I’d Still Choose You

Some of us only felt tiny hands and feet pressing against the inside of our body.  

Some of us saw first steps or first grade.  

Some of us watched our child drive away to college certain it was the beginning of an adventure, not the beginning of the end.

Some of us have grandchildren reflecting back a smile or gesture or tone of voice that it so much like the one we miss.

All of us know what it is to lose more than any heart can bear-and yet we DO bear it-every. single. day.

None of us would give up whatever time we had even knowing how hard it is to go on without them.  ❤

even knowing id still choose you

Silent Joy and Hidden Treasure

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor, theologian and author who actively opposed the Nazi regime. 

He was imprisoned for a year and a half and executed just two weeks before American soldiers liberated the prison where he had been held. 

Bonhoeffer was no stranger to loss. 

Here is an excerpt from a letter he wrote while in prison (emphasis added):

“There is nothing that can replace the absence of someone dear to us, and one should not even attempt to do so.

One must simply hold out and endure it.

At first that sounds very hard, but at the same time it is also a great comfort. For to the extent the emptiness truly remains unfilled one remains connected to the other person through it.

It is wrong to say that God fills the emptiness. God in no way fills it but much more leaves it precisely unfilled and thus helps us preserve — even in pain — the authentic relationship.

Furthermore, the more beautiful and full the remembrances, the more difficult the separation.

But gratitude transforms the torment of memory into silent joy.

One bears what was lovely in the past not as a thorn but as a precious gift deep within, a hidden treasure of which one can always be certain. “

[Bonhoeffer wrote this from his prison cell to Renate and Eberhard Bethge on Christmas Eve, 1943, fifteen months before his own death by execution. ]

memories are a way of holding onto the ones we love

We Remember Them

Since Dominic ran ahead I collect poems, sayings and quotes that help my heart put words to what it feels.  

I consider each one a gift.

Over the next few days I will share some of them with you-I hope you find them as beautiful and helpful as I do.

This is a beautiful, traditional Jewish blessing often shared with mourners.

No matter what I’m doing or where I am, I always remember Dominic.  ❤

In the rising of the sun and it’s going down, we remember them.

In the blowing of the wind and the chill of the Winter, we remember them.

In the opening of buds and in the rebirth of Spring, we remember them.

In the blueness of the sky and in the warmth of Summer, we remember them.

In the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of Autumn, we remember them.

In the beginning of the year and when it ends, we remember them.

When we are weary and in need of strength, we remember them.

When we are lost and sick at heart, we remember them.

When we have joys we yearn to share, we remember them.

As long as we live, they too shall live, for they are now a part of us, as we remember them.

~Rabbi Sylvan Kamens and Rabbi Jack Riemer

at the blueness of the skies we remember then

Bit By Bit: We Don’t Lose Them All at Once

I cannot speak for others but in my case, it seems that I did not lose Dominic all at once.

In fact, I’m still losing him.

Bit by bit, a little at a time, nearly molecule by molecule, his mark on my life, my walls, my world grows smaller.

Of course the space he occupies in my heart is safe-a mother’s heart grows larger with each birth and never shrinks again!

But in the physical world, the observable world, the world outside the safe sanctuary of my own soul-his presence THERE is fading.

And that’s it’s own brand of grief that must be recognized, felt, mourned and laid to rest.

fading-away

Every time Dominic SHOULD be here but ISN’T means another memory made without him, another photograph with a missing piece, another family milestone celebrated a bit more quietly because his booming laughter doesn’t join the chorus.

Every decision that would ordinarily involve consulting all four children’s schedules and desires is one more opportunity to count down two, skip one and go to my youngest.  I never can remember that there are only three phone calls or texts to make. My heart hurts each time I don’t check in with Dominic.

desimones uab family

Odd pieces of mail come in his name-leftover from mass mailing lists that have not yet been purged of deceased individuals.  Still a little shocking, always sad, I carry it up the quarter mile to the house and lay it on top of the pile of other things that prove he once walked the earth.

Digging through the toolbox in the garage for a screwdriver and there’s that funny little part he took off a car years ago and tucked inside the drawer-just in case we could use it for something.  I smell the grease and gas and feel him near.

Then my mind drags my heart back to reality and he’s gone again.

Dozens of moments make me miss him anew.

I’m not delusional.

I know he has run ahead to Heaven.

But my heart holds on to every shred of physical connection as long as it can.

And then he’s ripped from me all over again.any place we ever walked i miss you

 

Hard Stops: When You Can’t Ignore the Missing

Most of the time I’m just kind of rolling along.

There are things to do, places to go, people to see, animals to feed.

I get up, get going and get on with it.

But there are some days that are what I call “Hard Stops” on this journey.  They are the days that force my heart to take special notice of the fact that Dominic isn’t here.

