The Change I Didn’t Choose

Some days, I feel like I run on empty.

Like, house full of hungry boys and no cereal-  EMPTY.

That, after taking care of everyone else, my “cup” runs dry.  Some days, basic hygiene seems to be more than I can bear.

I mean, let’s be real, putting real pants on is too much some days.

Luckily, today is Tuesday and that means I get to fill-up my “cup”.  On the military base where we live, there is a program called PWOC that helps provide just what my soul needs: laughter, friendships, FOOD, music, and for me, a little bit of Jesus.

Today, however, was different. I had an opportunity to try and re-fill other women’s  “cups”.

The theme that PWOC is running on this year is all about transformations.  All kinds of transformations; changes.

Despite being nervous, I felt compelled to talk about the choices we didn’t choose.

Many of our transformations are intentional choices… pre-meditated plans for change.

These choices might be a new workout program with the goal to “transform” your body.  Or, maybe its the choice to enroll in school or attend church for the first time to ‘better’ yourself… to transform into something more.

Whatever it may be, there are many times that we make intentional choices with the end-goal being a transformation.  Sometimes we have to put a LOT of work in order to complete our transformation.

But, what about the times that life happens…when Satan throws a wrench in our worldly plans, and without knowing it, we are transformed?

Without consent, your heart and your mind, and your body are changed into something or someone different.

How you carry that heavy load will determine what happens.

If you know me, or you’ve read any of my other blogs, you know that some pretty unthinkable things have happened in my life.  Growing up in a meth-addicted family is never easy.  Burying my father and my brother on separate occasions due to unexpected deaths was rough.  But, none of that seemed to cause the transformation that I’m talking about… Not until last year when our son died.

Without warning, without being able to prepare, my world changed.

I didn’t choose this change.

Christopher was a happy, sweet, 15 month old boy. He was smart, handsome, and he completed our family. And, Easter morning, a day we had looked forward to for weeks, and he simply didn’t wake up.  18 months later, we still don’t have any answers.

I had no way of knowing it then, but that day I started a transformation that is still taking place.

Maybe you, too, have gone through something unthinkable.  Maybe, someone hurt you.  Maybe you’ve overcome addiction, abuse, poverty, or depression.  Maybe, like me, you’ve lost a child or pregnancy or struggle with infertility.

Maybe you are going through that RIGHT now.

And, what I want you to know, is that where you turn and who you turn to, will determine how your transformation plays out.

Now, I’m no expert on the Bible or on prayer, I am just a woman who prays and I know that the God that we serve will never, ever leave your side.

When our lives are flipped upside down, Satan so easily can slip into our minds and whisper lies to us…. Make us think that God has left us when in fact; God is the one carrying us.

If during your storm, or after your storm, you put your brokenness, your faith, into a relationship on THIS world, you will be let down.  No one will comfort you or give you peace, like Jesus.

No one.

People have often said to me, after my loss, God will never give you more than you can handle, and y’all, that just isn’t true.  And, until just a few weeks ago I didn’t have anything to respond with…(Thank you, Deanna)

But, here is the truth that I want you to hear:  God will never give us more than HE can handle.  We are strong because he infuses us with His strength.

So, whatever unintentional transformation is taking place in your life, where you draw your strength will determine how things play out and ultimately, the type of transformation that takes place.

And, your transformation may be the very thing that helps someone else experiencing the same trials you experienced make it to through to the next day.

“Transformed people, transform people.”  -Richard Rohr

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The First Time You Forget

Today is the 13th of the month.  A Tuesday.  No big deal.  It started as it always does- like a 3-ring circus.  Raising boys really is like raising wild animals.  At least one person was screaming, “Where are my pants?!,” while someone else is running through the halls stark naked. At one point, they may even have been peeing together…at the same time… in the same toilet.  You know, just a regular day in the Briscoe house.

Living the dream.

Honestly, I hadn’t noticed anything different about the day until I saw a notification on my phone; Timehop.  Whoever thought of this app is alright in my book.  Seriously, how cool is it to be able to look back at all of the photos, conversations, and little moments and reflect on our past-selves?!

Who we were.

Friends that have come and gone.

Friends that are still around.

How our children have grown.

Or not.

