Archive | August 2016

The Swift Goodbye

 ~ Sorrows come to stretch our places in the heart for joy. ~ Markham

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In Honor of My Son ~ Gone Too Soon

August 21, 1974 ~ August 11, 2005

Nancy Reagan died in March, 2016 at the age of 94. She outlived her President husband by 12 years. Now she is buried beside the man she adored for 52 years. During the twilight of their lives, “Ronnie” became ill with Alzheimer’s disease. Nancy took care of him, as his mind slowly faded. The former First Lady called it “the long, slow goodbye”. I understand that statement. It is aptly named. My mother lost herself in the same disease. It slowly took her mind and shriveled her body. All the while my dad lovingly cared for her until her death 18 years later.

It was sad to lose first my mom and then my dad five years later in 2001. It was sadder still to lose my firstborn son to suicide four years after my dad died. Thinking about Ms. Reagan’s description of her husband’s slow fade from life, I felt the opposite was true with the death of my son. For me his death was more like “the swift goodbye.”

It’s been over ten years since my son died. Years of reflection have afforded some charity, however there will always be questions without answers. One comes to mind out of the pain of ongoing grief: “couldn’t I have done that?” Meaning, couldn’t I have done all those final tasks to honor my son which others did in my place? At the time total exhaustion required many helping hands, and I will always be grateful for them. It’s now, after years have gone by, that my hands ache to do more than put flowers on my son’s grave. Readers can tell that this is very personal for me, but I share it with you in case you, too, find your reflections fraught with questions. One should be allowed the freedom to ask them, even if only in the quiet of one’s mine, don’t you agree?

After the sudden, shocking death of my son, I remember feeling so rushed. If I had a choice, I would have preferred to slow the process down, so that my mind could attempt to catch up, (which, of course, IS impossible). It happened as if I was living in a blur and out of focus. Someone alerted my other children. I don’t even know who called them. I think now, couldn’t I have done that? Perhaps someone thought they were “sparing” me added grief. Why spare me? There is absolutely nothing from which one can be spared after death by suicide.

From a safe distance now I look back at the rush of activity which followed my son’s death and think, I would have preferred to be involved in every scene, every decision no matter how miniscule, for each was important. I was present in every scene at his birth, so why not at his death? I was notified of his passing, but not summoned to identify him. I have no recollection as to why not. Was it because I didn’t think to ask? People hurried us here and there to make decisions while we were dazed and shocked to the marrow. We agreed to arrangements no parent should ever have to make. We signed documents no parent should ever have to sign.

I don’t remember putting any thought into selecting his casket . . .  having never shopped for one before. (Is one supposed to shop for such a thing?) I have only a vague memory of that awful display room. I probably pointed at one through eyes brimming with tears, and hurried back out of there. Thoughtful friends offered to buy my son’s burial clothes. I agreed at the time. Years later I think, couldn’t I have done that?

It seemed like an eternity before we were allowed to see him at the mortuary. I had been praying, “God, if possible, please let it not be my son.” Unfortunately, there was no denying that this young man, with his short, sandy hair, fine handsome features, and beautiful hands, was mine. This man-child was once a bitty “bump” in my belly. This man-child, from the first tiny flutter, had my heart. Nothing bad could ever separate us. Isn’t that the hope of every parent?

Even though I am forced to accept my son’s death, I still love him with all my heart. I could never stop loving the baby I struggled to bring into this world ~ my mind already filled with the hopes and dreams I planned for him. May I never forget each detail, each nuance, each memory of him, all tucked inside my heart. Although I rage against it, somehow I must accept that this is all I have left of him . . . for now.

It seemed to me that there was little time allowed for closure before the final service. Why the rush? Does death have an expiration date? There is no prior planning like one may do for aging parents. Losing one’s child to suicide is shocking, numbing, and so brutally final. Preparations were made quickly and plans finalized. Now I look back and wonder, could I have requested that we slow it down a bit? Why the rush? I would have the rest of my life to process, grieve, and reflect.

All that remained of our sad, swift goodbye was to lower the heavy lid, and shut out daylight forever from the light of my life. Again, why the rush? Could I have asked everyone to leave, so that I could be alone with my son? Perhaps I could have eased into the shock of it all if I had been allowed to sit by him a little longer, touching him, studying his features, and crying more buckets of tears.

Would I have been allowed to stay until I was ready to leave? I doubt it, but I never thought to ask. Perhaps such a request would have been considered irrational behavior. We grievers are easily labeled by those who don’t have any personal experience with losing a child. I know the mortuary personnel were just doing their jobs. For them most funerals are business as usual. Naturally they want to close up and go home, but my heart was screaming, I’m not ready to leave! Can’t I stay by my son just one night? I can’t bear to part with him yet!

I know I will see this man-child again one day. He will look just like I remember him when he was alive, only better. We will squeeze the stuffins’ out of each other in a giant embrace. He will smile his awesome smile again. He will throw back his head and laugh for the sheer joy of being together again, forever this time, and forever free of pain. What a reunion it will be!

God will take away all their tears. There will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All the old things have passed away. Revelation 21:4

Verse from the New Life Version (NLV)

This entry was posted on August 19, 2016. 8 Comments

Almost Full Circle

“Most women say there is no greater pain than to bear a child. I say there is no greater pain than to bury one.”

