hallow halloween. and the morning after.

Diddy,

Pictures, pictures, pictures.

Children. Smiling. Happy. Alive. Each wearing a costume somehow cuter than the next. I found myself pausing on some pictures a little, or a lot, longer than others.

The same ones always make my heart stop beating for a second too long. Those of the ‘Shadow Children’ – kids who are nearly the same age you would and should be, if asshole cancer didn’t murder you. There are five ‘Shadow Children’ who regularly appear on my Facebook feed. Once upon a time, I had to keep their parents ‘hidden’ from my feed. Seeing them, particularly because it was always in an unexpected fashion, was far too painful. One by one, I’ve somehow ‘unhidden’ their parents again…except for one. And that’s because, among other all-too-similar circumstances, she was born just three days before you. I purposely go to her Mommy’s page to look at her when I’m feeling really strong – but more often when I’m feeling really, really desperate to know what you’d be doing, how big you’d be, things you may like, etc.  Now a days I find myself staring longingly at the photos of your ‘Shadow Children’. My focus always lingers on their eyes. As I silently beg them to tell me if they see you anywhere. If they know where you went. If they can help me find you. Alas, they cannot.  However, I am relieved to report they are all healthy and happy. They appear especially happy this morning, because they participated in a time-honored Halloween tradition of Trick or Treat over the weekend. The lucky itty-bits are still high on sugar.

Speaking of Trick or Treat, I haven’t been brave enough to stand at our front door to hand out candy and wistfully watch child after child skip away, only to close the door and retreat into our home which sits unnaturally quiet and eerily empty. The last few years I’ve made sure to be out of the house when the mobs of adorable, innocent children come a knockin’. This afternoon, I made plans to have lunch and then head to the mall with Nana. When she pulled into our neighborhood to drop me off, a parade of kids in costumes passed in front of her car. I suddenly realized I had the Trick or Treat times wrong; I arrived home an hour too soon. In a panic, I told Nana there were a few things at Target I needed to get. So she whisked me off to Target, where I ambled up and down the aisles until the coast was clear.

I strongly feel like kid-centered holidays should come with a disclaimer, a reminder, a warning to the non-bereaved. For example, Halloween should be prefaced by any combination of creative PSAs which could air on the radio, tv commercials, shit…through ads on Facebook: “Parents, this Halloween take time to consider that some of those doors on which your adorable (blonde haired, blue-eyed, two and a half year old boy) will knock, house heart-broken people. People who desperately want to be parents, and have cried countless tears over their failed attempts to become someone’s mom or dad. People who are moms and dads, but their child cannot go trick-or-treating, or wear super-hero costumes while posing for super-cute pictures. Because their child is dead.”

Like mine.

The morning after a ‘holiday’, particularly the ones which are largely child-oriented, is almost harder than the actual day itself. Because our world is connected by social media. Social media – at which like a car wreck, I can’t help but looking. Post after post reminds me that I’ll never know what you would’ve wanted to dress up as this year. And I’ll forever wonder, at just two and a half, how many houses you’d have walked to, and how many you’d have opted for a ride in the wagon to make it a little further…before ultimately becoming too tuckered out to last any longer. I’ll never know if you would’ve proudly proclaimed some adorably mixed-up version of, “Trick or Treat!”, or if you’d have gotten an unexpected case of stage-freight, and froze – with your pumpkin clasped in your outstretched hand, hopeful to get a mini Snickers bar anyway.

I’m willing to bet I wasn’t the only Momma left wondering this morning. I know of far too many Moms who wonder what it would’ve been like to have had the privilege to walk their own little girl or boy through the neighborhood, and hear how cute they look in their costumes. I imagine they scrolled through their Facebook feeds today, and with tear-blurred vision stared into the eyes of the ‘Shadow Children’, as they mourned their child whose picture they should be uploading.

Parents who don’t belong to the worst-club-ever don’t know the thousands of tortures, just like this, which exist in our (new) worlds. Only a bereaved parent knows of the sucker punch which waits around every corner. No matter how cautiously you turn the bend, no matter how meticulously you scan the surroundings – there is no preparing for the blow. Although there isn’t a day that goes by that we need ‘reminding’ of what we’ve lost – some days all it takes to surmise the magnitude of what we’ve lost…is a picture.

