I Miss Your Voice: Silent Echoes Haunt My Heart

I try to limit the time I spend perusing old photos and old social media posts of my missing son.

I’ve learned that while they remind me of sweet memories and happy times they also prick my heart in ways nothing else can.

I was looking for something specific the other day and had to scroll through Dominic’s Facebook page to find it. As I did, I began reading some of the back and forth comments under the posts and pictures.

This time it wasn’t what was said or where the photos were taken that hurt my heart.

Instead it was the tiny little time stamp underneath the words that took my breath away.

Nothing more recent than five years ago was recorded.

Because that’s when his voice went silent.

That’s when whatever he was going to say was either said or never would be said. That’s when all the brilliant, not-so-brilliant, snarky, funny, sad, silly and sage thoughts Dominic ever had or ever would have were cut off.

I firmly believe that Dominic is safe in the arms of Jesus-more alive now than he ever was here. I know he’s got things to say and when I join him we will have eternity to chat together.

But right now, what I wouldn’t give for one more conversation in the here and now.

I’ve got things I want to ask him.

I’ve got things I want to tell him.

I’d love to hear his voice or read his comments or see a new picture.

The years of silence echo loud in my ears and louder in my heart.

The Weird, Weird Thing About Devastating Loss

My mother’s death has forced me to relive the early days after Dominic’s death.

While her leaving was not completely unexpected (she had many health issues and was not strong) it was still sudden.

And one of the things I’m reliving is that while this giant life-altering event has turned MY world upside down and inside out, it really hasn’t changed anything for those outside a very small inner circle of grievers.

The weird, weird thing about devastating loss is that life actually goes on. When you’re faced with a tragedy, a loss so huge that you have no idea how you can live through it, somehow, the world keeps turning, the seconds keep ticking.

James Patterson

Life DOES go on.

I had someone ask me a question in church Sunday about a decision that was made a week or two before my mom went into the hospital for the last time. It took me at least a full minute to orient my brain to the question and longer to answer it because I could barely remember anything that happened in the past weeks before Mama died.

It was like that after Dominic left us.

I felt like I was living in a low-budget foreign feature film (think ancient Godzilla movies) where English was simply dubbed over the Asian actors original dialogue and everything was slightly “off”. Words were being said that I SHOULD understand but they didn’t match what my eyes were seeing. It took tremendous effort to comprehend what people said to me and an even greater effort to comprehend the context of what they were saying.

It is a weird, weird thing that time moves on regardless of my shattered world.

It is a weird, weird thing that people keep doing routine stuff like watching favorite TV shows, going to football games, celebrating birthdays, checking the value of their portfolio, chiming in on social media and buying groceries.

It is a weird, weird thing that I grow older while Dominic stays twenty-three-almost-twenty-four. It’s even weirder that his once younger brother is now twenty-seven.

Julian, Jame Michael, Dominic

I used to think I had a pretty good imagination. But now I’m not so sure.

I can’t scale Dominic up to what he might be doing now, who he might be dating or married to, where he might have chosen to pursue a career or if he might have done something entirely different than anything he’d done before.

Time really DOES march on.

It doesn’t require my permission.

It doesn’t even notice me at all.

That’s a weird, weird thing.

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day 2019

It happens in all kinds of ways.

For one reason or another, the tiny life budding in a belly never gets to see the light of day. Never takes a first breath. Never cries. Never opens his or her eyes to the mama waiting to meet her precious one.

So many mamas have experienced the excitement of watching the pregnancy test show positive only to endure days, weeks or months later, the sadness of saying good-bye to a little one they never got to meet.

Statistics tell us that one in four women will become part of this group during their lifetime.

But what statistics can never tell you about anything is why so, so many of the women who survive pregnancy and infant loss don’t talk about it.

Many think they can’t talk about it or shouldn’t talk about it because often the experience is so very personal.

It may be the pregnancy was never announced. It could be that the culture in which a mama lives doesn’t recognize life at conception so, really, what was lost? Perhaps many women in her family have had similar experiences and THEY didn’t “make a big deal” out of it, so why should she?

