Photographs and Memories

I am now into my 4th year and I still want someone, anyone to tell me it was just a nightmare, that it never happened. The loss of my son weights heavy on my heart every day. Some days it is not as severe, but then there is the day that is as raw as it was the moment it happened. Those are the days that I cry most of the day and wonder why I am still here. Why did I not just drop dead when he did, why?

When I got my cancer diagnoses last year, it did not affect me or scare me. My thought was ‘well, what will be will be. When they told me my heart stopped on the operating table I only wondered why I did not sign the do not resuscitate. But I looked at those two who stood by my bed and knew why I was still here. I love them just as much as I love Tim. Each operation I had, my hope was that I would see him, talk to him, hug him. Did that happen? I don’t know. If it did it was wiped from my memory.

The meds they put me on does not fill the hole that is in my heart, nothing does, it will be there forever and a day. But they do help keep me on this earth. There are days when I just want to leave that note, the one that says how sorry I am to put them all through this again. On those days I have to breathe through it and find something, anything, to keep my mind from it. How horrible to do to them what was done to me. It would be selfish and cruel with the knowledge of what comes after. I know too much to put them through it too. Too much. For they already have holes in their hearts too.

My friend lost his son over 10 years ago and he still grieves severely. He understands what I am going through just as I understand him. The day he found his son I prayed that it never happened to me. I prayed every day that it would not. Then it did and I lost my faith in the goodness of god. There was no mercy. My friend still suffers but he is learning how to keep himself from following his son. We are in the same boat, he has been in it longer than I but we still ride the storm at the same pace. There are calm days and then there are stormy days. One has to learn to ride them out until they become calm again.

I write today because it is a stormy day. Nothing brought it on, it was suddenly there, a squall that was ready to tip the boat if I allow it to. I am not allowing it to. I let the tears come and accept that there will be days that they pour out like a faucet left on full blast. It is almost impossible to stop the tears. If someone just looks at you wrong, or what you feel is wrong, they will flow. If words come from someone be they kind or not, the tears may flow. On these days, the mind does not see the world or people or words in the same way.

4 years, such a long time yet so very short. A moment ago, my son said he loved me, just a moment ago, 4 years ago. People think one should be over the grief of losing their child. They have not lost one yet you see so they have no idea, No idea that child loss is forever. There will be no new memories, we hold on to the ones we have,  We have to forget the future we hoped for them, the happiness we wanted them to find. Now, we have photographs and memories. It that all that is left? Yeah, it is but it is better than nothing.

I have so much I want to tell his son and daughter, but they are young yet. I have to wait to tell them until they hit an age of understanding. Another reason to hold on to this world. I have many reasons to stay and one to go. It does not make my memories of him less or my love. So, for now, the tears have stopped and I thank all of you for that because I know you are seeing my words and wishing me the best. I will hold tight to those photographs and memories and love those around me. Much love to you all from a ‘Forever Mom.’

 

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Stand Proud for America

Colin Kaepernick  you make me ashamed. Not ashamed of America, but ashamed that you get paid millions to be an ass. Yup, I said ass though I think of stronger words but I am not that type of person to say or write them. You blame all of America for problems that quite honestly, happen to all walks of life not just black lives. You must be blind not to see that we all have issues and are not blaming everyone in America for that is what it is, blaming everyone.

Kaepernick, take your millions and make a difference instead of whining on the side-lines of a football game that pays you more than you are worth. When you get into your expensive car do you think of those less fortunate? When you walk into your fancy home do you think of the homeless? When you eat in an upscale restaurant do you think of those who have no table or food to put on it if they do have one?

Yes, you have the right to stand or not stand but frankly, your reason for not doing so sucks. ALL LIVES MATTER, do you get that or do we have to shout louder? Really, show me a country that would treat you better. America is not perfect but it sure beats living in war torn countries who don’t care for any lives doesn’t it?

It is embarrassing to call you an American. We Americans, as a whole, stand proud regardless of your shameful display. I’ve known good cops and bad cops, good blacks and bad blacks, good whites and bad whites and the list goes on and I have never blamed all of American for the bad. Grow up and stand up for the country that helped you succeed. I am just a middle to lower class American citizen who loves football. You being a sh#t won’t change that. I will struggle to live today, tomorrow and probably next week but I will never blame America for my problems.

