Orlando: Beyond the Headlines

Let me begin by saying I purposely remove myself from the 24/7 news cycle that beats our ears and tries hard to hammer hearts into whatever shape a particular organization deems most meritorious.

So it is no surprise that I was unaware of the Orlando tragedy until well into the day on Sunday.

And I don’t know what the pundits and politicians or social media gurus are saying.

I only know how it feels.  

I know how it feels to have an officer come to your door and tell you that your child is never coming home.

I know how it feels to receive the devastating news that whatever you said the last time you saw or spoke to your child is the LAST thing you will ever have the opportunity to say to them.

I know how it feels to stand, dumbstruck and reeling, with the instant realization that your world has been wrecked beyond repair-To have to whisper to your heart, “you’ve got to make calls, make connections, make arrangements”.

Oh! My!  

Why, why, why can we not as a nation simply step back and embrace those who have lost so much instead of standing on the ruins of their lives and posturing for ratings, rankings and political, social or moral agendas????

I wrote before, when commenting  here on the incident at the Cincinatti zoo:

If we covered the stories of families who have lost children with the same zeal and creative journalism as we do the lives and deaths of endangered animals, that would change.

If the despair, heartbreak, brokenness and utter horror of bereaved parents’ lives were on display like the sickening piles of poached elephants and rhinos then at least we could have a discussion that was more informed and even-tempered.

We are a death avoidant culture-we splatter gore across the screen in video games and movies-but we DO NOT discuss the ongoing impact loss has on the ones left behind.

These lives are not numbers, they are not just names or a sweet little synoptic bio plastered on Twitter, Facebook or an AP newswire.  

They are people-with families, friends and loved ones.

There is a single, appropriate response to this tragedydeep mourning for the lives lost to hatred and violent action and prayer for the ones left behind.

I refuse to entertain the musings and posturing of ANYONE who does not first-and for an appropriate length of time-acknowledge the loss of sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers-each a unique creation with an eternal soul.

Tears.

TEARS are what should be filling the airwaves, the streets, our altars.

weep with those who weep

 

 

Unhealthy Denial

Ignoring pain doesn’t make it go away.

The world we live in is a broken place where bad things happen and life can be hard.

Sometimes believers in Christ can convince themselves that admitting their world is dark with pain or suffering or questions diminishes the power of God–that it speaks ill of God or that it means God is insufficient to uphold us in our weakness.

If I pretend that I’m never afraid, or that I never experience darkness, I am denying others my aid.

Even worse, I may be shaming them to silence, sending the message that if they are experiencing pain, something is wrong with THEM.

God of the Day and God of the Night

 

Memorial Day

Dominic was born on Memorial Day, May 28, 1990.  I had spent the weekend working in the yard without a thought that my son would soon be appearing.  He wasn’t due for ten more days and so far, none of my children had been born “early”.

I wasn’t ready!

But he was determined to make his entrance on his own terms.  And that’s pretty much how he did everything.

And then he left us-“early”.

I wasn’t ready for that either.

We celebrate Memorial Day with cookouts and fun family gatherings.  But that isn’t what this day is for.  This day has been set aside to remember those who died serving our country.

In war after war, families across America have been devastated by the deaths of their sons and daughters, many  taken in the prime of life, at the dawn of adulthood.

Almost every family and community has a story of  burying a promising young soul that was sure to make a difference but who never got that chance.

My father served and my son is now serving.

And to all the mothers and fathers whose sons and daughters gave the last full measure for their home and country, I say:

“Thank you for your sacrifice.  Thank you for the love poured into the child that became the brave man or brave woman who would put his or her life on the line for what they believed in. Your toil bore much fruit that continues to bless others today.”  

You have given up what no one has the right to ask of you.

You live with both the honor of your child’s legacy and the horror of your child’s absence.  

memorial day soldiers

And if your child survived the battlefield but could not survive the scars of war, I am so very sorry.

I understand the pain of missing the child you love,  I hear your heart and I am praying for you.

As we gather with our families and enjoy freedom purchased with the blood of sons and daughters, may we REMEMBER.

memorial day how much did all this cost

May we honor the ones who gave everything they had to secure our liberty.

And may we remember the families left behind who can never forget.  

 

The strongest love anyone can have is this. He will die to save his friends.

John 15:13 WE

Do They Have Birthdays in Heaven?

Today would have been Dominic’s twenty-sixth birthday.

He should have been a little over a year out of law school and one year into a career.

Instead, he’s not here.  And he will never be HERE again.

I’m getting pretty good at shifting my focus from the giant hole that is where Dominic is supposed to be to the fullness of the life that still surrounds me.  Not today.

Today the absence of his presence is especially keen.

IMG_2637

 

 

 

 

I miss him.

I miss his smile.

 

I miss his harsh logic that would slice through a conversation like a knife. I miss his noisy descent down the stairs-always snapping his fingers to a rhythm in his head.

I miss his sense of humor.

IMG_2344

I miss his fearlessness.

IMG_1795

I miss his hugs.

IMG_1814

I miss how even though he claimed to “hate” kids, he melted every time one crawled into his lap.

IMG_1798

I miss how he used to launch himself, back first, on my bed to announce he was there to talk for a bit.

