|Ethan was the last baby delivered by Dr. Burke at Aspen Valley Hospital in 1992.|
I said the words aloud three times this weekend: “since Ethan died.”
Those words are like lead shot falling from my lips. They drop into my heart, cold and hard. I know he’s gone, but saying “he died” adds a strange permanence and flatness to the situation, a way of dragging me into reality.
Still, I know in my heart that his spirit is alive and soaring, that he’s not lost, he’s on another plane, having even greater adventures in whatever realm he now inhabits. He may be with my first dog, Abigail, lost when I was 14 (and all the pets who have gone since). He may be having a nightcap with Vanoy, the only “old lady” Ethan ever met he wasn’t afraid of. I’m sure he’s connecting with the ancestors who have gone before us, including his namesake we just discovered a few years ago, Alexander Ethan Turner (yeah, we had no idea about the name similarity until a couple years ago), direct from Drumquin, Ireland.
And he’s probably making new friends out there in the Ether because he never met a soul he didn’t like (unless they were dishonest, and then there was a problem). Who knows, maybe he really was part fairy (Drumquin does means “Fairy Water”) and his time visiting this earth was up. He did seem to have supernatural knowledge about things. Apparently, his fellow students referred to him as “the Wizard.”
I remember taking him to the grocery when he was still small enough to sit in the cart. I was heavily pregnant with his brother. I got dangerously dizzy. In a strangely adult voice, toddler Ethan looked at me with his startling blue-grey eyes, and said, “You need to sit down. Now.” I obeyed, without question. He had the voice of authority.
Whenever other people’s safety was involved, Ethan was the voice of reason and wisdom, whether in the city or the wilderness. You never had to be afraid if Ethan was with you on an adventure, whether hiking the Flat Tops, navigating the Manhattan public transportation system or partying in Phoenix. Ethan could be trusted to take care of those who were with him at all times: no judgment, no condemnation.
He just couldn’t be trusted to take care of himself.
The shock of his death will eventually pass and, like any wound, will leave painful scar tissue as an unpleasant reminder of his loss. A moment, a nanosecond at a time, adaptation will occur. Life on the other side will not be the same, because we are forever altered, and what has changed cannot be restored.
It may be politically incorrect, but there’s a difference between losing a spouse and losing a child. You can get a new spouse if you want one (although that’s not a requirement nor should it be an expectation). Children, however, are irreplaceable. Regardless, life is different now. Thanksgiving and Christmas and the birthday calendar will never be the same. Our family dynamics are forever changed.
And yet, this too shall pass. We have to live in the “now” if we are to survive.