I don’t want you to think I’m trying to evoke pity from you when I tell you that I’ve lost so much in my lifetime. No, I don’t want pity. The many losses are simply my reality.
I won’t list them here, but let me tell you. I know loss.
I know grief. Firsthand.
And I know that many of you know it, too.
This post will be quite painful for me to write because it will be here that I have to admit my part in my son’s pain. I have to step up and tell you that I was part of my son’s anguish and heartbreak throughout his life.
I hurt my boy. I was part of what fractured his heart at one time. I am a huge part of the blame.
My son was a child of divorce. And yes, I realize so many are. I know that.
But when has it become the norm? When did we decide that this was an average way of American life? When did it become as if it is no big deal?
Because to a child it will always, always be a great big deal.
It will affect the life of a child for the rest of his or her life. The trauma will affect every single decision and choice they make.
Children of divorce will either accept it and move on productively, or they act out in so many covert and disguised ways.
My son was an amazing soldier. Accomplished and could have gone higher than high. Yet, in his personal life…he often floundered.
And as he laid there in that Hospital room so many things came to the surface. It could not be helped. Unresolved things HAD to surface.
I realized it the very first night I walked into that ICU room straight from the airport and saw him lying there. I deep down knew. My son was not going to walk out of there. He was dying.
(Oh, I didn’t give up hope entirely. I always hung onto a thread of expectancy.
I still expected a miracle)
The first step into Room 252 on that second floor ICU was a step in the direction toward reconciliation.
My son deeply longed for family unity. For peace. For happiness. He didn’t know how to do that. He just didn’t.
He was so very private and painfully proud. He did not know how to put all the pieces of his puzzle together.
He used to say to me on and off during the years:
“MOM! What is it going to take to bring everyone together? A funeral?”
I can hear him say that with such clarity I want to wail.
So much estrangement in our lives. So many things left unsaid.
A lot of pain began to surface during those Hospital Days.
And when I saw it happening…I decided to do all I could to bring everyone together.
That happened in oh! so many ways but the one I want to tell you about now is overwhelming me.
Let me tell you what I did during the viewing of my son’s body.
That Thursday evening (I asked for half an hour prior to public viewing for family members only) when I walked into the funeral home…my gut was so twisted. I could hardly catch my breath. Walking in to the waiting area, the very first thing I noticed was a video montage of pictures playing on a television screen. Pictures of Mike’s life. I didn’t choose these pictures. No, they were chosen by another. I guess maybe someone did try to reach me and ask me about them…but I shut down my phone.
I had no idea that they were going to be shown that way.
That’s when my tears started.
Michael as a little boy…as a teen…as a young man…as a soldier…as a father.
It took a few rounds of those pictures to play before I could find some emotional stability. Gather some composure.
The funeral director came to tell us that we could go into the chapel…but she wanted to alert us that since my son was such a big, strong man, the coffin was twice the size of a normal one.
That made me laugh.
Mike would have joked and find a sense of twisted pride in that.
I was the first to enter the chapel. I was so anxious to see my boy. I wanted to be near him. It had been so many days since I last saw him.
The coffin was at the front and the aisle to get there seemed miles and miles long. As I started walking that aisle, about half way through, I dropped my purse in a pew and ran…literally ran to him.
He was so, so beautiful.
His face was angelic.
His hair was cut and his beard shaved. Every freckle…every line in his face…perfect. I had never, ever seen my son look so much like a gentleman. A hero. He was always such a gorgeous human being…handsome, beautiful.
Dressed in his Army blues. White gloved hands holding his beret just so. His coat was decorated with so many colorful and honoring medals, pins, awards. Every button perfect.
I had never seen my son in his formal wear. Never seen him in his Army blues.
I wept. Leaned as far into that coffin as I could and wailed a bit.
I could scarcely take it in.
About then, something clicked inside of me. It’s as if I could hear the snap and feel the jolt.
I realized those around me.
Most were weeping in the silence…some could not even come to the casket. His family. His children. They couldn’t do it.
So I went to them. One by one.
And I brought them forward individually and privately.
Something came over me…and I heard words start coming from deep inside my heart, from deep inside my bones…
“Granddaughter! (or name of person I wrapped my arms around right there beside Michael)…Do you know what your Dad (or Michael) would say to you?
He’d say that he is so very, very proud of you! That he loves you with his entire being! He sees that you are so beautiful, so smart, so incredibly capable. Sweet Girl/Boy! There is NOTHING you cannot do! You go out there and make your life the most incredible life ever. Ever.
And Sugar…if we can survive this…we can survive ANYTHING.”
The words just flowed like honey from my lips.
Praise. Music. Worship.
Michael’s oldest son brought several boys from his high school football team with him for support. Mike used to tell me they all practically camped out at his house…so one by one…I did the same for them. Except….I told them lastly and I whispered this in their ears… “Please, please, look out after (insert name of my grandson)”.
It was the sweetest and most loving thing to see…big, burly teen boys with tears rolling down their faces…smiling through those tears and promising me…promising Mike. “Yes, ma’am, I surely will!”
I did that for each and every person who came up to that casket. Friends and Family alike.
I didn’t leave his side until it was time to go. Until each and every person there heard a word of encouragement from Michael. From God. Through me.
I know I’ve told you about my Own Personal Soldier. He was and will always be my Earth Angel. He opted to be my son’s personal escort. The one assigned to walk my son step by step from the morgue to the grave.
Well, he stood at the head of my son’s casket…guarding him. But mostly, guarding me.
I heard him say from time to time… “Incredible. Absolutely remarkable!” (and then from time to time…”DON’T touch that button….(smile, wink)…I made sure all was just right!”
I will never, ever forget that time standing there with my son. Ever.
I felt so much power. I could see clearly what I was there to do. I was there to be my son’s voice. His heart.
In fact, it felt so right to do. So many times I had the strongest feeling that I was born for this very passage of time. I was alive to walk my son through this.
If I do nothing else in my life, this was my highest calling.
I was there to bring it all together. Wrap it all up for him. Tie it all together somehow.
Encouragement. Love. Honor. Beauty.
My son! My beautiful, beautiful boy.
My son had last words for everyone who came to say Goodbye. Words that I know he longed to say when he was alive and well.
I keep thinking of the scripture: Proverbs 25:11-12
From The Message Translation: The right word at the right time is like a custom-made piece of jewelry, And a wise friend’s timely reprimand (well…encouragement — word mine) is like a gold ring slipped on your finger.
Yes, my son had priceless, custom made jewelry, rings of gold, to hand over to each and every person.
Lifetime treasures. Slipped on a finger of each and every hand of those he loved and held dear.
Words to never be forgotten.
Words of reconciliation.
Putting the pieces together.
Mending the heartbreak.