Many people think that grief is some sort of “process”, which has an end. Trust me when I tell you, it doesn’t. Because every single day, for the rest of my life – there will be a morning after…filled only with shadows of you.

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Brush your teeth and hop into bed.

Stay with me Sweet Boy,

xoox,

Momma

P.S. You’ll always be my little Boo!  (Sorry. Momma couldn’t help herself. Look at that. Even when I’m sad, I’m still funny.)

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go get my girl.

Paxton,

No. No. No. Not again. I simply cannot do ‘this’ again.

Our beloved Ms. Nicole is so very, very sick. She is so sick that no one is saying what everyone is thinking; Nicole.may.not.make.it. Which is precisely what has been running through my mind on a constant loop: “Nicole cannot die.” “Nicole cannot die.” Diddy, Nicole cannot die – because she has so many reasons to live. This is all so entirely fucked up and beyond unfair I could light the world on fire with my rage.

At this point, no one knows quite what went wrong, all we know is that Nicole, a 26-year-old picture of health, grace, strength and beauty, went into acute liver failure and desperately needs a new liver – and she needs it now. On July 8th, we thought our pleas were answered, as a match had been secured, and a liver was on the way to save my super-hero sidekick. After 14 long, torturous hours of waiting, the Transplant Team ultimately determined the liver was not going to work. How is that possible? How is any of this possible?

Only a few days ago, Ms. Nicole was on top of the world. She started out her summer with two a-days workouts, sunbathing and wedding planning. She is punch-drunk in love with her hunk of a fiancée, who she is marrying next June. In fact, just last Saturday she bought her wedding dress. It was the very first one she tried on. Overcome with excitement, she sent me a photo of her in her perfectly-perfect dress. Her smile was so bright and bold it nearly overshadowed the beauty of the vision of her in that perfectly-perfect dress. Almost. Now she’s in a coma, lying in ICU, and has been moved to the #1 spot on the National Liver Transplant waiting list.

Nicole has a Caring Bridge page, she has a Go Fund Me site. She is being sustained by a feeding tube and a PICC line.  Her insides are being infiltrated with an onslaught of steroids, chemotherapy, methadone, and dopamine. While her body is frail, it is swollen nearly beyond recognition. Nicole is fighting for her beautiful, bountiful life – and NO ONE knows how any of this happened. You already know that all the horrifying parallels of your fights have set a million and twelve triggers into motion for Momma.

I received a text from hunky Tyler today that said, “Nicole is in ICU…but, she is in Room #12. It is the best sign we’ve received so far.”

Nicole Grace. I am certain she and I are long-lost soul sisters. One of the many reasons I love her so much is because she has helped sustain my life during the darkest, loneliest parts of this walk – when the twists and turns took me lower, and the darkness got even darker, Nicole held my hand a little tighter. Further, Nicole possesses uncanny strength. She is strong-willed, strong-minded, and strong-bodied. In fact, the very definition of her name, Nicole, means: “victorious people”. That simply is no coincidence. She has lived up to her namesake in a hundred different ways. This simply must prove to be her greatest victory yet.

Please keep doing everything Momma has asked you to do. Now is not the time to rebel, my spicy little  monkey. Ms. Nicole needs you. Take good care of her. I will do my best to help her family and Tyler in any way I can. But I feel helpless. There is nothing I can do or say that is going to make this easier. All I have to offer is that I know what it feels like to watch the love of your life fight for his/her life. And I am not dead from the pain. Most of the time I wish I was. Nonetheless, I am still here. That’s all I’ve got. That and I am just so sorry.

I love you more than all the stars in the sky.

Go get my girl, Sweet Boy.

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xoox,

Momma

 

 

two years. too long. to the moon and back.

Diddy,

July 2nd. The date I last held you in my arms, as our hearts drummed in tandem. The date I last kissed your beautiful, perfect head and soaked in your sweet baby smell. The date of the worst day of my life…times two. This day will never get easier. I will never stop recounting every hour, every minute, every last moment that lead up to the last one we shared together. I will never forgive myself for not taking you to the doctor sooner. I will never stop wishing that I could rewind time and find a way to save you. I will never stop fighting your fight. Most of all I will never stop loving and missing you madly. Never. Ever.

