Bringing You Along: Love Tokens

I keep it in my pocket-  

an old trinket or a square of fabric or a small photo in a tiny frame.

heart and wood

A little bit of you to hold when I am overwhelmed.

Read the rest here:Love Tokens

Repost: Nothing “Normal” About It

Something you hear early on in this grief journey is that one day you will find a “new normal”.

I hate that phrase.

Because while I have certainly developed new routines, new ways of dealing with life, new methods for quelling the tears and the longing and the sorrow and the pain-it is NOT normal.

It will never be “normal” for my son to be missing.

Read the rest here:  Nothing “Normal” About It

Birthday Musings

Today I turn fifty-five. 

Not old (not yet!) but hardly young.  

My body sometimes tells me I’m older than dirt while my mind plays tricks and lures me into all kinds of childish pursuits.  

Mornings I creak down the stairs, holding tightly to the handrail lest I step wrong and end up in a tumble at the bottom

Midday I’m out in the woods picking up interesting bits of nature that I bring inside and set on a shelf-I still ooh and aah over empty cicada shells and help stranded earthworms back into moist soil.

Mostly I kind of plod through time taking it moment by moment except when forced to look ahead and plan for the big things like (yay!) a wedding (my daughter!) and a grandchild (my son!).

brandon and fiona engagement

 

But some days I stop and take stock of the years gone by, the things I’ve done or not done and the things I wish were different.  

Birthdays tend to make me do that.  And since my birthday always falls near Thanksgiving, I usually add a list of things for which I’m grateful.  

I will always be glad that I chose to pour my life into my family.  All grown, we still weave our lives together across the miles and in spite of crazy schedules. I have never regretted for a single moment that the one great achievement that will outlive me is my children.

desimones uab family

Except for the one I have outlived.  And that is my heart’s greatest burden.  

dominic at olive garden

I am so thankful for a husband who has graciously provided for our family.  I never wrangled a moment over grocery money or necessary homeschooling supplies.  That is a gift! (And for his unending support for my crazy livestock lifestyle-here’s this year’s birthday present.)

golf cart and roses

I have the great privilege of the ongoing companionship of my own parents.  We talk every. single. day.  even though we are miles apart.  These last months of health struggles and Hurricane Michael destruction have forged new links in the chain of love and compassion that bind us to one another.

I have a close circle of “I’ll come over in the middle of the night if you need me” friends.  I remember being on the outside looking in for most of my high school years wondering if I would ever have a really, truly best friend.  In these years since Dominic ran ahead, God has given me one of the desires of my heart and blessed me with just that kind of friendship.

friends pick us up

I have a broader circle of parents that understand what it’s like to send a child ahead to Heaven.  They are a safe place to offload comments and questions that the rest of the world would neither appreciate nor comprehend.  So many have touched my heart with the right word at the right time.  I am overwhelmed by the compassion, grace and kindness of this community.

I write.  It helps my heart.  And the truly amazing and surprising thing is it seems to help a few other hearts too.  I am so thankful that three years ago I followed a prompting to compose that first timid and intimidating post.  Now I can’t imagine a morning where I don’t get up in the wee hours to peck away at the keyboard.

Five years ago I celebrated my fiftieth birthday with all my children, my husband, parents and a crowd of friends.

Tonight the celebration will be a little quieter but very precious.  

My fiftieth year was to be a jubilee of sorts-a culmination of so many dreams in our family and in my own life.  

Instead it was the year we buried Dominic, in addition to the beautiful things we looked forward to.

I’ve stopped making predictions about what a year will bring.  But I haven’t stopped looking forward to the good things I know are on the horizon.  

ultrasound 1 jm lillie

This year our family will grow again and that is a great blessing.  

So I wake and watch and wait.  

Happy Birthday to Me!

 

 

Thanksgiving As Sacrifice

Rocking babies I never dreamed that one day my life would look like this. 

I never imagined that one of those tiny bodies I held close to my mama heart would not outlive me.

Now I sit in the same rocking chair in the dark, thinking about how so many things I wouldn’t have written into my story are now part of it.  

And if I’m honest,  it can easily overwhelm my heart.  It can carry me to a place of despair and desperation where there’s no room for thanksgiving-not the holiday OR the feeling.  

Here we are-the fifth year of holidays without Dominic-and I’m no better at it than I was at first.  

empty chair prayer

Oh, I’ve figured out how to make my way through the day.  I can lay out the plates, fill the pantry and put on a spread.  I am not nearly as prone to tears as I once was-at least not while folks are watching. 

But that easy flow of laughter and near chaos that once marked our gatherings has been replaced by a kind of mechanical plodding that moves from one moment to the next until the day has passed and I’ve survived once again.  

I always expected our family to grow larger.  I looked forward to the day we would no longer fit around the dining room table and we’d have to figure it out.  Spouses and then grandchildren peopled my imagination with such clarity!  While I never saw faces, I could hear the laughter and watch the motion of so. many. new. lives filling my home.  

This year is especially strange.  

Circumstances and work schedules and distance dictate that Thanksgiving will be spent with most of my family far away from my table.  

