Three Dog Night did a song called “One” back in the late 60’s. In my opinion, it is one of the saddest songs from that era, though also one of the most vacuous songs I’ve ever heard. The lyrics, if you can call them that, consist of about 20 words arranged in different order, and repeated over and over again. But I liked the song and can still bring it to mind immediately upon thinking of it.
This song comes to mind when I allow myself to ponder, which isn’t often, the many things that fall into the category of “never again” since my son passed away. Similar to the first line of that old song – “one is the saddest number that you’ll ever do” – “never” is the saddest word a mother (or father or sibling) will ever think. Because………never. It is so final. So unchanging. So irreversible. So crushingly heartbreaking.
I almost can’t bear to think about the nevers in my life now. But with the 3rd anniversary of my son’s passing rapidly approaching, I can’t seem to help it.
My weekly planner sits on my desk, front and center, so I can keep track of birthdays, anniversaries, appointments, and other things I need to stay on top of. At the beginning of each year I transfer all the birthdays and anniversaries to the next year’s planner. I had no idea how to record, in a way I could tolerate seeing, the anniversary of one of my children’s death. So last year, for this year’s planner, I wrote “3 years in heaven” on the anniversary of his death.
3 years in heaven. My middle son will have been gone from this earth, from our family, from his workplace (where he was much-loved), and from his siblings’ lives for 3 years this week.
It still hurts like the dickens. It still frustrates me. It still angers me. I still cry almost everyday. I sometimes cry myself to sleep. I still hate the reality my life has become. And I absolutely hate that I can’t do anything about it.
There is another side to every story.
A dear friend of mine recently shared with me a saying they have at her workplace: There’s always 3 sides to every story – Your side, my side, and the truth.
There aren’t many ways to see the story of your child dying in a car accident. He died.
But there are many ways to see and live life after the tragedy.
I have been tempted a few times to sit in my anger and say, effectively, “screw the world and everything in it”. But that wouldn’t get me my son back. I have come to realize, despite my internal drive to fix anything that is, or seems to be broken, that I cannot fix this. I have tried. Believe me, I have tried, in my mind more times than one could imagine, to undo this horrendously awful tragedy. But I cannot.
So I have decided what I’ve known all along but refused to believe – I’ve decided the only thing I can do anything about is how I will live the rest of my earthly life.
Despite the list of nevers – I will never hug my boy again; I will never hear his voice or drink in his smell again; I will never hear him say “mom” again; I will never get another text letting me know he got home safely again; he will never call with his list of favorite foods he’d like me to make him again; I will never see the admiring look in his eye when he sees his dad again; I will never see him pick up and hold his nieces and nephew again; I will never again see, hear, smell or touch one of my most precious treasures – but, despite this abbreviated list of nevers, I also have my list of always that I am determined to continue to live by.
I always try to thank God – because there is always, always, always, always, always something to be thankful for. I always try to love God; I always try to love my family; I always try to forgive and release unforgiveness; I want to always ask for forgiveness when I have been my usual self and said or done something stupid; I always try to seek God in all circumstances; I always want to be open to helping my fellow human being; I always strive to never cause hurt or harm; I always want to give more than I take; I always want, above all else, to be pleasing to my Heavenly Father.
The nevers will never change. The horrible tragedy that occurred in my life almost 3 years ago happened and I can never change that.
But I can change my outlook on life after it. I can be thankful, loving, praising, encouraging and hopeful again.
I know I will have more deeply sorrowful moments ahead of me, because the longing for a son I haven’t seen in 3 years only increases as more time goes by.
That’s okay. I’m learning to live with what I used to think of as “negative” thoughts and feelings. I don’t think of them that way anymore. They are a part of who I am, brought about by a significant life-altering event that my God, who is “too wise to err and too loving to be unkind”, allowed in my life.
I will never again be the person I was before my son passed away. But I will always be thankful for the 25 years God allowed him to be in my life. And I will always be thankful for the wonderful man God gave me, the 4 amazing children, and the 4 awesome grandchildren God has blessed me with. Hopefully, we will have many years ahead of us to thank Him for the many blessings in our lives. If not, I will thank Him in person!
“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21
“Life is hard.
God is good.
Glory is coming.
Therefore, stand firm in grace.” John Piper