The Wisdom to Know

Today, I went to a party celebrating a dear friends sons’ graduation from high school. His older brother was one of the best friends of my then 15 year old son, who I lost very suddenly in 2006. It was difficult for me to go to this house where my son spent so many fun days and nights.  It wasn’t going to my friends house that made it hard, it was going there to celebrate something that my son never go to do-graduate from high school.

I used to tell my son that I wanted to hear his name called out when he graduated, with the symbolic “with honors” tucked behind his name.  Since that horrible day when I lost him, I would give anything to hear his name called out at graduation at all.  He would be a senior in college this coming fall, an adult.  When I looked at his friends’ younger brother today, I saw an adult, and choked back tears, knowing that I would never see my son make the transition that this young man has made since the loss of my son.

I find myself constantly wondering what life would be like had my son lived.  I think of how he would look, what he would be doing, if I would be healthy now, happy now.  I think of all the misery I have endured since his loss, the illnesses caused by the trauma of his death, the damage to my faith, my family, my ability to relate to others, how others relate to me. It is overwhelming.

I have struggled greatly during these years as I fought through the emptiness , the guilt a parent feels when they loose a child, the way people treat you so differently than they did before.  The first thing someone I know thinks when they see me is, “She lost her son.”  Mothers inevitably talk about their children, their accomplishments, their ages, their lives. When someone I don’t know, or who doesn’t know me well, asks me. “How many children do you have?”  I cannot bring myself to say “five” instead of “six”-he was mine, I love him-present tense, he is a part of me, I refuse to simply say “five” in order to spare myself the pain of explaining.

When I say that I have six kids, they ask me about them and I have to, in some way, tell them that I lost my son. I open myself up to the untenable  pain of explaining the unexplainable.  I fight back tears, or maybe don’t win the fight. I have recently attempted to make a valiant effort to reclaim at least the part of my life that is possible to reclaim.  The statement  made famous by President John F Kennedy, but originally said  by a man named Reinhold Niebuhr, comes to mind.  It states:  “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

I think the last part of that statement is the hardest one to understand.  Can I change the fact that my precious son is no longer with me? No.  Can I regain my health in the state in was before his loss? No. Can  ever find my faith again, reclaim the way my family saw  me as strong, tough, enduring? I don’t know. Do I have the strength to keep trying? Maybe-I have for nearly six horrible years. It is the last part that confounds me-the wisdom to know the difference.

It seems that one day, I feel it is impossible for me to ever feel like I hold the place in my family, in the lives of those I encounter that I did before I lost my son. I feel they look on me with pity, sadness, not knowing how to act. It’s almost like they are afraid of me.  They don’t know what to say or do or how I will react.  I cannot bear the well-intended religious comments about “God being with me,”  ” I will pray for you”. or “If you will turn it over to God…” I feel God let my son down, let me down, that I had turned “it” over to God when I felt something was wrong around my son, and couldn’t seem to figure out what it might be. Will I ever be able to feel the assurance that God cares again?  Right now, I cannot imagine it.

That is my greatest issue at present-to decide what I can change, accept what I cannot change and somehow have the wisdom to know the difference.

As milestones in my life and in the lives of my children and other loved ones come and go, I find it difficult to react with the joy that I should, or maintain my calm in the event of sorrow.  I feel great pressure to react in the “proper” way, to at least, in public, present that air of confidence and strength that I once did. As I struggle to “know the difference” and live under these new and oh-so-cruel rules that order my life, I wonder if I will ever come to the point where I can say that I can uphold the thoughts issued in the “Serenity Prayer”.

As we encounter those who have faced horrific losses, endured disabling diseases, or even been told that they or someone they love will not survive, please remember the inner struggles that these people undergo every minute of every day of their lives.  Perhaps, we, as outsiders looking in, should find more compassion in how we deal with those struggling with fear and grief and loss. Maybe we can help them find that “wisdom to know the difference”.




9 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    You are incredibly strong to celebrate with your dear friend and her son at such a powerfully emotional time. Your strength shows through in your written words. There is no “proper” way to act or react. Only your heart knows what you are feeling. Realizing that others’ insensitivity is in no way a reflection on you but only of the other individual can be a very large obstacle indeed. Compassion is key in the way we treat others as well as ourselves.

