Ask. Don’t Assume.

I’ll confess right here on the world wide web that I tend to go along to get along.

It’s a terrible and odd twist that the son who always encouraged me to speak up for myself has accomplished his goal by his absence.

Since Dominic left for Heaven I’m learning to ask questions I’d never dare ask before.

When someone does something or doesn’t do something, instead of assuming motives or assigning blame, I ask them why. It doesn’t always end well, but it’s worth the risk.

Most of the time I find the person has anticipated (often mistakenly) that his or her behavior, choices or words are helpful. Truly, family and friends are not usually out to hurt my heart.

Now, I admit in the beginning I didn’t care whether it was accidental or purposeful. I was already so burdened that any additional stress or strain was more than I could bear. I wanted people to put themselves in my shoes.

Truth is, they can’t.

All the times I IMAGINED what it might feel like to have a child run ahead to Heaven didn’t even come close to how it actually felt. All the scripts that played in my head when someone was late checking in, coming home or assuring me of safe arrival when traveling can’t hold a candle to the REALITY of a son never ever coming home again.

It’s not fair (but what about child loss IS fair?) that I have to educate others as I’m learning myself.

It’s simply reality.

I liken it to being forced to lead in a dance I don’t know to music I can’t stand to hear.

So I ask.

And I’m often surprised by the answers.

In utter innocence and genuine sympathy some friends and family make decisions they honestly think are good ones.

None of us has a road map for this journey-neither we who travel the road nor those who walk alongside us. It’s uncharted territory.

I would rather err on the side of love and grace then build walls between my heart and the ones I have left here on earth.

Sure it hurts.

But most things this side of child loss do.

I refuse to sacrifice relationship on the altar of grief.

“I Lost My Child Today” by Netta Wilson

My son’s death is a moment in time, a date on the calendar, a thing of the past for other people.

I understand that.

But for me, it’s an ongoing event.

Every time Dominic SHOULD be here but isn’t I lose him again.

Every milestone he should be marking but doesn’t I lose him again. Every Christmas, every birthday, every ordinary day when something funny happens or I want to send him a text or message, I lose him again. Every time I need his advice and insight, I lose him again.

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I didn’t lose him once, I keep losing him.

Over and over and over again.

I lost my child….Today

… I lost my child today. 

People came to weep and cry, 

As I just sat and stared, dry eyed. 

They struggled to find words to say, 

To try and make the pain go away, 

I walked the floor in disbelief, 

I lost my child today.

I lost my child last month. 

Most of the people went away, 

Some still call and some still stay. 

I wait to wake up from this dream. 

This can’t be real. 

I want to scream. 

Yet everything is locked inside, 

God, help me, I want to die. 

I lost my child last month.

I lost my child last year. 

Now people who had come, have gone. 

I sit and struggle all day long. 

To bear the pain so deep inside. 

And now my friends just question, Why? 

Why does this mother not move on? 

Just sits and sings the same old song. 

Good heavens, it has been so long. 

I lost my child last year.

Time has not moved on for me. 

The numbness it has disappeared. 

My eyes have now cried many tears. 

I see the look upon your face, “She must move on and leave this place.” 

Yet I am trapped right here in time, 

The songs the same, as is the rhyme, 

I lost my child……Today.”

Netta Wilson

Full of Joy and Safe in His Father’s Arms

I’ve mothered things all my life.  

Kittens, puppies, hamsters, other people.  

And then I had my very own children. 

What a privilege to pour my life into them!  What joy to see them grow and mature and become people I not only loved but admired and respected!

dominic and siblings little children at nannys

I learned so very much while raising my children.  The Lord used them to shape and mold my heart to be more like His.  They were instruments of grace and discipline.  Over and over and over I had to lay down my preferences and priorities to make way for theirs.

Now I have a grandson. 

ryker hands up and paci (2)

Another generation to snuggle and teach, comfort and care for.  

I’m already learning even more in this season.  

This little guy’s early and rocky start in life reignited passion for prayer in mine.  Watching him grow and thrive sparks hope and joy like I haven’t felt in the years since Dominic left us for Heaven.

His smile lights up my heart and the room.

Just the other day his daddy shared this picture with me:  

ryker smiling big in daddys arms

James Michael was being silly with him, oohing and aahing and making him giggle.

As I stared at the photo I realized this child was experiencing such joy, such complete contentment, fulfillment and utter sense of safety it was uncontainable.

So it spread all over his face.  

Then I had an epiphany-that’s exactly what Dominic feels right now. 

This very minute the child I am missing is missing nothing.  Precisely when I am wondering if God cares, if He hears, if He’s even near, Dominic is filled to overflowing with undeniable and uncontainable joy because what I hope for he SEES. 

And one day that will be me. 

All the heartache of this life will fade away to a tiny, tiny dot in the distance.  What has been stolen will be restored.  What has been bartered away will be redeemed.  Wounds will be fully healed and my heart will be whole.  

I’ll be full of joy and safe in my Father’s arms.  ❤

no eye has seen no ear has heard

 

 

 

The Penalty and Gift of Love

Love is risky business.  

There’s no way to guarantee you’ll escape unscathed.  

And a broken heart can make us oh, so afraid to try again.  

I get it.  

My heart was absolutely, totally shattered when that deputy knocked on my door and delivered the news. 

But I refuse to lock my love in a vault so my heart can be safe.  

Because life without love isn’t life.  ❤

IMG_7791

Bereaved Parents Month Post: The Missing Never Ends

I’ve learned that there are new things to miss even five years down this road of child loss.  

I’ve learned that any odd moment, random smell, taste,touch, or occasion can pierce that place in my heart that screams, “Dominic should be here!”.  

I’m also learning additional ways his absence continues to shape the family we have NOW.   Dom’s absence continues to impact decisions, expectations, hopes and dreams TODAY.

