I stopped going to funerals when Vietnam ended. I buried far too many young men. We lost six, including Kim Fish our star trumpet player, to a drunk driver. Those funerals nearly ended me, and I swore, at the ripe old age of 21 that I would bury no more young men.
My step-son was murdered in 1999. I had to make an exception to my rule because I loved him. It was six or seven months after his funeral that I was clearing out old magazines when his Mother’s Day card to me fell out. I lay on the floor weeping until I could no longer breathe. That’s the thing about grief, not only are you destroyed but crying so hard you wish to dissolve into your tears only fills your sinuses with cement so you cannot breathe.
Now a young man of 30 has fallen to his death. Ten stories up, washing windows, something went horribly wrong. His father was Tim Sargent, my husband’s younger brother. I know I should go, but God forgive me I can’t. I have only one funeral left in me and it is my own.
It is selfish of me, I know, to hold to that long ago vow to bury no more young men. I have tried to convince myself I could go to just one more, but thoughts of falling ten stories, it takes several seconds, bring me to my knees. I would be just another burden in an already crushing event.
Grief is exhausting. I know this from far too much personal experience. I will mourn another young man, quietly. I will wish once again that I could take his place, just as I wanted so much to take my son’s place. But almost every mother in the world would gladly make that exchange even for a child not her own.
If you wonder where I am, I will be on the floor. I weep quietly and somehow survive the exhaustion that comes with grief.