As a mother, mourning the loss of her only-born son, I have accepted my right to be selfish. I don’t act this way all the time, and I don’t believe I am an exception to any rule. But I do believe in my right to take care of me, first and foremost.
This has taken me a very long time to learn, and by nature, I’d still rather care for others over myself. But in this moment, I am going to be selfish, and care about myself, more so than anyone else.
In the past year, I have navigated a pandemic, like the rest of the world, and have learned to work, parent, and be a spouse while avoiding all other humans and living exclusively and constantly with my immediate family. Living exclusively with my husband and son. But without my angel in Heaven.
I’ve walked with my mom on her journey through cancer. She was diagnosed and treated with me by her side, and we all hope that it is over and never will return.
And now I am wading through loss, again. This time, my grandpa, who had a full and beautiful 89 years on this earth, fathering eight children, who then gave him seventeen grandchildren, and those had eleven great-grandchildren. He touched countless lives through teaching and coaching and was once considered small-town royalty as a result of his contributions.
But what is most amazing of all, and what I hope to learn from his example, is how he survived the loss of a child, a grandchild, and a great-grandchild in one calendar year.
Each of those losses were my losses too. But I lost an aunt, a cousin, and my son. And I still have days where I can not comprehend those losses, cannot fathom healing from those losses, and question whether I can continue living because of those losses.
My grandpa suffered an enormous amount of loss. My grandma, his wife, passed away at age 66 when I was just 16. She and my grandpa had just retired and planned to travel to visit their children together with their new found freedom. It was sudden and it was hard. And he was alone.
He lived for 23 years after she was gone. I’ve lived for only five without my son, and it seems like an eternity. I understood his grief and his sadness long before I lost my son. But his resilience and his faith are something I strive for every day. And it is not easy.
I mourn my son fiercely and constantly. Not one minute goes by that I don’t think of him, picture him as he was or how he would be, and my belly tightens and my eyes well. Every day, all day, I remember and I hurt.
And now that hurt has intensified because I had to say goodbye to my grandpa. I lost him, too. And every day I think of him. It’s different, I admit. When I think of him, it is with pride and admiration. He was a hell of a guy and I only have joyous memories of our time together.
His service, his funeral, will take place this weekend, and I will not be there.
I am being selfish. I am taking care of me. And I accept my limitations, my grief, my boundaries, and know that it’s better that I not attend. It’s not about me. I will honor him in my own way. And I know it’s better that I grieve alone.
I am the mother of a child in Heaven. My child on earth has the most beautiful and aspirational perception of death. He knows that when we die, we go to Heaven. And in Heaven we can be whatever we want, do whatever we please, and be reunited with those we love most.
To him, death is not caskets and tears, cemeteries and sadness. It’s a wonderful transition to a place only our imagination can perceive. And I am not going to ruin that for him, an innocent 6-year-old, who believes his brother has wings and bounces on clouds.
And I don’t want to ruin my perception either. We shouldn’t fear death. It’s not an absolute or an end. It’s a beginning. One that I hope is very far off. And it’s where I’ll see my son again.
So I will be selfish. And me, and my son, and my husband, will grieve in the best way we know how. Together. Knowing our angels are never really gone and are only a prayer away.