So there won’t be just one empty chair today, there will be several.  

And if I stare too long or focus too closely on what I don’t have, I can forget what I still possess. 

It’s a temptation-always.  

But temptation can be resisted.  I am not doomed to follow that train of thought to the bottom of the pit of despair.  

I refuse to let the darkness overwhelm the light.  

I will be thankful for all the love this house has known, still knows and will know.  I will be grateful that even though we are physically distant, we talk to one another, sharing laughter across the miles.  I will cherish the moments I had with Dominic and rest in the knowledge that in eternity we will have so many more.  

I can’t fill that chair-no one can fill that chair except my son-but I can fill my heart with good things.  

I can choose thankfulness even when it’s hard.  

Maybe that’s what Thanksgiving is really about-not an unending list of all the sweet things in life-but a short list of beauty extracted from the hard places.

Thanksgiving isn’t always bounty, sometimes it’s sacrifice.

Grief Triggers

It’s funny what can make my heart race and my eyes fill with tears.

Sometimes it’s obvious- I hear of another son killed in a motorcycle accident.

But sometimes it’s obscure- like when I see someone using a legal pad to take notes.

Either way, triggers take me back to ground zero. They rivet my mind’s attention and my heart’s focus to the very moment I first learned Dominic had left us.

Triggers can happen anywhere, any time. They are often unpredictable and surprising.

And there is not one. single. thing. I can do about them.

Even four plus years into this journey and I am as vulnerable today as I’ve ever been.

I try to limit my exposure. I try to have an escape route. I try to suck up the tears and stifle the sobs.

But sometimes no matter how hard I try, I’m overwhelmed and undone.

overwhelmed woman image with glasses huff post

There’s part of me that wishes I could just move on and rejoin life and the human race calm and collected,  regardless of what memories a sight, sound or smell taps into.

And then there’s part of me that wants the world to sit up and take notice of the ongoing pain and toll child loss inflicts on a parent’s heart.

I’ll be honest, as I’m writing this I still cannot wrap my mind around the fact that one of my children is dead.

pencil-drawing-bereaved-mother

Oh sure, I can relate the series of events, but in my heart of hearts it is as shocking today that Dominic isn’t coming home as it was on April 12, 2014.

I really can’t adequately convey the ongoing sense that this must be a mistake.  There must be something someone has overlooked.  Maybe it was all a dream and he will come walking through the door.

I’m not crazy.

I know that Dominic is dead. I saw his body in the casket. I saw the casket lowered into the ground. I visit his grave to change out the flowers.

But I will never, ever get used to it.

family never gets over the death of a loved one

 

All it takes is a smell or a sound or any one of a thousand things that I associate with my third child and I’m transported to that awful morning.

So if you see me tear up, shut down or turn away- let me go.

I just need a few minutes to put my game face back on.

Help! My Family Won’t Talk About My Missing Child.

 

At first everyone talked about him.

It’s what people do just after a person leaves this world and leaves behind only memories.

It comes natural before the unnatural fact of child loss settles in and begins to make everyone uncomfortable.

But at some point after the funeral and way before the tears dried up, people stopped feeling easy mentioning his name.

And when I mentioned him, they weren’t sure whether they should just let those words fall with a “thud!” between us or pick up the conversational ball and run with it.

It’s a bit easier to understand when friends do it.

But so, so many bereaved parents lament the fact that even family members stop saying their missing child’s name aloud.

They stop sharing memories and stop acknowledging the place he or she holds in a parent’s heart regardless of their permanent address.

It hurts.  A LOT. 

I realized after the first six months or so that most people (including my family) didn’t know HOW to talk about my missing son.

So I began modeling it for them: I spoke of memories in past tense as I would for anyone, I spoke of character traits in present tense– because he is still all that plus some in Heaven-and I refused to ignore the elephant in the room.

grief is often the elephant in the room

I told them it was impossible to make me sadder by mentioning Dominic but it was very possible to make my burden heavier by NOT mentioning him.  They were not reminding me that he was gone, I breathe his absence in and out like oxygen all day long.  

miss-you-every-day

 

I know it seems unfair that we must simultaneously learn by (awful and heartbreaking!) experience and also educate those around us, but it is what it is.

If I’m honest, though, before Dominic ran ahead to heaven I didn’t really know how to talk about a young person who died.  It’s natural to reminisce about Grandmama’s favorite recipe or the old-fashioned way she did her hair.  It’s positively Unnatural to speak in past tense about a young, vibrant human being that you never expected to outlive.

There are always going to be some folks-even family-who cannot or will not speak about my child in Heaven.  

I can’t force them to do it.  

But I can encourage the ones who do by telling them what a beautiful gift it is to hear his name on their lips.  

 

mention them teddy bear

Repost: The Loudest Silence

No matter how busy or how noisy or how frantic, in the middle of my chest there is a quiet place that holds space for my missing child.

It was true last year in the craziness of my mother’s health crisis and it’s been so very, very true this past eight weeks full of anxiety, discomfort, challenge and unbelievable stress.  

Read the rest here:  The Loudest Silence