  2. 2

    beebeesworld said,

    Thanks for your comment-it means a lot to have support from others-I have already gotten a lot of comments on fb etc-I

  3. 3

    Brenda, having lost someone suddenly as well—–I can feel the absolute rawness of your pain. The only thing I can think to say is—-I don’t feel your son, who loved your dearly and whom you loved dearly, would ever want you to mourn to the point that your lost YOUR health. Just as you will forever have wanted his happiness and eventuallyand a good life, I think he would want YOU to eventually have a “new normal”. He would want his beloved Mom to never forget him, to love and cherish every memory of him, but certainly would not wish a lifetime of pain for you. Dave’s last spoken words were—-“Take care of them.” He had no idea how incredibly hard it has been. NO CLUE how rough these months have been. But I know Dave would want us to mourn in our individual ways but yet go on—-if nothing else than to honor him. I have days I don’t stop crying. But I don’t believe that is what he would want for me. If I have a “good” day does not mean I miss him any less or wish I could somehow change the outcome of that awful day. I want to make him proud. Some days I think I might and some days I fail miserably. In my heart, I believe your son just wants to know he was and is loved and always remembered but he would NEVER want you to suffer so, honey. He loved you too much for that. If the roles were reversed, would you want him to never have another happy day in his life…….. if something happened to you? I don’t think so. You honor him every time you speak about his life, your love for him, all the good times he had in a life that was indeed cut far, far too short. But I just know he loved you too, too much to see you suffer so. I just truly believe that.

    I am not in any way judging you because I now have a newfound understanding of people who have experienced loss. I know I have said…….let me know if I can do anything………and I did not follow through with those words. I have seen how people expect us to go on after a certain period of time but I have also had God bless me with people who have done things for me just when I needed them. Would I turn back the clock and undo the situation—-you bet. But as much as I want to I know I can’t. Because of the kindness of those people who have helped me when I have melted down and sobbed or frozen with indecision, I just have to hug them and thank them. I tell them they will NEVER know what some small act they do feels like the hugest gift possible. For example, I was doing some recycling. I was to meet Cathy who was in town for the afternoon. I could not find my keys. I just knew I had thrown them in with the recycling and there was no way to get them. I was crying and just kept so “Oh, God, of God.” It had my apartment key, car keys, mailbox keys, storage keys—–it would be so expensive to replace and how was I going to get home. I was shaking and crying. I handed her the phone to call Cathy because I was so upset. Bless, this woman’s heart—-she searched my car and found them fallen between the seat and the console. I hugged her and cried and thanked her over and over. I was so shaken up I could not think how to get to the meeting place with Cathy and she let me follow her. That little act on her part was like winning the lottery for me. I know she thought I was some nut. But this little lady took the time to stay with me, hunt for the keys, drove me to Cathy. I was such a “blessing.”

    I left my camera in Chapel Hill. It had pictures of Austin. I was beside myself. I called the hall the next day and got one girl who connected me with another person. Well, lo and behold, she found the camera. We were trying to figure how I could get it shipped to me. I happened to give her my address when she said her mother lived in Hickory, was coming to Chapel Hill for Mother’s Day and would bring my camera to me on Sunday. She had her son meet me at a grocery store parking lot. I was crying on the phone to them, thanking them both profusely and I hugged him when he met me. They brought me my camera that held……….memories. So I know exactly how you feel. It has also shown me that I need to “pay it forward” because people have done things like that for me. Those are just 2 examples. I would have taken those acts for granted to some degree in the past but now when someone shows kindness to me………….I just want to weep with thankfulness.

    I miss human touch and conversation immensely. I am about to be an empty nester. I have no family in the area. I know pain. I know loneliness. I don’t know how to start over at 57 but I know somehow, some way when Austin leaves for college I am going to have to. It will be the second hardest thing I will have to deal with. He will never be the same and never be back home again like he is now. I know it won’t be easy. I dread it but he deserves and as much as I want him here and even need him here for things, I have to let him go.

    You DO have 6 kids. You always will. You will always wish you could change the outcome of that day. But it hurts those that love you and him to see you suffer so. I “talk” to Dave on FB. I pray for him to pray for our guidance. There is probably still some denial on my part. But I don’t think he would want me and Austin to never have a happy day ever again. He loved us too much for that and I just know your loving son wants to see your spunk and strength and some joy return to your life……… his memory and in his honor. THAT would make HIM happy, Brenda.

    I try to wrap my brain around heaven. I want to believe those that have gone “see” the good things or know of them somehow. I don’t know if they do. I hope Dave” saw” Austin graduate Saturday. It pains me that he was not there physically but I still tried to make the day happy for Austin by having some family come down. Yet the day before I was a sobbing mess. I knew I HAD to make the day about him. Dave would have been so disappointed if I had done otherwise. Did I shed tears during the ceremony—-yes. Did I want him beside me—-yes. Did he deserve to be there—–absolutely, But like you, I had to accept the fact that he wasn’t and suck it up for the night.