That’s what got me today.  The “not.”

Today, Christopher would be turning 32 months, or as a non-mom would say, 2 years and 8 months old.  Such a mundane milestone.  Really, there would be no celebration.  I may not even have noticed.  But, I would have had him here.  And that would have been enough.

Today, it isn’t this milestone that made tears stream down my face.  Every single day  I’m faced with reminders that he is gone.  Some are easily swept away and others bring me to my knees.

No, today wasn’t like any moment I’ve yet to experience.

Today, I forgot.

What did I forget, you ask?

I forgot how old MY child was.  How old he would be.  What he would be capable of.

As I was looking at the photos on Timehop, I casually thought, “Awe, he would be about 20 months old.”   It took me nearly an hour to realize that he couldn’t only be 20  months…. he’s been gone almost 18 months.  And, then.  That’s when the pain came.

How had I forgotten how old my baby is?

Such a simple thing.  I’ve done it to my older boys before.

The pain came with the guilt of forgetting and then realizing that he would be THAT old already.

I hadn’t truly realized how old he would be right now and how busy he’d be… the guilt that I felt following that realization was immeasurable.

Guilt is an awful thing.  It eats you up.  It consumes you.  It unravels the very threads that are keeping you together.

I realize, now, how silly this morning was.  Briefly forgetting what this day represents wouldn’t have been important then, and certainly doesn’t take away the love I have for my sweet Christopher.

When my tear-streaked face dried up, I just sat.  I prayed.

I am not an expert in prayer.  I simply pray because I don’t know what else to do or who to turn to.

So, heavy-hearted, I prayed for comfort because, in that moment, I was far from comfortable. I prayed that God would love my son until one day, when I’m old and gray, I get there and can love him myself.    And, mostly, I prayed for patience.

Patience to wait until I get to see that curly, blonde-headed boy that we call Christopher Riley.

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A Difficult Job

What does being a mother mean?

I suppose it is something different to everyone but, to me, it is a gift. A gift I unknowingly took for granted for a LONG time.
Honestly, some days it feels like a job.  A job with long hours, needy bosses, messy work spaces, no lunch break, and little recognition.  I mean, seriously, living and ‘working’ in the same building can be suffocating sometimes.
My biggest hang up is that is what I focused on while Christopher was alive.  I was the mom that when I was asked, “how are you?”My response was always:

“I’m so tired”

… and I was.

I was the mom with the infant that would rather have been up with me at 1 AM than asleep.  My dream vacation would have been a week alone on a beach with a book…and cake.
I was the mother that was battling a painful illness and I focused more on the moments of discomfort than of the moments that gave my life purpose.  I lived life in the future:

“As soon as my surgery takes the pain away, everything will be better.”

“As soon as Christopher sleeps through the night, I’ll feel better.”

“When _________ happens, I’ll be happy.”
I was the mom that was blessed for the opportunity to stay home with my babies but would look for a way to go back to work.  For a purpose.
I was the mother that went to bed every night knowing even if today wasn’t a good day, I’d get tomorrow to try again.
Until one day I didn’t….
And let me tell you, I wish every day I did get to try again.  I wish with all of my heart that I could take back the moments where I didn’t appreciate everything about my crazy life.

But I can’t.
Even now, I’m not perfect.  I still get upset with my boys.  I find myself feeling tired.  Overwhelmed.  Did I say tired?

Motherhood is one of life’s greatest challenges…and yet, it is every bit the best, greatest, most amazing ‘job’ I will ever have.  I am beyond thankful to have been given the title of Mom.

mother

To you, Mama, remember this is just a temporary time in your life… a temporary tired.  They will get big…and you will look back and wish they wanted to hang out with you in the middle of the night.   You will look back and see that the greatest job you ever had was being a mama… their mom.

Progress

Sleep is not my friend on this cool, crisp February night.  Typically, I struggle to simply keep my eyes open through dinner but that has not been the case tonight.  No, tonight I sit alone on the couch as the remainder of my house is dreaming sweet dreams.  Or so I hope.

With all of this uninterrupted time on my hands, honestly, I don’t know what to do with myself.  I’ve already attempted to catch up on the queue of television recordings waiting for me but still, my mind will not silent.  I even thought about cleaning or working out… thought about.  Pffft.  Let’s be real….   Another time, maybe.

