*Warning: appropriately warranted swearing below.
I don’t really sleep anymore.
When I do, I wake myself up yelling, moaning, always with some kind of startle. My dogs come closer then; they go into alert mode—“Mom’s in trouble!”—and Iggy clutches me, Arrow nuzzles and tries to make me laugh. My girl, Tator, she’s an odd one; rather than comfort, she seems to have taken on the role of pain eater. I hear her moan and fret in her sleep. We wake up together, both of us grandmas, both of us loving a child who is not here.
In these awake moments, I speak words of comfort to my allies beside me. I tell them, “you’re alright; everything is fine; I love you.” It mostly works, but Arrow still turns his silly upside down head to check in and give me a tiny lick, as if reminding me I’m not alone.
Honestly, I don’t know why I’m talking about the dogs. I think it is like staring at the flowers on a casket. You look at the details—how the petals curl, and the light and shadows play on the leaves. It is a crochet of thoughts, like busy hands, afraid to be idle. Of course what I really think about is Bjorn, his sweetness, like the soft center petals of a peace rose. He is a sweet butterscotch drop, a soft spring rain drop.
Oh! Five thousand tears. Ten thousand prayers. Every bargain I can think of to offer the universe as I beg for…
There is this air that comes.
No, it’s not the air that’s hard—that’s soft, and fragrant.
To try to explain it is hard, foolhardy, I think; it can’t be told. But it happens: in the dark, in the day, in every moment I pray, there is this…air. With the smallest change—like a bird blinking at a raindrop, or a fly’s flit of a wing—the air comes; it carries lilies. Always lilies.
Sometimes the scent stays for quite a few seconds. Sometimes it just beeps my nose like a tiny toddler hand, then it’s gone. But I know with absolute clarity that lilies wafted by. I don’t know why. Guiltily, I get mad sometimes. “I don’t want lilies!” I yell back at the sky. I say other things too, things younger people say with abandon. I swear all the bad words. I sob.
I think these are the things I do in my sleep too, wrestle with the angels. I don’t want lilies. I don’t want to rest. I fight. I sob. That’s what it is, this long trek up a hill, then down, then up to fight, then sliding down through sobs, shrubbery, and shards. Up another bastardly hill, then sobbingly falling down.
After all that mind fight, at some point, sometimes with a semblance of peace, my body receives the comfort offered, the comfort I wrestled, the gentle air of peace that wants to cover me with its blanket. Eventually I am too tired to struggle, and my soul holds on to his face, that precious nugget of sunshine, that tender fresh spirit that whispers small words into my willing ear, his eyes looking deep into mine, so much deeper than a child of three can, or should ever have to. I love him. I love him deep into his head. I love him like roots of an oak. I love him with willow branched arms. I love him like a river, a waterfall, a tsunami. Fuck lilies. Fuck comfort. Fuck cancer.
But still I whisper “thank you,” because I know the lilied air was there. “Thank You. Fuck you. Thank you.” Up the hill and down the hill, up and down, and anger and exhaustion, and thankfulness and wild fierce anguish, and bitter and sweet, and awake and…asleep.