 

The Other Side of GoodBye

It is hard, sometimes, to tell people what is going on in your life. When we lose someone we love, it becomes impossible to express ourselves in terms that would be understood because at the time of their death, our language changed, our thoughts, our lives, changed. We also know that along with the ones who are standing strong with us, there are the ones who are hoping we fail to survive, who applaud everything bad that happens to us. So when more bad happens, we tell very few people if we tell anyone at all.

Last year, when Tim had been gone 1 year and 9 months, I came to the end of trying to fight to live. I stepped to the other side of goodbye. I did not even know that was where I was at. I just woke one morning and I was done. I didn’t know I was in the middle of a complete break down. My husband, daughter and doctor saw what I couldn’t. Their quick action turned it all around. I call where I went a ‘two week’ vacation. It was there that I was diagnosed with severe clinical depression, PTSD, and suicidal idealization. At a time when nothing mattered anymore, I learned to walk again, to live again, to care again. No one else knew about this because no one came around and really, I am glad for that. When I look back and see myself, it scares me to see who that person was.

It was still a fight to want to live, but now I had the tools to help me fight for it. By December I was doing, mentally, better than I had for two years. This is when they found that my gall bladder was in big trouble and had to come out. Okay, not a big deal, no problem. It did not send me into a tail spin or make me take steps backward. But it did make me pay closer attention to my health. I knew something else was going on inside, just not what it was. The doctors found I had hypothyroidism, okay, not a big deal, it’s treatable. Still, something did not feel right. By February, we found out that, yup, something was not right after all.

I had the doctor tell me over the phone. I’m glad i did. When she said, ‘Barbara, you have cancer,’ I stopped listening. I did not take a few steps backward, mentally, I went all the way back to the other side of goodbye. Two options, surgery or no surgery. This runs through my mind a lot. I haven’t asked the doctor yet about the odds. Will I live longer without it? I’ve known so many who had surgery for cancer and died within months. We lost my sister-in-law to it. I am not scared, but I worry about those around me. I know it is hard on them and I cannot take away their fear. A new fight has entered my life to go along with the fight already there. How much can one person take? I’ll let you know. To those who say that I deserve everything that happens to me, know this, I don’t deserve it any more than you do, those who love me do not deserve what they are going through.

I am suppose to have surgery soon. They say it may take more than three hours. I sit here and wonder if I want this. You can’t help but think about the ‘what if’s,’ I think about being with my family here and seeing my son again. As much as I love him, I love my daughter and grandsons just as much. So I will take this one step at a time an try to fight hard to stay with them. All of it is almost too much to think about, too much going on in my brain. Good thing I have my family and friends to lean on, they are my heart, they are worth fighting for. ‘Forever Mom’

 

How I Wish You Were Here

They tell me to talk to you, that even though you are gone you can still hear me. It makes me wonder if you can hear the screams inside my head that have to stay there so no one knows how hard it is without you. I hope not. You see, even in death, I have that desire to protect you from bad things. When I’m alone I do talk out loud a lot, I guess in the hope that somewhere out there, in that vast eternity, you will answer me. Selfish of me to want you to stick around in a world that did neither of us any favors.

For so long I lived in a world devoid of sound, color, meaning. It took a long time to breathe again. When I did, the pain was even more unimaginable. I guess they would call that step one. That first step back to the land of the living. One forgets how to live. It all becomes trial and error and lasts a terribly long time. Discovering how much it changed us made the walk forward become steps backward. Still, we persisted. How hard this road has been. Never in my worst nightmares could I have imagined how this would be. How I wish it was just a nightmare.

They say we should be getting over this by now. We just kind of shake our heads but say nothing. We got tired a long time ago trying to explain that one does not get over the death of a child. There were a few things we got tired of trying to explain actually. Like how the person they use to know is gone now and this one in front of them is who we are. Yeah, that didn’t go over well. A few got angry, a few walked away and a few accepted. That is the way the world works, isn’t it? Always ready to jump out at you with a surprise or a shock? One is never prepared for that reality.

We live on a tightwire that sways violently in the wind. Always walking onward but trying to keep our balance for there is no net to catch us when we fall, and we will fall. Some of us will fall so hard and far that nothing will bring us back. Others are lucky, I guess you’d call it luck, they learn how to keep their balance most of the time. One day, sound and color come back. A bit of a shock that is. You don’t realize how much the world has faded away until it starts coming back.

