During our family’s dance with my Mama’s Alzheimer’s, people would routinely say to me, “I don’t know how you’re doing this!” I deeply appreciated the verbal acknowledgement of the stunning loss we were grappling with. I deeply appreciated how people were willing to consider the reality we were being asked to embrace. I deeply appreciated the insight of the on-lookers, and the admittance of their inability to fully relate, but the absolute desire to show up and be in relationship despite the unfamiliar terrain they were being asked to walk. That’s what love does during trauma and loss; LOVE SHOWS UP!
My sweet hometown of Kansas City, has been plagued with some horrific and tragic accidents in the last few weeks. Each accident, culminating in a child being called home to glory sooner than human hearts were ready. Each accident cascading paralyzing sorrow and loss to all who stood near-by or drew near.
When grief visits you, when grief unwantingly invites itself into the intimate chambers of your life, you often find yourself staggering through a formless, nameless darkness, and it hurts like hell.
After some time in my own grief journey, it became healing to watch others love their mothers better and deeper in light of our loss. It didn’t always feel this way. In the beginning, I wrestled with bitterness as I watched other daughters my age dote on their very alive mothers. But time cushioned the grief, and now I delight in seeing children marinating in their parent’s presence. When people say, “I am making an effort to be there for my mom,” and “your story reminded me of how important it is to show up for my parents and spoil the snot out of them,” those, those small glimpses of our pain being put into practice for sweeter love, often leaves me speechless.
Dear Parents Who Have Had A Child Die,
You might not be ready to hear this, and I totally get that. You have complete permission to rise up internally and be mad and bitter at me because today, my children are alive. I’ll hold that space for you, because people have held the identical space for me. But when you are ready, when the grief doesn’t seem like a heavy blanket suffocating you, I hope these words offer you a moment’s reprieve from your sadness.
I was irritated the other night because red Mississippi mud was plastered all over her brand-new softball pants. My original technique did not get out the stains, so as I started round two I thought about you. I thought about how you would give anything to wash those baseball pants, those soccer shorts, those carrot-stained bloomers one more time. And while I thought about you, I cried and grabbed the tooth brush and scrubbed. Because of you, I released that stupid irritation and ran my hands over Katie’s softball pants as if it was the most precious jewel I owned. Because of you.
Clearly, she woke up on the wrong side of the bed. She stomped through her morning routine while growling under her breath. The bacon was too cooked, her water bottle was dirty and her favorite shorts weren’t clean. I was about to launch into a major Mama lecture when I thought about you. I paused and wondered how you would tell me to respond in light of your current ache. As she plumped to the ground to slip on her Tevas, I knelt down beside Julia and squeezed the mess out her. I lingered while she rested her head on my chest. Because of you.
She had a virus last week, something in the virus has attacked her inner ear, causing some high squealing and annoying screaming. It took several days to figure out why she wasn’t sleeping well, consequently no one has been sleeping well as we tried to trouble-shoot. Each night, for several nights, she has asked to sleep in our room and for me to lay with her until she falls asleep. “Mama, will you rub my arm until the screaming stops?” My flesh wants to be finishing the prime-time Olympic hour, but then I think of you. I know the tears that are falling on your pillow are tears of, “what-ifs, if-onlys, and “if I only had…..” And I know you don’t care two-cents right now about who wins the Olympics. And you would tell me the only gold medal that matters is found in the eyes of my little girl. And so I stretch out beside her, I take her 9 year old hand in mine and I trace my thumb around and around her thumb. I feel her breathing slow and her tiny hand relaxes in mine. I brush my lips across her precious cheek and whisper, “I love you, Lucy!” Because of you.
We have a house rule that Dr.Seuss cannot be read for school reading. He is too wordy, and ain’t nobody got time for those 62 pages (x2). My boy walked into the house looking like a drowned rat and smelling like a puppy dog, “Mama, it is HOT outside!” I grinned, “Sure is, baby!” He opened his back-pack and pulled out Dr. Seuss and all 62 pages of his glory. This wryer grin spread across Anderson’s face, “But Mama, I was running late in library and this is all I could find!” “For real?” my eyebrows rose. “Mama, plllllleeeeeeaaaassse!” I sighed and thought of you, “Bring me the book.” 62 (x2) pages later, he smooched me on my lips and said, “You’re the best Mama!” And the tears began to spill over. Because of you.
I can offer no solutions, no easy fixes, no rewind features or do-overs. But in my living, I will honor your hurting by loving my kids a little bit better. In my living, I will honor your aching, by pausing more, saying, “yes” more than “no”, and tuning out the white noise to find my children. In my living…..because of you!