For the first five years, the wounds were deep and sharp and raw. Tears came easily, and reminders of you were everywhere.
The next five years, the wounds were tender scabs that were only aggravated and reopened by certain songs that played on the radio or driving past those hallowed places.
Years ten through fifteen were better. Those tender scabs had faded to scars of a slightly different color from the surrounding flesh, and they no longer reopened so easily. Only the yearly anniversary caused them to ache and weep.
The last five years? They’ve been easy. Guiltily so. The scars have become memories that, while always present, have been packed down deep into my soul beneath all of the other trials and triumphs and pitfalls and successes that have since followed. From the outside, no one can tell that there was once a scar there. A wound so deep it seemed that it once seemed it would swallow the whole world.
But it didn’t. And each passing October got easier and easier. October 4th eventually became a day of celebration instead of a day of mourning. But the celebration always had just a tinge of bittersweet.
Twenty years later, the pain that once was breathtakingly sharp has taken on a new sensation. I once ached for the loss. The loss of friends. The loss of classmates. The loss of innocence. Now, as a mother, the pain is colored by fear. Fear that my son could someday be the reason for a community’s sadness and grief. Fear that I could someday be in your mothers’ shoes. Fear that one of the most precious pieces of my life could someday be snatched from my arms.
Yesterday, I was fine. I knew that today was The Day, and I was prepared for it. Just like I have been nineteen times before. But, as I watched my little man play and laugh this morning as we went through our morning routine, a sudden fear gripped my heart and left me weak-kneed. While I always felt such heartbreaking sympathy for your mothers’, I never realized how incredibly strong they must have been. To wake up on October 5 knowing that they would never again hold you in their arms. And to continue waking up each day afterwards with the same thought. The idea of it makes me ache inside.
For nineteen years, I grieved as your friend and classmate. I grieved your loss with all of the members of our small community. But this year I’m grieving you as a mother. And my heart is breaking all over again.