We spent our first official night as Empty Nesters and I am excited to report that we are OK! Both of us. For those of you who are familiar with this blog, you know that “empty nest” has much more significance to us since the death of our youngest son. Our treasured, precious son. ( My gosh every time I write those words it still makes my heart skip a beat and my breath come short ) It was not supposed to be this way. We are trudging through the very early stages of grief from a tragic loss and now have an empty nest. For very good reason, I have been terrified of how this may go. I actually have a post started on N’s drop off and our experience of leaving him at college, but this little triumph had to be written because I. Am. Good. Yes, I am good! I feel like I have finally won a battle in a very long, very exhausting and very horrifying war. Today, I feel like I can keep on fighting this a little longer.
Over the last several months, any “loss” or goodbye, even expected ones, has been excruciatingly painful. Friends or family visiting would leave to go home, and their absence was heartbreaking to me. For months Sunday nights and Mondays were filled with tears and grief and were the most difficult days to get through. When my oldest son went back to live at college in June I was absolutely inconsolable. It threw me right back to the day Aiden died. I know it sounds crazy, but our counselor’s told us that triggers can bring you right back to that emotion and that time. They do. C’s leaving, even for a very “normal” and good reason, made me feel nearly the degree of pain, loss and hopelessness that Aiden’s loss did. Poor N, he came in to see what was wrong and I just clung to him for dear life. I felt that if I couldn’t physically hold one of my children, I was going to implode. The primal urge to embrace them was profound. Even when they were infants, this level of need to envelope, embrace and “keep” was nothing like what I have felt since March, but especially that day. N was there and so I held him so tight for so long. Sweet boy, he just let me.
I’m not saying I wasn’t extremely anxious and sad and tearful when we left the boys. I absolutely was. I worry about their own grief and how it will impact their life at college. I worry because I know they are at higher risk for all sorts of things I don’t want to think about but must. My biggest, mostly unspoken fear of course, is -God Forbid ( Please dear GOD in heaven, forbid! ), something happening to one of them. I could not endure another loss like this. I couldn’t, yet I battle, to the very core of my being, the thought that if something happened to Aiden it could happen to them. My heart pounds as I write those words. I need to deal with that fear. So, when I say fight, I mean fight. Yes, I shook and I cried and I hugged them long and hard, over and over until I had to get into our car and drive away. I waved through the open window and I watched them wave goodbye to us, seemingly fine. No tears. They have each other now, thank God. I am so grateful for that. These brothers who could hardly say a sentence or be in the same room with each other without arguing, were standing side by side, about to embark on this stage of life together. A very changed life, as neither of them will ever be the same. So we left the most precious things left in our life to fend for themselves in a virtually unsupervised, crazy, alcohol and drug-infested environment. (I’m not naive) Yes, I cried. Dave and I both did. I fought hard to keep it at that. I know all too well where crying can go and I fought not to go there.
Today, however, I am not overwhelmed. I’m not beaten. I envisioned myself prostrate on Aiden’s bedroom floor, sobbing and begging for his life back or for God to just freaking take me too. There were so many days like that. But I am not. I feared laying curled up on N’s bed asking “Why now God? Why couldn’t this have come another time? Why now?” and aching for him to come home, but I am not. I know he is where he needs to be, where he is supposed to be. I’m at peace with that. I may be eating a ridiculous amount of chocolate, which has to stop, but I am good today and that is enough. Tomorrow may be another story, but this battle is fought day-to-day and today I am winning.
I want to celebrate this little victory because it really isn’t little is it? It’s huge. Leaving my boy, my heart-broken, grieving boy at college and coming home to a “sudden” in the worst possible way-empty nest, is not little at all. I feel like I won big today and it’s given me energy and hope for more days like this. I don’t feel God carrying me like in that poem”Footsteps”. I wish I did, but that’s OK. I may never feel that. I do feel like I have grasped his little finger and I may be able to walk with Him now. I feel like maybe he’s here and maybe I have a hold of Him in some small but important way. I don’t feel His “presence” in the way that I have felt so many years before, but I feel like I may have finally reached my arm out far enough to have touched the edge of His robe. Like the woman who bled for 12 years and just grasped at Jesus out of utter faith and desperation and was healed. Oh, to hear the words, “Daughter your faith has healed you, now go in peace.” Peace.
I know that isn’t the case here, instantaneous healing, and that is also OK. You can’t heal away the absence of your child. You survive it. There’s a difference. I will settle today, for a battle won and knowing I am a fighter.
I took the photo of this flower many weeks ago. I knew I would use it.
That flower against all odds, managed to bloom beautiful and bright on that little bitty stem after one of the harshest winters on record followed by one of the hottest droughts on record.
She is a little fighter too.
She inspired me.