I’ve learned that there are new things to miss even five years down this road of child loss.
I’ve learned that any odd moment, random smell, taste,touch, or occasion can pierce that place in my heart that screams, “Dominic should be here!”.
I’m also learning additional ways his absence continues to shape the family we have NOW. Dom’s absence continues to impact decisions, expectations, hopes and dreams TODAY.
I miss family photos when I don’t count heads and note unfilled spaces. It’s not just Dom I’m yearning for. I long for us to all be together-no one missing. It’s a little easier (sometimes) when one or more of us aren’t able to make a particular trip or event because then it’s not ONLY Dominic gone from the frame.
But truth be told, I can’t stop my heart from looking and hoping that this time, it’ll be different.
This time, we’ll be whole.
I miss the ease with which I used to toss together family meals, social occasions and holiday gatherings. I’ve always LOVED making things special and never minded cooking buckets of food. I used to plan weeks in advance-gathering recipes, ideas, decorative items and sometimes little gifts or favors for those who attended. I checked with folks for dietary preferences or allergies. It was a joy even when it exhausted me because I loved shaping spaces and experiences to strengthen family ties.
I miss waking up and facing a new day without reservation or trepidation. I’m a sunrise kind of gal. I used to turn my face toward the big picture window in our living room waiting for first light to dawn and the day to get going. Fresh start. New opportunities.
It took awhile but some days I can do that.
Still there are many days I watch the trees come into focus knowing daylight can’t always lift the darkness in my heart.
I miss turning corners in my house or walking on my land encountering only good memories, happy reverie and hope that tomorrow would bring more of the same. When we moved here over twenty years ago, it felt like home. Plenty of space for children to run, exciting adventures discovering woods, water and animal life abounded. There are so, so many memories everywhere I turn. Memories used to spark hope for more. Now they are silent witness to the line that demarcates our lives into BEFORE and AFTER.
I miss the certain assurance when someone doesn’t pick up the phone or answer a text that “all is well”. We have always been a family on the move. It sounds ridiculous today, but a driver’s license was the ticket to a personal cell phone when my kids were growing up. As each one gained the privilege of driving away alone, we made sure they had a way to call and let us know they arrived safely. If I called them and there was no answer, it was a good hour or two before my heart went into overdrive and my mind imagined all the horrible possibilities.
Now I make that trip in seconds or minutes despite any logic that can easily explain it away.
I miss having energy to spare. I know part of my energy drain is simply age. I’m not so cocky as to assume the years don’t play a role in slowing me down. But I know that’s only half (or less!) of it. The constant effort to edit, direct, control and contain my words, thoughts and emotions sucks the life right out of me. What used to easily be a one hour job takes two. And projects I could whip together in a day require a week or more. Discouragement makes me sad and tired. So the cycle continues.
I miss sound sleep and good dreams. Right after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven I could barely sleep at all. There was no escaping awful scenes playing across my closed eyelids. Eventually I was able to lull my mind into a kind of calm and sleep a little. Five years later I rarely sleep more than two hours at a stretch without waking. While I usually roll over and doze off again, I never get the kind of restorative rest I really need.
Dreams are another matter altogether.
They are often full of jumbled bits that leave me unsettled and full of dread.
I miss making plans for next month or next year without the silent caveat that we just can’t be sure they will come to pass. A large calendar hanging prominently in our kitchen was my go-to for keeping track of crazy family schedules and commitments for decades. I took it down a day after Dominic died and didn’t hang another for over two years. I couldn’t bear to turn page after page knowing Dominic’s name would never show up again except in reference to him being gone. I have one now. But while I still write things in different colored pen (easier to see and track) my mind knows every single plan is really just penciled in.
Until the day comes or the moment arrives, my heart holds it lightly.
I miss saying innocent good-byes. I was never the crying mom waving a handkerchief as my kids made their way down the long driveway to the larger world. I always missed them, of course. But the goal was to raise independent persons capable of doing things, going places and living their own lives. So a good strong hug, a kiss on the cheek, “I love you” and they were off leaving a smiling mama behind. It never occurred to me that THIS time could be the LAST time I touched or talked to them.
Now, every good-bye is sacred. Every hug a prayer.
I miss hearing Dominic’s name in casual conversation. Oh, we still talk about him. But it’s not the same. Sometimes it’s awkward and leads to odd pauses. Most times it’s more natural. Always it’s with sad recognition that instead of memories we should be sharing fresh stories of adventure.
I appreciate each new day I’m given.
I take nothing for granted because I know how quickly and easily it can be snatched away.
But my heart can’t help but long for the way things used to be and yearn for the way things would be if Dominic were still here.
I miss a lot of things since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.
I miss HIM-his deep voice, his perspective and his thump-thump-thumping down the stairs and the rhythm of who he is.
And I miss how his absence has reshaped the family I thought I’d have.
Raising four children, investing my time, heart and energy into who they were turning out to be, I naturally projected into the years ahead. All that love poured into them would create a legacy we’d all enjoy. Marriages, careers, grandchildren and experience would blend together into a (if not perfectly harmonious) at least a shared future.
