Talking about Noah and his death has always been difficult, even as we are closing in on the seven year anniversary. By now, I should be more used to it, but even just thinking about him makes me start to cry and talking about him makes my voice catch.
Just the other day Mike and I went to our financial advisor to review our retirement investments. When I met with him (the advisor) for the first time, two years ago, he was new to our company’s retirement plan and I lied to him. He saw Noah’s picture on my desk and asked about it. I told him it was taken when Noah was seventeen, a few years before. He asked what he was doing now and I said he was attending Loyola University. The minute I said it I wanted to take it back. It was an outright lie and I knew it. Just like when I lied about the harp. Shameful. Wrong. And in this most recent meeting, since Mike was there with me I had to confess that Noah was dead and that I made Loyola up. As we talked I could see on his computer screen a little column, Son, Noah, Loyola University-Chicago. It was embarrassing. I’d given Mike a heads up about the lie, and as I admitted it, he looked away.
Why was it so hard for me to just say “My son is dead.” or “That’s my son Noah who died in 2006.” Some of this reluctance comes from people’s (my own included) discomfort with death and then the additional discomfort of it being the death of a child. It is up to me though, to make people more comfortable. After all, it is my experience and my attitude that will drive the tone of the conversation.
Getting comfortable with death and celebrating the lives of our dead isn’t something that we do readily in American culture. Last year I wrote a story for The Rapidian about Day of the Dead and how it is celebrated here in West Michigan. In talking with my friend Eva Aguirre Cooper and going to a Dia de Los Muertos celebration at her house, I began a personal effort to try to make every day a day of the dead. I wanted to try to make an effort to not be afraid of talking about Noah’s life and his death. His memory deserves my honesty.
Day of the Dead is about celebrating love and the people who matter most to us. I’ll celebrate Noah with this blog post and sharing photos of a Day of the Dead shrine I’ve created for him. And today and every day I’ll talk about him to anyone who asks.