I am baby lost. No, that isn’t right. I am Bryce lost.
Forever changed when I first saw his sweet face and heard his surprisingly strong cry, he taught me the truth of grit and love in one, unforgettable year.
He taught me grit was remaining wholly himself – sweet and gentle – despite an incurable disease wreaking havoc on his body every single day.
He taught me love as I soothed him to sleep while I shook with despair.
To love him enough to let medical helpers wheel him away to yet another procedure, knowing there was a chance that it was the last time we could see him alive but fiercely hoping he would come back to us.
And he did – until he didn’t.
When his little heart beat one last time on this side of heaven, I understood what it meant to be truly lost.
It means his death laid to waste my once perfectly constructed world and as I wander through the devastation, I wonder how anything beautiful can ever grow out of the rubble and mess.
It means lying awake when the house is asleep and whispering into the night, “I’m so sorry” or “I miss you” or “Please, come back, please.”
Or waking up in the morning after a fitful sleep and wondering if I will survive yet another day without Bryce in my arms.
Somehow, I do.
It means wondering who the hell I am now without my sweet son, my sunshine. I cry over the loss of the old me, that woman who believed in miracles and hoped despite the caution of doctors and nurses.
I cry as I try to understand the new me, this woman with an aching heart who carries such bitterness, guilt, and anger.
I look back at old pictures and I barely recognize her, with her carefree, open smile and her hopeful expression for the future.
Me, but not me now.
It means watching, dumbfounded, as those around me slowly recede back into their lives, my loss not quite at the forefront of their minds.
Beyond my comprehension, the normal returns, routine settles.
See, there’s soccer practice, swim classes, trash day, grocery shopping, and I realize in abject horror that the world keeps spinning, time keeps pulling me further from when I held my little boy, although my mind, my heart is firmly rooted on that awful, fateful day in May.
It means relearning how to once again interact with the outside world, including close friends and family.
Those – not all – who avert their eyes or stare with such pity or talk about things that used to matter.
I dread the awkward pauses because they scream of my tragedy. I am here, then not here, sometimes engaged in conversation, sometimes miles away.
Because now grief draws an invisible veil over my senses and all I can really hear is:
My son passed away.
How am I supposed to go on?
Who am I without him?
Will I ever feel again?
Yet I exchange conversation, laugh at jokes that may or may not be funny. Be normal, act normal when it is anything but normal to outlive your child.
When the last of Bryce faded from our arms, I was left shattered but also with a new perspective…
The workings of the universe simplified to one, unbending truth: we don’t need much in this life of ours to be happy…
Sometimes a strong wind weaves through the trees or the sun breaks through the clouds and I pause, marveling at how life is so damn fragile…
Being that perfect parent who can do it all or working those long hours for that perfect house in that perfect neighborhood mean little without kindness and empathy…
I’ll take a deep, cleansing breath with ease and remind myself that Bryce was never afforded that simple luxury…
I see now that it is a privilege to grow old, to watch my other son grow old…
How the flowers or care package on my doorstep or a heartfelt letter in the mail months after the sympathy cards stopped trickling in reminded me that Bryce is still remembered, a respite to my suffering…
I am forever Bryce lost, but hopefully a better human despite it… or perhaps because of it.