Time does help, but it will never totally heal.

There should have been one more high school student graduating with the Class of 2016. There should have been one more young man preparing to enter college in the fall and ready to explore his path in life.

As time moves forward, it is milestones like these that will always make me wonder what could have been.

At what would’ve been my son’s high school graduation evening, the gym floor was filled with rows and rows of chairs for students, parents and guests.  My eyes wandered as I read names on assigned seats and then welled up with tears as I wondered which chair my son would’ve sat in later that evening.  I sat in one of those chairs and clapped and smiled and took a quick photo as my oldest daughter took the stage to accept a recognition certificate on the last morning of her freshman year.

I am thankful I knew him.

I am thankful I was given the honor to be his mother.  I am thankful for the tears that still catch me by surprise.  I am thankful my heart is bigger because of him.

A high school graduation milestone was recently celebrated by the parents of the Iowa septuplets, the first surviving septuplets in the world.  Seven babies born at nine weeks prematurity in November 1997 are now high school graduates and ready for the next chapters in their lives.  It really is an extraordinary story.

Flashback to November 1997, just two months after my son was born still, the once bitter me saw that story and found it quite profound.  The story flooded every media source at the time my grief rollercoaster ride was at full speed and I found myself drowning in my own personal ocean of tears.  My ups and downs and twists and turns of life after loss also included one ectopic pregnancy and two miscarriages.

In 1997, internet resources for parents who have had a stillbirth were nearly non-existent.  I am thankful that I found the newly created on-line web site, SHARE-Atlanta, and to this day credit the founder, Marsha McGinnis, for helping me through my darkest days.  How wonderful that today, there are multiple grief resources available.

I am thankful for a local support group run by two compassionate women who helped me become better, not bitter.  I am thankful for finding the first edition of the book, Dear Cheyenne by Dr. Joanne Cacciatore, the founder of MISS.  It was that story that helped me feel less alone in my grief journey.  I will never forget that “so all alone” feeling.

Time does help, but I know it will never totally heal.

There will always be a trigger, somewhere, sometime, that will catch me by surprise.  But that is okay, that means the love still remains.

I am also thankful that God blessed my husband and me with two subsequent daughters.  I couldn’t imagine life without them.  My heart aches for those who are still waiting or who may never experience that joy.

A tradition we established to remember Ian involves releasing eleven balloons on his birthday, September 11.  With messages attached, the girls and I let the balloons go at sunset, one by one.  It has also evolved into a special way to remember all of the heroes of 9/11/01.

The balloons meander their way through the hills of northeast Pennsylvania, and most often travel along the Delaware River.  We know that because we have received phone calls or emails from people who have found our balloons along that route.

One summer, we decided to vacation at Fenwick Island, Delaware, in recognition of the previous year when we learned that a balloon was found there by a crab fisherman, one of our most successful balloon landings. When I was there, I felt Ian was there, too.

Now that my daughters are growing up into young adults, I’m unsure how many more balloon launches there will be.  It has been a fun way to spend family time together and remember Ian.  It has helped my heart and soul heal.

My heart and soul has also been healed by walking.

At about the same time Ian was born still, a neighbor planted eleven pine trees in front of his home.  Now when I walk by that line of trees, at the right angle they appear as though they are reaching toward Heaven.  I have named them “Ian’s trees.”

In the blink of an eye, more than eighteen years has passed.  I am thankful the love still remains.

Guest post by JoAnn R. Walter





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