Repost: Not Funny Anymore

I got my dad to take this picture on Father’s Day 2013 as a joke.

Dominic had a habit of being out of town for both his birthday and Father’s Day most years and he was studying abroad that summer.

It was meant to poke fun at him being absent yet again for a family gathering. It was meant to be funny.

It’s not funny anymore.


Dominic had a habit of managing to travel on his birthday and often into the summer months.  

He’d jump at every opportunity to go here, there and everywhere.

He had the heart of an adventurer and life on our little farm in the middle of rural Alabama didn’t often offer the excitement his heart craved.

Read the rest here: Not Funny Anymore

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?

Am I Refusing To Accept My Child Is Gone?

Even therapists get it wrong sometimes.

Especially therapists that only know what child loss is supposed to look like from books and lectures.

I understand how logical it seems that a parent should be able to accept his or her child is no longer alive. After all, most of us saw our child’s lifeless body and performed whatever rituals our hearts find most comforting.

We haven’t received a phone call, text, message or new photograph. Weeks, months and years pass and no word.

Of course this child is gone.

But a mama’s heart still hopes. Somewhere deep down there is a part of me that longs for connection to this child I carried, nurtured and loved.

So sometimes my heart will play tricks on me.

It started just after Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

I was the one who had to make phone calls and inform the family of his passing, repeating the awful words over and over and over. So my head got it right away.

Dominic was dead. He was not coming back. There was nothing I could do about it.

Still, I found that for the first year or year and a half, every time I went somewhere we usually went together or attended a family function or celebration where we’d all be in one room, I looked for him.

  • If someone came around the corner and I caught a glimpse of a shoulder-could that be him?
  • If voices drifted upstairs-maybe that’s Dom’s laugh down there?
  • A whiff of soap or shampoo on the grocery aisle-was he just ahead of me?

Ridiculous. Maybe. But very, very real.

Now these six years later that hardly ever happens. Once or twice a year, when the family is together and especially if we are together in a crowd of other people, I’ll kind of “look” for him-on the fringes, around the edges, his voice maybe mixed in with others.

I do still sit silent in the dark hours of early morning shaking my head and saying aloud, “How can Dominic really be dead?”.

But that’s not denial of the fact he is gone.

It’s acknowledgement of how hard it is to live with that truth.

I really don't know why are we trying to put each other down and ...

Mother’s Day 2020: A Letter From The Child Not Here

My daughter, Fiona, wrote this several years ago, in the voice of her brother who ran ahead to heaven.    

I am so thankful for her and so sorry that she has gained this wisdom at great cost.

Some of the bravest, most loving women I know are those who have suffered one of life’s greatest losses. I hope you know how truly beautiful you are. 

Dear Mom,

Read the rest here: From The Child Not Here on Mother’s Day.

My Seventh Mother’s Day as a Bereaved Mother


When it first happened all I could think about was getting through a minute, then a day and then all the decisions and days leading up to a funeral or memorial service.  

There’s no road map.  

Even when others come alongside (and many, many did!) there’s just no easy way to navigate that part of the journey.

And then I realized that in addition to all the “regular” days that absolutely, positively  break your heart, I had to forge a path through “special” days.

It was overwhelming!

Mother’s Day was especially challenging that first year.  Our loss was fresh and we’d had to acknowledge and celebrate two graduations and a wedding was about a month away.  How in the world could I honor my living children and also safeguard my broken heart?

We muddled through by having Mother’s Day at my daughter’s apartment co-hosted by some of her sweetest and most compassionate friends.  Not a lot of fanfare, but good food, good company and a quiet acknowledgment of Dom’s absence but also my living children’s presence.

It was a gift. 

This is my seventh Mother’s Day.  Every year is different.  Every year presents new challenges and every year things change.  

Since discovering there is an International Bereaved Mother’s Day my heart has taken advantage of having a day to think about and honor Dominic and then another day to think about and honor my living children.

That helps.  

I wrote this post four years ago but can’t really improve on it so I’ll share it again.  I pray that each heart who finds Mother’s Day hard will lean in and take hold of the hem of His garment. 

It’s really the only way.  

Read the rest here:  Mother’s Day as a Bereaved Mother

Another Meltdown

I’ve spent most of this afternoon crying.

It’s beautiful weather and nothing terrible happened today but my heart is heavy and I can’t shake it off.

I try so hard to identify triggers and personal traits that lead me down this path of sorrow.

Sometimes I come up empty.

I do think it has something to do with all the changes we’ve been forced to embrace.

They feel familiar.

Sudden, unexpected events have squeezed all of us into a narrow place with fewer options than we are accustomed to have available. Jobs lost, schools closed and (what is the deal???) no toilet paper.

A life that used to feel like an open vista of opportunity now feels constrained and burdensome.

I’m limiting my exposure to news and social media but there’s no escaping it altogether and it’s affecting my ability to keep a stiff upper lip.

I guess lack of sleep has something to do with it too. And the fact that someone’s dogs got into my chickens and killed half of them. Death-any death-is awful!

Plus Mother’s Day coming up. It will be the first I’ve spent without one of my children and without my own mother being at least a phone call away.

I would normally try to talk myself out of giving in. But not today.

I’m sitting outside in the extraordinary windy day and letting the tears fall. I think that’s what I need.

I miss my mama.

I miss my son.

I miss life the way it used to be.

I Should Have Thought Of That!

I know (really, I do!) that people MEAN well.

I understand the temptation to share cute little sayings like these in response to a bereaved parent’s Facebook post.

shed tears or love

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/04/27/why-didnt-i-think-of-that/

You Don’t Lose Them All At Once

It would be easier, in a way, if it happened all at once.

If the vivid memories of his voice, his laugh, his body language, his sense of humor just disappeared-POOF!-now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t. Then I could make a single adjustment.

But that’s not how it is.  Instead, the living proof of his existence recedes like a wave from the shoreline, only there’s no returning surge to remind me of the force that was Dominic.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2016/04/18/slow-fade/

Repost: Tangible Absence

In response to something I posted in a bereaved parents’ group a friend used the term “tangible absence” to describe what I was feeling.

She is so right.

When I imagine something I’ve never actually experienced-even when I might say “I miss such and such” it’s not the same as when I’ve had something and it’s been taken away.

I can only miss the imaginary in an ephemeral, insubstantial way.  I miss what I once possessed in a tangible way.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/04/06/tangible-absence/

It's Only Natural

Whether surrounded by friends or strangers, I sift through the words threatening to fly out of my mouth very carefully.

Like most of us, there’s a script in my head that doesn’t always bear sharing.

But unlike many, part of my script involves a child that lives in Heaven.

And I’m constantly weighing whether or not I should mention him even though the conversation leads my heart to a memory I very much want to speak aloud.  It often makes others uncomfortable, awkward and upset when I do.  So sometimes I just don’t.

I hate that I edit myself like that.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/03/24/only-natural/