Almost two years ago, I asked T to put away all of our sandals. We were notorious for throwing them off of our feet, and letting them lie wherever they landed! T thought it would be cute to line them up, and I snapped a photo of it. When I printed it, T absolutely loved this snapshot (as did we!). He asked us to enlarge it and we obliged. It has been hanging in our hallway ever since and he seems to be attracted to it more and more lately. I know I can recall the day he set the sandals up for the picture, so I am sure he recalls it as well. It brings back the memory of B wearing his sandals, even though he couldn’t walk yet! T has a tendency of asking the notorious, “Why did B have to …” question whenever he is finished looking at photos. So, the honest response always is, “Well, we don’t know why. But, ….” It upsets me even as I write this post. A conversation like this should not exist in a normal child’s world, but, it exists in my world, and I still consider us normal. Sometimes our conversations end in tears, other times laughter. Regardless, I think we shouldn’t be afraid of these types of discussions with children. He has learned it is okay to cry, be angry, or laugh about B. Emotions are a true part of one’s soul, and young ones should be encouraged to express them. So, do we stop looking at pictures of B because we are afraid of the hurt or questions that may follow? Absolutely not. Hardships are the opportunities for one to become courageous.
Some dear friends of ours surprised us this past Mother’s Day. They had adopted a flower bed at our local park and dedicated it to B. They adorned the area with colorful dragonflies and a special blue rock, named in remembrance of B. We find it has become somewhat difficult for T for visit the cemetery; we accept it and choose not to push the issue. When he feels the need, he visits with us. Otherwise, he has his own reminders of B., including the park flower bed. He requests to go to the park to see the flowerbed, then have a game of tennis…When there, he will recall funny moments we have had with B at that park and the nearby lake (such as T and B being chased by the mean geese!) Reminders like these keep B’s spirit alive for T and for us. The flowerbed brings a smile to our faces as we spend time in the park, simply watching T run and play. Believe it or not, every so often, a dragonfly flies by us while playing there. We know who it is, and T points it out every time…
We were never a family that enjoyed pets. I mean, my husband had no patience and I simply didn’t have the time to care for them. We loved animals, but as my husband would say, “Just not in our house.” Strange, considering he grew up in an animal-loving family. Well, I am very proud to say that Zoey has joined our family. How things change! While in therapy, actually, they spoke of how dogs can be helpful to those that are grieving. They recommended us getting a dog quite early on…didn’t happen. However, as time passed, we missed the “life” that used to fulfill our home. By no means had it become a depressed home, but it just became a somewhat sad, quiet place. So, we began the long search for our perfect dog. We thought a dog would lift all of our spirits-and did it! She is now 8 months old and is T’s playful pal. Seeing him laugh out loud again makes me smile. Yes, a pet is work, but we decided Zoey was worth it. Animals, especially dogs, have a keen sense of knowing how to warm our hearts and our hearts are beginning to feel that warmth again.
It has been a year since our loss. Quite a feat, considering what we have experienced. My T is a warrior. He appears so sensitive, and he actually is. During our “hibernation” this past week, T had some tough questions/ comments for us. Discussions ensued, and, of course, we think “What do we say?” I remember the hospital chaplain giving me advice, stating “Always speak the truth. Do not lie, do not sugar coat. He is not coming back. Do not put ideas in his head that will confuse him more. Everyone will die at some point.” I really was in awe by what I was told. Yet, later, I knew he was correct. We cannot say, “Well, B was sick.” This will make T be afraid to get sick or tell us he is sick, thinking he will die too. We cannot say, “He was old or he was sleeping or it was his time.” Again, he won’t want to sleep, or he will fear his grandparents will die…And what does “our time” really mean anyway? Adults are afraid to discuss death; imagine children.
That horrible morning, we simply sat him on the front porch, with a houseful of people inside, and told him his brother had died. It was something along the lines of, “We can’t see him anymore, B is not breathing like us, and we don’t know why he is gone, but we are sad too.” No reaction…confused look and wanted to play. A natural reaction for a child. So, throughout the year, the questions came out, as expected. He speaks to us, and others actually, quite openly about his dead brother. Uncomfortable for some? Probably. Yet, not for us. I am proud of him. We never deny or ignore a discussion or question. We embrace those moments.
So, the photo shows T’s journal. He writes and sketches about his brother. He writes down pictures, questions, or statements. My husband and I also each have a journal; journals have saved us. Writing is very therapeutic. I have come to rely on mine often.
As we approach B’s Angel Day, the nerves seem to be getting the best of us. T is loving summer, but he is anxious. It is almost like he feels something is “off.” We decided to “hibernate” elsewhere for some time, just to relax during the difficult week ahead. Although, we have created something special in our yard to help us reflect and relax…
One of B’s favorite toys was an old rocking horse. It was simply made of plastic, but he loved to climb on it like a cowboy! After drilling four holes into the bottom of it and a circular cut-out on top, we turned the rocking horse into a beautiful planter box to keep in our garden. As we play outside or come and go from the garage, we can stop and reflect about B.
Days after B passed, my family and friends would continuously see dragonflies in our front yard. These small, winged creatures would constantly fly over the lawn nearest our porch, where the children would usually play. Similarly, each time we would visit B at the cemetery, a dragonfly would suddenly appear. We have come to believe that the dragonflies are B’s way of visiting us. Thus, we have come to adorn many things with dragonflies, to remind us of B. T would look for dragonflies everywhere, just to get a feel for his brother. To honor B on holidays, the three of us now each paint a wooden dragonfly. My husband thought the craft would be a nice activity to do as a family, usually each holiday morning or night. The wooden dragonflies are being placed along our basement wall, making beautiful, authentic decor.
It really doesn’t matter what type of day I am experiencing or how many minutes I sat in traffic. I can walk through my door, glance at T and simply melt to pieces. He is my sunshine; the love I feel for him can be overwhelming. In recent months, I continue to melt to pieces, watching my oldest son T smile. Yet, my heart now has an ache for him that no parent should ever feel. Sadness can be just as overwhelming as joy.
I will never understand what he thinks in his mind about the sudden loss of his best friend and brother B. Being so young, I can imagine he has confusion and heartache. I could read books ten times over and listen to countless speeches about loss and grief, but I am the one putting him to bed each night, trying to have him create sweet dreams. I knew I had to create my own methods of helping him grieve; we needed to grieve as a family.