Living the Lessons of Life, Even in Death
Guest post by Amanda
When it comes to the lasting life lessons, we expect those to come from the wise, the men and women who have been grizzled and tested by life’s challenges. We think to learn something valuable, it has to come from someone who’s lived it, survived it, and can share the experience.
But for me, the greatest lessons have come from a 14 ounce, 10.75 inch long little boy named Connor whose heart beat for less than four hours on this earth. My tiny, precious son’s life and death taught me more about love, compassion, and hope than all the years of my life.
And those lessons are making me into a better woman. They’re making me strive to be a better wife, a better daughter, a better sister and a better friend than I was before. And in doing so, I’m becoming the best mother I can be to a son who can only live in memory.
When I was pregnant with Connor, I talked to him often. Sometimes, it was just to remind him how he was the most wanted, most loved baby ever. Other times, it was deeper than that. It was those times when I’d tell him about everything I wished for him, everything that his daddy and I had planned for him once he arrived.
I remember one “conversation” in particular. It was a Friday morning, right after an appointment at around 11 weeks where my doctor told us we were through the scariest part of our pregnancy and could breathe a little easier. I left that appointment happier than I’d ever been, and as I drove back to work, I kept one hand on the wheel and one on my belly.
“Sweet baby,” I whispered over the hum of the engine, “I love you so much and can’t wait to meet you. Your Daddy and I have so much we want to show you and teach you. We have wanted you and tried for you for so long, and can’t believe you’re going to be ours. No matter what, baby, our love is unconditional. And here’s all you need to know for this life ahead of you: Know God, be kind to others, love with your whole heart. Do those things, and you’ll find happiness. And always, always remember how loved you are.”
A couple of months later, Connor and I had another one of these conversations about his life. I was on a business trip, and got terribly lost in Kansas City. After a verbal outburst of colorful language, I realized that Connor could hear me. I knew I’d never talk like that in front of him once he was born, so again I put a hand to my belly, and as I drove around the city for two hours (seriously, people, I was LOST), I told him about being quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger – much unlike his mama had just been.
It was just two days after this trip and this “life lesson” when we learned we would lose our son.
And with that, the tables were turned. I became the student of life, my son became the teacher.
In the days and weeks after Connor’s birth and death, I was angry. Lost in my own grief, I saw the needs of no one else. I felt nothing but the huge void that my son’s death left in my heart, and found myself completely consumed by my own sense of loss.
And then slowly, the raw pain I felt began to open up my eyes to the suffering of others, suffering I never noticed before. I felt compassion like I’d never felt it before.
I found myself speaking more softly, and less frequently. I began listening more with an open heart.
When I feel my impatience and quick temper beginning to boil over, I think to myself, “Would I want my son to see this? What would he learn if he saw me like this?”
And I think maybe this is the way I can continue to be a mother to my son. I can try to take less from others, and give more goodness back to the world. I can look for opportunities to help others, to make a difference, to ease someone else’s pain.
I can honor Connor by living my life as I wanted him to live his: knowing God, being kind to others, and loving with his whole heart.
And if we can do that, if each day we live the life lessons we wanted to teach our children, we ensure that they live on even in death. And nothing brings me more comfort than knowing that.