Who's laughing now? Me.
This is one of those days. One of those "secret anniversaries of the heart" that Longfellow mentions in one of my favorite of his poems. He was speaking of happy memories, not anniversaries of sad events in our lives...but to me, those five words describe quite perfectly the way we all, as human beings, have dates and moments that mark events that turned our lives and our hearts upside- down and inside-out. And on those private anniversaries, we walk through our day ~ drinking our coffee, having our conversations, interacting with humanity. Carrying on, while carrying a tender secret in our heart.
Last night, I sat down intending to write a few meaningful thoughts to share in honor of Cole on this day, and of course it morphed into something rambling and super-sentimental and pretty much the opposite of what I'd intended. Thankfully, the Universe took control and intervened by having my computer freeze up before I could hit "save"...and so I awoke this morning to a draft containing a mere one-sixth of the mush I'd spewed the previous evening. And rather than spouting a string of expletives, my heart felt happy said mush had been obliterated. Phew!
What does one do on the morning of their son's death-a-versary, you might wonder? Well, in my case, you bring your car in for an eight o'clock oil change. When I stopped in to make the appointment last week, and the gentleman suggested Wednesday the 11th, I booked it. And then
a nano-second later thought ,"Oh...that's Cole's death-a-versary. Perhaps I shouldn't commit to anything. Perhaps I shouldn't get my oil changed. Perhaps I'll want my car. Perhaps I'll not be feeling like getting up so early."
But then I booked it anyway because...well, what the hell. What was I imagining would be a more healthy way to spend my morning on my son's death-a-versary? Laying in bed all morning, weeping? Driving somewhere? Where? Off one of the Newport mansions' ocean-view cliffs? Seriously.
And so, I awoke bright and early this morning to a gorgeous, sunny April 11th. I could absolutely feel Cole in that sunshine...and I smiled. I then drove my car to the mechanic's, which is a hop, skip and a jump away. I love my mechanic's office. It's like time-traveling back to the 1950s. And when I got there, I could feel Cole in the quirky metal and vinyl vintage swivel desk chair, much like the one he'd used in his room at home, where his vintage typewriter sat upon the vintage desk his dad had refinished long ago...and I smiled.
Then I happily set off on the stroll back to my apartment. And I decided that rather than walking around the perimeter of the ancient cemetery that sat between the mechanic's place and my apartment, as I usually did when I dropped my car for an oil change, I'd meander through it. I've always loved old cemeteries, especially since my husband's "moving on"...and as an artist, I've found great inspiration in the often beautiful headstones as well as a sense of admiration for the sometimes wildly creative antics of their designers and chiselers.
And that's when my eyes landed upon...THIS:
I know it's an index finger. And it's pointing up to heaven. But still...it's a finger.
And given that THIS was the last photo I took of Cole prior to his "moving on,"
I felt I was receiving a message. A message that caused me to break out into laughter.
And so, there I was, on my son's death-a-versary. Alongside the cemetery maintenance guy raking up the last of the leftover fall leaves, and the chirpy dog-walking people carrying their plastic baggies of doggie poop. Laughing.
After Cole's accident, which was not a private affair, there were numerous articles, stories and photographs published by the media...all of which I'd avoided. Because, as a woman who doesn't even read her own book reviews, I'm clearly not that much of a masochist. But during that heart-wrenching week in April two years ago, a well-meaning friend had sent me a link to a particular online article, and I'd clicked on it in my state of numbness. I don't recall the actual article, the photograph, or whether I even read it or looked at it, but what I do recall is a comment made in the ever-popular comment section following said article. The gentleman (and I use that term sarcastically, obviously) had decided to use my son's accident and my family's pain as a platform from which to voice his judgments about the town in which we lived, our collective values, the car I drove, and the fact that we were apparently, in his eyes, all the multi-millionaire, spoiled spawn of Satan. He was also seemingly irritated by the fact that I was a humorist, and in his eyes, a "self-proclaimed" one, at that.
I recall his parting words of commentary being, "Who's laughing now?"
Ok, so that alone makes part of me wish for there to actually be a HELL, (even though I absolutely do not believe in a God who would create a Hell) because he should definitely spend a few lifetimes there for that comment...but I figure to be that inhumane, one must actually already be living in some brand of self-imposed internal hell, and therefore, no action on my part is required...I generally trust in the powers that be to take care of such matters. Anyway, I'm busy enough just trying to keep my eyebrow hairs in some semblance of order and write some decent blog posts to be in charge of the punishment of the souls of ornery old Maine men.
Little did he know, and much to his probable chagrin, those words didn't hurt me. In fact, they were like rocket fuel, propelling me into the stratosphere of personal strength and self-confidence. They reminded me of what I am perhaps most proud: My resiliency, my sense of humor, my ability to find lightness in even the darkest of circumstances. And I'm not just talking about myself...it's rampant in my children, my late husband, my family, my favorite friends and the people in the world I generally want to be around the most.
Those three little words, "Who's laughing now?"...that question...well, it's a large portion of why I'm still alive, and why I'm actually NOT in a mental institution.
And so, if I have one message that I think Cole would like me to share on this, his death-a-versary, it's this:
You never know when you'll be taking your last breath. Live like it might be next month. Or tomorrow. Or five minutes from now. Laugh more. Stress less. Nothing is really all that serious. Accept death as part of your journey, accept death as a portal into the next adventure, and you will truly be able to live. Don't ever apologize for who you are, or for what you believe.Stop caring what everyone else thinks of you, your life, or what you're doing. Other people's opinions of you are none of your business. F+ck it...get out there and LIVE, LOVE and LAUGH.
And once in a while, a good finger gesture can be entirely appropriate. ;)
Here's to you, Cole. Thanks for letting me be your mom. It was, and continues to be, the adventure
of a lifetime. And I wouldn't trade it for anything. xxoo
(Don't forget to SHARE THE LOVE. Please share this with anyone who may be in need of some Love, Support and Laughter. Brighten someone's day. Lighten up someone's life. Be that person. Thank you. XO)