Why I’d Still Choose You

Some of us only felt tiny hands and feet pressing against the inside of our body.  

Some of us saw first steps or first grade. 

Some of us watched our child drive away to college certain it was the beginning of an adventure, not the beginning of the end.

Read the rest here: I’d Still Choose You

It’s Kind of Tender Just There

I’m pretty sure most everyone older than five has suffered a bump, bruise or sprain that left them tender for more than a few minutes.

And if you have, then you know the slightest brush up against that sore spot can elicit quite the reaction.

There’s an emotional correlate to physical bruising. And when someone hits that nerve it hurts. Really, really hurts!

It’s impossible to know where all those places are on another person’s body, much less their heart. So we often cause accidental pain to one another.

Many bereaved parents share some emotional bruises others might never see or think about. Lots of everyday interactions press hard against the tender places and make them hurt all the more.

I don’t expect family and friends to walk on eggshells around me, second-guessing everything they say or do. That would be awful for all of us!

But just in case you wonder, here are places my heart is tender:

  • Talking about Dominic’s “legacy”. I am still not prepared to discuss my not yet 24 year old son in terms that should be reserved for someone who has lived a long life and left a better documented trail behind. I don’t want him to have a legacy. I wanted him to have a life.
  • Ignoring his absence in family gatherings. Yes, we’ve added to our number since he left us. But it was never about absolute numbers! It was always about the faces around the table and shared laughter. HIS voice is unique. And I always hear the silent space where it should be no matter how loud and lively the celebration.
  • Weddings and children among his friends. No, I’m not sad at all that these precious people are living life, expanding their families and doing all the things young folks SHOULD do. But even as I rejoice for every single exciting milestone I also mourn the fact that I will never have the same opportunity with Dominic.
  • The smaller and smaller space Dominic occupies in daily life as time goes by. This is simply a function of human existence. Over six years of life have come and gone since he was here to make a memory, share a meal, comment on social media, be included in photographs. I can force the issue and bring him up in conversation or have someone hold a giant picture of him for family portraits but that is not. at. all. the. same.
  • Unexpected and unanticipated grief triggers. I still gasp inside when I see a young man speeding by on a motorcycle. Mention of certain topics, plans, courses of study take me straight back to conversations I had with Dom about what he wanted to do when he finished law school. Sometimes it’s the smell of soap or shampoo or coffee or grilled chicken-all things I strongly associate with his last couple years on earth and his first apartment.
  • Photographs of myself this side of child loss. Other people can say what they will but I see the toll grief has taken on my body, in my eyes and in the way my smile lies lopsided on my face. I want all the pictures I can get! I’ve learned too late that begging off because I’m not in the right clothes or don’t want to stop long enough to snap the photo is a mistake. But I’ve yet to line up for one where I didn’t feel Dom’s absence and wish he were there.
  • Crowds and unfamiliar places. I can’t claim to ever have loved being smashed together with others unless it were family. I used to be able to tolerate it better though. I guess it’s my last ditch effort to carve out control in a world that feels out of control that I avoid large groups and unfamiliar places. I can feel my heart pound faster at even the thought of such a thing.

I know specific circumstances and life experience make each heart’s tender places a little different.

Mine may not be yours.

I don’t expect (really, truly, do not expect!) that everyone (or even anyone) around me might take note of my own.

But I am still tender. And I may well still react.

Bruises are bruises even when we try hard to cover them up or protect them.

Oh, How I Miss His Voice! Silent Echoes Haunt My Heart.

I try to limit the time I spend perusing old photos and old social media posts of my missing son.

I’ve learned that while they remind me of sweet memories and happy times they also prick my heart in ways nothing else can.

I was looking for something specific the other day and had to scroll through Dominic’s Facebook page to find it. As I did, I began reading some of the back and forth comments under the posts and pictures.

This time it wasn’t what was said or where the photos were taken that hurt my heart.

Instead it was the tiny little time stamp underneath the words that took my breath away.

Nothing more recent than five years ago was recorded.

Because that’s when his voice went silent.

