"Everyone's hell is different. It's not all fire and pain. The real Hell is your life gone wrong." - What Dreams May Come by Richard Matheson
When this movie came out in 1998, I was a sophomore in college. I loved the vivid imagery used in the scenes. The symbolism of the colors. Blue for their children and loss. Red for their love and journey together. Green for the complicated emotions of grief. I am embarrassed to admit that I didn't even know it was a book first until a few years later. I read it in an afternoon. Matheson's interpretation of life and death, love and loss is amazing. It always struck a chord with me. Now, it does even more.
In both versions, one of the characters is stuck in hell. She is not burning or being tortured by an outside source. Instead, she is trapped in the most terrible version of her life. Her house is dilapidated and falling apart. The floor is covered in thick, black, cold water. She knows something is wrong, but she can't figure it out. She knows she is alone, but she doesn't know why. She is scared and unable to see anything other than the fact her life is not what it is supposed to be. Even when her husband, her soul mate, comes to try to rescue her from her own private hell, she does not recognize him. She sees only a life that shouldn't be.
Do you want to know what hell is like? Hell is living 8 bliss-filled months anticipating a new life and having that life torn from your body and then handed to you still and silent. Hell is watching your husband crumple when he puts his daughter's coming home outfit away for the first and last time. Hell is seeing other people do what you failed to do - bring their babies home. Hell is knowing your daughter should be sitting up and working on learning how to crawl right now, but instead sits on a shelf in your living room in a pretty pink vase. Hell is never knowing what her first word would have been, what books she would have loved to read, or where she would have gone to college. Hell is feeling that you have been catapulted into the wrong timeline - into a life you weren't supposed to have - forced to live each day without your baby. Hell is the inability to do anything about it.
Right now, life is hell. There is no point in sugar coating this. It is what it is. I live every day in the best way I know how. I try to bring meaning to her death with my blog and my volunteering efforts. I work so hard just to feel normal, but I never do. I always feel heavy and burdened with a tragedy I didn't deserve. If I am not constantly working on something, I feel empty and hollow. I'm tired of fighting so hard to distract myself from the pain. This should not be my life. But it is. No matter how hard I pinch myself, I am not going to wake up because this is not a dream. This is my life gone wrong. This is the life of a mother without her child. This is hell.
If you've watched or read What Dreams May Come, you know that the story doesn't end in hell, though. You know that the two main characters, who are true soul mates, choose to go through hell together rather than being separated. As a result, their love pulls them out. And then, they get to start over.
Today, it's hard to see how my life will ever get better. It's hard to see past the pain of being without her - the anguish of knowing that this isn't what was supposed to happen. It's hard to believe I'll ever feel anything else other than despair and anger and jealousy. But then, I remember that somewhere deep inside, there is another feeling. A soft, fleshy nugget nestled deep beneath the sludge. Warm and light and good. Love. I have love. Love for Kenley. Love for Mike. Love for life beyond loss. Love can pull me through hell. I just have to be willing to hold on to it.