Then there’s guilt.

So, so much information is shoved into mothers’ faces about what they should and shouldn’t do to promote a healthy pregnancy and birth. Eat this, don’t eat that. Take this, don’t take that. Exercise-but not too strenuously. Drink water. Don’t drink alcohol or too much caffeine.

It’s easy to blame yourself when a baby stops growing.

Some brave mamas carry a baby for months and to the point of birth-see that precious bundle on an ultrasound, hear the heartbeat, watch and feel those legs kick-yet never hear a cry or hold a warm infant in their arms.

That’s a kind of awful no heart should have to bear.

And yet, that loss too is often unacknowledged.

How do you celebrate a life that was lived only inside the comfort and safety of the womb? How do you share a photo of your precious baby when the only one you have (if you have any) is of him wrapped in a blanket, eyes closed, your eyes crying?

If a second pregnancy follows any kind of pregnancy or infant loss, friends and family almost always pounce on the opportunity to push a mama’s heart forward fast and furious to the future of her “rainbow child” making it even less likely her missing baby is acknowledged or remembered.

But she never forgets.

A mama’s heart never lets go of the life that lived inside her.

That tiny baby-one week, one month, full term-is her son or daughter.

Counted among the others.

Just as precious.

Always.

I’m remembering with you, my sweet friends. Tonight I will light a candle along with millions who also remember, to honor the baby I never held. May the multiplied voices and hearts joined together help others hear the message that our child matters.

Every child matters. ❤

I Want You To Know How My Son LIVED Not Only How He Died

As happens often, multiple conversations, experiences and random social media posts rattle around in my brain and then sort themselves out into a brand new thought.

I realized (maybe for the first time with genuine feeling!) that I want people to know how my son lived and not only how or even that he died.

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It was probably almost three years before I could mention Dominic’s name without also adding, “he was killed in a motorcycle accident” to anyone who didn’t already know that.

It wasn’t because I wanted sympathy or special consideration but because I honestly could not think about Dominic without placing every thought in the context of his death. I was so aware of his absence that it pushed everything else about him into the background.

I was also horribly jealous of what I had lost.

I needed to express how desperately I longed to have him back so tended to share details about his personality, accomplishments and pet peeves from my own perspective.

I was mainly looking at him through my eyes instead of seeing him as a whole person distinct from myself.

I wanted to curate his image in the eyes of others.

But Dominic had been his own man for a long time when he left this earth for Heaven. He made his own choices, had friends I never knew, read things and saw places beyond my experience.

When I insist on introducing him first as Dominic the missing member of the family instead of Dominic the man he had become, I make him smaller than he was (than he is!).

I don’t want to do that.

Even though I rarely insist on mentioning his death anymore in casual conversation unless asked directly, I realize that I want to do more than just NOT mention his death.

I want to comment on his life.

I want to tell folks that Dominic was one of the most talented drummers I’ve ever heard. I want them to know about his quirky sense of humor, his insistence on super soft clothing and irritation with people who took two parking spaces in crowded lots. I want to share how even though you’d swear he was never afraid, he often felt like maybe he wouldn’t measure up somehow.

I want you to know that he was adventurous, athletic, addicted to coffee and adrenaline and a fierce lover of justice and his family.

Yes, Dominic died.

But he lived, too.

And that’s really what I want people to know. ❤

If you are a fellow bereaved parent, please share something about what makes your child(ren) unique. What do you want others to know about him or her?

Hurricane Michael-One Year Ago Today

One year ago today Hurricane Michael came ashore at Mexico Beach, Florida packing more wind and damaging power than any hurricane ever recorded hitting there.

What’s more, it held every bit of that strength and smashed trees, houses and power lines for miles and miles inland including the rural county where my folks live 60 miles away from landfall.

My parents and aunt were trapped and unable to leave due to downed trees across the driveway, “yard” and the road leading out to safety. No electricity, not enough fuel to run the generator to power my mom’s oxygen and no running water (well water provided by an electric pump).

