Archives for posts with tag: Losing a child

The reality that struck me, struck me hard, when my son died was how many many people I know who have lost a child. It’s not that I didn’t know these people, family and friends and even strangers, had suffered as I was, but that I was so clueless. I hadn’t known anything.

Now it’s been six years since I got the early morning phone call that my son was gone and I wish I had some wisdom to share or some comforting words or something clever to write. I don’t. This past year was the worst…but, of course, it wasn’t. There’s no way to compare one year to the another because there’s always the surprising realization that it’s so real.

I’m not sitting around in mourning black or locking myself away and I have fun just about every day of my life and I’m eternally grateful for each and every beautiful moment I get to share with my family and friends. My sense of adventure is alive and I treasure my moments alone to read or enjoy the world around me.

How to describe it? It’s a part of who I am now, implanted on who I was, but it’s not the worst part or the saddest part. It’s a strength that came from losing a child, the strength that pushes me every day to make sure that my children and grandchildren understand the value of each other in their lives and the strength that this gives them to withstand whatever is next, whatever life will throw at us next, because it will.

I feel him in my heart and all around me more than ever. What is that? I just know that it’s true and comforting and yet I miss him all the time. It’s ok…well, maybe not so ok sometimes. It’s what it is and will be and that’s the way it’s meant to be.

The truth is that I see a picture of him or a recording of his voice and it’s sometimes real and sometimes seems to be some strange unreality. I see his daughter and catch something that smacks of his personality or see a familiar expression on her face and that’s nice. He would get such a kick out of her. Or he does get a kick out of her. What do I know?

I know that I had a son I loved and continue to love and he loved me and continues to love me. I know that in my heart and soul.

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Once again, the date rolls around, the day I woke up four years ago to find my son had died.  I didn’t wake up today and think about the date.  I was reminded by a couple of people letting me know they were thinking of my daughter-in-law and me.  I just read back over my blogs from this date the last two years to see what I was thinking then and they were good ones.  Nothing much has changed.

The difference, I think, is that I have missed him more this year, if that’s possible.  I can feel him around me in so many ways, but I found myself missing him.  A lot.  I had lots of flashes when I’d glance up and see a young man who had some semblance of his face, his walk, his gestures.  Then back to reality.  Mostly just a deep sadness that he isn’t here.

The anniversary date is never the day that hurts.  It’s the every day.  It’s a tribute to people who have been deeply loved that they can never never be replaced.  It’s the same with my memories of my husband.  There may be other friends I love and care for, but that unique person will never die in my heart.

The last couple of days I’ve glanced out my window and a very bright cardinal has appeared.  Once he sat and watched me for a long time.  It’s been said poetically that a cardinal is a visit from a lost loved one.  I don’t know which of my guys it was, but it makes me smile.  Nothing more comforting than a bright red cardinal on a gray winter day.

Today, the sun is shining and it’s cold outside.  I’m going to make it through another winter when the heavy thoughts hit me into the spring when all our hearts lift with the warmth and rebirth.  I’m going to cherish all my living loving children and their spouses and my grandchildren and make beautiful memories that will tide us through the rough patches of life.

And…I’m going to remember with love the wonder of my son and his remarkable life.  Damn it all that we lost him to horrible cancer, but loving that he was ours.  I miss him…all his girls miss him!

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My first instinct is to ignore the fact that my son died two years ago today, but people keep telling me they’re thinking of me and I feel obligated to share.  I wasn’t dreading this day, wasn’t even thinking about it, but here it is.  You know the things people say when they don’t know what to say…it’s not natural to lose your child, he was too young, he had so much more to do.  We all say them, but living them is a little different.

I was a little less in shock when Clay died because I had already lost my husband.  I guess I can thank him for giving me experience in the loss of a loved one to help me through.  It’s still a shock and it hurts.  It’s another splintering of your heart, another mending with scars growing to keep your heart functioning.  But, we keep on going.  Or not.  Those are the choices.  Last night I saw a character on a tv show ask another one how she was able to smile when she had lost several members of her family.  The one with the losses said she chooses to smile.  So do I.

One of my wisdoms of life is that we are never ready to lose those we love.  It doesn’t matter if it is a sudden death or after a long illness or a long life…we’re never ready.  We can be told that the person will die in the next five minutes and we’re still totally unprepared for the shock of them being here and then they’re not.  Where are they?  They were just here…where did they go?  Your beliefs may help you, but it’s still a shock.  I know this for sure!

Every person deals with loss differently.  Here’s what I do.  First, when you lose a loved one, you feel like the whole world has gone on while your world has stopped.  When you crawl out of your immediate grief, you find that you aren’t alone.  At my son’s service, I was struck by how many people I know who have lost a child.  For a bit, it seemed like everyone I saw had lost a child and all I could think was how ill prepared I was to relate to them at the time of their loss.  There were children lost to accidents, murder, disease, car wrecks, suicides…all manner of horrible losses, all the same pain for the parents.  We all have loss in our lives…death is part of life.  With children, we are always lucky to have them for as long as we do.  I’m amazed that we don’t lose more of them when they’re little because we can’t watch them every minute, no matter how hard we try.  It doesn’t matter if we lose a child as a baby, toddler, child, teen or adult…we don’t want to lose them ever.  They grow within us or we bring them into our lives in another way and they attach themselves to our hearts.  It seems like every day is a challenge to keep them here with us as we struggle with our parental responsibilities.  We grieve when our children die for what we will miss with them and for what others will miss.  We wanted them to live longer than we will because they were the way that our selves would continue after we are gone.  It doesn’t always work that way even if we want to believe it.

