Thanksgiving should be a holiday with no strings attached. Should be. But I can't help but feel somber during this time of year. Tommy was alive for two Thanksgivings. Both of them in the hospital and very sick. He never got to spend this holiday at home with his family and neither did I. I ate a nice dinner provided by volunteers and had plates of leftovers brought to me both years.
I gave thanks both years that he was alive and although sick, I was thankful for just one more day.
The first Thanksgiving after his death left me with a tremendous heartache and feeling like a void would never be filled. I thought I would never be thankful again, but the feeling passed with time. I learned to enjoy my life a little more and how to ignore the constant stabbing feeling of loss for a few hours at a time. Trust me, there's not a moment that doesn't go by that I don't ache in every nerve of my body. I've just learned to hide it.
I guess the best analogy I can give for my grief is a dog on a shock collar. You know, the kind that is underground to keep them from running into the road. It gives a mild jolt if they cross the boundary. At first, they have no idea what is going on and keep getting zapped over and over until they realize just to stay away from that place. They can run around the yard happy and content, but they will always be tethered to an annoying collar that they can feel. It can feel uncomfortable at times, but it's always there, but its bearable as long as they don't cross the boundary. One day, maybe playing fetch, they absentmindedly leap over the boundary to get that incredible shock again. They knew it was there, and tried not to go there, but it was inevitable. Unavoidable.
But do you know what? I'm thankful for the pain. It means I FEEL something. I am no longer numb. I cry, I mourn. I love. I'm thankful to have been given the gift of Tommy. With all of his sickness, machines, accessories, and endless doctor's visits. For every hospital stay, every blood draw, every suture. Every moment we spent "fixing" him was one more moment he got to spend with me. One more moment I got to be his mommy.
I've mentioned before his last moments, how he was watching "Nemo", then gone, but there was an in between time. A precious, precious moment I will carry with me forever. When he started to decline, he wet his bed and the nurse came to change his sheets. I picked him up and held him against my chest, his head on my shoulder. His breath was short and labored. We turned on his oxygen and he curled his hands into my shirt as I rocked him. The nurse said he was sleeping, but really, I think in hindsight he was just too weak to open his eyes. He held me and I held him and we rocked, his heart next to mine. He was hot and sweaty, moistening the front of my shirt. I rubbed his back and whispered how much I loved him in his ear. Less than an hour later, he would be resting his head on God's shoulder instead of mine.
I got to hold my son for a few short minutes before he died, not knowing it would be my last. It was a moment of peace, and pure love. Just a mother and her son, embracing on a tough night. For that, I give thanks.