Nothing New Between Us

Why are the photographs of him as a little boy so incredibly hard to look at? Something is over. Now instead of those shiny moments being things we can share together in delighted memories, I, the survivor, have to bear them alone. So it is with all the memories of him. They all lead into blackness. All I can do is remember him, I cannot experience him. Nothing new can happen between us.

~Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son

 

dominic and siblings little children at nannys

Death is never welcome.  

It is always a reminder that I live in a broken world where sickness and time, accidents and sinful choices press the life out of bodies and I am left behind to mourn.

But when people die at a ripe old age, I look back fondly on what they’ve done, where they’ve been, the legacy of work and love and family they leave behind.

No one lives forever.

In the back of my mind I can make room for that fact, even though I don’t like to bring it out and consider it very often.  Those that are much older than me will (all things being equal) leave this world before us.

I joined them. 

There is part of their lives I know nothing about.  And there will be part of mine they will not share.

But my child?

I have known my child since before he entered the light of this world!  I felt him in my womb.  I experienced who he was before anyone else met him.

I never, ever expected for my life to outlast his!

I always thought there would be new experiences between us, new memories to tuck away, new adventures to look forward to.  

Out of order death is unexpected, unnatural, unbelievable.  

“Nothing new between us.”  

Breaks my heart every time. 

handprint on my heart

 

 

Mother’s Day 2018: A Letter to My Living Children

I wanted to do a version 2.0 of this post but felt like I couldn’t really add much to what I’ve already written.

So here it is again-a letter to the children still walking planet Earth with me.

You are every bit as important and loved as your brother that is waiting for us in Heaven.

I love you.

You are my breath, my life, my heart walking outside my body.  ❤

I never thought it possible to love you more than I already did.

But I do.

photo (20)

Your brother’s untimely departure has opened my heart in a whole new way to the glory that is your presence.  It has made me drink you in like water in the desert.

Read the rest here:  A Letter To My Living Children*

Today Matters More Than You Think

As far as I know there’s no national holiday, no major event, no red-letter notation under today’s date. 

But it matters.

It matters because life is made up more of ordinary days, ordinary moments and mundane choices than things that take weeks to plan.

I’ve had four years to consider what really matters when there’s no opportunity to make more memories.

be-thankful-for-today-change-in-one-moment

These are the things I find most precious… 

Laughter at the dinner table:  One more inside joke, one more funny story from the day, one more unexpected burp or missing your mouth with a fork or cup-happy noise filling the room and echoing off the walls.

Random acts of kindness in my own home:  I remember one day Dominic was working on his Trans Am under a shed in the yard.  A storm blew up and rain was slanting in on top of him and his parts.  Julian and I remembered an old tarp shed side lying around, ran and got it and had it up before Dominic was barely wet.  I pass that shed every day and think about how we all just jumped in and made things work.  Over and over and over.  A legacy of compassion and love that warms my heart.

Phone calls and texts and messages about absolutely nothing:  “Just checking in, Mom.”  “I finished that paper.”  “It’s supposed to rain today, need help out there?”  The stuff of daily life, the grace oil that greases the wheels of human interaction.  I can hear Dom’s deep voice booming in my head when I read them.

Goofy habits and pet peeves: Each one of my kids came down the steps in a distinctive fashion.  I didn’t have to look up to know who was joining me in the living room each morning.  Dominic was always marking rhythm by tapping his hand or snapping his fingers.  Julian lumbered down because morning is not his friend.  James Michael practically ran down (which actually resulted in a broken wrist once when he slipped!) and Fiona called out a cheery, “Morning, Mom!” when she neared the bottom.  If I listen hard in the dark hours of early morning, I can almost hear each one once again.

Few of these things are caught on film-they only exist in my mama’s heart because when I was living them, they hardly seemed worth the effort to record them.  

But these-THESE-are the “videos” I play as I drift off to sleep.

I’m thankful I wasn’t so absorbed in virtual reality that I missed storing them in my heart.

Everyday moments are the real keepers.  

Pay attention.

You might not get a second chance. 

wherever you are be all there

Breathe In. Breathe Out. Repeat.

Almost four years and I still have those moments. 

I know from other grieving mamas that I always will. 

But sometimes they catch me by surprise.

