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Saturday, August 15, 2015

One Desk Short

It's coming. God, it's coming. The first day of school. I guess I was right about one thing...that first day is going to be hard. What I didn't know was why. The first day of every school year is hard. Now with social media, that day is full of pictures of kids dressed and ready for the day. ALL of their kids. That's the part that burns. It actually causes a physical reaction. My stomach will be in knots and it will feel as if someone is holding a lit match to my chest all day long.

I really wanted to feel the "burden" of buying school supplies for four children this year. I wanted so badly to complain about my empty nest and how time has flown and my baby has grown up. I realize now what a gift that complaint would have been. It used to anger me when people complained about things I no longer had the privilege of experiencing. Time has changed anger to encouragement. I say to those who get to experience the gift of this "last" to complain away! Do it. It's a gift you're being given. I'm not saying I'll receive it well, but that should never deter someone from having their own unique experience. I know the stab and twist of pain associated with the first day of school will come. But that's MY gift. It's my perspective and my experience.

Easton should be entering kindergarten this year. Most mothers who have lost children at a young age will tell you that this particular missed milestone is a big one. We notice the children of those mothers whose bellies were swollen right along with us. We see them with their new haircuts, their backpacks that look too big on their little bodies. We see their hesitancy at leaving mom's side. That burns. It causes such a fire inside that we will wonder if others can actually see the flames. We'll be simultaneously happy for them and crushed for our own missed opportunity.

So, dear teacher, this year you will be one student short. He would have had loose curls and brilliant blue eyes. He likely would have been ornery and I would have to apologize for his sheepish, guilty grin. He probably would have needed some extra help and I probably would have been a permanent fixture in your classroom. He would have been kind and loving. He would have been inclusive and brave. He would have held my hand to the door, but then let go willingly to try something new. He would have been amazing. And I'm sorry that you will not have the opportunity to teach him, because he would have had plenty to teach those around him. Teacher, I will watch your class this year from afar. I won't be signed up to bring in the snacks. I won't volunteer at class parties. And you won't see me at the parent/teacher conference. But I will still feel the ups and downs of your school year. I will watch silently as the five year old babies become 6 year old children. I thank you for your willingness to include me and my son in the ways that you already have. I know this year will get very busy. You'll have plenty to do, and time will fly. But, selfishly, I beg of you not to forget that you are one backpack, one set of gym shoes, one desk short. And that my broken heart will be with you and this very special class of 2028.

Happy first day of kindergarten, my precious boy.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

I'm Sorry You're Here

It's dark down here in this hole I've grown accustomed to calling "home." Its cold and dark. Sometimes it's quiet and sometimes you can hear the screaming for miles. It's crowded too. But, in some sort of sick and twisted trick of the universe, there will always be room for one more. I wish no one else ever had to come down here, but they do. And we recognize them as they join us.

For the first few days they'll be in such a bizarre tunnel of disbelief that they almost seem energized at times. This couldnt be happening. It isnt real. You can see the utter denial in their faces and body language. That denial is periodically pierced with realization and the stabbing pain it causes them is so powerful that it resonates through all of us. Our wounds are reopened at the sight of fresh agony.

It's an awful club, with forced membership and a lifetime sentence. We are the mothers whose children have left this earth before us. We recognize one another by the vacancy of our eyes. We hurt for one another on a level understood only by us. And we wish with our whole being that our numbers would never grow. But inevitably, they do...one more thing for which we have no control. We are powerless to spare another mother of this horror. So, we learn to live with our pain and lean on one another as we try to remember reasons for breathing.

And so I say to the newest members, the ones stumbling around in the dark of this place, certain that they are alone...we're here. We're here and we're hurting too. We're broken and in pain and at some point during your flailing about, you'll reach out and bump into one of us. We'll offer love and support, but never a fix. We know this can't be undone. The pain can't be removed. In fact, your pain will reignite in us, that same horrifying agony that we see in your eyes. But despite the pitch black that you see before you now, I can offer this...there will eventually be the smallest glimmer of light down here. There is a ladder that will take you out when you need to see the sun for a moment. Don't worry, you won't get there too quickly and you'll even stumble back down a few times on your way up. But there are hands to hold as you climb both ways, because if you'll notice, during your flailing, you ran into us. It's because we still need to be here sometimes. We need the feeling of solitude and the odd comfort of our new friend, grief.

Although it seems impossible to you now, you will find the ladder someday. Reach for those who have gone before you. They know the way. But for right now, scream. Hit things. Hurt. Be angry. Be LIVID. I am so sorry for your pain, dear sister. It's one I wish I would never have to share. I will see you in the dark, even if you can't see me.