My amazing, one and only brother has been visiting for the last 10 days with his equally wonderful wife and their two year old little man and playful pup. We had a wonderful visit and even had the chance to spend some time camping the last few days. The kids laughed and played and we had some pretty amazing weather for outdoor fun. My brother is in surgical podiatry school and this was his one break for the next 3 years, so we took advantage of the time we had!
I’ve been mulling over something for a long time, especially the last three weeks. Happiness. It’s an odd thing. An odd emotion. The things in life that bring us joy and happiness in life vary so widely and are so unique. One commonality, for most parents, is that we find much joy and happiness in the knowledge that our children are happy and healthy.
This brings me to my pondering. Caleb’s death did not bring an end to my ability to feel happiness and joy. However, there is a heaviness that wasn’t there before. I’ve finally found the words for it. When your child dies, the ability to feel complete, total, happiness dies, too. I feel complete in my knowledge and faith in God. In knowing that I will see my Bub again. That’s different. Oh, I still feel very happy. Incredibly happy. Laugh until it’s hard to breath and my sides hurt happy. He’s just not here to laugh, too.
You see, there’s that heaven hole in my heart. The piece of my mortal existence that left with him. Complete joy and happiness fills the complete heart and soul. My heart just isn’t whole anymore. My heart still fills with joy at the sight of my kids jumping on the trampoline and riding their bikes. The happiness within me is indescribable when they’re all gathered around the table for dinner, happily chatting about their day and laughing together. There’s just a part that doesn’t fill because it can’t…because it’s gone…he’s gone.
I know where he is and I know my family can be together forever. I so look forward to rubbing my cheek on his soft hair again as he’s curled up in my lap, but that’s not my life stage right now. Right now, I lay a blanket on the ground at the cemetery, lay down, and run my fingers through the grass that covers the place where I buried my son. I set places at the table for five children, have five piles of folded kid laundry, and stop my mommy headcount at five when it all used to be six. I say hi to my son when I see a yellow flower, a butterfly, a sunny day, or a glimpse of yellow anywhere because I know that’s him saying hi to me.
The death of a child leads to a lifetime of incomplete happiness. It’s not a life void of happiness by any means. Brig, A, T, L, E, and L2 fill my heart and soul with so much love and happiness the joy moves me to tears at times. It’s just incomplete. The thought of what he would be doing or saying, how he would be participating, where he might be today, in any moment of happiness will always be there.
Remaining children or the potential for more children for any grieving parent never fills the hole. Neither does time. We adapt. We adjust. We change. To think or imply that it is fillable is to imply that one’s child is replaceable. I do not know of any death that changes a person more than the death of your own child. It’s an incomparable, unimaginable mortal experience. Please, keep that in mind as you speak to grieving parents. Empathize if you’ve been there and support, help, encourage, love, be present, and be patient always. It could be you who catches some of the happiness that spills out of our heaven hole and tosses a bit back our way.