Please hear me.
I do NOT blame you that my son and my sorrow have drifted down your list of “things that need attention”. Your life is as busy as mine once was and your calendar full of commitments and celebrations that require your attendance.
There is no way you would know it’s 69 days until the fifth anniversary of Dominic’s sudden absence.
There is no reason for you to be aware that as the southern landscape turns to spring, my heart and mind turn to death.
But it’s the truth.
Read the rest here: When It’s Been YEARS-How to Bless a Grieving Parent
I wasn’t there when Dominic left the road but I’ve imagined it in detail hundreds of times since that night nearly five years ago.
I can’t help it.
I wonder what he thought, what he felt, whether he knew…
It’s not the only tape that plays over and over in my head.
I think about his childhood and the times I probably overlooked my third of four children as I hurried to get this or that done. I think about the arguments we had, the laughter we shared, the disappointments and challenges we faced together.
I replay birthdays and holidays and ordinary days.
Sometimes I get in a cycle that makes me smile: Dominic playing drums in church and subtly shaking his head and sharing an eye roll with me as the congregation claps in awkward rhythm to a song-dozens of different beats, none of which were the right one.
Sometimes I get in a cycle that draws sobs from a place I thought I had sealed off after the first two years of his absence.
My thoughts fall into an emotional feedback loop that, like the sound wave counterpart, is all screeching, mind-numbing and painful noise.
Like a microphone too close to a speaker, the only way out of the loop is to back away and keep backing away until the cycle is broken.
Most days I can shepherd my thoughts down safe paths. Those are the ones I share with others when they ask me to tell them about my son.
But when I’m alone and everything is quiet and my mind is left to its own devices or cued up by a random sight, sound or smell I can find my thoughts running places I’d rather they not go.
And the loop begins again.
There is something about the song, “Auld Lang Syne” that strikes a chord in the hardest heart.
You don’t have to understand the words to understand the meaning behind them.
“Should old acquaintance be forgot and days of auld lang syne?”
Every new year since Dominic left us my heart screams, “NO!” in answer to that question. We CAN’T forget!
But we do. No matter how carefully I mine the memories, I find the details beginning to escape me.
I have boxes of photographs but even nearly five years out I find some of them too hard to look through. When I see the innocent laughing eyes in pictures of six year old Dominic it breaks my heart. Why oh why was I worried about so many things other than simply experiencing life in the moment?
But then I bring my heart back to reality and sternly tell myself that I had no idea what the future held.
And that’s really the crux of it, isn’t it?
We don’t know what tomorrow will bring. We plot and plan and hope and dream but in the end we have very little control over how our story ultimately plays out.
So we are left each New Year’s Eve with some good memories, some not so good ones and some we cling to like gold from a treasure chest because they are all we have.
Should auld acquaintance be forgot and days of auld lang syne?
As long as this heart beats.
I will not forget.
Thanksgiving is hard on my heart.
My birthday is usually close to, and sometimes on, Thanksgiving. So we often celebrate them together. What makes that especially painful for me since Dominic ran ahead to heaven is that the last birthday before he left was a surprise party at his apartment.
It was wonderful and loud and fun and filled with laughter and love.
So all those good but achingly hard memories are wrapped up with the turkey and dressing.
Read the rest here: Holidays and Grief: Thanksgiving Plan
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. ❤
Life after child loss can be described in various ways.
But any that ring true convey a sense that in an instant, everything is different, shattered, scattered, obliterated, changed.
I like this quote by Tolkien:
It’s the threads, the shards, the broken bits that I will spend a lifetime trying to gather, save and weave or glue back together.
It will never be what it was, but it can still be something.
I will always carry the scars.
The scars are proof of my love.
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. ]