They said they hoped I wouldn’t change. But, I did. How could I not?
They said they hoped I would still laugh. I didn’t for a while but eventually, it returned.
They said they were worried about me because I still said his name after 2 years. I was so stunned I just told them I appreciated their concern.
They said a lot of things that were confusing and hurtful. But then there were the others.
They sat with me and let me talk without judgment. They were present with me in silence and just let me be. They held my hand. They spoke his name. They said that they didn’t know what to say. I thanked them for that. They never ever forgot.
In the beginning, the feelings were so raw and painful. Everything said and left unsaid was exacerbated by the fact that my son never got to come home from the hospital. I was angry and sad, heartbroken and lost. The world moved on, they moved on. I was stuck…for a while.
And then one day, standing at his grave I made him a promise. With tears streaming down my face and a heart that felt shattered into a million pieces, I mustered air within my lungs and I said aloud, “If this is the way that life has to be for both of us, I am going to try to live for both of us. I don’t know how to do it. I don’t want to do it. But, you deserve it and I promise I am going to try.” His little pin wheel that had never moved since I meticulously picked it out from Target, started spinning. I cried even harder but I smiled and my heart jumped and I felt one little piece be mended back together.
In just a couple of weeks, we will celebrate 5 years of loving our son. When I look back at how we have survived what we thought we never could, I realize the one thing that has been solid, consistent, never wavering and always growing is love. How a little boy who weighed just under 3 pounds and never breathed a single breath this side of heaven could show us an eternal love that forever carries on is beyond me. All he ever knew was love, and all he has ever given was love.
They said all those things in the beginning. And, even though those things hurt so bad, they motivated me to try to share what is hurtful and helpful and what lends itself to healing. I did change. I see the world through a different lens. I do not take things for granted as I once did. I focus intently on making memories with the realization that the opportunity may never come again. I laugh harder and possibly louder than ever before. I cry more easily but as Tim Madigan once said, “Sometimes life is so beautiful you have to cry.” And yes, I will forever say Max’s name, no matter what they think.
Life is an absolute mess. But with time and a lot of love and grace, the shattered mess of broken pieces begins to mend back together again. What has been broken will never be the same. But beauty will come, the tapestry of frayed threads will come together, and something stunning will be created. I can say after 5 years, that life is good. Bittersweet, but good. We grieve because we love, and it is amazing what love can do.
I’m still trying to keep that promise. I love you forever.
Photo credit: Nietjuh/Pixabay
DeAndrea is a wife, mother of three beautiful children, and the Founder and Executive Director of A Memory Grows, a 501(c)(3) based in Fort Worth, Texas that provides retreats and events for parents who are grieving the death of their child.