We don’t talk about you much to anyone but each other anymore. It’s not that we don’t have that desire, but more because those who are not living this with us are done with it and thats okay, it’s how it should be. I do wish they’d wise up though and realize that when something totally life changing happens, that is what it means, life changing. Everyone who knew you had their life changed in some way, some more profound than others. Yet, until they have lost their own child, they will never understand who we are, why we are. They will never understand that a loss can be so great until they have suffered that loss personally. We know and it makes us sad that every moment of everyday, someone somewhere is discovering what we know.

Maybe you’ve heard me say a millon times how much I miss you, love you, wish you were here. You will hear it till my dying day, if you can hear me at all. There is not much I believe in anymore so time will tell. Yeah, something else to learn. We try to keep our minds on those who are here with us. They are just as important, more parts of the whole. Strange how that missing piece can seem like everything is gone.

We started looking for the beauty in the world and it is there. It is not in humans, but in the amazing grace of nature where the impossible is possible. It’s hard to keep our hearts so wide open, knowing how easy it can be shattered, but we try. Sometimes we fail, and then we try again. The pain has changed over time, not gone away, but changed. That is a good thing because we could not survive with the first raw anguish. I love you my son, I miss you will all that is in me and oh, how I wish you were here. My hope now is that wherever you are, is better than what you left behind. ‘Forever Mom.’

Love is an Honor

Love is an honor, not an obligation. This is what I have learned from Tim’s death. He honored me with his love and respect. I am privileged to have the love of so many. I am not loved because I am family or friend, I am loved because each one found something within me that they respected, that they wanted to love. We cannot love everything about a person, but we can find that gem in them that is worthy of love. We  choose how we treat others the same as they choose how they treat us. Somehow, I think respect is more important than love. Love covers so many things that it loses its meaning after a while.

I find I have a deeper appreciation and respect for those who traveled this road with us. They could have walked away as a few did, but they didn’t, they choose to hold our hand instead. They gave us a shoulder to lean on, an ear to hear, a heart to bleed for us. They did not treat us with harshness or judgment for they understood that one day, we would come out into the light again. They did not demand, they waited. How amazing is that? One grows closer or more distant to others depending on one simple thing, how they treat you when you are at your lowest. It does not matter if they are family or not. Love is an honor not an obligation.

Tragedy binds people together and also tears them apart. Once we accept that some people do not belong in our lives, somehow the freer we become. It is like a great weight lifts off our shoulders. We come to a cross road. We choose and that is our right to do so. You do not have to keep someone in your life just because they are family. You just don’t. There is no obligation but the ones they try to put on you. Love and respect cannot be forced. I have great respect for my husband, daughter, grandsons. family, and friends. No one knows what they have endured for few asked. Yet they stand strong beside me, I am honored by their love.

I have learned from Tim’s loss just how fragile life is. I have learned to hold those who matter to me closer in my heart and my soul. Our world changed so drastically and completely that we were forced to relearn how to live again. Death really opens one eyes to what matters and what doesn’t. It destroys and rebuilds. We are closer now to those we love even as we mourn the one we lost. Tim’s absence will always be felt, the love we have for him stays strong, unrelenting, with honor. ‘Forever Mom.’

 

Moment to Moment

Tim has been gone two years now. I wish I could say that it gets easier, but I can’t. Loss of a child has no words to express how we really are. I thought that losing him was the hardest thing I would ever do. Turns out, just living is harder. Learning to face each day with the knowledge that he is gone and taking the next step forward. There are times the scars on my heart rip wide open, shedding tears of hurt and grief. For a little while, I am back to square one, feeling the raw pain of his passing. I still hear his laughter, the sound of his voice, the twist of his lips when he’d tell a joke. I see the light that shone so brightly from his eyes, and I see them closed in eternal sleep. No, it does not get easier, but it does change from day to day, moment to moment.

I am grateful for each and every person who let me know they were thinking of Tim on his loss date, thinking of me and Keith. It helped ease my heart to know that others think of us, care about us, understand that we will mourn his loss, but are learning to live again. I know that others think of us, of him, but sometimes it helps to hear them say it. It tells us that our child is not forgotten, our loss is not regulated to the shadows. Never has a road been so hard to walk as the road of child loss, the life changes that occurred and continues to happen. We are not who we were and we never will be again. There will always be that empty place that belongs only to Tim.

