June 29, 2011

The Night I Used Birds To Fight Off My Demons

I lay in bed and stare upwards. My hands are folded across my chest, my legs outstretched on the bed. There is a flicker of light coming in through the heavy curtains, enough for me to imagine cosmic shapes in our outdated popcorn style ceiling. My eyes are blank. My breathing is slow. I have things to say to Kari, who lies next to me, but before I can move my lips, my blank stare takes over, paralyzing me as it does from time to time.

My demons named fear and irrationality and anger have burst forth, taking advantage of my tired state of mind and heart.

I think of the accident. It replays over and over, almost as soon as my head hits the pillow. Where I was, where she was and all the calculated changes in our day that could have prevented it. I think of Stella in the next room over, sound asleep, and this new fear of death makes me want to sneak into her room and double check that she is still breathing. Scratch that. It makes me want to sleep right next to her on the floor every night until she leaves the house for good one day. I think of Kari’s broken body. I think of how unfair it is that she suffered so much and got nothing out of it. I think of how lucky everyone around me seems to be, with all of their kids and all of their hearts still intact. I think of quitting my job. I think of moving away, to some far off place, where every family has lost a child. I think of how impossible tomorrow seems, facing people and our new reality and my job.

There is a reason my lips can’t seem to form words. Kari doesn’t need to wrestle with my demons tonight. I shift under the sheets and turn on my side towards the wall, my back pushing up against Kari’s side, as if she is my grounding force, the only energy keeping my mind from drifting off into hopeless skies.

I’m scared. The inevitable death that is somewhere in my future, in my families future, seems so real and possible and close. I plead with the universe. Give me five years. Five years before something else happens.

I can hear Kari dozing peacefully and I hope her dreams aren’t too awful. I crawl out of bed and head to the bathroom for some perspective. I have learned over these long three months to not trust a single thought I have while laying in bed. I find my phone near the sink and turn it on without much thought. I see Angry Birds, an app that filled my sleepless nights at the hospital, and open it up. I start chucking tiny colorful birds, with all different special powers, at little egg stealing green things that hide in structures. Before I know it, twenty minutes has gone by and my demons have receded.

I clamber back into our loft bed, phone in hand, and continue flinging birds through the air in a frenzied, pathetic attempt to get three stars on each level. And somewhere between one level and the next, I’m sound asleep.


Amanda said...

So sorry, Friend. Just feeling sad for your eloquent yet heart-breaking state.

I was reminded of Anne Lamott who when discussing her night time thoughts said, "My mind is a neighborhood I try not to go into alone."

brianna said...

Wow, can I relate to this so much. I remember in the first few months I literally had to have at least one part of my body touching Leif's in bed- a leg, an arm, a finger...didn't really matter I just needed to know that he still existed.
Also, I totally thought about picking up everything and moving. But then I got scared and wanted to stay at all costs. Now I want to quit and leave again...
Leif loves Angry Birds. Keeps trying to get me to play but I'm a hold out. I already have enough addictions!

Hope to see you guys next weekend.

Marcia Gunnett Woodard said...

I used to sleep easily, but ever since my dad was killed, sleep is never a given. Once one monster gets out of the closet, you never again truly trust that the door will hold.

My middle-of-the-night weapons are Battleships and Jewel Quest.

Hope's Mama said...

Simon and I didn't leave each other's sides for weeks. Showered together. Went everywhere together. I'm not sure who was clinging to who more.
Also, I can remember thinking things like "give me five years, please" way back when. Now here I am, almost three years out and we've been relatively unscathed by death since. So I'm thinking "fuck, I'm not ready to go through something this again in just two more years". Just a weird way of saying, time seems to go so slowly in the beginning, but the months and years seem to be racing by now. And the only thing that is constant is: she is dead and she's missed as much today as the day we lost her.
Love to you and Kari. Thinking of her broken body. That's how I felt as well. So hopelessly broken.

Josh Jackson said...

Thanks for the identification and love everyone. I hesitate to post this kind of honest and raw grief material, but I keep thinking this is the exact kind of stuff I want to remember down the road. The good with the ugly. But either way, it's still nice to hear from old friends and new friends who can partner with us in one way or another.

Anonymous said...

Every time I read a post on your blog, one of two things happen. I either remember vividly experiencing the same emotions ...or I realize suddenly that those were exactly the feelings I experienced and wasn't able to go to such a dark place in my mind and so repressed them. Thanks, Josh, I think of you and Kari and your pain every day.

Josh Jackson said...

Anon - I really appreciate your kind words and I'm sorry you have had to go through something similar. A friend of mine told me that sometimes a grief is so great it has to be borne by strangers...thanks for sharing in our grief.

Anonymous said...

Josh, I don't know you and I am sure I am one of the nameless, faceless people that comment on your grief or your blog. But I feel compelled to let you know that I am here. Reading, praying, supporting, and thinking of your family. I have not been through the loss of the child. I cannot even imagine losing my two little ones. But I have experienced grief in my life and your journey and your writing are the epitome of what I have been through. You should know that you are so courageous to share these words, I wish I had done that. Your eloquence is amazing and heartbreaking and I can only hope that time brings you some sort of peace.

When my father passed away, a coworker of mine sent me the book "Embraced by the Light" by Betty Eadie. I highly recommend it.

Take care of yourself and please know that you have a huge support system - even with complete strangers.

surfjams said...

I sometimes feel out of place when I read your posts, because like many of your friends, I'm the lucky one that still have her kids. But I keep coming back to your words, wanting to not forget, wanting to still think of you, Kari, and Stella and to keep praying for you guys.
Each time, I am touched, moved to tears, inspired to hope and pray for peace and comfort.
Angry birds SHOULD be angry when their eggs are being stolen. They may loose a few feathers in the battle, but they can still fly ;)

Josh Jackson said...

Thank-you anon and surfjams for your kind words about our grief and this blog. While these words are purely an outlet for us and a way to remember this down the road, it's nice if these words mean something to others as well.

Gwen Jackson said...

Thanks for your transparency Josh. Love you so much and can relate with the late night reruns that seem to play in the mind when our head hits the pillow.

Anonymous said...

Night is always the worst. The world is quite and the demons come to taunt us with all our doubts. I wish it did get easier when the kids are adults, but even more you will want to be able to sleep next to them, to be able to reach out and touch them. When they are off in the world doing who know what!!

My husband pulls me close and says I got your back babe. He can't change or stop the tragedy, but it lets me know that no matter what he is here for the long haul.

skytimes said...

"I think of moving away, to some far off place, where every family has lost a child."
Me too. If you ever find Deadbabeurbia, please let me know where it is so I can come too. in the meantime I'll have to make do with blogging.

Touching post.... thanks for sharing.

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