Read the rest here: I Miss Your Voice: Silent Echoes Haunt My Heart

Trying To Remember In a World That Forgets-The Gap Grows

I’ve written before about how I choose to leave some things just as Dominic left them-even over six years later.

It’s my way of maintaining physical space in our home that represents the space in my heart where only he can fit.

It’s also more than that.

As time progresses, nearly every other tangible evidence that Dominic existed is being worn away.

Read the rest here: And The Gap Grows: Trying To Remember In a World That Forgets

Another Bend In The Road

Life may be a highway but it’s not a straight one.

It’s full of bends, curves, switchbacks and long stretches with distant horizons.

For a gal who likes knowing where she’s headed and how long it might take to get there, it’s more than a little challenging.

Sometimes I’d want to get out and camp on the side of life’s highway, take a pause and just catch my breath before the next set of roller coaster hills forces me to hold on tight for the ride.

In nearly fifty-seven years I’ve hardly ever been able to do that. So here I am, barreling down the road again toward more curves and more changes.

My youngest son and my husband are on their way right now from the Left Coast driving a truck toward home. When they get here we’ll have to unload an apartment full of stuff from my hubby’s place out there into our already pretty stuffed house. We’ve lived a lot of life in these walls and I readily admit I’m a saver of memories and things that signify special moments.

So while they were packing and loading, I’ve been cleaning around here.

It’s been physically, mentally and emotionally difficult to drag my body and heart down memory lane.

A Short Walk Down Memory Lane from the 1990s | Chris Mercer

It’s just so hard-STILL– to touch things Dominic once touched and it takes my breath away. My heart has broken again over not only losing HIM but also losing the family I once had. We’ve all changed so. very. much. A mother can’t help but wonder if life for my surviving children might not be much brighter and easier if their brother were still here to share it.

Tiny bits of this and that force me to face things I’ve forgotten (sometimes on purpose) and feel things I’ve suppressed. It’s a grueling process.

I’ve had to take multiple breaks and simply walk away from the mess I’m creating in an effort to organize and downsize but I know it will be worth it in the end.

So I’ll keep on keeping on.

I’m sure this curve won’t be the last one.

Retirement here we come!

My Child Existed. He Matters.

I hid this post in my draft folder for months before I published it the first time.

It seemed too raw, too full of all the pain inside my mama heart to put out in the wide world for everyone to see.

And then it was time (like now) to change the flowers on the place where my son’s body rests and I couldn’t stand it anymore.

I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs, “THIS IS NOT ALL THERE IS OF MY BOY!” I wanted to stop people on the street and make them listen to his story, to give away a piece of him for others to carry in their hearts.

My son is not a number or a statistic or only a memory.

He is integral to my story, blood of my blood and flesh of my flesh–part of my life.

I rest assured he lives in heaven with Jesus but I miss him here with me. That’s selfish, I know.  But I can’t seem to help it.

Read the rest here: You Existed, You Exist

What SHOULD I Say and Do For My Grieving Friends or Family?

I have learned so much since that day when Dominic left us suddenly for Heaven.

Some of the things I know now are things I wish I didn’t know at all.

But some serve me well-not only in how I respond to my own pain and loss-but also how I respond to the pain and loss in the lives of those I love.

Read the rest here: So What SHOULD I Say or Do For My Grieving Friends or Family?

Why Don’t I Feel A Thing? Sometimes Grief = Numb.

Many bereaved parents will tell you that after the initial shock of loss hits hard, a blessed numbness falls over a heart.

It happened to me.

The pain was still there, of course, but a fog descended that allowed me to maintain some distance between what I was feeling deep down and what I had to do in order to get through the decisions and days that follow death.

Nighttime was still hard because when the house went dark and quiet, all the emotion I’d managed to push away in the daylight came flooding back. I spent months falling into fitful sleep with tears on my pillow.

And then the fog lifted.

I’m not sure how long it was that I sobbed uncontrollably for some portion of every day and some days all day long.

A whiff of fresh air reminded me Dominic no longer drew breath into his lungs. A random sound upstairs or outside jolted my heart into hoping maybe, just maybe, he was coming home. Everywhere my eyes landed held a memory that screamed, “He was here! Where is he now?”

