And then this happened . . .
After the death of a child, life does go on.
But it will never be the same.
There will always be the BIG moments. Milestones, such as graduations and weddings, will always have a quiet undertow which pulls at our tsunamic joy as we wistfully imagine what Reed would be doing if he were here. Yet it is the quiet moments of everyday, ordinary life that often sneak up and seemingly choke the life out of us. The sweet aroma of our loved one’s life creates olfactory wisps in the simplest of situations. The inside jokes, the around the back hugs, the smile that could light up a room, the love of all things superhero, and just the passion for loving others are the ones missed most often. But then there are the silly things like when someone uses the wrong side of the Parmesan cheese that bring a smile to my face and a tear to my eyes simultaneously.
Life goes on, but there is always that nagging reminder that if Reed were here, he would love (or in some cases, detest) this.
Life does go on, but missing him never ends. So it was at a recent event for me.
For a period of time years ago, our children were enamored with the thought that we were once children ourselves. This epiphany popped into their collective consciousness about the time we explained that you only had one shot at the It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown annually. At the time, videotapes were the rage and our children could not fathom that we were not able to watch, rewind, and watch over and over our favorite shows. They were crestfallen when I explained that the airing of the beloved Schulz creation often corresponded with my Wednesday night church obligations. They wept for the little girl now grown up to be their Momma. How tender were their hearts!
When they discovered that, at first, neither parent’s families owned a VCR, but rather rented one from the movie store if they wanted to watch a movie, they were hooked on learning all things family lore. Every night at supper, our sweet kiddos would beg us to tell them a story about our growing up years. We would tell and retell stories of ourselves, our parents (their grandparents), and our siblings/aunts/uncles/cousins.
Travelling down yesteryear’s memories was a great time for all of us, but it was eye-opening to our children because we live so far away from our immediate families. This dinner table trend continued uninterrupted for many months – until the day the tables were turned. Getting into the spirit of swapping stories, Reed blurted out, “Sawyer, remember that time we parachuted off the bunk beds!” Even then, second son did not suffer fools lightly and shot his redheaded older brother a look of painstaking agony, across his plate of ravioli.
Of course as the parents of these two Wright brother wannabes, our ears were definitely perked. My calm response was, “No Reed. We don’t remember. Do tell.” Sawyer’s dramatic slap of his hand on his own curl-covered forehead did not give the storyteller the indication he should perhaps just move on to another subject. Eventually, we learned the truth. The boys sneaked grocery store plastic shopping bags into their room, proceeded to stick their arms through the holes, and promptly jumped off the bunk beds hoping to glide effortlessly to the floor.
Considering they only ever had junior style bunk beds, with the tallest being only four and half feet off the ground, they weren’t very successful with their adventure.
It was our first indication that our boys led a secret life to which we were not always privy.
Since that moment, I have never been able to look at a plastic shopping bag or a parachute without a small smile pursing my lips.
But how does this cherished memory have anything to do with grieving a boy gone much too soon?
One of the things he loved was Children’s Theatre – both watching and participating. Recently, his baby sister (who it pains me to admit is almost as old now as he was when he passed away) was involved in our local stage company’s production of Peter Pan, Jr. Sitting in the seats she had preselected, I felt the tug of grief spreading its icy tentacles up to my heart. Thoughts of “Reed would love this” swirled in my mind. I could feel the sadness begin to emerge from my eyes.
Suddenly a flash of white plastic took my breath away. A few rows below us was a little girl playing with her stuffed dog and yes, you guessed it – a store bag. I watched as over and over she fashioned a parachute for her stuffy and let it rip, gently falling to the ground next to her seat.
My tears of sadness quickly changed to lighthearted laughter as I could practically feel one of his signature hugs enveloping me in my theater seat. Much like Tinkerbell’s tiny voice, if I listened closely, I could almost hear my red-headed wonder whisper to my heart. I am right here Mom. I am right here.