Tomorrow is Thomas’ family birthday party at a local roller skating rink.  He will be three this Monday; an age his older brother, Joseph, never reached.   Joseph would have been five this Tuesday; the boys were born almost two years apart to the day. The thrill of Thomas turning three is incompatible with the sorrow we have about him reaching a stage that his brother never did.  Nevertheless, there is a thrill to be had and we are intent on having it.

Today I went for a run.  It was a long one and it took me almost an hour.  I do my best thinking on my runs and today was no different. I ran and thought; thought and ran.  I looked around.  The bright and sunny morning had presented itself as warmer than it actually felt.   As a result, I had underdressed and the front of my thighs felt cold in my running shorts.  On par for the month of March, the weather was working itself into Spring but, this year, the change seemed almost effortless.  We’ve had minimal snow so there is nothing to defrost and no puddles to dry up.  The air is dry and the ground is firm. Green is everywhere and Spring’s earliest flowers are working their way to the surface from their bulbs with ease.

Despite this beauty, I didn’t feel invigorated by this hint at Spring. A few years ago this type of weather would have injected “Spring” right into my step but not anymore.  The past two years, when Spring has sprung it has felt rude and unwelcome as it serves as one more reminder that, somehow, without Joseph here, the world continues to turn.  The seasons continue to change and the years continue to pass: How dare they.

Anger, has been a frequent visitor the past few years.  I have worked hard to temper it having learned that any attempt to oust it only fuels its flames. Without fail, it comes knocking when the seasons change and I hear people squeal with delight at the first snowfall, the rise of Spring fever, upcoming beach vacations or the start of the new school year.  I hate having Anger as a companion: conveniently, it enrages me.  But, as with many things, I try to accept its presence and hope that, with work, its appearances in my life will be fewer and further between because I dread the idea of it swallowing me whole. 

For me, ever since Joseph died, the arrival of Spring has brought bitterness but this year, as I ran through the town, I was surprised that it didn’t.  In contrast, I didn’t find the crocuses intrusive as they lay in the grass, I didn’t curse the daffodils for being the opening act and I didn’t deem the smell of hyacinth obnoxious. Complacency and acceptance seemed to dominate my feelings about Spring’s arrival.  My willingness to allow my dark grief to flower didn’t seem to compromise my unwillingness to forgive Mother Nature for taking my son too soon.

Moreover, this early arrival of Spring reminded me of two of the three Spring seasons that Joseph lived through.  In 2008 and 2009, I vividly recall Spring coming early.  In 2008, we had Joseph’s first birthday celebration at our house.  In attendance were our immediate family and I will never forget the “fairy rings” that his male and female cousins made in our yard and delicately left under a tree in the front yard.  I smiled at them for months until they disintegrated back into the ground.  In 2009, on St. Patrick’s Day, our whole family came home from their respective hospitals (Thomas and I from H.U.P. and Joseph from C.H.O.P.) and everyone had high hopes for Joseph, who had just turned 2, to beat his recent cancer diagnosis. I will never forget sitting in my living room with Joseph in my lap as he held his infant brother, Thomas, who was 5 days old, for the very first time.  The warm Spring air filled our house, the sunlight was streaming through the huge window of our front door and the weather seemed to promise happier times to come.

Today, as I ran, I learned yet another thing in this journey without Joseph which was that with great effort, hard work and good, long, exhausting runs, anger can fade and, for me, that is a difficult but important step in “living well” without Joseph.  I do not need to replace the anger with happiness since, right now, that seems like a tall order. Right now, the fitting emotion for me seems to be complacency and I accept that.  In fact, I feel pretty good about it because in my new world full of new definitions, new standards and new goals, the mere dissipation of anger feels like great success.  

I conclude with a big “Happy Birthday!” to Joseph. This Tuesday he would be five years old and I have absolutely no doubt that he’d be nothing short of amazing.  Come to think of it - he is.