There are some moments in life that burn an image in our minds that cannot be erased. This was one such moment. A few years ago, this image (both what you see here and the memories that play out in my mind like a movie) used to be painful. Today, though still a little painful, I see things differently.
Mitch was barely home on hospice, delicate and frail. We were told he was at risk of instant death, that his heart might just stop. There would be no time for goodbyes. No final “I love you.” Every second I lived with the knowledge that we could go from Mitch laughing one moment to dead silence in a single moment. Or, he would linger a while and fade away slowly. Both outcomes were a veritable hell for us to contemplate. Not knowing how our son might die, we protected Mitch from such harsh realities for as long as we could so he could enjoy what time remained with a measure of joy, doing what he loved. I have never regretted that decision.
As he reached to grab my hand Mitch gave me a look as if to say, “Dad, I know you will keep me safe. I know you will help me.” If only he knew how frightened and powerless I felt during that time. If only he knew how often I knelt at the side of my bed pleading to heaven for a way to save my boy. I tried to bargain with God. I asked, pleaded even, that He would take my life instead – even violently if that were the price to be paid. I would have done anything to spare my son.
A few short weeks from this photo, my sweet son, my baby made of sand, slipped through my fingers – never to be seen again in this life. How that pains me so.
It has been a little over 4 years now, and I’m still learning how to grieve.
So, what of grief and the passage of time? It seems there are two opposing views. Some say it never gets better while others say it gets easier. Which, then, is true? I believe, in life, nothing has meaning except the meaning we give it. If we see sorrow as simply a living hell – then we will live in hell. If we choose to see sorrow as a tender teacher, we can learn and grow.
You will never hear me say “it never gets easier” or that “it will get better.” Instead, I say this to those who suffer … in time, you will get stronger. Because you will get stronger, your burdens may feel light, but the weight of grief is the same.
Just tonight I was just talking to a colleague of mine who shared a story of a woman who had a disabled child years ago. At first, she was angry at God and the universe. She wondered why such a heavy burden was placed on her shoulder when she was trying to do all the right things and live a good life. Years later, after loving and caring for her child, then losing him – she reflected that what she once thought was an unreasonable hardship was the best thing that could have happened to her. When my friend shared that woman’s story, my eyes immediately filled with tears – for I knew the truth of it.
Everyone is different and we are each learning to accept life’s difficulties in our own way – so it is good to be patient with others and ourselves as we sort things out. As for me, I’m not mad at God for taking my son. I am profoundly sad, but I’m not mad. Instead, I thank heaven for loaning one of its sweetest souls to grace my life. In retrospect, I can see that I wasn’t really leaving the hospital to take Mitch home. Instead, he was sent here for a brief season to teach me … and to help me make it to my heavenly home.
I am deeply flawed and there is much I don’t know – but because of my little son, I know which direction I must go.