Over The Edge

Trigger warning:  I discuss my loss in terms of falling.  If you have lost a loved one to that kind of accident, you might want to skip this post.  ❤

I really don’t know how to explain it to anyone who has not had to repeatedly face their greatest fear. 

It takes exactly as much courage. 

Every. Single. Time.

I have had a dozen major surgeries in my life.  I am always just as anxious when they start the countdown to anesthesia.  Doesn’t matter what they push in my IV line-that moment when I realize I am relinquishing all control to the hands of others frightens me.

I feel like I am falling over the edge of a cliff-nothing to hold onto, no way to stop what’s coming, no way to clamber back up and change my mind or change what’s about to happen.

It’s the same every spring since Dominic ran ahead to heaven. 

From the middle of March to the middle of April my body responds to cues my mind barely registers.  Sights, smells, change in the length of the day, the direction of the prevailing wind-a hundred tiny stimuli make my nerves fire in chorus declaring, “It’s almost THAT day!”

There is another underlying dissonance that begs the question, “Why didn’t you see it coming?” Or, at least, “Why didn’t you spend a little more time with him on those last two visits home?”

Dominic was busy that spring-an internship with a local judge, papers and responsibilities as a journal editor along with the demanding reading load of second year Law School meant he didn’t make the 30 miles home all that often.

But there were a couple days he came our way in the month before he died. 

One was to bring a friend’s car and do a bunch of work on it.  That day was chilly and I popped out a few times to chit chat as they labored under the shed in the yard.  I made lunch and visited with them then.

Still, I kind of felt like I shouldn’t hover over my grown son even though I really missed him and wanted badly to talk to him about something other than car parts.

The jacket he wore and dirtied that day with oil and grease and dirt and gravel grit is still hanging in what we use as a mud room. 


Because they were coming back to do more repairs in a few weeks.

It is only now finally free of the last scent of him.  

doms jacket

The next visit was on a day when I was busy, he was busy and we were all frustrated over equipment that wasn’t working properly.  He brought me some medicine from the vet in town for a sick horse and spoke briefly about whether or not we’d cut some fallen limbs in a bit.  Then he went to help his brother try to get the backhoe cranked.  I was suffering from a severe flare in my ankle so was only able to hobble out to the spot the stupid thing had stopped for just a minute before needing to hobble back inside to put my foot up and allow it to rest.

He left early because I wasn’t up to cutting logs and neither he nor his brother could crank the infernal machine. 

I remember that before he left, I made a point of turning him to face me and hugging him tight while telling him how very proud I was of him and everything he was doing and becoming.  A little unusual because Dominic was the least huggable of all my children.  He was no cuddler.

It was not a premonition-I was prompted by the knowledge he was going into finals and had been stressed lately.  

But I am so glad I did it.  

And then-poof!-time flies like time does and he and his brother were off on a Spring Break trip.  They texted me faithfully to let me know they made it safely to their destination, safely to my parents’ home in Florida for a few days after that and then safely back home.

dom and julian spring break

I never saw him alive again.  

Spring is not my favorite season anymore.  

While my heart can appreciate the promise of new life declared in every budding flower, every unfurling leaf, every newborn bird and calf and lamb, it is also aware that every living thing dies.

julian and dominic coffee at elaines wedding
Living on a farm I’ve buried a lot of things in this Alabama dirt, I never thought my brother would be one of them. I miss you so much Dominic! ~Julian DeSimone

I’m on the edge and falling off.  

I can’t stop it. 

And it’s just as frightening this time as last time.  


Love in Action: Some Things Hurt

Bereavement has not made me a perfectly compassionate person.  I still say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing and sometimes don’t do the right thing.

But it HAS made me more aware that what I do/don’t do/say/don’t say can either speak life or death to a struggling heart.

And I so want to speak life and courage to everyone I meet.

Before I lost Dominic, I know that I, like others who had never experienced the death of a child, undoubtedly said and did things that were hurtful instead of helpful.

I painfully remember sharing at a Thanksgiving women’s gathering and, meaning to encourage the ladies, said something like, “I think we are able to better face the big disappointments or trials in life, but find the daily drip, drip, drip of unfulfilled expectations to be a greater challenge.”  A bereaved mom in attendance set me straight (in a very kind and gracious manner!).

That exchange has come often to my mind in these months after burying my son. I wish I could go back and have a do-over.

Read the rest here:  Loving Well: Some Things Hurt

Chronic: Continuing, Ceaseless, Unabating

Chronic:  (of a problem) long-lasting and difficult to eradicate.
Synonyms:  constant, continuing, ceaseless, unabating, unending, persistent, long-lasting, severe, serious, grave, dire

If you’ve followed the blog for long, you know I have Rheumatoid Arthritis.  What you may not know is that it is not at all like the arthritis most people experience as they age.  Instead of a gradual wearing out of joints due to use and, sometimes, injury, RA is the result of my body attacking itself.

I was 44 when diagnosed after both ankles suddenly swelled so that I could barely walk. 

I’ve been living with it for over ten years. 

