Sometimes it isn’t until the day after a tragedy that it starts to really sink in. It’s not until after you close your eyes and your body finally succumbs to sleep. You awaken in the morning to the stark reality. It’s true. It really happened. You get to make the realization all over again. Somehow the roots start to take hold. Before maybe it still could have been a dream.
I always hate it when a movie or story has a dream sequence. It’s always during that part of the story that just can’t be real, the most horrifying part, the death, the carnage, the loss. And then the hero wakes up. None of it was true. It was all a dream. Except in life, that never really happens. The truth is the truth. You don’t get to shake it off. You don’t get to say, oh wow, thank God that was just a dream! No. Reality is often much worse than that.
My mother has only come to me once in a dream since she passed away 2 months ago. She told me everything was OK and then I woke up. She looked like she did those last moments I saw her as I leaned over her trying to bring her back. Eyes wild. Skin pale with a slight sheen of sweat. Her hair in wild wisps. She seemed desperate. I’m OK. Everything is OK. She wanted me to believe it. I tried. She just didn’t look like herself.
The day after a tragedy is probably one of the longest days on earth. It feels like walking through thick smoke, breathing in thick dust, feeling the heat of flames licking at your face. Wandering. Lost. Confusion. Why? Could I have done something? Could the tragedy have been stopped? If only I knew something was wrong.
The need to create order kicks in pretty quick. The need to DO something propels you forward. Arrangements need to be made. Family needs to be called. The place on the floor where the paramedics worked needs to be cleaned -which then leads to cleaning in general. Start picking up the pieces. People will be coming. Probably should get dressed. Feed the kids. Walk the dog. The world keeps turning. One breath at a time. One step at a time. You move forward trying not to get stuck in the moment. The worst moment.
I remember when it happened. I remember feeling this way before. Before I knew what true loss felt like. After 15 years, when I stop to consider it, the feelings from that day come rushing back. I remember the collective cries of a nation. All at once, no! This can not be true! A dream? A nightmare? It was no dream. It was true. The day after proved the unthinkable.