The Impossible Month: The Anniversary of My Child’s Death

November is the month of marigold petals, pungent and bold, of smoke, and bone-white daughter-grief.  

It is the month when the leaves bleed red.

Where the sun — bleeding through the thick, suffocating smoke — casts a sickly yellow hue on all our faces.

Where the words that you are dead bleed through my eyes for the first time. (And they bleed still.) 

My hair has grown long since last November, it is now nearly down the length of my back. Silver strands of gray thread their way through my ashen driftwood hair. 

I want to cut my hair, maybe cover it in a bold shade of red. Anything to pretend that I can slip back into the habits of before. But then I think — this is the hair I had when you were still alive. If I cut it, then the new hair will be the after hair. I don’t think I can carry that much sadness.

Other days I want to shave my head bald. Shave my eyebrows, even. Razoring off every single hair from my body. I want to claw my way out of this painful, papery shell — like a snake thrashing its way out of old skin. I imagine it would feel like being born again. And, I would welcome the pain of being new. 

Instead, I hold this lock of hair of yours. And we hold your photos, these glossy photos that prove that, yes, you were real. Yes, you lived. 
And, yes, you died. 

Instead, we gather marigold petals and scatter them around the altar we have built for you. This is so you can find the way back to us from the other side of sorrow. 
And I hope you find the way back to us. 

Instead, we light a yellow candle, bearing the image of Mary, holy mother of god. Even though we are not god-fearing, we ask her to pray for us now, and at the hour of our death. 
And the light from the candle casts a gentle yellow glow on our faces.  

Soon the leaves will fall off the trees, and the long days will sleep under a blanket of white. But for now, for this month, my world bleeds red.