Many assumed we would be eager to move into a new year, one where Jackson didn’t die. A new year with the promise of more “time”, that thing they say heals and brings opportunity for new joy.
What they don’t realize is that this also involves inhabiting a year in which Jackson never lived. The first nine months of 2017 were the happiest of our lives, period. And with each passing day, there is a growing pain as he fades into the distance.
Last night, despite my efforts to convince myself that tomorrow was just another day, that January was just another month, we sensed the looming presence of a new year approaching, far too quickly, as the clock made its way to midnight. It felt urgent and unstoppable. I felt a frantic urge to find a way to bring Jackson with us, secretly pack him in my suitcase, as we entered the portal of 2018.
Acceptance was the only antidote to this suffering. We accepted, hard, that we were not allowed to bring Jackson with us into the new year. We accepted, hard, that Jackson would forever belong to a year we were forced to leave. We accepted, hard, that despite our rebellious attempt to be asleep before midnight we would wake up in a new year, without our son. Hardest of all, we accepted that embracing the little wooden box between us was the closest we’d ever get to family cuddle time with Jackson again.
Like the calm after the storm, there is a peacefulness in having finally arrived here. The anticipation and frantic attempt to hold on to 2017 is over. And here we are. Just as we were as that morning when I kept screaming “No, no, no, I can’t!” and a voice in my head rebutted: “but you are”.
A common experience among the bereaved is a fear that the world will move on without your loved one. I remember looking out the window the morning after Jackson died and feeling angry at the birds. How on earth could they be carrying on - don’t they know what’s happened?! But birds kept flying, people went to work, bakeries opened each morning, restaurants bustled each night, fall turned to winter, and toddlers moved up to preschool. It felt so strange and unfeeling, at times downright disrespectful, that the universe didn’t so much as pause for a moment to take stock of what it lost.
And at the same time, it’s also a miracle that life goes on. If I had the power to pause time, or even pause my own life, I don’t know that I would have ever hit “resume” with either. For better or worse (mostly for better, these days), we just keep breathing and living, in a way I never would have expected to be possible. And turning the page on 2017 has been no different, so thank goodness it’s not a matter of choice. As I’ve said before, we continue to march, sometimes willingly but often willfully, with time on this treadmill of grief.
I also know that, even when life goes on, we are not alone in missing and remembering Jackson. Today some of you texted me a picture of a sunset, a lit candle, pink socks, his picture on a mantel, a song, or just a sweet note of remembering Jackson. A dear mama friend stopped by tonight to drop off banana bread and flowers, wrapped in pink bows, just to share love and tears, reminding us how much he is missed and how much we are not alone. Even the birds, once the source of my rage, have become sweet, peaceful reminders of Jackson. We now have a couple of very special bird feeders outside my favorite window.
It’s no “happy” new year, we aren’t up for fireworks, and you won’t find us with champagne in hand or see our #bestnine on Instagram. In lieu of excitement for what’s to come, we bring acceptance that it’s coming. We don’t know what 2018 will bring, but we will be bringing a hope for better days and a fervent dedication to continue remembering and honoring Jackson as best as we can. We can’t bring Jackson through the portal, but we will bring our memories, our grief and love, and his kindness that continues to touch the lives of so many.
Jackson couldn’t be here to ring in the new year, but he loved to cheers, so we'll let him raise a few glasses below. Cheers, Jackson. We love you.