I was walking through a cave, and I felt like it was somewhere I’d been before. Other people (tourists, maybe?) were standing and talking softly on the edges of my vision. The cave was cool, but I could hear a dull roar in the distance.
Shawn was next to me. I knew this shouldn’t be true – I knew he was dead – but there he was, standing upright with a slight smile on his face. He didn’t talk much, but then again, Shawn could always be a bit quiet when he was exploring a new space.
We walked through the cave. It smelled of salt, and there was a breeze. I held on to him and felt his thick arm hair. At one point, I touched his face. A trace of a beard remained, and it felt exactly the same as it had when he was healthy. He felt so real, but I knew he wasn’t.
Suddenly, the cave opened to reveal the ocean. Shawn laughed – one of those big belly laughs he always did when he was delighted. He looked at me and squeezed my hand. “This isn’t real,” I said to myself.
There was a crash of the waves, and my eyes opened. I looked at the blank white wall in front of me. It had been a dream, of course, but one in which I knew it was a dream. Still, I didn’t want it to fade. I closed my eyes, and thought about what it looked like on the edge of the cave with the sea on the horizon. I thought about how his hand felt, the one with the funny scar across it.
I knew it wasn’t real. But I could feel him when I was dreaming, and I could still see him in my memory.
And yet. The sun was making my room brighter, and with each passing minute, the dream faded. My closed eyes were filled with the light spilling into the room and the image of Shawn was disappearing in my mind. After a few minutes, only wisps of that dream remained.
I tried to hold on. But he was fading.
I heard the door click, and Tommy crawled into my bed. “Mama,” he said, softly.
I pulled him to me, and he laid his head next to my chest. His breathing was steady and he was warm. He was a living reminder of his father, the man I’d loved for a decade and a half.
I wanted that to be the end of this moment and thus the end of this blog post. I wanted Tommy’s warm body to make me feel a sense of joy and purpose.
But he could not comfort me.
Yes, I am so lucky to have my three wonderful children. Their eyes look like Shawn’s, and I can see him in them every day.
But in these moments, their love is not a substitute for the love I had with Shawn. Having them does not lessen the grief.
I cry less these days, but that morning the tears that fell from my face felt heavy. I cried silently, holding my boy, wishing that Shawn was there.
Suddenly, the sun spurted over the windowsill and into my room. I’d left the shades open. Tommy looked at me, wondering what was happening.
“Tears,” he said.
“Yes, but Mama is okay,” I said, wiping my face. “Let’s get up. It’s time to have breakfast.”