I had the opportunity to sit on the beach alone the other day (I know, right? How’d she pull that off? Lots of help!). The area of beach (long with a sandbar) and tide was such that I could put my chair on the shore and the waves were washing underneath me. I was reading and enjoying feeling the waves wash over my feet, the sun on my face and the ocean breeze flowing over my body. My perfect place.

I love the beach, the sounds, the smells, the warm breezes, the feel of the sand under my feet or on my hands as I lazily scoop it and watch it fall through my fingers.

As I read my book, I kept looking up to enjoy the beautiful world around me. Kids laughing (No, not my own…mine were back at the house, in the pool. The horror of it all…the beach only 100 yards away and they want the pool. I have not counted this as a fail in the Mom column yet because I feel I have time to right this tilted ship.), pelicans racing inches above the surf, the sand under my feet and of course, the waves. I kept putting my feet up and watching the waves wash around them, enjoying the feel of the salty water as the tiny waves which had drifted across the sandbar reached my feet, some only inches high.

As I repeated this act, I turned my gaze to all the waves around me. The “real” waves were breaking off the sandbar many feet in front of me. Big ones, the tide was coming in. As I watched these monster waves (they were really big!) and the tiny ones washing over my feet, I was struck with another way to convey the feelings of grief or more specifically of missing Declan.

Like the never-ending stream of waves marching towards the sand, so is our life since August 18th, 2010. In the beginning certainly we were in the throes of the worst hurricane or the perfect storm (to steal the film’s title)…waves everywhere around us, too tall, too many, crashing over us barely giving the opportunity for us to catch our breath before another was upon us. Like the body surfing of my youth when you catch that perfect wave…just a few seconds too early and the wave grabs you and tosses you like a rag doll. You struggle to find which way is up…as you roughly bounce off the sand below, tumbling below the fury of the wave breaking above you…finally finding your feet and standing up through the surf, sputtering for air as yet another wave of equal might crashes over you. Giving you that tiny moment of ok before unleashing its fury yet again.

As time goes on the waves become less harsh but you never know what type of day it will be with the waves…just like at the beach. ‘What’s the surf like today?’, you ask the lifeguard as you come over the dune to catch the first glimpse of the surf for the day. It’s not like you will turn around and leave…of course not, you’re at the beach! At the beach you get what is served up…calm, rough, strong under tow, it doesn’t matter. It is just what you will be dealing with today.

As I sat there, enjoying the little waves and watching the giant waves crashing at the break I realized how similar our life is to the unrelenting march of the waves. Have you gotten over it? Are you better? No. We will never be over it or better. Like the waves on the beach we deal with the death of our sweet Declan, every day. As time has removed us from that horrible last moment of life with Declan, the fury of the waves have diminished but they still come. Some days we are treated to light lapping waves like those off the sandbar or at the edge of a lake. Peaceful and calm but still the gentle reminder while other days the waves are crashing overhead and the rip current is pulling at our bodies…we struggle against the weight, the pull on our hearts. As I watched people battling the breaking waves as the tiny waves lapped over my feet, it also reminded me how each day is different for each of us and even in the moment we are battling different waves of grief, of memory, of love. But it is there, every day. It will be with us every day, like the waves.

Like the ocean and its waves there is a certain peace (at least for me) in knowing the waves will always be there, knowing my soul will always be connected to the tiny being who’s life I saw drain out of his body less than two years ago.

What was it like?

I watched a M*A*S*H episode the other night where Charles Emerson Winchester, the third (I really love this show) has a brush with his own mortality and is reminded of the death of his brother when he was little. He becomes obsessed with death and understanding what happens when you die; asking those around him, awkwardly so, what it is like. Of course, my mind started down the familiar path it has gone down so many times since the earth shattering moments around 2:20am August 18, 2010. It’s remained there and I can’t stop thinking about it.

Certainly it is something I will not understand in this lifetime but that’s the thing about the unexplained, it seems to beg the answer to the question so much more than the easily understood. It is this thought that has taken root again in my head, again.

What was it like?

What is it like?

In those moments of sweet release from your tiny body as it was over taken by the cancer…was the peace of your passing fractured by the screams of our torment in losing you? Are the white hot flashed of grief followed by a joyous memory orchestrated by you to help us survive? I feel you around me, a lot. It makes me happy and sad; happy because our lives are still intertwined, sad because of how they are intertwined.

I sometimes think if I could die (stick with me here people) just long enough to see you and know you were ok…to get some sense of the world you live in, it would help. But would it? Could I lose you again to ease the confusion in my own head? Certainly it wouldn’t be what my family needs. But would knowing help soften the hard edges?

It’s not just me either. Brady and I were talking one night recently at bed time, as we often do, and he turned silent. I know he’s thinking about you when he does this. What he said made my heart shatter and in an instant draw a different and sad connection with him.

