Waves of Finality

I’ve heard it said that grief comes in waves. The weekend just gone was difficult as Danelle had brought home Sam’s ashes and what was left of his possessions. Several boxes of stuff – some of it sentimental/memorabilia type stuff, some practical, tools, clothes, physiotherapy instruments and the usual junk that we keep in our bedside table.

We sat down Saturday afternoon to sort – but it just felt very heavy – very much of a reminder of his non-presence any more – of the utter gone-ness of his being and the sheer finality of the whole thing.

Clothes, trinkets and some ashes  in a plastic container… with accompanying death certificate… It’s confronting to see a human body reduced to ashes. It’s unbelievably sad when it’s someone you love this much. I haven’t had too many super -sad days in the last week or two. (Of course then comes the struggle of wondering if you are a heartless bastard who has simply moved on.) I have gone back to work, kept the exercise regime up and managed to balance whatever social commitments we had without much anxiety or pain. I watched the Danelle and the girls really finding it hard over the weekend while I was doing OK. ‘Grief comparing’ – you know it’s dumb but you do it anyway.

I chose this picture to put on my phone as a lock screen. I had the other one below initially but the challenge of looking at this larger than life grin rocked my heart every time I opened it up – so I swapped it out.’

But after a week of the black and white, back view I decided to switch back. I feel like I’d rather look him in the eye and suffer the daily wrench than look at his figure from behind and maybe pretend he hasn’t really gone.

Today I was at the gym and it is amazing how much comes at you in that hour. I was listening to Greg Boyd on a podcast, while gym music played and two different tvs showed two different programs complete with subtitles. Was it any wonder I lost count of my reps! Trying to concentrate on a theology podcast with all the other noise is pretty hard. And then you add to that the ‘background background’ track that plays just reminding you that life has changed for ever.

I have used the image of having a ‘room’ in the back of my mind that opens on one side to a Narnia like place – I guess it’s heaven (however that looks) and on the other side is my consciousness. Some days I intentionally ‘open the door’ and let Sam in – I muse, feel, smile and weep. Other days I leave it shut. Then there are the days he barges in all guns blazing and I am overwhelmed and caught off guard by his presence. I haven’t ever felt like I want to ‘lock’ the door so I imagine that is a good thing.

For some reason it was the gym where a wave of grief broke today – just enough to throw me off balance and drag me under for a brief rinse. A flick thru my photos as I rode the warm down bike was enough to throw a spanner in the works.

I have kept the photos from our identification of him and from when they were returning on the boat. They are heartbreaking to look at – but somehow I feel like I want to see them every now and then to remind myself that he is not gone on a long holiday – instead he is just gone forever. It’s been the hardest part for me to grasp.

People have asked me if I’m angry, but I’m not – just deeply sad to a depth I didn’t realise was possible.. Somehow as my brain ‘does the maths’, I feel like I have no one or nothing to be angry at. I was angry at Sam initially as he had told us of close calls with blackout, but I only have to remember my own teen years to know that I did my fair share of risky stuff and just happened to get away with it.

Yeah I do sometimes wonder ‘why us?’ Why do we somehow get to bear this greatest of losses that a child seems to be? But there is no real answer to that. Those who would see it as all part of God’s plan would suggest that there is a bigger picture that we just can’t see. I guess you have to think that if you truly believe that God would engineer an event like this. I don’t mean that snidely. I just can’t conceive of God in that way.

That said, maybe one day we will find out that those folks were right… But for now that isn’t a theological position I could credibly hold. It sits too heavily at odds with the notion of a good God or even with the idea of genuine free will.

We are now 6 weeks since Sam’s death – long enough for the initial impact to have worn off most people I would imagine. And even for myself I know I am no longer reeling and disoriented. I think I am starting to accept this new reality, but conscious that waves are still breaking over the bow every now and then and either catching us off guard or at times capsizing us.

Danelle and I spoke this afternoon of possibly travelling as a ‘family’ but just the thought seems more like it would currently serve to enforce what’s not here. So the next family holiday may need to be left for a while.

Anyway just some musings 6 weeks in… Oh and you simply cannot watch the news with the same kind of detached perspective any longer. Two brothers killed in Mexico is not just very sad. It rips at your heart as you know the pain of one child dying in a relatively good way – but to have two sons shot in the head while in a foreign country and then have to go there to retrieve bodies and identify them is next level intense. So very sad for that family.

6 thoughts on “Waves of Finality

  1. Andrew… this resonates with me and has left me with tears. Tears for you all. 6 weeks is such a tiny speck of time as you realise that there are so many years ahead to not have Sam with you. I still have those waves for a best friend who died suddenly when I was pregnant with Phoebe – gone in an instant and no chance to say goodbye until the viewing on the day of the funeral. One of those “no explanation” type deaths much like SIDS but for adults. This year would have been her 50th birthday and it’s those milestone dates that set me off…the what would life be like now if she’d still been here with us? Would she have children? and then fast forward and it’s nearly 18 months since we lost my stepdad of 30 years…Pete’s cancer was incurable but you’ve never met anyone more physically strong than him and he gave it a good old fight. Those waves are still very regular and the kids both struggle with the loss of their Pop. I recall exactly that moment where I went with Mum into the little room at Pinnaroo to receive his ashes… the largest, strongest man reduced to the contents of an oversized peanut butter jar. Mum took it to bed with her for weeks until the day she made a decision to set him free.
    My heart goes out to you all …. I know it gets easier to do day to day but it just sucks along the way.

  2. I can relate to this so much, like you I have good days and can chat and talk about my son and other days are hell even after 6 years. There is no easy path, we all cope in different ways, mine is to keep busy which then stops me thinking too much. Grief hits at unlikely times, just a saying, a piece of music or a photograph, the list is endless. I try and remind myself that others have things so much worse than my loss and they too have to ” get on with life”. Just look after each other and know that others also care about you. I send my love to you all. XX

    • Such raw honesty and thank you for your wonderful and rare ability to put words to feelings that are often so hard to express, Andrew. And particularly in such early days as you continue negotiating this challenging journey for all you Hamiltons & Cosi.

      It was QEII credited with those words about grief being the price we pay for our love. And my God, yes how searingly deep does it go. But what I would add, and you touch on yourself here, Andrew, is that of my experience it this exact same grief that also gives us a rare and precious gift that we never quite knew existed until our hearts were rent wide open by death’s brutal sting – and here I am talking that of our very own being altogether enriched and deepened to levels and places we never really knew existed prior to our loss.

      Not that we would ever consciously wish another to these places. But it is out of this sorrowing and grief that hopefully indeed almost imperceptibly we one day hopefully find ourselves in a new place, with us gifted access to hearts that are altogether fuller and deeper, richer and kinder than ever they were before.

      And with our crying and sitting time one day done, us arriving at this place where we find ourselves with an altogether greater capacity for loving and living, giving and emoting with others. And particularly those we see suffering or in pain, for we well know this place ourselves but rather than thoughts of our own loved one still paining our hearts, it brings only a smile to our lips knowing the fortune of all that they have brought to us in the sweetness that was their time.

      Sending you and all the Hamos enduring love as you traverse these rocky shoals.

  3. Thankyou for the insight into your ongoing grief. My heart hurts as I read your words and think of that twang of sadness and emotion you must get everytime you lock your phone. My Son being the same age as Sam makes it so hard to imagine your pain but I do and I’m so sorry. I’m happy to hear your moving forward. Sending love to your family💟

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