I believe every grieving parent has that moment, memory, or series of them that haunts us. They can be a cluster over the weeks, months, or years a child slowly succumbs to illness. It can be the moment a call is received and the accident plays in the mind’s eye as horrible news is shared. Whatever the memory or memories are that haunt us as grieving parents, they always come with an ache and torment that creates that look. It is the look that speaks to the heart and soul of another grieving parent when eyes meet. The look that says I’ve been broken in a way that has no words and I know you understand. This look often comes with a knowing nod or deep breath that says all that words cannot.
The summarized version for me is watching my lovie in the rear view mirror throw up blood. Then, I flash to the relief of him crying and fighting the doctors in the ER before I climbed into bed to hold him and sing him songs in an effort to keep him calm. I flash hot with anger as I watch him wait for just shy of two hours to go to an OR as he continued to bleed while hooked up to nothing but saline. I see his piercing blue eyes staring at me as more and more fear overcame him before confusion set in. I see him blink one last time before passing out at the OR doors. Minutes later, I hear the code blue called over the intercom and, like an out of body experience, I see myself and Brig run down the hallway and sit outside the doors where I plead with God and try to make so many deals to trade places with him. There’s relief when we’re told he’s okay and then I jump to hours later when we learn the truth of his brain injury due to the oxygen deprivation during his code. The horrors and pain broke me then.
The words “extensive brain damage…non reactive pupils…” ring in my ears so frequently, the brick on my chest that came with them is one I don’t think will ever leave. It’s still hard to breath sometimes.
I sang to him.
I stroked his hair and cheek.
I told him it would be okay.
I told him they would fix it.
I told him I love him.
These are the last things I said to him while he was conscious.
I feel so divided. When I’m out serving, speaking, raising awareness, doing good in his memory I feel so driven and focused. I know what I’m supposed to be doing. There is meaning and purpose that helps life make a bit of sense. I know who this part of me is. This part was born from his death and it’s built on a foundation of being strong and shining a light in the darkness.
There’s also the broken me. The me at home, where he should be. The me who feels his absence in every room, every family outing, every holiday, every family meal. I often wonder if I’ll ever be able to fully enjoy time at home, time with my family again. For now, there’s that piece of ache where he once was that prevents the fullness of joy from filling my home and family life.
My life split that day. I call to the more experienced grief parents, grief moms, now. How do I do this? How do I breath again? This new life is livable as I do good in his memory, get out, go forth, and do. I can speak and serve and do new things. I just struggle to know how to merge my old family life before those memory flashes with the one that has come after. I’m still wife and mother…there’s a hole though now. It feels like that hole, his hole, is preventing me from joining the old me with this new reality. I don’t know how to build that bridge. It’s such a slow, painful process. Everything that I did before, with him by my side or in my arms, is so painful now.
How do I do this? When will the sun rise and bridge my worlds?