At A Loss For Words: Another Birthday Without You

It would surprise my mama most of all that on this day I’m at a loss for words.

I regularly embarrassed her with my non-stop commentary as a child. I told stories about what I heard and saw (and what my young mind THOUGHT it heard or saw) to anyone who would listen.

But I realize now there are moments too sacred, wounds too deep, experiences too precious for words.

Either you are there and share it-or you’re not-and can’t imagine.

This is one of those times.

Dominic would be thirty years old today if he had lived.

He’d be several years out of law school, on some path toward making his mark in the world, maybe (?) married, perhaps even a dad but definitely, positively here and part of our lives.

To be honest, I wouldn’t even care what his life looked like right now as long as it was LIFE.

Something very few people know and even fewer would note is that on Dominic’s birth day, the doctor who delivered him had just the day before become a bereaved parent himself. His daughter left this world by her own hand.

Another C-section, Dominic was lifted up next to my face by this sweet and vulnerable man while the tears poured down my face. I was crying for HIM not for me. I was undone that he had shown up and delivered my child while his own laid lifeless wherever they had taken her.

I thought I understood then.

But I had no clue.

I understand now.

Sometimes you show up and do what you need to because it’s the only way for a heart to survive. Sometimes you walk on because standing still leaves too much time for the horror to take root and overwhelm you.

I miss Dominic.

I miss the future we would have had together and the family we would have been if death hadn’t invaded our reality.

I would literally give anything other than the life of one I love for Dominic to be alive right now.

But it’s not an option.

So I’ll spend his birthday thinking about what we had, lamenting what we will never have, rejoicing that his faith is made sight and I’ll cry.

Because a mama’s arms are made for holding her child, not holding his memory.

Birthday Ideas? Anyone?

Some folks are great at it.

They find a tagline or a cause or even a certain color and it becomes shorthand for remembering and honoring their missing child.

Me, not so much.

Dominic wasn’t the kind of person you could sum up in a few words or a certain favorite anything.

He was a drummer, a social commentator, an adrenaline junkie, a fitness fanatic, a neat freak, a bargain hunter, a mechanic, an electronics aficionado, so very funny and a loyal and fierce friend.

He could be sarcastic and cutting.

He was nearly always brutally honest. His twitter feed is full of (sometimes misspelled) witty commentary on everyday irritations and observations. I can hear his voice in my head when I read them.

Dominic was also kind and compassionate.

He was often the kid that sat next to the kid that no one else wanted to sit with. His friends from law school told me tale after tale of how he helped them with one thing or another, how he went out of his way to be there for them and how his kindness made a difference.

He was a stubborn mule too.

When he’d established a position it took a heap of convincing to get him to change his mind. More than once he simply waited the other person out, trusting exhaustion to do the work of making his case.

His thirtieth birthday is coming up in a few days. It will be the seventh one without him.

If he was still here I’d do what I do for most milestone birthdays-create a portfolio of gift cards in an amount equal to the years. I love hunting down a recipient’s favorite places to shop and filling up the envelope.

I’m still not good at figuring out what to do about birthdays down here when he’s in Heaven and probably not even marking the day.

He would hate balloons.

He’d know none of us needed any cake.

Between now and then I’m going to try to think of something.

Any ideas?

Memories, Milestones and Melancholy

I’m finding it hard to write these days.

Not because I don’t have anything to say but because I can’t find ways to say it that might make sense to anyone else.

So much is jumbled up inside me, so much is wrapped around itself and I can’t find the end of the string to unravel it.

Ever since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, writing has been my refuge. First in my journals and now in this space.

I depend on words on the page to tell me what I think and feel.

Lately my trusty tool has let me down.

I’m sure part of it is the abrupt end to silent days and virtually unlimited alone time since the coronavirus crisis upended my routine.

Now when I come in from my walk I’m greeted by my husband (a good thing!) instead of only cats. I spend more time making meals and cleaning up after them. I don’t have the quiet moments watching the sun sink down behind the trees and dark reclaim the living room as I peck away at my keyboard.

Dominic was so full of life, it’s impossible to think of him breathless and still.

Part of it is the time of year.

Sunday will be six years since Dominic left us and each passing day brings me closer and closer to that milestone. I should be better at facing it by now.

But I’m not.

Last year my faithful companion animal died around this time too. His death didn’t hold a candle to the death of my son but any death-every death-pricks that deep wound and reminds me the world is not as it should be.

Roosevelt, my faithful companion for over a decade. ❤

Last year’s Facebook post:

2:53 4/7/2019  ••UPDATE•• Roosevelt died in my arms without suffering. I am so thankful for the years I had with him. ❤️.

I’m holding my precious companion animal as he dies. I want him to know that he is loved and the last thing he feels to be my hand on his fur.

So today, breathing is enough. 

2:53 April 7, 2019

And this year-well-this year death is the headline everywhere.

Actual death, impending death, anticipated death. Numbers, numbers, numbers that represent real people, real lives, real families left behind.

How my heart hurts!

I try to stay away from too much news, too much social media, too much of anything besides family and close friends.

I’m still up before sunrise and spend time reading, praying, researching, thinking, waiting to hear from my heart.

I wish the words would come.

I’m afraid if they don’t my heart will burst.

There is a Whole Series of “Lasts”


One of the things even the most uninformed person understands about loss is that the first birthday, the first Thanksgiving, the first Christmas and all the “firsts” after loss will be hard.