Things have been unfolding like rapid fire on this side of the universe. With each new development, your existence is reinforced beyond one single, solitary, sliver of a doubt. July 2nd, began with a much-anticipated phone call. Given the date, I vacillated on whether or not it was right to take the call on the worst day in history. But, something in the deepest part of my soul told me a you had a message you wanted to deliver…and the timing of your message was no coincidence. I braced myself against the wall in the furthest corner of your bedroom, with Giraffey and Little Tiny Bear clutched in my sweaty, clenched palms as I did my best to process the information being relayed to me. As the words rolled off of the caller’s voice, tears of relief, joy and guilt burned down my face. Her words slowly turned into background noise, as I said over and over again, “…my Sweet Boy is pure, pure perfection.” Not only was the news perfect in every last way – the timing of it, naturally, couldn’t have been sweeter. I don’t know what I ever did to deserve you, Paxton Bowe; but, I will spend the rest of this life trying to make you proud.

My heart has never known such a juxtaposition of joy and sorrow…elation and guilt…relief and dread. Nonetheless, I wanted to throw you up in the air and tell you all about the wonderment and miracles which are coming our way. My mind in knots, my stomach reeling – and you nowhere to be found, I ran straight to the bathroom and threw up my breakfast instead. Twice. I guess once for each year we’ve been apart.

Your Uncle Stephen & Lala had a small gathering at their house in your honor. I will hate that those types of gatherings exist as much as I’d hate if they didn’t for the rest of eternity. Almost all of my lovelies were present; although the mood was light, everyone’s hearts were heavy. We did our best to wear fake smiles, complimented with faux-laughter and make-shift contentment. But, each of our souls was silently crying, while simultaneously wishing there were never a need for such a shitty reason for a shitty gathering. Shit-o-versary cards don’t exist…nor do shit-o-versary cakes or gifts. Because everyone knows there isn’t anything in the entire world that could minimize the shittiness of such a date: not cake, not cards, not packages in shiny bows. Not even all the people you love the most in the entire world contained in one room, holding you up, and telling you that you are not in this shit storm alone.

At nightfall, adults and children alike launched wish lanterns into the damp and dreary sky for you. Mine was so chocked full of kisses, I didn’t think it would lift from the ground. But it did. And, I followed its glow until it was swallowed by the moon’s clouds. Then I watched a little longer. I hope you saw this corner of the sky light up for you. I hope you felt the waves of love we sent to you. I hope you know how deeply and desperately you are missed. I hope you understand I would give anything in this mixed up world to trade places with you.

Thank you for the phone call. Thank you for my lovelies who surround me with their love, even though I don’t deserve it, nor have the strength to reciprocate it. Thank you for the greatest gift of all – being my son.

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Stay with me, Sweet Boy.

xoox

Momma

a fragmented sea of love. because you’re missing from everything.

Hi Diddy,

I did my best to keep myself as busy as possible today. With no responsibility, no schedule, nowhere to be, and no one to be any where in particular with – this proves more challenging than I can sometimes manage.  After running all of the errands I could possibly think of, I starting heading towards home. As I approached my house, which loosely resembles a place I once knew as home, I kept driving. I drove, and drove nowhere in particular. Somehow I reached the lakefront and instinctually pulled over.

I looked out into Lake Michigan as far as I could see. My eyes took in the sights of the water meeting the horizon and everything in between: a flock of birds flying in v-shaped pattern, sail boats gliding atop the crystal blue waters, a man walking his dog, an old couple walking hand in hand, and a woman pushing a toddler in a stroller. Yet all I really saw was a world continuing to turn on its axis and creatures, big and small, continuing to live. The audacity of it all – despite the fact that my baby got cancer and died – caused me to scream at the top of my lungs. The echoes of my primal scream will always leave me more scared of myself than a normal person could ever understand. It is a sound that remains foreign even to the very body which produces it. I haven’t screamed like that in awhile now. I guess I needed to release some of the pain which was compiling inside of me before I burst into a million pieces. I may not scream as often as I should, but I still cry everyday. Sometimes in the shower when I have to face another day without you, sometimes when I’m trying to fall asleep and can’t kiss you good night – and don’t even know where you are, sometimes in my car when I am suffocated by the booming silence of your absence. Other times, in the middle of doing absolutely nothing, the tears start pushing on the back of my eyes – forcing me to cut and run somewhere that I can let them fall without having to answer anyone when they inquire, “What is wrong?” Everything is wrong.

