A Banquet of Tears

If one doesn't count all my trips to the liquor grocery store, the soccer fields or my best friend's house to beg for a decent home cooked meal, I don't really get out that much.

I'm a bit of a homebody. Always have been, most likely always will be. I take refuge in my house, mainly because I'm too damned lazy to slap on the ole war paint and shimmy into a bra to go play nice with other human beings.

It's imminently more fun to sit in my own house, half dressed with wild hair and boss my little slaves around while sitting on my maternal throne, enjoying the fruits of my kingdom.

Tomorrow, that will all change.

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No, a fairy God-mother hasn't swooped down and waved her magic wand to sprinkle fairy dust on my head, bestowing money, looks and a winning personality on me.

An invitation arrived in the mail a bit ago, followed by a commanding phone call, demanding my presence tomorrow night for a banquet.

Not a fancy dress type of banquet requiring support hose and Spanx, but a banquet nonetheless. I'll still have to put on underwear and a bra. Dammit.

Tomorrow is the dead kids banquet and thanks to my beautiful son, I've got a ticket. I'd rather he endowed me with a winning lottery ticket, but I suppose I can't hog all the luck. Damn.

Tomorrow, I have to dress up to walk into a room filled with 300 plus grieving parents and try not to let the morbidity of the event get me down.

Who's gonna take the bet that I'll be the one standing next to the punch bowl with a silver flask in hand?

I wouldn't normally attend such a gala, but on this special occasion (read: my pediatrician twisted my arm and threatened to physically drag my sorry arse to the event guilted me into going) I'm pulling up my boot straps and forcing myself to attend. I will even be speaking to this room filled with wet eyes and heavy hearts.

Nothing like a little public humiliation speaking served with a side of grief to really make for a good time.

So I'm going. By myself. With no Boo. With only a handful of kleenex to fortify myself with. And maybe a flask hidden in my purse.

I try not to define myself as a grieving mother. It irks me when I meet new people and they automatically say, "Oh, you're the mom who's son up and died in her arms." (And yes, people actually do say this. Dumbasses.)

I prefer introducing myself to people as Tanis, writer, wife, mother and internet porn star. It's way more fun to watch their eyes pop out of their head as they picture me twirling around a pole in my bedroom in front of a computer camera than it is to see them stare at their feet and trip over their tongues wondering what to say to a mom with an angel hanging over her shoulder.

Tomorrow I won't be the only mom in the room who knows what it is like to walk that lonely walk out of the hospital and into a cemetery.

I won't be the only mom who masks my pain with inappropriate humour and low cut shirts. I will be surrounded by others who harbour the same weight I shoulder daily.

I'm so not excited to go.

But tomorrow will be an opportunity to reach out to other parents who have just lost a child and are new to this dead kid club. Parents who are floundering in their own sea of pain and wondering just what the hell they did to deserve this special honor.

I remember with a vivid clarity, the first days, weeks, months I wandered around wondering if life will return. I was desperate to talk with other parents who knew of my pain, people who could tell me that one day I would no longer want to hurl myself into my sea of grief and never swim back to shore.

I can't ignore those parents, as painfully easy as it would be for me to do. Because I was once them. Scarred permanently by a loss so devastating that most people simply can't comprehend it, wanting answers, seeking relief from the constant cracking of my heart.

Plus, I have a really cute low cut purple top to show off my *assets* that has been sitting in my closet collecting dust, just begging for an opportunity to be worn.

There is another reason I'm going. A more true and real reason.

I get to talk about my Bug. I get to breathe life into him for the duration of my five minute speech and watch him dance in the eyes of everyone who is listening.

I get an opportunity not to retell his eulogy, but to speak from the heart about all I have learned about my son and myself in the two years since his passing.

I once struggled to understand how life could so quickly go south, how the clouds could roll in without any warning and block out any rays of light for months at a time.

I once wondered how I could ever live without the love my Bug bestowed on me with every touch, every kiss, every sigh breathed into my neck while I cradled him.

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I ache with missing him. Still.

It's not that I know the answers to any of these things. I don't know how the darkness of pain and grief didn't swallow me whole. I don't know how I survived seeing my son, lifeless and cold, and not go screaming mad.

Somehow I survived all my What-if's. Despite the fact he is no longer here, laughing and slamming cupboard doors and driving me mad, I survived.

That is as important as remembering every small detail of my precious son's life.

I survived to see the light shine around my other children's hearts, to feel the love for them that was once blocked out by the raging pain I carried.

I no longer worry about remembering my son. He comes flooding back to me whenever I need him and he is as close to my heart as a person can get. I still carry him with me where ever I go, he just tends to hover about with his angel wings instead of drooling on my shoulder.

I no longer worry the tears that leak out of my heart and down my face will drown me.

I have come to an understanding, a peace with his passing. One I never thought possible. For all the pain and disbelief we endured, a new strength has emerged and forged our family, stronger than before.

When I speak tomorrow about my son, his sweet giggle and the way he would stoop over as he walked as though his head were too heavy for his little body and he always looked like he was about to topple over, or the way he would bang spoons on my floor like he was trying to dig a hole to China, I will speak about surviving the fire of loss.

I will tell people that there will be joy once again, a bitter sweet joy to be sure, but joy nonetheless. I will tell my story, my family's story about how we once worried we wouldn't survive this horrific cycle of grief, that our love for Bug, for one another would be decimated by the overwhelming pain we carried in our souls.

I will remind myself, once again, that love grows even in the darkest places. Love can find a way to survive even if the heaviest of weights is thrown over it, smothering it like a damp wool blanket.

I will remind myself that it is okay to grieve, to feel this pain. Because like a coin, grief has two sides. Pain on one side and the joy of the love on the other side.

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Every scuff is a memory tucked in my heart.

I will tell tell myself, and others that it is okay to bear the wounds of loss proudly. We are all scarred with the loss of a beloved child. A lost promise, a vacant seat in our family portraits.

But our scars are beautiful. They are forged out of love.

A love that will always endure, even if one fears it won't.

That is the message I will speak of tomorrow while I intertwine tales of my funny little man to dance in their heads.

Of course, I'll do it while wearing my spanky new purple top.

Who says a grieving momma can't be a cute momma?