He didn’t open her door when she stood beside it, but only for a moment did she wait. She climbed in her seat there beside him, she seemed content and I thought of you… (Opening my door as I skillfully slid into my space next to you while you pulled out my seatbelt so graciously handing it to me)
They arrived at the restaurant, again she exited the truck, meeting him around the back where they made small talk heading to their destination and I thought of you… (I remained still, grinning as you walked over to my side once more, opening my door, offering your hand, I emerged as we made our way)
She stood outside the door looking at the sign, he said, “Allow me” as he grabbed the handle to the door, she stepped inside and I thought of you… (My hand never touched a door as long as I was with you)
They were seated, the menus presented and the question, “can I start you off with a drink” and I thought of you… (One menu was all that was required, my drink was chosen along with my meal, handled with care)
He picked up the check not a word was exchanged except when she offered to pay her share. He reached for his wallet thanking her, then stating he’d have to give up his man card while handing it off to the server without hesitation and I thought of you… (One of our first dates I noticed the price and you thanked me for being thoughtful then assured me it would be alright, the cost wasn’t an issue. I relaxed, feeling special)
She thanked him for treating her to a pleasant evening and wondered what to do next so they left out the door and she casually laced her hand through the bend in his arm and I thought of you… (Next to you I felt taken care of, protected and safe, looked after and thought, I felt loved)
There was the truck, the one they open their own doors for, the one they return home in, to the house they reside and I thought of you… (Again you pull open the door, buckle me in, my hand on your knee as it slides up your thigh, a peck on the cheek, with a twinkle in my eye. I thank you for a lovely evening, for treating me like your queen, I can hardly wait to get home to show you all the love in my heart)
He flips on the TV and she checks her phone. Divided by some walls, back to their own separate interests and distractions, it’s like the spark and the magic were left somewhere far behind and I thought of you… (We barely made inside with our hearts beating deeply, your hands all up in my hair, the door closes quickly as clothes fall to the floor)
She makes her way to the chilly room where she lays her head. At some point he will take his place beside her all cozied up in their bed. She’s fast asleep and he’s quiet while he slips between the sheets and I thought you… (We walk together down the darkened hallway to find that safe, familiar place, the warmth of your body comforts me while mine stirs up all your deepest desires)
They closed the door to the wonderful night without another word, he turned off the light, she rolled over, her back turned to him, now he lies there staring at the ceiling asking himself where have you been and I thought of you… (Engulfed in your arms I feel your hot breath, it smells like tequila, I smile to myself being pulled in closer, I don’t want to breathe if it means loosening your grip, I exhale, we are immersed, becoming just one, please don’t let me wake. I know you feel loved and I do too) and I thought of only you…
I turned my head for just a moment and you were gone. A panic washed over me as I frantically called your name. Pushing garments of ladies apparel aside, rack by rack, I could hear a faint giggle. You were only 2 and you loved to play games like that. Unbeknownst to you, the fear that arose in my chest, as you would grow accustomed to saying, “I got this mom”, and you always have. Somehow that would be your way of assuring me you would always be okay, no matter what.
I feel so lost without you now. You got this, right? Yet that all too familiar panic has risen up and taken residence in my heart. This time I blinked and tried again, but I don’t hear the giggling in the air. I can’t see your face. I can’t find you anywhere.
Before you could form sentences or even threw your binky away, I could tell there was a mystery about you. Over time it was the little things that made you cry, often inconsolably and I couldn’t figure out why, but you knew.
Years would pass. You were growing up, trying to find the place where you belong. Never feeling liked by the kids on the school ground, not knowing how much you actually were. Was it your hyper activity that kept you moving? Sports became an outlet, baseball, soccer, dirt bikes, skateboards, bikes and scooters. Anything that would occupy your energy and free your spirit, but still, you sought after anything that would grant you acceptance. You tried basketball, even wrestling and joined the school band on drums. Then one day you asked for a bass guitar. Please mom. Happy birthday sweetie. You joined brothers, forming a band, the 3 of you, so young and talented, you were more than good, you were amazing.
Sports and all “that” began to fall away. You’d found this passion deep inside playing bass. Self taught, you wouldn’t allow me to “waste money on lessons when you could teach yourself” and you did. Yet all those years I’d watch you on stage, self conscious and insecure, as if you were still searching for that place of belonging, because you were.
Your pain continued to haunt you. I couldn’t read it, put my finger on it, then he left and you were devastated. The dad you tried so hard to please, to be like and feel included by. This was a whole new level of despair while I was desperately working to be all I could for you 3, but somehow I saw it in your heart, for you this grief of loss was affecting you in some other way. It was different and deeper.
