Autumn is my favorite time of year. And October is my favorite month. I married the love of my life in October almost 40 years ago.
This is also one of the hardest times of the year for me. My middle son died tragically in a car accident 6 years ago today; twelve days before our 34th anniversary.
Both my husband and I are in a constant state of emotional quandary this time of year. Each year since our middle child died has been different, emotionally speaking, with each year being more difficult in some ways and less difficult in other ways. In other words – the good times have gotten better, and the hard times have gotten worse; usually more short-lived, but nevertheless, worse.
To say that living after the death of a child is difficult is the understatement of the century. And living in a world that doesn’t really believe in grieving the loss of a loved one makes it even more difficult. The ridiculous things we believe about grieving are….. well, ridiculous. EG: the “5 stages of grief”; “it’s been a year…..”; “you’re perseverating”; “don’t you think it’s time to move on?”; “maybe you have complicated grief”; etc. It’s absolutely ridiculous.
I love my children with all my being. I’ve said often that I love them more than life itself, which seems like a low bar to me now, as I don’t really love life all that much anymore. But I do love my husband and children more than anything else in the world. Why can’t we understand that I’m going to continue to love my son just as if he had not gone to heaven, just as I love my children who are still walking this earth with me? I can’t stop loving him simply because I no longer have his physical presence with me. I love him. I love him with my whole being. And I can’t lavish that love on him in any way except to put flowers at his grave. (Let that sink in for a minute.) I can do nothing for a child I bore, raised, schooled, and watched grow into a man I was, and still am proud of, except tend his grave.
Of course I still cry.
And this time of year, I cry a lot.
I walked out onto our front porch a few days ago because the temperature had dropped to a little below normal (after it had been hovering around 90 degrees for several days) to enjoy the fresh autumn air, and was blasted instead with a vivid memory of the morning I was told my son had not survived a car accident. I sat on our porch swing with my long-time girlfriend that morning, trying to sip on a cup of coffee, though I couldn’t seem to remember how to swallow.
A day or so after the front porch memory blast, I visited our backyard one beautiful evening to get a peek at the full moon and was greeted by the exact feeling of the evening after our son’s visitation. Several of his friends came to our house after that punishing service to eat a little food and shoot off some fireworks in his honor. I sat on our picnic table and watched them, the lump in my throat and chest slightly lessened by observing their antics. My son’s visitation. The words still punch me in the gut a little.
It is still difficult to deal with our new reality; not on a daily basis anymore, except this time of year, but the difficult days aren’t much better when they do visit us.
I still love him with all my heart.
I think I’ll probably grieve him the same.
He’s gone and I’m not.
It’s still a struggle.
As I said above, though, the good times are better than they have been in a long time. They are sometimes rather fleeting, but we try our best to enjoy them when we are in them.
I’m so very thankful for the life God has blessed me with – my wonderful husband, my four remaining children, my son-in-law, and four rambunctious grandchildren. We all feel the lingering effects of losing one of us we loved and enjoyed so much. But we also cherish our family more than ever.
It’s hard to believe he has been gone 6 years.
It’s also hard to believe my husband and I will celebrate one of the happiest days of our lives – our 40th wedding anniversary – a few days after the 6th anniversary of the most horrendous day of our lives.
“The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:21
An afterthought: I wrote this blog post yesterday, the anniversary of the last day I saw my middle son alive and well, and it was a hard day. Today, though, the 6th anniversary of his passing, so far doesn’t seem quite as hard. As I lay in bed musing on this observation this morning, I remembered that I watched the clock yesterday, all day long, remembering the “lasts” – 2:30 pm -He arrived at our house on his motorcycle. 3 pm – We loaded the Buick with the food I’d prepared and portable table to travel across the street to the block party he came out to go to with us. 4:45 pm – He left on his motorcycle to go to his brother’s house. 7 pm – I received his final text, telling me he had made it home safely; also telling me he “didn’t go fast” when he left earlier that day, because I told him his noisy motorcycle scared the older lady sitting beside me.
When I looked at my phone to check the time this morning, though, the thought I usually have on this day in the past 5 years – 7:55 am – The time of death – didn’t occur to me until around 8:30 am.
I say all this to say – maybe this is progress! Maybe remembering all the last times I saw him alive, instead of remembering that most horrendous day, is a part of moving forward. Maybe. We’ll see how this day goes.