The lake is calm today. This time three years ago, it wasn’t. I remember sitting in this very spot, staring down into the water, and wondering what the waves would do to me if I threw myself on the rocks. Wondering, but not doing. Never doing.
Water, like people, has moods that are based upon external forces. When the weather is windy, stormy, and powerful, the waves are large and awe inspiring. They crash across the rocks with a force that cannot be described by words alone. And after my son died I sat here many days a week, watching the waves take over the shore, pondering the idea that an emotion could take over my life. I could not have saved him. There was nothing I could have done. My entire being was governed by a powerful external force.
It comes in waves. It is a forest with fifty paths that all cut through the trees, different channels and avenues for handling feelings with no clear direction. It is a body of water with an undertow that sucks you away faster and deeper than you would suspect possible. It is that red berry on the ground that looks so sweet and perfect to eat, but will kill you the moment you put it in your mouth.
If you let it, grief will bowl you over.
They planted a tree as a memorial to “all the dead children,” and it sits twenty feet from this very spot where I watch the shoreline. It’s small, with spindly branches, and the leaves are few and far in between. It doesn’t seem to grow much, and I’m struck by that fact suddenly—the idea that a memorial for children that will never grow up does not grow. My heart rings with something I can’t describe. This stunted tree is the perfect tribute.
The tree is surrounded by bricks, and the bricks are surrounded with flowers. Clumps of purple and red and pink that take away from the fact that each brick is inscribed with the name of a dead child, the brightest of them tries to negate the pain. Each brick is all that is left of a life. The flowers are ridiculous to me. We give flowers to people when someone dies; I had this thought at his funeral that flowers in the case of death are ridiculously ironic because they die. Everything dies, eventually.
Between the bricks sprout tiny growths. Weeds, or perhaps flowers. Signs of life that will be gone come winter, because everything dies. Winter brings snow and ice, coating the ground and making it impossible to remember him. I visit the tree on the anniversary of his death, to place a hand on his brick and be able to touch him. A simple reminder. But I can’t find it; the bricks are buried under the snow and I didn’t think to bring a shovel.
A snowflake lands on my cheek, wet and cold. I am crying. I use the heel of my shoe to scrape at the bricks, but I can’t make any headway in the snow. I get down on my knees and claw with my fingers, but I only break through to ice. He is sealed away behind a wall I can’t break through, an event I cannot penetrate. Death.
I will never locate the brick. I will never be able to break through. I will never find him.
The sky is gray.
I cannot ever have him back.