Reminiscing

I’m at my dad’s place this weekend for a family funeral.

My great-aunt, the last of seven adult siblings in my grandmother’s family left for Heaven in April. So cousins from around the country are gathering to honor our family legacy and remember, remember, remember.

It’s hit my particularly vulnerable heart (Dominic’s birthday is May 28) hard, hard, hard.

I wake up each morning in the the home where my great-grandparents, my grandparents and my mama lived. My dad still lives here. So. much. life. has transpired within these walls.

Death has been here too.

Grandpapa Cox was laid out in the living room. I remember looking down on him lying there and asking what he was doing, stiff and still in that box.

When I sat in the pew next to more than two dozen folks with whom I share DNA I thought about the hymns and prayers lifted in the little country church we’d all attended at various times. I pictured my gray-haired greatgrandmother, Mama Eva, sitting in the corner by the window-her daughters next to her. I saw my own mama’s casket centered below the pulpit, her hands holding the white rose and Dominic’s photograph.

And here we all are writing new stories while carrying chapters from the old ones with us into the future.

People say, “Let’s not wait until the next funeral to get together” but we almost always do. The most complete family photos tend to be at sad events when folks are compelled to show up and don’t dare offer feeble excuses for not coming.

We have our share of photos from the past couple days. Cousins now lined up with gray hair and laugh lines just like our parents and grandparents before us.

One thing I’ve learned from death is this: you can’t stop time no matter how badly you might wish you could.

For those of us who have experienced child loss we not only mourn what we once had and knew but what we will never have and never know. We lost a future as well as a past.

I’m thankful that most of my folks tend to live long lives and leave for Heaven at a ripe old age.

I’m so sorry that Dominic wasn’t one of them.

Today I’ll breathe and rest and digest the old memories and the new ones.

I’m thankful these good-byes aren’t final.

I’m thankful I’ll see the ones I love sooner than I might imagine.

Pickles, Jelly Jars and Tears

I first shared this five years ago so it may shock some folks that while I have finally tossed most of the things in my fridge that once belonged to Dominic, I’ve got a giant bottle of hot sauce I’m still using.

Every time I add spicy flavor to chili I think of him.

I’m not looking forward to the day it runs out because it will be one more link dissolved between the living son I knew in the flesh and the memories I have to settle for now.

My parents live in another state so I call each morning just to check in and say hello.

We usually chat about what we have planned for the day, what we did the day before and share any important family updates.

Yesterday my dad mentioned that he had been to the grocery store, came home and when putting away the food he bought decided to clean out his refrigerator.  He joked that he found some things from years ago tucked in the back where they’d been forgotten.

I laughed and said, “Yeah-I did that sometime last summer.”

And then my heart froze as I remembered another fridge I cleaned out three years ago.

I went on to say, “I threw out all the old stuff except what I took out of Dom’s fridge when we cleaned his apartment.”

And then the tears broke loose.

Read the rest here: Jelly Jars, Pickles and Tears

Eight Years, Sigh…

The calendar is relentless. There’s no respect for seasons of mourning or grief anniversaries or weeks of sickness or unexpected early births of grandchildren.

The sun rises, the sun sets and another day is crossed off into history.

So somehow-without my permission-I find I’ve woken to mark the eighth anniversary (do you call such a horrible thing an anniversary?) of Dominic’s death.

It’s humbling to realize I (and my family!) are not only still standing but flourishing. It’s horrifying to comprehend I’ve continued to live and breathe for 2922 days since Dominic left us.

Most days are pretty good.

Today is hard.

❤ Melanie

When the numbness wore off (maybe around six months) I remember vaguely wondering what years down the road would feel like.

I tried to project the “me” of that moment into the future and imagine how I might deal with life changes, new circumstances, an empty nest, grandchildren (if there were any) and growing older alongside the heartache of burying a child.

But just as it’s impossible to comprehend how the addition of a child utterly transforms a family, it’s impossible to understand how the subtraction of one changes everything just as much.

We are all so very different than we would have been if Dominic were still here.

Life most likely wouldn’t be any more perfect because we would each grow and change, find common ground and find points of conflict, make new memories and drag up old hurts.

