The pit of my stomach still feels the pangs and cinched knots growing like one of those rubber band balls, except these bands are tied and matted in every direction. They are not uniform or circular-shaped and they definitely do not bounce when you try to toss and turn them all through the night.
They don’t shift much except to stab my heart when I least expect it, and there is no passing this knot to anyone else. The bands are not rubber, but rather thick, sharp pieces of iron and steel stuck and twisted around my organs. Like a masterful bomb chocked full of shrapnel, and implanted into the center of my intestines while I wasn’t looking. I hear the timer ticking constantly, waiting impatiently for its demise.
It radiates heat from attacking me suddenly and involuntarily, then melting my insides together with a blow torch. The knot forcefully smashes through every vein and muscle on its way to my gut and doesn’t care about the trail of blood and vomit left in its path. Losing a child leaves a physical sort of reverse-birth that is more excruciating than any baby’s arrival, and without a joyful bundle to cradle in your arms after all the damage is done.
It is so sweltering and torturous that my sobbing tries to soften or rust this painful tangle, but the beast laughs as the flow of salt water fades into my shirt. It mocks any attempt of eroding the impenetrable labyrinth, as it knows within minutes there won’t be any proof of the tears that once struggled to dissolve it. It tightly cramps and grips its fist all the way around my waist. The knot wraps itself around my hips and squeezes the oxygen out of my lungs until I am gasping for air and coughing. It is a living organism like a tumorous mass accumulating more cells for its wicked project. It aches with the kind of agony and wailing that only those who have lost a child could begin to understand. It pulses its erratic toxins until my limbs are heavy and numb.
Some days I wish it would just hurry up and explode or claim me as its latest victim. Still, it shows no mercy. There is no reprieve from the hurt. No crying “uncle.” You are still gone. They say that even coal can be turned into diamonds with time and pressure, so I wait. I try to be patient, but I miss you too much. I don’t know how to let time and nature work on the snarled conglomeration, and I know that realistically, even stellar endurance and grit won’t unravel this mess. I want a sledgehammer and the Jaws of Life and I want it now. I wonder if I really will make it or if the knot will cut one too many holes into my already shattered heart. I’m broken and tired in so many ways.
Others farther down this path say the knot never goes away but that it changes and isn’t as overwhelming as it is now. They say this cruel, punishing suffering will always be intense because so is the love. However, they swear the knot doesn’t consume them as frequently as it did in the earlier days. Still, I wonder if this really is true. A year-and-a-half gone by and I miss you more with every additional day that I don’t get to see you. I yearn more each slowly passing month to hold you and kiss your beautiful, perfect face. I want to feel your soft, toddler cheeks against mine and make you laugh. I want to watch you play with your “vroom vrooms” and study their wheels, or have you excitedly climb on my back as we run through the living room like superheroes zooming through the air. I want to see your brilliant, smiling little teeth and be thankful for each of them, even though they caused sleepless nights for all of us. I just want our old life back.
Realistically, I know that not until this body undergoes its own final deterioration will the wretched knot dissipate, and I will finally get to shed my shell.
In the meantime, I’m doing my best. As I often do these days, I ask for guidance from the wisest, most radiant soul I’ve ever met. Caleb, one day I will see you again and tell you “I love you” face-to-face. I know I’m forever wounded by this mangled build-up in my core, but I will carry you with me no matter how slow I have to crawl or how many bruises this monster leaves in its rage. I will keep fighting, writing, and sharing your beautiful, joyful life, and Baby Boy, your love will shine above this tormenting knot. The knot will NOT win. I love you and I always will.