Motoring home from Walmart, a campaign sign catches my eye.  The candidate is young and running for District Judge in our county.  That could have been Dominic.

Breathe in.  Breathe out.  Repeat.

Walking by the wall of photos in my hallway-something I do every. single. night.  I turn and two-year-old Dom is looking right at me.  Innocent.  Full of promise.  Smiling wide.  I kiss his picture because that’s all I have left.

Breathe in.  Breathe out.  Repeat.

Reaching for the jar opener Dominic brought home one day, suddenly I’m crying.  He was always looking for ways to make my life easier.  I hope he knew how very much I appreciated it.

Breathe in.  Breathe out.  Repeat.

Water the plants we got for his funeral. 

Walk by the car he drove to school. 

Wash his cup hanging unused under the kitchen cupboard because it’s covered in dust.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat.

 

Disappearing in the Distance

It’s absolutely normal that the space Dominic once occupied in the hearts and minds of his peers gets smaller over time.

He was only a part of their lives-lives blooming and bursting in the spring of their years. 

They are moving and marrying and having children and building careers.  If he were still living it may very well be they would have lost touch by now anyway.

I know all this and yet it still hurts.

Why do I find it unsettling that he is becoming just a distant memory?

With every passing month the bits of him scattered in the hearts and minds of friends and family fade just a little more.

The vibrant hue of who he was is fainter.  

dominic at Robbies wedding funnyHis light dims and is harder to see in the darkness.

I can’t possibly hope to hold all the memories myself.  

I can’t preserve them forever by myself.  

I depend on others who knew him to be memory boxes too.dominic at gray haven

 

 

 

 

Why I Won’t Hide My Tears

It’s always a delicate balancing act when I’m with my living children and missing Dominic.  I never, ever want to elevate their brother to a level that says I love him more than them-because it isn’t true.

I didn’t love him more when he was living and I don’t love him more now that he’s dead.

But I do love him differently.

dom looking up with camera

 

I can no longer DO things for him.  I can’t buy him a special Christmas gift, send him a thoughtful text when he’s having a tough day, make his favorite dish because he’s coming home for the weekend.

I can only testify to the love I continue to carry in my heart and to the impact he made on my life.

THAT’S why I won’t hide my tears.

tears (1)

I won’t pretend that some things don’t sting, some moments don’t overwhelm my wall of defense against the grief waves that pound relentlessly against it, some smells or sights or memories don’t bowl me over and knock my heart to its knees.

Because not only am I testifying to the love I have for Dominic, I’m also testifying to the love I have for each of my children.

They can see with their own eyes that death will never sever the ties I have with them nor cut the bond of love that stretches like a silken cord between my heart and theirs.

kids at sea world 2017

 

Time and Time Again

Since Dominic ran ahead to heaven we have celebrated four graduations and a wedding.

Wednesday night was another one.  My daughter, Fiona, graduated nursing school.

We are so excited for her!

fiona grad jumping

And, as usual, our family rallied round, pitched in, showed up and made a great fuss over the accomplishment.

It was beautiful and hard all at the same time.

Because time and time again we join hands and hearts to celebrate an achievement, a milestone, a special moment or a holiday and there is always, always, always one missing.

Every photo is just slightly askew- one daughter, three two sons.

family fionas grad (2)

We’ve gotten good at closing ranks, squeezing out the space where he should be standing.  But our hearts mark the gap.

Our hearts will always mark the gap.

I am much better now at actually enjoying these things-I love the way my daughter’s friends surround and encourage her, I laughed at the antics of the children that enjoyed running from adult to adult, getting more attention than they knew what to do with.  I sat and listened with great pride as Fiona gave the closing remarks to her graduating class, drawing from a deep well of wisdom that includes heartache as well as hallelujahs.

And it was all good.  Really, truly  good.

But you have to go home eventually.

Hugging necks and saying “good-bye” is when it always hits me-I hug harder, cling longer, make sure to whisper not only “I love you” but everything I need to say-just in case.

And grown children text their mama so she knows they are safely home.

Dominic’s legacy is this:  We never miss a chance to celebrate one another.

We cling to the good and try to let go of the bad.

We love fiercely and openly and are not ashamed for one minute of our tears or our laughter.

Because you never know.

love the ones god gave you