I was standing in front of my closet, and picked out my simple black funeral dress. This dress wasn't bought for funerals, but this is what it has become. A black simple dress covering my knees. It has gotten a bit worn over the years, but it's the dress that has come to endless funerals of children who had to say goodbye to loved ones too early.
As I sat in the car, the tears came flowing down my cheeks. I saw your smiling face in front of me, and thought about the day I had to be stronger than life itself. I had to be at your funeral. I explained to hundreds of friends and family that it was never hard to be your mom. The hard part was to let you go, to rebuild a life remembering and honoring you each day. To grieve you with grace for the rest of my life.
As I was driving, I was thinking of the beautiful girl we were going to remember forever. Her end of life story was similar to yours. She suddenly got sick, and came home on hospice. Her body was tired, and she slept a lot. Her body needed the hospital one more time, and that is where she peacefully passed away two days later. As I got the mom's text that she was sleeping a lot or that she had to go back in to the hospital, I bit my tongue and wrote some encouraging words rather than saying it sounded like our story. I wanted to keep hope for the mom, and knowing the girl was in charge.
I didn't know how a funeral would be conducted in times of Covid-19. It was a smaller service, everyone social distanced, wore a mask and no reception afterwards. Goodbyes were said outside. It was a beautiful service. The church was filled with pink roses and flowers and a large Christmas tree decorated with pink ribbons and white glass ornaments was the centerpiece. Little bells with pink ribbons were handed out to us. We sang her favorite songs including Jingle Bells. This girl had planned her own funeral down to the smallest detail. It was beautiful, it was her day. As tears were silently falling, stories of a strong girl who lived her life to its fullest, who always wore pink, and who always got the last word in every conversation. A girl who asked her loved ones to not forget her.
As I drove home, my mind went to the parents. Both faced with the unthinkable task to rebuild their lives without their girl. I literally felt that I had to start walking again when I lost you, Jacob. Life was a blank page where I had to start writing my story once again. It was not a page I wanted to fill, I simply wanted my old familiar life back.
As I was reflecting on how you go on living, and how as a grieving parent you don't totally fit into this world any longer. We struggle with small talk, since we crave sincere, honest conversations. We have no problem to discuss death and grief over coffee and wine and in fact do better when we can have those deep conversations. We don't always know what to say to a parent being upset about their child having a cold or struggling with homework. What I would do for another sleepless night next to you as you were struggling with a nasty infection or sitting in another IEP meeting. I would do anything to once again tell the teachers that I didn't care about any of your goals, I just simply wanted happiness for you.
Four years into the grieving journey with no end date, and I realize that grief and loss leave their traces. I am still a natural fire fighter. I love the adrenaline from fighting a good fight. Sometimes I go into fire fighting mode when the situation doesn't require it. Please dear world, know that this is engrained in my body after having fought life and death for ten years. I care deeply about what is right or wrong, and sometimes struggle when people don't care as much as I do. I might unintentionally judge when people compromise their beliefs because maybe in the moment it's the easiest to do so. How incredibly lucky I am to have family and friends who get it, and who get me.
And as the service came to an end, I was standing in the parking lot of the church holding another grieving mom's hands. We talked about the day we buried our children as we were shivering in the cold fall air. Many times a sentence didn't have to be completed, we both knew. As our newly grieving mom reached us, no words were needed. The moment only needed tight holding hands full of grief and grace.
Thanks for everything you taught me. I love you to the moon and back.