Mother’s Day 2018: A Letter to My Living Children

I wanted to do a version 2.0 of this post but felt like I couldn’t really add much to what I’ve already written.

So here it is again-a letter to the children still walking planet Earth with me.

You are every bit as important and loved as your brother that is waiting for us in Heaven.

I love you.

You are my breath, my life, my heart walking outside my body.  ❤

I never thought it possible to love you more than I already did.

But I do.

photo (20)

Your brother’s untimely departure has opened my heart in a whole new way to the glory that is your presence.  It has made me drink you in like water in the desert.

Read the rest here:  A Letter To My Living Children*

Today Matters More Than You Think

As far as I know there’s no national holiday, no major event, no red-letter notation under today’s date. 

But it matters.

It matters because life is made up more of ordinary days, ordinary moments and mundane choices than things that take weeks to plan.

I’ve had four years to consider what really matters when there’s no opportunity to make more memories.

be-thankful-for-today-change-in-one-moment

These are the things I find most precious… 

Laughter at the dinner table:  One more inside joke, one more funny story from the day, one more unexpected burp or missing your mouth with a fork or cup-happy noise filling the room and echoing off the walls.

Random acts of kindness in my own home:  I remember one day Dominic was working on his Trans Am under a shed in the yard.  A storm blew up and rain was slanting in on top of him and his parts.  Julian and I remembered an old tarp shed side lying around, ran and got it and had it up before Dominic was barely wet.  I pass that shed every day and think about how we all just jumped in and made things work.  Over and over and over.  A legacy of compassion and love that warms my heart.

Phone calls and texts and messages about absolutely nothing:  “Just checking in, Mom.”  “I finished that paper.”  “It’s supposed to rain today, need help out there?”  The stuff of daily life, the grace oil that greases the wheels of human interaction.  I can hear Dom’s deep voice booming in my head when I read them.

Goofy habits and pet peeves: Each one of my kids came down the steps in a distinctive fashion.  I didn’t have to look up to know who was joining me in the living room each morning.  Dominic was always marking rhythm by tapping his hand or snapping his fingers.  Julian lumbered down because morning is not his friend.  James Michael practically ran down (which actually resulted in a broken wrist once when he slipped!) and Fiona called out a cheery, “Morning, Mom!” when she neared the bottom.  If I listen hard in the dark hours of early morning, I can almost hear each one once again.

Few of these things are caught on film-they only exist in my mama’s heart because when I was living them, they hardly seemed worth the effort to record them.  

But these-THESE-are the “videos” I play as I drift off to sleep.

I’m thankful I wasn’t so absorbed in virtual reality that I missed storing them in my heart.

Everyday moments are the real keepers.  

Pay attention.

You might not get a second chance. 

wherever you are be all there

Four Years. Today.

I remember when the first anniversary of Dominic’s death rolled around.

I was horrified that I had survived 365 days when I was certain I would not make it 24 hours.

Here I am three years later-the fourth anniversary of that awful day.

I’m still horrified on some level-it is obscene for a mother to outlive her child-completely Unnatural.

I’m also thankful-thankful that God has given me the strength to persevere when every fiber of my mama’s heart wants to give up.

Who in their right mind would CHOOSE to carry this pain?

And I miss Dominic.

I miss his voice which is increasingly hard to conjure in my mind.  I miss his sharp wit and snarky commentary on political and social events.  Now that I finally figured out how to tweet, I wish we could exchange comments and quotes.  I miss his laugh.  

dominic at tims wedding

I miss the family I used to have.  The one that could look forward without fear of waking one morning to another member gone-poof!  The family that was only going to grow, not shrink.  A mother’s heart is absolutely ready to expand, but refuses to get smaller because a child is no longer present to receive her love.

desimones uab family

I miss my rock-solid faith in a God Who promised to bless if I only followed.  I am not calling His character into question-I believe as firmly today that He is weaving a good story out of every circumstance as I did before Dominic left us.  But I do not receive this blow as a blessing.

I can’t.

I miss the enthusiasm I used to have for everyday events.  Making things special and beautiful was the joy of my heart.  I loved, loved, loved to add thoughtful touches to a meal or a moment.  While I am just as committed to my family as I ever was, I rarely have the energy for these things anymore.

I miss the future I thought we would all have together. I am still so wounded I refuse to look much further than a month ahead unless absolutely necessary.  The old me who envisioned grandchildren and golden years is gone.

beach-and-family-better

I am utterly unprepared to declare Dominic’s “legacy”.  Of course my child influenced people.  That’s what we do-we interact and influence and leave a trail behind.

But that is completely different than making a choice about what to invest your life’s energy into-completely different than what one attributes to a person whose long life leaves behind actions, words and work that form a cohesive testimony to a personality or passion.

I am not hiding in a hole.  I do not spend days in bed or sitting, sulking and silent, shaking my fist at the sky.

Even today I will get up, get dressed and DO what needs to be done.

But I will be mindful that one of my children is beyond reach.  One piece of my heart is unavailable for me to hold.  

cant-fix-it-my-family-is-always-achingly-incomplete

I will cry at what I’ve lost and be thankful for what I had.

I will look at pictures of Dominic and wish photos and memories were not all that is left of my third child.  

I will continue to live the life I didn’t choose.

family never gets over the death of a loved one

Family Tree

A cousin whom I haven’t seen in decades recently contacted my dad in order to complete a family tree he is working to compile.

It’s a noble task and one I fully support.

