“CONNER!! I have to find him!!”
Elaine woke with a start with David’s arms wrapped tight around her. He was whispering in her ear, trying to calm her. It was the way she usually woke up now. Poor David. It must be hard on him to have to console her like this every morning. She was ripped, sometimes screaming, from nightmares. Other times out of blissful dreams where the five of them were together. Either way it really didn’t matter.
She was thrown out every day into the living Hell of not knowing where her son was.
Well, she knew where his body was now, of course. Somehow, people seemed to think that should help.
Reigning in her grief, Elaine kissed her husband and thanked him for his comforting arms as she did every morning now. As she sat up on the side of the bed, the deep ache settled into the place it had carved in her heart and she rose to greet the day.
It was the 157th day she had woken without Conner in her life. She would live through another day without seeing his face and hearing his laugh.
Elaine slid her feet into her slippers and she went to wake her remaining sons. The days she had left with them were numbered, so she took a deep sigh, masked her grief and walked out of their bedroom.
“Rise and Shine, Sleepy Heads!” she said loudly and cheerfully.
There had to be a way to show them how to live through the grief of loss. They would be doing it again soon, she thought with deep regret.
David was a wonderful husband and father. She could not imagine what life was like from his perspective. He was working through his grief as well. At the same time he bucked up and supported her, Sam and Jake. She loved him with all her heart.
She felt such sorrow for David and prayed once again that he would understand her plan and not hate her for it. David may not ever forgive her, she knew. But then, his acceptance was not necessary, either.
Every day at breakfast they said a prayer for Conner. They had done it every morning since the first morning after he’d gone missing. The fact that his body was buried now did not seem enough of a reason to stop.
Besides, Elaine knew that Conner was still somewhere. What haunted her was that she was sure he still needed her. Just like he had when he was lost and wondering. Just like he had needed her to be there to catch him before he fell to his death.
She tried and tried to stop herself from imagining his cries for her and for help. She never could stop imagining that, though. At times throughout the day his cries and pleas broke out of her imagination and she could hear him with her ears as well as her mind.
Elaine tried to tell her dead child that she was sorry for it all and she would be there with him soon. She prayed he could hear her.
It seemed like Elaine prayed a lot – and to everyone.
It would not be long now, she knew. All the letters had been written. All the plans had been made.
She had seen the priest, a lawyer and a financial advisor. While none of them agreed with her and all thought her plan insane, two were barred from sharing her plans by confidentiality. The other did not really know the whole truth.
Elaine had explained it as best she could. She knew where Sam and Jake were. She knew that David was capable of raising them and being there for them.
But who was there for Conner since he died? Was he with her grandmother who’d died a couple of years before? What about her recently deceased uncle, was he there with Conner?
How did that work when you died? She had no idea. She knew what she’d been taught as a child about the afterlife. But she did not know if that was right or not. And there was only one way to find out.
Had Conner been on a trip to Europe and needed her, she would have packed a bag and gone immediately without question. David would have put the trip on the credit card and told her to call him when she landed. If Conner or any of their sons had ever needed her in life, David would have understood. Elaine did not know if David would understand that following Conner into death to find him and be with him and make up for the last days and moments of his life when she was not there made just as much sense.
And if she was wrong?
What if there was nothing after death?
Then she would go into oblivion. She would never find Conner and would have abandoned David, Sam and Jake for nothing. But then, blissfully, she would never know it. That was selfish, she knew, but there was a big part of her that simply couldn’t accept that would be the case.
What if Heaven and Hell existed?
Would she be sentenced to Hell for killing herself in order to find her son? She hoped God would not be that cold and callous, although, she also knew that there were plenty of Hell-worthy sins in her life to atone for. At the very least before banishing her He would have to let her see Conner – even if it was the last time for eternity. Conner would know that his mother would go through death to find him. She could tell him she was sorry. She could let him know she should have been there when he needed her. She could tell him she would always love him and he would know that if there was a way for her to prevent it, he would never be alone again.
She could go to Hell after that and be ok, she thought.
But then there was hope.
Hope that she would find him. Hope that she would be able to still see David, Sam and Jake in some way after her death. Hope that her grandmothers already had found Conner and were keeping him safe until she could get there. Hope that Conner would still love her and not hate her for letting him go camping and get lost and fall and break his neck.
Hope that David, Sam and Jake would be ok and know she loved them and was waiting for them. Hope they would be able to forgive her over time and have good lives before they joined her and Conner.
Elaine realized over the next few weeks that a calm had come over her.
She enjoyed Sam and Jake. She spent time with them together and alone. She told them the things she though it was important for them to hear from their mother.
And she loved David as best she could. He was beginning to think she was getting better. He was enjoying the time with her like they had years before, both before and after the boys were born. They were happy.
She had chosen a date that she hoped would not ruin any happy times she had with David or the boys. It was just a Wednesday. She’d been saving up the pills and would take them one night and leave quietly to go find Conner.
Her parents and the rest of her family would be devastated, she knew, but there was nothing she could do about that. If her letters could not explain, then nothing could
Her biggest fear (besides not finding Conner) was that Sam and Jake would hate her for abandoning them. She hoped one day they would understand how she could leave them.
She knew where Sam and Jake were and she trusted they would be okay with David’s guidance. She’d left letters that would come to them on different occasions in their lives from the lawyer. She hoped they knew that if it had been either one of them instead of Conner she would have gone after them, too.
David had agreed with the idea that Sam and Jake would have a good week split between their grandparents. She had tried not to cry too hard when they left. Elaine did not want them to think anything was wrong. Her mother had known something was wrong, though, and Elaine knew she would not be shocked when they got the call.
Later on in the week, after a few (last) nights together, Elaine confessed to David what she had done when it was too late for him to stop her. She begged his forgiveness and told him she loved him as she drifted off in his arms for the last time.
All of a sudden, the light was blinding. The feeling of falling and flying at the same time made her feel nauseous, or would have if she still had a body. The near-death experiences she’d heard had been accurate, she supposed.
Elaine stopped in the light and looked back. She saw David panicking – screaming and shaking her. Voicelessly, she once again she told him how much she loved him. To her surprise, Elaine saw David look up at her instead of down at the body he was holding, his eyes wide with shock. He’d heard her. Maybe he would understand one day after all. She drank in what was possibly her last glimpse of him, filled with hope…
Then she bolted though the light into whatever was beyond Life screaming for her child.