Life is a cycle.  I’ve learned to contemplate this truth, helped by the fact that the deaths I’ve endured have been balanced by the joy of life.  When my husband died, we had three brand new grandsons to help me through.  It was hard to grieve the loss of one life when you needed to rejoice at the new ones.  When my son died, we had his 15 month old daughter to keep us balanced.  She didn’t understand the enormity of her loss and her joy of life keeps a smile on our faces even when we think of all he and she will miss together.  Who knows anyway…she seems to know he’s with her in ways we can’t even comprehend.

None of us know how long our life will be or how long anyone we know will live.  I just saw a statistic that there are now 7 billion people on the earth, up a billion from not too long ago.  Even with people dying, we have more people.  We can’t all live to be old – we’re just like other animals and plants and everything else on the planet.  We have a life cycle of our own and our only job is to try and make the best of the time we have, however long that may be.  I know that I’ve had loss and will have other losses, which I dread, but I will try to keep them all in the universal perspective.

I’m a photo nut and have been since I was a little girl.  I like any kind of photo and love that they capture a moment, a look, a thought, a place.  When my husband died, I remember looking for photos, knowing that there would be no more.  I gathered all I could, getting a picture of his life and it was comforting to know it had been a complete one, even if it ended before I wanted it to – or before he wanted it to.  With my son, I have an album of pictures of his life on my computer – I’ve shared it before.  It’s my screen saver, so I see a slide show of pieces of his life every time my computer is winding down.  It’s comforting for me because the images bring back memories of a sweet impish funny caring little boy who was always uniquely himself and carried those traits throughout his life, enriching the lives of those who knew him.  And new pictures surface here and there, little surprises, that add another moment to the hours I wasn’t with him or teach me something new about him.  I smile a lot.

A couple of months after Clay died, a friend lost her son in a car wreck.  She gave me a book that she was given, a little book, “Healing After Loss” by Martha Whitmore Hickman.  It’s a book of daily devotions written by an author who lost her 12 year old daughter years ago.  I say she is Christian, but it’s a book I would give to anyone because she uses quotes from all religions and thoughts that anyone can relate to.  She writes to people, not based on your beliefs or lack of them.  A page a day.  I read it just about every day and go back to read the ones I missed if I’ve forgotten.  I’m on my second or third round.  It’s amazingly relevant for life in general.  I’ve been given and read lots of poems, books, etc on loss and grief.  This one is my favorite.  I have it on my iPad and iPhone – I’ve given away several copies of the paperback.  It’s not for everyone, but it might help someone.

So another anniversary has come and they’re never as bad for me as just some random memory.  I still flinch at the sound of ambulances and jump when the phone rings and have flashbacks at odd times that I have to push away from.  Holidays aren’t so bad because I’m surrounded by family and we laugh and share funny stories.  I’m lucky that my loss of my son is softened by having his daughter near.  I feel the huge responsibility to her and my other grandchildren to keep on living as healthy a life as I can so I can share stories with them and give them a sense of the family they won’t get to know.  For my son’s daughter, I have a box of stories about her father, copies of photos and videos for her to understand a little bit about who he was and what his life meant to all of us.  I collect the funny things his friends write about him and the things I find.  Someday, she can go through and read them all.  At three, she is beginning to look at stories of “baby Daddy” and relate to the fact that he was once little like she is.  I gave her a necklace with a picture of them together and she told me it is “bootiful.”  My heart melts.

I had a memory of Clay a couple of weeks ago that came out of nowhere.  He had just gotten back home after his treatment for cancer in Seattle.  The radiation hadn’t begun to change his ability to talk and eat yet and he was feeling grateful for having been able to have this new treatment.  When we were at the hospital in Seattle, he told me how much seeing the little children with cancer affected him.  One of the first things he did when he got home was go to the hospital and volunteer to help by visiting other cancer patients.  They loved him there as he was one of their youngest volunteers.  Even as a volunteer myself, I thought it was remarkable that he could give back in that way.  I’m not sure I would have wanted to go near the hospital, but he didn’t think about himself.  The internet was somewhat new in 2001, at least in our home.  He went online and found a community of people with the same rare cancer he had and reached out to them.  I thought he was finding out more for himself, but I happened to see some of his exchanges since we shared the computer.  He was comforting them, helping them through it.

I don’t know why that memory popped into my mind, but it’s one of the things that helps.  This boy of mine lived a complete life for the time he had on this earth.  He lived and laughed and loved for all his days.  May we all do so well with the time we are given.

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