It descends slowly, uninvited sly and clammy like fog.
Without warning, her eyelids grow heavy and wet a stinging sensation in her throat shifts to her chest belly heaving. Legs immobilized, feet stick to the floor. A face across the table saying what?
Then the memories a smile, a laugh, that yearned-for familiar voice. Their sorrow, her child’s and her own.
They say that to be a mother is to have your heart walking around in someone else’s body.
What they say is true.
But wait! When that someone else dies what becomes of her heart that was carried in that dear body? Turns out, it was the most fragile of things. Who knew it was made of spun glass so delicate that when it fell, it shattered into exactly Seventeen thousand five hundred eight slivers.
No restoring that.
And so, she scooped them up and carries them around everywhere she goes. Every grieving mother has a stigmata on the palms of her hands.
The last time I was alone with Ron was October 31, 2015, when we walked in a new place, the restored train bed at Lorimer Park, where I showed him where the lower path connects to the running trail. We discussed how that path went from there through Pennypack Park and ultimately to the Delaware River. It was then Ron said, “Oh Mom, this is great. Some day I’ll run through the park and we’ll meet on the trail.”
Those words are captured on Ron’s memorial bench which is tucked inside the park, close to that trail he never did get to run.
In the days before Christmas, my sister, Patricia, who knows me inside and out, posted this for my benefit: “Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break and all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go, love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you. ” L.R. Knost
Our son, Ron, died on December 25, 2015, Christmas morning. Tuesday, December 26, 2017, was Day 1 of Year 3. That Christmas Eve and Christmas morning of 2015 run through my mind like an old newsreel. I am at once remembering everything I did, every conversation I had that Christmas Eve, while simultaneously imagining every step Ron was taking in planning to end his life. I contrast my Christmas Eve joy to his Christmas Eve sorrow, my Christmas morning happiness to his Christmas morning resignation of his fate and ultimately his death.
When your child dies, they take an almost unnatural place in the heart and the psyche of the parents. Perhaps the shock and pain of a sudden, tragic death exacerbates the intensity of the sorrow, which may seem to border on obsession at times. What is the way forward? Is true healing even possible? We love our other children and grandchildren very dearly. We love the place they hold in our lives. But the one whose death was so sudden and crushing has, at once, opened a hole in our hearts and our lives while, at the same time, taking up more spiritual, emotional and psychic space than the others. Continue reading “If healing comes, what will it be like?”
When our loved ones leave us for the other side of life, the things they touched or used, or things connected to memories of them suddenly become sacred relics. They take on a new and precious meaning as we view them differently than we ever did before. We touch them with reverance and sometimes with awe, with the vague notion that maybe some part of them remains behind, holding tight to the things of this life even as our loved one has gone to the next one. Continue reading “Holy Things: What to part with when every item takes on new meaning”
Everything I do, in some way, I do for Ron and in his memory. On Wednesday night, August 16, I read a meditation I wrote for the Abington community peace vigil. As I read it, I was wearing the gold heart pendant that contains some of Ron’s ashes. Standing in the midst of my community, I know I do not grieve alone. We grieve together, we hope together. We are one. Here (below) is the meditation. Permission is granted to use it for your own purposes so that together we can be a source of peace and healing in the world.
Sisters and Brothers of the Abington community and beyond,
Introduction: Let us gather around closely together. If you are a believer in prayer, may this be your prayer. If you are not, may this meditation join you with the collective consciousness of those around you and with people of peace gathered all over the country tonight.
This will be in a “call and response” format. After each line, all will respond with “We are one.” (Practice “We are one”)
As we gather during this tumultuous and confusing time in our country’s history, together we say
This is how long Ron has been gone: 1½ years, or 18 months, or 78 weeks or 548 days. In the early weeks after Ron died, people would occasionally ask if I could sense his presence with me. I would occasionally fudge my answer and say yes, mostly because people expected that I would and because others reported sensing messages from their loved ones who had passed. I was never actually sure of what the question meant and would answer in different ways according to different people or circumstances. But mostly it seemed true but not in the way people thought. Ron seemed to be with me because the separation was not real to me. The primal connection could not be abruptly severed. It was impossible to suddenly let him go. I have since learned that cells from the child remain inside the brain of the mother for always. Continue reading “Watching for Signs”
When our son, Ron, died by suicide on Christmas morning of 2015, he left a careful trail of information so that we would have as few unanswered questions as possible. He took as many extraordinary measures as he could think of to make the impact of our losing him somehow comprehendible. One of the details he attended to was to provide full information about the purchase of the weapon he used to take his life, a gun.Continue reading “One Mother’s Grief on Good Friday at the Gun Shop”