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/

Life Is A Gift: Celebrate!!

There will be plenty of frustrating moments, plenty of fearful moments and plenty of just plain ordinary moments during this unprecedented worldwide season of slowing down.

But there can be beautiful moments too. There are hidden blessings in this forced family togetherness.

Practice finding them, practice making them, practice wrapping them up in love and grace.

If you’ve been waiting for an excuse to get the best plates down from the top shelf I’d say today’s the day!

Make some memories.

❤ Melanie

I have never been a crystal and china kind of gal.

I got a few special pieces when my husband and I married, but most of the things in my home are durable and useful.

So I don’t have many things tucked away for special occasions.

I’m glad that when my kids were young we made even ordinary days special.

Read the rest herehttps://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/03/31/life-is-a-gift-celebrate-every-single-day/

Things I Wish I’d Known

I’ve written before that I am oh, so thankful I had NO IDEA Dominic would leave us that early April morning in 2014.

It would have cast an awful shadow over all those years we were blessed with his presence.

But there are some things I wish I’d known.

I wish I had known how hard it is to conjure up his voice now that it’s been nearly six years since I heard it.

I would have taken more short videos, just to have his laugh, his sarcasm, his deep mellow “Hey!” handy on my phone for the moments when I long to hear it. I wouldn’t have erased the backlog of recorded messages on the landline just one day earlier.

I wish I had known there were so few photographs of us together.

I would have gotten over myself much sooner and stuck my fat bottom in every shot my family begged me to take. I would have made certain there was at least one of him and me on each birthday, at special occasions and when he graduated high school and college. I was always the one taking them, organizing something or just to self-conscious to be in the picture.

I wish I had saved more cards, notes and random bits of flotsam from over the years with his words, his handwriting, his childish drawings.

Just a month before he left us, I cleaned out two decades of home schooling records and carelessly tossed so many bits of him into the bed of my truck, hauling it to the dump. Back then it felt like I was unburdening myself of too much paper and too many frivolous memories. Now it feels like an incalculable loss.

I would have listened more often to the wonderful sound of his drums banging away upstairs.

I took a walk most afternoons and Dominic timed his practice for when I was out of the house because it was so very loud. It was considerate and kind. And I DID get to hear him through the windows as I made my rounds but I really, really wish I’d just stopped and fully appreciated his talent.

I could list so many more ways I’d have arranged life differently-if I had KNOWN.

But I didn’t.

So I make my way through another spring, remembering, remembering, remembering.

Always hungry for more.

Defying Fear: First Birthdays and New Memories

A year ago I was in the same city under very different circumstances.

My first grandson had been born at just over 28 weeks because his mama developed HELLP syndrome and was in mortal danger. Both he and she were in the hospital while we held our collective breath, begging for them to be OK.

We were filled with quiet but uneasy joy knowing as we do how death can come to steal it away.

This Sunday, family and friends gathered to watch this little guy grab his first birthday cake with gusto and smear his mama and daddy with blue icing.

You’d never know he got such a tentative start in life just by looking at him.

Grateful is too small a word for how we feel.

Melanie ❤


THIS YEAR:

LAST year:

Last week was a roller coaster.

My first grandchild-a boy-was born prematurely on Saturday after several days of heart stopping, breath robbing drama as his mama went back and forth to the hospital three times in as many days.

My son, his father, is deployed overseas and paddling as fast as he can to get home.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/03/11/fear-of-what-you-know/