Whoever wrote this quote, thank you. From this mother’s heart to yours, there is no greater truth on this earth. First I read these powerful words on social media, then I tried to find the source to give proper credit but failed in my attempt. I can’t let them go. They stick in my brain, taking me back to the beginning . . . so long ago now, but I remember the details as if it were yesterday . . .  particularly when I am forced to face yet another anniversary of my firstborn’s death.

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Children are a heritage from the Lord.

In honor of my son ~ gone too soon

August 21, 1974 ~ August 11, 2005

My firstborn was long awaited and excitedly planned for. We got the room ready, filled up the drawers with tiny baby things, and put the crib together. Then we waited. We didn’t have long, for our little guy had already planned to come out early, and he would do it on his terms ~ backside out first.

Breech birth is not delicate and sweet the way nature intended. It required x-rays on the hard surface of the x-ray table while in labor and lots of tugging during delivery. All was done in a record time of four hours. Once I got to hold my sweet baby boy, I easily forgot the struggle it took to bring him into the world.

Our precious newborn was so tiny and wrinkled, so sweet and fragile, that we hesitated to even hold him, but that didn’t last long. Before we knew what hit us, he was front and center, disrupting any life we had before and instantly changing us into a family. Daddy was ecstatic and refreshed. Mommy was thrilled and exhausted. Now I was to learn how it feels to be permanently tired until our nest would once again be empty.

Sandwiched between birth and death is a lot of living, creating many memories. Some are laced with pain, but many more bring a smile to my face, even as tears threaten to spill over. If you are also outliving a precious child, you know the painful truth of the quote above; no doubt words pulled from deep within this mother’s heart. She is a mother who knows and understands that this pain sets up residence in our hearts forever.

Time passed quickly and soon I was very pregnant with our second child. When he was born, it didn’t take long before I realized that two children were not only double love, but also double work and double trouble. Toddler big brother was so curious about this new creature. He stared at his tiny baby brother in wide-eyed wonderment. After all, this was not the four-legged pony he’d asked for, but rather a two-legged, smaller version of himself.

One morning, soon after I had arrived home from the hospital with our second son, I had gotten little sleep because new baby brother had been fussy all night. In the wee hours of the morning, I finally took him to bed with me, hoping the two of us could at least doze a little before big brother woke up. That plan, however, was short-lived. Big brother was awake early, out of bed, and ready to get on with his day. I scooted off the bed and called to him to follow me to the kitchen. My plan was to fix him breakfast to keep him occupied while I took care of baby brother.

When I reached the kitchen, I turned around, but my toddler was not behind me. Quickly retracing my steps to the bedroom, my heart nearly thudded to a stop as I looked upon a frightening scene. Big brother, who could barely climb up on our high bed by himself, sat precariously on the edge. With one chubby hand, he dangled baby brother by one foot HEAD FIRST over the edge of the bed, and with the other chubby hand, he was patting him on the bottom. How could my toddler, who was barely out of babyhood himself, get our newborn in that position? Now was the time for action, not questions. With a thankful prayer, I quickly scooped up my baby before his head hit the floor! Calling a cheery, “Let’s go eat breakfast,” I led the way to the kitchen again. Oh, the innocent actions of the young and the curious! And life with two was just beginning.

Whew! That was a close call. Unfortunately, babies don’t come with owners’ manuals. We can read and prepare as much as possible, but when those little ones enter the world, it’s both a reality check and a rude awakening. I would have to use the eyes God created for me, and the extra pair He planted on the back of my head especially for mothering. (Of course I didn’t really have them there, but the kids didn’t know that!)

Some memories are more amusing than others. This one is definitely not on the funny list, but fortunately, it had a good outcome. It was a quick first lesson on how to juggle two babies. This mother became quickly aware that until little brother got big enough to squawk loudly enough to be heard, or be able to fend off his bro, her eyes would ever be watching. Thankfully, God’s eyes would be watching, too (Job 34:21).

I replay scenes that were exasperating then, but now I can laugh when they come to mind. I wish I would have worried less back then about my children being squeaky clean . . . opting instead to be more relaxed, enjoying what each new day brought us. But that was then. If I had a do-over, I would likely savor the moments as if they were our last. But one never plans on dreading the future, do we? We are more likely to dream about all the things we will do together on vacations, where our children will go to school, or what they might likely be when they grow up. Why would it be any other way?

From older brother holding baby brother by the foot, to younger brother holding a velvet box, both memories are to be cherished: the first because it was the beginning of our family being complete, and the second because it was the tearful beginning of our family being incomplete . . . and a lifetime of knowing the lasting pain of burying a child. We would miss our son. Younger brother would miss his older brother. Precious, earthly bonds forever broken.

I don’t want to end this piece with sadness but with hope. I’ve come almost full circle. In breathless anticipation I wait and hope for Jesus’ soon return, when the mortal, dusty rags of earth will be traded in for the immortal robes of heaven.  My family will be joined together once again . . . complete. We will never, ever be separated again. I can hardly wait!

We’ll step out of our mortal clothes and slide into immortal bodies, replacing everything that is subject to death with eternal life.  1 Corinthians 15:53

 Scripture shared from The Voice Bible (VOICE)

This entry was posted on August 5, 2016. 2 Comments