A Trail of Love Crumbs

I used to read- a LOT.

By that I mean I often had five or six books going at a time and typically finished four in a week.

Since Dominic ran ahead to heaven I find I rarely have the attention span for books anymore.

But every now and then I find a book that can hold my attention and I read like I used to-carrying it with me from the kitchen (where I read as I wait for cookies to come out of the oven) to the bathtub (where I read as I soak my achy joints).

EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON (and other lies I love to believe) by Kate Bowler is one of those books.

everything happens for a reason book

I heard an interview of Kate on an NPR program while driving.  She had me in tears and rolling in laughter all at the same time.

And this bargain loving, never-pay-full-price mama came straight into the house and ordered the hardback book off Amazon.

It lived up to every expectation.  I felt like I was sitting across from someone who truly “gets it”.

The author is not a bereaved parent but is living with Stage IV metastatic colon cancer.  Her life is, as she describes it, “Stuck in present tense.

So, so many nuggets of wisdom and truth hidden in these pages.

But the one that resonated with my heart the most is this:

My little plans [thoughtful gifts, words and actions] are crumbs scattered on the ground.  This is all I have learned about living here, plodding along, and finding God.  My well-laid plans are no longer my foundation.  I can only hope that my dreams, my actions, my hopes are leaving a trail for Zach [my son] and Toban [my husband], so, whichever way the path turns, all they will find is Love.

When I read it, I nearly shouted aloud, “THAT’S IT!!!”

Her heart sings the same song as mine.

Very few of us will do great things, remembered in history books or blazoned across the front of granite edifices.

Most of us will only do small things.

But we can do them with great love.

not all of us can do great things typewriter

Dominic left this earth before he even had a chance to do great things.  Twenty-three years taken up by growing to adulthood and going to college and then law school left little time for solving the world’s big problems.

But he left a trail of love crumbs.

One that can be followed from his heart to dozens of others.


That’s what I want my legacy to be:  A trail of love crumbs. 

I want tiny bits of me scattered far and wide-a wild and winding path made by relentlessly giving away all I am and all I have.

My name won’t be engraved anywhere but on my tombstone.  

But I pray my love is engraved on many hearts.  

the answer is still and again love



Repost: Vocabulary Lesson: Learning the Language of Grief and Loss

How do you speak of the unspeakable?

How do you constrain the earth-shattering reality of child loss to a few syllables?

How do you SAY what must be said?

I remember the first hour after the news.  I had to make phone calls.  Had to confirm my son’s identity and let family know what had happened.

I used the only words I had at the time, “I have to tell you something terrible. Dominic is dead.”

Read the rest here:  Vocabulary Lesson: Learning the Language of Grief and Loss

Busy Doesn’t Fix Grief

I don’t know if this is the way of other mama’s hearts but mine always accuses me when I try to take it easy.

Maybe it’s a lifetime of a too long list of chores and a too short day in which to do them, but I’m uncomfortable sitting down, doing nothing.  

to do list

If I try to take a minute, my mind races until my hand reaches for a piece of paper and begins to jot down things I need to do.

Shoot-even as I fall asleep I’m usually planning what my day will look like tomorrow!

As I’ve written before, it is tempting to fill every minute trying to avoid the pain and sorrow of missing Dominic.  

But it’s not a healthy way to deal with grief.  

And moving ever closer to the anniversary of the date Dom met Jesus, the temptation grows stronger and stronger.

Just. stay. busy. 

Just. don’t. think.  

What I NEED is solitude and space.  What I NEED is freedom to cry (or not!).  What I NEED is less doing and more being.  What I NEED is to face my feelings, process my feelings, journal my feelings, pray through my feelings and to do the hard work grief requires.

sometimes the most important thing is the rest between two breaths

What I NEED is to treat myself the way I would treat one of my children in distress. 

I NEED tender loving care.  

But it’s just. so. very. hard.  







What is Suffering?

The slim little book, LAMENT FOR A SON, by Nicolas Wolterstorff was a lifeline for me in the first few weeks after Dominic ran ahead to heaven.

It wasn’t just because both of our young adult sons died in an accident.

It was mostly because Wolterstorff refused to distill the experience down to one-liners.  

He admitted that (even ten years later-which was the copy of the book I received) he was still struggling to make sense of all the feelings and spiritual implications of child loss.

And I love, love, love that he picks out every single thread and follows it as far as it goes.