After my ‘primal shit show’ for one, I did what I usually do when I don’t know what else to do. I go find your cousins.  One of them always finds a way to mute my sadness for at least a little while. When I walked in their house, the three little people who have saved my life a million times over greeted me with overwhelming excitement and gestures of love I know will only last a few more precious years. The time will come (far before I’m okay with it) when their crazy aunt who comes and steals kisses from them in exchange for candy and gum will be replaced by best friends, girlfriends/boyfriends, teenage priorities – and I’ll have to suffice with a mere glance in my direction, and a barely audible, “Hey DD.” For now, I will suck up their good lovin’ with every cell in my tired body.  

As if it were a perfectly normal query, Sennet said, “DD what’s your favorite song in the whole world?”  Taken off guard by his question, and enamored by the fleeing innocence he intermittently projects, I stammered, “Uhhh. Geez. I’d have to think about it, Sennet.” Alina chimed in, “Try?…just because it burns doesn’t mean you’re gonna die…you gotta get up and try, try try.” Just like that a lump started to rise in my throat. I constantly worry about the emotional trauma these little people have endured because of cancer, because of me, because of the people I let them fall in love with only to have them be ripped from their lives.  They should not know about the pain that has become commonplace in their once care-free hearts. No child should. Most certainly not these babes.  My 7 year-old niece shouldn’t know that Try could very well be her aunt’s life theme song.  Before I could compose a response, Sennet countered, “No. Yellow.”  And the three of them began to sing, “…look at the stars, look how they shine for you…and it was all yellow too.” It was the most heartbreakingly beautiful sound I have heard in a very long time. Luckily, I was safely tucked away in the bathroom – where my tears fell silently into the sink. As their serenade faded your best buddy, Finn, confidently proclaimed, “Well yeah, Yellow is DD’s favorite song. It’s about Paxton. And Paxton is her favorite per-shun.”  The three of them quickly concurred. And so it was settled.

It took all my strength to push the tears and the vomit back down into their hiding places, and come out of the bathroom before it was ‘too long to be there’. I wanted to collapse on the ground in between the sea of love created by these three little humans and tell them to fall asleep with me until we woke up in a different lifetime. A lifetime where you are among us, and there are four little humans laying among me. But, I knew I couldn’t do that.  It would break your cousins already vulnerable hearts. So I put on my fake smile and crouched down to be eye level with them and asked about Mindcraft and Plants and Zombies, sleepovers and Safety Town. All the while, I sustained a parallel conversation in my mind with you. The one where I apologize that you are not here too, that I carry the guilt with me every day for not protecting you, that I worry every second of the day if you are happy, safe, and warm enough, and that I hope against all hope that someday, we will be together again.  Meanwhile, I held the smile on my face for the picture I know will be taken by those three little minds. I will forever wonder how in the world I can look happy, if only in a picture inside the mind of a child, when I am still so broken, sad, and shattered.  

It truly is amazing…the indomitable nature of a human soul.

I miss you. I love you. I hope you are running wild and free.

 

Stay with me, Sweet Boy.

xoox

Momma

june gloom. and i really can’t stop throwing up.

Paxton,

Momma has been feeling like a giant pile o’ poo lately. It’s the type of ‘don’t feel good’ where I sincerely struggle to get out of bed every morning. When I finally force my feet to the ground, and my legs to take consecutive steps in front of the other – I go into auto pilot until I make it into work. Once I arrive, I have to fight to stay upright and continually wonder if “today will be the day” I finally collapse on the ground and give up. Ambling through every day like this is just another part of my new ‘normal’. A ‘normal’ that only a bereaved parent could possibly understand. Anyone who can’t relate to my ‘normal’ – should occupy their spare time thanking the sun, the moon, and the stars for being the lucky ones.  Not understanding my ‘normal’ means they haven’t had their child die in their arms.

