The physical and emotional journey I’ve been on over the last month, last year, is generally beyond words to adequately describe it. Here’s what I do know as we approach Caleb’s one year death anniversary and his birthday the next day.
My son lives.
He lived and he lives. He lived a gloriously busy, loud, inquisitive, dare devil, passionate, ‘nuggle filled life. He lives on in all who knew and loved him as well as those who continue to get to know and love him through us. He was and is amazing.
Our family, save A (who had choir tour), had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Giving Tree Reception at the University of Iowa today. Caleb is featured on a poster next to the tree as a Gift of Life Donor. Donor and recipient families were there along with staff from the hospital, Iowa Donor Network, and Iowa Lions Eye Bank. It was a wonderful afternoon honoring organ, tissue, and eye donors and my heart was lifted once again in gratitude for that wonderful facility.
My opinion of and gratitude for the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital could not be greater. The level of love and care that we were shown and continue to be shown amazes me. Bub being transferred there has proven to be a blessing time and time again. To run into staff that we haven’t seen in a year and have them recognize us and tear up as they approach us is a testament to how much they care, not just during the hospital stay, but for life. I’ve been blessed with amazing interactions with everyone from custodial staff to med residents to the CEO.
I face this next week with a renewed sense of strength and energy after today. Caleb is not forgotten and he never will be. This week, I choose to celebrate his life, just as we always strive to do. I will not let one day define him or us. I will not let his death define and consume us just because the calendar says it makes sense. We have the book and toy drive and an open house this coming week to focus on his life and all the good things that are being done in his memory.
I told Brig a few weeks ago that I couldn’t stand the ticking from the anniversary bomb in my heart and wanted to do something positive. Then, we got hit again and I didn’t know if I could defuse the bomb. This last week, we did. As a family, we’ve dismantled that bomb and threw it out. We still feel the inevitable sadness and sorrow, but it isn’t consuming our thoughts and our lives in a negative way. We are fighting and choosing to be consumed by our love for him, his love for us, and a desire to share that love.
I recently shared the following thoughts with some lovely ladies who have become very dear to my heart and want to share them with all of you, too, with a few changes to fit this dialogue better. The wounds and scars are real, but I refuse to feel uncomfortable with allowing them to be seen.
I don’t believe time heals. I believe time changes us and allows us to adapt. The scars are still there, we just learn to live with them as they’ve been a part of us for longer. I’ll never be the same. I think of life before Caleb died and it often seems like another time and place…like there may be another me living on somewhere with my complete family. Where I’m at now is just a different place, another realm.
I’m just trying to not hide my scars. I’ve earned these marks of grief and pain. I didn’t choose them, I never wanted them. Yet, here they are. They are the price of loving deeply. I want to make mine beautiful reminders of a life over too soon and a memory that I won’t let die. Like the different stretch marks I’ve earned with each of my babies, the scars of grief are ones I did not come by easily. They mean something so very profound. They are a testament to my resilience to keep going and that I love my son fiercely. I only hope I can wear and share them in a way that is full of beauty and light more than anger and darkness, although the darkness has it’s place. I want to show them in the light for as many to see as possible so that others can learn and find support. This topic isn’t one that is discussed much. I hope we can all find more support and understanding as discussing child/adolescent death becomes less taboo.