But when my dad forwarded the request to me (because I had details on my own son’s wedding and his wife’s birth date) it was an unexpected trigger.

Typing away I added mine and my husband’s birth dates and the place and date of our marriage.

hector and me 29 anniversary

Then down the line of my children.

Fiona.

fiona and cash at home (2)James Michael and his bride.  Their wedding date.

james and lillie

 

Dominic.  I have another date for him-one I never, ever thought I would live to record-the day he left this earth for his heavenly home.  My breath catches in my throat.

035Julian.

My youngest son who is now older than his brother ever got to be.

 

julian in mountainsMy second son has no descendants.  Every molecule that was Dominic is now in the grave.  No representation of his humor, his talent, his face.

His unique light has been extinguished from this world forever.

I realize that these dates will be filed away, made part of a record for those that come after without any understanding of the person they represent.

Just facts on a page.

History.

missing child from arms

 

 

Breathe In. Breathe Out. Repeat.

Almost four years and I still have those moments. 

I know from other grieving mamas that I always will. 

But sometimes they catch me by surprise.

Motoring home from Walmart, a campaign sign catches my eye.  The candidate is young and running for District Judge in our county.  That could have been Dominic.

Breathe in.  Breathe out.  Repeat.

Walking by the wall of photos in my hallway-something I do every. single. night.  I turn and two-year-old Dom is looking right at me.  Innocent.  Full of promise.  Smiling wide.  I kiss his picture because that’s all I have left.

Breathe in.  Breathe out.  Repeat.

Reaching for the jar opener Dominic brought home one day, suddenly I’m crying.  He was always looking for ways to make my life easier.  I hope he knew how very much I appreciated it.

Breathe in.  Breathe out.  Repeat.

Water the plants we got for his funeral. 

Walk by the car he drove to school. 

Wash his cup hanging unused under the kitchen cupboard because it’s covered in dust.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat.

 

Repost: Sacred Spaces

I wrote this last year because I realized that even three years (now it is four) after my son’s sudden departure, I was absolutely unwilling to wipe away the evidence that he had once been here.

I could not (cannot) bring myself to put his cup in the cupboard or in a shadow box or on a high shelf like a museum piece testifying to a long ago personality that is interesting but hardly pertinent today.

Because Dominic is STILL part of my life.  Every. single. moment.

Just like my living children, his heart beats inside of mine.

Always.

That place where you hung your jacket, tossed your shoes, left your backpack-it’s still here.

Foolish, really, to hold space for someone who will never need it again.

But it belongs to YOU and leaving it bare means that it is still yours.

And it is- Still. Yours.

Read the rest here:  Sacred Spaces

When It’s Been YEARS-How to Bless a Grieving Parent

Please hear me. 

I do NOT blame you that my son and my sorrow have drifted down your list of “things that need attention”.  Your life is as busy as mine once was and your calendar full of commitments and celebrations that require your attendance.

There is no way you would know it’s 69 days until the fourth anniversary of Dominic’s sudden absence. 

There is no reason for you to be aware that as the southern landscape turns to spring, my heart and mind turn to death.  

But it’s the truth. 

As the rest of the world looks forward to Easter (and I do too-for the promise and hope it brings) I am dreading Holy Week.  Dominic was killed the Saturday before Palm Sunday and laid to rest the Monday after Easter.  So every year I relive it twice-once during Holy Week and once again (when the dates are different) according to the calendar.

And each year it feels lonelier and lonelier.  

Because each year fewer and fewer people remember or if they do, they don’t know how to offer that up as a blessing because it feels awkward or stiff.

So may I suggest a few things that most bereaved parents would absolutely LOVE for friends and family to say or do-especially as the months roll into years or even decades?

  • Send a card, message or text indicating that you DO remember.  And not just for the date of passing, but also for his or her birthday or other important milestone dates.
  • Send an electronic or physical copy of a photo.  It feels so empty to peruse the same photos over and over.  It is an invaluable gift to get one I haven’t ever seen before.  Every time it feels like I get a tiny new piece of Dominic to hold close to my heart.
  • If you have saved voice mails or videos-send those.  Not every parent can or wants to listen/watch these, but they are a gift nonetheless.  Just having them brings some comfort.
  • Post a memory on Facebook.  If the child’s timeline is still up, write something TO the child-did you share an experience, a class, a hobby-then speak to that.  Tell me how Dominic is still part of your life.  Because as long as his influence still lives, part of him lives also.
  • Speak his or her name in conversation.  I know it can be awkward.  But don’t shy away from mentioning my child in conversation just as you would if he were living.  If you are talking about an event in which he took part, please, please, please do NOT talk around him.  I remember.  You aren’t shielding me. It is so good for my heart to share these memories with other people.
  • If I post a photo or memory on Facebook, please don’t scroll past with the attitude “there she goes again!”.  I post because I will talk about Dominic just as I will talk about my living children as long as I live.  Yes, it’s the same photo-but I don’t have new ones because I CAN’T TAKE THEM, not because I don’t want them.  If you think it’s  “too much” I challenge you to cut off all (I mean ALL) communication with one of your living children for a week.  That’s just the tiniest taste of what it’s like.
  • If I plan some kind of memorial activity, participate if you can.  Personally I haven’t done this but many parents plan balloon releases or ask people to do a Random Act of Kindness in the name of their child.  If you are able, join in.

There is a common theme here:  if you think about my child, let me know.  

I will not forget Dominic.  

I couldn’t. 

But it is oh, so helpful to know that others aren’t forgetting either.  

missing child from arms