“Mom, I want to die.”
(silence)…in case you forgot, Brady is 5.
“You do, huh? Why?”
His reply came in the small squeaky child’s voice, straining to speak through tears, “I want to die so I can go see Declan.”
(heart crushing sense in my chest…and a decision to make, tell the truth or pretend I don’t think the same thing?)
“You know what buddy? I do too. I’ve wanted to die and make sure he’s ok just like you.”
more silence
“Do you remember the thing about heaven we’ve talked about? Once you go, you can’t come back.”
“Yeah, I know but I miss him.” …with tear rolling down cheek
“Me too. I would miss you as much as we miss him if you died too. And you know what? I wouldn’t get to see you any more either.”
more silence
“Do you think maybe we should stay here for each other and remember how much we love Declan, and each other, everyday? Does that sound like a plan?”
“Ok, Mom.”

I’ve debated relaying that story but since I’ve watched that episode of M*A*S*H and mulled over what it meant and brought out in me, I realize we’re each dealing with these landmines every day. What is it that makes one day/hour/minute/moment easier or harder than another? Is this how life was intended? How is it that I am talking about dying with my 5 year old to gain a sense of relief from the grief of missing Declan? Sadly, I know these feelings don’t exist in a vacuum in my home. I know they have invaded the fabric of our extended families and friends as well.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any answers. For you or for me. I struggle with these thoughts daily and imagine I will for my lifetime. I hope I operate in a vacuum of grief, hoping the pain of my grief exists only with me…not for selfish reasons but because I can’t bear the thought of knowing it resides in those around me. But I am wrong. I know by looking in their eyes that I am wrong.

If I were able to answer the question, ‘What was it like?’, would it help?

If only…

Holidays are the hardest

Everyday is hard but I think the extra time and excitement around the event really cause me to struggle with how much I miss Declan. It’s tough to type that because I truly struggle everyday but some days just ignite a white hot, fire of missing.

I feel the need to say, life is fine and my boys are amazing and wonderful and enjoying the things in life they should. We were at the pool earlier and Cole figured out how to “swim” today. Truth be told, he’d sink like a rock without this body floatation thingy handed down from Brady during our time in Houston but he doesn’t know and he’s proud of his accomplishment (his smile is like pure gold)…he doesn’t know how much more proud we are for him. While what I write is typically about Declan because this is, afterall, the journey of his life and our life without him, I feel the need to comments about my boys because I’ve watched other people comment on other family’s posts/blogs/caringxx wondering about their “other children”…for the record, I think that’s bull because they have no idea how much we love and would do anything to protect our kids…all of them. But I digress.

So on our way home from the pool, I turned to the 70s station (I love 70s music!) and a song from Bread came on, Everything I Own. Truly I know a lot of the songs that make me think about Declan (any my boys…Stan included) are love songs. I mean, doesn’t that seem right? Isn’t one of the greatest loves in life the love we have for our family? I’ve always liked this song and, as has happened on so many occasions since Declan died, the words spoke to me differently. They were the words I’ve said a million times in my head, in my dreams, since Declan died…I would give anything I own, just to touch you once again. The finality of human contact truly is a hurdle that has amounted to scaling an insurmountable wall…kind of like the one in those American Ninja Warrior trials but much bigger. (Did you forget? I live with all boys. Ok, I like the show too. I admit it.)

The words aren’t just for what we’ve lost and ache to be with again, it speaks to the here and now. The ones right in front of us, who drive us nuts…especially on days like today when we’re supposed to get together and enjoy our time with family and friends…with the same ones that drive us nuts. What if they weren’t here? We’d ache for them and wish it could be different. Wish they could be here. Wish they could be here so we could hug them, love them and tell them how much their life means to us…how life would be different without them.

I copied the words below. There are so many people who fit these words in my life, and probably yours too.

Declan, I miss you. I would truly give up everything I own.

You sheltered me from harm.
Kept me warm, kept me warm
You gave my life to me
Set me free, Set me free
The finest years I ever knew
were all the years I had with you

I would give anything I own,
Give up my life, my heart, my home.
I would give everything I own,
just to have you back again.

You taught me how to love,
What it’s all, what it’s all.
You never said too much,
but still you showed the way,
and I knew from watching you.
Nobody else could ever know
the part of me that can’t let go.

I would give anything I own,
Give up my life, my heart, my home.
I would give everything I own
Just to have you back again.

Is there someone you know,
you’re loving them so,
but taking them all for granted.
You may lose them one day,
someone takes them away,
and they don’t hear the words you long to say

I would give anything I own,
Give up my life, my heart, my home.
I would give everything I own
Just to have you back again.
Just to touch you once again.