"for peace comes dropping slow…"
My favorite poem of all time is "Lake Isle of Innisfree" by W.B.Yeats and my favorite line is "for I shall have some peace there". I have pondered those lines many times over the years and often wished I could escape to that magical place where peace reigns. When my son, Andrew, died in 1989 I despaired of ever finding myself content again but, ten years later, I am understanding that peace comes dropping slow…
It is staggering to actually realize that a whole decade has passed since Andy was here. The enormity of it is somewhat unfathomable, and yet the fact is we, his friends and family, are all still here and surviving. I spent a lot of time telling myself and others that after the special service for Andy in May this year I would be finished with the need to publicly mark his anniversary. Not that I would be "over" it, for that can never be, but that the outward symbols and rituals no longer had to be expressed. I didn't really believe that it would happen but I hoped that I could say goodbye to this grief (the painful stuff) and move into mourning (the ever after stuff) and begin a new way of living without him.
It has been a private and lonely marking all of these years (other than the first anniversary) since my husband and his brothers were not willing or able to share in a public memorial of any kind. I quickly found that everyone has to cope with grief in his or her own way and not everyone was going to find my ways helpful. Early on I decided to do whatever I needed to do, to invite others to share with me, and to accept it if they chose not to join me. On the tenth anniversary however, I felt a deep need to have support and I was a little surprised (and pleased) when my two adult sons, my husband and my teen daughter all agreed to attend the special service I had arranged. (We have no family in the USA other than each other).
My husband was moved to order the brass nameplate for the bench we donated to Andy's school. He had been "meaning" to do it for ten years, ever since we had the bench installed… My oldest son was moved to enter counseling, something he had been "meaning" to do for much longer than ten years…my daughter was moved to ask some more questions (she was only four when Andy died) which she had probably been "meaning" to do for a long time…and Andy's identical twin, my middle son, was moved to tears, something he has "meant" to do for ten years…
Sitting on the bench on the anniversary day of Andy's death ten years before was a most profound and cathartic event. We went over to the school to place the nameplate on the bench and then we just spent a long time reflecting about those days a decade ago. Those days sometimes seem like just yesterday as we honored our personal pain at the loss, but we also celebrated our survival (and indeed surmounting) of this loss and its meaning in our lives. There was a kind of healing that took place there that we each have found comforting in a way that is freeing.
I have come to some closure with this time; it is real. I trust it now, as the days go by, in a way that I didn't think would be authentic even though I spoke the words and only hoped they would be true. A few weeks ago I awoke very early and attended to what had been just below my consciousness for weeks. I had envied people who seemed to find the "right" closure on a part of their grief (be it a scholarship, a new direction, a donation, a tree planting, etc) but nothing ever seemed to be right for me. Now it came to me clearly and powerfully…a GriefWalk! That is how I will honor my son, my grief, my survival and I can share it with others. What a gift! I know that, whatever this walk means for any other person, I walk for Andrew and for all of my loved ones and when I have come to the end, so it is with this decade of my loss.
"And I shall have some peace there, For peace comes dropping slow"
(written in 1999 on the tenth anniversary of Andrew’s death)