Most people are familiar with SAD-Seasonal Affective Disorder-a cluster of symptoms mimicking depression that develop in otherwise healthy folks when the shorter days and longer nights of winter limit sunshine exposure.
Fewer folks know that nearly every bereaved parent has his or her own version of SAD which has nothing to do with daylight/darkness cycles and everything to do with the calendar.
For me, it starts in February and runs through May.
The last time all my children were together was mid-February 2014 as we celebrated the youngest’s birthday. I remember sitting outside on the unusually warm day and chatting about random things. There were two upcoming graduations and my oldest son’s wedding.
Someone said, “Hey, we should get a picture.” Someone else said, “Nah-we’ll be making lots of pictures this spring.”
So we didn’t take one.
Every year that’s the day my heart marks the beginning of the end.
The beginning of a march toward the most awful thing that has ever happened to our family.
Then there’s the day Dominic came out to the farm to fix a friend’s car. They needed the tools and shed to do the job. We joked and talked and shared a meal.
Then I hugged him and he went on his way.
That grease-stained jacket is still hanging on a peg in the downstairs bathroom.
Spring Break. I thought I’d see him again before classes resumed but a trip that lasted a day longer than it was going to meant he drove directly to his apartment. So a couple of weeks passed before he was able to plan another weekend trek out to the house.
I had just exchanged a series of messages with him, sharing photos of the heavy rains that ran our creek out of the banks and almost into the elevated roadway.
We ended our texts with “I love you. See you Saturday!”
My heart still accuses me for neglecting the days between the last time I saw Dominic and the last time he drew breath. If I had known then what I know now…
But we don’t, do we?
So on my season goes.
From February and all the “lasts” to April twelfth and the devastating news that my son would never come home again.
Then my heart marks the funeral, cleaning out his apartment and the first family celebration of which one of my children was not a part.
A few weeks later is Dominic’s birthday on May twenty-eighth when he doesn’t get any older but I get further away from the last time I hugged his neck.
A long sad season indeed.
Every parent who is missing a child has their own. A time when he or she wishes the world would both stop to take notice and spin faster to make the days pass.
My heart and body respond even if my mind tries to pretend these weeks are really no different than the rest of the year.
My son is still missing.
My heart is still yearning.
This is still the life I didn’t choose.