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.

Missing Him Is Background Music To My Days


Another bereaved mom wrote that she was better able to cope now than she had been a year ago.

And thanks to Facebook memories she had proof.

Several comments down a second mom wrote something that got me thinking-when, exactly, did Dominic’s loss move from the forefront to the background?

I’m not sure I can pinpoint a day or moment when I realized that sorrow was no longer ALL I feel and Dominic’s absence no longer ALL I see.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/03/07/background-music/

How To Survive Grief Anniversaries


I know I’m not the only one who carries a calendar in my head that threatens to explode like a ticking timebomb.
  Days that mean nothing to anyone else loom large as they approach.

IMG_2410

The date of his death.

The date of his funeral.

His birthday.

My birthday.

The day he should have graduated from law school

On and on and on.

How can I survive these oppressive reminders of what I thought my life would look like? How can I grab hold of somethinganything that will keep my heart and mind from falling down the rabbit hole of grief into a topsy-turvy land where nothing makes sense and it’s full of unfriendly creatures that threaten to gobble me whole?

Read the rest here: Surviving Grief Anniversaries

Bereaved Parents Month 2020: “I Lost My Child Today” by Netta Wilson

My son’s death is a moment in time, a date on the calendar, a thing of the past for other people.

I understand that.

But for me, it’s an ongoing event.

Every time Dominic SHOULD be here but isn’t I lose him again.

Every milestone he should be marking but doesn’t I lose him again. 

Read the rest here: “I Lost My Child Today” by Netta Wilson

Bereaved Parents Month 2020: The Missing Never Ends

I’ve learned that there are new things to miss even six years down this road of child loss.  

I’ve learned that any odd moment, random smell, taste,touch, or occasion can pierce that place in my heart that screams, “Dominic should be here!”.  

I’m also learning additional ways his absence continues to shape the family we have NOW.   Dom’s absence continues to impact decisions, expectations, hopes and dreams TODAY.

Read the rest here: Bereaved Parents Month Post: The Missing Never Ends

Repost: Not Funny Anymore

I got my dad to take this picture on Father’s Day 2013 as a joke.

Dominic had a habit of being out of town for both his birthday and Father’s Day most years and he was studying abroad that summer.

It was meant to poke fun at him being absent yet again for a family gathering. It was meant to be funny.

It’s not funny anymore.


Dominic had a habit of managing to travel on his birthday and often into the summer months.  

He’d jump at every opportunity to go here, there and everywhere.

He had the heart of an adventurer and life on our little farm in the middle of rural Alabama didn’t often offer the excitement his heart craved.

Read the rest here: Not Funny Anymore

Birthday Ideas? Anyone?

Some folks are great at it.

They find a tagline or a cause or even a certain color and it becomes shorthand for remembering and honoring their missing child.

Me, not so much.

Dominic wasn’t the kind of person you could sum up in a few words or a certain favorite anything.

He was a drummer, a social commentator, an adrenaline junkie, a fitness fanatic, a neat freak, a bargain hunter, a mechanic, an electronics aficionado, so very funny and a loyal and fierce friend.

He could be sarcastic and cutting.

He was nearly always brutally honest. His twitter feed is full of (sometimes misspelled) witty commentary on everyday irritations and observations. I can hear his voice in my head when I read them.

Dominic was also kind and compassionate.

He was often the kid that sat next to the kid that no one else wanted to sit with. His friends from law school told me tale after tale of how he helped them with one thing or another, how he went out of his way to be there for them and how his kindness made a difference.

He was a stubborn mule too.

When he’d established a position it took a heap of convincing to get him to change his mind. More than once he simply waited the other person out, trusting exhaustion to do the work of making his case.

His thirtieth birthday is coming up in a few days. It will be the seventh one without him.

If he was still here I’d do what I do for most milestone birthdays-create a portfolio of gift cards in an amount equal to the years. I love hunting down a recipient’s favorite places to shop and filling up the envelope.

I’m still not good at figuring out what to do about birthdays down here when he’s in Heaven and probably not even marking the day.

He would hate balloons.

