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Imagining My Last Day Before Life With Chronic Pain

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Tonight I was reading a novel about a girl who relives her last day over and over again. During the final iteration of her last day, she has the privilege of knowing it truly is her last, so she savors every small moment she has with her family and her friends; taking note of the smallest details and treasuring them, knowing it will be her last chance to do so.

When I put the book down, I was incredibly distraught. I left the room where my husband and daughter were sleeping and I locked myself in the bathroom. I sat on the toilet lid and sobbed great gasping sobs that caved in my chest and hurt my throat. I tried to remain silent, but every few moments a sound like a wounded animal would claw its way out of my mouth. The same thoughts were playing in my mind on a loop: “when was the last time I held my son in my arms? When was the last time I picked my daughter up from the floor? Why didn’t I get to have a last day?”

I tried to recall my last days of mobility, of strength, but all I could remember was I was grieving a recent miscarriage and drifting through the motions of our summer holiday. We rented a cottage, which I barely left. I remember my son, then 5, coming out of the bedroom we were sharing to find me sitting on a weathered chair in the common area of the cottage, crying quietly. He asked me if I was crying because the baby died, and I said that I was. He asked me if there was anything he could do to help. I told him he was already helping and I kissed him and thanked him for making me feel better. But I don’t know if I lifted him up. I can’t remember. I can’t remember the last time I felt his little body held aloft by my arms. The last time that I carried him.

My daughter was only 2 when my injury happened. Two. And from that point I could no longer lift her, no longer carry her in my arms. I can’t remember the last time I picked her up. Was she crying? Was she tired? Did I just want to hold her and smell her sweet baby smell? I don’t know. I can’t remember.

What I would give to have a last day. To have a day before it happened. I would have clutched my babies to me. I would have run with them. I would have played hide and seek for as long as they wanted, pushed them on the swings for as long as they wanted, danced and spun and laughed as long as they wanted. I have never really “grieved” these last three years. I had an intellectual grasp of my loss, but I was “resilient.” I got ahead of my grief and started therapy, started meditation, started all of the things I was supposed to do before the grief could really find me.

But tonight I feel like someone has cracked open my chest with two hands, and reached inside and pulled and pulled and pulled. I feel like I will never stop up these tears. Because I can’t remember those last days. And I know that, even if I could, I could never have squeezed enough life into them to make up for everything that came after. But at least I would remember the weight of my children in my arms.

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Originally published: December 10, 2020
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