Sometimes they are milestone days like birthdays or holidays or the anniversary of that awful knock on the door.

Sometimes they are events where he should be there-like seeing his brother one more time before he deploys half-way around the world.

These days make my heart measure the time since I last hugged his neck, heard his voice, saw his strong, square hands reach across the table for the salt shaker-and I am overcome with how long it has been!

Then my heart shifts to the months and likely years I will have to live with this aching empty place where he should be but isn’t and I fear I just can’t do it!

Many days I’m able to distract myself from the sorrow and to live with the missing.

But these “hard stop” days force me to face it head on. and it is overwhelming. 

Every. Time.

So what do I do? 

When my heart is overwhelmed, I take it to the Rock that is higher than I.  

rock that is higher than i

I run to the Refuge of my Faithful Father.  

sing of strength you are my refuge

I turn my eyes to my Savior Who will redeem and restore.

restore after season of suffering

I put my hand firmly in the hand of my Shepherd Who will not leave me in this Valley of the Shadow of Death.  

jesus the shepherd the i am

And I pray for myself-and every heart having a hard time holding onto hope today-that we will feel the Father’s loving arms around us and that He will give us strength to stand.  ❤

Life is Absolutely NOT Fair

Raising four kids as critical thinkers and encouraging debate led to many, many long discussions about thorny theological, social and family issues.

As my children aged, grew, had more exposure to different people, places and philosophies, the discussions grew more complex and wide-ranging.

It was no longer enough for them that a particular point of view was MY opinion-they began to demand facts, figures, examples, references  and consistent logic.

I remember a particularly good but also frustrating encounter with Dominic when he was about 12 or 13.  As a middle child (third of four) and middle son (second of three), something happened where he felt overlooked, underrepresented and left out or cheated.

So he challenged me regarding whether or not his treatment was “fair”.

I honestly don’t even remember what he wanted to do or wanted to be excused from doing, but I do remember he was passionate about what he believed were different standards applied to HIM versus his brothers and sister.

I spent well over an hour exploring the concept of “fairness”-pulling out my best mom arguments that if we want every single thing to be exactly even then it doesn’t serve anyone well because sometimes one family member needs more grace or freedom or material resources and on another day it may be someone else.

He would not budge.

He wanted every sort of pie in our home to be measured, cut and divided in perfect portions-precisely fair regardless of need.

pumpkin pie perfect slices

There was no way to convince him that while this might be good for him one day, it might be awful another day when HE was the one who needed a little extra whatever (money, grace, clothes, rest or freedom).

It ended with him deciding I was unfair and he was given the short end of the stick most, if not all, the time.

Every morning I lean over to add food to the cat’s bowl which rests precisely where he stood when he was arguing with me.  So I’ve thought about that conversation often in these years since he left us.

And while I was on the side of accepting that things/life/situations are inherently unfair when arguing with Dominic, I now find myself on the side of lamenting the very thing I was willing to accept then.

its not fair peanuts

Because one of the things I’m learning this side of burying my precious child is that there is no upper limit to the sorrow and pain I may have to carry in this life.  And it’s no use comparing my burden to that of another-begging God to consider the differing weights and to make adjustments to lighten my load because it is heavier than that of another.

I do not get a pass on daily stress and strain. 

I’m not guaranteed physical health. 

I am just as likely as anyone else to get the grumpy cashier, to drop a dish or lose my keys.

I cannot point to a single stretch of more than three days when one or more minor (often major) disruptions, problems or just stinky situations weren’t piled on top of missing my son.

I can sit and soak and sour in my feeling that this is “unfair”.  I can allow my heart to become bitter because “other people have it better, or easier or have more”.

But all that does is ruin MY day, hurt MY heart, stop me from living MY life.

Life is NOT fair.

thankful for what is given rather than what is withheld

Things are not doled out with measuring spoons so that each person on the planet gets the same amount of love, of opportunity, not even the same amount of food or freedom.

If they were, my burden might very well be greater instead of less.  

And if  I take a moment to consider the overall sweep of my life, then I have to admit that I am, in fact, blessed.

dom looking up with camera

I had my son for nearly 24 years and nothing can take away those sweet memories and the light and life I carry inside my heart because of that.  

So I will use my mom voice and remind myself that life isn’t fair,

but that doesn’t mean it’s not good.  

collect beautiful moments

 

 

 

Bereaved Parents Month Post: But I Had All That BEFORE!

I absolutely understand that when people say things like, “Just think of all the wonderful memories you have” or “He brought you so much joy” they mean well.

Because it’s true-I have beautiful memories of Dominic.  And he DID bring me great joy.

But I had those things BEFORE he was beyond my reach.

Read the rest here:  But I Had All That BEFORE!