When a baby is born, you count his age in moments. You can’t believe that in such a short time, life could change so dramatically. You wonder how just a few hours before, life had seemed one way, but now you recognize a permanent, monumental shift. You had always know what love was, but now you experience a CAPACITY to love that makes what came before seem tepid and two dimensional.
At first you count your baby’s age in hours, then days. Eventually, just as you counted your pregnancy in weeks, you shift to weeks. It feels precise. 6 weeks, 8 weeks, 12 weeks old. It mirrors your baby books about what milestones to expect. This eventually grows impractical and unwieldy, and you switch to months. You can hardly believe that one day, sooner than you think, you’ll be thinking in terms of YEARS in relation to this child’s age. In fact, one day, you’ll probably take his age and use it to figure out how old YOU are.
With a child’s death, this sense of timing, of pace, feels similar. How could Jack have been alive and well mere seconds before I reached the water’s edge? They have been looking for him for hours. Jack has been gone a day! It has been one week since our world fell apart. Two weeks. Three. Could it be a month? Do we switch to months now? But his clothes are still here. His new school shoes he never got to wear sit by the door to his room. He still gets mail for goodness sake!
When we remember in weeks, we think of a Thursday, at 6 pm. When we think in terms of months, we will think of the 8th. Double whammy of pain. Will there really come a time when we mark the passage of time solely in terms of YEARS? What about decades? I believe so. And Jack won’t age, but we will. He will forever be not quite 12 ½.
When your child was young you marked milestones, and although you wished the particularly challenging days away, you somehow hoped to slow the years down, to savor his childhood. And now, with the death of a child, you grieve as the gap between the before/after of your family's history grows ever wider, but at the same time you beg for the years to speed up, because decades without him seem like too, too much.