When I was 19 I traveled to Australia to study abroad. It was there that I learned to scuba dive in the open waters near the Great Barrier Reef. Eleven years later I don’t remember what exotic fish I saw or even how to operate the equipment I became certified to use. I only remember the feeling of being completely submerged in water, swimming silently to the hum of my oxygen tank. Under the crystal clear waters with the sun beaming down, I could see all around me and breathe easily knowing my surroundings. However, when a shadow would pass overhead, the water would become dark and the temperature instantly dropped. I couldn’t always see what was directly ahead of me, and my heart would skip a beat as I decided whether to stay in place or move forward.
During the past several weeks I have felt myself swimming through these same waters. On the good days, the water is clear and while I know I must keep paddling, I move forward with determination and hope. I know there’s no promise of rest and that I will likely be swimming for some time, but the hum of that tank reminds me to keep going.
The water is full of shadows, however, and I find myself frequently trapped, unable to see anything but darkness ahead. My vast oscillations in resolve make me feel so terribly inconsistent. How is it that I keep going some days while others threaten to drown me? And in those moments of darkness, why can’t I trust that I will swim out of the shadows as I’ve done so many times before?
As has been true since the beginning of this journey, memories of the past continue to be an unbearable weight. I’ve said before that I miss my husband. If that statement was incapable of becoming repetitive, and if it wasn’t so utterly depressing, I would repeat it every moment of the day. It’s the thought I cannot escape. It’s the reality I cannot change. I miss my husband the way he was. I miss my best friend. I miss my partner.
My grief does not outweigh nor does it diminish my gratitude. But grieving is a part of this process that I must accept. I am actively grieving TC, many of his accomplishments, and many of our dreams for the future. I can’t even begin to compose the words I will read to his attackers one day in court. They have taken more than I could ever convey. My heart is broken in a way I’m not sure is reparable.
I get stuck in these thoughts on the days that I cannot bear to hear another slurred word from my husband’s mouth. I get stuck when I occasionally allow myself to imagine what we would be doing right now if TC had never been injured. I get stuck when I acknowledge that Jack will never know the father that brought him into this world. These thoughts engulf me. They take away my breath and block all light from view. I despise sharing them aloud because their utterance leaves me feeling guilty for my pessimism and only more alone in my situation.
I can’t predict when a shadow will appear or disappear. I somehow just find myself intently swimming along the next day. Purpose prevails and my purpose at this moment is to give TC every possible opportunity to recover fully. In clear waters I know what I have to do. It is time to heal my body, rid it of all the toxins I’ve absorbed the past 4 months, and make myself stronger. We must adopt a daily routine that is more purposeful and efficient than we have ever been. I must use everything I know about therapy and teaching to give TC back his language. I must rebuild this family with every ounce of energy and drive I have. And I must be good to myself along the way or else it will all come crashing down.
I see my purpose now with a clarity I have lacked until this point. I feel myself swimming out of the shadows into clearer waters. And while I know darkness is an unavoidable part of the future, I hope I will remember to trust in the light ahead.