Monthly Archives: March 2014

Mother

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I had an interesting conversation with one of my fellow loss moms last week…it’s always nice to talk to someone else who gets it, even if you wish they didn’t have to. It makes me feel less alone and less crazy. Anyhow, in the midst of this conversation she said something about figuring out how to be Bennie’s mom. That is an interesting idea, figuring out how to be a mom. I suppose everyone who has a child has to go through that process. How will I cope with the new life I am now responsible for? How will I manage my days and nights? How will this change my relationship with my partner? With my friends? With myself? Now, here’s the twist. How will I do all of those things but NOT have the child with me? That’s one thing I think people sometimes forget. Even though my child is not in my arms or in my home, he is with me, always, just like your living child. I have to navigate different waters, for certain, but some of them are very much the same. How do you become a mother to a child who has died? That is a tricky question.

I think my best moments are when people that I know, and sometimes those I don’t, tell me what Bennie has meant in their life, or that they thought of him that day, or that he compelled them to do something they never thought they would or could do. Like every parent, I am proud of my child. I love to hear about his goodness, his cuteness, his life. That makes me happy. It is harder sometimes to navigate the “innocent” questions…when you meet someone new and they ask if you have children, or you run into someone who doesn’t know and they ask how he is…those moments are tricky because often, you just don’t have it in you to go into the explanation…or you don’t want the pity…or the sorrow. But to NOT tell them is also hard because it makes me feel like I am not honoring him, not remembering his life. So, often it is a short, “Yes, I had a son who passed away in September” and then a quick, “What about you?”. Most people are willing to let it go at that. Some are not. I actually like the ones who are not…because it makes me talk about it and in the end, that helps. But, I don’t always handle it well.

Anyhow, what does it mean to be a mother, for me, who does not have her child with her? I don’t know. I am learning. I am finding ways to include him in my day…morning prayer or thinking times, saying goodnight before we go to sleep, having his pictures around me, working on the foundation to keep his joy going…and finding ways to be ok with the fact that I am not always thinking of him, which at first made me feel VERY guilty and like a horribly bad mother. ‘Grief is supposed to lessen over time. I get that in my head. It’s sometimes hard to make my heart understand it. I think, ultimately, I am lucky because I have the very best of angels. I wish he was here. That seems like a better idea. But to be the mom of an angel, that’s pretty awesome too.

Paper and pictures

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About a week ago, we got a death certificate for Benton. In many ways this is a good thing. It means we can move forward with some things that have been on hold…all that “closure” that somehow has to happen when anyone dies, whether they are 90 years or 25 days old. This piece of paper allows us to finalize benefit accounts and close funeral home records and file life insurance and such. OK. Those are good. On the flip side, it amazed me how much a piece of paper with some long Latin medical causes of death can feel like a punch in the face. For some reason, I never thought beyond the practical side of this experience to the emotional impact it might have. I don’t know why. I guess because I thought I had been through the worst of it…and I guess in many ways I have and continue to that journey. But, there are moments, like the one where I picked it up from the funeral home and sat in my car and pulled it from the envelope, that makes me feel like it just happened, right then. Those moments sometimes take me by surprise. I guess they shouldn’t by now. But they still do.

I work with a lovely woman who is 80 years old. When Bennie died, she like many told me stories of loss from her own life. I was glad to hear them because I think it is so important that we all talk about loss to make it less scary…if we know about it, we can find a way to live with it. Anyhow, one of her stories struck a chord when I sat there in my car, holding that death certificate, unable to catch my breath. She told the story of how her father had died in the winter and so he could not be buried until spring. When the time came, about six months later, her mother insisted that the undertaker open the casket before they buried him. This, of course, was met with great resistance….but ultimately they did it for her. And she looked into the casket and said, “Oh, you really are dead. I couldn’t remember.” It seems like such an obvious thing, to be standing by a gravesite to bury someone…that you would know that, of course, they are dead. But I can see how this happened to her…because the farther away from the actual death of that person you get, the more it seems like it maybe didn’t happen. That perhaps it was a dream or a fiction. It’s tricky how your brain works its way around death because, honestly, sometimes it’s just too hard to keep facing it. Everyone who has had to face it knows this and understands how your heart just needs a break some days and your brain supplies that for you. It’s not that I think I would want to dwell in the death or the dying. I have done that. I am ok with being out of that valley. But sometimes, things happen and you are pushed back into that space and BAM…you are at the beginning and it is once again heavy and hard. It doesn’t seem to linger quite so long anymore, but it certainly still sits and waits for those moments. Grief is a giver that way…always there, willing and able to pull you back in.

Now, on the other side of all of this is lots of LIFE. We were able to take a trip to some warm weather last week for Bennie’s six month birthday. It was a purposeful choice, to pull away and give ourselves some space. It seemed like we might need it. We had a very relaxed trip, except for that day…when we got up early and drove to a beautiful strip of ocean with a pier and a lighthouse to watch the sunrise. It was perfect. And beautiful. And I cried a whole lot. And then smiled a whole lot. And I swear that in those moments I literally could feel Bennie all around me, like a blanket of light. Sean, being the awesome photographer that he is, captured some great shots. I did a few of my own as well. We were there for a long time and we watched people surf and talked to some birds and got our feet full of sand…and then we went and had some breakfast and spent the rest of the day enjoying the sunshine. It was a good day. A purpose filled day, it seemed. I loved it.
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So, if the piece of paper sucked me back into grief, the ocean sucked me out again. That’s not to say it was a smooth transition. But it was one that makes me realize that sometimes, it is the unexpected that can be the hardest AND the most beautiful AND the most important. It makes me glad to be open to it, even though I still sometimes try like hell to push it away. Very human that way, I suppose. It was nice to spend the morning with you Bennie. Thanks for visiting.
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