Brave. It’s a word I’ve been hearing a lot of lately, although I’m not quite sure why. I get it, I do. I get what you’re tying to do when you tell me, “OMG, you’re so brave!” So on some level I appreciate what you’re saying. But on another level I’m quite sure that the term ‘brave’ does not reflect on any level what I am or what I’m going through.
I didn’t choose this. This life. I didn’t choose to give my son back to God so I could show people how ‘brave’ I am. I don’t want this, or that title. I don’t want to be a role model or a spokesperson. I want to be a mother. A mother to my living, breathing, cooing, pooping, fussing, baby boy. That’s what I chose. Those were my plans. I didn’t want my son’s face to become the face of what SIDS or infant loss is. For his Dad to be the reflection of a perfectly paired partner to walk this journey with. Albeit, he is in fact my perfectly paired partner who finds the strength to carry us both when I’ve given up my will to walk. Even on the days when I’m anything but decent to him, HIS heart allows him to swallow MY pride, anger, and sadness. So for him maybe, he’s BRAVE. And for that, I’m grateful.
Full Definition of BRAVE
: having or showing courage <a brave soldier> <a brave smile>
: making a fine show : colorful <brave banners flying in the wind>
— brave·ly adverb
According to Merriam Webster, this is what it means to brave. And according to these words written here, I am not this. I am not making a fine show of anything, but I do hope that I’m handling this with as much grace as I can possibly muster. It is anything but a fine show when I break down everyday in the shower, having punched the wet, ceramic tiles a time or two. Just enough to border on breaking my own knuckles but simply leaving behind small bruises instead. After all, I may not be brave, but I’m certainly not crazy either. And broken knuckles just mean even more hospital bills compounding on the slap in the face that are the bills that continue to come in and pile up for my son’s passing. It’s certainly not a fine show when I pound my steering wheel daily with tears streaming down behind over-sized, black sunglasses, not giving a damn who might see me in the next lane over. Only secretly hoping to find the right moment of impact fueled by my distraction.
I’m not even sure what to say to the mockery that the definition provides of it being excellent or splendid. Seeing my son, blue, cold, and with tubes coming out of his mouth, laying too still on a hospital bed is anything but that. But it is an image that is burned into my brain with every waking moment. What is splendid however, are the pictures I have plastered everywhere around my house, my phone, my desk, my computer backdrop and screensaver. The videos I watch with my living, breathing, boy. Giving me half smiles and grumpy faces when I would wake him up by running my fingers through that glorious hair of his. Those are splendid. So far past that actually. Those are EVERYTHING. The true definition of perfection. But again, those were before anyone wanted to deem me ‘brave.’
I guess having or showing courage might be a small possibility, but I like to think I’m just strong. And damn it, that I am. Me and every other mother and father going through this living hell that seems like a sicker, more twisted version of Bill Murray’s repeated life in GroundHog Day. Because even though the seconds, minutes, hours, and even days pass, and they do, one thing always remains constant. And that’s my son and his stupid white box. So in that aspect life has become stagnant. The very definition of it actually. But I suppose strength is what I do have. You wouldn’t imagine the strength it takes to consciously make the choice to put your car in park while waiting at an intersection after picking up your son’s birth certificate with the words DECEASED plastered across it, that way there’s no chance that you’ll allow yourself to step on the gas just in time for that approaching semi to give you just the right amount of impact to find your own larger, white box. But I do. And I don’t have to imagine that, because I have lived that. I live that quite frequently actually. But then I remember that I could not ever chose to put my parents through what me and his dad are going through. Because just like I didn’t chose to be this person, with this life, or this ‘brave’ title, my son didn’t chose to end his life either. So in respect to him, I could never make that my way back to him. I wouldn’t be able to face the disappointment in his face when seeing him again. I never want him to be ashamed of his Mama. Because damn it, I AM his MAMA. And I’m a fucking great Mama at that.