The Missing Never Ends

It’s been five plus years since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

And while I’ve grown stronger and better able to carry the load of grief, the missing never ends.

I cannot become accustomed to photos that don’t include one of my children. I can’t set aside the sense that someone is absent from the table. It still seems unreal and unnatural for there not to be presents under the tree with Dom’s name on them. It is absolutely impossible for me to tick off the current ages of my kids without a pause for the age Dominic should be, but isn’t.

Now missing Dominic on one side of life is bookended by missing my mama on the other.

Sure, it’s perfectly natural and orderly for our parents to leave this life before us.

But it isn’t painless.

As a matter of fact, it is very, very painful.

I miss the generational space between me and eternity. I miss Mama’s voice, her silly stories, her peculiar habits and stubborn nature. I miss seeing her in the chair that was her daily perch these past two years. I miss the way she piddled with her food always declaring, “I eat everything on my plate” when she knew good and well she didn’t.

My mama, Patty Hart, and me as a baby.

Our circle is smaller this year.

When we gather for opening presents and enjoying the Christmas feast there will be two people absent.

My heart will always mark the space where Mama and Dominic SHOULD be.

The missing never ends.

Remembering Death Teaches Me How To Live

The other day I listened to an NPR interview of Amy Tan, author of the Joy Luck Club among other best-selling titles.

Her brother and father died within an year of one another when she was fifteen.

I was spell-bound as she recounted how that experience shaped her adolescence and still shapes her today.  I identified with things I am observing in my children and things I feel in my own heart.

She said she thinks about death every day.  Not in a morbid sense, but in the sense that she is very aware death is every human’s experience, eventually.

Some of her friends call her paranoid.

Some of my friends call me gloomy.

But she went on to say that thinking about death gave her a precious gift

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2017/10/29/why-i-wont-forget-death-lessons-in-living/

I Want You To Know How My Son LIVED Not Only How He Died

As happens often, multiple conversations, experiences and random social media posts rattle around in my brain and then sort themselves out into a brand new thought.

I realized (maybe for the first time with genuine feeling!) that I want people to know how my son lived and not only how or even that he died.

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It was probably almost three years before I could mention Dominic’s name without also adding, “he was killed in a motorcycle accident” to anyone who didn’t already know that.

It wasn’t because I wanted sympathy or special consideration but because I honestly could not think about Dominic without placing every thought in the context of his death. I was so aware of his absence that it pushed everything else about him into the background.

I was also horribly jealous of what I had lost.

I needed to express how desperately I longed to have him back so tended to share details about his personality, accomplishments and pet peeves from my own perspective.

I was mainly looking at him through my eyes instead of seeing him as a whole person distinct from myself.

I wanted to curate his image in the eyes of others.

But Dominic had been his own man for a long time when he left this earth for Heaven. He made his own choices, had friends I never knew, read things and saw places beyond my experience.

When I insist on introducing him first as Dominic the missing member of the family instead of Dominic the man he had become, I make him smaller than he was (than he is!).

I don’t want to do that.

Even though I rarely insist on mentioning his death anymore in casual conversation unless asked directly, I realize that I want to do more than just NOT mention his death.

I want to comment on his life.

I want to tell folks that Dominic was one of the most talented drummers I’ve ever heard. I want them to know about his quirky sense of humor, his insistence on super soft clothing and irritation with people who took two parking spaces in crowded lots. I want to share how even though you’d swear he was never afraid, he often felt like maybe he wouldn’t measure up somehow.

I want you to know that he was adventurous, athletic, addicted to coffee and adrenaline and a fierce lover of justice and his family.

Yes, Dominic died.

But he lived, too.

And that’s really what I want people to know. ❤

If you are a fellow bereaved parent, please share something about what makes your child(ren) unique. What do you want others to know about him or her?

I Will Not Let Death Win


I’m not brave by nature.

If I have a choice, I will run every time.  But there are just some things worth fighting for.

My family is one of them.

I will not let the enemy have them.

I will not allow despair to overtake us, fear to bind us, hopelessness to sap our strength.

I will not let death win.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2016/09/23/i-will-not-be-moved/

Repost: Why Grievers Need Faithful Friends

My mama joined Jesus early Friday morning.

And I’m reminded once again how very important friends are along life’s journey.

So. many. people. have called, texted, messaged and expressed love and concern for our family.

It’s really encouraging!

