Tuesday, May 3, 2016

A Photo Journal of Another Anniversary that ended in Conversation

Long title to a blog, I know, however I did not want to misrepresent myself, it is not just photography and I plan on ending this blog with the conversation that I had with Landy as I think it was a really important one.
Today is the 14th anniversary of Flynn`s birth and death and this is how I spent my day.

I woke up this morning and it was kinda sunny. The type of day that is mostly cloudy (not the fluffy kind, more the gray rainy kind) with moments of sun poking through.  I dressed in layers for the day and as I left my house I noticed that Flynn`s tree, the weeping pea that we bought after he died and have transplanted 3 times, was budding it`s leaves.

I started the day with my children, whether getting them ready for school or daycare or sipping a coffee on the couch while they got themselves organized for the day.  I did not remind them of the significance of today, not in the morning, I wasn`t prepared to share it with them.

Then I was off to the floral shop where I confused a florist for ten minutes as I requested six, no seven blue orchids before changing my mind and asking for two blue, two purple, two yellow and one white orchid (one to represent each member of our family).  Then came the usual argument where the florist insists on putting water picks on the sprigs and if not that then orchid food and finally if not that, at least let them wrap it in paper.  I had to explain three times that the flowers were simply being placed on a gravestone and did not require any additional treatment.  Finally she tied a blue ribbon and let me leave.  When I arrived at the cemetery I noticed that I was one sprig short, how fitting.
Next, I was off to a favourite coffee spot where I could indulge in a "breakfast" of sorts and made use of free WiFi.  Getting lost in the project I was researching, the sound of the shop fell away and I was left in a tranquil quiet of my own making.

Lunch was spent in the company of care, nurture and friendship with a side of sushi!  I never tire of talking about Flynn or the stories that surrounded our life during that time and today was no exception.  Susan listened as I shared aspects of his story that she may have never heard before and I appreciated her sharing her own moments in time (past and present) where I could listen for her.  We ended on a note of enthusiasm as we discussed a potential project we would like to work on together!

My afternoon was spent watching my oldest play high school baseball, something I may not have another opportunity to do, given our crazy schedules.

I ended the afternoon with a friend pedicure alongside Tonya. I want to share the message she sent me today, as it meant a great deal (as did all the loving messages I received on Facebook, Blackberry Messenger and text).  It started when she asked me how the day was going and I told her that it felt like a heavy day, different than other years, this was her amazing response:

My day ended in a conversation with this guy.  A long time ago I called myself a grief pusher.  At the time I was learning about my own grief journey but was also pursuing an education in social work.  The concept of self determination and the unique and individual experience of grief was a theoretical underpinning to supportive social work practice in grief and I was taking it all to heart.  I took what I was learning and applied it to my marriage; Landy deserved space and appreciation for his own grief journey and I started to give that to him.  Consequently, this little label that I had created of a grief pusher had stood in my own way when it came to Flynn's anniversary.  While I love and appreciate the friends that surround me, the person I most wanted to spend his anniversary with was the one person who like me understands what Flynn's death felt like.  Today I told Landy how hard it is to do this day without him.  I told him I want to do this day together, that is how we experienced Flynn's life and death and I hope that is how we will honour his day.  It will not surprise anyone that it was met with love and kindness and an acknowledgement that next year will be different.
It was a good day.

Monday, May 2, 2016

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Celeste Roberge's "Rising Cairn" sculpture in front of the Nevada Art Museum in Reno. (Photo: Greg Patterson/Flickr)
In the past month this image has crossed my social media feeds multiple times with the caption: "the weight of grief- an illustration of the physical feeling of grief."  At one point, Landy's cousin thoughtfully directed the photo to me suggesting that it might fit on my blog.  I thought I might tackle what this sculpture evokes for me and agree that this blog may be the perfect place to explore that.
The sculpture is actually called "Raising Cairn" and the artist Celeste Roberge derived the name from the cairns of Europe, the piles of stones used to mark spots of significance whether roads, burial sites or borders. Admittedly, Roberge did not intend for the sculpture to depict the "weight of grief."  In fact, that interpretation was made by therapist/counsellor, Janette Murphy, who posted this picture online with the above-mentioned caption and from there the picture went viral. When interviewed this week about the viral photo and the alignment to the experience of grief,  Roberge said that she welcomes the interpretations and believes individual meaning enhances ones connection to the art.

So how do I feel when I see this picture as it relates to my own grief?  Well, it feels more representative of how unavailable I believed others were when I was grieving.  I saw my family (our parents, siblings and extended family) grieving and pained.  Like this sculpture their rocks were wrapped around their heart, protecting it from the outside world and unavailable to me. I watched as they struggled with the weight of our son's death; how could they support us, how would they make sense of our experience and reconcile how it had changed us? If we were not the same then our relationships were also transformed. People seemed immobilized in our presence or unreachable and not from any lack of effort or due to their shortcomings but because while they appeared weighed down by stones, in juxtaposition I felt hollow - we were misaligned.  My stones were not stones at all but rather boulders.  If I were this same wire representation I would have a boulder in my middle and one on my back and the rest of my wire shape would be hollow.  The boulder in my centre ~ my despair, isolation, hopelessness, heartbreak and my grief.  The one on my back ~ my guilt, shame, bitterness, and fear.  If that hollow structure represented my self and my grief following Flynn's death, how could all that empty space, held to it's shape by simple wire, move those two large boulders?  In truth, had I even wanted to move them?

It is the eve of the anniversary of Flynn's birth and death and now I know that eventually I did move the boulders.  Not the same boulders that accompanied that hollow shell that represented me after Flynn died, those boulders changed in shape and size and so did my ability to carry them. That hollowness is merely a hole now and not the entirety of my being.  Writing about carrying boulders evokes a monologue from my favourite movie, The Rabbit Hole, and Dianne Weist's character when she talks about her grief as the brick in her pocket.  That imagery resonates with me and has since I first saw the movie - maybe that is how I have changed, over the past 14 years the boulders have moved from within me to become the rocks in my pocket: