It is always in the wee small hours of the morning that I wake, and then think of you. Sometimes I think it is because I dream of you, and the dream seems so real that I reach out for you. My arms rise up from their heavy slumber and stretch out to touch you. That movement, that need to touch you must be what wakes me. And suddenly I am jarred into consciousness, with a start I am alert and my eyes open wide. I stare wildly into the darkness of my room, panicked, trying to focus, trying to find you, desperately searching for you, because I am so sure that you must be there somewhere, in the shadows. I know you are there because I felt you there, it was so real. I knew you were there beside me. And I blame myself for waking, because if I had stayed asleep you would have stayed there with me.
I lie back and the sadness falls heavily over my soul, there is no room for any other feeling. Just the heavy weight of longing that will never go away. I was once told that grief is like a huge rock you have been forced to carry. At first you can’t even hold it, it crushes you under its weight. But you know you have to carry it because you must go on living.
And so you pull at the huge rock with your sore hands until you eventually get it off the ground, and you heave it up, scraping and cutting your skin, stretching every tendon, sinew and muscle, and carry it on your chest and then on your shoulders or on your back until eventually you find a way to move, to carry it. And you start to shuffle forward, and then you start to walk. And then you get used to the heaviness, the burden. It becomes part of you. And though you will always have it with you, this grief, this huge sadness in your life, this unbearable weight, you eventually start to join the living again, until someday you even forget you are carrying it. That is what they keep telling me.
I am still lying on the ground, still crushed. I cannot see how I can ever get up. I cannot understand why anyone would ever want to get up, to lift that weight, to start walking again. It is easier to lie here and wait to be taken, to slip away.
I turn over in my bed so that my face is buried in the hot dampness of my pillow. I must have been crying again. I look at the clock; it is only 2:30am. Too early to get up. I can’t pretend I decided to get up early at this time of the morning. They will know. I push my crushed damp pillow off the bed so it lands with a soft thud on the floor. I kick off the covers and lie star shaped on the bed, letting the cool air comfort my skin. I have learnt to do this. Eventually I start to shiver and get cold, then I grab the covers and drag them back up over me, hugging them to me. I turn over again so I am twisted into a warm knot and wait for sleep to take me away again.
I wake again, it is 5:30am. I didn’t dream of you again, I feel sad, disappointed. I had hoped you would come to me, be with me again. It is my only comfort.
I get out of bed and pull back the curtains. The sun is starting to rise, cutting through the mist and dampness hanging over the garden. It is yet another day. I see a bird, a little robin, flitting from branch to branch in the magnolia tree, trying to get to the bird feeder. He is so tiny. I watch him hop and then he cocks his head and turns to look straight at me, almost quizzically. I hold his gaze until he starts and flits away. He knows something, saw something.
I turn back from the window and look at my rock, waiting for me. Maybe today, just for a moment, I could try to pick it up for the first time, and see how strong I am.