Tonight, my mind is littered with so many thoughts.  It always is.  For some reason tonight, though, I could not shut my thoughts off.  Some were productive as I’ve got a hefty ‘to-do’ list.  Some… not-so-much. It even got as bad as to think, “What’s gonna happen on the next Phineas and Ferb episode?”

Hey, I can’t help it.  Don’t judge me.  #momlife

Oh, but even in the midst of my mind racing, thoughts of him seem to stand still.

Christopher Riley

The thought of him is ever present.  Like a permanent fixture in my mind.

Ten months have passed, soon to be eleven, since I saw our sweet boy smile and look up at me with those perfect hazel eyes.

Can you believe it?  I can’t. 

Imagine not seeing, smelling, hearing from, or holding your child for over 300 days.  Impossible, right?

Now, imagine that same feeling and imagine it is permanent.  For the rest of your life.

Why, you ask?

You don’t get a reason.  Its just going to happen.

No notice.  No warning.

You’ll wake up one day and your ‘healthy’ child will be gone. No one will have an answer.

And, if that’s not enough, you’ll call for help and those that come to your home in your time of desperation will treat you like a criminal.  In your worst hell, the police and EMTs, that you are relying on to find answers will look at you as if you failed.  And, in the midst of your confusion, your heartache, and you will retrace every step and think of EVERY moment leading to this scenario and wonder if you indeed failed your child.

But, you didn’t.

Your very existence is to serve your children.

You couldn’t have predicted this.  You never could have planned this new reality.

Christine Suhan of the blog, Feelings and Faith, says:

Not everything happens for a reason. But in everything that happens, there can be a reason to bring hope and healing to others. God can use our pain for a greater good if we choose to let Him in. 

I never thought that I would lose a child.  I never could have guessed that my family would know such pain.  I never, in a million years, would have imagined that Easter would become my least anticipated holiday.  And, let me tell you, I am not ready for that day to arrive.

I am afraid.

What’s funny to me is that many times in their loss for words, people have told me, “You’re so strong.  If it were me, I’d just die.  I’d crawl in my bed and never leave.”

Even typing that causes thoughts to start racing…

This is not strength.  This is grief in its most organic form.  A fire.  A passion to help others.  To help those that might come after us.  It is a selfish need to tell the world about our son.   An even greater need to do whatever we can to try and prevent it from ever happening again.  To make progress, no matter how small it might be.

So, when you see another Facebook post about my son.  Or, you hear me going on-and-on about some silly fundraiser for ‘SUDC’ or ‘Christopher’s Crusaders’, know that it isn’t to bombard you, guilt you, or overwhelm you.

It isn’t about you, I hope.

Its about the family that is going to wake up tomorrow to find their child isn’t asleep.

I have no idea why living life without Christopher is our reality but we have chosen to try and bring hope and healing to others.  We have chosen to allow Him to use our pain for a greater good.

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Graciously borrowed from facebook.com/scribblesandcrumbs

 

 

 

 

 

Secondary Losses

Cooler weather has arrived in Kansas and with it are some of the most beautiful, picture perfect sunsets The Flint Hills has to offer.   What I love most about the cooler weather is the feeling of putting on a comfy sweater, a warm scarf, and the reality that society doesn’t frown upon venturing out in public in sweatpants.  (Yesssss!)

Cooler, cloudy weather means snuggling on the couch, warm cookies, hot cocoa, and holiday traditions.  It means making memories with friends and family.  It also means new terrain for my family: the holiday season without my son.

Honestly, that terrifies me.

Every day, week, or month that passes I’m learning new things about our new reality. We’ve changed.  Our lives are different.  Just when I think I’ve got our initial losses figured out, we are hit with a new, unexpected, very real loss.  Not a physical loss.  But changes in the life that we once knew.