I guess I took a giant step back in my grief, because my body feels as empty, yet mysteriously heavy, as it did in the initial weeks following your death. I thought I had finally made it past the darkest of dark places; but I should know by now that this grief will continue to comes in waves for the rest of my life. When I least expect it, the riptides of grief come crashing to around me and attempt to pull me under. With each return, the undertow becomes harder and harder to fight. Somewhere along the way, someone very near and dear to me shared his painfully keen insight on grief. He said, “Believe me, sweetheart, the grief will never go away. It’ll come in waves for the rest of time. It has to come in waves; if it came all at once, no human could ever survive its toll.” He couldn’t have been more accurate. It will come as no surprise when I tell you he is a bereaved father. Only a parent who has lost a child could know of such unrelenting and unceasing pain.

Maybe I am feeling extra sad because another school year has come and gone. And, now I’m facing what I know will be another long and lonely summer without you. I can’t help but imagine all the things you and I would do together to fill our endless summer days. Momma and Diddy: a Dynamic Duo.  This summer, in particular, would be especially fun-filled. Two and a half – a perfect age for all types of perfect mischief. How in the world will I survive another summer without you? Why can’t we be together running wild and free? How did cancer ever end up inside your tiny body? Why didn’t I take you into the doctor sooner? How didn’t the treatment work? Where are you now? When is somebody going to end this sick fucking joke and bring you back?

I still think that, Diddy. Even after all this time, I have moments when I actually think someone is going to show up at my door and hand you back to me. I want to scream sitting here on my couch, staring at my favorite picture of you – so alive, so animated, so happy. Even your eyes are smiling at me. As I look into your blue eyes, for a split second, I wonder if you were even real. The life I knew with you seems so long ago. Another lifetime ago. In the deepest parts of my soul, I know it was another lifetime. I know that lifetime is gone. But, I still try to cling to the moments I had with you. As time goes on it gets harder to remember. My old memories are being replaced by new memories: as if they are in competition with one another. I promise you this: neither are going to win this fight.

I want my old memories, especially the good memories with you, more than anything in this world. The good memories are so hard to recall. Sometimes remembering them is just as painful as remembering the bad, cancer memories. I wish I could say I have found just a little peace with all of this, but I have not. I wonder how parents who’ve watched their child die, find peace. Do they ever truly find it, or just fragments of it here and there? Feeling at peace about you dying is never going to be reality for me; and that’s fine. At least I’m being honest with myself and what life feels like to continue in this life without you – which is still hell on earth every.fucking.day.

I think I am going to throw up now.

Thank you for being my eternal sunshine.

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Stay with me, Sweet Boy.

xoox,

Momma

Eddie Vedder. Mookie Blaylock. Mr. President.

Diddy,

As you know, I’ve recently formed an unlikely – yet totally healthy, obsession with Pearl Jam. How they ever managed to slip off my musical radar, I haven’t a clue. But it’s a damn shame. Nonetheless, every time I hear a song by Pearl Jam, I have a visceral reaction of sorts. Their lyrics seemingly lace through my tattered heart and wrap around my torn soul, and somehow make me feel a little less hollow.

Eddie Vedder, in particular, possesses talent which I feel is uncanny and I am certain goes unmatched. He should probably be President. I swear the man could croon the world into peace. But, I’ll settle for him singing you into a peaceful slumber. After all, you are my entire world.

Sleep tight, wherever you are. Here is your lullaby for tonight…a la Mr. President.

I miss you desperately. I love you even more.

Stay with me, Sweet Boy.

xoox,

Momma

Before. After. There is no in between.

Paxton,

May is officially here and I’m trying my best not to go into freak out mode.  You know what May means; and no matter how many Jedi mind tricks I attempt to sell myself – one’s subconsciousness always knows the truth: May will never get easier. May 8th: diagnosis day. Mother’s Day: the day you started chemotherapy. (i.e. The day I allowed poisonous venom to be pumped throughout your teeny, tiny body. One of a thousand ways in which I failed to protect you.) May: the beginning of the end. May: there is no escape.

