Each year that passes brings new challenges. I’m never prepared for the period I call my “season of sorrow” regardless of how many times I’ve lived through it and survived.
We cleaned out our garage the other day and found traces of Dominic in so many random places. Each little thing had to be evaluated and put either in the “keep” pile or in the “toss” pile.
What hurt my mama heart almost more than the bits of Dom we found were the bits of my earthbound children tucked in long-forgotten corners. Because I found myself thinking, “What if something happens to THEM? What if I regret tossing that out?”
Things a nonbereaved parent never has to consider.
Yet something I ask myself every time I clean out a drawer or closet or even a random pile of old school papers.
It’s absolutely normal that the space Dominic once occupied in the hearts and minds of his peers gets smaller over time.
He was only a part of their lives-lives blooming and bursting in the spring of their years.
They are moving and marrying and having children and building careers. If he were still living it may very well be they would have lost touch by now anyway.
It has taken me a lot of time and a lot of energy to do the work grief requires. There’s no short-circuiting the process. No way to rush through the painful and necessary steps.
For years I struggled with why, “Just think about the memories” didn’t comfort my heart. I treasured them. I tried hard to hold onto them. But that wasn’t enough.
And then I realized that a mother’s heart is not prepared to go on without the company of her child. I never, ever expected that it would be ME reminiscing about Dominic. I was sure it would be HIM thinking about me.
I pull out the memories like treasures from a locked strongbox.
“Handle With Care” because they are all I have left.
But they are not enough.
They will never be enough to satisfy this mama’s heart.
We are supposed to have to remember our elders, our grandparents, even, maybe our spouse at some point-but not our children.
When we cleaned out Dominic’s apartment two weeks after he left us, I couldn’t throw away a thing.
Even though it meant boxing it up, carting it down the stairs and loading and unloading it onto our trailer, I DIDN’T CARE.
If it was his, if his hands had touched it, his body worn it or he had placed it in the cabinet or fridge, it was coming with me.
The only thing I left in that space was the empty echo of his fading presence.
I brought all the rest home.
Because these things aren’t just things.They represent some portion of my son-his personality, his preferences, his history and his hopes.
Many are the minutiae that make up a life:
scraps of paper tucked inside his briefcase as reminders
a dry cleaning ticket in his wallet
a legal pad on the table where he was taking notes to study for an exam
receipts from recent purchases strewn on the kitchen counter
shaving cream, hair products, favorite soap
clothes and ties and shoes
a fridge full of food he’d chosen for himself
the good coffee
containers saved from food I’d sent home with him
Of course there were the larger items most folks would think of bringing home if not keeping-furniture, computers, his car, television and stereo.
We put the delicate and temperature sensitive things inside the house.
The rest was placed in a storage building on our property. Every time I opened the door to the building for several years it smelled of Dominic.
I loved it and hated it in one breath.
I’m using his furniture in our living room. His television set is downstairs in the family room. Some of his other things live in his siblings’ homes.
We’ve all found ways to touch what he touched last.
I am slowly getting better at getting rid of some of Dominic’s things.
Just yesterday my husband replaced faucets in the bathroom my boys used growing up. In the process we pulled out stuff from under the deep cabinets.
Tucked in the back were some old bottles of hair gel and other half-used, dried up products that once belonged to my fashion conscious son who was always trying to tame his curly hair.
I grabbed them and tossed them into a plastic trash bag as we prepared to put replace things underneath. I almost pulled them back out.
Sighing, I tied up the bag and took it straight to the big curbside garbage can before I could change my mind.
These things aren’t *just* things.
Every time I get rid of something that was Dominic’s I feel like I’m erasing a little bit more ofHIM. I feel like I’m losing one more touchstone to help my mind hold onto memories that might slip away without it.
They are a tangible connection that I can see, smell and touch to a child with whom I can no longer do any of those things.
I suspect I will always keep at least a tiny stash to pull out on heavy days or birthdays or just days when my heart needs reminding.
Today is a day when we honor those who gave the last full measure in service to our country and our country’s wars.
It is a day to honor, remember and mark with solemn gratitude the sacrifice of a life poured out.
You don’t have to agree with the reasons for a war to honor the individuals who died fighting it.
War is far from glorious. It’s ugly and dirty and awful. For those that fight it and those on whose land it is fought.
But in this world where nation invades nation and the wicked often rule it’s sometimes necessary.
Every soldier is a mother’s child. Every soldier leaves someone behind.
In war after war, families across America have been devastated by the deaths of their sons and daughters, many taken in the prime of life, at the dawn of adulthood.
Almost every family and community has a story of burying a promising young soul that was sure to make a difference but who never got that chance.
My father served and my son is now serving.
And to all the mothers and fathers whose sons and daughters gave the last full measure for their home and country, I say:
“Thank you for your sacrifice. Thank you for the love poured into the child that became the brave man or brave woman who would put his or her life on the line for what they believed in. Your toil bore much fruit that continues to bless others today.”
You have given up what no one has the right to ask of you.
You live with both the honor of your child’s legacy and the horror of your child’s absence.
And if your child survived the battlefield but could not survive the scars of war, I am so very sorry.
I understand the pain of missing the child you love, I hear your heart and I am praying for you.
As we gather with our families and enjoy freedom purchased with the blood of sons and daughters, may we REMEMBER.
May we honor the ones who gave everything they had.
And may we remember the families left behind who can never forget.
The strongest love anyone can have is this. He will die to save his friends.