Photo Credit: Marsha Peacock Photography and Films
This past summer our family moved to a new house. I did the majority of the packing myself and was organized and methodical, labelling and categorizing room by room.
Then it came time to pack the chest we had made to keep Aiden’s things in. I had been putting off packing it because it is just so hard looking at everything that was his all at once. I am able to look at a few things at a time, but beyond that it is overwhelming. It is too much to take in all at once. Too painful to fully immerse myself in.
I went in our room to pack his chest with the mindset that I needed to pack it just like everything else in the house.
I can do this. Just don’t think about it too much.
By the time I made it up the stairs to our room with the boxes, my heart was pounding. My hands were shaking. How can a whole life be in just one chest? How can this be all that I have left of my sweet boy to physically hold?
The tears started to fall. Tears turned in to sobs. More heart pounding and hand shaking.
Do I have enough courage to do this?
I begin to carefully wrap up each precious item. It is so hard to look at each and every thing I have left of him all at once. The clothes he wore. A lock of hair. Hundreds of pictures. Cards of congratulations and then condolences. The wash cloth that still has the mark on it from when his g-tube leaked. The lip gloss I put on his lips when they looked painfully dry. The stuffed toys we bought him at the hospital. The blankets that once wrapped his tiny, beautiful body, and then steadfastly absorbed my rivers of tears.
The notebook we wrote everything down in from the beginning; our hopeful questions for the doctors at first. Then our scared, frantic questions needing more information that no one had. Needing something to make us understand how this could actually be happening. Then our painfully sad questions about how his life would end. What would it look like? What did we need to know? How to prepare? I laughed a bitter laugh at our naivety, when we thought we could ever be prepared for the horrible events that would encompass his death. Then the last pages in the book are our bucket list. All the things we hoped our sweet baby could experience before his short life would be over. I don’t know how we had the strength or soundness of mind to even think to write a bucket list in those horrible days, let alone how we thought of what to put on that list.
Everything is in that chest, right down to a tiny wooden box of ashes.
My heart breaks as I box it all up. It all fits in just a few boxes. A whole life, in just a few boxes. Some of my most precious possessions. Irreplaceable.
And just when I feel like I can’t take it anymore. I can’t remember every little detail all at once like this. I can’t stop the tears. My heart has gone from pounding to aching a deep, soul wrenching ache….my son, the one I am beyond lucky to have here with me, crawls over laughing. He wiggles himself right onto my lap and leans back against my chest, as if to say “I know your heart is breaking Mama, let me show you love. Let me show you joy. Let me show you that all of this surrounds you even in the midst of this heart breaking pain.”
I feel so lucky. I feel so heart-broken. Somehow all at the same time.
I finished boxing up everything in Aiden’s chest. My daughter comes in and asks if we can play. I wipe my tears and say, “Of course.” With shaking hands I pick up my baby boy and follow my daughter as she joyfully bounces down the stairs.
The life of my sweet Aiden may fit in to just a few boxes, but more importantly it fits in my heart. My heart has room for the happiness and the pain.