yet fathom. But to spend a year looking at my life through the lens of my age is nuts.

It’s not that I’m not aware of my age, or that I never think about it. I changed jobs three months ago. My boss is handsome. Classically tall, dark, and good-looking. He’s the kind of guy I look up on the internet so I can show my friends what he looks like and watch them swoon. The kind of guy I always considered out of my league. Two weeks ago he threw himself a fiftieth birthday bash in a house on a lake, which included fireworks that spun glittering down from the sky around us. Yes, around us. Some people ran for cover. His age, his handsomeness, makes me think I’m getting old. Sure, he is, too, but at 59, 50 feels young, and he seems to have the world by the balls. And we all know men my age are looking down the decades for women which leaves me with…

Oh, bullshit. So what if men, in fact, look for younger women? That’s about getting laid. I’ve no problem with getting laid (except for the problem of no partner), but I want something more than sex, the thing that makes the sex mean something. Not that I do anything about it. In fact, I pointedly do nothing about it, the way I stay home so much. The only guys I meet are the ones in the current TV series I’m into. And we know where those relationships lead.

Philip’s been spared the pain of this life. Yes, you say, but he also misses the beauty and wonder. Except lately those are just words to me because there’s a lot more hurt than anything else. And the constant work of trying to see the other side of the hurt is exhausting. This doesn’t mean I think he’s better off dead. Beauty and wonder come from inside. Philip had it. He was it. He took it when he died, and it’s my work to remind myself that no, he really didn’t.

© 2017 Denise Smyth


10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Denise Hisey
    May 07, 2017 @ 19:13:29

    “The depth of my love for Philip matches the depth of my grief” ah, this resonates with me so much I cannot put words to it. Different grief, but similar feelings I think. Grief this big sticks with us, maybe it fades, but never goes away. I have no answers, but I feel your pain.


    • Denise
      May 12, 2017 @ 07:11:02

      No, it never goes away. I still amazes me how well I function in the world, that people don’t “see” what this feels like. Of course we’re all suffering something. It’s a lonely place, maybe one of the first when you recognize no matter how much help you get, you’re really on your own.

      So good to hear from you and wishing you love and peace. xoxo


  2. tersiaburger
    May 08, 2017 @ 11:15:09

    I agree with Denise. Your words echo through my brain. Lots of love


  3. Rose Vidotto
    May 08, 2017 @ 13:49:11

    Hello Denise,

    Miss reading your writting…as always you bring enlightment to one’s life. In this case, my life.

    I read your text above, and it’s kind of funny because I will be turning 50 in a month, and through out all my 49years, I’ve never thought about age. Or what age really meant. For some reason, 50 is becoming heavy over my shoulders. But, like you I don’t want the world to define who I’m, and how I should behave during this age phase or that age phase. Of course, I’m not going to go wild on my 50’s, thinking I’m 18, even though I would love to, but at least I want to keep having fun. 50,60,70, 80 come all these years, and I hope they will come because in my heart, my essence and who I’m will always be the same.

    When you say:
    “Beauty and wonder come from inside. Philip had it. He was it. He took it when he died, and it’s my work to remind myself that no, he really didn’t.”

    Philip is beautiful, he still is, I believe that …his soul is beautiful. He did take his beauty with him, but you remained as the proof that he was beautiful. He may not be here in his full presence, and you may be looking for a way to keep seen this beauty and wonder around you, or in you. But, sometimes we have to look a bit further down the road, and realize that the beauty and wonder we are looking for are somewhere else. And what I mean by that, is that instead of looking so close to you, and around you, look a bit further. Look at beauty and wonder, you have brought into so many other people’s lifes. My life for example, because I can only speak about me. Through your feelings, and emotions I have learned so many things. I have learned how to appreciate every minute around those I love. I have learned to absorb the energy of a simple hug, a spontaneous kiss, about been aware of all the things around me. And, that was only possible because you shared your story. So to me, the beauty and wonder you are looking for are spread out in every single life you touched, and you touched many lifes.

    And that in itself is beautiful! And beautiful equals Phillip!

    Think about this life cycle…and how this whole thing is really beautiful and makes one wonder…..




    • Denise
      May 12, 2017 @ 07:22:53

      Age matters when we let it. I can’t say about anyone else’s nearly-60, but given the book I’m reading, I’m in terrific shape! ;o)

      You always startle me when you talk about the way my writing helps you. Such a wonderful and humbling thing to hear. These last months I’ve taken a dip – I miss Philip to the point of resignation – since I can’t do anything about his death, why do anything at all? Spring throws me, it always did. Everything’s coming to life, people can’t wait to shed their winter clothes. But Philip’s not coming home and want to stay wrapped in my winter coat. It’s the spiral of grief, worse at some times more than others.

      Thank you for your thoughtful words. You always give me a lift. Much love to you and yours. xoxoxo


  4. Pedro
    May 08, 2017 @ 20:38:17

    Hey Beautiful Girl,
    Saying you look good at almost 60 is an understatement! Thanks for posting , I miss you.



  5. Lucia Maya
    May 08, 2017 @ 23:03:08

    Love this, and you. I wish we could sit and have tea together sometimes… I don’t get out much myself, but it would be great to talk to you. ❤️❤️love, Lucia


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