Archives for posts with tag: death of child

I almost made it without writing this. Here is that day again, the day that reminds me that I lost my son, my only son, my youngest child, seven years ago today. There’s just no ducking it, especially since his family and friends miss him. That’s good – to be remembered so lovingly.

Today I was driving in the country on my way to appointments, trying to put thoughts together, piecing together the memories. I heard his voice on a tape in the car that played randomly on a playlist. I remembered things and bit my lip and didn’t scream at the universe because that’s really not what I do. He was 35 years old, which means he lived his whole life in 35 years. Some of us take longer to get it all done.

This time, I seemed to focus on what he is missing not being here to watch his nephews and niece and his daughter grow up. We are lucky that he left us his daughter. I’m lucky that I got to witness their bond because it was something special.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAShe was 15 months old when he died, already showing us a personality that rivaled her daddy’s at that age. Here’s how she looked the last day he spent with her.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere is no doubt he didn’t want to leave this cutie behind. My mind did its tricks, whipping between memories and what ifs. Would she be as strong a personality if he had lived? Would she show the kindness that she has for all living things? Did his death make her stronger or bring out the best in her?

Well, crap. Who knows?

And so the day went by as I mixed my regular appointments and conversations with memories that came and went. Grief is unique for each loss. I know I mourn him differently than his sisters, his wife, his daughter, his friends and yet we share a common grief. We can laugh at the same stories and pictures and then have our personal feelings of loss.

This January 10, I focused on what he was missing because I already know how much I am.

I’m grateful for the time we had. It’s better to live with the grief than to imagine a world that never knew him. That would be the tragedy.

 

The days roll by quickly and you don’t realize it’s that time of year again except for the sad feeling that comes out of nowhere. The winter months are my time of grieving, no matter how much I try to ignore it. I lost my husband in March one year and my son in January of another and my heart remembers and my brain starts unreeling memories when I least expect it.

It’s not that I sit around crying because there are so few tears left and I’ve developed a new perspective on life and death through the years. I understand that we don’t all have long lives and I’m grateful for every day, every year. But grief has no rules and we each do it our own way. I don’t criticize anyone, we all just get through it. When my husband died, a friend told me that it never gets better, it just gets more bearable. True dat. (I love that expression!)

So for the past couple of weeks, there’s been that nagging feeling and recognition of what it is and random memories, good and bad, that may happen at any time during the year, but that flood me at this time. I drive by the hospital almost daily and usually don’t think about it, but sometimes my brain fast forwards through a lifetime of memories of births and surgeries and deaths until I can stop it. Sirens will randomly trigger memories of 911 calls to try and save my loved ones. My cell phone ringing early in the morning next to my bed always makes me jump, remembering the call that morning, my son’s mother-in-law telling me he had died in his sleep. I can see my lost ones everywhere in this city where we lived and loved, memories are everywhere.

With all the triggers that could make me sad, there are so many others that make me smile. I still have a slide show of my son’s life that plays on my computer when it turns off so there are images that flash randomly from his life. There are his friends who keep up with me on Facebook and will post a picture or a memory, filling in a blank in his life, letting me see him again through other’s eyes. There are things around the house that he made or he gave me that I may walk by and not notice all the time, but when I do, I remember.

My son’s name was Clayton, or Clay, a family name, a name that pops up surprisingly often. The summer after my son died, I was driving into Clayton, New Mexico. As we got closer to the town, there was sign after sign, rushing by me in a blur, all with the word Clayton on them. It was a nonstop jolt to my senses. When we stopped at the light in town, I turned to my right and saw this window.

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There are towns named Clay or Clayton, street names, such as this one in San Francisco’s Chinatown.

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I stopped behind a truck recently with Clayton in large letters across the back. I went through a town in Texas with my daughter-in-law, past a company named Clayton, with banners along the road saying Clayton, Clayton, Clayton. I never fail to notice. I like to think he’s saying Hi.

