It comes up from time to time since my son Sam passed away so today when it did I should not have been taken aback. But I was. My breath was knocked out of me as I reasoned with just my own thoughts.
When Sam died overnight from a relatively unknown synthetic drug, NBOMe, he was a Sophomore and played basketball on the school team. He had a school gym locker in the boys’ locker room. After Sam died, I wanted to clean out his locker. I wanted to go after school, when relatively no one would see, and get the items myself out of Sam’s locker. As Sam’s mother, with my love for him, I wanted to do that for Sam. I even made arrangements with Sam’s basketball coach in the few short weeks after Sam’s death to go and clean out his locker. His coach was so generous and kind with a mourning mother’s wishes. When it came time to go and get Sam’s things out of his locker, I couldn’t leave the house though. I was frozen by time’s now past; no longer present. So instead of going into the locker room and getting Sam’s stuff, the coach gathered the items. I imagined that he must have had to have the lock cut off in order to open the locker. I had actually just bought the new lock for Sam. It was red; Sam’s favorite color. I had bought Sam a new lock as something had happened that the lock he had been using no longer worked. What had happened to the old lock is something I don’t now remember. At the time, it seemed so trivial that it didn’t seem that I needed to remember. I wish I could will myself to remember now.
This weekend Nick was playing backyard football with friends. In what he describes with excitement in his voice and a beaming smile, a fabulous play occurred and he hurt his knee. Nick’s injured knee seems minor at this point but a knee brace would be helpful for playing basketball. I had bought a knee brace for Sam his last basketball season when he had a minor knee injury. I had asked Sam where the brace was when I noticed after many weeks that he stopped wearing it in games because his knee was better; he had actually done weeks of therapy as well so I wanted to make sure he was confident that he didn’t need to wear it rather than didn’t want to wear it. Sam told me then it was in his gym locker if he ever needed to wear it again. He didn’t.
Sam didn’t need to wear the knee brace again so I know where one is for Nick right now. Yet, just like I couldn’t go to get Sam’s things out of his locker, I too, cannot look in his school gym bag that contains all the items the coach gathered. If I say I’m just not ready, that likely doesn’t make sense. Sam left this Earth 20 months ago now. What I’m not ready for are the emotionally gripping, stab-like spikes of hurt to my body that will come in opening his gym bag. The hurt will not heal but instead will be like what I imagine from a movie scene where someone is being shot at and hit, not once, but continuously as they continue to pick themselves back up and try to run as fast as they can away from the source of where the targeting shots are coming from. I already know opening that gym bag will be like running as fast and as far away from the source of the pain as I possibly can while at the same time being shot down with gripping pain.
I can, however, with no agony, drive myself to the corner drug store and buy a knee brace for Nick so my question to myself about the gym bag is, why go there? My grief counselor tells me I may never go there. When he first told me that, I looked at him wide-eyed and open-mouthed with exasperation as though to express to him without words how unreal that seemed to me. Never? At this time in my grieving, I know my counselor is right though. I may never go there. It’s all too real. #muchlovetosam