I am many things, some flattering, and some pejorative.
I am; a wife, mom, sister, daughter, writer, photographer, smartass, know-it-all, the former extrovert who is now reclusively introverted, a bitch, an aunt, a friend…so many things, yet sometimes nothing at all. I can change some of those things. Some, like being a wife, mom, friend, writer, and OK - a smartass, I wouldn’t want to change.
There is one thing, one deep, scarring, tormenting aspect of my being that I will never be able to change…I am that mom, the one who has laid one of her own in the ground, to slumber forever.
I am that mom, the one who will forever wear this loss like some sort of morbid tattoo on her soul, on her being, and etched into her heart.
I am that mom, the one who will always have that piece of her soul, floating above her in the ether like so much ozone, there but yet not there.
I am that mom, who lost the child who first blessed her with the title of mommy, mom, mother, momma…
I am the mom who no other woman ever wants to be.
I am that mom; the one other moms look at with pity and something else…something harder to articulate. Other women, upon learning of my loss, hold their children close and thank God they’ve never experienced this pain, this horrible slow demise of the soul that is the death of a child. They are intact. I am not. They look at me with pity; I look at them with jealousy.
I look at those unbroken women with an immeasurable envy. They have not spent hours curled deep within themselves,
in agony, missing the flesh of their flesh, trying to remember the laugh that
no longer echoes through the halls, the smile that used to reach out to
whomever it happened upon and grabbed them and made their heart melt, and the scent
of him, dear God that wonderful mixture of little boy, bubble bath, dirt,
sunscreen, and pure sunshine that so overtook my senses every time I’d nuzzle
into the back of his neck. A smell I
thought would forever be imprinted in every cell of my being but one which I
now struggle to recall. I remember running my fingers through the golden curls at the nape of his
neck whilst he napped and marveling at how perfect each individual
ringlet was. I ache to feel that silky golden hair slide through my
fingers again. I look at these
women and wonder what it’s like to feel whole. I can’t remember.
I’m that mom, the one who stands and stares into the white lights of her Christmas tree, longing to place presents under the tree for the little boy who won’t be there to open them. In April I make a birthday cake, every year, knowing he won’t be there to blow out the candles. This year there were twenty candles. They remained lit until the flames flickered out and the wax melted onto the cake. Nearly eighteen years after his death, bitter, salty tears rolled down my face, much the same way the wax of the candles flowed onto the chocolate frosting and then down the sides of the cake.
I am the mom who had to excuse herself from the room the evening her oldest daughter brought home the young man she was dating when I realized he was the same exact age Joshua would have been, had he lived.
Over the years I have been the mom who stands along the sidelines at little league games, watching the boys who would have been the same age as her son and wondering if her little boy would have loved playing baseball and would he have hit a grand slam home run? I long for things that never were...to hear the crack of the bat against the bright white ball, to stand and cheer along the sidelines as he rounded the bases with a huge grin on his face, to embrace him and tell him what an awesome job he did, and to feel a huge sense of pride - that was my boy out there, the one who hit the ball that went flying over everyone's heads and into the vast blue sky.
I'm the mom who is now obsessively overprotective of her remaining children, who can't bear to see them cross the street without looking both ways at least ten times lest a car hit and kill them the same way it did Joshua.
I'm that mom, the one who angered easily when standing at Joshua's graveside and someone would tell me that wasn't him in there, he was "somewhere else." In my mind and my heart, that boy, that precious baby who stole my heart and who was now buried in a hard box underneath cold earth was still my boy...that body, was the only way I knew him. I can't count how many times I wanted to lay down on the ground to be near him.
I have been that mom since August 10th, 1990. 1:14AM this morning marks eighteen long years since I became that mom.
I can scarcely believe sometimes that eighteen years have passed since that beautiful little boy with the golden curls and the laugh that overtook his entire body has been gone. Eighteen years since I first experienced the inexplicable pain of body and soul that ripped me apart and left me incomplete.