    Trust me—–I have cried more tears in these last 16 months than I have in a lifetime. And that’s saying a lot because I have always cried easily, but I have still had some laughter. I have had some good days. God has blessed me with some very specific things. I know the road ahead is not going to be a bed of roses. I had to have surgery and get someone from church to take me because he was not here. I have fallen and fractured my shoulder and I need him here to help us pack for a move in 3 weeks. But blessings have come from Asheville——Kathy Bustle, her mother and daughter are coming Thursday to help me pack. I have had to swallow my pride and let them in to this mess and help me find the forest for the trees. Again……….God blessed me in a way like that that I would NEVER have imagined. I would never in a million years thought of someone…… from Beaverdam….. coming here to help.

    Know you are loved. Know your son will never be forgotten. Know he would want you to take care of yourself. Know that he would want to see you smile again. He knows you will always be his mom. Like the book says—–I love you forever, I like your for always, as long as I’m living my baby you’ll be. He knows that. Take comfort in that. You once told me at the picnic shelter your job in life was to be a Mom. I remember that all these years later. You have been and will continue to be a good Mom. Please know I know how real and deep your pain is. I can’t say I really understood pain before—-I thought I did, But I will try to think differently and more empathetically towards people who have suffered a loss after having experiencing it first hand myself.

    Just know…… that as someone walking the same walk………..I hope we can both one day come out of this valley happier than we are right now………in spite of having walked through the fire and having the loss. As MUCH as it hurts now
    , I would rather have had Dave in my life and lost him, than never to have had him at all.

    Your friend,
    Debbie Stradley Peterson

  4. 4

    beebee, i understand your grief. know that you are never alone. i also seem to remember, when i was young, one of the smartest, strongest most “wanting to help others” woman was you. you were a good friend of my mothers, and i was a child, a little girl looking for another strong smart woman to look to. i know you were my friend in that way that the grown are friends with the very young. I am grown now with grown children of my own, i can honestly say that you were one of the people who shaped me into the person that i am.

    Your son, if he was anything like you, would want you to be the connection to him for his friends. He would also want you to b able to cope. He would do anything, to help you b able to continue to be the person you are, have always been. I know it’s hard to be around the friends of your son, to talk about him and relive the memories that everyone has had. They need you also. unfortunately they cannot understand the pain that u feel. nor would you want them to.

    yes, the way people, who know, see u now is different. there is nothing that can be done. they still c u. they see what you put out there. they c the face u show. i still c u. the woman who i thought knew all things that were good and natural. now you know more. now you know what the worst pain in the world feels like. now, you can help people who need someone who has gone thru this, someone who can tell them “your life still means somethng” that no, time does not heal all wounds, but it does help you learn to deal with the blow. that is how i have learned to deal with it, i know there are people out there that i have helped because i too have gone thru this,

    these r the reasons i keep going:

    FIRST and foremost! It would kill Chaise to think of me in anyway but as the strongest woman he knew. He would want me to b as he was and help heal the wound that his leaving caused. I can only do that if i remain strong.

    2nd my other wonderful children and the people in my life who rely on me even if they only rely on me to exist.

    3rd. i had that wonderful child in my life. even if only for a short while.

    4th i can now help others who are not to the point in thier grief as i am. i can even help some who are farther along than i.

    5th i honestly believe that there is a reason for everything. Chaise caused so much good in his life, and he caused more good things to happen when he left us.


  5. 5

    billgncs said,

    sorry for your loss — but I think you are right to say 6, as painful as it may be, acknowledge and celebrate the time you had.


  6. 6

    Lindy Lee said,

    The pain of such a loss never really goes away. It merely softens up with time. You’re a terrific writer. This will sustain you…

  7. 7

    I read this and in the back of my mind was saying she knows , she is saying my words, then I read “six years” and I plummeted , I am entering the 17th month of my daughters passing by another’s hand and I am lost grief stricken crazy my mind and body have become a shell of my former self. My faith has gone but I am trying very very hard to regain it. I just don’t know if after six yrs you are still feeling as I am feeling today do I even want to go on? I just don’tknow.

  8. 8

    tersiaburger said,

    My beautiful daughter died 2.5 months ago. The grief is so raw that at times I can barely breathe. I am so sorry for your loss. I think you are very brave to celebrate your friend’s son’s birthday. Lots of hugs.

  9. 9

    tersiaburger said,

    Dear BB, in appreciation for your support, advice and friendship I have nominated you for the Best Moments Award. I hope you will accept this award.

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