Fifteen years ago this week I lost my son. I never use that word, lost. I hate it. I have always said he passed as if passing into a new life on the other side, passing into heaven, or passing through the white light explained where he went. The term ‘lost’ made me feel like I would forever be searching for him. That there would be a chance he would return, rejoin my life and tell stories of his adventures. When someone is lost there is always the hope that they will be found.
Death doesn’t work that way.
Grieving a child is an endless process. A roller coaster of heart-stopping drops and endless climbing. We climb to be strong enough to walk through life with the outward look of normality while covering the permanent inner change of our DNA. And we are changed. Every tiny molecule of our DNA is changed.
I remember a conversation with my older son after the funeral when he said,
“Mom, what will it be like when he has been gone 10 years?
What if we forget him?”
My response was,
“Oh honey, 10 years is a long time away.
And we will never forget him!”
Well, that marker came and went and here we are at 15 years. Comments like, “getting over it,” “being done,” or “forgetting” do not relate to my grief. If that were true, wouldn’t 15 years be long enough?
Fifteen years ago this week my son passed, but he isn’t lost. He sits with me when I write and stands with me when I speak. He giggles through the twinkle in his daughter’s eyes and belly laughs with us when we share stories of him. I can feel his baby hand wrap around my finger as I rocked him and hear his cries in the night. He comes back to me when I drive his truck and he sings along when Bob Dylan is played on the radio.
He would be 37 now, but he is not. My memories flash from his movements in my belly as I carried him to seeing him the last time when he was 22. Forever 22 as people say when talking about a loved one who has passed. I remember my 22-year-old son with clarity as if he were sitting in front of me as I type this. His beard, his smile, his crooked baseball cap and his laugh. I remember how it felt to be hugged by him while the bristles of his beard brushed against my face.
For 15 years I have searched these memories. I have closed my eyes as I held his guitar to hear him sing as he played it. I have opened plastic bins to unfold and refold his favorite clothes, holding them tightly to my face in hopes of smelling a faint scent of him. I have driven his truck to feel his hands on mine as together we hold the steering wheel. These memories don’t wear out and are never used up.
Fifteen years ago this week my son passed. Fifteen years is a long time, but not long enough to get over it, be done with grief or forget him. The reality is that I loved him from his first movements in my belly and I will grieve for him until the day I pass into a new life, into heaven or walk into the white light to join him.
When I do, I am sure he will say,
“Mom, I never left you and now your grieving ends.
It has been long enough.”
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Pennie’s Life Lesson:
When your loved one dies, they are never lost.
They are always with you.
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