I live in a world of trapdoors - seemingly harmless moments that most people step right over, unscathed, never seeing the potential danger, while I go tumbling down into a deep, dark basement where I am confronted yet again by grief, sadness, broken promises, and unmet expectations.
I encountered a trapdoor recently at a dear friend’s wedding. I had just watched her dance her father/daughter dances and was now watching her husband walk out onto the floor with his mom. I felt my chest tighten and a lump form in my throat. Then the music began, and the trapdoor opened. I was tumbling headfirst into the dark, and when I hit the ground, everything inside me broke. I went from a normal wedding guest to an inconsolable, grieving mother.
As Harrison and his mother danced, I saw every moment I would not share with my son. I would never dance with him at his wedding. I would never take him to his first day of kindergarten or watch him take his first step. Every moment that I had so anticipated and longed for had been stolen from me. I watched this mother look so lovingly into the eyes of her son, full of pride, and I just broke.
So there I sat, sobs racking my body, unable to catch a breath. My husband held me, and my friends either looked on with love and sadness or avoided looking at me altogether (certainly out of a desire to grant me privacy in that moment). I was in a room filled with a hundred or so strangers and a few close friends, experiencing my grief in a very public way. I was caught off guard in that moment and could not find a place to hide.
Just a few days ago, a baby was born - Jack. Jack was supposed to be a few weeks younger than Max. They were supposed to be friends. Jack’s mom and I had shared pregnancy. We were always comparing symptoms and describing what was going on with our littles: the kicks we felt, the weird positions they were in, how they were measuring. And now we were supposed to be cohabiting this world of new parenthood. But we’re not. She’s in that world, and I am somewhere altogether different.
I expected Jack’s birth to be a trigger for me. I had imagined that his birth would bring up a myriad of emotions from sadness, to joy, to outrage at the great injustice of it all. But it didn’t. I’m happy for Jack’s parents but aside from that, I don’t really feel anything.
I guess that’s the thing about trapdoors. They’re never where we expect them to be. If they were, we could take the long way around and avoid them altogether. But they lurk in the most unexpected of places. Like at a wedding, in the beautiful moment shared between mother and son.
But now that I've found that particular trapdoor the hard way, I’m anxious to go back, because next time I won’t be taken by surprise. I won’t fall through the trapdoor; I will walk into that basement, that dark room where I can see all the moments that should have been but never will be, intentionally. Because while that room is dark and full of pain, there’s also something immensely valuable beneath that trapdoor – my son.
I will never again attend a wedding without remembering my boy. And I will be thankful for the reminder.