I felt everything. All the time. No respite.

It was exhausting.

But at some point-maybe in the middle or toward the end of the second year-a blanket of profound emotional silence wrapped itself around my heart and I could not feel a thing.

Really.

Not one single thing.

I could conjure up appropriate facial expressions so those around me didn’t have a clue. I could remember what I was supposed to feel. I could almost-almost-touch a spot deep inside that used to feel. But if there had been a meter on my heart it would have displayed a flat line.

This was more frightening than the prospect of living with overwhelming sorrow and pain for the rest of my life. I didn’t want to hurt like that forever but I didn’t want to give up feeling love and happiness and excitement and awe either.

I don’t really know how long that lasted.

Maybe most of a year, I think.

And then one day I realized some color had crept back into my daily life.

I was beginning to look forward just a bit to a date on the calendar. A smile crossed my lips without effort in response to a joke. Sadness once again took up residence in my heart next to the place Dominic always lived. But joy eased its way in around the edges.

I’ve thought long and hard about that season of “un-feeling”.

Why did my heart shut down? Why the long silence when no emotion pierced my soul?

I think it was necessary.

I think a body and mind and heart can’t operate for too long at warp speed. I think that just like fainting is a response to the brain needing oxygen, numbness is a response to the soul’s need for respite and time to heal.

So if you are in the season of numb, you’re neither crazy nor alone.

It, too, will pass.

Feeling will find its way once again to your heart. Pain, yes, but also joy.

When you are ready.

Nothin’ Easy About Death

I wrote this post a year ago after my mother joined Dominic in Heaven. Her passing reminded me once again (as if my heart needed reminding!) that there ain’t nothing easy about death.

One year later and I’m no more willing to pretend it’s anything but awful even as I’m resigned to admit there’s nothing I can do about it.

I miss you both so very much.

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.

Read the rest here: Ain’t Nothing Easy About Death

Living Between What I Know and What I Can’t Comprehend

It’s easy to imagine when sitting in a safe place surrounded by other believers that if tragedy should visit my home, my faith would remain rock solid and unshakeable.

After all, I stuffed my head and heart with truth, kept a prayer journal, wrote out Scriptures and jotted notes and dates in the margin of my Bible.

I put on the full Armor of God and raised my children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Our family didn’t just attend church, we served the Body of Christ inside and outside the four walls of the building.

But when the knock came and the words from the deputy flew at me and pierced my heart, I unraveled.

Not at first, mind you.

Oh, I screamed and couldn’t catch my breath. I fell to my knees and barely made it to the sofa where I had to make phone calls. I was shaking and crying.

Still, a blessed numbness fell over me and my first Facebook posts and my first words to friends and family affirmed my belief that God was still in control and we would somehow make it through. It was reflex to lean in and take hold of the faith that had carried me that far.

I clung to the only life raft I could see in that awful storm.

It really wasn’t until a few weeks later, when my heart and mind began to fully comprehend the neverness of Dom’s return that the questions started.

I soon realized that if my faith was to endure, I had to examine everything I thought I knew about God and how He worked in the world in light of child loss.

Platitudes and hand-me-down interpretations of Scripture were not going to be enough.

So I brought the questions to God Himself in prayer and pleading, in whispers, shouts and writing. I sat silent waiting for His response and I searched the pages of my Bible looking for new insight into old, familiar passages.

I got some answers.

But not all of them.

And I had to decide what to do with that.

My heart is utterly, absolutely convinced that God is a good God, a faithful Father and the trustworthy Savior of my soul. He is all-knowing, all-powerful and ever-present. He knows the end from the beginning and I can trust Him to work all things (even child loss) for good.

So I’ve learned to still my spirit, to quiet my heart’s restless quest for answers and abide in the arms of my Shepherd.

I will live in the mysterious space between what I know and what I can’t comprehend.

I will wait patiently for the answers or until eternity when my pain is redeemed and what is lost restored and the answers won’t matter.

Because they who wait on the Lord will never be put to shame.