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. 

Unwashed.

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.  

 

What is Safe?

I remember as a  young mother of four working hard to keep my kids safe. 

dominic and siblings little children at nannys

Next to fed and dry (two still in diapers!) that was each day’s goal:  No one got hurt.  

It never occurred to me THEN to add:  No one got killed.  

Because the most outlandish thing I could imagine was one of them falling or touching a hot stove and us having to rush to the emergency room.

Then I became a mother of teens and one by one they acquired a driver’s license and motored away from our home.  

That’s when I began to beg God to spare their lives.

One particularly frightening test was when all four went to Louisiana-my eldest driving and the rest in the van with her.  I made them call me every hour and tell me they were OK.  It was the first time I realized that I could lose every one of them in a single instant should they crash-all my eggs in one basket.

I was glad when that day was over.  Although the irony is they were no “safer” at the end of those 24 hours than they were at the beginning.

Because what I know now, but didn’t know then is this:  There is no such thing as “safe”

Not the way we like to think of it-not the way we add labels to devices, seat belts to cars, helmets to everything from bicycles to skateboards.  Of course we should absolutely take precautions!  Many lives are saved by them every single day.  

But.  BUT…

Life is more random than we want to admit.  And there is no defense against random. 

There is no way to screen for every underlying physical abnormality, no way to drive so well you can stop the drunk or inattentive driver from plowing through a stop sign, no way to anticipate every foolish choice a young person might make that ends in disaster instead of a funny story.

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My first response when Dominic died driving his motorcycle was that I wanted my surviving sons to sell theirs.  They did so out of respect for me.  Neither of them wanted their mama to have to endure a second knock on the door and the same message delivered twice.

I receive it as a sacrifice offered in love from them. 

Because it was.  

Since Dominic left us almost four years ago, I have had to deal with my desperate need to keep my living children safe. 

And it is a real struggle.

Each child is involved in a career that includes inherent risk.  None of them are foolhardy, but they are exposed-perhaps more than many-to potential bad actors and dangerous circumstances.

julian and branch in snow
This branch fell just minutes after my son was standing in that spot splitting logs.

How I long for those days when I could tuck everyone in, turn out the lights and sleep soundly because all my chicks were safe inside my own little coop!  How I wish the only danger I thought about or knew about was a bump on the head from hitting a coffee table!

How my heart aches for one more moment of blissful ignorance!

But I can’t live in some imagined water color past.  I have to live in the world as it is.  

So I remind my heart that safe is an illusion-no matter where we are.  Life is not living if it’s only about preserving breath and not about making a difference.

And I let go.  

Over and over and over.

I release them  to be who they were meant to be. 

Even if it costs more than I am willing to give.  

fiona james and julian at james wedding by water

 

 

Repost: On The Edge

I wish that I could mark my heart’s healing like I can mark my body’s healing after surgery-wound closes, scar remains, function returns, and forget about it.

But I can’t.

This journey is like walking those narrow ledges on the side of a mountain-doable, but requiring careful attention lest I fall off.

So far, so good.

But I hate days when my attention is drawn back to the threat of falling instead of the journey itself.

Almost three years [now four] and here I am-

still on the edge.

On the edge of an anxiety attack.

On the edge of the cliff of deep sorrow and darkness that threatens to swallow every thing bright in my life.

Read the rest here:  On The Edge

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

Parenting After Loss: Giving Surviving Siblings Permission to Live

I wrote this post about things I’m learning almost two years ago.

A couple of the things I’m learning are:

There is no limit to the pain you may have to endure this side of heaven.

Lightning can strike twice in the same place, and fear of what you know by experience trumps fear of the unknown by miles.

I’ve buried one child, I do not want to bury another.

So one of the biggest struggles I face is how to parent my surviving adult children.  I do not want their lives circumscribed by my fears.

Are we ALL changed by Dominic’s death?  Absolutely!  But they are young, at the beginning of life and making choices about direction and life partners and what they want out of the years stretching before them. 

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I pray every day they will make those choices from a place of freedom and hope instead of a place of confinement and fear. 

