Sunday, March 11, 2012

Often

This is a picture of James and I from his photo shoot. It's one of my favorite pictures of us.


It still seems strange that it happened. Absolutely true, but utterly unreal. The same way you might expect to feel if confronted with a martian taking your order at Starbucks, green skinned and with a passion for the perfect macchiato. I know it happened, that it clearly is happening, but the reality seems distant sometimes, surreal. Like my life is some sort of waking Salvador Dali painting. Last weekend I went to lunch, the cemetery, and Costco, in that order. One of these things is not like the other. It's like the entire experience was plucked from some distaff universe and somehow landed in my reality, where it has no place. I keep asking myself where it goes, or what to do.

There's no context for a dead child. That's not to say it doesn't "hit home" or something like that. It certainly does, but it's not quite sure where to hit. Where do you put something like that in the catalog of life experiences? School, work, growing up, travel, deceased child. You can't categorize it and you can't somehow limit its scope. It's insidious in that way, seeping through the pores of everything that is otherwise unaffected and the same. Someone the other day greeted me by saying "Sorry for your loss." I must have looked confused because they clarified "The Baylor game" referring, of course, to a Baylor game earlier that day. A few months ago, I would have intuitively made the connection between myself, a huge Baylor fan, and Baylor losing a game. Now, the only loss I ever think of is James, no matter what the circumstance. It's the only loss that matters.

It's not that the world changed suddenly or became a different place. It didn't. It's the same as it always was. The sun rises in the east and all of that. It's just that I don't know what place James has or had in it anymore. That's part of the reason why I find I can't get rid of anything related to him, no matter how trivial. It's part of why his room sits just as he left it, and I can't even bring myself to take some memento from it. I'm afraid if those things he left are disturbed it will somehow sever his connection with this world, with us, entirely. I know that's irrational. I know that James' legacy isn't in the car seat base I stubbornly insisted on keeping in my car for months after he died, or in the clothes still laying in his hamper. James' legacy is in us, his place in our hearts.

Knowing is not always feeling though. Sometimes I get into fits of "moving on" and try to do things to expedite the process. These are almost universally poor decisions. I've actually come to the conclusion that moving on is a fairly terrible phrase in general- at best, I think we don't move on from something, we move forward with it. I'm sometimes guilty of trying to rush the process, trying to find where I'm going before I've figured out where I'm coming from. I still feel the weirdness of it keenly, the unreality of it all. Sometimes I think I must be a bystander in my own life, as if I witnessed all of these things rather than experienced them. I know that's not true of course, and the emotional resonance isn't anything close to that. It's much more devastating. It's just so unexpected. James died less than a month after he got sick. There was no contingency plan for him dying, and certainly none for surviving him. The nature of parenthood is that you plan on leaving, not being left.

So I don't always know what to do with it, and though it's been months now I'm still surprised. Eight months now and I'm still asking myself what comes next. I don't know the answer. But I'm glad I keep asking. I'm slowly coming to understand that it's not ever going to be something "normal." It's not going to harmonize with the rest of my world and experiences, a neat little "James" file tucked away in my mind. I shouldn't expect that. I'm coming to terms with it, but that does not make it any more pleasant. That said, I am thankful for every moment I was blessed with James. I am grateful for the time we had. The grief of his passing does not alleviate the joy of his life.

Thank you for your continued thoughts and prayers.

27 comments:

  1. I don't know how to respond to this because I don't know what It's like to lose a child but I am deeply sorry for what you've lost, but I am happy that you are keeping his memory alive. To many people are forgotten because people simply stop talking about them. Thank you for sharing with us.

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    1. I never like for people to stop talking about him. There's more good than bad. Thanks for reading.

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  2. Whoa, that makes so much sense - that it does not now, nor will it ever make sense. There is not a slot for it, not a framework for it, no way to gauge it's beginning or end. What I cannot come to grips with is the way in which is has re-defined me. I don't like having 'dead-kid-cooties' and yet I cannot imagine myself without them. I look at people and see the vacant heartbreak in my own eyes - and no one, including me, knows what to do with it. So sorry that I am not alone, and yet grateful that you have articulated this overwhelming dissonance. Prayers abound - for all of us.