He’d know none of us needed any cake.

Between now and then I’m going to try to think of something.

Any ideas?

Am I Refusing To Accept My Child Is Gone?

Even therapists get it wrong sometimes.

Especially therapists that only know what child loss is supposed to look like from books and lectures.

I understand how logical it seems that a parent should be able to accept his or her child is no longer alive. After all, most of us saw our child’s lifeless body and performed whatever rituals our hearts find most comforting.

We haven’t received a phone call, text, message or new photograph. Weeks, months and years pass and no word.

Of course this child is gone.

But a mama’s heart still hopes. Somewhere deep down there is a part of me that longs for connection to this child I carried, nurtured and loved.

So sometimes my heart will play tricks on me.

It started just after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

I was the one who had to make phone calls and inform the family of his passing, repeating the awful words over and over and over. So my head got it right away.

Dominic was dead. He was not coming back. There was nothing I could do about it.

Still, I found that for the first year or year and a half, every time I went somewhere we usually went together or attended a family function or celebration where we’d all be in one room, I looked for him.

  • If someone came around the corner and I caught a glimpse of a shoulder-could that be him?
  • If voices drifted upstairs-maybe that’s Dom’s laugh down there?
  • A whiff of soap or shampoo on the grocery aisle-was he just ahead of me?

Ridiculous. Maybe. But very, very real.

Now these six years later that hardly ever happens. Once or twice a year, when the family is together and especially if we are together in a crowd of other people, I’ll kind of “look” for him-on the fringes, around the edges, his voice maybe mixed in with others.

I do still sit silent in the dark hours of early morning shaking my head and saying aloud, “How can Dominic really be dead?”.

But that’s not denial of the fact he is gone.

It’s acknowledgement of how hard it is to live with that truth.

I really don't know why are we trying to put each other down and ...

Mother’s Day 2020: A Letter From The Child Not Here

My daughter, Fiona, wrote this several years ago, in the voice of her brother who ran ahead to heaven.    

I am so thankful for her and so sorry that she has gained this wisdom at great cost.

Some of the bravest, most loving women I know are those who have suffered one of life’s greatest losses. I hope you know how truly beautiful you are. 

Dear Mom,

Read the rest here: From The Child Not Here on Mother’s Day.

When Holidays Are Hard: What To Do About Mother’s Day

This will be the seventh Mother’s Day since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

Every year has been different because families continue to grow and change and the world turns and life marches on.

Every year presents unique challenges and particular paths that must be navigated anew. It’s always an emotional roller coaster.

The Captain, March 2019

Last year our family welcomed a first grandchild. His frightening entrance into the world made his life all the more precious and Mother’s Day gave us a chance to celebrate him, his mama and the fact that his story has a happy ending.

The Captain, April 2020.

This year I’ll be a motherless child when the sun rises tomorrow. For the first time in my life, I won’t be able to see or telephone my own mother. Another light and life lost from sight.

Dominic and Mama in Heaven together.

Julian, Dominic, Mama, James Michael & Fiona

Every year my living children work hard to celebrate me even when they are unable to make it home.

I always feel loved.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is fiona-and-brandon-wedding-boys-and-fiona.jpg

So what’s a mama to do when her heart is torn between the very great and beautiful blessings of her living children and grandchildren and the very great and devastating sorrow of missing her child in Heaven?

Since discovering there is an International Bereaved Mother’s Day my heart has taken advantage of having a day to think about and honor Dominic and then another day to think about and honor my living children.

I also rise early enough on Mother’s Day to have time alone with my thoughts and feelings.

I walk my heart through the upcoming hours and “pre-grieve” moments where I’ll be looking for Dom among the faces at the table or around the room. I remember the gift of his life and place it in context of the gift of each of my children.

I thank God for my family.

Thanksgiving years ago, when we were all younger and all here on earth. One of my favorites. ❤

And then I get up, get dressed and open my heart to the love I have in front of me.

I never, ever want my living children to think that their brother’s ABSENCE is more important or more precious to me than their PRESENCE.

My mama’s heart has room for all of them as it always has.

And as it always will.