• Julia Mallory

In the Deep

TW: grief; child loss; suicide ideation.


20 years ago today, a day before Mother's Day, I birthed a boy child who has since departed this dimension. Twice as a newborn he would forget to breathe. He would go on to breathe for 17 years and three weeks on his own, minus the four days a machine stood in place for what his body once did naturally. When my son took his last breath, I was nearly the same age as him when he took his first breath. Patterns help me make sense of my grief.

My breath dams in the back of my throat and I have to gather it and drag it through my lungs.

It took me almost two years to give up the image of my breath frosting the sky as I sailed my body from a bridge. Not an end-of-life decision but a defying-life decision. What's gravity to a brokenhearted mother grounded in grief? Last year, on the same bridge, while biking, I had to double back and spark up a conversation with a man who I thought was making such a decision. Through conversation, I learned I was wrong (whew!). My conscience was okay with that.

There is no convenient time to become the mother of a Black child, of Black boys. There is always something to remind you of the illusion of safety, as James Baldwin said. I don't need to detail the horrors here—it is well-documented. It is a constant holding of one's breath. If I hold the fear long enough will it become hope?

My breath slows to a creep like it's trying to preserve itself. I deep inhale until my stomach caves but my shoulders do not rise—I am trying to retrain myself to breathe correctly. I want ease. I want to breathe easily.

My son loved being in the water—an adventurer at heart. I dream that one day, I will ride the tides of grief and meet him in the middle of ocean.

My breath reminds me of its power in moments when grief sits upon my chest and I wonder if my heart is strong enough to continue to endure. If the future is just the next breath we have yet to take, I know I want to be there. And so I breathe…

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