June again


Perhaps this is the tradition now- every year -this time of year -to revisit this particular memory. Four years ago today my son was home. We had just had a storm rip through the mountains. Our power was out and our generator was buzzing. The huge oak tree that stood at the fork of our driveway had spit and half of it lay across the driveway. It had crushed the arbor my husband had built for his raspberries and blackberries.
A couple of years before the same arborist and his company that now cleaned up the broken tree had pinned it together with a great wire. But this best effort was no match for the wind. Another tree was uprooted, tossed on its side. Its skirt was hiked up exposing its roots and dirty bottom.
The noise of the generator and the chain saws made the dogs nervous. My son said, “let’s go take a hike.”
I was still nervous from the storm and the oak tree made me cry. I fished for excuses not to go. “What if the roads were blocked?”
My son scowled, pressed his lips together “come on,” he said, “it will be alright. If it is bad, then we’ll turn around and come home.” We loaded up the dogs and some water. My stomach churned and I had to stop twice at a restroom on the way. My older Pomeranian was not up for the trip and would have to be carried so she stayed home. We were on our way to Panthertown.
You hike down and in to Panthertown so returning always provides a climb when you are tired after a long day.
Sadie, Asa and Sky in the back seat we drove up and wound our way along back roads that took us in. The sky was blue and dotted with clouds that looked like crumbs left from the storm that had passed.
We stood at the trail head – hesitating only briefly before we began the walk down. Sky was a year old as was Sadie but my son controlled his two better than I did my one. Down into the valley we walked where it finally leveled off by the stream.The path is sandy at times and in the boggy places wooden walks have been provided to keep your feet dry.
The sun filtered through the over hanging trees printing a yellow and green jigsaw on the path. The dogs eager for the trail at first settled into a measured gait as they sensed our intention to press on.
My son knew where he wanted to go.
We arrived at a larger beach by the stream where there is light golden sand and a few stones. The water slides over some rocks at the top gently filling a broad pool. The water was cold, too cold for me. My son rolled up his pant legs and waded in. The dogs were off leash now and hesitated, wanting to follow him. My son leaned down calling them ,clapping his hand gently till one by one they followed.
I pulled out my phone and made a video of the scene. The video is not long enough to suit me now. I always berate myself for not lingering on my son longer. My son had brought a ball and tossing it out into the water encouraged the pups to swim after it. Sadie – the youngest border collie was the only taker. Slender and black like a seal she swam while we cheered her on.
“A good strong swimmer.” I said.
On our walk back towards the car I watched my son as he took the lead. All three dogs were at his heel. They knew who they could trust to follow. I memorized him there, so tall, and thin and strong.
The green light of the tree close over his head, his silhouette against the sunny path. He knew I was behind him. I always had been.
I won’t lie. There are days when I am so weary that I wonder just how soon I will follow him now. I suppose I just cannot see the path as clearly as I did then.
I do marvel that part of him was me. I am constantly amazed by that truth when I see my daughter. I think both my children are the best parts of me and their dad with an extra measure of their own peculiar spice.
Yes, it is a wonderful memory. I never got to rehash that memory with my son. In less than a month after this hike he was gone.
Somehow I keep thinking I will figure out how to do these days, how to equip myself with the tools to staunch the flow. My life startles me at times. What startles me most is that my only choice is to resign myself to the fact that there is no “getting used to” this.

Posted in Coping with the Death of a Child | 5 Comments

Dear Son


Dear Son,

I don’t write here as often as I used to though I talk to you all the time. I remember when people told me in an attempt to comfort  that “you would always be with me ” after you died. I was polite, I told them thanks and I walked away thinking “what are they talking about?” It was an assumption on their part because the people who said it had not experienced a loss like this. It sounded nice and was something I think they hoped would be true.

I know they didn’t know what they were talking about. I know they hoped it could be true. They don’t know the half of it. I talk to you all the time. I think of you as being privy to all my thoughts and all my activities.  As the fog cleared that first year you became clearer and clearer in my mind.

