Fourteen years ago, I was pretty sure that my life had ended with his. Nothing is like facing the death of your child, and I suspect it’s no different when you know that their death is inevitable due to a disease rather than the sudden swipe of some unexpected fate.
My son was my best buddy. No, I didn’t love him more than I loved my daughter, but the whole relationship was different. They were very different people, right from the time they were born. There was also nearly 8 years between their births, which made me practically a different mom to each one too.
No child arrives with an owner’s manual or a warranty, but I doubt that we’d read the chapter on dealing with their deaths if it did. It’s unthinkable, and I recently had a young father say that he couldn’t imagine losing his son, who is now 3 and my granddaughter’s playmate.
I told him not to ever imagine it.
Nobody deserves the kind of pain that goes with that happening, and imagining it is to endure a piece of the pain for no real reason. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.
I won’t lie either. Not to myself, not to my daughter, not to a stranger.
The pain doesn’t go away. That vast hole in the center of your chest never gets any smaller, and the tear drops don’t stop coming. I dread the month of July, and it gets worse as we approach the end of the month, along with the anniversary of his death. This year has been particularly agonizing for me, as the photographs of the children murdered during the whole thing in Gaza are plastered all over the internet.
Each one rips me open again as if it was his body laying there.
My son didn’t die a violent death. He died in his sleep. He was my borrowed child, and I loved him with a fierceness that was only matched with the fierceness of my love for my first born, his big sister.
I can’t pretend to imagine what the parents of those dead children in Gaza are feeling. I didn’t have anyone to be angry with. I didn’t have anyone or anything to blame for his death. They do. I know there is nothing I wouldn’t do to bring him back or to even keep his sister as healthy as possible.
I don’t see it having a positive effect on relations between the two groups, not with dead children as a tool towards antagonism.
But it confuses me too. How can no one care about all of those dead kids? How can people kill their own children here in the United States? How can they abuse and abandon them? It’s incomprehensible to me. I loved being mom as much as I love being grandma.
There is that. I have a granddaughter. My son would have been over the moon over her–she’s the picture of beauty in his mind, with long hair and a bright smile. She’s as free with affection as her uncle was. She even chews her nails like her uncle did at her age. She doesn’t really look a thing like him though, she is the spitting image of her mom.
This past year, she was also the inspiration for another first post-grief step for me. I put up and decorated a Christmas tree in my house for the first time since his death. It was in her honor, as her mom was going to be in the hospital on Christmas day. (We actually celebrated a day or two after The Day to let her join in the fun after she was released.) That little girl has made the holiday fun for me again, as I look forward instead of remembering the empty spot in the room. It doesn’t mean I don’t miss him then too, because I do. She didn’t fill the hole, she simply brought in bright light to make it less painful, I suppose.
I get depressed as we near the month of his birth, and that is always another mountain for me to travel up and over. April Fools Day is always accompanied by a sense of relief. I have survived it, and while I remember his birthday always, sometimes even baking a cake, it still hurts that I have no one to hug that day.
It’s the little things that bring out the tears too. Power rangers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a brown eyed boy with a Dutch boy haircut, a boisterous boy pretending to do martial arts as he dances around his mother, a shy smile, or someone playing the first episode from Star Wars with the boy Annakin. Memories. That’s all I have now, is those precious memories.
Things like the funky doggy smell he got when he played in the hot sun and got his hair all dirty and sweaty, or how he destroyed socks and jeans. Of building a Hand of Thyme herb bed shaped like a hand. Making pickles. Of the birthday I told him he could have all the “juicy eggs” (eggs over medium) he wanted for breakfast until I cut him off at six (I think he was about seven years old). Of the horrible messes he could make with flour from the time he was first walking right on until his death, and how he could not resist touching flour if opportunity presented it as a possibility. I don’t know what it was about flour that called to him, but it called to him.
I share the memories, we talk about him when we’re together, his sister and I. My mother. My other extended family. His face is over my desk in the last family portrait we had taken, and my granddaughter knows all three faces in the photo.
I’d have adopted more kids, if we could afford it. We can’t…we’re just not financially stable enough to qualify, even for older children. That’s sad, but it is the truth. Instead, we have three dogs and one granddaughter to spoil. We spoil friends’ kids when we get the chance too. Sure, it’s not the same, but that’s all we have now.
I know his generous nature. He would have been horrified if I had become bitter and unpleasant, or shunned other children. I try to be the person he thought I was when he was ten, and I still knew everything and could do anything. Some days, the “do” anything can be a challenge, but I always try to keep learning new stuff. He wanted to have 150 kids (he really did say that…often). All I can do is try to give forward the love that he gave every day he was alive.
But damn, I miss him.
Sure, I have heard all the platitudes about how he is in a better place and all that. Don’t ever say that drivel to a grieving mother. If you are lucky, she ignores you. If you aren’t, she may try to send you to that better place too. To a mom, there is no better place for her child than alive and with her. No exceptions.
I still want him back. Badly.
Yes, I know its impossible, but if I am going to dream, I’m going to dream big. Sometimes I still relive the day he died in my nightmares and I wake up with the grief as raw as it was that first day I put it on. Some days, I never cry a tear that shows. I can laugh. I love. I smile.
And sometimes I still rage when I see a parent treating a child unjustly, and I think, if they knew how much that child really means to them, would they still do that to the kid?
Do me a favor. Hug your kids like it is the last time you can ever do so. Do it three times a day. Never imagine losing them, but do it and remember to never take tomorrow for granted, because sometimes…it never comes. Ever.
Then all you have left is that last time you hugged them.