It has been just over six months since my son died, and in many ways it seems to be getting harder. The grief is deeper and the loss more real by the day. Six months is the longest we’ve ever gone without seeing or talking to him. He had a couple of deployments that were just under six months, but he sometimes called when they came into port and he had a couple of days of leave. If I remember correctly, there was only one time when we went a full six months without hearing from him. That was a long six months, and I prayed a lot. Six months is a long time to go without seeing or hearing from your child. A lifetime is looming in front of me. I’m so thankful for all that God has blessed me with. But, I’m so sorrowful for what I’ve lost. One of my children is dead. He died at the tender age of twenty-five. I don’t know if I say that to convince myself it is true, or if I feel the need to convince others that this happened and we are still reeling from the blow this loss caused. It’s still hard to believe. But, I’m beginning to believe it, and the reality of the loss is crushing.
One of the things that makes this so difficult to deal with is the memories. The normal everyday occurrences that you would typically never remember again moments after they occurred become emblazoned on your memory when a loved one is tragically torn from your family. When I walk out the back door onto the brick patio my husband and oldest son laid for me last September, I can see Izzy sitting near the concrete mixer watching Joe, and sometimes helping him with the bricks. When I walk down the driveway to get the mail, I see his motorcycle parked in the driveway, his helmet on the seat, scratches on the side of the tank where he laid it over the first week he had it. It was icy that first week after he bought it, but he couldn’t wait to get on it, so he pushed it over to the church parking lot across the street from Joe’s house, got on and revved the engine, and the tires spun out from under it on the icy parking lot. He laid the bike over and broke his hand trying to catch himself, an injury that never did heal correctly. We discussed many times the need for surgery for that injury and how we would help him, as the recovery time was determined to be several months.
I see him clinging to the side of one of the pin oaks in our back yard when I walk out there. The first week we moved here he scaled that tree like a monkey as his younger sister, Beth, and I sat in the yard swing watching him. I snapped several pictures of him climbing that tree; something I will be forever grateful for. When I do laundry, I see a bottle of the same brand of detergent I use in Joe’s hands the day we cleaned out his apartment. It was slightly collapsed, and I hear Joe saying, “Look. He didn’t know how to use this!” It was one that sits on the washer with a spigot and a screw-top you loosen to allow air into the bottle. The screw-top was tight and the bottle slightly collapsed from lack of air. We chuckled through tears about it that day. It causes my stomach to clench when I think of it now.
And, most painful of all, the memory involving the picnic table underneath that same pin oak he climbed a year before. The evening after his visitation, several family members, friends and ship mates came to our house for an impromptu meal. After the meal, most of the family members left and the shipmates and friends and our immediate family went into our back yard to celebrate Izzy’s life by shooting off fireworks and sparkler bombs. I was exhausted, but didn’t want to miss any of the celebration, so I walked over to the picnic table and sat on the top of it. One of our sons’ friends who had lost a sister a few years before, came and stood by me and asked how I was doing. He knew how I was doing, but he asked because he loves me. I love him like a son. We’ve been through a lot together. I see myself sitting on that picnic table that horrible beautiful night when I go out there.
I feel sometimes like I wear sadness like a cloak that I oftentimes cannot remove. There are more days when I can remove it and lay it aside, now, than before. But, even when I remove it, I know it is lying there, waiting to attach itself to me again soon. I look forward to the day when the memories bring more smiles than tears, and the cloak of sadness can be removed and set aside for more than a day or so.