Just yesterday I had a memory of an event that I could swear you were present for. I remember your facial expression and what you said but then I looked at the calendar I realized it was after your accident.

I remember your facial expression in situations where in times before we would look at each other and exchange that nonverbal cue. Or I would look at you and you would be looking away .your body language stating emphatically that it was time to go, move on. I remember things you have said and they apply to the current situation and sometimes more poignantly than before.

I see you in your sister and your dad. I see you in things I do and maybe it is because in some ways I want to model myself after some of those things, those things that I think of as your  better attributes.

I thank you and your sister for allowing me to be your mother. It has been a great privilege. I can’t adequately explain that. There are no words. When the florist industry hit upon the idea of Mother’s Day they hit a gold mine. Thank you for never giving Mother’s Day any credence. Your attitudes about what is and what is not important as dictated by society has held true.

“Mother’s Day” is a Sunday like many other Sunday’s. You and your sister are the only gift and accolade I need. You both in your lives and your attitudes are my bouquet.

I think that this  “holiday” is harder for your dad than for me. He is so fierce about his love for me at times.
We locked in this grief together try so hard not to allow our personal grief to make the other’s grief any harder.

If you do witness anything then you know I have these terrible attacks of yearning. It is a huge whole body contraction. No, it is worse than that. The mind and body and world all contract for a terrible moment , contorts and sometimes I wonder if I will breath again when it comes. I cannot predict when or why it comes when it does. I function so much of the time feeling that you are right beside me. I think it is when I want to touch you, hug you, hear your voice when that yearning sees an opening to hit.

I know, I don’t need to go on. I know that you and I in the short time we had together on this earth said all the words necessary, did all the necessary things to express the deep love and appreciation we had for each other.

That will have to do for now.
That will have to do.    You know I love you.  I know you love me.  That will have to do.



Posted in Coping with the Death of a Child | 4 Comments

Learning to Meditate – finally.




I hesitated for a moment before posting this -which is probably some sort of indication that this is something I really need to confess especially to my son.  I am exploring mindfulness and the practice of meditation to center my mind.

Meditation like fasting and prayer in the sacred scriptures is not something that is a mere suggestion , it is and was an accepted practice. Meditation is a place to come center. Psalms 1 suggests that it plants us firmly like a tree soaking up the rivers of water preparing the tree to bear fruit.

One of the meditation practices is the deceptively simple practice in which you think about breathing. You think about each breath, in and out. When I was a child I remember being asked to take a nap. While in repose I would become aware of my breathing. I remember becoming so aware of it that I became frightened. I worried that if I stopped thinking about it I would stop breathing. I didn’t understand that in that situation not breathing was impossible.

You cannot control that part of you. The body breaths as long as all the wiring is intact.
Isn’t it funny that the one central part of you that keeps you alive is something you cannot control? You can concentrate and make yourself breath deeply but you cannot sustain it for long, once you stop concentrating your body assumes its own rhythm. You can get excited and breath quickly depleting your CO2 with the result being that you pass out from hyperventilation. But once you pass out your body begins to breath normally again.

What is the result of being aware of such simple things? There are those who encourage us to be more mindful suggesting that we should observe our thoughts as separate from us, acknowledge our moods as something that will come and go like the tide. They suggest that in doing so we might be able to step outside of ourself to act towards others with kindness, compassion and understanding. Could it be so simple and yet so difficult to take time in this world that tugs at us from every direction to think outside of ourselves?

I remember my mother complaining, lamenting that she could not help how she felt. The truth is because she did not know how to, she indeed could not. Thoughts are like unruly pups that run away quickly if we do not try to be aware of them. The thoughts nudge our mood and soon we find it difficult to function or function in unbecoming ways.

