Still is a complex word.
It’s the things that become still – your baby, your faith, your future – and the things that still remain – the tiny outfits, the longings, the eternal holes in all the places he should be. Eventually even the cards and flowers and meals and hugs and sincere condolences became still too, but I couldn’t. My dreams and my life were haunted by the emptiness still in his place.
I had stopped meditating, unable to be present to – to be still in – a body JoJo was no longer held in, or against; unable to be present to a mind incapable of quieting the deepest levels of failure, yearning, and absence; unable and unwilling to talk to or listen for a God I felt had so deeply abandoned me – had abandoned us.
I kept moving and traveling and leaving as often as I could, taking my son’s ashes with me. In those first months after JoJo’s death, I drove and flew and bused to four countries and 21 states. Sometimes I just went across town to the unoccupied homes of friends, these safe spaces I hadn’t known about earlier, where I wouldn’t be as tormented by the memories of him and the holes without him. I visited an ashram and the Dalia Lama in India, Meow Wolf in New Mexico, a trauma specialist in Maine, the most delicious vegan restaurants in Los Angeles, and the most inspiring museums in New York. But none of them could fill the void, turn back time, or close my chasmic maternal wound.
When there was nowhere left to run, I finally ended up sitting back on my cushion in the most punishing of meditations, a practice no longer focused on the simpler task of mastering my own stillness but instead the impossible one of bearing my child’s.
It’s now been over 10 months – 46 weeks, for those of us counting – since my son’s death and birth. And I never did finish ‘Ugly Betty.’ I don’t want to know how it ends if he can’t.
In these weeks, counting each one towards an eternity without him, there’s been no amount of movement or meditation that’s offered transcension, no escaping or altering of reality that’s offered any ease.
This time I’ve realized that whether or not this earthly experience is all in my mind is irrelevant; I am experiencing this, the most human of sufferings.
Perhaps the path to enlightenment isn’t asking us to learn to ignore or move beyond the pain but instead to do the harder work of fully surrendering into it. Radically accepting even the most unacceptable things, like that sometimes children die and there are no answers and it cannot be changed, which exists equally and next to the beauty that sometimes children live and prayers are answered and people can change.
I have changed.
The type of meditation I practice is supposed to teach you to see things as they really are, to see the truth. I used to think I understood the truth, or something like it, but now this is the only truth I know: JoJo will always be gone. I will never understand why. And this will never be okay. Which exists equally and next to the beauty that I will be his mother still. I will try to create a better world for him still. And as promised, I will love him forever, no matter what, nevertheless.