Shadows and Celebrations

One of my children told me recently that every celebration and holiday over the past few years had a shadow over it. 

I know.

But I can’t help it.

I wish I could find a light bright enough to drive out the shadows.

But there isn’t.

I’m trying.  Really, truly trying.  I want to be able to join in without reserve, without that still small voice whispering, “This won’t last”, in my head.

Because that’s really the shadow, isn’t it?

Not *just* the one who is missing, the incomplete family photo, the empty chair at the dinner table-but the fact that I know, know, know what I didn’t used to know.

I know life is fleeting and death can come for anyone at any time.

I wish I could forget that lesson.

Because that is what casts the longest shadow.

you think you have forever but you don't

 

Repost: Grief is a Family Affair

One of the things I absolutely LOVED about having four kids was the way they pinged off one another.  There were evenings when the comments were flying so fast I could barely keep up.  Sly looks, secret texts, funny faces and friendly punches made up most of our times together.

That’s how families are-each person is just a little “more” when surrounded by folks that love and understand him or her.  

When Dominic left us, we didn’t only lose HIS companionship, we also lost the part of each of us that was reflected back from him.

Read the rest here:  Grief is a Family Affair

No Substitute for My Missing Child

Bereaved parents hear lots of things from folks who truly do wish to bring comfort but often miss the mark by a mile.

One of them goes something like this, “Well, at least you have your other children (and/or grandchildren) and they need you!”

Now, if they gave it a bit of thought, they would know right away that’s at best an uninformed remark and at worst, a very painful one.

before you tell a grieving parent to be grateful which of yours could you live without

People are not interchangeable.  

There is no substitute for my son.  

He is a unique individual who holds a unique space in my heart.  

dominic at olive garden

As much as I rejoice in my surviving children and look forward to grandchildren, no one else can take his place.  

It’s little comfort to think that no matter how large our family circle grows in years to come, it will always-ALWAYS– be a broken circle.

The place where Dominic should be, but isn’t, will remain unfilled. 

I will never stop missing him.  

Never.  

missing child from arms

 

 

When Your First Thought Is, “Oh No, Not Again!”

Last night I woke to my youngest son’s ringtone at nearly midnight.

I missed the call but when I looked, realized it was the third time he’d tried.  

My heart skipped several beats as I dialed him back only to have it go directly to voicemail.  I tried again and a second later, he answered.

“What’s wrong??!!!”

(Because he never calls me late at night unless something is wrong!)

Julian was downstairs at the front door and needed me to let him in because he’d received some odd texts from his dad- a series of random letters and emojis scrolled across his screen.

He’d tried to call him.  No answer. 

Tried texting him back.  No message except more of the same random letters and images.  

So he drove over from his house just a few miles away, the whole time running a dozen scenarios through his head.

  • “Is dad having a stroke? Mom is asleep upstairs and won’t know.”
  • “Is someone in the house and dad’s only able to randomly swipe his thumb on the screen trying to ask for help?”
  • “Why won’t mom answer her phone?  Do they have her too?”

Five miles and ten minutes is a lifetime when all you can think of is another family member needing help- or worse.  

As I was coming downstairs to let Julian inside, my husband woke up and asked me what was wrong.  We got to the door at the same moment and let our big, burly bear of a son inside.

It took him a split second to realize that all was well and then it poured outthe fear, the panic, the intense self-control necessary not to simply break down the door and barge in, the pent up grief that lives inside each one of us since Dominic left and is always about to spill out and over when we think of another loss.  

He melted into his dad’s arms.  

This is how our hearts are wired since that morning nearly five years ago. 

When the thing you never think will happen, happens, it becomes the first thing you think of when you can’t get in touch with someone. 

Panic is always a breath away.  

family never gets over the death of a loved one

 

New Year’s Eve and Auld Lang Syne

There is something about the song, “Auld Lang Syne” that strikes a chord in the hardest heart.  

You don’t have to understand the words to understand the meaning behind them.  

“Should old acquaintance be forgot and days of auld lang syne?”

Every new year since Dominic left us my heart screams, “NO!” in answer to that question.  We CAN’T forget!

But we do.  No matter how carefully I mine the memories, I find the details beginning to escape me. 

I have boxes of photographs but even nearly five years out I find some of them too hard to look through.  When I see the innocent laughing eyes in pictures of six year old Dominic it breaks my heart.  Why oh why was I worried about so many things other than simply experiencing life in the moment?

But then I bring my heart back to reality and sternly tell myself that I had no idea what the future held.

And that’s really the crux of it, isn’t it? 

We don’t know what tomorrow will bring.  We plot and plan and hope and dream but in the end we have very little control over how our story ultimately plays out.

So we are left each New Year’s Eve with some good memories, some not so good ones and some we cling to like gold from a treasure chest because they are all we have.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot and days of auld lang syne?

Never. 

As long as this heart beats. 

I will not forget.   

Are There Any Gifts in Grief?

It was a long time before I wanted to believe that I received any gifts worth keeping from this life I didn’t choose.

I knew I had tears, pain, agonizing sorrow, loss, heartache, dashed hopes, empty arms.

If I could give those back and regain my son, I would do it in less than a heartbeat.

I can’t, so I’m left here to ponder what else I’ve received from burying a child.

Read the rest here:  Grace Gifts of Grief

Just Yesterday and Forever

The human heart is a funny thing-always working hard to protect itself from grievous injury yet prone to exactly what it tries to prevent.

I honestly believe that one of the gifts of early grief is disbelief.  Because if I could have understood at once what it meant that Dominic was really, truly GONE, I would have never lasted the first 24 hours.

Even now, going on five years, my head plays games with my heart.

Missing my son is very much like bringing him home except in reverse.

I don’t know about you, but each child added to our quiver slipped in and seemed like he had always been there.  It was nearly impossible to remember life before he joined us.  I knew, as a matter of FACT, that months and even years had passed without him there, but it was so natural, so beautiful, so perfect now that he was here, the before faded in the background of the after.

It’s much the same way now that he’s gone.  

Nature abhors a vacuum and so does the human mind and heart.  The spaces I was able to keep sacred to Dominic’s memory (or maybe because some part of my heart held out hope he’d return) are slowly being filled in by people and events and things that he’s never met, participated in or touched.  They crowd out the Sacred Spaces I have worked hard to maintain.

And bit by bit it’s as if it’s always been THIS way.  

Only it hasn’t.  

I’m not forgetting my son.  That will NEVER happen.  But I am losing the daily pathways that once helped me trace his fingerprints on my life, my belongings and my heart.  

And that makes me sad.  

I’m trying hard to find new ways to keep him current, part of everyday conversation, events and gatherings.  I want his name mentioned as naturally as that of my other children.  I want the funny things he used to do remembered and recounted.  I want my oldest son’s child to know Uncle Dominic as well as his or her other aunts and uncles.

There are still moments, days and even a week here and there, when it feels like only yesterday that Dominic left for Heaven.  The pain is as fresh, as intense, as unbelievable as it was when I got the news. 

That shocks me every time.  

But most days I’m digging deep to tap old memories, working hard to weave his story into our ongoing story and looking for ways to keep his legacy alive for the generation to come.  

Time is a funny thing.

Yesterday AND forever.