My bouts with grief are intense. The song about something coming in like a wrecking ball seems like a good analogy for the intensity. It knocks me off my feet momentarily and I feel like I truly cannot breath. I am willing to try and learn a practice that will allow me to observe it, recognize it and strangely enough – honor it – even the pain. I may be sitting on the floor where it knocked me when I finally find the strength to honor it but that will be an improvement.


In the moments after I meditate I am able to picture lighter things. My imagination serves me well. Recently after visiting our beautiful public library I find myself picturing myself like this structure with vast windows that light can flood through. I am filled with shelves of information that I have experienced and seen and learned from others. Not all of the words and ideas are happy. But they are written.

They are proof of who I am and where I have been and seen and experienced. Any one of the shelves is at my disposal to visit or to pass by for the time being.

Every day, every single day there are moments given over to thinking of, wishing for, missing and mourning my son. It is something that is lodged close to the spot that regulates my breathing. It resides in the space that holds the feelings for my daughter and my husband and all those I care about in life who give me strength and reassure me.

Is meditating going to fix anything that has happened? No. It may however help me rest for a bit , to gain my balance, to give me space to think, observe, process and honor.

Given the influence the gift of my family has been in my life I do in all ways want to honor them while I still breath. I honor my son , my mother and dad and my husbands parents too. I may be among the last on earth to do so in this time if even only for this day.

Posted in Coping with the Death of a Child, meditation, mindfulness | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Todays Prompt: In Loving Memory









Dear Son,
I’ve been reading and writing a lot of poetry. I escape a little sometimes with some of my thoughts, but most often I return to thoughts of you, your sister, our family. Todays prompt suggestion is “In Loving Memory”. From what I can see we all spend a lot of time in memory at least for those of us that are past a certain age.

I read a poem and I think it is talking about you or something you did or something you would have said. I realize it just means that when it comes to human emotion and human activity we are not all that different.

I write a poem and suddenly I am once again talking about you or the way I feel. I go up and down, up and down. One minute I am fine and the next I am in tears. Your sister has named it “turbulence”. There are times I experience an almost giddy silliness – almost inappropriate for some situations and within the hour I am sobbing.

When I have a cold and I begin to recover there are certain stages it passes through until I don’t even remember having had the cold. I think people who have not lost a child expect my grief to be like that. I think they expect me to gradually recover and I know they don’t understand. I am astonished when I realize that I am not going to recover, that this is it, and you are not here to talk to and discuss this with.

In loving memory – that is all I am to have of you? Loving memories? It is not enough and it makes me angry.

I want the microwave light blinking where you didn’t turn the timer off for your tea. I want you here making fun of my choice in books and TV shows. I want your lectures on things that I don’t understand. I want your long arm looped over my shoulder and to find you twirling your hair while you sink into a book to read.

I went to the library and rounded a corner and there in bold print on the shelf was David Foster Wallace’s book “Infinite Jest”. I stand in the yard with the dogs and a juvenile red-tail hawk circles the yard – flashing its colors in the sun. I open a travel magazine and there is an article extolling the joys of the baths in Budapest. Then your sister changes her profile picture to one of the two of you together or on an old flash drive I find a photo of with Sky when he was a pup.

Our lives were woven together as intricately as any tapestry. There is no un-stitching.

Today I visited your sister at her new job at the hospital where you were taken after your accident. I drove past the emergency room door. Last time I was there was when the emergency helicopter worker saw me and realized I was lost and escorted me to where your dad was waiting to hear from the doctor concerning your condition. I saw the helicopter sitting there idle – waiting for a call for someone else.Then I entered the front doors I walked through for two years with your sister while she was undergoing chemotherapy. My heart was racing and I wanted to turn and run out. But your sister came and found me – she was smiling. I saw another part of the hospital and from another point of view- hers in the excitement of her new job.   You would be so proud of her in so many ways.

She and I talked about how this place was just a building. Just a building where in one instance – with your sister – we heard that she was in total remission from leukemia. In the same building we were told you would not make it and said goodbye.

I can’t unravel all that. It is all wound up together in my heart.
Back to the subject of loving memory – it is the predominate memory. I love you and your sister so much. I love the memories and I am thankful I have them, but I loved having you in my life more.