I miss how he found special tools to help me in the kitchen when my arthritis kept me from being able to do something I loved.

I miss how he could combine tough talk and smooth BS into cajoling a complaint department to not only fix the problem but throw in a gift card as well “to keep his business”.

I miss being able to call him with my stupid tech questions and have him walk me slowly through the solution (even though I know it frustrated him).

I miss his texts, his calls, his FB messages. I miss his tweets.

IMG_2546

 

I know I’ll see him again someday and that we will never have to say good-bye again.

But until then,  I really, really miss him.  

and so it was that she having waited long

 

A Good Day

 

jm captain

 

Last Friday, my oldest son received his USAF captain’s bars.  True to form, his path to this new achievement was unique and memorable. I’m so very proud of him and of his commitment to excellence.

And that meant that he was leaving San Antonio and headed to Maxwell AFB for Commissioned Officer Training. So he was able to swing by home on Sunday!

 

photo (24)

Sunday afternoon, my kids presented me with this beautiful “Family of Love” necklace for Mother’s Day.  It has all their names and birthstones so I can wear them close to my heart.  I love it!

photo (22)

James Michael brought me flowers-lots of purple, my favorite color.

photo (21)

 

And then we were joined by Joe and Seve, two of Dominic’s good friends from Law School. Joe surprised me with this amazing handmade plate from his recent travels to Turkey. I appreciate the love and support of these fellows and their ongoing commitment to remember Dominic and honor our family.

 

We had Robbie and Jonica over for supper with their new daughter.  I got to cuddle this sweet baby and be reminded that love still lives and life goes on.

photo (19)

 

And no DeSimone adventure would be complete without an “emergency”.  While getting food ready and on the table, we discovered a minor plumbing problem that flooded the downstairs bathroom, the laundry area and into the garage (all downhill-literally and figuratively).

photo (23)

 

So while we girls ate supper, the men worked at repairs.

Just like old times-one boy went in one direction, another went the other way and Julian manned the homefront.  Thankfully, they were able to get things back in working order sooner rather than later.  But not before I exhausted our supply of 24 full-sized “clean-up” towels that were washed in bleach the next day!

 

photo (20)

The evening ended with lots of laughter and plenty of carbs.

And a rare opportunity for a group photo that had me surrounded by all my children within reach. (Thank you, Alison, for snapping the picture!)

We miss you, Dominic.

And we can never stand close enough to squeeze out the giant hole you’ve left.

But we are living like you lived-making the most of the moments-and loving each other.

boys

 

You Just Never Know

Just last week another mother in my community joined the ranks of those who bury a child. Suddenly, unexpectedly, and without warning, her son was gone.

It happens every day.  

We toss a casual “see you later” to the person heading out the door without thinking it might be the last thing we say to them.

matters how you liv

 

I am determined not to live in fear of loss-even though I have experienced it first hand.

But I am also determined to live so that should I lose someone else, they will be assured of this:

 I love them and I value them.

 

 

I don’t take things for granted anymore-What if Tomorrow Never Came?

It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over

I hear you, mama.  That baby toddling away from the security of your arms-you miss those close snuggles and slobbery kisses.  But he’s not really LEAVING, he’s just growing.

cartoon baby

I know, I know.

First day of school blues.

Where did the time go?  How can you drop that little girl off at the front door and trust that her teacher will take care of her as well as mom?  She’s getting older, but she isn’t outside your influence.

cartoon male graduate

Oh my goodness!! Already graduating high school?  Moving out and going to college!  No more daily chats face-to-face across the kitchen table.  No more late night confession sessions.

He’s a young man, pulling away, making big decisions without you, but he’ll be home for Christmas and summer vacation.

 

 

For all you mamas lamenting the passage of time and the upheavals it brings I have a word: It’s NOT over.

Your child is still within reach.  You can call or text or visit.  You can touch his face, hug her neck, hear his voice.

Life is changing but it is still LIFE.

Feeling a little nostalgic for what WAS is perfectly normal.  Most of us humans aren’t that fond of change.

But children are ours for a season, not forever.  

They are given to us as gifts, not possessions.

For some mamas, like me, it really IS over.

The son I brought home from the hospital, the boy I watched grow and mature into a young man, the confident college graduate I saw drive away to start law school-he is gone.

I can’t call or text or visit him.

I can’t forge a different kind of  relationship across the miles or make special arrangements for him to travel home for the holidays.

I can’t make new memories or take new photographs.  I can’t hug his neck or hear his voice.

So it’s OK to feel a little sad that things are changing.  It’s like moving furniture around in the room-you stub your toe in the dark because things aren’t where they used to be.  

But for me, it’s like the house has burned down.

I felt a pinch in my heart every now and then as my children grew and more and more of their lives were spent away from me.  But I also celebrated each milestone, made much (and still do) of each achievement.

I didn’t want them to be frozen in time, stuck on a shelf, kept “small”.

Enjoy the time you have with your babies, with your children, with your teens-embrace the growing independent persons they are becoming.  

As long as they are walking the earth with you, nothing is OVER,  it’s just the beginning of something new.   

caterpillar thought it was over