I remember driving to the cemetery after work one day only to find my sweet wife knelt quietly at the head of my son’s place of rest. The grass was still mending from the funeral and you could see the painful outline of where exactly he was buried. I never imagined grass could be so brutal.
I reverently approached my best friend but gave her space – for I saw her suffering an agony only a mother who’s lost a child can know. While I carry a father’s sorrow, which is heavier than anything I have ever known, I reverence my wife’s grief differently than my own.
Mitch had such a tender relationship with his mom. He often called her “Mommy-Lommie” as a term of endearment. He would always tell me how he thought his mother was the kindest, most beautiful lady on earth. “Don’t you just love Mommy?” Mitch would say with great feeling.
I have tender photos that I’ll share at a later time that show his sweet expression whenever Mitch was in her arms. This little boy loved his mom. And she loved him.
Mother’s day is around the corner and I can’t help but turn my heart to my dear wife. I struggle to know what I might do to show her how much I love and honor her. Everything I can think of falls short of what I feel. I know the gift she really wants I cannot give. Though I would gladly take my son’s place, I cannot. How that pains me so.
Our grief journey so far has been more complex than I ever imagined. Perhaps that is one of the reasons grief is so difficult to process … precisely because it is so complex. If it were simple, it might be easier. But it is not simple: grief is a tangled web of wanting, longing and loving something you can no longer hold. It is a briar patch of self-doubt, what if’s, and wonderings. It is the isolation of being misunderstood or simply not understood. It is learning to breathe in an emptiness that suffocates.
As difficult as it’s been, grief has also been a beautiful teacher. It has taught me how to be more compassionate and patient. It has taught me to better appreciate light – having experienced pitch darkness. Grief has taught me how to talk to my Father as a child might talk to a parent. Most beautiful of all is seeing those I love discover heavenly gems.
It wasn't long ago I was asked to speak to a group of women about the extraordinary influence they can have in the lives of others. The night before I was to speak to this group Natalie and I were talking about our journey so far. She looked me in the eyes and said, “Chris, I remember feeling betrayed and saying to God, ‘I tried to do everything you asked and THIS is what I get?’” Natalie paused a moment, with tears in her eyes she continued, “Then it occurred to me: this is my price to know God.” Tears filled my eyes and my heart filled with peace as I felt the truth of her words.
I have marveled at the transformation I have seen in my wife over the last 2 years. I can see the hand of God shaping her, tenderly and sometimes painfully, into something beautiful, not bitter. Yes, her heart is broken and tender – but it has become wiser and more caring. Through her suffering, she has come to know her Father in deeper ways.
My dear wife, you precious mother … I love you more than any other. Yes, I love our children as much, too … for they came to life from me and you. But, my love, you are where it started: my heart, my life, and our son departed. My dear wife, you precious mother … because of you, Mitch was blessed above all others.