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Mourning Fog


I was writing a poem for an assignment that I accepted through WordPress when one of the prompts was “fog”. When I pull up the weather sites one of the warnings that is often posted is “Morning Fog”. If it has been warm and a cool rain shifts in the fog begins to appear. Winter fog is a little less predicable. Yet when either comes it changes the landscape dramatically.
Whole mountains disappear and familiar shapes are muted or unrecognizable. If you are able to drive up and over one of the mountains  you will drive out of the fog into the sun only to descend again once you have crossed the summit.
Most people turn their headlights on and drive slower. A familiar place is transformed into the unfamiliar. The air feels cooler because of the amount of moisture present, sometimes to the point of making everything wet.
Mourning creates its own type of fog that shares a lot of the characteristics of actual fog.
It changes the way everything looks to the extent that some parts of our life are unrecognizable.
The days, regardless of the amount of sunlight do not seem as warm or bright.
It was not predictable or expected and even if we were warned we were not prepared for the reality.
We proceed cautiously – or not at all because we do not know what is ahead or around the bend.
Our days are wet with tears of grief and frustration and even anger.
When we drive up into the sunlight for a bit we never stay long before something – a memory or thought – takes us back down again.
The fog does eventually abate. We trade our mourning for daily grief. We never accept the loss of our child but we do learn to accept the grief. It is never completely comfortable – an ill fitting garment at best – but a part of every day for the rest of our lives.
Still the fog rolls back in again every now and then and we find ourselves bewildered by the fact that we are not prepared to deal with it any better than we did the first time.
Every day challenges come to all of us. What is not so apparent is that some of us are operating at a disadvantage emotionally – we truly are in a fog.

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Thirty three years

IMG_0826You have probably had that moment when you have been very busy and the busy-ness stops. You are in a familiar place where you stand still for just that second and the familiar is surprising because of  just how familiar it it is. It as been around you, minding its own business and you have taken it for granted distracted by all the things, stuff, obligations that you have been working on. In conjunction to this moment someone mentions or perhaps you read on a piece of paper a date or perhaps you see a photo and wonder “when was this taken?” You learn the date and a shock ripples through you — has it been that long?
For those of us who have lost a loved one – recognizing every day that passes can be shocking. When we turn and realize it has been a week it seems impossible, a month -surely not! and then a year – unfathomable.
My son’s birthday was this past Wednesday. It was his thirty third birthday, the fourth birthday we have marked without him. I baked his favorite cookies. I made it through the day.
I told a friend the other day I have stopped trying to believe he is gone. Since the phrase that comes to mind most often for me when talking of him or by myself is “I can’t believe he is gone” I have decided that maybe it is best not to bother to try. It doesn’t work.
The shock of realizing that that number 4 on the calendar situated in the grid marked February marks the fourth year this day has passed without him is incomprehensible. Sometimes the shock itself is the thing I find myself focusing on. What is that? I feel like I am in the movie 2001 on that deserted landscape with the monolith standing there stark and foreboding. It is not to be ignored.
The photos, the old papers found become with time like speed bumps. You are moving fluidly through the day, week, month and you bump over those things after a while. It may be during the third year or so that you can do this. And I don’t mean you don’t notice – it jostles you to the point of tears. These are the tears we have all learned to let flow and then mop up and go on. These are the ones that burn at the corner of your eye when in public or you find yourself looking down distractedly pretending to search in your handbag or briefcase so no one will notice.
The Monolith smacks you right between the eyes. It stands there daring you not to notice and for a while you stand agog – and all the familiar, day-to-day will only wait so long for you to move on.
The sense of “has it been that long” feels like it has been amplified.
We feel the touch of the wind as it passes. We stick our hand out the window of our car and we can tell that we are moving through space. We feel our feet as they make contact with the floor and perhaps the ache in our hip joint as we move to walk. We are in one place and now we are in another and we remember snippets of the journey.
One minute we were a family of four, interacting and laughing together, sharing the passing of the milestones of birthdays and growth. In one short day it changed. And that day became a date on the calendar and a hole in our life.
I am very active and push myself to be out there in the world among people. I am swimming along the stream too.  I have no intention of shutting myself off. I am thankful every day for my son, my daughter, my husband, family and friends.
Every night when I go to bed, I think of my daughter- my love and pride for her and I hope that is she is resting and safe. Every night I listen to my husband as he sleeps, my dogs as they turn in their kennels. Every night I think of my son, I think of all the prayers I said on his behalf, of all the hopes I had for his future and I wipe my eyes and I go to sleep.
As I told my friend the other day “I am as better as I am going to get for now.”

