I want to be everything my living children need me to be.
I try hard to celebrate them, be available, listen closely and love them well.
I never, ever want them to feel they are competing with their missing brother for my affection or my attention.
But I’d be lying if I said it was always easy.
Sometimes the happy moment so closely resembles a shared memory that includes Dominic, my heart takes my head in directions I wish it wouldn’t go. Sometimes it’s a long awaited once-in-a-lifetime occasion and Dom’s absence is a giant, gaping hole everywhere I look.
It’s really hard to be stuck at the crossroad of being happy for a child still here while mourning and missing the child that’s gone.
I’ve had to do that many, many times in the five years since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven and I’ve found a couple of things that help.
I put something in my pocket or wear a piece of jewelry that is a token of my love for Dominic.
It helps me feel as if he’s represented even if no one else knows about it. Then I lean in and take hold of the celebration as best as I can.When I feel overwhelmed, I touch my little token and/or escape to a quiet corner or bathroom for a minute or two and collect myself.
I also try to do something called “pre-grieving”.
I allow myself time early in the morning of an event to be alone and cry if I need to. If the tears won’t come, I listen to music that helps my heart reach that place of release. I journal my feelings. I walk through the day and admit where it might be especially challenging. I think through how I can deal with that and make a plan.
It makes a difference.
So much has been stolen from my surviving children.
All the preparation and anticipation meet under a covered outdoor chapel as my daughter and her fiance exchange vows and become one.
By the end of the evening, we will have laughed (and cried!), danced and toasted our way through this very important event.
And they will leave changed in ways they can’t imagine nor fully understand. It takes time to grow into lifelong commitment.
It takes years for singleness to be sanded down to a perfect fit one for the other.
Weddings are fun.
Marriage is work.
My parents have been married for 58 years. My husband and I for nearly 35. None of us has a magic formula for marital longevity. Mostly it’s been leaning into the commitment we made at the altar so many years ago even when it seemed easier to give up and give in.
We’ve all faced so many challenges in our decades together. Some we saw coming and some landed suddenly on top of us without warning. Life, death, moving house, illness, accident, floods, hurricanes, and dozens of smaller crises have forced us to change course, adjust our sails and adapt to new and often unwelcome directions. But we haven’t abandoned ship.
Sometimes it’s been pure grit and determination that see us through. Other times it’s holding on to the good things we’ve shared together.
I’m thankful we are celebrating today.
I’ll be tucking this memory in a safe place where I can pull it out on days that aren’t so beautiful.
It’s my prayer that Fiona and Brandon do the same.
When life gets hard (and it will!) may they remember the promises they made to one another and weather the storms together.
Now this is the reason a man leaves his father and his mother, and is united with his wife; and the two become one flesh.
I have never been a crystal and china kind of gal.
I got a few special pieces when my husband and I married, but most of the things in my home are durable and useful.
So I don’t have many things tucked away for special occasions.
I’m glad that when my kids were young we made even ordinary days special by setting the table, using candles, cloth napkins, real plates and mugs for meals.
We foolish mortals sometimes live through years not realizing how short life is, and that TODAY is your life.
― Edith Schaeffer, The Hidden Art of Homemaking
I’m especially thankful this side of child loss that our memories include making many regular days wonderful by choosing to celebrate the smallest moments.
I have an inexpensive set of Chinese plates, soup bowls and porcelain spoons I bought from a mail order catalog way before the Internet, much less Amazon. It gave my homemade sweet and sour chicken an air of authenticity (and it was fun!).
When December rolled around, we ditched our everyday plates for Christmas ones we used for meals and festive coffee mugs that held everything from morning coffee to the evening’s soft drinks, tea and hot cocoa.
Birthdays, holidays and regular days were all reasons to make merry and make memories.
I’m so glad we didn’t set things aside because they were too dear for everyday use.