I am sitting right now in the same place I was when I heard my son Ivan was dead.
On January 3 of this year I was waiting in the food court outside security in the Vancouver airport. About two hours before I would board a plane to fly to Singapore, I noticed I had a voicemail from a number in the Phoenix area. There was only one person it could be about. There were only two things it could be about. Ivan was dead, or hospitalized. When the message was from the police, I knew it was the former.
I called the officer back, and when he asked if I was in a private place where I could sit down, my last shred of doubt vanished. I said that wouldn’t be possible, and that I was pretty sure I knew what he was going to tell me and that we could talk right then.
‘What do you think I’m going to tell you?” he asked.
“That my son is dead.” And he told me I was right.
After the call, I went back to my friend Annie, who was travelling with me, and we cried a little. Then we just sat until we needed to move through security to get on a plane to Singapore. “I have to be somewhere,” I said. Singapore was as good as anywhere, since there was absolutely nothing in Phoenix that required my presence, and I knew if his spirit was free he could find me there (he did.) I called to make arrangements with a funeral home before multiple time zones made that too much for the frazzled nerves of a bereaved mother to deal with. Then we were off.
I rolled my bag past the spot today as I went to check in. It is so heavy with vibes that I burst briefly into tears. Then I do what I always do: I asked my boys to be with me and keep me strong. It works every time. I thought to myself, “well, that’s done,” but it turned out I was going the wrong way and had to go back and pass it again. Same thing, vibrant with sadness, like the lowest note of a piano.
As it turned out, I was too early to drop my bag, so I had no choice but to go back and sit in that place of dark memory for over an hour. I am here now, with my chair positioned so I have a view that means nothing to me, and I am feeling some of the burden lift. It is, after all, just an airport food court. Ask anyone else sitting here.
Maybe I had to go past it twice and then sit there for a while in order to move beyond that awful night. When I leave here, I will turn and look at that spot, remember the Laurel that stood there, and remind myself of the healing I have continued to do. I will never go by it without the memory, but I am the creator of what it will mean. A place of grief, yes, but also a place to check in with myself, to see how well I have lived on.
In a few minutes, I will go check my bag, and head off on my next journey. I know my boys will be there with me whenever I need them. Here, there, and everywhere. Always.