I was little more than a child myself when I gave birth to Joshua and would like to say that in the span of the two years, three months and ten days until his death, I grew and matured. Even with the birth of my twins who were only six months old at the time of his death, I was still that scared half-girl half-woman who didn’t have a clue what she was doing, who only knew that she loved her babies with every ounce of her being and was doing her best.
The years since Joshua’s death and becoming that mom have been interesting, some more difficult than others, some passing without much note.
As I look back on the last eighteen years, I can finally see the difference between the child burying her child, and the woman, sitting here today, who has done what she thought, at one time, impossible…survive the loss of a child, subsequent failure of that marriage and another, and made a name for herself in the radio and voice over industries.
Some days I still have no clue what I’m doing, I fly by the
seat of my pants and hope that I don’t screw my kids up too badly. There are no manuals out there for dealing
with life after the loss of a child. There are myriad books available on grief and loss, but nothing that
really ever captured the essence of my loss. Most of the books I read were of others journey's through their own personal hell after the death of a child. Their pain is as unique to them as mine is to me. The words on the pages seemed cold and unfeeling. They were flat and did nothing to soothe a tortured soul.
How I wish the blogosphere had been around back then. It wasn’t until I found other mothers who have have traveled a seemingly unbearable road, that I realized I am not alone in this. I have a voice and perhaps through my own voice, not only will I soothe my scarred and battered soul, but maybe be able to offer some support, encouragement and hope to someone else who has gone through this and is reaching out, grasping for something to hang onto.
As I read the words that tumbled from the hearts and minds of these women, they seemed laced with feeling, empathy, and something more...something alive. They were part of a living tribute to their children. They were not words in books that had been on shelves collecting dust, waiting for someone with tear-stained cheeks and a heavy heart to come and lift them and try and find some meaning to the madness and the grief...their blogs are like living entities, further proof that they have gotten up, day after day and gone on, and most of all, survived. Unlike the authors of the plethora of books on coping after the loss of a loved one, I can reach out to these women and know that they are still there, they are real and a daily reminder of the spirit of their children.
It’s ironic, when I look back on the last eighteen years and how I’ve pulled myself up out of the mire of the hell my life was immediately after Joshua’s death, (it wasn’t a depression so much as this ache that would never leave and feeling as if I’d never get over the sadness of what happened – it’s hard to articulate), and here I sit on the precipice of a serious depression now, that I don’t seem to be able to grasp the same thread of hope that I did all those years ago.
Granted, the situations are not the same, but today I am able to read the voices of other women like who, like myself, have been on the edge of this very scary abyss, and have resurfaced, alive and functional. I am able to reach out to those women, whose voices so poignantly, beautifully and painstakingly have chronicled their own battles with depression and I can take hold of their words like so many life-rafts and hang on with everything I have.
And, I can write! Perhaps not about the incident that led to all this, but I can get this all out of my head and onto paper and try and exorcize the demons that way. I can finish the book I've been writing over the last ten years but have stopped and then restarted so many times, and I can take the medication (once we get it all worked out and adjusted or switched to something that isn’t making me puke all day long and feel as if my head is completely disconnected from my body), and not feel the guilt of being labeled “depressed.” It won’t happen overnight, but in time, I hope I can look back on this much the same way I look back on the last eighteen years and realize that I did get through it, I survived and perhaps in doing so, I’ve given someone else the courage to do the same. Maybe some day, someone going through something similar will be able to read my words and see that I am still here, still breathing and coping and know that they can reach out to me and hang on with everything they have.
I will always be that mom. However, I am now also that mom, the one who looks at her eighteen year old twins her fifteen year old son and am reminded of the balm that they were, that soothed my broken heart, in the months and years following Joshua’s death and what incredible young adults they are and what amazing lives they will lead.
I am that mom, who looks at her two year old with that impetuous twinkle in her eye and wild curl of her hair and smile as big as the sun and recalls a beautiful little boy who graced my life with his presence and who will always be with me, in some way or another. I look at this precious little girl and drink everything in and enjoy basking in her presence in my life.
I am that mom, the one who now knows tomorrow is out there. I just have to keep reaching for it.