I carried him for 9 months.  I watched him grow for 29 years.   He will remain a part of every day I live for the rest of my life.

I love you babe.

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In honor of . . .

IMG_1821There are situations you cannot imagine. There are circumstances even when witnessed you will not be able to understand. It is true for everyone.
I have seen photos and films of war and I can not imagine how the people feel who have witnessed battle. I can not imagine what it would be like to be told “you can not have a child.” I can not imagine what it is to be a man though I live with one. I don’t begin to understand what is like to be young person in this world today because I come from a different generation.
I am old enough to have experienced being told that because I am female I can not do or expect certain things. I have experienced things that are similar to other women my age. But there are many many things I do not know, will not know, as it is for all of us.
My niece gave birth to twins in December. They were premature being born at 26 weeks. Sadly one died within two days and the second was lost just days ago. It is a horrible and cruel loss. I miscarried at around 12 weeks between the birth of my son and daughter. It was sad experience but very different from my niece’s  experience. I don’t know how she feels and yet in some ways I do.
I do know what deep penetrating grief feels like.
I can’t tell her and her husband what they should do, except that what they choose- is for them to choose. They have a beautiful little girl who will probably not remember any of this sad time happening first hand. She will be told about it as time goes by and she will wonder why there are times when her mother and daddy are sad because of anniversaries they mark. She will learn the reason. She may when she grows up wonder what it would have been like to have twin sisters. Hopefully she will never experience the loss of a child herself.
There will be painful anniversaries. There will be questions and may or may not be the temptation to feel guilt. There will be huge questions that may even involve their faith. There may be people who suggest answers. The answers may never come – at least not the answers they really want.
I accept that I will never receive an answer as to why the accident happened that claimed my son’s life. That doesn’t stop me from asking, however.
I am so sad for them and sorry for their loss. They are in shock and they are feeling cast adrift.
What I hope for them is that people hold their tongue, give them space, allow them to grow up as they are being forced to do.
There are sad grandparents – sister and brother-in-law. There are sad friends and neighbors and cousins and aunts and uncles. None of us know exactly how they feel or what they need even if we have experienced a similar loss. Neither my niece or nephew or anyone else for that matter know how to  “fix” this or make it “better.”
Perhaps they  would  say if they could say  is this  – “I need for this not to have happened.” “I need my children.”
What can I pray for them?
I would have them to have strength and wisdom.
I would ask them to ignore the clock because grief has it’s own timeframe.
I would hope that they will have the strength to be honest with themselves and how they feel and ignore the well meant but sometimes insensitive words some might say.
I hope they do what is best for them concerning honoring their babies.
I pray that they connect with their sweet remaining daughter and are able to not feel the urge to overprotect too much as time goes by.
I pray that they can be kind to each other and stand firm as the current of life continues – as it does so quickly – when they are not ready for anything to move on.
I hope they can endure the pain of the reality they have learned so cruelly – the reality that we have little to no control.
And if they have faith, may it grow stronger.
May the people who come now to console them remember them as time passes and be there for them as the days and weeks and months and years ahead weigh in with the grief they contain.
Today I honor their daughters. I honor my niece and nephew as parents with all the hopes and dreams that every parent feels for their child, that every mother feels the moment that baby flutters in their womb. I honor your life. I honor your loss. I am so very sorry.

