I learned of the horrific events of Friday as I was driving downtown to the Center that bears my son’s name. He is dead too, but from a different cause. As I listened to the breaking news on the radio, I pictured you falling in slow motion down the rabbit hole. I wanted to stop you, to catch you somehow, to prevent you at all costs from entering your new life. But I knew that wasn’t possible. Instead I sat helplessly in my car crying on your behalf and begging for my own child.
My heart, my thoughts, my broken cursing prayers go out to you and your families. There is no way around or over what is now before you. These first days, weeks, months and years without your baby will feel like you are drowning. You will struggle to breathe, you will find yourself gasping for air. Everything will hurt. Your body will ache for them in a way that seems physically impossible. Your organs and bones will weep in the most primal of ways. You will mentally traverse terrains you have never crossed before – moving in and out of reality. You will think you are going insane.
People will not know how to interact with you. They will attempt to console you with insensitive clichés – things like God won’t give you more than you can handle, everything happens for a reason, or God needed another angel. Their intentions are good, but they won’t understand the impact or true meaning of their words. Deep down, subconsciously, they want to believe that this couldn’t possibly happen to them – only for some unexplainable sad reason to you.
But it’s not just you. There have been 87 school shootings since Sandy Hook (MDA). Eighty-seven. Each one elicits a wave of grief for me – one that is laced in complete empathy for you, as well as my own manic longing for my sons (both dead and alive). My broken heart cannot continue to comprehend a world where kids kill kids – where someone can walk into school and use a gun to open fire on innocent children. As the mom of a child who died of a terminal illness, I am enraged for you. I cannot fathom, even with what I have experienced, what it would feel like to think your child died in terror.
For though we are now members of the same club, I have something that you don’t get to have: I know exactly how Ben died. I witnessed it with my own eyes. I heard his final breath. It was not peaceful, as often described in obituaries, it was difficult. But he was not afraid. He was safe. He was in his room. He came into this world from my body and he went to the next with me lying right beside him. I held, loved and cared for him to the best of my ability until his final moment here. On my darkest days those final images can take me down or send me to a crazy mental place. But, in this context, I am somehow grateful that I have them.
I will not pretend to understand what is like to lose a child to gun violence, nor will you know what it is like to watch your child slowly die from cancer. They come with different burdens. But I will say this, as someone who is five years ahead of you in this terrible journey…you won’t always feel like you feel right now. The crisis part of this will eventually end. You won’t feel like you are going to die every day. Not today, not tomorrow, nor next month or next year. But years (plural) from now you will become accustomed to the grief that exists from being separated from your child.
Until suddenly you aren’t – like what happened to me on Friday.
I’m so very sorry for your loss.
With Much Love,