They didn’t evacuate because in the 100 years family had been living on that plot of land NO hurricane had ever made it that far inland with more than heavy rain, some strong wind and temporary power outages.

Thankfully, a neighbor had a bobcat tractor and he plus others with chainsaws and tractors were able to clear the dirt road to the main road. Thankfully, my youngest son, Julian,  was able to find a way through the downed trees and power lines between our house and theirs and reach them with more fuel, more chainsaws and another set of strong arms to help them evacuate.

Thankfully, the trees that fell around the house didn’t smash it or hurt anyone.

My family had survived the frightening but escaped the truly awful.

It felt like pure grace that no one we loved was killed that day although our hearts broke for those for whom that wasn’t true.

Once power was restored and my parents were able to return home, there was so much to clean up, so much to do and so many repairs to make.

Who could have guessed that less than a year later another kind of storm would sweep across our lives, taking Mama with it?

This time there was nothing left to do.

There never is when death comes knocking and steals a person you love.

I am so grateful for the extra almost-year with Mama. I am so sad there won’t be more.

And today, when I’ve finally stopped long enough to let my heart begin to feel what that feels like, I find my longing for her is folded into my longing for Dominic.

Two deaths, one broken heart.

I’m thankful and confident that death is not the end of their story.

Mama and Dominic and all the people I’ve loved that love Jesus are together in Heaven and waiting for the rest of us to join them.

Unlike the broken trees and broken homes left behind by Hurricane Michael, there will be no tell-tale signs of repair when on that glorious Day our hearts are made whole again.

Every sad thing will come untrue-as if it never happened.

Every tear will be wiped away.

Every promise kept, every stolen thing redeemed and restored.

And Mama will be dancing while Dominic plays his drums.

Photographs And Memories

Tuesday, October 1, 2019 we said our formal good-byes to my mama. Saw her face for the last time on earth surrounded by friends and family. Sang a few songs and walked away from the cemetery back to a fellowship hall full of people.

A crowded place never felt so empty.

A noisy room never sounded so quiet to ears straining for the one voice we longed to hear.

It was like that when Dominic ran ahead to Heaven five and a half years ago-I stumbled back across the grass to the waiting food and folks both relieved the public spectacle was concluded and horrified that the final act of committing his body to the ground and commending his soul to Heaven was complete.

Left with only photographs and memories.

They were not enough then and they are not enough now.

Flat, lifeless representations of the vibrant, funny, sassy mama that only recently rediscovered her appetite and snuck past the kitchen to the bowl of candy on the dining room table at every opportunity are NOT. ENOUGH.

Even though it was delightful to dig out old photo albums, scour the house for boxes tucked away in corners and open drawers searching for mementos and precious tokens of a long life, it was also a heartbreaking reminder that if she were still breathing we’d never be invading her privacy.

I remember boxing up Dominic’s things in his apartment only a few days after we buried him.

We were trespassing, pure and simple. He deserved to have whatever secrets he’d been keeping (though they were small and not at all dark or dishonorable) and here we were dragging them into the light.

I hated every minute of it. I sucked in my breath and held back the tears as I piled a life into containers of “save”, “toss” and “give away”. A lifetime reduced to lifeless objects.

We buried Mama with a white rose and a small photo of Dominic placed in between her hands. It was a tiny token representing both our heartache and our eternal hope.

I am thankful for every memory and photograph I have of Mama and Dominic.

I tuck the memories away safely in my heart and place the photos carefully in labeled albums.

But they are a paltry substitute for their earthly companionship.

Like It Or Not, I’m Teaching My Children How To Grieve

In spite of my best efforts, I have made and continue to make less-than-healthy or ideal choices in grief.

I’m sure some of those patterns are being passed down to my children and I hate that. Grief is hard enough on its own without adding layers of dysfunction that make it harder.

So I try to be mindful of what I model because like it or not, I’m teaching my children how to grieve.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/10/02/why-its-so-important-to-model-grief-for-our-children-grandchildren/