Saturday, February 4, 2012


Life has a natural sense of forward progress. There's a natural rhythm to it. You're born. You grow up, mingle with other kids and scrape your knees. You play games and dream of a day when you can spend one more hour exploring the creek, the woods, or whatever it might be. You go to school and grudgingly learn from your teachers, pent-up energy bursting at the seams in the desk. Reading, writing, and arithmetic. Next to junior high and high school, all awkward bumbling and stylized socialization. Then college, laid back, philosophical, and free to do follow mood strikes you. You meet a girl with a similar bent and similar goals and you marry. Get a job, work hard, have a family.

With a few deviations, before James died my life was on course. I stumbled, sometimes badly, but I usually ended up in the right place one way or another. Good job, nice house, nice car. A beautiful little boy. The future was bright. Then James got sick, and the future died with him. I'm sure it's different for people who have more kids. If you lose one you have to keep going, you have a reason to. When you lose your only child you lose all that comes with having a family. Grandchildren, parenting, all the good reasons you had. With James went so many things. My first name is James, and my father and his father's, and so forth and so on. That's over now, two hundred years and it ends with me. James' furniture, neat and unused in his room, an empty nursery that I don't know what to do with. And so nothing happens, and the nursery remains, stocked and empty. People always bond by talking about their kids, it's a good source of common material. But I have nothing to contribute, I never had a kid. I had a baby and that baby died. My parenting stories begin and end with diapers and crawling. There's no transition to toddler. I usually say nothing. Nothing kills a good conversation like throwing your tragedy into the mix. It's not that I don't like to talk about James, I do. It's great to talk about him, and I love to hear what people thought of him. I just can't compare him to anyone else.

I'm out of sync with the life I planned. It vanished with James, and in its place is something much less appealing. Grief, loss, and all the emotions that come with it. Since we found out Kara was pregnant, James was my purpose. I think that's true of anyone with kids. You might get distracted, but when it comes down to it that's what you're doing.

My brother got married this weekend. It was lovely, if lengthy as Catholic weddings tend to be. An old downtown church full of architectural detail, like the Church I married in, but mine was Methodist instead of Catholic. The reception was enjoyable, an old theater in downtown Houston, complete with an open bar and an antique finish. Very roaring 20s. It was good to see my family and to celebrate, but I remember watching them dance, watching my cousin- 2 weeks older than James- trot down the aisle bearing the ring and feeling out of step. Out of step with where my life was supposed to be, with what I was supposed to accomplish by year 28. I imagined many tragedies, but this was never one of them. There was no how to manual, no contingency plan.

Part of this feeling is the loss of any perceived sense of control I had over my life. Although it's often an illusion, the idea that you're not just bobbing along in the waves offers a certain comfort. But that's silly. You don't control the world, and as recent events have proved to me conclusively, you often can't even control the things most important to you. I've come to the conclusion that the only thing you can really do is control how you respond to the things that happen to you. You can't control the waves, but that doesn't mean you have to drown.

That's how I feel about James sometimes. My life has been derailed, and I can either choose to drown with the vision of life I had or see what's on the other side. I'll admit I don't really know what that looks like yet. The rhythm is off, I don't expect to get back on track. I've gotten about as far as deciding that I'm interested in finding out what the new path looks like. The rest? Well, I'm not planning that far ahead anymore.

Thank all of you for your continued thoughts and prayers.


  1. Hang in there...James is watching over you and he will help guide you onto the new path. He will always be with you so you are never alone. Hugs and prayers.

  2. My heart continues to ache for you both. Just so damn unfair! I pray that your sweet memories continue to ease your grief and that your path becomes more clear soon....Jamesie would want you to be cheery like he always was (I firmly believe that since he had SO much spirit in him inherited from both of you. You can tell by his HUGE smiles!). Stay strong and cling to one another for strength and support!

  3. Please forgive me as I know it is not my place to tell anyone else how to grieve or question them on their motives or processes- but as for a reason to carry on-you may not have another child right now to live for, but you have yourself (you count as important, too), a wife and Christ. Our ministry to Christ doesn't stop, ever. You may have other children in your future (maybe not even in your plans, but God's) - protecting your marriage through this time of grief is the most important thing you can do for them. They'll need a strong marriage to grow up in. And your roll as James' father is not over. Love his mother, honor his grandparents, make him known to his little cousins. As Christians we know James doesn't cease to exist, he is very much alive. He is just not on Earth (which I hate and I know you do more than I could ever imagine.
    Anyway, please forgive that. Know it was said with the best of intentions and not with any judgement. Just wanted to speak a little hope, in what must be a sometimes hopeless time.
    P.S. seeing a child my son's age as ring bearer would have been hell on earth.

  4. iI went to my brother-in-laws wedding eight weeks after our latest loss and had a total meltdown. It was awful. I've never been like that but I couldn't cope. My husband's family couldn't have been less interested, which hurt a lot. I'm so glad you coped better than me.

  5. As trite as it seems, keep getting up and living and groaning one day at a time, even though sometimes you may gasp and be able to live just one minute at a time, thinking you just won't make it. Somehow, Jesus will bring you through this horror. My heart is ever with you and Kara, as are my prayers. Sending you love.

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  7. The new track, whatever it is, wherever it leads, is pretty full too. A step at a time is the rule on the new track.

  8. hi,
    i'm a mom. I live in Italy. I dont want to tell you nothing about the way to manage your pain. I think there isn't one way.
    I love Jesus. He tell us every day that death don't really exist. Certainely,the body can die. The body and phisical life have a end, we know it. But the bright I caught in Jame's eyes is still shining. If you want you may beleve it. I had the unnmistakable signs. I have a original photo of a Angel that was looking my goldfish in acquarium. It was october 2010, I had an influence. I was doing some test pictures to post an advertisement. I photographed my acquarium. Then I did a magnification to look for the image resolution and it was at that moment that I saw him reflected on the glass...!!! I'm not mad. I showed picture to my friends (without saying anything to them) to be sure that wasn't a myself mistake. All my friends confirmed to see a little angel, blond and with a crown in his head, with wings and blue vest. I know that's incredible. I'll go to analize the image. And this is just one of the Jesus signs. You may not belive if you want. I cried. Now I Know Jesus made me a gift! I wish that my story can give you a hope. Your beautiful James is near Jesus and near you. You can't bring him, you cann't hear his voice...You have to communicate with the soul.

  9. How painful for you. I imagine that you have had so many comments on your blog from people with similar circumstance. Writing is a catharsis for pain and grief. I lost my son too, but he was I had his whole life of those boyhood experiences that you missed out on totally. Loss is loss, no matter at what age we lose. Keep heals:)