I will come up with some sort of plan to get through the shitty days of May.  I realize how very lucky I am to know that I will do so surrounded by some of my most favorite people.  Having my lovelies by my side will help ease the pain a bit. But the body never forgets. No matter where I am, who I am with, what I am doing – every cell within me remembers the pain of these dates.

I don’t live in a normal world anymore. I live in a world that I often feel very alone.  I tend to do alright in this world. This world without you is so hard for me to live in, but I have done my best to make it bearable by living each day the best way I’m capable because I hope against all hope that you are watching me, and that you are with me. I refuse to disappoint you by being a loser Momma. You may say this new perspective has given me a clarity I never had before. I guess that all comes with the territory of living a life that includes a line of demarkation: a ‘before and after’.  My before cancer life, and after cancer life are unequivocally two completely, wholly, vastly different lives.

The always absence of you is more ever-present during certain times and certain days; May being one of those times. As always, I will keep you tucked as close to me as possible, and carry you with me in everything I do and everywhere I roam.  Thank you for not giving up on me.

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I miss you. I love you. I hope you are safe.

Stay with me, Sweet Boy.

xoox

Momma

 

 

i’ll up the ante again. and again.

Paxton,

A memory of you popped into my mind’s eye this morning. You were happily bouncing and cooing away in your bunny seat, while smiling at your (adorable) reflection in Mr. Cow. As always, I recalled every last detail with acute precision: from the the tiny crook in the lobe of your left ear, to your almost-but-not-quite-off-centered smile, down to the way your arm involuntarily pumped into the air. Your half-excited, half-serious voice echoed in my ears and straight through my bones.

It didn’t take long before I began negotiating, with no one in particular, for a deal they couldn’t refuse. Bring you back to me. I pledged anything – everything, in exchange for you in my arms. My desperate negotiation ended the same way it always does; with the harsh realization that no matter how grandiose or lavish my ante: it will never be enough. You aren’t ever coming back.

Should anyone still find validity in the age-old, psychological Stages of Grief, your Momma must be stuck smack dab in the middle of the ‘Barging’ stage. If you ask me, there is simply nothing universal about the time or way in which a person grieves. Suggesting that a prescribed way to mourn the death of your only child exists, is as insulting as it is ridiculous. In fact, I am quite certain it makes perfectly good sense that I find myself attempting to strike a deal with the universe to let me have the love of my life back in my arms.

Without a doubt, and without pause, I swear on all things good and pure, I would give anything…everything, to have you back again.

I believe it’s just about time for your afternoon nap. Allow the rain falling from the sky wash away any tears you’ve cried today. Let the lyrics of your afternoon lullaby line your soul; I mean every last word. Fade into a peaceful slumber. I will be right here when you awake. I will be here forever thereafter, too.

I miss you. I love you. I hope you catch the kisses I throw into the sky for you.

xoox,

Momma

P.S. Today is April 26th. You’d be 26 months old today. I am so sorry.

 

 

a grocery store. a bathroom stall. and a promise. like all good things – it ends with wine and gummy bears.

Diddy,

I hate grocery shopping. It is the stupidest concept on the planet. Let’s talk it through. You drive to the store, grab a cart…if you have my luck, the cart has a wobbly wheel, a sticky handle-bar, and/or a mind of its own. Only after spending five minutes pretending you aren’t irritated by the wobbly-wheeled, sticky handle-bar cart, you finally ditch it. Normal people, who shop for normal sized families are forced to search for another cart. Not your Momma. I just turn on my super hero powers and carry everything I need for the week in my tired arms. I digress. Then you walk up and down aisles, taking items off shelves and placing them into your cart. Just when you think the up-down-up-down is over – you remembered an ingredient you just can’t make that casserole without, so you loop all the way back to the first aisle.  Then…you stand in line.  You often stand in that line longer than it takes you to drive there – and home. Next, you place the items onto the checkout belt. Only to then pack the items into bags. You then take the 50 bags of food – that easily could’ve fit into 6 bags, and put them back into your cart.

