So This Is What I Looked Like: It’s Hard Watching Another Heart Grieve

Watching my father grieve my mother is the second hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

Grieving my own son, watching my husband and children grieve him too, is the hardest.

I observe Papa’s expression, hear the weariness in his voice, note the far off stare when conversation drifts to mundane and unimportant things and realize that was exactly how I looked and sounded in the first months after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

I love my mama.

And I spent a lot of time with her these past two years since the fall and heart attack that changed everything in August, 2017.

But I was not her daily caregiver. My schedule didn’t revolve around whether or not someone could stay with her so I could go somewhere else-even if it was just down the road-for more than an hour.

One of the last photos we took with Mama. She was so proud of her great-grandson.

I called each day and talked to Papa, checking on them both, but then I was free to do or not do whatever I wanted to without considering her need to be attached to oxygen and her limited endurance to do anything even then.

I tried to be supportive. I made multiple trips down to the farm and tried to give Papa some space and freedom.

That’s just not the same as 24/7 care.

His grief for the wife with whom he spent 58 years is deeper and wider than my heart can understand.

Mama and Papa in the early days.

Just as my grief for the child I had carried, birthed, raised and cared for was impossible for him to fully comprehend.

Dominic is his grandson. And as grandparents go, my parents were extremely involved in my kids’ lives-showing up to not only the important events and occasions but also to many mundane and everyday moments.

But the gap between even frequent visits and daily living is huge.

So while I cannot feel precisely what Papa is feeling about Mama-his wife-I can absolutely understand how very devastating his loss is.

Our losses are different in kind but not in quality.

When I look at him, I’m looking in a mirror.

Grief etched everywhere.

Pain across his forehead.

Heartache painted on his lips.

I am so sad that I am no more able to touch that deep wound and render healing than anyone was able to touch mine and do the same.

No one can do the work he has to do but himself-not even someone who has done the same work in her own life.

All I can offer is to walk with him, no matter how hard it gets, for as long as it takes just like he did (does!) for me. ❤

And The Gap Grows: Trying To Remember In a World That Forgets

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

Sure there are photographs-but even they are growing old while he is not. No fresh adventures captured on phone or film. No new Facebook or Twitter posts. No new anything.

And as he becomes less relevant to other people’s lives, the gap between my experience and their’s grows ever larger.

Because he is just as relevant to my life as he ever was.

I have four children. Dominic is third of four, second of three boys. He is Uncle Dominic to my new grandson although Ryker won’t meet him in this life. He is my encouragement to keep doing hard things because he never allowed difficulty or pain to stop him from doing them.

His absence looms large. Every. single. day.

And sometimes, when it seems the world has forgotten him, when all the bits and pieces of who he was in life and how he touched others are floating away in the ocean of human activity, it looms larger.

So on those days I’m a little weepy.

On those days I may talk of him more.

On those days I might have to pull out the old photos and post them online.

Bear with me, please.

I need others to remember too.

I Want To Be A Light Bearer, Not a Candle Snuffer

We all know those folks-the ones who have a kind word, quick smile and warm hug for everyone they meet.

And we all know the other type-the ones that suck the oxygen out of the room when they walk in and effectively dim any spark of hope a heart might be trying to fan into flame.

I want to be the former, not the latter. 

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/11/02/life-is-hard-speak-courage-to-struggling-hearts/

Remembering Death Teaches Me How To Live

The other day I listened to an NPR interview of Amy Tan, author of the Joy Luck Club among other best-selling titles.

Her brother and father died within an year of one another when she was fifteen.

I was spell-bound as she recounted how that experience shaped her adolescence and still shapes her today.  I identified with things I am observing in my children and things I feel in my own heart.

She said she thinks about death every day.  Not in a morbid sense, but in the sense that she is very aware death is every human’s experience, eventually.

Some of her friends call her paranoid.

Some of my friends call me gloomy.

But she went on to say that thinking about death gave her a precious gift

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2017/10/29/why-i-wont-forget-death-lessons-in-living/

I Need To Tell The Story (Even If You’ve Heard It Before)

I have so much more empathy for older folks since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

I’ve always tried to be a patient listener when hearing that same story over and over and over but have to admit that sometimes I’d drift off or internally mock an elder because I was tired of hearing it.

Not anymore.