But one of the things no one tells you about is that a heart will mark the “lasts” just as much.

The last time I saw him.

The last time I spoke to him.

The last time I hugged his neck and smelled the unique fragrance that was my son.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/02/15/a-whole-series-of-lasts/

Marking The Milestones After Child Loss: 16 Ideas

I’ve found myself in a bit of a writing funk these past weeks. Once January draws to a close (a short reprieve from surviving the holidays) the calendar barrels on to the anniversary of that fateful day.

This will be the sixth time I’ve weathered that period where I mark all the “lasts” and try to honor Dominic’s life and not only focus on his death.

For someone who used to be able to draw up a gameplan for any occasion, I am still out of my depth when it comes to commemorating the date of my son leaving for Heaven.

So I’m sharing this again-as much for me as for anyone else. It’s just plain hard. But I hope these ideas help another heart find a way through the minefield of remembering.

❤ Melanie

When your child is born you take notes.

You plan to mark this day as a special milestone for the rest of your life.

You absolutely, positively NEVER think you will have to mark another one:  the day he or she leaves this life and leaves you behind.

But some parents have to mark both.  The dash in the middle is shorter than we anticipated, and our child’s life ends before ours.

grieving mother at grave

So how do you do it?  How in the world do you observe the polar opposite of a birthday?

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/01/30/child-loss-marking-the-milestones/

Post Holiday Blues: When The Grief Comes Crashing Down

It’s a paradox really-that grieving hearts can be more anxious and more sorrowful BEFORE and AFTER a milestone day, birthday or holiday than on the day itself.

That’s not true for everyone, but it’s a frequent comment in our closed bereaved parent groups.

Fearful anticipation of how awful it MIGHT be can work me up into a frenzy.

Image result for grief anniversaries

The day of whatever it is usually passes quicker than I thought it could especially if there is a big meal involved and lots of people milling about.

Then everyone leaves and quiet darkness ushers in space and silence.

That’s the moment my heart recounts all the places Dominic should have been but wasn’t. That’s when I think of how his baritone voice was missing from the conversation, his laugh from the chorus of merry makers, his opinion from the slightly heated volley over politics or another current event.

I guess it’s kind of a holiday hangover without the booze.

But there’s no strange concoction I can drink to rid me of these symptoms.

Instead I have to give my heart permission to take out each feeling and FEEL it. I have to acknowledge that even when I spend the day laughing and enjoying family and friends, I still miss Dominic.

So I try to build a day (or two!) of recovery into my holiday planning.

And that’s OK.

Whenever possible that’s exactly what I do.

So you won’t find me rushing out to shop the day after Thanksgiving, Christmas or any of our own family’s unique grief anniversaries.

Instead I’ll wake slowly, drink coffee and watch the sunrise.

I might take a walk, read a book or write in my journal.

I will definitely find moments of solitude to acknowledge that once again I have survived what I thought I might not.

And for that, I’m grateful.

Twenty-Three Years, Ten Months, Fifteen Days and Holding

Today would be Dominic’s twenty-ninth birthday.  

Except it isn’t.  

Because I have absolutely NO IDEA if anyone is aware of the passage of time in Heaven or if birthdays are even a thing there.

So instead of celebrating another year with my third born, I’m celebrating the years I had with him-too few as far as my heart’s concerned.

I am oh, so thankful for the time I had.  

But my heart cries, “More! More!”

I’m no good at this “birthday in absentia” thing.  This is the sixth time May 28th has rolled around without Dominic here to eat cake, open presents or break his usually strict dieting rules and gobble down pasta.

IMG_2637 (1)

A couple of years I’ve purchased a cake in secret at a local bakery for a child that shares Dom’s birthday.

Most years I’ve quietly remembered the events leading to his birth including what now feels like a prescient experience:  my obstetrician’s nurse came into the room as I was waiting for a C-section delivery and whispered, “Dr. H is here, but his daughter completed suicide yesterday”.  *

When they brought Dom close to my head so I could kiss him before they whisked him away and sewed me up, tears streamed down my face.  I really had NO CLUE, but I realized (in a tiny way) that this man was here ushering life into the world as his own heart was breaking for a life that was no more.

All I could say was, “Thank you!  I am so, so sorry.”

And I meant it.  

Now I know what it cost him to be there.  What it cost him to see a family made larger at the moment his (earthly) family had been made smaller.

This year we are at my oldest son’s home savoring the first precious moments holding our grandson.  Born too early, his story could have ended badly.

It didn’t and for that I am thankful.  

Ryker’s original due date was May 27th-one day before Dominic’s birthday.

It’s fitting that we have a new life to celebrate even as we celebrate missing Dom.

I’ll be honest, I don’t know how to merge these two lives, these opposite feelings, this joy and sorrow meeting in my heart.  

I vacillate between overwhelming sadness and overwhelming gratitude that my grandson’s story is beautiful, remarkable, nearly miraculous.  

So today I will try to honor Dominic-who he was, who he still is (even more so and perfectly in Heaven!) and the precious gift of another generation to love, nurture and cherish.

I’ll try to lay aside the awful knowledge I carry in my heart that any day things can change.  What you never think can happen DOES happen.

I’ll celebrate love.  

Because love lives forever.  

Always. 

they know love lives william penn

*Dominic was killed instantly in a single vehicle motorcycle accident April 12, 2014.