Going through a “Grief Journey” in one of The SUDC Foundation’s parent support groups, this topic was presented:

“When your child dies, there are a series of secondary losses that follow. They are different for everyone. The loss of relationships, the loss of innocence, the loss of employment, etc.  Share about someting else that you lost when your child died”

I really connected to this topic.  It has been on my heart for nearly 6 weeks and today I wanted to revisit my “journal” entry.  Despite the fact that this is only a fraction of secondary losses that I have/will experience, they are the losses that are constantly on my heart.  So, what are these secondary losses?
1. I feel like my “season of life” changed. I went from having a toddler
and two older children to having only school-aged children. All of a
sudden I was propelled forward in life. Instead of looking forward to
playgroups and nap-time during the day with my son for the next 2-3 years I am now looking for employment/volunteer activities to fill my day. Instead of looking for moms with small children I am looking for moms with school-aged kids.  No longer do I wander aimlessly through the baby aisles at Target looking for the cutest boy outfits or best deals on diapers…now, I actually try to avoid that section.

2.  Friends: I have had many acquaintances step up and have become the
closest of friends. Then, there are people that I considered my close
friends not be able to handle this loss and so then have become very
distant.  Yes, it is just that simple.
3. I have lost the ability to compare milestones with moms with toddlers.  I know that sounds insignificant but my husband and I had children very young so this was our first child that was born around our friends’ children.  It was such a joy to share pictures and compare their milestones and achievements.  Now, they continue this wonderful social act and I am left on the sidelines wondering where
Christopher would be. How much would he be talking now?  Would he still be a wobbly walker?  Would he still run to meet me at the door?  Would he still want me to rock him to sleep every night?  I’ll never know…
4.  I have lost the comfort and peace that comes with putting your
children to bed at night. What was once a beautiful and, honestly, a
liberating time for my husband and myself has now become a highly anxious time.  Instead of closing the door and blowing kisses with certainty we’ll see our smiling children in the morning has now become 2 or 3 fearful check-ups before I or my husband can fall asleep.  We know it won’t change the outcome if something were to happen; but, the stress of what has already happened weighs heavy on our hearts. Children dying for no reason happens in movies….it doesn’t happen in real life, right?
5. Loss of material possessions: we had to get rid of his crib
immediately. I couldn’t look at it naked without his blankets another
moment. The investigators took everything in his crib as evidence and his
bed was totally bare. It was the saddest scene. And, every time I walked
by his room, which is directly across the hall from my bedroom, I had to
see his empty bed. The bed that held my lifeless child. So, it had to go.
Also, his toys were strewn across our house in various bedrooms and each
time I would pass them or clean them up, I thought about how he should be
here… he should be here playing with them and banging us with them… so
they had to go, too.  Every now and again I stumble upon one of his toys.  It breaks my heart.  Every. Single. Time.

6. Memories: My biggest fear is that I will forget.  Not him.  I’d never forget HIM.  But, my memories of him… what we did together.  What it felt like to hold him in my arms…  the weight of his body in my lap.  To run my fingers through his blonde curly hair.  His laugh.  The way his bowed legs would scurry across our living room as he looked for his pacifier.  Sometimes I feverishly look through my pictures and study his face.  His eyes.  The lines in his hands.  Just so that when I close my eyes I can remember.  Because I don’t EVER want to forget.  But, along with worrying about forgetting, I cringe at making new memories without him.  About moving on.  How does a parent find joy knowing their child isn’t able to be here?
7.  His smell: Damn.  This was the hardest loss other than actually losing
him. I searched, in every area of my home, to find his smell. I
frantically smelled each dirty shirt, each milk stained bib, and each baby
blanket for just a small hint of his smell. And yet, I couldn’t find any
of it. With streams of tears falling from my face, I searched.  I can
imagine what he smelled like but for some reason I can’t remember. I try
but its not the same.  Its the one thing that no matter how hard I try, I’ll never find it.

Knowing there are difficult days ahead worries me.  I know that even once we get to Christopher’s one year mark, we are not in the clear.  I will still have bad days.  My marriage has more strain than a typical marriage.  My children have known a sadness most children their age have not.  But, I can’t focus on what tomorrow might bring.  Not when there is so much that my family has to be thankful for today.  I’m certainly not perfect but I have realized through these secondary losses that relishing in each moment is so important.

Its vital.

There is not extension on life.  No re-dos once our loved ones are gone.

