As we venture toward Thanksgiving I am reminded of yet another reason I’m grateful. I got an email today that made me feel that twinge of loss that come with holidays and special occasions. Those moments that remind me I am still a mother to my son, and still, at the same time a mother without her son. And yes, I do intend to get to grateful…
But first, Chili’s has been running promotions for “Father-Daughter Date Nights” the last few weeks, but today I saw one for “Mother-Son Date Night.” Just like that, my mind turned to Justin. That fair haired boy of my youth who could infuriate me in one breath and roll me up in a ball of laughter with the next. And, so tonight, I am missing my son more than usual as I think of all the things we might’ve done but didn’t get to do.
I am remembering, too, with specific gratitude all the things I’ve been able to do. I held my son as an infant in my arms after his birth, watched him grow from the tiny, squawking, bundle of pink flesh wrapped around my heart into a strapping young man. I loved him on the hard days and the better days and all the days in between. I got to watch him breathe his last breath and was able to lay my head upon his chest as I realized the grim certainty of death. The moment of his birth and the moment of his death etched in my memory with an extra helping of love. Yes, for these things I’m grateful.
I got to help him find his legs and his voice, both of which I sort of wished I hadn’t at times. Other times, he used that voice to say the sweetest things. Things I remember, and things I’ve sort of lost with the passing of time and clutter of memory. I remember the sound of his voice as it said, “Momma…” And still, I’m grateful.
I remember the cute little gravelly way his voice came in when he began to speak and the way his voice sounded when he was so excited! “Momma, Mercy Me was at the conference and you should have been there – they played your song!” I remember Justin. I’m grateful.
Not long after the first anniversary of his passing, I remember climbing the stairs of our home and coming up past all the pictures of our children through the years. Megan’s group was at the bottom with her sweet little face and smile, Taylor was next with her broad toothy grin and the fresh splash of freckles that dotted her cheeks and nose. Travis was there in the middle with his confident half smile and wide innocent eyes. Brittany came up next with her warm colored skin, sweet cheeks and soft eyes. Then there was my J-Bird. With his lopsided smile and that look of something between carefree and misadventure. I paused there… At the top of the stairs that day and traced the lines of his face with my fingers.
I spoke words aloud that caught me unaware. You know – as if when you hear them coming out of your mouth is the first time you thought them, too. My broken heart spoke up in that moment. “Is it possible that I dreamed up 17 years and that you never really existed.”
All of a sudden, grief overtook me as I began to weep. I felt the nudge of painful reality set in a little deeper – like the blade of a knife cutting right through to the bone. As I stood there trying to capture one memory of my oldest child, my mind and my heart felt empty. I could no longer here his laughter or his voice calling my name. I could not remember the last time we had hugged or he’d leaned down from his height to give me a kiss on the cheek. I could not remember… And it broke my heart more than I ever imagined it would.
And tonight, as Thanksgiving approaches and I count my blessings. I’m grateful for it all. Grateful for memories and moments to remember and even be sad. I’m grateful to have loved so deeply that the loss felt so painfully sad. I’m grateful for laughter and new joy that abounds and opportunities to share with others the way that precious young man graced my life, set it up on its end and somehow his death and my grief turned it all right side up again.
I’m grateful. I had my son on earth for 17 years and I loved him as much as I knew to love. And I miss him as much as a heart dares to miss a loved one without dying right along with them. And I’ve overcome that loss to live beyond the pain, the missing moments and the doubtful fears. I’ve lived on… And though I’ll never forget him. I’ll not always miss him, because you see – my son is in the safest care he could possibly be. He is at home in Heaven with his Father and he now waits for me. Yes, I’m grateful. Amen.