Anniversaries are difficult for me. I feel like I never know what I want. Do I want to be with people or alone? I feel like I should do something that includes the children, that I should help them mark the days of Mercy. And yet, doing anything with our brood of four is complicated, emotional, and intense, even in the best of circumstances and I find myself exhausted.
We went away to Bloomington this weekend. We ate Thai food and hiked one of our favorite trails. We saw good friends and enjoyed our Airbnb, but we were all one edge. The children seemed especially whiny and taxing. Our final day was marred by freezing rain and a child vomiting. It is a difficult thing: trying to enjoy time together as a family while mourning Mercy.
I wish that there were more moments of pure delight, where I could experience the reality of Mercy without the tinge of sadness. And every year, I have to release the day to be whatever it will be.
In 2005, I reflected on these complicated anniversaries, writing
February rolls me over, exposing a soft underbelly of grief. We went to the Great Wolf Lodge again this year. This is the third year that we have celebrated Mercy’s birthday by decamping to the Cincinnati water park. Our visit was delightful; Jemima scurried about in her life jacket while Ada and Magnus darted in the wave pool. Moses was content in our arms, lulled by the din of hundreds of splashing children. We ate pepperoni pizza in the evening and had donuts and omelets in the morning. The children slept the sleep of the happily exhausted. We spoke of Mercy often and brought cupcakes to celebrate her life. All in all, it was a good time. And yet, as we drove out of the parking lot and began our wintery trek home, I began to cry. No trip is happy enough, no experience rich and rewarding enough to ameliorate the terrible, submerged truth: we are marking the horrible, traumatic, and untimely death of our daughter.
As the tears fell, I felt weary. Four years have passed and perhaps there are fifty yet to come. Each year, February will hold the birthday and the death-day of my Mercy Joan. The weariness that I feel is not the weariness of the old; instead, it is like the sudden exhaustion of a small child. I feel myself running, frantic and engaged, from one activity to the next. When the moment of exhaustion hits me, I am entirely consumed and feel as though I cannot take another step.
I wonder, how do you mark the difficult anniversaries? What wisdom have you gained over the years?
I am grateful that I do not mark these anniversaries alone. Each year, there is a handful of friends and family that meet me in meaningful ways. I will write about their affecting gestures in my next post.