Put your phone down.  Turn off the TV.  Cancel unnecessary plans.  Listen to your children.  Look into their eyes.  Hold them in your arms.  Sit by your spouse.  Hold their hand.  Say “I love you” every time you enter the room.  Because, why the hell not?!  (I was just preaching to myself by the way) …Hey, I’m a work in progress.

And, if you see me staring out into the distance while you’re talking to me, if I’m blowing up your Facebook with “Christopher’s Crusaders” news, or if I’m cruising down the aisles of the commissary with tear-stained cheeks, it is probably because in addition to losing the most beautiful boy this world has ever seen, we have lost so much more.  It doesn’t mean I am broken.  No.  I was simply lucky enough to be Christopher Riley’s mom.

#ChristophersCrusaders #SUDC

Christopher’s Crusaders

The SUDC Foundation

 

Words of Comfort for the Bereaved Parent

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Photo take by Little Bean Photography
https://littlebeanphotographyco.squarespace.com/

Well, autumn is in full swing. The leaves are changing colors, the air is crisp, porches are adorned with pumpkins and hay bales, and like most families, our schedules are overflowing with sports practice and Fall festivals. I made sure to get involved in as much as humanly possible. My fears of having too much time on my hands before school started have officially been erased. Instead, I find myself longing for a moment to catch my breath and just pause. In those moments, though, I find that Christopher is on my mind. Actually, he is always on my mind, but in the quiet moments I think of what he might be like now, six months later. What milestones would he have reached?  Could he say all of our names?  Would he still be carrying around his giraffe Wubbanub?

I’ll never know…

I hate to say it, but losing a child is still defining who I am.  I haven’t figured out a way to answer the inevitable questions of “how many kids do you have?” or “how old are your boys?” without bringing up Chris. As much as others are probably tired of hearing about the whole thing, I, too, hate how I bring it up… and yet, I can’t help but saying his name and sharing my sweet boy with people. He existed. Christopher was mine…the only child of three that looked exactly like me and the perfect finale to our family unit. A child that love and prayer created. Now, he’s just gone.

I don’t intend for all of this to remain my master status…what defines me. I do hope to, one day, be able to introduce myself to someone new and for my title only to be “mom of boys” or “wife and mother”. For when I bring up Christopher and his untimely death, in their discomfort, people have advice or words of comfort to offer me and despite their best efforts, these words are not really very comforting at all. I do my best to nod, smile, and thank them for their “kind” words as I know this to be their best intentions. Something has to change.

There are countless articles on “what not to say to a bereaved parent”, but honestly, that list is long. Really long.  I think the thought of saying something wrong deters people from wanting to speak to a brokenhearted mother at all. So, what, then, should people say to a bereaved family? The SUDC Foundation sent out a wonderful message just this week that touches on this very topic. The SUDC Foundation states that in order to break the silence surrounding child loss, we [bereaved families] need to communicate our needs of what others can say and/or do. We need to educate society on what real empathy is. This got me thinking.

What is empathy? According to Psychology Today, empathy is the experience of understanding another person’s condition from their perspective. You place yourself in their shoes and feel what they are feeling.

What does empathy look like to a bereaved parent?  What words bring me comfort?

1. Ask About Him
Please, ask about my child! How old was he? What was he like? Do you have a picture? (Why yes, several hundred!)
Just make small talk. I can’t begin to describe the JOY I get in telling others about Christopher. Simply showing his messy face or naughty grin to others brings a happiness I could never describe. Never. I can’t think of a time in my life that I will ever not want to talk about Chris and when others talk about him, it reaffirms how important and special he was/is. If you hear a song and it reminds you of him, TELL ME! If you smell something or eat something that makes you think “Chris”, I’d love to hear about it. If you find a picture of him, you sure as hell better show me. No, seriously. Show me the pictures.
Just because our child is gone, doesn’t mean we don’t want talk about them.  In fact, we want the world to know they existed.
So, please, talk with a bereaved parent about their child. They’ll love you for it.

