I’ve spent the last month or so trying to find the right words for life right now. I sit here on my bed at 2:35a.m. as the six month mark since Caleb’s death passes. It’s now his half birthday and he isn’t potty trained or learning to ride a two wheeler as we’d planned. The shock bubble that get’s you through the first few weeks after something as terrible as this has worn off. I even had a long period of feeling like I was getting a handle on this new normal. I foolishly thought that I might be the exception to grief, perhaps because of my faith or my strong personality or just because my level of badassery really is that high. Then, the seasons changed. For the last several weeks, all I could say was that the seasonal change has been hard. That statement wasn’t all encompassing or satisfying to my emotions, but it was all I had. Thankfully, I’ve finally found the words.
My grief journey started in winter. It wasn’t a typical winter. We had one round of early snow around Thanksgiving. It was just enough to give Bub the chance to be cool with the big kids and brave running out onto the deck barefoot on Thanksgiving, only to run back in and have the cold set in. That didn’t keep him from repeating his crazy stunt with his older siblings a few more times. I can still hear his laugh as his big brothers danced around, barefoot, in the cold. Then, the snow melted and was gone. December was mild. I was getting by without my heaviest and warmest of winter coats. Christmas decor was going up, but we were beginning to wonder if we’d have a white Christmas or if we’d have snow for Caleb’s birthday on the 18th. Then, my son died.
Once Caleb’s body was buried, winter came. Piles of pure, white snow covered the ground and bare trees. The sky became an icy blue and the sun only offered warmth if you stood in her light while indoors in that space where you can feel the warmth of the light, but not the cold penetrating the window. To leave the house required a hat, scarf, gloves, boots, and coat. There was no staying warm without them. The outside world was bundled up, tucked away, and trying to stay warm…just like me. The earth seemed to be mourning and grieving the death of one of the most vibrant people to ever live. Cold and bare, but with the pure, white snow to remind us of God and heaven. Then, the seasons changed.
With the melting snow, flowers, birds, and buds came a renewal of life. However, life didn’t renew for Caleb. He wasn’t going to spring forth with all that had been lost to winter. That heaven hole in my heart was not going to be filled. Life and the earth were moving on and I was stuck. Gone were my coat, scarf, hat, gloves, and spot by the fire. Warmer weather meant exposure. The older five were preparing for the end of school, the trampoline was up again, the play structure was ready for use, and scooters and bikes were once again present in the driveway, but this time there was only five.
I’m learning to be exposed in this new season without getting burned. I find so much joy in my kiddos. If I seem a bit more sad lately or “off”, just know that I have one less kiddo on the trampoline, one less hamburger to grill, one less place to set, one less scooter to put away, once less bag to pack for camping, and birthday and Christmas presents that were never given are still tucked away. He’s not playing in the dirt next to the dugout or trying to jump in the deep end at the pool and I’m still getting used to not counting to six.
While the earth is renewed in the glory of spring and summer, so is the grief and pain for grieving parents everywhere as we face the season of exposure and family fun. Be mindful of our scars. Scar tissue and open wounds are the most susceptible to injury and burns as we emerge from hibernation.