That same 2 year old resides within, still inconsolable, try as I may. “I love you” are all the words I have, with everything I know. Life was harder back then, but we were gaining everyday as we made our way through, just us 4.
We got this, right? Wrong… “We” crumbled. My turn. You’re gone. Here I sit. Motionless. Breathless. Helpless. Guilt. Hands in the air. Heart splitting in 2. Inconsolable. I’m still searching for that place of belonging, just for you.
Life altering changes, unexpected losses, the painful aftermath and the process, nothing anyone can truly prepare for, ever.
It was my freshman year in high school when my bio dad called mom to let her know his Gramma passed, one of the handful of times he made contact. It seemed odd to me as I’d nearly given up on this man. I don’t recall if I felt happy to hear from him indirectly or sad over the loss of my Great Gramma. Little Gramma, as they all so affectionately referred to her as, was the sweetest tiny lady I’d ever met. Although I had very few moments or memories with her, the ones I do were quaint, brief and loving. This would be the first funeral service of my life. I was nervous, didn’t know what to expect, but we went. This is the extent of my knowledge of that experience. Life was in session before and it continued on long after.
The next sting that struck across my heart was my senior year when a close classmate was killed in a head on collision on her way to school. The somber silence that washed over the school that day was deafening as the news traveled quickly amongst our small student body. This was the first time I truly noticed people’s behavior surrounding death. Granted, we were all teens with different levels of empathy, compassion and even feelings, but to observe the bizarreness from those who were seemingly drawn to grieve over a lovely young girl whom some, just the day before, were less than polite to. How does a person muster up that sort of falsity and keep it going? Me on the other hand, felt that loss deeply. She and I had a short history as friends, 8th grade through most of that year, but a friend she definitely was. She taught me things about boys I couldn’t have heard from anyone else. She seemed genuinely sincere and experienced too. Our last encounter was indeed the day before in ceramics class. Elton John’s, “that’s why they call it the blues” came on the teacher’s radio and she boldly sang out as no one was listening. I’d admired this girl. She had confidence. She had courage. She had life in her and yet, she was gone now and I wept for her, her parents and myself. Her absence was noticed for quite some time. To this day I grin upwards when I hear “our” song.
Four years later, I would get that dreaded phone call while I was at work. The one that came from the step monster on the other end telling me my mom was killed in a terrible car accident. The one where all I could do was stand there, listening to his words and not hearing what he was saying as I began to slump to the ground, holding the corded phone as the tears began to flood my eyes. This can’t be happening, she just called me yesterday to tell me she loved me and that she was leaving for the long drive down south. It was true though and all I could repeatedly ask him was, “was mom drinking… was she?” It took 2 mind numbing weeks between the autopsy, the coroner’s report, the police investigation and transferring “her”, my mom, who was no longer my mom, from the south to the north where she would be “laid to rest”. Nothing was real. My older brother and I stood in disbelief at her closed casket for what felt like an eternity until someone had us sit down. The next thing I knew we were watching them lower this beautiful, shiny pearl box into the ground. What the fuck was happening? My life was turned upside down in an instant and no one was comforting anyone. Everyone divided after that week and went about their own lives, separately mourning and grieving and not talking about any of it. Was this normal? Are we supposed to keep our sadness a secret? Feel, but don’t share? I went along life like a zombie for a year. I couldn’t understand anything.
A year and half after mom’s death I would be getting married. I went through the motions up until the month before the wedding day when my Grampa passed away. I won’t have mom or Grampa at my wedding now? Fuck this. Grampa had been sick, but he was a trooper. He said if they tell him he needed anymore surgeries, he was going to say no. They did and he did. While I visited Grampa on what would be his last birthday, we had this beautiful exchange between us. Somehow he knew that he was saying goodbye to his little missy girl. I didn’t know it at the time, but I definitely paused before I left his side like I hadn’t before. I drank in his kindness that poured from his eyes. His love I felt bursting from his heart for me. My Grampa, my first protector and crush, my rock, my only true love of a man that loved me for me. He was gone.
I was empty…
It was homecoming night at my same high school. My sons were all in grammar school, ages 14, 11 and 9 when I got the call the next morning at 7am from a close friend. She didn’t want me to find out any other way. I had this special friendship with another parent from our kid’s elementary school. We were both going through tough times in our marriages and found comfort in talking to one another. As she spoke the words, I listened in disbelief, “…she was killed in a terrible accident late last night, I’m so sorry honey”. My heart sank. I didn’t know what to do. He lost his daughter. His light in his darkness. His precious, oldest child. I paced, do I call him, just go to him? What? I’d known tragic and sudden death, but I’d never faced someone who lost their child before. Finally, I couldn’t take it, I had to find him. I had my youngest in the car with me and as I drove around wondering where to look, it occurred to me where I would be. Down the twisting country road we went where earlier that morning I was told of the horrific accident. I saw him there, sitting on the side of the road, just off the edge a bit, picking weeds and staring at the big oak tree, the one that ultimately took her life. I parked the car and asked my son if he’d be ok to sit in the car for a bit. Of course mom. I approached him slowly and without saying a word, I just sat beside him there, in the dirt and we quietly cried.