Here is an excerpt on suffering:  

What is suffering? When something prized or loved is ripped away or never granted — work, someone loved, recognition of one’s dignity, life without physical pain — that is suffering.
Or rather, that is when suffering happens. What it IS, I do not know. For many days I had been reflecting on it. Then suddenly, as I watched the flicker of orange-pink evening light on almost still water, the thought overwhelmed me: I understand nothing of it. Of pain, yes: cut fingers, broken bones. Of sorrow and suffering, nothing at all. Suffering is a mystery as deep as any in our existence. It is not of course a mystery whose reality some doubt. Suffering keeps its face hid from each while making itself known to all.
We are one in suffering. Some are wealthy, some bright; some athletic, some admired. But we all suffer. For we all prize and love; and in this present existence of ours, prizing and loving yield suffering. Love in our world is suffering love. Some do not suffer much, though, for they do not love much. Suffering is for the loving. If I hadn’t loved him, there wouldn’t be this agony.

This, said Jesus, is the command of the Holy One: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ In commanding us to love, God invites us to suffer.

~Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son

My heart receives two truths from his words: 

  • that if I love, I WILL suffer.  That’s the nature of love-risking all for the benefit of another means that my heart is ultimately in their hands; and
  • pain is part of but not all of suffering.  Pain can often be dulled, dealt with, the source remedied.  Suffering is a state of the heart, mind, soul and spirit.  It can rarely be undone.  It must simply be endured.  

Understanding that the only way I could never suffer would be to never love helped me embrace this blow with a willing heart.  Even if I had known it was coming, I would still have chosen to love my son.  All the years I had are worth all the years I will carry this burden.

ann voskamp love will always cost you grief

And understanding that there is no cure for suffering changes my perspective from looking for a way out to looking for a way to persevere.  

Nicholas Wolterstorff will never know my name but I will never forget his.

I am so grateful for Wolterstorff’s words.  

So thankful that he chose to share them with others.

Forever in his debt for being one of the first hands proffered to me on this journey.  


New Feature on the Blog: Search Bar

I’ve been meaning to do this for a long time.

Like many of you, I find myself wanting to find a particular blog post but just can’t remember the title.

Now that I’ve published over 900 posts, I have NO desire to backtrack through all of them hoping to light on the one I’m looking for.

SO...at the request of a sweet friend I finally (FINALLY!) added a “search” feature on the side bar.

I have to admit that changing anything on the site gives me jitters.  Dominic was my tech guru and without him I am always afraid to make changes that I might not be able to undo.  (He was the one that showed me ctrl-z could rescue that line or paragraph I accidentally deleted in word documents!)

Anyway, it’s here now. 

search bar

And I hope it becomes a useful tool for anyone looking for a particular post or for posts about a particular subject.  

Just put in your word or words and you will get a page (or more) of all the blog posts that are tagged for that topic or contain references to that topic.

It made me smile.  

I hope it makes you smile too. 



It’s Been YEARS, When Should I Mention My Missing Child?

This came up in a bereaved parents’ support group and I thought it was a great question:  When you meet someone for the first time, do you tell them about your missing child?”

It’s one of those practical life skills bereaved parents have to figure out.

I remember when it dawned on me a few months after Dominic left us that I would meet people who wouldn’t know he was part of my story unless I told them.

It was a devastating thought.  

I had no idea how I would face the first time it happened.  

Since then I’ve developed a script and guidelines, but it can still be awkward.

If the person I meet is going to be part of a ongoing relationship or partnership then I tell them fairly soon about Dominic.    Depending on who they are, how I sense they may be able to deal with it and if I feel comfortable enough I may give more or fewer details.  The main thing I try to communicate in sharing is that I will behave in ways they might not understand without the context of child loss.  I’m not looking for sympathy or special consideration but “bereaved parent” is as much a part of my identity as “married”.

If I am attending a social function and it’s a casual “meet and greet” then I won’t mention Dominic in terms of his death unless the conversation lends itself to that revelation.  No need to burden acquaintances with my story or run the risk of changing a celebratory mood to a sad one.

I always say I have four children-because I do.  But I don’t have to give details.  If the person insists I tell them more about my children it’s fairly easy to steer the conversation toward a detail or two about my living children without the person noticing it doesn’t add up to four.

I make sure to tell health professionals about Dominic because the stress, physical, emotional and mental changes grief has wrought are integral to my treatment plan.  I’ve had a couple of new doctors since Dom ran ahead and received different responses from them when I shared.  One seemed to understand the impact of child loss while another just continued typing without any acknowledgement of what I revealed.

My son’s death is not a dirty secret.

I don’t have to hide it to protect others.

But it is also not a “poor me” card that I fling on the table of relationships trying to manipulate others into showing me special consideration.

I want people to know Dominic.

dominic at gray haven

So I share.

I don’t want people to only think of him in terms of his death.

So sometimes I don’t.

It depends.



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.