I had never heard the term searching until we lost Kadian. My husband and I were driving to the Sustainability Centre - a difficult thing because we had so many memories of cycling with Kadian on those roads. I kept looking ahead for him as if I was chasing his fleeting shadow. If we just drove faster, we'd catch up. It was closer to a hallucination than a memory. But it wasn't. We could see him so clearly in our mind . . . if we could just drive a little faster. He'd be sitting up, one hand on the handlebar with his knees sticking out the sides like a frog (he had grown four inches in one year and it was the only way he could get comfortable, until he bought his Surly). He'd be whistling and looking out at the country-side. It was always a relaxed pace with Kadian.
My husband told me he had just learned the term for this sort of remembering from one of our many new books on grieving. It's called 'searching'.
I couldn't imagine then, how many places I would start to search and where. Or how my own special brand of searching would evolve. It wasn't just on the roads, or in stores we used to frequent together, though those were possibly the most painful - it was also in places like - the larder.
I still go in four months later looking for him. Is he in one of the flour jars? Is that wheat flour from a bag he emptied? Is he in with the Wilton Candy Melts? I caught him one day tucking into them and tried to get cross - but as with all the other times I tried to get cross with Kadian - he had me laughing in seconds. He wouldn't take me seriously when I'd get angry, and then I couldn't take myself seriously. How about the stale box of Coco Puffs up in the top left-hand corner. Was he up there? Or maybe the wicker basket full of flour tortillas. Nope, those were bought the week of the funeral and we never used them. That's why there are fifteen packs. And there the sugar theme abruptly stops.
Going into the utility room was horrendous the first couple of weeks. We couldn't bring ourself to move his items, but we couldn't bare to walk in and find his clothes, see his shoes, look at his coats on the rack. How is it possible? Our sister-in-law gave us the gift of washing his clothes, folding them and putting them back in his closet without calling it to our attention. A couple of weeks later, we had to get rid of his shoes. We couldn't just put them away until we could deal with them. We would never deal with them. They were more unbearably painful to look at than anything else. But none of that had anything to do with searching. Searching has that elusive fantasy element. It's in a different category all together. And it is not shattering if you understand it.
We decided to transform Kadian's room a month ago because we kept searching for him when we would walk by. He used to sit on his sofa, the one we dragged home from the dump, pat the seat and say "Mum, please come work in my room," or "please come watch a movie in my room." He was so proud of his new space - we had only been in the house for a couple of months. But he never settled the predicament he had of either being by himself in his room, or spending time with us downstairs. That's why nothing made him happier then responding to that pat.
But we couldn't search for him on his couch when his bed was there with the sheets still on it. When his pillow still smelled of his hair. So we garned the strength, with the enormous help of friends and family and turned his room into a place where we can all sit with him.
We decided to keep everything he hung on his wall, and turned the space into a sitting/tv room so that we could be with him at night (the television isn't actually hooked up but it looks the part). The IMac now sits underneath his "Apple Wall of Fame". We are certain he'd be delighted.
But now, when I go to leave Kadian's room, I see the greasy fingerprints he left from working on his bicycle on the inside of his door, and on the wall switch. I want to wash them off. I can't tell what drives me more berserk. Anger because every time I see them, I'm reminded he's not here - or anger that I used to care about getting his mucky hands on the wall. Most likely, it's anger because if I wash them off - they will be gone forever and I won't have his fingerprints any more. For now, they stay because I'm searching . . . searching for the hand that left that print.
(first published on deboraharding.com in October 2012)