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End of the year inventory


A day of remembrance.

A day of remembrance.

My mother used to say to me that I should go to my room and imagine I could take myself apart – and do an inventory of my parts. I always was a bit confused as a child concerning this admonition and as an adult I think I have probably changed it in my mind in some ways. I remember her saying to get rid of those parts you don’t like. It is not that easy.

Yet the idea of inventory is not foreign to any of us who have ever worked in retail and as an artist with a body of work there is time to inventory what I have and where paintings are in galleries and shops. I can’t say I enjoy either effort. I remember staying late at Montgomery Ward years ago as a clerk and counting and counting and counting.

Yet a personal inventory is not a bad thing to do every now and then. To write out on paper the things you have, the things you don’t need. Perhaps in doing so you winnow out the things you have allowed a prominent place that do not deserve that place.

Priorities become known.

I know that after the death of a loved one – father, mother, sister, brother, beloved aunt or uncle, friend or even acquaintance it tends to make even the most jaded and unattached pause for a moment. We gather up our mortal self and blink at the specter of death. It is coming. When we do not know for sure but it is coming. We might think of the things we wish we could change about ourself and make a promise to try.

We probably think about the person who is gone. Depending on the relationship the memories range from funny to annoyance. They are a part of what we have collected in our personal memory inventory. If we want we can choose to learn from them, emulate them or try our best not to duplicate them. It is our choice – they belong to us.

The first Christmas I spent with my son was carrying him inside me. He was born in February so the December my husband and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary I was great with child. I don’t remember that Christmas much. I do remember going out to eat with my husband and sitting in front of a fire at the Fearrington House. http://www.fearrington.com/fearrington-house-restaurant/ For hormonal me it was the warmest winter I had ever experienced, though the cold had frozen the ponds on Mann’s Chapel Road. This year we celebrated thirty eight years.

I reach back to drag out memories because I realize that that is all that is left of many many things, not just my son. I made friends with people that I have not seen in years and don’t even remember their face but I remember things that happened with them. Most of them are funny instances . So I guess when making my inventory the one thing I like and want to keep about myself is a sense of humor.

I do not mind the fact that I have a tender heart either. It causes me pain at times but I have learned to tolerate pain. Being tender of heart has allowed me to let a variety of people into my life and with them we have created memories. I don’t know that the other person held on to the memories the way I do, but that doesn’t matter. I have them.

I am a creative person. I like creative problem solving and I love learning. I love seeing things we take for granted used in a new way and I love seeing people have an “aha” moment. I feel an instant connection when that happens.

I share these traits with my husband, my son and my daughter. I share these traits with my sisters too and with their children and I remember seeing them in my mother and dad. It is a connection that cannot be broken like emotional DNA.

An internet friend was having great emotional pain the other day. It is easy to become very negative about life when you loose a child, more than any other loss you experience. If that were the only difficult thing happening in our life perhaps we might manage differently. Life has the audacity to keep going on while we are being torn apart from the inside. It is almost impossible to regain your footing standing in the pounding surf of life. I mentioned the idea of inventory to her and I realized I needed to do one myself. There is no shoulder on our road of grief and we drive off in to the ditch a lot if we are not very diligent.

For me there has been an ongoing concern and then suddenly a recent tragedy in my extended family that has brought a lot of emotions to the surface. Premature birth of twins and the loss of one of the babies has brought great sadness. Yet there is hope beyond hope for the surviving twin. And there is hope for the ongoing concern because the person involved

has pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and is marching forward.

In my inventory list I have humor, tenderness, creativity. It is just the beginning and if I add no more I can if nothing else pass each incoming thing through the test of these three and see if what is coming fits or not. I don’t need to leave them strewn out on the bed behind that closed door and refuse to use them at all. There is a point where we gather them back in and put them back into use. We do this because of the connection we have to our children and family – regardless of where they are, how they behave or even if they are no longer with us.

