Storing Memories

All of my son’s things are in a storage unit. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to go through it. For now, his dad and I pay the fee every month.  Once in a while, his brother will go and check on his things, maybe “borrow” some shoes or hats.  I said that eventually, , we will go through it…some day.  We will divide things up among his siblings, best friend, his girl friend, and the rest to charity.  I don’t know, though, when that time will be.  For now, I am just fine paying the hundreds of dollars per year to keep his possessions stored. Maybe one day, I’ll know when the time is right.  If that time ever comes.

Joey was always borrowing our carpet cleaner. He used it far more than we ever did since 95 percent of our home is tile and his house saw a lot of traffic with his baby dog, Leo.  When his items were placed in storage, our cleaner was among those things. I wasn’t a part of the “move” so I had no idea it had been placed in there.  I only remember needing to safely store all his memories, but I couldn’t bear to do it myself.  My brothers, his best friend and my son had the painful duty of doing that.  I wanted everything stored..EVERYTHING.  Do not get rid of anything…not even his toothbrush.

In the middle of our living room, there is a large throw rug. In the first few weeks after his passing, it saw a lot of traffic.  You could see that the once vibrant colors were now dingy and dirty.  I told my husband that it was time to clean it. I would ask my daughter-in-law if I could borrow hers or I would just rent one of the grocery store ones. My husband kept insisting that we just needed to get ours from the storage. I would change the subject.  Every time the it was brought up, I made excuses…too far, too inconvenient,  too tired.  Then one day, without my knowledge, my husband called Sarini.. my son’s girlfriend and they made arrangements to meet at the storage place to get it out of the unit.  When he called me later that day to give me the “good news”, I felt sick to my stomach.  I got angry! How dare he remove something from the sacred area!  It was like a knife in my heart. I felt betrayed.

I can’t explain why.  In  a way, I felt that by removing it from the storage, it meant we were taking it away from his memory,  we were taking it away from Joey.  It’s a stupid rug cleaner that was ours anyway, for crying our loud.  But somehow and for some insane reason,  it hurt me deeply.

I knew that when my husband brought it home  later that day, it was not going to be pretty. I would have to explain my pain and my disappointment.  I would  tell him that he broke a sacred bond by removing this inanimate  object.  Yes, I know it’s just a carpet cleaner and yes I know it was ours.  But, he had it last.  He would look at me strangely, shake his head and tell me he was only trying to help. I would have to explain that this machine was going to be a constant reminder of him.  As silly as I might have sounded, it was still painful and heart wrenching.

When he brought it in that evening, I cried.  He looked at me and without saying a word, took it right back out and stored it in our garage.  He came back inside and said “I’m sorry.  I didn’t think. We can by a new one.”  I smiley weakly at him.  No, I said…then I feel as if I am replacing him.  He smiled, shook his head and kissed me on the forehead.

One day….Some day…Maybe

Hello Darkness My Old Friend

I can’t believe its been a year since I put my thoughts on paper.

I can’t believe it’s been 3 and a half years since I lost my Joey

I cant believe at times, that he’s really gone.

But I am back because, well, I think about him all the time.  The good times…the not so good, and all the times in between.  I miss him.  I miss him more than the words that swirl around my head in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep.  I miss him more than the tears that stream down my face when I catch a glimpse of his picture on my wall.  I miss him more than the darkness that surrounds me when I realize that another year has gone by and he never is coming back.

Time plays games on you when you lose a child.  There are days that seem to drag on forever and it seems like an eternity since you last held them, kissed them, saw their smile.  Then there are the days that out of the blue, if you’re like me, you look at your blog and can’t believe its been a year since you reminded the world of him.

There are so many ways that I can start this blog again.  So many things that I want to share about this past year.  The new beginnings, new life, new adventures, new loves and new loss.  Sadly, there are endings as well.  And the darkness overtakes me again.

A beautiful young life was taken a few weeks ago.  A tragic mistake, but what death of a child isn’t a tragedy?  She was a beautiful child of only five.  A sweet young girl who loved Minnie mouse, her mommy and daddy and her brother and sister.  She was taken away from people that loved her…from friends that will miss her…and from a community that got to know and love her sparkle from the pages on social media.  Her family was robbed of a lifetime of memories.  Her first date, her first crush, her first kiss.  They will never get to see her in her graduation cap, her first pair of high heels.  There will be no wedding gowns, no grand babies, no Thanksgiving dinners in a new home. It ended before it began.  And now there is darkness.

And just like that! I remember this pain.  I remember those exact dreadful”No More’s”.  No mother-son dance no mini Joey’s to hold. No more “I love you, momma.”  I’ve learned to navigated thru the hard No’s and now,  I come up with new ones all the time. Some make me shake my head as I remember his shenanigans, some make me smile. Like, no more ‘You did WHAT?’  or ” DO YOU REALLY need another pair of shoes?”  He loved his shoes. 

