'Alexander survives now in the memories of those who remember him. We are few. And so I am ready to write about him. I am ready to persuade memories to quicken, to examine the spaces between then and now, to explore and to comprehend the passage of time and self and understanding that has taken place in the last thirty-four years.'
* * *
'The number five is not four. It sits above four's prim symmetry. Five is not six; it sits below six's proper rows of three. It is an odd number, with a vigour that three lacks and a cohesion that is absent in seven.
There are five virtues.
We have five basic senses and five basic tastes.
The world has five oceans.
Animals including humans have five fingers or toes on each limb.
Five is music; the perfect fifth is the space used for tuning.
The music staff has five lines.
Beethoven wrote five complete piano concertos.
Five felt true, five felt right.'
* * *
'As distress began to lose its pungency, I mistook its recession for beginning to forget Alexander. The ebbing grief was in fact clearing some space for gratitude and a more clear-sighted appreciation of his life.'
'Inside me was a new life, a secret hopeful wonder...the randomness, the kindness of timing meant that my new baby was growing. And by now it had transformed from an anonymous source of nausea to a small well of future happiness. I held its preciousness close.'
* * *
‘I have written this memoir as a mother who has lost a son, and as a scholar whose professional life has focused on understanding the relationships amongst children and those who love them. As I have written, links and themes have revealed themselves that would have stayed hidden had I retained the perspective of a scholar, or confined myself to the lens of a bereaved parent.
The writing about Alexander and his impact on the family and my life has brought into the light a process that was happening underground. Its uncovering has brought together what I had perceived only diffusely – the movement from shock to despair to hope to redemption to self-acceptance – with what actually happened. The writing has revealed the invisible ink of those years of processing.
I do not remember asking myself what my life meant or how it changed after Alexander died. It is as I look back, remember, reflect, join some dots, that I recognise the progressions his death set in train.
I was not diminished. I was not destroyed. I have emerged a different person from the one I would have been had he not died. Surviving and ultimately thriving after a shocking loss has involved making sense of Alexander’s death, of reconfiguring my world- and self-views, and of discovering reservoirs of resilience and strength that were unsuspected. I am not just back to normal, I am more than I was before he died.
'Strength and vulnerability come together yin and yang-like in what feels like a coherent whole to face the positives and the negatives in my life. They do not make me a 'happier' person. They make me a more authentic one.'
* * *
'In my arms lies a baby boy. His eyes are closed. I can see the blue-grey veins forming spider webs across the skin of his eyelids...I am holding my grandson Finlay. He looks like Alexander, he is not Alexander. It is thirty four years later.'
'Alexander taught me to say yes to life.'
Copyright After Alexander