Saturday, February 11, 2012


I've posted this image before, and looked at it hundreds of times more than that. It's James at the arboretum, munching. I always thought it was funny because of how warily he seems to be addressing the camera. I miss that.

Like this picture, I've noticed often lately that things seem to be on repeat. Perusing through old entries I noticed that I used some of the same words: "derailed" twice in a month. Derailed indeed. Many of the same feelings keep repeating, being resurrected, buried, and resurrected again. The longer this process goes the more I am surprised by the many twists and turns it takes. The path is never straight, pausing time and again to circle back in on itself. It reminds me more of a river than a highway, complete with oxbows and dead ends. There's no certainty about quite where you'll end up.

When I was young, my Grandfather, also James, used to take me fishing on the Red River in Louisiana. A tributary of the Mississippi River, it snakes its way leisurely from the Panhandle of Texas generally southeast until it meets the Mississippi. We particularly fished the little oxbow lakes along its way, little abandoned offshoots that never quite made it, experiments before the river took another course or overcame the obstacle in its way. It's all very vestigial. I sometimes feel that way now, running down dead ends only to come out and hunt for more.

There were no circles and abandoned paths in the grief I experienced before James died. When my grandparents died or someone similar died there was a sense of finality. Shock, yes, certainly for a while, but it passes. It was expected after all, if not when it happened then eventually. Anger, denial, bargaining, acceptance. It's the last one that causes trouble with the death of a child. You can accept that your parent dies- they had their time, their moments, their joy. It is much more difficult to accept that your child is dead. On a visceral level, I do not accept James' death. I acknowledge it certainly, but I cannot yet accept it. I cannot accept that it was his time, that is was right, that it happened for "a reason" as some people sometimes say, a well meaning if callous phrase.

So I keep circling round and round that. I can acknowledge things, even good things that have happened since James died. I've written about them here. But the fact of his death can still be incapacitating. It stands as a violation of the natural order. And so I keep circling. Round and round the little pockets of grief, cycling through all the stages in an hour or a month. People often tell me to embrace it, to give it time and to work through it, but sometimes it's hard to do that, especially when I feel like I've been there before. Sometimes it feels like an admission of defeat to pause, retreat, and recover the ground I've already walked through, circling back over and over again. But I don't know what else to do.

I know part of it is just accepting that there is no "acceptance" I'm likely to stumble upon. I'm not going to wake up one day and decide "Huh, well I guess it's ok my son died. That wasn't that bad." Because it was that bad. I think a better, more reasonable goal might be hoping I can accept that I won't be accepting it, but that I might accept that there's not a timeline, not an easy answer, and that I'm never going to "accept" what happened- that I'm not going to come to the apparently zen state described in the pamphlets in which I'm sublimely "at peace" with everything. A more achievable goal might be that I can accept that I will live with it. I don't know what that looks like, but I'm curious enough to keep looking. So I'll keep circling until the path works itself out. I'd rather do that than rush to a goal I'm not sure of.

Thank you for your continued thoughts and prayers.


  1. I am not sure if there is acceptance when a child dies, for the very reasons you point out here in this post. I don't like that phrase "it happened for a reason". That's almost too cruel to comprehend.

    I could never venture to imagine what it is like to lose a child. What I think from working with families with Kids who have died is that it one day stops being so raw while you live with it.

    Keep writing.

  2. More than one person has said of my daughter's illness, "Someday you'll know the reason for all of this."

    Nope. Not buying it. If there is a "reason" that innocent children become ill, I don't think I want to hear it. It is what it is, and it simply stinks.

    Sigh. I think that there is no 'right way' to cope with all this. Or to put it another way, you ARE doing it the 'right way.' Accepting that you can't accept it makes perfect sense to me.


  3. 1,024,273 times over thanks to you for letting us know your James, your special angel, gorgeous and beautiful. In the post "1 million" you wrote "I do not know who you are but I'm glad you found James" but thanks to you I am glad I found James.
    I read every post with the love of mother
    I look and about all the photos and how do you
    James never love sweet little angel.
    I am a mother and somehow I feel that James "makes
    part of my everyday life "if you will allow me

    PS. Sorry for my mistakes
    I'm Italian and I do not know English well

  4. I can't accept James's death and I don't even know you and didn't know him! I loathe that whole "everything happens for a reason" thing too. Hate it. My mum is almost 70. When she was 2 years old her 11 month old sister was killed in a car accident. Now that my son is almost that age I find myself thinking about my little lost aunt often, and I cannot imagine how horrible it would be to have the same thing happen. You know my Grandparents who are in their 90s now still feel a tremendous sense of sadness and loss almost 7 decades on- and why wouldn't they and why wouldn't any parent in their or your shoes? It is a horrible awful tragedy. I cannot thank you and Kara enough for sharing your journey with us all. So many of us think about you and James very often, we admire your dignity and stoicism and we wish you love peace strength and courage. xx

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  6. Thank you for continuing to write and share your heart and mind with me and so many others. My heart goes out to you as a Dad who watched my son lose his 2 year old son to an AT/RT two years ago. A couple things I wanted to reflect on;
    People generally do mean well when they make statements such as "there's a reason for everything". My son said he could write a book on "The 101 Things You Do Not Say to Parents Who Have Lost a Child!" Thankfully he understood people meant well and let it go.
    The other thought is on the understanding, accepting side. God had Paul write in Phil 4:7 "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. " God knows things that happen here will not make sense, will not be acceptable in our understanding. That's why He doesn't tell us to change our minds. He promises to encompass out hearts and minds with His peace that passes/transcends ALL UNDERSTANDING.
    It has been 52 months since Tyson's diagnosis and 26 months since his passing. I still have my "good cries" from time to time. There is hardly a Sunday goes by that I don't shed tears as I sing in worship, thinking of Tyson and another son who is wayward. Tears were flowing this morning. But...through it all, I haved experienced that amazing and suprnatural peace that passes all understanding. Can't explain it, just experience it!
    I pray you and Kara are experiencing it day by day!
    Sadly, I look forward to reading your posts. Oh how I wish you had no reason to write. But I thank you for writing and encourage you to keep it up! I am reminded to lift you two up before our Heavenly Father.
    I don't understand how you feel as a Dad, but I do understand as a Dad who has watched my son suffer the lost of his son and my grandchild. My heart goes out to you!

  7. There are no good words. Thank you for your honest account of grief. It is a ministry. Praying that your cloud of grief will someday lift, and that good days and blessings are ahead for you and Kara.

  8. I believe you can one day fine peace, but that does not mean you will ever accept your precious baby's death. There is no "reason" for James dying other than the obvious tumor that took his life. God cries right along with you, as He also saw His son suffer and die. He knows your pain, and He will carry you during this awful time of grief.

  9. I don't understand the "acceptance" stage of grief. To me it merely means acknowledging that something that is completely gut-wrenching actually did happen, and we have to live with it as we have no choice. We don't have to understand why, for there appears to be no apparent reason for most of what happens. It's instead horrible misfortune.

    Thinking of you and Kara tonight. Hoping and praying that there is still goodness to be had some day in the land of the living.

  10. I have learned that I am not going to graduate from this schooling that loss has for me. Perhaps that analogy will help your navigation.

  11. Leonard Cohen was once quoted as saying “It was in the realm of things that couldn’t be disputed or rejected or even judged” about his father's death.

    I disagree with that assertion when it pertains to certain people. My incredibly kind, talented, generous and selfless uncle was taken at only 40 years old, a victim of AIDS. His death is most certainly in the realm of things to be disputed and rejected.

    I find any child would fall into this category. Certainly beautiful James does.