Heavy Lifting

Like many families in the United States ours has entirely too much stuff.

Homeschooling four children over twenty years and living in the same house for longer than that added to the pile of memories and tokens tucked in boxes and corners.

This week I decided (along with my youngest son) to tackle a couple of storage buildings we have. It was definitely time to clean out, throw out and pare down the piles.

So together we opened the doors and dug in.

Boxes that hadn’t been opened for years spilled out souvenirs from childhood, teen years and early adulthood. It was tempting to get lost in remembering but the heat of summer spurred us on.

More than once tears threatened and I had to take a deep breath to keep going.

Cleaning out is especially hard on my heart.

Just a couple months before Dominic ran ahead to Heaven I had gone through a ton of homeschooling papers, memorabilia and odds and ends, gleefully culling them down to a few representative bits I thought I’d box or scrapbook into a keepsake for each child.

I filled my truck bed with boxes and boxes and took it to the dump. I enjoyed tossing them on the pile and relished the now organized space left at home.

What felt like freedom then, feels like regret and longing now.

Because what I have left of the physical presence of my son is represented in the scraps I have kept-the clothes, the notes, the scribbled comments in the margins of his notebooks and college texts.

So I’m careful about what gets tossed and what I keep.

And regardless how many bins and boxes I sort through on a given day, I’m exhausted by the end of it.

It’s ALL heavy lifting for my heart even when it’s light in my arms.

This Time Last Year

Oh the blessing of not knowing what’s coming!

This time last year much of my family had just wrapped up several days of boisterous togetherness forced upon us by Hurricane Dorian.

It was the first time Mama and Papa had seen their great-grandson and it was an unexpected blessing to ooh and aah over him, hold him and witness an infant milestone as he perfected the art of turning from his back to his stomach before our eyes.

Mama was energized and so much like her old self singing lullabyes and funny songs and absolutely delighting in him!

We had no way of knowing that in a few short weeks she would be gone.

I’m struggling a bit right now.

It seems that as the days grow shorter the light reflected in my windows mimics the springtime light that reminds my heart of when Dominic left us. The mirror image of his time of leaving and Mama’s time of leaving are not lost on this body.

He ran ahead in spring and she in fall. For those of us who live by the sun and length of day there is a corresponding physical reaction as the golden orb makes its journey through the sky.

I’ve fallen back into the pattern of going to sleep only to be awakened in the middle of the night and unable to go back to sleep. Every dream, every. single. night. has a theme of loss, impotence and deep sadness. I don’t know how to stop it.

Of course my dad has it harder.

I can’t help him any more than he could help me when Dom left us.

All I can do is listen, let him know I absolutely, positively understand and pray that each day he receives sufficient grace and strength to endure.

I know many in the child loss community express that nothing compares to burying a child. I would agree. Out of order death is uniquely traumatic. No parent births a child thinking he or she will outlive that baby brought home from the hospital.

But my mother’s death (the first significant loss since Dom died) has tossed me back on the rocks of grief.

It taps the wound and makes it fresh.

Places I thought were fairly healed are not nearly as scarred over as I thought.

So I’ll walk back through last year, remembering.

Feeling,

Crying,

Acknowledging that death is awful, whenever and however it visits us.

Winds Across My Heart

I’m pretty far past what I call my “season of sorrow” so I don’t really know what came over me the other day.

But somehow the stars aligned or the slant of the sunshine or the smell in the air overwhelmed my heart.

Maybe it’s because Facebook faithfully reminds me of what happened on this date years ago. I know I can adjust the settings but I don’t because it’s both bitter AND sweet to be reminded.

Our family used these napkin rings for years and years. Facebook reminded me there are a thousand ways to miss Dominic.

Maybe it’s because summers in Alabama involve fervent activity before nine in the morning with a long, hot lull until more fervent activity after five in the evening.

I really don’t know.

But that’s one of the conundrums of child loss.

I hit a wall and I had a cry and took a short nap (something I only do about five times a year) and I was better.

I try to manage my days to avoid these things but sometimes a little bit of this and a little bit of that blow winds of nostalgia and regret and longing and missing across my soul.

And all I can do is weather the storm.

Bereaved Parents Month 2020: They’re Not Just “Things”

I was surprised at myself.

When we cleaned out Dominic’s apartment two weeks after he left us, I couldn’t throw away a thing.

Just as Dominic left things when he went out that evening.

Even though it meant boxing it up, carting it down the stairs and loading and unloading it onto our trailer, I DIDN’T CARE.

If it was his, if his hands had touched it, his body worn it or he had placed it in the cabinet or fridge, it was coming with me.

The only thing I left in that space was the empty echo of his fading presence.

I brought all the rest home.

Because these things aren’t just things. They represent some portion of my son-his personality, his preferences, his history and his hopes.

Many are the minutiae that make up a life:

  • scraps of paper tucked inside his briefcase as reminders
  • a dry cleaning ticket in his wallet
  • a legal pad on the table where he was taking notes to study for an exam
  • receipts from recent purchases strewn on the kitchen counter
  • shaving cream, hair products, favorite soap
  • clothes and ties and shoes
  • a fridge full of food he’d chosen for himself
  • the good coffee
  • containers saved from food I’d sent home with him

Of course there were the larger items most folks would think of bringing home if not keeping-furniture, computers, his car, television and stereo.

We put the delicate and temperature sensitive things inside the house.