Sometimes there’s nothing to say…
Gramma was placed in a luxurious senior care home years later after Grampa passed. It seemed premature to me, given her seemingly healthy self and the independent woman she still was, but her other daughter thought it would be best. It was the holidays and each of her 3 grandchildren took turns visiting her with their own kids that day. We went in shifts so not to overwhelm her. Gramma was thrilled to see us, all of us. Much later the brothers and I would share our experiences as we all said our goodbyes. I can recall something similar in her vacant eyes as with Grampa. She laid there on her bed, eyes closed, asking God to take her home to be with Daddy. That’s what she always called Grampa, “Daddy”. She was in a daze, but when she opened her eyes for a moment to say goodbye to the 5 of us, she looked at him and said, you take good care of our girl, won’t you? He smiled and nodded in agreement. It would be 4 weeks later that I got the call about Gramma’s passing. I cried so much it hurt. The boys, how was I going to tell the boys?! They adored their Great Gramma. I gathered my strength, held onto them and listened as they cried and asked questions. We got through it, together. I learned.
He was a young man all my sons knew from school. It hit my oldest the hardest. They were in the high school band together and he was a huge fan of my sons punk rock band. This young man was so full of life and love and he spread it all around. He had a tragic accident that took him instantly. Another dark cloud loomed over their young lives. Devastating to all who knew him. We all attended his service together, saying our final goodbyes to another young person. It hurt. We were all in shock. What a loving young man and now he was gone too.
Tragedy would strike us again the day we got that call. This time it was my brother sobbing on the other end of the line, “He’s gone sis, he’s gone.” I was in my car with my middle son and immediately pulled over bursting into tears, his oldest son, my nephew, their cousin and my oldest son’s best friend in the world. Cousins are our first best friend, if you’re blessed to have them. They were 6 months apart and inseparable since they could walk. His life cut short at 20 years old. As we entered the room where he was laid to rest for us to “visit” with him, it was the most painful time of their lives, the cousins who were missing one now, the father who tried to protect him from himself is without his first born son, the mother who carried this child and loved him more than her own, his existence was over and none of us could let him go. This beautiful child, gone. Nothing made sense. The agony.
18 months later to the day, my youngest son was frantically texting me from school one morning. He finally called after his first class and I said, “honey, just leave and come home.” We lived across the street from school and I ran down the stairs to meet him on the street. When he saw me, he started running and crying out, “he’s dead, he’s dead” as tears steamed down his face. What? Who? Fuck!! “Mom, my best friend, he’s dead!” My heart broke as he cried and couldn’t speak, only sob. I stood there and held him as he melted. Shortly after, the gang began to rally around as they always did. They knew instinctively where to go, how to comfort and soothe one another. They huddled up and cried, they told the ones that weren’t there the devastating night before the truth of the events and how it was a stupid accident… they could barely contain themselves with their sadness, anger and shock. I hugged them all, told them I loved them and cried right there with them.
What the fuck? Enough already!!
She told me don’t judge people around death. No one can possibly know what’s in their heart, just tend to yours sweet child.
I always remember her words…
I’ve watched and noticed the varied ways of which this was true. Some close the valve to that part of their heart so they can’t feel as they once had because the pain is too great. Others vow to live for today and appreciate each moment, remembering to say I love you… until time fades those well intended promises and life resumes as it once was, back to status quo.
For me, my capacity to receive and pour out seems to have increased a little more with every experience, boosting my gratitude and granting more patience and tolerance for you, but especially for me. Before, I didn’t possess the ability to separate mom’s suffering from my own. I couldn’t see how much pain my nephew was in, only that he was lost. As for the other great ones, I’ll never know why your walk was shortened, but as I reflect now, I am able to slow down and remember with less pain and more joy what each of you brought to my life and how I may have enhanced yours. I appreciate each of you. I love you all. The biggest gift I am receiving through all these losses is the ability to discern my journey from yours. I am left here to be without your physical being, to mourn and grieve for your absence and the void I feel, but I keep your spirit alive every time I think of you. I catch my breath and smile when I feel your presence brush by.
God bless the broken hearted and empty spaces that no other can fill, but I will continue to celebrate each, irreplaceable you. Let us embrace this one life.
Through tragedy, gratitude is gained Through loss, fullness is obtained Through voids, love is changed