2. Happy Birthday!
Now, this has not happened to me yet but I assure you, his birthday is coming up in January and it already gives me anxiety. How should I react? What is the protocol for celebrating a dead child’s birthday? Do we have cake?
I guarantee that David and I have differing opinions on this as each of us has grieved different from the other. One thing I feel very confident in saying is that neither of us would ever want it forgotten. A simple text, call, or even a cheesy card would suffice. January 13th will forever be a beautiful memory in our family. A day of joy. (A little pain). Lots of laughter and lots of joy. Every parent wants to celebrate the birth of their child. Even if the child is no longer here.
So, please, acknowledge our missing child’s birthday. Tears will be shed, but joy will come in knowing they are being remembered.
**Should you not know what to say when you call, refer to #1.

3. We Still Have Fun
Its hard to believe that with all of the sadness 2015 has brought our family that we still can find ourselves laughing… usually at the expense of, well, ourselves.
David and I love to spend time with each other but like any married couple, we need some space. Not just from each other but from our house. I think the best medicine I have found through all of this madness is not in pharmaceuticals, but in friendships. Each week I look forward to my time with friends whether it be a quick coffee, a sweaty gym date, women’s bible study, greasy lunch, or the ever necessary trip to Hobby Lobby. No experience is any less special than another. I think people tend to avoid bereaved parents as they don’t want to crowd or overwhelm them but honestly, what we need is company. And, when we turn you down, and we will, just show up at our doorstep with coffee in hand.

Grief does some weird things to people. Don’t take our isolation, our tears, or our CONSTANT zombie face personal. We promise, it has nothing to do with you.

So, please, invite us out or come spend some time with us.  We need it.

**Should you fail to remember what to talk about over coffee, refer to #1. 

Most importantly, remember: when our child died, so did a little part of us. We are not the same person.  We have changed and our world is different.  Our outlook on life is a little different.  One thing remains the same and that is our love for our child.  Even with subsequent children, we long to hold the one we lost.

Instead of avoiding that friend at Target or saying something that may hurt, practice empathy.

What would you want someone to say to you?

The After Party

It is so hard for me to believe that summer break is officially over and my boys are back in school. Somehow, August is nearly over and we have a 1st grader and a Pre-K student. The new school year always seems to create a fresh start for my boys; new haircuts, new clothes, some new friends, a new grade level, and a new teacher. Honestly, all of the positivity in the air has been good for everyone in my family; even me.

Preparing for this school year has kept me incredibly busy and now that school has started, our schedules are crazier than ever. All of this “new” brings on an incredible array of emotions for me. Although I am incredibly proud to stand by and watch my children grow, learn, make new friends, and experience new things, I can’t help but to have a small amount of sadness. I suppose some might argue that it is the same sadness most parents feel as they watch their children grow-up. Yes, I suppose it could be that, only, I was not that type of parent. But now? Now, I know that this is an altogether different feeling. I had plans…so many plans. Plans to finally have one-on-one time with my 3rd child. Plans to be that mom and be involved in every playgroup imaginable. Plans to have 3 boys wrestling after school.  Now, I am trying to learn what it’s like to not have a wobbly toddler around, to re-learn who I am, and to mold myself back into motherhood as a mom of 2 school-age children. Time will help.  It has helped.
Four months, soon to be five, have passed since Christopher died. We are now officially at the “After Party”; the time after the dust has settled, when visitors stop visiting, and calls stop coming.  As the grievance counselors predicted, nearly all of our loved ones have gone back to their normal routines, as they should.  Nothing has changed in their immediate world.  Alternatively, people whose lives Christopher impacted daily are learning to live without him.  Instead of simple play dates with Chris, the kids discuss what they’d like to do if he were at the park.  Or, what should have been a typical daddy-out-of-town training for this army family, my inquisitive 4 year old asked me very bluntly if daddy was with Christopher in heaven. (I did my very best to stay calm)
Thankfully, I have “party-goers” with me at this after party. Because of the support, the tears fall less frequently. I can usually manage to talk about him or about his death without getting terribly emotional. It allows me to inform and educate others about Sudden Unexplained Death of a Child, SUDC, and spread awareness of this little known cause of death.  A good friend who has been a big help after losing Chris hesitantly, with love, offered a song to me: Ronan by Taylor Swift. She said it had been on her heart for a while and that it constantly was a reminder of Christopher. If you haven’t heard it, the song is a tribute to a 4 year old boy who lost a battle with cancer. Knowing it would be a trigger I didn’t listen to it immediately. Despite the heavy flow of tears, it was beautiful to listen to. I love hearing that people still think of Christopher. That, moments, people, sounds, or smells make people feel close to him. I love knowing he is still in our hearts.  We are beyond blessed to not be at this party alone.

