Today I was reminded that I am not the only one who grieves.
I read a post on Facebook from someone I have known a very long time who has lost three sons, just like I have—two as infants, one not. That child got killed in a tragic train accident, and there was no way that anyone could have stopped the train or pushed him out of the way. It was not an accident that anyone could have predicted. Sometimes awful things happen, and we can’t make sense of them because we live in a broken world. My friend said that today he felt like a failure, and I tried to muster up the words that would somehow make him see himself as I see him, while at the same time understanding from my very soul exactly how that feels, because even though he was in no way to blame, he is a Daddy. A Daddy always feels responsible for his child, as does a Mama.
I say “Daddy” and “Mama” because that’s what we call our parents here in the South, and that’s what our children call us. Anyway, we love our babies and all their lives we believe it’s our responsibility to keep them safe. If something happens to them, we blame ourselves. It’s what parents do, right or wrong, and something did happen to our kids.
I call it a “Failure to Protect” as it relates to me, and of course I don’t see it the same when I look at my friend’s situation. It doesn’t matter if this is rational or not. When your child dies, rationality flies out the window, and only flies back in once in a while.
I wrote out a little bit of my story one October, and here that is:
It had rained so much that week that we were stuck at the house and I had just had surgery, so I wasn’t doing much anyway. We got tired of watching the trash float by so my husband set up a stuffed bear in the yard, and we sat on the front porch and took turns shooting his eyes out. It’s astonishing where the mind will take you when it needs some stimulation! Mikey walked back and forth, cooking steaks on the grill and shaking his head, muttering to himself about who was really crazy–us or him. He stopped a few times to take his own shot at the bear though, sometimes laughing and sometimes just handing the gun back with no expression after he made the “kill.”
Those were the best steaks that I had ever had, and ever WILL have now. Mikey had a secret ingredient that he used in everything he cooked. I was pretty startled when I found out what that secret was. It didn’t always work out for the best, but it made a steak that day that my mouth still waters for—as do my eyes.
It’s hard to believe how much detail I can remember from that week and how little I remember from the next couple of years!
We missed one Dr.’s appointment because of the rain, so we combined our appointments that day and went together. After I got out of my appointment, Mikey wanted to shop for a guitar. I didn’t have the money to buy one, but we decided to look anyway. We found a music store and right away Mikey spotted the Warlock. The cashier said that for that day only they would let us put it on layaway for $20.
I had started out with money, but we had eaten, then I had bought Mikey a couple of green drinks—something energetic I think. I had $18 and he wanted the guitar so bad that I went to my truck and scraped up all my “gummy money” and gave the sticky mess to the sales girl who was very gracious about it and laughed with me. I’m pretty sure that Mikey was both embarrassed and relieved. He was so EXCITED about that guitar that I had to choke my tears back, because he hated it when I cried.
The next day I went to get Mikey’s prescriptions filled, and this time he stayed home. He was agitated and angry and when I got home, we argued, but later he came into the house and lied down on the couch, because he just couldn’t keep his eyes open.
A lot more happened that day and that week that I have shared at times with others, but what I remember right now is the way it got cold overnight—much like the way it felt this morning when I woke up. Because it’s THAT week, and tomorrow is THAT day.
I got up that morning to get myself a blanket, and so I got Mikey one too. I had checked on him all night long, but when I threw the blanket over him, I accidentally brushed his back with my hand—and the horror that would become my life started when I realized that he was dead. I could not scream him awake, could not shake him awake, could not join him in that place to even simply ask him how he could leave ME like that.
I cried and cursed and screamed to GOD that I had PRAYED, I had STAYED, I had done EVERYTHING that I thought He was asking me to do, so then “WHY did He take my CHILD—my —BABY, one of the reasons that I existed and found the courage to let my feet hit the floor each morning??”
Sometimes there is no answer for things. I still don’t know, although God and I have made our peace and I do know that Mikey is safe in His Hands where we all long to be. But…I am only human, and at times I forget the GOODNESS of God, and only remember that He ALONE had the power to save Mikey yet chose not to do so. That’s when He reminds me that HE DID. Mikey was rescued from a world that he did not belong in, and taken to God’s Kingdom, where he never has to worry about being labeled this or that and can just be “Mikey.”
I love my son, and I miss him, and no day goes by that I don’t still say a prayer for him. So now, as always, I whisper, “God, please take care of Nic, Tiff, and Mikey and keep them safe,” and He whispers back that He is….
So that’s my struggle, at least my biggest one. It’s the heartbreak of the thing that has led me finally to reach out to others in their loss and desperation. To embrace the semi-colon. To say that we will live to fight another day. To cry with those in the depths of their own sorrow and notice those who, just like Mikey once told me, are out there and just like him. The people on the outside–the fringes– the remnants–the ones left behind. It might be the guy sitting on the side of the road with a dog and a sign, the lady standing in line at Walmart with hollow eyes, the desperate addict with nowhere to turn, or the homeless and jobless person who everyone has given up on, but it’s always either someone seeking something but not knowing what it is, or someone who has long since given up the search but is still here.
I want to reach them because I know what some people didn’t know and couldn’t know—that the train is coming. The train is coming, and I have the responsibility to push as many people as I can out of the way before it gets here. Wouldn’t you do that if you could? I know someone who would have, but never got the chance. Today I am asking God to give that Daddy and Mama comfort and the peace of knowing that there is nothing bigger than God. Not even that train.