When I was looking for a “Throwback Thursday” picture for Instagram this morning, I happened upon this photo of my son. I remember the day this was taken just like it was yesterday.
This was taken one year to the day after my baby girl, Audrey Grace, left us for Heaven. My sweetheart died in my arms on the evening of May 8 at 11:20pm, with that little man up there by my side. He absolutely wailed when he found out his baby sister had gone to live with Jesus. It reverberated throughout the PICU. At that moment, my entire focus switched to him. My daughter was gone. She was no longer struggling with a body that didn’t work properly. She no longer needed supplemental oxygen. She was happy, healthy, and whole. She was unencumbered. My little boy, however, needed me. He needed my love and support and distraction. If I hadn’t had him, I don’t know how I would have survived the death of my child. Even when you know it is coming, as in the case of a child with Trisomy 18, it is a shock. It still hurts. It still debilitates you. You still question. You still struggle. This little guy needed me and that was what helped me through.
May 8th of the next year fell on Mother’s Day. We are normally in church on Sundays. We had an awesome church family that supported us with love and prayers during her whole life and her death and our grieving. But I knew that Mother’s Day Sunday would be exceptionally difficult. We chose to purchase/donate the flower arrangement for the altar and have it delivered to the church in her memory. I kept my son home and just had a lazy day.
We stayed in our jammies most of the day. We played bottle caps (stand the plastic bottle cap on its side, put your finger on the top, parallel to the opening, and press hard, pulling your finger towards you as you do so. The cap goes flying off). We sat at tv trays in the living room and went for distance. We shot them at each other. We ate junk. We made nests on the floor with blankets, pillows, and stuffed animals. We snuggled as we watched silly movies and kid’s shows. We chose to just enjoy the day.
To be honest, he was only five. I’m not sure if he realized it was Mother’s Day or not. I am pretty sure we talked about Audrey. We did most days. That day, I chose not to wallow in my grief, but to embrace the child that needed me as much as I needed him. We had fun. We made some memories at a time when we so desperately needed it.
I am not sure when it happened for him, but I know it took me about 18 months after losing her before I realized that I was having more good days than bad days. Losing a child is never easy. I am thankful I had someone to take care of, which allowed my mind a break from the grief.
You know, my baby girl has been gone ten years now. There are still times when it takes my breath away and I can’t believe I never got to see her grow up or that I will never hold her again. That little boy in the picture up there is now in high school, hanging out with his friends, a lineman on the football team, a member of the drama troop, a player of Minecraft, going to the pool, riding his bike all over… still needing his mom, though he doesn’t often admit it. We have made it through a lot in life together. He has seen more and had to deal with more than a lot of kids his age. It has made him tenderhearted. I am thankful for that. And I am thankful for the days we chose joy and chose to enjoy the little things in life. That picture is my memory of one of those days.