Parents who’ve lost children – now I regrettably join your ranks. I never wanted to be here, but my heart cautioned me that one day – entirely too soon – I would be. And here I am.
I see you. I see you everyday. I see your bravery in getting up and going on – even when your world is in a million pieces. I am in a million pieces. Trying to put them together is like trying to put together a picture with grains of sand. The pieces keep slipping through my fingers. I see, grieving parent, see you grappling with regrets, guilt, sorrow, feelings of joy that you don’t think you should be having. I see the struggle. I see you.
I understand. I would say that I empathize, but I cannot fully. No one can because the grief is different for each of us. Some us never saw our children draw breath. Some us us spent minutes or hours before letting go. Some of us were lucky to have days and days. In the end, it was all too short. It was all never enough.
The grief and regrets and guilt are different for all of us, but the feelings are universal. We all wish for more time, for one more chance to say something, to kiss that sweet head, to hold that little hand.
We know that we could have done it better, somehow. It could’ve been more peaceful, less rushed, less scary. We could’ve said the right words maybe. We could’ve changed our minds, taken a different path.
I wish I could tell him how much we loved him one more time. I wish I could tell him how brave he was. I wish I could smell his head, stroke his hair. I have so many wishes, regrets.
But we all do. Every parent that’s lost a child, they have that list of things. It helps to say them out loud or to write them down. They lose their power to hurt us when we acknowledge them – stare them straight in the face. Remind them that we loved and cherished every moment.
Because, in the end, it was how it was. Death is never pretty, never exactly how we would have it be because, ultimately, control is a total illusion. Death came for our children, and we were powerless to stop it. All those regrets, guilts, sorrows of words left unsaid, actions undone – they exist because, in the end, we were powerless. The tiny, false sense of control that we had was snatched away.
Here’s the thing. It’s all an illusion. None of us have control. Not a single one of us. Life slips through our fingers regardless of what we would have or do to stop it.
In the end – to live a full life – we must relinquish the need to control, the need to know. It isn’t ours to have. It never was. We are here for the ride – however long or short. Many of us would have rather died in our loved one’s place. Many die that should go on. It’s not ours to understand why. It’s part of the mystery of this universe.
James’s life seemed so terribly short, so tragically truncated. And then I think of time, real time – the universe’s time. In that time, we all have lives the same length as James did. Barely a blip on the cosmic radar. Less than the blink of an eye, and we are all gone. It is only our human nature that lends weight to our time here.
James’s time was perfect for him. He didn’t measure the quality of his life by its length. He just was. It is only us that are left without him that try to measure the quality in matters of hours, days, weeks. For him, 154 days was a lifetime. It’s hard to come to terms with the truth of the relativity of time. I am left here, mourning the loss of my beautiful baby boy, feeling tremendous emptiness. But James is not mourning. He’s gone, at peace. His tattered little body isn’t forced to fight anymore – fight for the simple things that we so freely have – air in our lungs, blood in our hearts.
It is only us that are filled with a giant void. How can a void fill? Yet it does. The space inside me is like a cavern. In it, I hear the echoes of my sweet baby’s voice, the echoes of the songs that I sang to him, the echo of the hospital monitors beeping. So many echoes falling into the well of time – filling my ears. Through them, I remember my baby, embrace the time he had with us, the things he gave us, the things he left when he went away.
We love you, baby boy.