Still Standing

Forever Love

My son should be turning seven.  Seven.

So far I’ve survived five of his birthdays without him.  Five.

He was killed when he was two.  Two.

It doesn’t add up.  It hasn’t since the day he was violently robbed from me and it never will.  Just thinking about another birthday without him makes me want to crawl into my bed and never come out.  Just thinking about the day I gave birth to the most beautiful soul who is no longer here to grow older– who is not here to turn seven– makes me want to drown in a pool of my own vomit.

I’ve now “celebrated” double the birthdays that he ever got to celebrate alive.  As the years go by, celebrating my dead son’s birthday hasn’t gotten any easier.  It should be a day bursting with the joy and happiness of him growing another year older.  Instead, it is a day of grief-filled tears and a heartache that has no cure.  Instead, it represents another year of what could have and should have been.  Instead, it is emptiness and silence the size and shape of him.  Another day reminding me that my son’s life was cut irreversibly short at age two.  Another day that screams the truth that we will never get to watch him grow even a minute older.

Trying to describe what it’s really like to survive a lifetime of my dead child’s birthdays; a lifetime of his candles he’ll never blow out; a lifetime of walking around his empty chair; a lifetime of uneaten birthday cakes; a lifetime of living in the wake of what should have been but will never be– is almost impossible to explain.

For all the positive thinkers out there, oh hell yes you better believe I am beyond thankful for the two full years we lived and loved together.  And you also better believe that I’m mad as heck about the lifetime I will spend without him.

My child should be turning seven but instead he is forever two years old, not just for my lifetime, but for an eternity.  His friends are all growing up– without him.  The world keeps going on– without him.  I have to keep on keeping on– without him.  “Celebrating” his birthdays– without him.  Watching his two little brothers grow older– without him.

The pain of child loss is never-ending, isn’t it?

I’ll be doing “ok” but then as soon as April comes around, I’m a mess again– tsunamied by grief in a way that feels like those dark and heavy, unrelenting days of early grief.  The kind where I can’t pull my head out from under the blanketing ache of grief.  The kind where my legs can barely find the energy to stand.  The kind where my heart can barely find the will to keep beating.

Yet some how, some way, it does and I do.  My heart keeps beating and I keep surviving another birthday without him.

This year I decided to do something different for his birthday.  This year, I wanted to focus on our eternal love for each other, in an attempt to soften the scream of my eternal aching for him.  I wanted to focus on our love that still lives on and on; our love that will continue no matter how long it’s been since we were last together, and no matter how many of his birthdays he’s missed.  I wanted to meditate on the fact that no matter what, nothing can destroy our love.  Nothing.  Ever.  Our love transcends all time.

There was one person I knew who could capture our eternal love and the unbreakable bond between a mother and child:  Amy Swagman of The Mandala Journey.  Amy is one of the most beautiful souls and one of the most gifted artists I have ever had the honor of knowing.  She is truly an angel in disguise.  With her heart (and art) she captures beauty and love and humanness in a way that is beyond words.  She gives a voice to all mothers and paints their story, their love, in the most breathtaking way.

Her piece, inspired by my poem Forever Love, has given me more peace than anything else has since the day my son was killed.  I can almost feel my son touching my nose, my hand, my heart– he looks that real.  I could stare at it forever and become deliriously lost in all that is good and beautiful and true.  I become so lost in it that I can forget the pain.  Very few things have the power to do that for me.

Thank you, Amy, for blessing mothers all around the world.  Thank you for allowing your art to heal bereaved mamas in a way that few things can.  It’s true that we only want our babies back to hold where they belong, but since we can’t have that, you give us the next best thing– a memorial to keep and hold forever, in the most beautiful, tangible way that somehow bridges the gaping gap that death leaves behind.  Thank you, sweet mama, for painting what words cannot.

Happy 7th Birthday, my love.  I’ll wish the biggest seven wishes for you as I blow out your candles and send all my love to you.

I hope you know that my hand will never let go of yours.

I hope you know that your heart will never stop beating inside of mine.

I hope you know that nothing, nothing, nothing will ever kill our love.  That, my love, is forever.

Artist: Amy Swagman of The Mandala Journey

Forever Love

by Angela Miller

When I said goodbye
did you know I really meant
never ever—
(never ever, never ever)?

When I say forever
do you know I really mean
forever and ever—
(and ever and ever)?

When I say goodnight
do you know I really mean
I stay awake all night
praying you are safe and sound?

When I say I miss you
do you know I really mean
I search for you everywhere,
like you’re a lost child who can be found?

When I say I love you
do you know I really mean
I’d give my life for yours instead—
over and over and over again?

When I said goodbye
did you know I really meant
never ever—
(never ever, never ever)?

When I say forever
do you know I really mean
forever and ever—
(and ever and ever)?

Forever, I’ll miss you.
Forever, I’ll love you.
Forever, I’ll ache to hold you again.

Forever, my love—
Forever— love
We are— forever love.