We live our days differently now. We are more grateful for each other and what we have suffered. We know each others pain. There are times when something comes up that Keith and I look at each other and know we are hearing, feeling, or noticed the same thing. We are more aware. It was hard to let that love come out again. Love equals pain when one loses a child. It brings fear of loss to the front of everything we do. Life is so fleeting after all. We think our kids will out live us only because that is the way we think things should be. When they don’t, we feel that it should have been us, not them, not them.

Yeah, two years may seem like a long time to others, but to the parents of a lost child, it is only a moment. The loss will not go away, how could it? We learn though, we learn how to walk this rocky road, we learn to avoid the pitfalls that trigger our sorrow. We learn to see the sunrise as beautiful again instead of another long day away from our child. The questions of loss will be there, but in time, we quit asking for answers, for we realize that there is no one who has the answer. Ours hearts will weep, break open, reknit, break again. The scars are not strong for they hold our love for our child and will open often. We learn to accept that and take the next step.

Keith and I are lucky to have the family and friends that we do. They check on us often, even after two years. They let us know we are loved and someone is thinking of us. Life will go on, for now, no one lives forever. There will be hard days, and days that are not so hard. We will cry, but we will also laugh. We talk about Tim often for he was involved in so many things in our lives. So many memories. I wish there was more than memories, but I learn to be grateful for what I have and let go of what I cannot change. I hope Tim knows how loved he is. ‘Forever Mom.’

The Wall

Grief, when it comes, is not gradual. It hits like a tsunami, unexpected and violent. Suddenly, we are in the deepest, darkest pit with no way out. What we may not realize is that we are on a slide, falling to the bottom. When that bottom comes, it is as sudden as the grief for there is a solid wall waiting at the end. Some of us have hit that wall. We cannot go any deeper and there is no ladder leading back up … loss of hope, joy, purpose.

A while back, I slammed into that wall. If not for the perception of family and friends, I would not be writing this right now, or ever. That last day is etched into my mind as permanent as granite. I won’t go into detail as to what happened but I will say this: We learn to hide our pain and in doing so, we also hide deeper troubles. It’s not a deliberate thing for we don’t see, from an outside view, just what is happening to us. We do not know when grief trips over into sever depression. To us, we are still grieving.

I believe that true hell is what we suffer here on earth. Maybe we will be one of the ones who come through that place and are able to look back from the other side. Some of us won’t. I can look back now and see what happened, see from many angles the path that was took. My feet were not set on that path with conscious thought, but still, it is where my sorrow lead me.

When one is tempered by the fires of grief, they come out different. They see the world and it’s people different. There is no going back though we will try to for a while. Part of our fight is against ourselves for we do not want to let go of who were were. Problem is, who we were is gone. We have to learn to accept who we are becoming. I will always be Tim’s mom, but now, I am his mom without him. That hurts and the anger I feel because of it is what I have to let go of. It will not change the fact that he is gone.

When I look back over the last 22 months, it is painful. I see so much more now then when I was living it. I thought I was handling it well, only to realize that I was not handling it at all. I went though each day wrapped in a cocoon of grief that was not easing but becoming a shroud. We think that we will do this alone, that we don’t need any help. I know I thought that. Turns out that, for me, this is not true. We are hard-wired to seek out others like ourselves, yet we fight it every step of the way.

One of the truest things about life is death. There is no natural order to it, no parent before child, it has no preferences. Of all the things we will deal with, death is the hardest. It leaves us helpless, hopeless and joyless. We can do nothing to change it, make it different or fix it. It stuns the mind, freezes the heart. It will destroy us if we let it. It is a time in your life when you are beyond exhaustion, unable to think about anything else, unable to function. All you can do for a while is cling to that buoy until you find the will to swim.

I am one of the lucky ones. Strange to think that way when I have lost my son, but it is true. I am lucky that there are those who care enough to see what was happening and act on it. I am lucky that I am loved beyond measure. I am lucky to have the family and friends that I do, for they were there when it mattered the most. I am lucky that I have come out to the other side of this. That does not mean I love my son any less or miss him less. It means that there was a ladder in that pit after all and I have started to climb. It means that I can tear down the wall that I hit so abruptly.

I guess that what I am trying to say is … don’t go it alone. You do not have to be alone. Seek out grief groups where you can actually see the people you are talking to and they can see you. Find a place where people will look you in the eyes with understanding because they have been where you are in some form or another. No one will ever know your pain, but they will know your grief. Step outside of your comfort zone before it becomes your prison cell without a key. Not all of us will hit that wall, but many of us will. It is scary and can be fatal. “Forever Mom.”

 

 

 

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