I never imagined turning a calendar page without one of my children to turn it with me.
Dominic’s death has touched each one of us. His missing is as powerful a force as his presence. We are absolutely NOT THE SAME as we would have been if he were still here nor as we were when he was still here.
When Dom first left us, I was primarily mourning him. I still miss him like crazy.
But a lot of my mourning during the past twelve months has been for the family I thought I would have. I see each of my surviving children are processing Dominic’s absence in ways that influence their decisions.
In some ways it’s beautiful-I see twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings making choices with wisdom way beyond their years. In some ways it’s brutal-they set up safeguards because they know by experience that leaving the house doesn’t always mean you return. They have back up plans for everything.
Which wasn’t something I even thought about when I was their age.
My husband and I expected to drift into retirement years full of energy and vigor. Much of that has been stolen from us by child loss too. Oh, how we long to be the fun grandparents, the traveling duo, the footloose crazy pair but it’s much more effort than we anticipated.
Sometimes we can’t muster that energy at all.
I know some changes were inevitable. Dominic’s death coincided with a natural progression toward an empty nest. I’m not a helicopter mama and I’ve always said my goal was to raise children who could function well without me so I think that as much as possible, I prepared my heart for them to grow up and grow apart.
But in addition to normal changes, there’s an utterly unnatural and unwelcome transformation from nuclear family to brokenhearted family.
I am so, so thankful that we have chosen the hard path of running toward one another instead of running away.
I’m grateful that we have grown from five left behind to a table for eight-two new spouses and a precious grandchild.
I do not take a single second for granted because I know that seconds are not guaranteed.
But I sure wish Dominic were here to share it with us.
So we went to my niece’s high school graduation this week.
It was another in a recent long line of events Dominic was not here to celebrate with us.
Another set of pictures missing his grin, his shoulders, his goofy antics, his presence.
It’s really beginning to add up.
And it hurts.
We were plunged headlong into some important celebrations in the first two months after Dominic left us-two graduations and a wedding. But there was a kind of lingering aura that made it a little more bearable. Everyone involved KNEW Dominic. So while he was not there bodily, he was present nonetheless because so many people carried a piece of him in their hearts, had stories to tell and made comments about how he would have done this or that.
My niece obviously knew Dominic. And that’s a comfort. But the last time he saw her she was just entering her teen years. Now she’s leaving high school headed toward adulthood.
Fiona’s new husband never met Dom. His friends are a world set apart from our pre-loss life. His family knows Fiona lost a brother and me a son but they have no idea how that fact changes everything. They can’t. They don’t have anything to compare it to.
My sweet little grandson will grow up hearing stories but never seeing the man behind them. He will perceive Uncle Dominic as a tale told sometimes with tears and sometimes with laughter but never be the target of Dominic’s sometimes wicked humor nor feel the comfort of his strong arms.
In some ways five years might as well be a lifetime.
So much has changed.
So much I want to talk over with Dominic.
So much I wish he was here to see.
I know he is perfectly content in Heaven with Jesus. He’s not missing out on a thing! But I can’t stop my heart from selfishly wanting him here with me as well.
It’s like playing a piano with a sticky key-somehow the melody is always just a little off.
We all experience it from time to time-that moment when your head comprehends that life has kept going but your heart refuses to keep pace.
So today, I’m looking at a calendar that assures me it has been five years since that deputy knocked on my door.
It’s a fact.
My heart says, “It cannot be true. It cannot be that long since I saw my living, breathing son cross the threshold of our family home. It cannot be that long since I made the phone calls that still echo in my ears. It can. not. possibly. be. that. long.”
And yet it is.
If folks ask me how I’m doing, how my family is doing, I usually say we are OK.
Because, all things considered, we ARE.
None of us find daily life unmanageable. None of us have fallen prey to addiction or unhealthy coping mechanisms. None of us sit inside all day, moping and mourning the loss of a life we couldn’t hold onto even if we had seen it slipping away in time to take a firmer grip.
But we are absolutely, utterly, profoundly CHANGED.
I often think back to old Star Trek episodes that showed crew members transporting to the surface of an unknown planet. Their bodies were broken down into the tiniest component molecules and reassembled somewhere else.
I think that’s what this life is like.
We’ve all been disassembled and reassembled.
But instead of everything falling back into place, there are missing bits here and there, gaps too small for others to see but very, very real to us. Connections lost. Memories without proper context.
Feelings floating free of any anchor, bubbling up at the most inconvenient moments.
And we all just plain MISS HIM.
We miss Hector Dominic DeSimone and who he is, what he brought to the table and car rides and family gatherings.
We miss who we were before we knew loss that burrows deep in your bones. We miss the unmitigated joy and celebration we could toss around like confetti at the slightest provocation.
So today, unlike most days, we will give in to the sorrow. We will remember that morning. We won’t brush away the tears or the sad memories.