I stood on our deck in the perfect evening air and stared up at what was a magnificent sky. A full moon, jet black sky with stars everywhere. The moon was so bright I could see the colors of all the flowers and trees around me. The sharp blueish-white cast from the moon decorated the yard and porch in an eerie but beautiful glow. Our favorite kind of night, peaceful and artistic. The kind of night he and I would sit out here together, looking at the sky and chatting about whatever.
In the moonlight I saw him running in the yard with his friends. I saw him sitting across from me in the hot tub, the water bubbling up into that precious face of his, chatting about whatever. I saw him taking a running leap into the deep end of the pool as Dave threw him the football to catch mid-air. I saw him throwing a ball with the dog we were going to get him when his brother left for college with Mugs. The dog I hadn’t told him about yet.
Aiden. Laughter. Movement. Joy. Energy. Life. Peace. All of it so achingly absent.
I spoke into the stars, “Are you there? Aiden please come sit with me. I can’t stand it here without you. I miss you so much, baby, please come sit with me, I need to know you’re here.”
But for a few chirping bugs, it was absolute stillness. Nothing. The pain was purging from my body like it hadn’t done in awhile, so I stuffed the tissue against my face to stifle it from marring the quiet beauty of this night.
Houses on our street were all dark, as they should be at 1:00 am before the first day of school. I knew back packs and bags of school supplies would be set by front doors, new clothes and shoes were in closets and pantries would be loaded up with lunch snacks.
The last first-day-of-school for us he was 11. He would be almost 16 now.
The last first-day-of-school he was starting middle school. He would be going into 10th grade today. High school wouldn’t even be new to him anymore. He’d be more excited about driving. Driving!
The last first-day-of-school he was a baby, with a child’s voice and a child’s soft face and hands. He would be so tall now, taller than me for sure. His voice would be changing and he would probably not want me to post his first-day-of-school picture on facebook. I would’ve anyway because that smile melted my heart. My sweet boy.
I’ve learned more about child loss as of this 3rd first-day-of-school without him.
I’ve learned that as much as we wish it could, this world never stops spinning when your child leaves it. The further away from their exit, the more pitiless the world feels. Despite the assumption that it does, the loneliness and loss we have for our child doesn’t cease. For the world though, and even some people in ours, they become smaller and further away.
I’ve learned the image of our children will forever be the age they were when they left us, but our minds don’t stop creating the older, current version of who we think they would be. I create my 15-year-old Aiden every day. I picture him and insert him into my moments, but he vanishes so quickly, leaving the empty space where he should be. Sometimes he’s in the passenger seat of my car with me like he so often was. Sometimes he’s doing homework at the kitchen table, his gangly teenage arms draped across the paper, or running up the stairs 2 at a time to change for practice. We mourn their forever selves and we mourn who they should be now, but never will.
I’ve learned that my internal clock that included what time he would get up and what time I’d expect him coming through the back door calling, “Mom?”, has faded. My mind no longer snaps at work and says, “I have to go, the bus is coming.” I no longer watch the clock at night for his shower and night-time reading. As much as I dread the sight and sound of the bus, I don’t anticipate its impending arrival anymore. It is not without sadness and even guilt that those occurrences don’t trigger my subconscious anymore, but there are things we adapt to and let go of. Those habitual time-of-day-pains have faded and that is something in this lifelong condition of child loss.
Except maybe on days like this.
I’ve learned that this years endless back-to-school season will be over soon and take with it its unique sorrow. Relief is coming, I know that now. I may not have another night like last night until October. Or maybe He will soften that for me this year? I never know, but for the relief, I am so thankful.
I’ve learned to protect my heart with simple things like staying off social media until the pictures stop posting and wearing ear plugs at night to possibly not hear that bus at 6:30 every morning taking off without him.
I’ve learned to brace myself and prepare for times like this, conserving my heart’s strength for the countless other dates, events, anniversary’s and holidays which are always at my back.
I’ve learned that because there is always something else coming, to make the most of the gentler months. So I try to work less, I make things and grow things, paint things and breathe more fresh air. I try to be around those people who fertilize my soul and distance myself from those who sap it . For those times and those people, I am grateful.
I’ve learned that there is a calendar of child loss. We all have a long season where this is nearly unbearable and a season where it is less so. Though our dates may be different, we child-grievers have our own calendar and thankfully I am navigating mine with more care and wisdom and for that I am relieved.
I have learned that the difficulty and particular type of pain this time of year brings is not unique to me, but shared among all of us who’ve lost our children. I have others to speak this lonely language with, and for their wisdom and care, I am grateful.
I’ve learned that indeed, His mercies are new every morning. The anguish that was swallowing me up last night has drifted on. Today and more-so tomorrow, I will awake to new strength and fresh perspective to face this and what is inevitably coming behind it.
For that, I am thankful.
Click HERE for another post on Back To School after child loss.
Click HERE for a post on Seasons Of Grief
Click HERE for when you feel like God doesn’t hear you
Click HERE to visit Aiden’s Light Memorial Fund and learn more about our RETREAT FOR BEREAVED PARENTS