I couldn't begin to tell you how many times I have wondered if those who knew me before Ben's death have noticed the change in me since. I wonder if that change I feel is pronounced or subtle, for though I feel the change to my very core, I know I've tried to hide it, to pretend as if I am better than I am.
For that is what I was taught to do.
And then I wonder how anyone could not notice the change in me, if they are paying the slightest bit of attention. But I also know how few of us pay attention, really, instead rushing about in displays of busy-ness that make us feel important, needed, useful. That fend off the loneliness.
Though I cannot begin to guess if anyone sees that I am different, I am.
I am older now, more weary. I have been someplace many people never go, for until you lose a child, there is no comparison, I think: no way to say, oh, my father died, so I know just how you feel. I don't think you do. You expect to lose your parents, just as you expect your children will outlive you.
Part of me died when Ben did. There has been some regrowth in that dead tissue, but mostly it is brown and hard, a scab and scar, tissue that will not heal. Never regrow. I suspect that if you sliced through my skin, near my heart, you could see that brown, mottled place inside; proof of damage done.
I am far more fearful of accidents and illnesses, of losing another child. There is almost nothing I take for granted any longer; an innocence has been lost, and I don't like it.
I am full of doubt. About God, fate, faith, what I believe. I've become a skeptic and, though I don't much like it, see no way out of uncertainty. And while I have my fair share of doubts about any kind of afterlife, I admit to jealousy of those I know and love who have died: why is it, I wonder, that they get to be with my boy now and I don't? It isn't fair.
Though maybe heaven, if it exists, doesn't work that way.
All my life, the only thing I will ever want again, is to be with Ben.
Can they see it on my face, the changes losing my son, birthing a dead child into the world, has made? I don't know. But they are there.