I want to say to mom the right thing, but I know there are no real words of comfort.  There are no real paths to healing to the old world we called Normalcy. There is no time frame and no right or wrong way to do it.  There will be darkness, even in the brightest of days.  And, there really is light at the end of the darkness.  There are bumps and curves down this long lonely road called grief, and sometimes there are detours to places called laughter and joy. There are unexpected pit stops where you think you may feel stuck, but there is always a destination waiting that is full of magic and new memories.  I learned that the longer my trip takes me, the easier the road is well traveled.  Maybe, along the way, I hope to pick up a lost and confused fellow traveler trying to find their way.  I will take them by the hand and say…”I don’t know why you lost your child, and maybe …just maybe…My son passed because God knew you were going to need me…let me show you the way….

 

HELLO DARKNESS MY OLD FRIEND…I’VE COME TO TALK TO YOU AGAIN

  

All My Regrets

Sometimes, right out of the blue, a devastating glimpse crosses my mind.  Immediately following, I get that nauseated feeling in my throat.  I begin to feel a darkness creep over me. I try to erase it by shaking my head in the same manner you would an image on an etch-a sketch.  By then it’s too late.

I see the image of my son laying on a steel bed.  His head is turned to te right. His body is covered with a pink blanket and a large plastic tube sticks out of his mouth.  I wanted it out but his dad said we weren’t allowed to remove it.  That would be for the coroner to do.  My gut instinct told me to yank it out but I didn’t.  To this day, I regret not pulling it out.  Unfortunately, it is but one of my regrets.

I regret not staying in the room longer with him.  For some bizarre reason I felt bad for the nurse that was “keeping watch over us”.  It was past his quitting time.  I appoligized to him.

I regret not calling my best friend first.  We have gone through hell and high water together these past 40 years.  Why did I pick the person I picked?  I don’t know.  Yes, she is a good friend, but no where close to my bestest friend ever.

I regret getting mad at my mom for calling her sisters to tell them her precious Joey had passed.  I was upset that people were gathering around us and taking precious viewing time away from us.  I was suffocating.  I hated so much sadness surrounding me.

I regret being the “strong one”  The one that comforted those who came…friends, family, co-workers…and not allowing them to comfort me.  As ther cried  and hollered around me, I was the one telling them it would be ok.  I wanted to be weak.

I regret giving out orders and not letting someone take the reins.  ‘Get the name of the Donor Network lady.’ ‘Order food for visitors.’ Have my brothers go by his place and get Leo (his dog baby).’  ‘ Call my work.’  Call your work.’ Why do I always need to be in control?

I regret not being there to comfort my other children from the beginning of the nightmare and having them suffer without me.

I regret not thanking his girlfriend at the service for loving him through thick and thin.  For loving him more that  he loved himself at times. For telling me he was laughing at the end and assuring me that he was happy.  And if I couldn’t be with him when he took his last breath, then then I am at peace that the woman that loved him almost as much as I did was.

I regret not reminding her of that more often.

I regret not being there when he took his last breath.

I regret being the first one to leave him.  I regret being the last one there.

I could go on and on about things I regret or wish I could change.  Everyday I seem to come up with something new.  I assume that all who suffer loss go through the same cycle…wishing hoping then ending up with the same outcome.  There is nothing we can do to change the past.  If there was, I wouldn’t be here writing this blog.

Two Mothers Lives in Parallel

Today, I watched the service of a young lady who passed away a few days go.  She was a mere 26 years old and her life was stolen by an evil disease.  Cancer robbed her and her family of a beautiful future.

I somberly watched as her life was celebrated.  I saw her short 26 years played out on our church’s video screen.  The songs that were played, the pastors’ words, the cries in the background took me back to 2 years go when our family celebrated Joey’s life in the same spot, with some of the same people, with the same pastor.

As I heard the family speak, I caught glimpses of the parents, siblings and grandparents.  My heart broke for them, but it shattered for her mom.  Though the pain and loss is felt all around, there is no greater pain, or love for that matter, than that of a mother.  Unfortunately,  I also know what the next few days will bring.  The days when all the sounds would stop.  When the calls stopped coming and the door bell ceased to ring.  The days when I became so engulfed in the quiet that my mind would vividly relive every sound and pictures of that horrific day. The nights when I desperately needed to sleep but the nightmares kept me awake.  I can still recall how the cold tile floor in our bedroom felt against my shaking body.  I spent so many nights on it.  Sometimes I pounded it so fiercely, I would have bruises on my hands. Other times I  just laid there, staring into darkness. My body limp from grief and reeling in pain.  My husband would frantically try to pick me up, but I was dead weight…dead, period.  My whole being was being swept away in a sea of agony. I wonder if a grieving parent came up with the quote “A quiet storm” because those are the perfect words to describe it. A deafening quiet filled with anger, sadness and disbelief that grows into such a monstrosity you feel as if you are drowning.  You gasp for air and with each breath you think that it will be your last.  At times, I wished it would be.