Because I understand now that it’s in the telling that one both commemorates and honors people as well as the past.

Me and Aunt Mattie Lou at her 99th birthday.

Stories are how we weave facts into narrative and give them meaning. It’s why so many of us love historical fiction or period dramas that not only reference actual people and events but also peek at emotions, motivation and draw conclusions.

I could hand you my daily calendar and you’d understand the outline of where I was and what I did.

But you wouldn’t know what I thought or felt that day unless I filled it in.

When Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, I was forced at first to deliver the most basic message to others who needed to know. I repeated it over and over, “I have to tell you something awful. Dominic is dead.”

I didn’t really know much more than that.

Details were added by friends and first responders in the days to come.

The story broadened to include how we reassembled our family from across the country, who showed up to help us through the first hours, where we chose to bury him, what the funeral service looked like and on and on and on.

For months afterward I found myself compelled to repeat the story of those days.

Compelled to rewind and play again the details, each time teasing out additional insights, questions and feelings.

It was an important part of unspooling and exploring what, exactly, it meant to live in a world that no longer included one of my children.

I know sometimes folks get tired of me telling the story. For them, it is a reminder of some awful event that is tucked neatly in the past. A date on a calendar somewhere that might occasionally tickle the back of their brain and evoke a, “that’s so sad” response but not something they live with every. single. day.

But for me, Dominic’s death is an ongoing experience.

Every day I have to fit his absence into my world. I have to find a way to live around the giant void where he SHOULD be but ISN’T.

So the story grows.

It’s not only what happened on the day he left, it’s what has happened since and is still happening now.

When you make space for me to tell, you make space for me to feel.

And that helps my heart hold on.

Speak Peace: Today May Be The Only Chance You Get


Just a couple of days before Dominic left us, I and another one of my kids had a fuss.

He was frustrated and stressed and I was vulnerable and stressed and a few stray words ended up hurting my feelings.

I said, “I can’t talk anymore now”,  and hung up the phone in tears.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2016/10/27/speak-your-peace/

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day 2019

It happens in all kinds of ways.

For one reason or another, the tiny life budding in a belly never gets to see the light of day. Never takes a first breath. Never cries. Never opens his or her eyes to the mama waiting to meet her precious one.

So many mamas have experienced the excitement of watching the pregnancy test show positive only to endure days, weeks or months later, the sadness of saying good-bye to a little one they never got to meet.

Statistics tell us that one in four women will become part of this group during their lifetime.

But what statistics can never tell you about anything is why so, so many of the women who survive pregnancy and infant loss don’t talk about it.

Many think they can’t talk about it or shouldn’t talk about it because often the experience is so very personal.

It may be the pregnancy was never announced. It could be that the culture in which a mama lives doesn’t recognize life at conception so, really, what was lost? Perhaps many women in her family have had similar experiences and THEY didn’t “make a big deal” out of it, so why should she?

Then there’s guilt.

So, so much information is shoved into mothers’ faces about what they should and shouldn’t do to promote a healthy pregnancy and birth. Eat this, don’t eat that. Take this, don’t take that. Exercise-but not too strenuously. Drink water. Don’t drink alcohol or too much caffeine.

It’s easy to blame yourself when a baby stops growing.

Some brave mamas carry a baby for months and to the point of birth-see that precious bundle on an ultrasound, hear the heartbeat, watch and feel those legs kick-yet never hear a cry or hold a warm infant in their arms.

That’s a kind of awful no heart should have to bear.

And yet, that loss too is often unacknowledged.

How do you celebrate a life that was lived only inside the comfort and safety of the womb? How do you share a photo of your precious baby when the only one you have (if you have any) is of him wrapped in a blanket, eyes closed, your eyes crying?

If a second pregnancy follows any kind of pregnancy or infant loss, friends and family almost always pounce on the opportunity to push a mama’s heart forward fast and furious to the future of her “rainbow child” making it even less likely her missing baby is acknowledged or remembered.

But she never forgets.

A mama’s heart never lets go of the life that lived inside her.

That tiny baby-one week, one month, full term-is her son or daughter.

Counted among the others.

Just as precious.

Always.

I’m remembering with you, my sweet friends. Tonight I will light a candle along with millions who also remember, to honor the baby I never held. May the multiplied voices and hearts joined together help others hear the message that our child matters.

Every child matters. ❤