You wheel the cart to your car, and unload the 50 bags – which could be six, into your trunk. Then, you drive home. (You consider stopping for a drink to award yourself for a job well done, but you quickly remember your cash flow has just been spent on stupid food, which is in 50 stupid bags, in your stupid ass trunk – which you now hate even though it is an innocent by-stander in this whole stupid excursion.) So you just drive home. When you arrive, you take the bags inside. Even though you should take four trips, you insist you can make it happen in two. A dented can of beans and a leaking milk jug later, you curse yourself for trying to be Shera, queen of the grocery bag carrier, again.

Next up: you spend 20 minutes putting those SAME items you removed from shelves in the store, back onto shelves in your kitchen. It.truly.makes.no.sense.

Your Nana maintains that she’s never seen anyone more content with going hungry than having to obtain and make food. I will point out, I made more meals during the 8 weeks you and I were home on maternity leave than I did the combined 37 years prior. It’s fine. I was just waiting for the ‘know how to cook a meal’ gene that emerges after women have children. I always knew it would come.

This weekend, the whole ‘eating to survive’ thing trumped my distain for grocery shopping. So off to Sendick’s I went. It only took moments for me to realize I just didn’t have the energy to go through the motions of doing normal things, that normal people, with normal lives, and normal families partake in without blinking an eye. To buy myself some time, I ditched my cart…even though it wasn’t wobbly – and headed to the bathroom. I locked myself behind a stall door and attempted to give myself a pep talk. Before my first deep inhale, a mother and her toddler son entered the bathroom. I wanted to flush myself down the toilet.

I am assuming the little guy was about 3 years old – I never did get a look at him. His mommy was insistent that he go ‘potty’ alone, while she stood guard outside his stall door. The encouragement required to get him to agree to this arrangement was beyond endearing…and beyond heart-breaking. In the end, his mommy’s authentic support convinced this little guy that he was brave enough to ‘be a big boy’.  No sooner did his stall door close – did he began to rattle off questions.

“Mommy?”

“Yes, honey.”

“Are you still there?”

“Yes, honey.”

“Mommy. Mommy? Are you waiting for me?”

“Of course, sweetie. I’m not going anywhere.”

“Mommy…don’t leave me.”

“Sweetie, I will NEVER leave you.”

….pause, pause, pause.

“Never?”

“No, sweetie. Never.”

“Mommy, you won’t leave me…even if you die?”

(Audible gasp…Though, at this point, I still can’t say for sure if came from this little guy’s Mommy – – -or from me.)

“Of course not, honey. Not even when I die.”

“Mommy, if I die – I won’t leave you either. Because I don’t want to ever be away from you. Not even if I die.”

I am certain this mommy heard my stifled sobs, which were nicely echoing off Sendick’s, barren bathroom walls. It took all I had not to charge through the stall door, grab onto her shoulders, look through her eyes, and straight into her soul – while begging her to never, ever let her dear boy go.  Never. Not even for a second. Not even to encourage him to be a big boy and use the bathroom on his own. But, my legs wouldn’t have worked if I wanted them to.

There have been many times in the last 20 months when I’ve known you’re with me.  Other times I think it is you – but, I find myself wanting ‘more proof’.  Today falls under the former category. After all, only you would come with me on the most dreaded errand of all time, and follow me right into the grocery store bathroom – to make good and sure I knew it was really you.

The fear that management would be beckoned to check on “…the crazy woman hyperventilating in the Ladies’ Room” propelled me into action.  I swung the stall door open, threw water on my face, avoided eye contact with the reflection of the stranger who so often greets me in the mirror, and fled for safety. I quickly realized I was in a god damn grocery store…making it not so safe and cozy after all.

I ultimately left with two of the 24 items on my list: gummy bears and wine. There’s always next week.

I miss you. I love you. I would have packed really good lunches for you.

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Stay with me, Sweet Boy.

xoox,

Momma

 

 

A question. An abyss. A little boy I miss. (Plus, I’m just sad.)