I miss family photos when I don’t count heads and note unfilled spaces.  It’s not just Dom I’m yearning for.  I long for us to all be together-no one missing.  It’s a little easier (sometimes) when one or more of us aren’t able to make a particular trip or event because then it’s not ONLY Dominic gone from the frame.

But truth be told, I can’t stop my heart from looking and hoping that this time, it’ll be different. 

This time, we’ll be whole. 

wedding our family

I miss the ease with which I used to toss together family meals, social occasions and holiday gatherings.  I’ve always LOVED making things special and never minded cooking buckets of food.  I used to plan weeks in advance-gathering recipes, ideas, decorative items and sometimes little gifts or favors for those who attended.  I checked with folks for dietary preferences or allergies.  It was a joy even when it exhausted me because I loved shaping spaces and experiences to strengthen family ties.

I miss waking up and facing a new day without reservation or trepidation.  I’m a sunrise kind of gal.  I used to turn my face toward the big picture window in our living room waiting for first light to dawn and the day to get going.  Fresh start.  New opportunities.

It took awhile but some days I can do that.

Still there are many days I watch the trees come into focus knowing daylight can’t always lift the darkness in my heart.  

winter sunrise pines and zeke filter

I miss turning corners in my house or walking on my land encountering only good memories, happy reverie and hope that tomorrow would bring more of the same.  When we moved here over twenty years ago, it felt like home.  Plenty of space for children to run, exciting adventures discovering woods, water and animal life abounded.  There are so, so many memories everywhere I turn.  Memories used to spark hope for more.  Now they are silent witness to the line that demarcates our lives into BEFORE and AFTER.

I miss the certain assurance when someone doesn’t pick up the phone or answer a text that “all is well”.  We have always been a family on the move.  It sounds ridiculous today, but a driver’s license was the ticket to a personal cell phone when my kids were growing up.  As each one gained the privilege of driving away alone, we made sure they had a way to call and let us know they arrived safely.  If I called them and there was no answer, it was a good hour or two before my heart went into overdrive and my mind imagined all the horrible possibilities.

Now I make that trip in seconds or minutes despite any logic that can easily explain it away.  

cell phone in hand huffpost

I miss having energy to spare.  I know part of my energy drain is simply age.  I’m not so cocky as to assume the years don’t play a role in slowing me down.  But I know that’s only half (or less!) of it.  The constant effort to edit, direct, control and contain my words, thoughts and emotions sucks the life right out of me.  What used to easily be a one hour job takes two.  And projects I could whip together in a day require a week or more.  Discouragement makes me sad and tired.  So the cycle continues.

sleep doesnt help if your soul is tired

I miss sound sleep and good dreams.  Right after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven I could barely sleep at all.  There was no escaping awful scenes playing across my closed eyelids.  Eventually I was able to lull my mind into a kind of calm and sleep a little.  Five years later I rarely sleep more than two hours at a stretch without waking.  While I usually roll over and doze off again, I never get the kind of restorative rest I really need.

Dreams are another matter altogether. 

They are often full of jumbled bits that leave me unsettled and full of dread.  

I miss making plans for next month or next year without the silent caveat that we just can’t be sure they will come to pass.  A large calendar hanging prominently in our kitchen was my go-to for keeping track of crazy family schedules and commitments for decades.  I took it down a day after Dominic died and didn’t hang another for over two years.  I couldn’t bear to turn page after page knowing Dominic’s name would never show up again except in reference to him being gone.  I have one now.  But while I still write things in different colored pen (easier to see and track) my mind knows every single plan is really just penciled in.

Until the day comes or the moment arrives, my heart holds it lightly.  

calendar

I miss saying innocent good-byes.  I was never the crying mom waving a handkerchief as my kids made their way down the long driveway to the larger world.  I always missed them, of course.  But the goal was to raise independent persons capable of doing things, going places and living their own lives.  So a good strong hug, a kiss on the cheek, “I love you” and they were off leaving a smiling mama behind.  It never occurred to me that THIS time could be the LAST time I touched or talked to them.

Now, every good-bye is sacred.  Every hug a prayer.  

I miss hearing Dominic’s name in casual conversation.  Oh, we still talk about him.  But it’s not the same.  Sometimes it’s awkward and leads to odd pauses.  Most times it’s more natural.  Always it’s with sad recognition that instead of memories we should be sharing fresh stories of adventure.

rememberers

I appreciate each new day I’m given. 

I take nothing for granted because I know how quickly and easily it can be snatched away.

But my heart can’t help but long for the way things used to be and yearn for the way things would be if Dominic were still here.  

fiona and brandon wedding memorial flowers
In memory of Dominic from an anonymous friend for Fiona’s wedding. Photo by Katie Jewell Photography

 

 

A Perfect Poem- “Heavy” by Mary Oliver

I’m thankful when I come across words that express what my heart feels but can’t find a way to speak aloud.  

This poem is perfect.  

“That time
I thought I could not
go any closer to grief
without dying

I went closer,
and I did not die.
Surely God
had his hand in this,

as well as friends.
Still, I was bent,
and my laughter,
as the poet said,

was nowhere to be found.
Then said my friend Daniel,
(brave even among lions),
“It’s not the weight you carry

but how you carry it –
books, bricks, grief –
it’s all in the way
you embrace it, balance it, carry it

when you cannot, and would not,
put it down.”
So I went practicing.
Have you noticed?

Have you heard
the laughter
that comes, now and again,
out of my startled mouth?

How I linger
to admire, admire, admire
the things of this world
that are kind, and maybe

also troubled –
roses in the wind,
the sea geese on the steep waves,
a love
to which there is no reply?”

-Mary Oliver, “Heavy” from Thirst.

empty boots in field