Can something happen to any one of them?  Of course!  But it is no more likely today than it was three years ago when I didn’t think it could happen at all.

I will not let my mind and heart borrow trouble from tomorrow.  I will choose to focus on today and encourage them to do the same.

While Dominic was here-he LIVED.  

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I want his brothers and sister to be completely free to live too.

losses-and-choices-nouwn

 

 

 

 

Anxiety is Awful!

I’ve written before about anxiety and child loss here.  No matter the cause of death, the FACT of a child’s death seems to create the perfect conditions for a parent’s body and mind to experience anxiety, dis-ease, fear and often a sense of impending doom.

My world was rocked to its foundation the moment I heard the words, “He was killed in a motorcycle accident”.  

The worst thing I could imagine had come true.  

There was no protection from it happening again, no guarantee that THIS unbearable pain would be the ONLY unbearable pain I would have to carry.

I think my body chemistry was instantly transformed that morning to include rapid heartbeats, shallow breathing and a horrible creepy tension that climbs my spine and clenches its claws tightly at the base of my skull.

Before Dominic left us for Heaven I was not an anxious person.

No matter what happened, I generally took it in stride, looked for a solution and moved forward armed with an arsenal of choices to meet the problem head on.

Now, I can be pushed into a corner by an ordinary phone call that lasts too long.  I can feel trapped if a price fails to ring up properly and I have to wait to have it corrected by a head cashier.  I can become positively frantic when I reach in  my purse and can’t find my keys even though I know for a fact I put them there and if I look a bit harder I’ll find them.

Traffic makes my heart go pitter-patter.  The doorbell sends me flying to make sure it’s the UPS man and not another police officer to tell me heartbreaking news.

If I try to multi-task (which I rarely do) I am soon overwhelmed and have to sit down to catch my breath.

I only shop in stores where I’m familiar with the aisles and where products I need are shelved.

I check and re-check directions if I have to go to an unfamiliar address and leave with double the time needed to get there in case I get lost.  Making on-the-fly course corrections doesn’t happen.

I pull off and have to figure out where I am.

And heaven forbid the phone rings past midnight -I wake with a start and even a wrong number means I won’t sleep for the rest of the night.

This is not “worry”.  It’s not “borrowing trouble from tomorrow”.  It is not an indication that my faith is weak or I’m “caving in” to my feelings.

It’s an uncontrollable physiological response to various stimuli.

So please, please don’t judge me or other bereaved parents for making choices about where we go, when we go and how much we go-most of the time we are anticipating an anxious response and trying to beat it.  

We are doing the best we can.  

Honest.

courage doesn't always roar male liion

I Get It-I Really DO Get It.

I write a lot about what bereaved parents (me!) wish others knew or understood about child loss and this Valley we are walking.  And I am thankful for every person outside the child loss community who chooses to read and heed what I write.

But I want to take a minute to tell those of you who are not part of this awful “club” that I get it-I really do get itwhen you need to put distance between yourself and me or other people walking a broken road.

We all love to think that life is a never-ending ascent toward bigger, better and more enjoyable moments.

Our children are born and we think only of their future, not their future deaths. We plan for retirement never imagining that some dreadful disease may keep us from enjoying that nest egg we so carefully set aside.

So when my son died-or your friend’s daughter died-it was an affront to the way you want to think about how the world works.  It’s an unavoidable reminder that we are not in control, no matter how many plans we make.

Trust me, if I could, I’d run away from it too.  

I’d turn down the other aisle in the grocery store to avoid coming face-to-face with tears. I’d take me out of my own Facebook newsfeed so that the sad posts of recycled photos didn’t upset my morning coffee.  I’d change my pew or enter the sanctuary from another door to make sure I didn’t run into me and have to say something when I had no idea what to say.

I’d let days, weeks, months slip by between phone calls and then convince myself that really, I wasn’t ignoring my friend, I was “giving her space”.

I really, really do get it.

I am a reminder that no one is immune to tragedy.  I am a walking, talking advertisement for the unpredictability of life.  

My life is your worst nightmare.

And who wants to face that?

losing a child is unimagineable every persons worst nightmare