An Avalanche of Emotions

Today I feel compelled to write.  I am not sure what to say… I never do.  It always seems to be the same old thing; he should be here.

Two days have gone by since tears fell from my face… everything seems to be quantitative.  Two days may not seem like much, but to me it seems like progress.  As I pound on this keyboard and tears stream down my cheeks, I know I’m taking a step backwards but in my heart I know that I will always miss him.  I am looking to the days when his name will be synonymous with laughter and happy times.  One day, they’ll be what I remember most.  I have to think that… I have to.

Fifty-two days have passed since he left us.  That means fifty-two days since he was in my arms.  Its been a roller coaster of emotions.  David reminds me to find happiness in our older two sons; to make new memories with them.  He has no idea how much strength he gives me.  He is my rock.

Sometimes I find myself feeling too much.  I’ve been angry at the military police that initially arrived at our home for not allowing me to hold my lifeless son one last time at the hospital.  It is a constant feeling.  I know “they were just doing their job” (that’s what people say) but they lacked compassion; compassion for a family that just took on an unwieldy burden.  They lacked the foresight to know that I would never again get to hold Chris in my arms.  My biggest regret since I lost him was following the rules of those soldiers.  I should have held him.  I should have showered him with affection.  After all, he is my son.

Mother’s Day has come and gone and for that I am very grateful.  I was not at all prepared for the avalanche of emotion that came over me, despite my best efforts to stay busy that day.  My husband treated me like a queen.  We made memories with my cousins and set plans to make more.  I couldn’t have asked for a better start to Mother’s Day.  As we drove home from my cousin’s house in Kansas City, I wept for what felt like the entire drive.  I wept for our loss.  I wept for my sweet Christopher.  I begged Christ to show me the purpose of all of this.  And as usual, David never stopped letting me know he loves me.

What really bothered me on Mother’s Day was the harsh reality that I’ll never experience pregnancy again for my body is no longer equipped.  We’ll never hear the laughter of baby in our home again.  I don’t know if I could ever feel comfortable with an infant in our home but I’ll never get the chance to find out.  It should be made very clear that Christopher could never, EVER be replaced and we would never want to.  But, as other families in our same situation move forward and expand their families, I will be left asking God “What’s next?”

One thing is for certain.  God placed the most magnificent people in our lives to help us carry this heavy load.  We couldn’t do this alone.  Each person contributes something beautiful to our lives and we are eternally grateful.  We could never express our appreciation enough.

Despite all that we’ve been through, I have to believe in a loving, heavenly father.  I have to because now he has my Christopher in his care until David or I get there.

A Fear I Never Knew

Some days I seem to get through the day with only a few tears shed.  Today is not one of those days.

There are so many things about Easter morning that I’d like to forget.  I try, with all of my might, to forget and yet I am bombarded with images, feelings, and emotion that I couldn’t ever possibly explain.  I fear that the images will remain in my mind as a terrible reminder of my loss.  But, what I fear above everything about losing my son is that I might forget him.

Of course, I will NEVER forget Christopher is my son or I his mother.  No, I fear that I will forget the things that pictures can’t remind me of.

I’m afraid that I’ll forget the way his curly blonde hair felt under my chin as I rocked him back and forth before bed.

I am terrified my hands will forget the softness of his milky skin against mine.

Because he is no longer able to greet me as I walk in the door, I fear I’ll forget the way he waddled towards my embrace or the precious sound of his voice as he excitedly said my name.

Nothing scares me more than my fear of forgetting his sweet, Christopher smell.  That fear causes me to race to his bedroom and frantically bury my tear-stained cheeks into his worn shirts or blankets in hopes I will find just a little bit of his smell.

Realizing I can’t find his smell, all I can do is be thankful.  Thankful, that I was given the most perfect child any mother could ever dream up.  A child that made me happier than I could have ever imagined, even if it were for only a short time.

So, now my job is to preserve his life in the memory of others and to treasure the things I can remember… and I plan to do so with such ferocity in hopes that I will never forget.