But what I know, that others may not know (if they’ve been blessed to escape losing a close loved one so far) is that it’s not too long before all this attention fades away.

People usually don’t choose to stop connecting with broken hearts. It’s just that life gets busy and while grievers can’t ignore the palpable absence of their loved one, other folks have mostly filled in the space where they used to be.

Please don’t forget us.

Even years later, there are days when grief overwhelms a heart.

We NEED faithful friends to remind us that pain is not all that’s left in the world.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2017/09/29/help-wanted-why-grievers-need-friends/

Ain’t Nothing Easy About Death

I remember the moment I realized I was going to have to summarize my son’s life into a few, relatively short paragraphs to be read by friends, family and strangers.

It seemed impossible.

But as the designated author of our family I had to do it so I did.

Today I wrote my mama’s obituary and though her death was not as surprising as Dominic’s it was just as hard to swallow.

Mama suffered a stroke a few days ago and along with her other health problems the prognosis wasn’t good. So our family gathered, said what needed to be said to one another and to her and settled in to wait and see if her will to live could overcome the odds.

It didn’t.

She breathed her last in this world, fell asleep and woke up in Heaven at 1:45 am Friday morning.

I like to think that just after she saw Jesus she ran on to hug Dominic and her own sweet mama she’s been missing for seventy-one years.

I don’t know why I thought saying good-bye to my mama would be any easier than saying good-bye to my son.

It wasn’t.

Ain’t nothing easy about death.

Ain’t nothing easy about walking away from a hospital room or a morgue or an accident site knowing that whatever wasn’t said will never be said. Nothing easy about facing final arrangements, making phone calls, writing obituaries, finding photos for a slide show, wrapping up a life into a few words and a few songs and a few pictures.

My heart is used to the dull thumping pain of sorrow.

It’s grown accustomed to setting aside despair and doing what has to be done.

I know how to forge ahead and keep living and plan as if my world hasn’t imploded, making calendars and clocks and seasons and holidays irrelevant.

I’m sad today.

And I am all too aware that today’s sadness is small compared to what’s coming.

I’ll survive.

Compared to watching my son’s body lowered beneath the ground, watching my mama’s earthly shell lowered is easier.

She lived a beautiful, full and long life.

Still, there’s no way for the little girl inside this middle-aged woman to reconcile the fact that the world she inhabits no longer includes a mama she can touch.

I rejoice she’s safe and whole and pain free.

But I miss her. ❤

World Suicide Prevention Day

I’m always torn between sharing about suicide awareness and just offering a listening ear to survivors of suicide.

On the one hand, I don’t want a single person who may be shouting warning signals to end up completing suicide because no one listened.

On the other, I want to protect bereaved parents and siblings from any additional guilt they may feel because they “missed” such signals.

But since suicide is at epidemic proportions in our country-especially among young people and veterans-I’m going to try to navigate the middle ground.

To anyone whose loved one left this life by suicide let me say this: You are not responsible! Even if in hindsight you feel like you missed cues or didn’t notice tell-tale signs, in the end it was their own action that led to death.

I do not believe suicide is selfish.

I believe suicide results from pain so unbearable a heart simply thinks there is no other way to end it. It’s not a conscious act as such, it’s a reflexive response to intense pain.

I also know that mental illness-often untreated because it is undiagnosed-wrecks havoc with the logical, reasoning part of a brain.

To those who may be contemplating suicide (something I know many, many bereaved parents think about) let me say this: If you are considering it, reach out.

You are a unique creation and cannot be replaced.

There are resources available and people not only willing, but LONGING, to help you hold onto hope.

As you fall deeper and deeper into the pit of despair, it’s easy to lose sight of the truth that darkness is not all that exists. Trust me, I’ve been there and it’s nearly impossible of your own volition to will yourself out of the funk.

This is where suicide prevention has a role to play.

If someone seems “off”, don’t ignore it, dismiss it or excuse yourself from asking hard questions (even at the risk of being rebuffed or worse).

Often a single person extending a hand and listening ear at just the right moment grants space for a hurting heart to reconsider suicide as the only way out of pain. If they won’t respond in spite of your best efforts, enlist allies.

And walk gently among your fellow humans!

You may never know when your smile, opened door, random encouraging word or knowing glance is the difference between a stranger going home to end it all and going home and making a phone call to get help.

Suicide is tragic.

Be alert.

Be a friend.

Compassion is a choice.

Be the one who cares, calls and comforts.