It’s a chronic disease.  It can be treated with greater or lesser success to modify and mediate symptoms, but it is always, always, always there.  And it affects every aspect of my life-from getting dressed to driving a car.

I find that most folks just don’t understand that.  

We are used to getting sick, going to the doctor and being prescribed a drug or treatment or even surgery and getting well (after some period of time).

But some things can’t be “fixed” and must simply be “managed” and endured.

endurance is patience concentrated

Child loss is like that.  

It cannot be fixed. 

It cannot be healed. 

It cannot be undone or ignored or sequestered so that it doesn’t impact daily life.

And that is hard for people to understand if they’ve never dealt with a chronic illness or other circumstance that defies remedy.

Every morning I walk down my stairs one step at a time like a toddler because my joints are too stiff to bend until I’ve been up for a few hours-that’s how I have to accommodate my arthritis.

Every morning I sit in my rocking chair and journal and talk to other bereaved parents before daybreak-that’s how I have to accommodate my grief.

Neither of these conditions is a choice.  

Each of them happened TO me-not because of anything I did or did not do.

And they are life-long.  




grief and pain and forever

How Can I Deal With Anxious Thoughts?

I no longer have to imagine the worst thing that could happen in the life of a mother-I know exactly how it feels. 

And if I allow my heart to ponder that too often or too long, it consumes me.

So I am learning to take those anxious thoughts captive, learning to make them live in only a small corner of my mind instead of taking it over completely.

It takes effort and discipline, but it’s possible.  

I don’t have to live the rest of my days a quivering mess…

Read the rest here:  Dealing With Anxious Thoughts

You are Braver than You Think

Child loss is not the only devastating life circumstance that can make a person want to hide in bed.  

Every single day, broken hearts, broken bodies and limping spirits open their eyes to the dawn and choose to get up and get going.

If that is you, I want you to know this: 

You are strong.

You are brave.  

You are not invisible.  

braver stronger smarterYou may never be recognized in this life for the heroic struggle you face every day but it counts.

Endurance is triumph.  

Perseverance is conquest.  

Choosing brave in the face of fear is victory.  

fear is what we feel brave is what we do

Wise Choices in Grief

I had no choice in child loss.  

When Dominic first left us, it felt like I would never get to choose anything again-it felt like I would always be at the mercy of life just happening TO me. 

But in these months and years since, I’ve found that I DO have choices.

I have many, many choices every. single. day. 

I can choose bitterness or I can choose love.

heart and wood

I can choose blame or I can choose grace.

I can choose to isolate my wounded heart or I can choose to integrate my experience into who I am and invite others to join me on the journey.

I can choose to live in the past-which isn’t really living at all-or I can choose to face each new day and see what it has to offer.

I can choose to elevate my missing child so high that his siblings have no hope of measuring up or I can choose to remember the good AND the bad of who he was and how he walked in the world.

I can choose to complain about how others don’t understand or I can choose to educate them on what child loss feels like, how it impacts all aspects of my life and how it will be part of my experience until the day I join my son.

I can choose to be ashamed of my tears or I can choose to display them proudly as testimony of the love I have for my son.

never ashamed of tears dickens

I can choose to be upset that others fail to mention his name or I can choose to mention it myself, making him as natural a part of the conversation as my living children.

I can choose to ignore the way grief impacts my ability to do all the things I once did or I can choose to make wise accommodations for my limitations.

I can choose to close my heart to love and laughter or I can choose to honor Dominic by loving and laughing anyway.

I choose life. 

Because as long as I breathe, I carry the light of Dominic’s life with mine.

dom looking up with camera

Gratitude and Grieving: The Truth Will Set You Free

How much energy do we spend dancing around the truth?  How many times do we gather with family or friends and cast our eyes downward so we can ignore the elephant in the room?  How many shackles would fall away if just one person stood up and said what everyone else was thinking but was afraid to whisper aloud?

As family gathers around the table for Thanksgiving, we all have those subjects no one will touch.  And often they are the very ones that need to be laid bare, talked about and shared.  They are what keep hearts apart even while bodies sit closer than any other time of year.

courage is turning toward hard truth not away

Now I’m no advocate of random outbursts intended to shock and raise a ruckus but I am a firm believer in speaking truth in love.

It’s hard.

In fact, next to carrying this burden of missing, it is the hardest thing I do.

And I am often unsuccessful.

I screw up my courage, practice my speech, lay out the strategy and then crumble, last minute, under dozens of potentially awful outcomes.

What if they get mad?  What if they think I’m crazy, or selfish, or wrong?

Or I DO share and it falls flat because the words I thought would communicate love are misunderstood or misdirected or misapplied.

So instead of helping, I hurt.

But the alternative is this:  we all remain imprisoned behind a wall where freedom is clearly visible on the other side.  We can smell it, almost taste it but not quite touch it.

truth and courage are not always comfortable brene brown

And that is not how I want to live. 

I want to claim the freedom that truth offers.

So this Thanksgiving I will try again:  truth in love. 

Lots and lots of love with truth sprinkled in.  Maybe the sugar in the pie will help. 

I’ll never know if I don’t give it a shot. 

laughter and truth telling