My birthday is in a couple of weeks and my daughter has arranged for us to have a little getaway together this week.
She had no way to know when she made the reservations four months ago how badly we both would need it.
But God knew.
Nothing takes Him by surprise even when it blindsides me.
I often have to remind my heart of that truth.
Especially when blow after blow lands hard and knocks me off my feet. Especially when I feel that I might be crushed under the load. Especially when my mind is so full of fear and anxiety there’s no room for much else.
I’m thankful for a daughter who thinks ahead and a God who knows.
Some quiet time is precisely what our hearts are longing for this November. We will sleep and talk and walk and wander. We won’t have to answer to a clock or a phone.
Watching my father grieve my mother is the second hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.
Grieving my own son, watching my husband and children grieve him too, is the hardest.
I observe Papa’s expression, hear the weariness in his voice, note the far off stare when conversation drifts to mundane and unimportant things and realize that was exactly how I looked and sounded in the first months after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.
I love my mama.
And I spent a lot of time with her these past two years since the fall and heart attack that changed everything in August, 2017.
But I was not her daily caregiver. My schedule didn’t revolve around whether or not someone could stay with her so I could go somewhere else-even if it was just down the road-for more than an hour.
I called each day and talked to Papa, checking on them both, but then I was free to do or not do whatever I wanted to without considering her need to be attached to oxygen and her limited endurance to do anything even then.
I tried to be supportive. I made multiple trips down to the farm and tried to give Papa some space and freedom.
That’s just not the same as 24/7 care.
His grief for the wife with whom he spent 58 years is deeper and wider than my heart can understand.
Just as my grief for the child I had carried, birthed, raised and cared for was impossible for him to fully comprehend.
Dominic is his grandson. And as grandparents go, my parents were extremely involved in my kids’ lives-showing up to not only the important events and occasions but also to many mundane and everyday moments.
But the gap between even frequent visits and daily living is huge.
So while I cannot feel precisely what Papa is feeling about Mama-his wife-I can absolutely understand how very devastating his loss is.
Our losses are different in kind but not in quality.
When I look at him, I’m looking in a mirror.
Grief etched everywhere.
Pain across his forehead.
Heartache painted on his lips.
I am so sad that I am no more able to touch that deep wound and render healing than anyone was able to touch mine and do the same.
No one can do the work he has to do but himself-not even someone who has done the same work in her own life.
All I can offer is to walk with him, no matter how hard it gets, for as long as it takes just like he did (does!) for me. ❤
I thought I understood just how heavy it was the moment the deputy’s words sank deep inside and crushed my heart.
But I didn’t know the half of it.
You really can’t know how large a person’s absence is until you’ve explored the edges of the world without him or her.
When folks started coming up our long and winding drive, even though I knew full well he would not be among them, my eyes strained to see inside every car. When his friends gathered in our front yard, I couldn’t help looking through the picture window trying to make out his face among the crowd. When we walked into his now-empty apartment I thought surely he was in his bedroom, around the corner, just out out of sight.
But he was nowhere to be found. And the hole in my heart where he should be but wasn’t got bigger.
Those were just the early days.
In the weeks, months and years to follow I found everywhere I set my foot that followed a path we’d walked together, I missed him. When the next movie in a series was released, he wasn’t there to watch it with me. Family gatherings, holidays, birthdays, graduations all went on without him and my heart counted his absence.
From sunrise to sunset my heart marks all the Dominic-sized spaces in a day.
At night, dark stillness invites me to recite them.
But after more than five years, most people no longer see any tale-tell sign of this mama’s heart longing desperately for one more minute, one more hug, one more quick exchange of “I love you!”
I have grown stronger and better able to carry this load of missing.
Daily exercise will do that.
And it IS a daily exercise-lifting the missing up on my shoulders or carrying it in a basket on my head like women hauling water from a well far away has taught me to bear it well.
I still miss him.
I will always miss him.
Greater strength means I can shift the missing to make room for living. I can carry that weight and still find room to carry joy.
I think it’s almost always offensive when someone says, “I know just how you feel” to a grieving heart.
Even two biological parents of the same child have a slightly different relationship with him or her because their experience is filtered through the lens of distinct personalities, shared adventures, struggles, joys and secrets.
We are a family of six-four kids and two parents.
Each one of us has experienced Dominic’s death differently because he was uniquely woven into the fabric of our separate stories as well as our corporate story.
Parts of me reflected back from him are gone forever. The unique give and take we shared is my loss alone.
Sibling memories, inside jokes, sneaky “don’t tell mom” pranks and antics belong to his sister and brothers and are part of their loss I can neither understand nor access.
Yes, we share corporately the loss of a son and brother, but none of us can really say, “I know just how you feel”.
Because we don’t.
And that’s one of the things that makes grief a very lonely journey.
All these feelings wrapped inside of experiences bound up in memories stored in two hearts. Only now one of them is inaccessible and the other is trying to find a way to carry both halves of the relationship.
Part of the work grief requires is gathering up the fragments of memory and tucking them safely away.
It will be different for each heart.
Even hearts that mourn the loss of the same person.