I first shared this five years ago so it may shock some folks that while I have finally tossed most of the things in my fridge that once belonged to Dominic, I’ve got a giant bottle of hot sauce I’m still using.
Every time I add spicy flavor to chili I think of him.
I’m not looking forward to the day it runs out because it will be one more link dissolved between the living son I knew in the flesh and the memories I have to settle for now.
My parents live in another state so I call each morning just to check in and say hello.
We usually chat about what we have planned for the day, what we did the day before and share any important family updates.
Yesterday my dad mentioned that he had been to the grocery store, came home and when putting away the food he bought decided to clean out his refrigerator. He joked that he found some things from years ago tucked in the back where they’d been forgotten.
I laughed and said, “Yeah-I did that sometime last summer.”
And then my heart froze as I remembered another fridge I cleaned out three years ago.
I went on to say, “I threw out all the old stuff except what I took out of Dom’s fridge when we cleaned his apartment.”
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.
Not because I don’t have anything to say but because I can’t find ways to say it that might make sense to anyone else.
So much is jumbled up inside me, so much is wrapped around itself and I can’t find the end of the string to unravel it.
Ever since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, writing has been my refuge. First in my journals and now in this space.
I depend on words on the page to tell me what I think and feel.
Lately my trusty tool has let me down.
I’m sure part of it is the abrupt end to silent days and virtually unlimited alone time since the coronavirus crisis upended my routine.
Now when I come in from my walk I’m greeted by my husband (a good thing!) instead of only cats. I spend more time making meals and cleaning up after them. I don’t have the quiet moments watching the sun sink down behind the trees and dark reclaim the living room as I peck away at my keyboard.
Part of it is the time of year.
Sunday will be six years since Dominic left us and each passing day brings me closer and closer to that milestone. I should be better at facing it by now.
But I’m not.
Last year my faithful companion animal died around this time too. His death didn’t hold a candle to the death of my son but any death-every death-pricks that deep wound and reminds me the world is not as it should be.
Last year’s Facebook post:
2:53 4/7/2019 ••UPDATE•• Roosevelt died in my arms without suffering. I am so thankful for the years I had with him. ❤️.
I’m holding my precious companion animal as he dies. I want him to know that he is loved and the last thing he feels to be my hand on his fur.
So today, breathing is enough.
2:53 April 7, 2019
And this year-well-this year death is the headline everywhere.
Actual death, impending death, anticipated death. Numbers, numbers, numbers that represent real people, real lives, real families left behind.
How my heart hurts!
I try to stay away from too much news, too much social media, too much of anything besides family and close friends.
I’m still up before sunrise and spend time reading, praying, researching, thinking, waiting to hear from my heart.
Social media is full of rants about this and that. Television blares raised voices shouting over one another in what passes for news coverage. T-shirts are emblazoned with one-liners intended to provoke others.
We tolerate and even embrace anger as a legitimate emotion.
Yet we rarely make room for mourning. We hide our tears. We shame those who don’t hide theirs as “weak” and “soft” and “cowardly” or worse.
But many times what we think is anger, is really sadness.
I’ve discovered that sometimes in this Valley of the Shadow of Death, deep sorrow masquerades as anger.And I’ve become sensitive to that truth in other people as well.
Sadness over loss of any kind can be spewed out as anger:
Sorrow over declining health.
Despair over lost opportunities with loved ones.
Heartache that life has not turned out the way one had hoped.
The problem with anger is that it pushes people away.It creates an impenetrable circle that isolates a heart just when it needs to be loved, cared for and comforted.
Very few are brave enough to battle through another’s angry front to find the sorrow hidden underneath.
So I challenge myself to be more authentic in expressing what I actually feel and not dig a moat around my heart by acting angry when I’m really devastated by grief.
Because I don’t want to push people away, I want them to come close.
I need them to take my hand and remind me that I’m not alone.