If people asked me if it’s harder to lose a spouse or a child, I would hesitate. I lost both to cancer, so there was nothing too sudden about watching them deteriorate. I grieved greatly for my husband, my heart broke, but that loss taught me so much about life, death, and myself to prepare me for the next great loss, just as the loss of my grandparents and my parents and friends along the way taught me. It didn’t make it easier, it just put it more into perspective.

I’d like to get angry about it, but that would be pretty self serving. After all, I look around me every day and see others who have lost loved ones. If you live long enough, you lose someone you love. It’s the way life works, so gird up, girl. You’re just like everyone else and your loss is no greater than theirs. It just gives you more compassion, more understanding of how great our losses are. And, it gives you more gratitude for what we have.

Losing someone has a ripple effect in the lives of that person. I lost my son, his wife lost her husband, their daughter lost her father, my daughters lost their brother, their children lost their uncle, their husbands lost their brother-in-law, his friends lost a friend, and the world lost another soul, every loss great really in the scheme of things.

Last summer, I went to New Orleans for the first time in years, returning to a city with so many fun memories. My in-laws lived there for many years and our family spent time in the French Quarter as often as possible. The streets were familiar and full of my personal images, my own loving ghosts. I could see my son, when we visited for the 1984 World’s Fair, standing by a pole, dressed in one of his usual uniquely Clayton outfits. I’m sure he wanted to break loose from us and explore, which he was able to do in his teens. He loved this city, the place he honeymooned in later years.

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And there was the memory of my son and husband, poking each other and try to make each other laugh, as they posed for one of my favorite pictures, taken in New Orleans years later.

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I wish I had words of wisdom, words to comfort others. You take comfort in your memories, in the solace of others, in nature. You never know what words will be the ones that help. At my son’s memorial, one of his college friends commented, “He just burned so brightly.” She didn’t know how that comment has warmed me through these years. And helped me put his life into perspective. Funny how that comment leaped out at me, how I hung onto it. Irene probably doesn’t even remember saying it, although she’s a songwriter, so she may. We grab for whatever comforts us and hang onto it for life support.

I am comforted by my daughters and their families, by my daughter-in-law and my son’s daughter, now four. They breathe life into my life and keep me focused. He lives on through his family, his friends, and especially that little girl, so much like him in all his impishness and so uniquely herself. She’s hard to ignore and makes us all smile. We smile at her and for ourselves, because she helps us understand that we are all part of this earth and we have our time here with no way of knowing how long that will be. We need to cherish every day.

Dang it. I can try to be philosophical about it, but I miss my son, my husband. I miss hearing them, hugging them, laughing with them. Sometimes I do a double take when I see someone who has a slight resemblance or walks a certain way and there’s a dim flicker of hope before I remember. I wish they were here to see the family grow, to share with us. I wish they’d had more time with us. There are things I want to tell them, so I do. Why not? Grief is an everlasting process at best.

For those who are grieving, for those who have lost loved ones and think how lucky I am, you’re right. I’ve had so many happy memories and have so many loved ones near me and I’m very aware that for others, it’s not that easy. They may have lost the only person in their life and I can’t even imagine what that’s like. Some people on this earth live their life without a day of happiness and I have so much.

I’m not sure about that saying that God gives you no more than you can handle. There was a news story several years ago that stuck with me, that helps me put my whole life into perspective. After a horrific earthquake in Turkey, there was an image of a woman sitting by the rubble. She had lost 18 members of her family, her home and her business. I don’t think there was anyone left. I think of her often. How did she ever stand up? How did she ever put one foot in front of the other? Who reached out to her? Surely someone lifted her up. Her world died that day, but she didn’t. Where did she find strength? Or did she? I still think of her and hope that she somehow managed to survive that unbelievable loss, that she found a way to face the unimaginable. I wonder what I would have done, where I would be.

As I remember my own lost loved ones, I also try to remember I’m not the only one out there. None of our losses are greater than those of others. They all hurt. All we can do is always remember, always reach out, always love. Nobody ever said life was easy.