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A day of remembrance – Dec. 14th

IMG_8923I am a painter, an artist, a creative problem solver. I don’t remember thinking “I want to be an artist” I only remember drawing, painting, building – doing. How you establish credibility as an artist is another thing and like everything else the world measures it in its own way.
The measure of success and failure seem to shift with each generation. The parameters change for what constitutes a measure of success. Yet today it seems notoriety is a more popular way to gain attention. And we are if nothing else an attention seeking culture. Yet I have found – as I suspect many others have- that attention is not all it is cracked up to be. Attention brings with it a big bag of expectations that are imposed on us and some of the expectations can be outrageous and impossible.
When my son died we were at the center of a lot of attention. There were cards and phone calls and food brought by loving concerned people. Many had known our son, some knew only our daughter and some knew only my husband and me. Some had known us all our lives together as a family.
There was no avoiding the news about his accident. There was no avoiding a memorial service in his honor.
The cards came  in waves for days and then they became a trickle and then they stopped. The house became very quiet. Those who came to the memorial hung their clothes back in their closets. They went to work on Monday.
Our daughter, his sister, went back to the house she had shared with her brother. She, like her father is obsessive and so she took on the task of sorting through her brother’s possessions. She boxed and she bagged and she waded through things that he loved and had expected to come back to after a 4th of July vacation. I could not bring myself to go there and help. If left to me they would still be there in that house probably. I am not sure how she made it through those days.
I felt as heavy as lead. I don’t remember when I started to paint again. I know that writing here became a thread I clung to. I dreaded nighttime. The end of day meant there would probably be the beginning of another and it would be just the same as the one before. He would not be in it.
I don’t remember when I began to be able to function a little. I took small bites. I set small goals. I kept my hands busy. I read every book on grief I could find. I participated in online chat with The Compassionate Friends group. I wrote, I painted, I read and I cried every day.
Friends who tolerated my moods before could not tolerate my state of mind. They were cordial and kind but they did not know what to say nor did they know how to handle how my tears made them feel. Even now, three years since his death you can see them close up when we speak of him, tell an anecdote concerning his life. But we do talk of him. He is still a part of our life.
Slowly here and there I met a few parents who had lost a child. Twenty years ago, thirty years ago, forty years ago they would say and their eyes would glaze with tears. With those words, naming the time we are rushed back and it is yesterday. When we read or hear in the news of another child’s death we feel a sympathetic pain. If the child who passed is the age of our child or passed in a similar fashion we relapse. Every part of our grief resurfaces.
There is nothing that we or anyone else can do that will change how we feel.
We may change what we do, where we live, how we do certain things but our feelings don’t change. We love our child, we miss our child and we grieve.
The thing we want most of all – is to have someone remember our child. That child is still a part of every day and friends and acquaintances fear “they are going to make us remember”. If they only knew how often we fear we might have something happen that will make us forget. We sometimes touch and pick at our feelings of loss to make sure it still hurts because now hurt/grief/loss is connected with our child. We don’t want to ever forget our child.
This Sunday, December 14th is a day of remembrance for children who have passed. When it is 7:00 p.m. where ever you are in the world candles will be lit in their memory. I light them for my son and other children I knew and for children I did not know. The first year I hesitated to honor this time on this day because I could not figure out how I felt. I did it in secret.
Last year I pulled out every candle I could find. And today I am going in search of candles to use.
The hard part. The horrible hardest part which I haven’t figured out – when the hour is past –  do I let the candle burn down? Or do I blow the candle out?
I can handle the light part of it as representing my child – but the blowing out of the light – it’s symbolism is the hardest to bear. I don’t know who sees all the candles burning but if it is just you, in your home then I hope it feeds some need for you as your child is remembered.

Regardless of whether you participate in this worldwide event, I know as you know that your child still shines a light into your life.

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Most Wonderful Time of the Year?


