I stare at the park swings, letting the rhythmic arcs add another layer of numbness to my heart. Mothers watch their children play, give them a push as they squeal, “Higher!” Young boys dare each other to reach the next bar on the jungle gym. And over by the slide . . .
I turn away. Kim suggested coming here might aid healing, but it only accents the loss. Other mothers still have their sons.
Still, I have to try, if only to prove to Kim that nothing can heal the grief in my heart. I finger the bottle of pills in my pocket. Well, almost nothing.
Slowly I will my feet toward the metal structure. Greg should be here. I need his support, his strong arm around my shoulders. But the day after the funeral he packed his bags. “I need to leave” was all he said. Four words in three months.
I reach the slide, deserted for the moment. I run a hand along the sun-baked metal, then jerk it back. No wonder the kids left.
Nathan was content with the see-saw and swings. But he was four, and I knew he could master the slide. He was petrified at first, but after much coaxing I managed to get him up the ladder, then down into my arms with a whoosh of laughter.
“Again!” he cried, and I let him run to the ladder as I waited for him at the end of the chute. The ladder took a long time to climb. I glanced around the park, watching others with their children. Then came the scream. The thud. The coffin.
I feel sick with grief. Sitting on the dry ground underneath the slide, I turn my back on the happy, carefree mothers and their vibrant children. They haven’t failed.
The tears come slowly, burning hot and stinging my eyes. There is no use trying to heal. I failed Nathan. I failed Greg. What will it matter if I fail God, too? I already have. At least if I'm gone Greg will never have to come back to the memories.
I read the label of the pill bottle to distract myself as I wait for the sunset. I don’t need some concerned citizen pumping my stomach. I researched the proper amount to take and could swallow them dry.
The sky turns purple. I will read the label once more and it will be time. The children and mothers have gone home.
Each word on the label seems to mean more as I read them for the last time. I don’t want to die, but I want to live even less. I merely prepare for execution, though I hadn’t been able to keep down my sumptuous last meal. My eyes continue to skim the words.
Pregnant. The word jumps out at me. “Do not take if you are pregnant.” My mind flies back over time. Skipped months and nausea can be caused by intense grief, but I know different.
A baby. My hands shake as I place the pills back in my pocket. I have almost killed another of my children.
Children. My hand caresses my abdomen. Nathan in heaven, and another right here. My tears turn cold and soothing. If God chose to give me another child, maybe He doesn’t consider me a failure.
The lightness in my soul pulls me to my feet. Suddenly I find myself climbing the ladder, now cool in the gathering dusk. I reach the top and push myself forward, remembering Nathan’s excited face and happy shout as he made the trip, feeling the same delight as I let myself go. I hope there are slides in heaven.