Waking up and realizing all this time has passed from the day I lost my little boy in a swimming accident seems so surreal. That day that will always mark the worst day of my life is one that plays out in my head in slow motion. It is packed with emotions that no parent should ever have to face. There are still days that I cry, just like it was yesterday that my nightmare happened. Sometimes I don’t even know what it is that I am crying about. What triggered it and why? What layer of healing or pain am I getting through this time?
I have had the honor of supporting a family whose little boy is in the hospital waiting for a heart transplant. This is my passion, this is where I thrive. When I am living a life in service I find more joy and fulfillment than ever. It also brings up some deep seeded feelings that I have pushed down or just never even knew were there. This time the tears that are streaming down my face are the ones that came from a whispering in my ear of, “You never got to say goodbye. You never got to fight for him to stay alive.” My hope was crushed when I walked into those hospital door and waited for what seemed like an eternity for that baby to get a shot, and then finally, after finding out who I was, got the nurse to take me back. I felt that it was going to be ok. I felt that relief even, “Everything is going to be okay.” I can only imagine the confidence in my voice when I asked that nurse: “He’s okay, right?” She went white as she looked at me and shook her head, “No…”
It was a good thing that she was on one side of me and my dear friend, Rose, was on the other side because my legs gave out and if it wasn’t for them grabbing my arms, I would have collapsed. I remember them letting me sit on a bed that was outside of his room until the doctor came out. The first person I saw was my ex husband, my son’s dad. He was already in the room. The police went and got him and he beat me there. He put his hand over his mouth and just shook his head at me and walked away. The doctor came out and sat by me. She said, with tears in her eyes, “I did everything I could.” I said something back like, “I know you did.” That is when I got to go and hold my four year old baby in my arms, knowing that this would be the last time. I was terrified to tell anyone. I didn’t want to make the calls. Thank God, I had Rose there to help me. But I was alone when I laid him down on the table when the final goodbye took place. “You better give God as much trouble as you gave me,” I said. Then I kissed his forehead and walked out of the room. No tears at this moment. No tears as I sat with Rose on the lawn of Primary Children’s Hospital, looking over the valley on a calm, beautiful, almost summer evening. “How am I going to do this, Rose?” She put her arm around me, “One moment at a time.”
A couple years ago, I thought it was possible to heal. Well, it is possible to heal, but you never heal all the way. There truly is a gaping wound that will never be completely sewn up. It’s impossible. I have healed layers of my pain through tears, and actions, and even humor, yet over fourteen years have gone by and I am sobbing because I wish I had more time to fight for his life. I wish I could have done more. I know that is why I give so much to the families or friends that I help now. I always feel like I can do more. I want to help them fight for the lives of their children. I want to give them hope. I want my hope to be enough that it gives them the miracle I never got to give my own child. The feelings of guilt, pain, sorrow, regret, blame and shame run deep within my soul. It is a constant battle for me to fight through those shards of glass in my soul and I am not sure I will ever truly be done. I can get dark and I can go deep. I sift through feelings and emotions on a level that many would never dare to go, because it is scarier at times than the loss itself. But when I do, I find that I am able to make peace with it, over and over again. Sometimes, I think they even go away completely when extended periods of time have gone by where I don’t feel them. I got through another layer! Then the next wave hits and many times this one hurts even worse. Somehow I work through that one, too.
When I am happy and bouncing off the walls, it usually is because I feel as if I am living again and bringing back to life that piece of me that died. When I have the privilege to spend time with these families I also feel as if it is time I get to spend with my son. I feel him around me. I know the work we are doing together with him on the other side is so much deeper than we ever could have done with him here. Who knows where my life would be right now if my story didn’t include the tragic death of my son, and it doesn’t really matter. Accepting your life after tragedy is one of the hardest things to do, but it must be done to move into the next phase of your life. It doesn’t mean it won’t come back and haunt you, my tears right now are proof of that. What it means is that you will be able to find gratitude in your journey and find a purpose for your life. Even though it will be different than you ever pictured your life would be, even though you will have to suffer through the bad days to get to the good ones, believe that you will be able to thrive again, even after the worst events imaginable…one moment at a time.