As the mortuary employees rolled my son to their truck I began to panic.
I had just spoken with Mitch about 24 hours earlier and I was confused how he could be gone so quickly. Though my mind knew better, my heart worried about my little boy being alone and scared in the back of their vehicle. After all, these people were strangers to Mitch and to me. They were taking my little twin away and I prayed to God that He would take my life that very moment if it meant my son might wake and live. I even prayed that I might suffer greatly, even to be thrown into the depths of hell itself, if that were the price required so my son might come back to life.
This was the same patio upon which Mitch and I sat many summer evenings and watched storms roll across the valley. The same place Mitch would tuck himself under my arm and watch the sun set while eating Popsicles. This was the same place he cuddled with his mom as she rocked him and faithfully read children’s books. This view, once a place of peace and beauty, had suddenly become horrifying beyond all description.
Had Mitch not passed away that morning, he would have awakened within hours of this photo and dutifully gone about his chores without ever being asked or reminded. Afterward, he would have wanted to play Minecraft and have Nerf gun wars and maybe work on a Lego project for a while. Mitch would have wanted to cuddle and talk, draw pictures and play with friends. He would have continued to be a quiet little boy who loved his life and loved his family.
The sun was beginning to rise as they rolled little Mitch away … and though night was retreating from the morning sun, the true darkness of grief was yet upon us. My mind became a kaleidoscope of terrifying thoughts and emotions.
I wept so hard that morning I thought I broke a rib.
For the next two years, almost daily, I would experience moments of horrific grief so deep I would wish for death. A great many of my earlier entries on Mitchell’s Journey, just after his passing, were born of deep sorrow and a longing to make sense of suffering. Peace would come and go like the tide. Sometimes after thundering waves of grief would thrash me about I would feel moments of sweet relief. Despite those moments of peace, the waves of grief kept coming and getting stronger. I didn't realize those waves were but a prelude to the super-storms of sorrow I would soon experience. For a season, grief grew deeper, longer and darker than I had a mind to imagine.
That’s what spectators to grief often misunderstand. They think the hard part is passed after our children die. What they don’t realize is the aftermath of loss is infinitely more difficult than everything leading up to and including death itself. Combined. You can write those words down in permanent marker. That was the easy stuff. The hard stuff doesn't come days or weeks after the passing of a child … but months and years later.
So, as I watched this horror show before my eyes I wondered if the night in my heart would ever give way to lighter days. Such a thing seemed like a dream, a universe away.
I am just entering my third year of grief and I have three words to say about tidal waves and darkness: it will pass. I know this because I have experienced it.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not done with grief. Rather, grief isn't done with me. I am still healing and probably always will. In fact, just the other day I got in my car and out of nowhere I started gasping for air, afraid I might suffocate as I wept for my son. Those unexpected moments of grief come crashing down on me like a tidal wave and I have just learned to let it happen – because I have discovered those moments pass, too.
I have discovered happiness again. Not the illusion of happiness, but real, actual happiness. It isn't found in denial. It isn't found in things. It is found in discovering purpose and meaning. Though I ache deeply for my son, and grieve for him daily, I think I’m beginning to understand a little about why Mitch had to suffer the way he did.
Though I have found happiness and am grateful for increasingly longer moments of peace and tranquility, I know enough about my own grief journey to realize there are storms of sorrow yet ahead. There will be tidal waves of grief the likes of which I cannot describe … I only know how soul crushing they feel.
To those who are just beginning their journey with grief; I promise you, as impossible as it sounds … the pain will ease and you’ll begin to find peace. Though I have stumbled, blinded by the pitch of night, my Father taught me to look heavenward for those little flecks of light. Those tender mercies that show me we are not alone – but instead, guided hands unseen down paths unknown.
To my dear friends here who wander, deep in the shadows of death and sorrow, I promise you the sun will rise again on some tomorrow.