Somewhere in Chuang Tzu (I am too tired to find the exact quotation just now), he tells us to "dwell in the ordinary." He might even say it twice in the first eight chapters. In any event, it is a phrase that has made a great deal of sense to me in the past fourteen years.
As the full extent of Aidan's disabilities slowly came to light in his first year or two, I lost my bearings. I did not know how to understand what his life might mean for him or for us. I was angry, confused, depressed. Slowly, I came to understand that his life was not a tragedy, that we could find much joy in it, and that our lives were not somehow ruined. Indeed, I came to see his life and ours with him as pretty much the same as any other lives. That is still my belief.
The way I came to that acceptance had something to do with dwelling in the ordinary. The little things mattered a lot. The times when he was most comfortable, sitting at ease in his wheelchair or lying serenely in bed in a deep and encompassing sleep, were triumphs. Washing him up in the morning was my daily chance to get him ready for his day out in the world. On several occasions when he was in the hospital, a doctor or a nurse would notice how clean the site of this stomach tube was and would remark upon it; and a certain pride would swell inside me. I had learned to dwell in the ordinary, to find myself in his simplest comfort and his most basic bodily needs.
That is what I have to do again, now that he is gone.
These past few days have been swept up in ritual: the wake, the funeral. Today was the first day beyond that. And we are lost. My morning routine is gone. I no longer have him to wash. My evening duties are also disrupted: I would, most nights, be the one to hang his food for the evening and give him his night-time medications. When ten o'clock came last night, I found myself automatically moving to the kitchen to do my usual things... but no more.
Instead, we have to rebuild our habits, our lives. Perhaps the best way is from the ground up, in the most ordinary of tasks. We all took a walk today - Maureen and Maggie and me and Rudy, our dog - it was the route the Maureen would often take with Aidan. We all did it together. Just a walk, step by step, the long way around the block, past our neighbors and friends, past the church where the funeral was held. Just a simple walk, though with complex connotations. It will be in the renewal of such ordinary actions that we find our way forward without Aidan.