I’ve struggled since the beginning of this journey to convey others the ongoing open-ended emptiness of burying a child.
There is simply no way to fill the void left by my son’s leaving.
No job, no hobby, no ministry, no person, no exercise regimen, dietary discipline or medical intervention can fix this pain.
So when people think I will
my son’s death,
they profoundly misunderstand my experience.
I’ve been away from home for eleven days now. For a homebody, that feels like forever.
Most of those days I’ve been surrounded by unfamiliar people and lots and lots of noise.
But in the midst of all that activity and sound, there has remained a quiet spot deep in my spirit that holds space for Dominic.
No matter how frantic, how deafening or how crowded things get, his absence is the loudest silence I hear.
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.
Childhood memories, photographs, mementoes from school and athletic teams-they were already displayed on the walls and shelves of my home.
But there were things I had then that I don’t have now:
- his physical presence;
- his laughter ringing down the hallway;
- his text messages telling his absent-minded mama that there were storms headed her way;
- his level-headed relationship advice;
- and his tech-savvy, “I can fix it” help when I crashed my computer or other electronic device.
I don’t have a hundred different uniquely Dominic parts of my life anymore.
And I miss every one of them.
We took this picture celebrating Father’s Day 2013 and it was supposed to be a joke.
Dominic had a habit of finding somewhere to be for the end of May (which includes his birthday) and the first couple weeks of June (Father’s Day) nearly every summer for the last six years he was with us.
I had to schedule his high school graduation (we home schooled) for the ONE weekend out of the whole summer when he would be home before he entered college in the fall.
In 2013 he was studying abroad in Switzerland.
So on this day when he was absent (again!) I brought along this picture and thought it would be funny to have him represented in the obligatory Father’s Day photo-little smiling Dominic.
It popped up in my Facebook memories the other day and I realized it’s not funny anymore.
Now the only way Dominic CAN be part of a family portrait is if one of us holds a picture of him.
I hate that.
Who could have guessed that our messing around would now mess with my head?
This popped up in my Facebook memories today:
What I wouldn’t give to see it again, to feel his beard against my cheek when I hugged his neck, hear him laugh, know he was only a phone call away!
I’ve learned to carry the sorrow because I know it will be redeemed.
But the missing?
The missing never fades.
Another friend has a new grandchild.
It makes my heart so happy to see families grow and prosper. I love the fresh sweetness of newborn wrinkles and chubby fists.
If I’m honest I have to admit that for every smile that spreads wide across my face in response to posted pictures, there is a tear that slips down from the corner of my eye.
I wish I could feel unadulterated joy like I used to.
But I can’t.
It is impossible for there to be any progeny bearing his smile, his laughter, his brown eyes and overgrown eyebrows. The rhythm that filled his head and tapped, tapped, tapped down the bannister is buried underground.
And that is hard to bear.
Losing a child is not a single event.
It happens over and over and over.
I will not get used to the fact that my son is beyond my reach. I have come to a certain acceptance of it as fact, and acknowledgement of the truth that I cannot change that fact.
The pain hasn’t become less painful, only more familiar. It doesn’t surprise me as often when it pricks my heart anew.
The world goes on. I am a tiny speck in the greater scheme of things and my heartache hardly merits any pause in the machinery of the cosmos.
I have learned to put on the face I need for everyday tasks and to look the part of a functioning human being. But just beneath the surface is a cauldron of emotion that can be exposed in a heartbeat.
I miss my son.
I miss the part of me that was reflected back from the mirror of Dominic.
I miss the family we used to be.
I miss the past when there could be a whole day of laughter without a single tear.
I miss the children I used to have-the ones who knew nothing about irrevocable loss and breathtaking heartache.
I know I’m indulging in selfish introspection and that I should be looking with faith-filled eyes to the glorious future God has promised through Christ.
But today I just can’t.
I won’t be guilted into trying to pretend that I don’t miss all this.
Because I do.