for Daniel C. Roper, IV,
by Janice Roper, 3/25/96
reprinted with permission
Since Danny died on December 4th I have been going through the motions. The other day I decided to attend a trade association function -- the first one since his death. During the "networking" portion, where everyone makes small talk and hands out business cards, a woman asked me if I had any kids. Because it would have been uncomfortable to get into Danny's death I said "one" (referring to my 2.5 year old daughter Selena). After the function I felt guilty and depressed. I decided to go to his grave -- something I hadn't done since before Christmas because it is far from my house and has no headstone yet.
I bought a bunch of flowers and cut across town, getting lost in a bad neighborhood. I told no one at work that I was going to be hours late. I finally found the grave, just a small rectangle of raw dirt cut into the grass. The day of his funeral, I had held fast to my chair at the cemetery until they lowered him into the grave -- I was expecting an elaborate pulley system but, after they had moved away the platform and coverings, one grave digger just jumped into the hole and another handed him the casket. It seemed as light as a feather. He gently placed it on the floor of the grave and looked at me as if to say "this OK?" -- So, 3+ months later, I placed the flowers across where I knew his tiny casket was, just about four feet down. And then, alone with still loose dirt between me and my baby, I had the urge to dig him up and hold him, make it go away, bring him back to me. I wound up walking in circles around the grave, sobbing and wailing uncontrollably, my high heels digging into the mud (a far cry from the polished businesswoman of an hour ago! I walked in circles for about 20 minutes Then I pulled myself together, mopped up the mascara and headed back to work.
I have since given a lot of thought to two things:
1. How should I handle the question: "how many kids do you have?" so as to not bring up an inappropriately heavy subject yet still acknowledge the life of my son?
2. If I enjoy life and maybe even not think of Danny in between bouts of pain and depression, does that mean I loved him less than others who have totally fallen apart with continual pain? Does love really equal hurt?
I've always thought (or maybe wanted) love to be a good thing, a happy thing. I tell myself "Danny would not want me to throw my life away being always miserable. This would not honor his memory. I want him to be proud of his mother" Yet, when others see that I am not a basket case, they think I am "over it." My husband, Bruce, actually had a woman tell him that she thought she loved her own child more because if she had lost her child, she would not be able to survive. That, somehow, because he was coping, his love for Danny was not as deep. It really bothered Bruce a lot. It bothers me too.
I have decided to say "two kids" -- a boy and a girl. And if they ask the ages, then I will tell them about Danny and then go into my now familiar routine about how mysterious and random it is, how shockingly common it is, and how terrible it is that the government is not making it a higher research priority. Business etiquette be damned! :o
Yours in grief,
Mother of Daniel C. Roper, IV 9/9/95-12/4/95 and Selena G. Roper 7/17/93
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