Six months ago we had just arrived in Costa Rica after a long flight. Lars was overtired and just as I was trying to settle him for a nap he got frustrated and mad about something. No big deal. Except this time it was a big deal because he got so mad he stopped breathing, turned blue, eyes rolled and he passed out. This was our first trip out of the country since Axel died in Mexico three years earlier. My heart exploded so much I almost thought I was going to pass out. And then just like that in less than 30 seconds he was breathing again and totally calm and happy. Turns out he has Cyanotic breath-holding which is a fancy way of saying that when all the cards are stacked against him (tired, mad, frustrated) he holds his breath to the point of passing out. We’ve since talked to the doctor and it’s normal and common and there is nothing we can do to stop it. Luckily he’s only had a few of these since but I do have to remind myself that Lars is not Axel, he is not dying, and we are all safe.
I’m sure nobody would have blamed us if we caught the first flight home after that (or never went at all) but we didn’t. We continued on knowing that we weren’t the care free tourists like those around us but none the less accepting what is and remaining open. In moments like these I realize I’m not over the trauma of losing Axel but I can hold it and live with it.
People talk about resilience a lot. For me resilience is a muscle that I need to work out in order for it to stick around. Just like I want to show up for a big ride with a lot of training miles logged, I want to show up for the next major grief event psychologically ready to handle it. The best way I know how to do that is to keep living the life we love even when that life bounces between beautiful and brutal.
A lot of people go through big life changes after grief hits. They divorce, they change careers, they move, they sell everything. We haven’t done that. Before Axel died we had rented out our home to travel, worked remotely, homeschooled, biked, surfed…We have that exact same life now. These three years have been about getting back into our rhythm and doing all those things again without the deep pain. Getting back to the life we love, not running away from it.
But it can be hard, and sometimes I wish I didn’t love our “old life” so much. I imagine a movie script life where starting over with a new spouse, a new house, a new town and new hobbies would be so much easier. Easier to sweep up all those shattered pieces, throw them out and start over.
Instead we’ve spent three years picking up those pieces and slowly putting them back together. We find that pieces are missing, that the pieces we have don’t fit the way they use to, and that we have new pieces that are so shiny and precious that they start to fill the cracks.
Of course Lars is one of those shiny and precious new pieces. He is going to turn 2 in 2 weeks. Axel died 2 weeks after he turned 2. It’s a shattering thought of life and death that we’ve grown to accept. We love every moment (okay not the screaming toddler moments) with our little Lars just as we did with Axel. This life is a crazy mystery and we have no idea what’s around the corner. We just keep living so we’re ready for it.