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.

Childhood memories, photographs, mementoes from school and athletic teams-they were already displayed on the walls and shelves of my home.

But there were things I had then that I don’t have now:

  • his physical presence;
  • his laughter ringing down the hallway;
  • his text messages telling his absent-minded mama that there were storms headed her way;
  • his level-headed relationship advice;
  • and his tech-savvy, “I can fix it” help when I crashed my computer or other electronic device.

I don’t have a hundred different uniquely Dominic parts of my life anymore.

And I miss every one of them.  

missing from me

 

 

 

 

Not Funny Anymore

We took this picture celebrating Father’s Day 2013 and it was supposed to be a joke.

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Dominic had a habit of finding somewhere to be for the end of May (which includes his birthday) and the first couple weeks of June (Father’s Day) nearly every summer for the last six years he was with us.

I had to schedule his high school graduation (we home schooled) for the ONE weekend out of the whole summer when he would be home before he entered college in the fall.

In 2013 he was studying abroad in Switzerland.

So on this day when he was absent (again!) I brought along this picture and thought it would be funny to have him represented in the obligatory Father’s Day photo-little smiling Dominic.

It popped up in my Facebook memories the other day and I realized it’s not funny anymore.

Now the only way Dominic CAN be part of a family portrait is if one of us holds a picture of him.

I hate that.

Who could have guessed that our messing around would now mess with my head?

 

 

Bereaved Parents and the Question of Photographs

When I shared this post awhile back, it sparked quite a discussion among friends and an online community of bereaved parents to which I belong.

Pictures are a mixed blessing to those of us who have buried a child:

We love to see our dear one’s face beaming back at us but we also long to touch and hold the one represented by the two-dimensional image.  And when others share a photo on Facebook or Instagram, we are sometimes caught off-guard as our newsfeed scrolls by–There he is!  Our hearts stop for a moment.

I love to get pictures of my son through email or in notes and letters-many are ones I would otherwise never know about.  So if you have photos that a bereaved parent might like to see, think about sharing them.  And write a line or two about how our child is still part of your life.

We miss our children and welcome ways to connect with them through others.

“Pictures are everywhere today–much different than when I was a child and you had to go down to the local studio to get a decent family photo. Poloroids were fun and fast, but the number of shots you could take was limited to the film in the packet.

One of the challenges facing bereaved parents is what to do about photographs–both the ones that exist and the ones yet to be taken.”

Read the rest: Bereaved Parents and The Question of Photographs

Bereaved Parents and The Question of Photographs

 

Pictures are everywhere today–much different than when I was a child and you had to go down to the local studio to get a decent family photo. Poloroids were fun and fast, but the number of shots you could take was limited to the film in the packet.

And how many rolls of 110 or 35 mm are still rattling around somewhere in drawers or boxes, undeveloped and forgotten?

But now our phones make us instant and eager chroniclers of the everyday.

And social media gives us the opportunity to splatter our work across the Internet–all over the country and around the world.

One of the challenges facing bereaved parents is what to do about photographs–both the ones that exist and the ones yet to be taken.

I remember everything about the first formal family photograph after Dominic died.

It was two months to the day since we buried him, and his older brother was getting married.  A day we had planned for and looked forward to for a long time.  It marked a new beginning, a new life, but the spectre of death veiled my eyes and whispered in my ears.

Standing there, smiling and holding back the tears, my heart cried,”One of us is missing!” and I wanted to shout, “Don’t take the photo.  Don’t memorialize the absence of my son.”

I swallowed the words and have an album full of evidence that he wasn’t there.

Our family usually sends New Year’s cards instead of Christmas cards but I haven’t sent one in two years because they always included a family picture.  I don’t know how to send them if Dominic isn’t in the frame.

And what to do with all the pictures that already exist?

We had a video montage at his funeral and I have it tucked safely away. There are hundreds of snapshots, digital photos on computers and phones, all the images on his Facebook page and the pages of friends…

C.S. Lewis notes in A Grief Observed:

“Today I had to meet a man I haven’t seen for ten years.  And all that time I had thought I was remembering him well–how he looked and spoke and the sort of things he said.  The first five minutes of the real man shattered the image completely.  Not that he had changed.  On the contrary…I had known all these things once and recognized them the moment I met them again.  But they had all faded out of my mental picture of him, and when they were all replaced by his actual presence the total effect was quite astonishingly different from the image I had carried about with me for those ten years.  How can I hope that this will not happen to my memory of H.[his wife]?  That it is not happening already?”

And that’s the thing–the pictures aren’t my son.  

They were a moment in time, and bring a smile of remembrance, but they are only a shallow representation of the vibrant life that was Dominic.  As the months progress and his siblings and friends age, the pictures document that he is further and further out of step with our current reality.  

We are leaving him behind.

I decided early on that our walls would not become a shrine to the one child missing.  So I have incorporated photos of Dominic with those of his siblings and other family members. I do have more pictures on display than I used to–they are all I have left of my son.

It’s easy to honor his memory–but I want to honor him.  Who he was, what he represents and who he remains as part of who I am.

I don’t know how to combat the slow fade of the experience of my living, breathing son in all his complexity to the two-dimensional representation hanging on my wall.

I wish I did.