Paxton,

As part of my preparation for the “opportunity-I’m-not-still-not-talking-about”, I was provided an array of ‘assignments’. The purpose of this particular one: encourage deeper reflection about being your Momma from so far away. (As if I need any?)

The query was simple, “A bereaved mother is….”. The question immediately irritated me. Perhaps because someone so revered in the realm of documentary styles and genres: grief, loss, and bereavement being no exception – would ask something so damn dumb. As the seconds ticked by, I pulled out my Warrior-side and began to generate an answer. It’s actually a non-answer; which, in my opinion, is even more fitting. Even better news: it turns out Momma is still spicy enough to accomplish something – merely for the sake of conquering a challenge.

I quickly determined the definition must lend itself to be ever-evolving. It must also allow for the flexibility to reflect the day, hour, or moment I just survived; or the particular soft wave of grief I am currently riding.

A bereaved mother is…

…the woman who has felt pain in every single cell in her body. Literally, from the tips of her toes to the ends of her hair. The pain is indescribably and mercilessly physical.

…the woman who shies away from carrying bags of groceries, or laundry baskets against her chest – especially with the aide of her hip; as doing so most always morphs the bundle into the precise size and weight of her phantom son.

…the woman whose knees have buckled when hearing the sounds of little boys, calling out: “Mommy.” “Mommy!” “Mommy?”…a mommy who will tuck her child into bed – while she will stand, tears falling atop the unused changing table, in her son’s, otherwise barren bedroom.

…the woman whose primal mourning, done only when alone, is still shocked & frightened by the supernatural sound of this mourning. As it serves as a reminder that she is but a wild animal – capable and willing to do anything to protect her young, as well as the fact that she failed miserably at the task.

…the woman entrapped by grief’s incessant state of craze, finds herself pacing the hallways late at night: unable to focus long enough to string two sentences together: intolerant of music, t.v.’s, or voices projecting “too loudly”: sensitive to lights: irritated by a host of other benign stimuli.

…the woman who has accepted that no form of self-induced suffering will suffice in filling the chasm of her loss. Instead she finds herself Googling “…how to construct time-machines.” In moments of lucidness (which sometimes follow) she realizes the depths of her desperation. Instead, she Googles: “…how to initiate the process of self-institutionalization.”

…the woman who wills herself to trade places with her dead child, a hundred times a day – and two hundred times a night. But continues to awaken to a new sunrise – almost always wishing she hadn’t.

…the woman who gives extra generous tips, extra gentle eye contact, extra caring smiles… to the young boy who crosses her path. Despite her keen awareness that he is someone else’s son, she can’t help but pretend – if only for a fleeing moment – that he is her own.

…the woman who knows how to ingest just enough shallow breathes, to keep from throwing up – until she makes it home.

…the woman who refuses to hold another baby – though her arms ache from emptiness – because she is adamant that the last baby she’ll ever hold, will be her own son.

…the woman who wishes she knew it was not an eye infection, or the ‘wrong’ baby formula – just a little sooner.

…the woman who will always, always be consumed with guilt – no matter how many people tell her it wasn’t her fault.

…the woman who will love her sweet boy forever and always…and then a little bit longer.

A bereaved mother is the woman who has a story about a bittersweet survival that does not include a fallacious or contrived “end” to her grief after a prescribed six month period. Her story is a true story of anguish – absent the “happy” ending. Not to say, at some point, she won’t be capable of pure love and joy and contentment. Alas, there is no bypassing the tortures caused by the death of her beloved son. The effects of his absence are perennial, and relentless; the aches – much deeper than the unsuspecting world believes.

Yes, Paxton. Cancer came along and stole everything from us. Everything. The wreckage which has ensued is so grim, I cannot yet begin to speak of it.

However, bereavement, grief, a parallel universe…another lifetime, have nothing to do with how I define the distinct honor of being your Momma. I am the only woman in the world who is lucky enough to be your Momma. Plain and simple: I am your Momma; you are my son. Our bond is far stronger than the grips of cancer…our love is far deeper than the depths of grief.

I will love you forever, and ever…and, then a little bit longer.

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Stay with me, Sweet Boy.

xoox,

Momma