The rest was placed in a storage building on our property. Every time I opened the door to the building for several years it smelled of Dominic.

I loved it and hated it in one breath.

I’m using his furniture in our living room. His television set is downstairs in the family room. Some of his other things live in his siblings’ homes.

We’ve all found ways to touch what he touched last.

I am slowly getting better at getting rid of some of Dominic’s things.

Just yesterday my husband replaced faucets in the bathroom my boys used growing up. In the process we pulled out stuff from under the deep cabinets.

Tucked in the back were some old bottles of hair gel and other half-used, dried up products that once belonged to my fashion conscious son who was always trying to tame his curly hair.

I grabbed them and tossed them into a plastic trash bag as we prepared to put replace things underneath. I almost pulled them back out.

Sighing, I tied up the bag and took it straight to the big curbside garbage can before I could change my mind.

These things aren’t *just* things.

Every time I get rid of something that was Dominic’s I feel like I’m erasing a little bit more of HIM. I feel like I’m losing one more touchstone to help my mind hold onto memories that might slip away without it.

They are a tangible connection that I can see, smell and touch to a child with whom I can no longer do any of those things.

I suspect I will always keep at least a tiny stash to pull out on heavy days or birthdays or just days when my heart needs reminding.

And I’m OK with that.

Repost: Mind The Gap

My youngest son worked hard to retrieve some precious digital photos from an old laptop.

Being very kind, he didn’t tell me that we might have lost them until he was certain he had figured out a way to get them back.

So he and I had a trip down memory lane the other evening.

It was a bumpy ride.

Read the rest here: Mind the Gap

Why Memorial Day Matters

Today is a day when we honor those who gave the last full measure in service to our country and our country’s wars.

It is a day to honor, remember and mark with solemn gratitude the sacrifice of a life poured out.

You don’t have to agree with the reasons for a war to honor the individuals who died fighting it.

War is far from glorious. It’s ugly and dirty and awful. For those that fight it and those on whose land it is fought.

But in this world where nation invades nation and the wicked often rule it’s sometimes necessary.

Battle field cross (With images) | Memorial day quotes, Soldier ...

Every soldier is a mother’s child. Every soldier leaves someone behind.

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.

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

You Don’t Lose Them All At Once

It would be easier, in a way, if it happened all at once.

If the vivid memories of his voice, his laugh, his body language, his sense of humor just disappeared-POOF!-now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t. Then I could make a single adjustment.

But that’s not how it is.  Instead, the living proof of his existence recedes like a wave from the shoreline, only there’s no returning surge to remind me of the force that was Dominic.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2016/04/18/slow-fade/

Six Years: For You, A Moment; For Me, A Lifetime


I used to look at tombstones in cemeteries and do the math between the dates. 

I was most focused on how long this person or that person walked the earth. 

I still do that sometimes.  But now I do something else as well. 

I look to the left and the right to see if the person who ran ahead left parents behind.  My eye is drawn to the solitary stones with the same last name next to a double monument clearly honoring a married pair.

grieving mother at grave

And then I do a different kind of math. 

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/04/11/for-you-a-moment-for-me-a-lifetime/

Memories, Milestones and Melancholy

I’m finding it hard to write these days.

Not because I don’t have anything to say but because I can’t find ways to say it that might make sense to anyone else.

So much is jumbled up inside me, so much is wrapped around itself and I can’t find the end of the string to unravel it.

Ever since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, writing has been my refuge. First in my journals and now in this space.

I depend on words on the page to tell me what I think and feel.

Lately my trusty tool has let me down.

I’m sure part of it is the abrupt end to silent days and virtually unlimited alone time since the coronavirus crisis upended my routine.

Now when I come in from my walk I’m greeted by my husband (a good thing!) instead of only cats. I spend more time making meals and cleaning up after them. I don’t have the quiet moments watching the sun sink down behind the trees and dark reclaim the living room as I peck away at my keyboard.

Dominic was so full of life, it’s impossible to think of him breathless and still.

Part of it is the time of year.

Sunday will be six years since Dominic left us and each passing day brings me closer and closer to that milestone. I should be better at facing it by now.

But I’m not.

Last year my faithful companion animal died around this time too. His death didn’t hold a candle to the death of my son but any death-every death-pricks that deep wound and reminds me the world is not as it should be.

Roosevelt, my faithful companion for over a decade. ❤

Last year’s Facebook post:

2:53 4/7/2019  ••UPDATE•• Roosevelt died in my arms without suffering. I am so thankful for the years I had with him. ❤️.

I’m holding my precious companion animal as he dies. I want him to know that he is loved and the last thing he feels to be my hand on his fur.

So today, breathing is enough. 

2:53 April 7, 2019

And this year-well-this year death is the headline everywhere.

Actual death, impending death, anticipated death. Numbers, numbers, numbers that represent real people, real lives, real families left behind.

How my heart hurts!

I try to stay away from too much news, too much social media, too much of anything besides family and close friends.

I’m still up before sunrise and spend time reading, praying, researching, thinking, waiting to hear from my heart.

I wish the words would come.

I’m afraid if they don’t my heart will burst.

Repost: I Don’t Want To Remember My Son

I don’t want to remember my son. 

I want to make memories with him.  

I want him to watch me grow old, to watch him get married and have children and to hear his voice mingled with his siblings at my table.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/04/02/i-dont-want-to-remember-my-son/