Still, none of us would carry the deep wound and traumatic injury of sudden and out-of-order death.

THAT is impossible to ignore. Even eight years later it’s a red flag, a sticky note, an addendum to every family gathering and holiday.

So we carry on.

Like generations before us who have walked this world dragging loss behind them, we keep going. It shapes us but doesn’t limit us. It informs our views but isn’t the only thing that molds our opinions and frames our choices.

My faith in God’s larger and perfect plan helps me hold onto hope even as I continue to miss my son.

But today is a hard day and I don’t think that’s going to change as long as I live.

I’m getting better at remembering Dominic’s birthday in ways that honor who he is and the man he might have become. I can’t say I’ve figured out any good way to walk through the yearly unavoidable and unwelcome reminder of the day he left us.

I’m learning to allow the grief waves to simply wash over me without resisting them.

Eventually the hours tick away, the day is over and I find I’ve survived yet again. 

I Do Not Want to “Remember” My Son

I don’t want to remember my son. 

I want to make memories with him.  

I want him to watch me grow old, to watch him get married and have children and to hear his voice mingled with his siblings at my table.

Read the rest here: I Don’t Want To Remember My Son

ALWAYS a Mama or Daddy!

There are all kinds of ways child loss plays with your head.

One of the most common and often repeated questions among bereaved parents (especially those who have lost their only child , all their children or a child before or at birth) is this: Am I still a mama (or daddy)?

Short answer: YES. Absolutely!

The fact that your child has taken up residence in Heaven and is no longer here to hold and love and parent on earth changes NOTHING about your status.

Read the rest here: You Will ALWAYS Be A Mama (or Daddy)!

Looking Forward: A New Season of Grief

For a long, long time I couldn’t bear to see a monthly calendar.

I didn’t want to be reminded that time refused to stand still for my broken heart and I hated there were no more “Dominic” events to scribble in on the blank squares.

Around the third year I was able to once again mark major events like birthdays, holidays and short family trips. But it was even longer before I was able to truly look forward with excitement to those things.

Seven plus years, multiple family changes, a pandemic, retirement and a grandchild have reshaped my heart so that I’m genuinely thrilled to prepare and participate in most things from family meals to “Granny Camp” (which I get to host next week!).

I’m not forgetting nor minimizing Dominic by diving into these events with gusto. In fact, I’m sure he would approve.

So I’m entering a new season of grief-one which makes room for current joys and celebrations while still holding space for Dominic.

I can be present and participate without reserve.

I am making memories with those who are still here.

Enjoying every moment.

Bereaved Parents Month 2021: But I Had All Those Things 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.

Read the rest here: But I Had All That BEFORE!

Always Minding the Gap

It’s the oddest thing.

No matter how many people may crowd around my table, my eyes realize there’s a space left empty.

My life is full of love and light and laughter and joy! Sadness is no longer all I feel nor Dominic’s absence ALL I see.

But I still see it. Always, always, always there is a gap where he should be but isn’t.

❤ Melanie

My youngest son worked hard to retrieve some precious digital photos from an old laptop.

Being very kind, he didn’t tell me that we might have lost them until he was certain he had figured out a way to get them back.

So he and I had a trip down memory lane the other evening.

It was a bumpy ride.

Read the rest here: Mind the Gap

Bereaved Parents Month 2021: They Aren’t Just “Things”, They’re Memories

I was surprised at myself.

When we cleaned out Dominic’s apartment two weeks after he left us, I couldn’t throw away a thing.

Just as Dominic left things when he went out that evening.

Even though it meant boxing it up, carting it down the stairs and loading and unloading it onto our trailer, I DIDN’T CARE.

If it was his, if his hands had touched it, his body worn it or he had placed it in the cabinet or fridge, it was coming with me.

Read the rest here: Bereaved Parents Month 2020: They’re Not Just “Things”

EVERY Child Matters

Today I want to take a moment to provide a public forum for anyone who wishes to take advantage of it.

Your child matters.

His or her story matters.

Your pain matters.

If you are so inclined, please “speak” your child(ren)’s name in the comments section. 

Read the rest here: Your Child Matters

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