October 1st will mark the one year anniversary since my son passed away. I don’t want to dwell on sad thoughts and memories. If I have learned only one thing throughout these past 11 months it is no one can do grief for you; you have to go through the hard internal growth and acceptance on your own .
A few weeks ago, on August 30th, my husband and I traveled to Nashville. I was scheduled for back surgery on September 1st. We were told to arrive at the hospital for pre-surgical tests on August 31st, and then come back the next day for surgery. My husband made the hotel reservation. The only information that he gave me was that the reservation was at a Hampton Inn a couple of blocks away from the hospital. I gave no thought to it because he always does a great job taking care of that type of detail. Around 10:00 p.m., the evening of the 30th, my husband pulled up into the parking lot of the very same hotel that our family stayed in many times because it is adjacent to Centennial Park. This is a park where Will and Hunt played in the USTA Jr. Tennessee State Closed Tournament for several years in a row. We have so many memories as a family staying there, eating at nearby restaurants, and walking to the tennis courts from the hotel.
My back was hurting from the long drive, it was so late, and I just didn’t have the heart to ask why did you make reservations at this particular hotel? I sat down in the lobby while he checked us in and I just felt like crying. The surgery scheduled was a big one and I was already overly anxious and emotional. Here I was, sitting in the lobby of a hotel that was filled with memories of our family in happier, hope-filled times. We unlocked our room and dumped our suitcases. I walked over to close the curtains and darned if those tennis courts weren’t my view out that window. Why? This is what I mean when I say I cannot escape the melancholy. It just jumps out of nowhere when you least expect it. As if it wasn’t enough to be worrying about the surgery, now I was laying in a bed trying to go to sleep with those tennis courts right outside my window.
So, here I am recovering from a difficult surgery that was supposed to be a 2 day hospital stay and ended up being 7 days. I hurt. I can’t drive for at least four weeks. My husband is back at work. I have way too much time on my hands to think. I am thinking about my back and how much it hurts. I also have a lot of time to be ticking off the days on the calendar until October 1st.
The memories and reminders of conversations, texts, and I love you, too, Mom’s from last September run through my head. I am remembering that beautiful fall day, October 1st, last year, when my husband, Hope, Gray and I went to a pumpkin farm. We were naive and blissful as we pulled our wagon around picking out pumpkins and gourds of every size and color. We posed for silly pictures with scarecrows and hay bales. We arrived back home and immediately began arranging our pumpkins on the front porch, patio, and indoors never dreaming that the following Saturday that we would be having 60 loved ones at our home following a funeral.
It is so cliche’, but we were so innocent. Of course, in 30 plus years of marriage there have been plenty of hard times. Losing parents, having the typical financial trials most of the people I know have, raising children, and an assortment of health issues had been part of our lives up to that point and had been endured. But all of those things are a natural part of life. You move past those things, they help you to grow and develop perseverance. Losing a child, even an adult child, is something that never seems like a possibility.
During the past 11 months, I found a closed Facebook group for parents who have experienced child loss. I don’t think any of the people in this Facebook group are from the South. They mostly seem to be from the Northeastern or the Southwestern part of the U.S.. Under any other circumstance, I would probably never dream that I could become connected to strangers in spirit. These are all bereaved parents who are trying to live with hope. Two Sundays a month, they have an online Zoom meeting. I open my laptop, log-in, and see these beautiful, hopeful, lovely faces in little boxes around the perimeter of my screen. There is usually a guest speaker who has written a book on grief and healing. There is an opportunity for each participant to speak and share their experience. As sad as I feel sometimes, when I hear these lovely spirits share their stories, my heart hurts for them. These are people that I have never met, but I know for a fact that if I am ever lucky enough to be in their presence, I will not hesitate to give them as tight an embrace as is socially appropriate. As they share the circumstances and details of their child’s life, it takes my breath away. I always leave these meetings in awe of how strong these men and women are.
All of them are further along on their grief journey than I am. This is how I know that one doesn’t ever get over it. Nor should they. This is the price of love. There is no timetable. The abundance of depth of character that these parents possess is beyond anything I have ever witnessed. I am not where they are yet. But as I look at the love and compassion on the faces in the boxes around the perimeter of the screen when one of the group is speaking from their heart, I am so very aware that this type of wisdom, grace, humility, and dignity cannot be obtained without going through the fire.
This grief stuff is a lonely business. The love and support of friends makes it tolerable to put one foot in front of the other and is such a gift . But just as no one can recover from surgery for you, no one can go through grief for you. I have found that it takes being pushed into my fears and memories, like staying in a hotel where I would never, ever, in a million years make a reservation on my own. The fact that our room overlooked a park full of tennis courts that held such sweet, yet now feel sad, memories and I lived to tell it lets me know that I can persevere. I don’t have to like it, but it lets me know that I can do all things by leaning on faith I didn’t know I had, surrounding myself with people who are holding me up when I don’t feel like I can, and knowing that I truly only manage by completely submitting this to God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit.
Peace and Love.
She writes about life, death, grief, and recovery.