I saw myself in this mother.  I could see the pain behind the week smile. I could tell how strong she was being, not for herself, but for her family, her friends and for her church. As people hugged her and gave their condolences, she held back tears.  When a long-lost friend appeared, she would break down and hold them a little longer and a bit tighter.  Some people might have remarked to her that her daughter “was in a better place and would no longer suffer the evils of this world” because she was in the “glory of God’.  She agreed, nodded and smiled back.   She probably even laughed a bit here and there.   After all, God is good, right? He has a plan…right? Right??

Dishearteningly , when our children die, so does our faith.  I don’t care how strong of a believer you are.  You can say that you are different and you know that you will never question the work of our God.  You will.  You will question MANY things when your child passes.  Whether you are on one side of the pulpit or another, you will lose your beliefs.   For some it may be a few angry moments screaming at God.  For others it will be a lifetime of declaring how they could have wasted their time believing in the goodness of God.  You can say that you are different and you know that you will never question the work of our God.  I know I always declared that when things just didn’t go right in my life.   But then, Joey died.

For quite a while, I was scared. I wasn’t sure where I would end up.  Many times I was worried that it would be a lifetime of regrets.  Not because I felt I wasted time, but because if I really never believed again, would I ever see my Joey again?  It’s like that 10 year old kid that declares they know there really isn’t a Santa Claus but just in case, secretly believes there is.

Today, as I watch our pastor getting choked up, and listening to him speak of this young lady, I knew which group I fell into. I realized that I truly DO still believe.   I  know that I am one of the fortunate ones that spent a few angry moments being angry at God and as I listened to pastor, I knew God understood my pain and it was OK.

 

GOD KNOWS MY PAIN….HE LOST HIS SON, TOO.

 

A Labor of Love…

It has been argued, maybe, even scientifically proven, that there is no greater agony or excruciating pain than that of  a woman going through labor and giving birth.  If this perception hasn’t been substantiated  in any medical journal,  then I felt pity for that one person that would dare to argue that point with any woman.

In the last two years,  though, my opinion in the matter has drastically changed. I unwittingly discovered that there IS a greater agony than hours of labor as a child being born to you.  This pain supersedes ANY and all form of  distress or torture experienced from bringing a child into this world.  What’s even worse is that unlike labor and delivery, this pain doesn’t stop once you hold you beautiful son or daughter in your arms. This isn’t a pain that you completly forget about and bravely jump into another round of it by continuing to have chiildren  No, this pain grasps on to you like a viscous predator wanting  nothing more than to devour his prey. This pain is a jagged dagger to you heart while being hit in the gut by a train, dragged through thorny bushed on fire, kicked in the face with a wrought iron club, while having your lungs twisted into knots so you can no longer breathe, type of pain….maybe worse.  THIS pain doesn’t come from bringing a child into the world, this pain comes from witnessing  your child leave this world.

I remind myself how lucky I am to have been able to  give life not just once but three times!  Sadly, some will never see the “blue” line on a pee  stick or hearing the words from a doctor.  They won’t experience the feeling  as their unborn baby tickles their insides like a fluttering butterfly.  They will never laugh out loud  because as they are laying perfectly  still, they notice their tummy  move around like waves in an ocean.   Even now, as memories of being in a small hospital room, writhing in horrific pain, thinking that surely NO one had EVER experienced as much pain as I was having,  I can honestly say how lucky and blessed I am.

At the time, little did I know that the physical pain or mental exhaustion from giving birth would not even come close to the agony of losing my child.  No one tells you that compared to the misery of  working so hard to bring that child into this world, losing  your beautiful child is a whole new level of torment. One that can’t be put into words or explained by any brilliant scholar. I go from idyllic memories of holding that angel for the first time in my arms, to hugging his cold body for the last time.  From cooing ‘I love you’, ‘welcome to the world’, ‘thank you God’  what took you so long’? to crying in pain, “I LOVE YOU’. ‘COME BACK!’ ‘YOU WEREN’T SUPPOSED TO LEAVE!’ ‘WHY GOD, WHY!!??’

My thoughts go from recalling  him laying in his cradle as I gently rubbed his newborn face with one finger while feeling him hold tight to  another finger with his tiny hand,  to  caressing his  lifeless body in his casket and holding him so tightly that I was cautioned to  be careful.  When he was a baby, I remember not wanting to ever put him down.  I just wanted to hold him forever.  My mom would warn me that  if I continued to do that, he would always cry when I would try to walk away.  Ironically, as they  were ready to drive the hearst away with his body,  I recall crawling into the back of it,  and laying my body over his casket. I didn’t want to get out.  I didn’t want to leave him.  I didn’t want him to see me walk away.

All the joy and immense happiness I had felt some 31 years before as I welcomed Joey in to this world, I felt the complete opposite as I escorted him out of the church.  The bliss and euphoria  had been replaced with a piercing pain of anguish.  I would gladly re-do labor a thousand times over to have him back with me. I  pity the person that would argue that a greater pain than this even exists.

The circle of life.. it moves us all…through despair & hope…Through faith and love