As of late I have been reading more about other parents struggles than writing about my own. It is not necessarily comforting although it does help a little to know that I am not alone. Grief for a beloved child is one of the wounds that time does not heal.
I speculate as to whether it forms a scar for some that is always tender and at times very obvious. I have met some parents who cannot help but wear their loss that way and believe me I don’t blame them.
This will be the fourth Christmas Holiday without our son and the first where some other changes have taken place. I realize as I write that that with the passing of time there are always changes taking place yet we do not stand by to mark them so indelibly.
Perhaps that is why I have not written as much lately. There are personal things with family members that I cannot write about -yet they are life altering, major changes, that bring with them a certain amount of grief.
So every year for those of us who remain Christmas comes at us beginning right after Halloween, plowing down Thanksgiving to get to us with its hand out, commercials blazing in the background.
Every sentimental ploy, every heart-wrenching image, tender children’s faces alight with the hope of “what they will get” are quite literally everywhere.
Sweet loving couples in the snow embracing while new cars, new diamond rings, new (you fill in the blank) light up their eyes and appear to warm the cockles of their heart. And for someone watching, alone on the couch it breaks a heart and they have to turn away because that should be their son, daughter, husband, wife, brother, sister – who is gone or else never lived long enough to come to that milestone. But the advertisers have a right to air their commercials so after New Year the financial analysts can praise or despair over how much money was spent for the Christmas season.
This has become the measure.
But what does it really cost?
If we could picture it like a pyramid what would comprise the base layer? I don’t know how it would be built but piled up on it would certainly be a selection of the following:
Elderly persons who wish they were remembered and send out obligatory checks to children/grandchildren/nieces and nephews.
Parents who do not have the means to buy their children the things that they want, see other children have because it would mean not paying heating bills/ food or rent.
Children who do not understand why their parents appear nervous/anxious/and downright sad during this time when we are being told by the TV it is the “most wonderful time of the year.”
Then somewhere in the mix are those of us who have lost someone so dear to us. This time of year with the New Year rushing right in behind us underscores and spotlights what we have been working so hard for the past year to get through.
Sadly there are so many that are a combination of all of these and more things I have not even thought about.
Looking at photos on Facebook after Thanksgiving of families together and celebrating each other was both beautiful and gut-wrenching. Looking back at the last Christmas my family had together is gut-wrenching yet priceless.
Yet lost in all of this – trampled under the tinsel and purchases and mistletoe is a story of birth and eventual loss. Mary bore a child and lost him. Whether you or anyone believes he was the Son of God or not – history bears out the fact he was born and his earthly body died. Mary cradled him to her in birth and in death. And though my own religious tradition did not have us venerate Mary in any way I think of her in relation to her son. I don’t know how she did it because I don’t know how I do it.
Mothers and Fathers throughout time have been where I am and sadly there will be more.
So for Mary’s sake, though I doubt seriously that she bore her baby Jesus on December 25th I will be thankful. I may not get any decorations on the tree this year, but that will only make it a Christmas that I will remember for some other reason.
As for advice if there is any to be had concerning what I would have others do at this time of year? Survive as best you can and be easy on yourself. Toys and clothes and electronic devices will break and wear out and be discarded. Smiles, laughter, times of playing games together and stories read while being snuggled close – they will be remembered. Food shared over a table, regardless of the menu, with family members serving family members and enjoying whatever is offered – that is nourishment.
We know that but why do we forget it? Why do we allow ourselves to be dazzled by the tinsel and the hype?
Did Mary hear the angel’s voices singing? Or was she napping from her labor? I can tell you from the moment she put that tiny face to her breast she fell in love and if she ever prayed, she prayed then.
So keep the holiday without being swept away. Even at its best there will probably be disappointment. But remember buried in the heart of it all – in your heart too -is relationship. Relationship between parent and child, husband and wife, brother and sister – relationship between God and man. Happy Holidays.

Posted in Coping with the Death of a Child, Family, Friends, Holidays | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments