In a month and a half it will be my birthday and the anniversary of Jake’s disappearance. Three years. 1,095 days. No sign of him, still.
I often think about his last text to me, in which he said, Happy Birthday, Mom. I love you.
The text is saved on a phone I don’t use any more, along with his other messages from the months before. I don’t turn the phone on any more for fear of accidentally deleting anything.
The last few sets of skeletal remains that were found have been dismissed as not being his, and I no longer haunt the NamUs website for clues because it takes me too long to recover.
I still have days I think he is probably dead, but I now wrestle with the likelihood that he is missing on purpose. If he is safe, I can have peace with that. Sons leave their mothers as a natural rite. We never like it, we always mourn, even when they have only moved a few blocks away.
Motherhood is mourning. For me, even in the happy parts, even when I know I’m failing forward. My friend, Natashia, told me that we must give up the hope that we could ever change the past in order to truly move on, to let go, to forgive oneself or others. I harbor the hope of time-travel, apparently.
Some days I have my own secret snow muffling the outside world. Maybe most days. I’m living with a permanent open wound that somehow is not getting infected, or if it is, it’s invisible to me. It hurts all the time, and I am thankful to hear from those who wonder where Jake is.
This passage from Literary Trauma resonates with me: “…psychoanalysis believes,” Deborah M. Horvitz writes, “that crucial to recovering from an experience of trauma is the capacity and willingness to incorporate that traumatic event inside one’s self as an indispensable piece of personal history and identity. Since, in the fiction in this study [Literary Trauma], narrative is inextricably entwined with memory and the process of remembering, the greater one’s ability to “make story” out of trauma, which is defined differently for each protagonist, the more likely s/he is to regain her or his life after that trauma” (6).
We survive by telling the story because we are the story. Not to tell the story is to brick ourselves into an airless box. We suffocate and no one knows. To tell the story is to make people uncomfortable and helpless, caught like flopping fish in a net because, no, they’re not getting out. You can’t get out; no one can, no matter whose pain it is.
Pema Chodron says that facing this is what will help make the world a better place. She writes:
What produces a genuine person is being open to not feeling okay.
“What produces a genuine person, I realized, is being open to not feeling okay. It means to be open to everything — to all the horrors as well as the beauties of life, to the whole extraordinary variety of life. I began to realize that this whole mess the human race is in—the fact that we don’t take care of the planet and we don’t take care of each other, the wars, the hatred, the fundamentalism — all actually come from running away. Individually, collectively, we are trying to avoid feeling bad about ourselves.”