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Facing Mother’s Day after the loss of a beloved child

May 27, 2012

Another Mother’s Day has quietly crept by. My fifth one without Jaiden; how can that be possible? The dreadful anticipation leading up to the day is always worse than the actual day itself. Luckily, the week before was filled with commitments and tasks. Soccer, birthday parties, a bridal shower: a list of fleeting events to hasten the passage of time.

It is strange to imagine now how time once stood still. The first year without her was an eternity. Each day; an unbearable sequence of seconds streamed together, where I was forced to breath and she could not. My own soul suspended in a frozen haze of memories too painful to recall; too precious to release. The long thaw is a process, never to be fully complete. Yet I find myself always coming back to that one inevitable thought… we don’t simply have a soul; we are a soul, with a body. Jaiden’s body is the only thing that is truly lost; her soul lives on, simply elsewhere for now.

Little sister Aspen is no longer younger than Jaiden. Her connection with Jaiden remains unbroken though, like mine. The “World’s Best Mom” certificate she gave me had a drawing of our family…all six of my children with smiling faces and matching blue shirts; Jaiden snuggled in between Alexeigh and Aspen, where she belongs. Inside her card it simply said “I love you so much and always will! I am sure Jaiden feels the same way!”

My eldest daughter gave me an elegant silver and blue dragonfly necklace; another reminder of the transformation that awaits us all one day. My six year old penned a portrait of me, where underneath he wrote in perfect script “I love my Mom because we snuggle.” Whisking me for a split second to all those moments spent snuggling with Jaiden and the rest of the gang. The original six I call that time now… the time BEOFRE the AFTER. Flowers adorned the breakfast table as my children worked together to make our traditional Mother’s Day breakfast of strawberry, banana and ice-cream filled crepes. We visited my Mother’s house. We visited my daughter’s grave.

May is a complicated month for many reasons. Mother’s Day; an event which once filled me with sublime pride and happiness, now stands like a foreboding, mystical pillar that I must face head on, with an armor of grace and woe. I am painfully aware of the blessings in my life, they are many. I recognize the beauty that remains; as I shall forever continue to silently grapple with all that has been lost.

Compassionate Friends hosts a blood drive each May, honoring the memory of every child that has passed too soon; while saving lives in the balance. Boston Children’s Hospital holds an annual memorial service called A Time to Remember. A somber yet beautiful event, filled with poetry, songs, and stories; all strung together to enable grieving parents a precious opportunity to reflect on the life of their child.

For the past two years I have written a piece for the Children’s service, and read at the event. Last year I called my writing Time Stands Still, this year it was We are Different Now. Both pieces reflect a shattered heart that keeps beating, in a world that has moved on; leaving me trapped forever in a suspended paradox. As I struggled through my words at the podium, that sense of comfort and understanding that only comes from being with other bereaved parents kept me fueled. Those who grasped my hand after, thanked me for penning their own thoughts, and sought me out to share silent gratitude kept me close again to Jaiden. She is always there; beside me, before me, within me.

As we walked by the garden that my husband and I had once spent so many hours pleading with God in, I was whisked back to that day with a clarity that sent shivers up my spine. It was a remarkably warm January morning in 2008. The sun shone so brightly upon us, anything was possible. We awaited the results of Jaiden’s latest MRI. I was certain she was going to be the New Year’s miracle that so many people had been praying for. I held onto hope with a grip so fierce I could feel my fingers bleeding. Hours later, I sat screaming on the floor of a conference room, beneath the table that housed the doctors who bore the gruesome news. It was too horrendous to comprehend; in catatonic motion I willed myself to disappear. The miracle was not to be.

The days and nights that followed took the strength of an army to endure. Looking back, I wonder how I survived, and where the courage came from. Time was the slow healer of sorts; my children the sanity that dangled in the distance ahead of me; Jaiden’s memory and her Angel Foundation the glue that brought me back together. I shall forever be a mosaic of broken pieces now, held in place by sheer will power that comes only from being a Mother. My fragile interior is encased in a skin that has grown thicker and tougher not by choice, but by mandate. I never asked to be strong.

Those who cannot understand, ask us to let go of the past. They expect us to heal completely, from a wound that shall forever bleed. As I shared in closing with the audience at Children’s… “Their blind eyes fail to see; The invisible essence that keeps us going, the light which illuminates our darkness: Our Hope, Our Salvation. The one thing they beg us to release, is the very thing we never will let go of. We are different now, And because of YOU; We always will be.”

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