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    1. It's not a straight line, and it's horrible for everyone. Thank you for your prayers.

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  3. I thought about you as I drove home tonight.

    It's very unfair, and none of it makes sense.

    You continue to be a wonderful parent to your son just as you were when he was alive.

    I hope Kara is ok, I know she hasn't posted for a while.

    James is always in my thoughts, and in lots of others thoughts too. We never met him, and we don't know you, but this blog has made him Real to all of us.

    No one who reads this will ever forget him or his Journey.

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  4. Matthew - I have been reading for a while and think of your family often. There is a phrase in today's post that prompted me to write. You said, "I don't think we move on FROM something; we move forward WITH it." I lost a sister and a brother - both in their 30's - during the last six years, both to early heart attacks. I am the sister with a loss and that is difficult, but for my parents to lose two children within a couple of years, that is truly devastating. As a mother of a son, I often wonder how my parents even get up in the morning. I have told so many people that you never recover from a loss like that, you just live with it. Your statement really touched me and I had to share it with my mother. The dynamics of my family has changed forever - losing a part of the whole does redefine the whole. Thank you so much for sharing emotions that are sometimes so difficult to put into words. Your family will forever be in my prayers.

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    1. Thank you Martha, I'm glad it helped you. I'm sorry for your family.

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  5. Still praying....words just fail me. My heart continues to hurt so much for you. Cling to each other for strength and support.

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  6. I still don't know what to say other than I am still so sorry he isn't here.

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  7. I remember this picture and it is one that instantly brings me to tears. I can't even imagine the ache you must feel when you look at it. I wish I could say something to make you feel better but I know I can't. I just want you to know that I think about James often and pray for you and Kara daily.

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  8. so beautifully put. Thank you...I needed to read this...Our son was stillborn last June and yes, it sinks in but it never sinks in. It's just surreal, for sure. I am so very sorry that James is not here with you. He will always be a beautiful boy. Weeping with you and Kara.

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    1. I'm sorry for your loss. He was very beautiful.

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  9. it's been 14 months since my son died and i still don't know what's next. time seems divided into before and after his death. It's like it's the only point of reference I have now. I like how you said we move forward with it. That's a good way to think of it. Still praying for you all and your beautiful boy with all the hair (and mine with the absolutely bald head :-))

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    1. Jamie, there is a real divide there and it's not one I think goes away per se. But I don't think that means it's the end. Bald heads are very cute too.

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  10. Praying for you and Kara and thinking of James often. Thank you for continuing to let us strangers be a part of this journey with you.

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  11. Matthew - I have prayed for you and Kara since last summer. The spirit of your beautiful boy that shines in every one of James' pictures captivated this old grandmother's heart in a way that few have. MANY are the times I have longed to just wrap my arms around you or Kara and weep with you!

    You are an extremely gifted and articulate writer, Matthew. The way you process your thoughts and your grief and are able to communicate it is palpable. I have felt for a LONG time that you are destined to write a book chronicling James' life and legacy. This weekend I read John Ramsey's new book, The Other Side of Suffering, and found myself thinking of you all the time I was reading it. I can truly see you writing such a book at some point in the future. Can you see it too? You have a message - and James has a legacy - that will be used of the Lord in the lives of others who are called to walk (as John Ramsey puts it) the journey from grief to grace. Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance (jude v2)

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    1. Thank you Beverly, I see room for improvement but I appreciate it. I do hope this helps people, it's a long journey.

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  12. I had to stop and comment, because what you wrote here is the truth of it. There is no normal in a loss like yours, but it's how we recognize that and continue that is important. The last sentence of the entry is wonderful, and embodies how to keep living. The inscription on my sister's grave is "To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die", and from the entries you've written here, I think that's very true of James.

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    1. Thank you Stephanie. That's a lovely inscription.

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  13. Just stumbled across your blog, searching for something else. Didn't expect to read about loss of a child. Didn't expect to read such a beautifully expressed grief over a loss of a little child. Your little child. A little boy. I have to read your whole story. And I weep with you and for you already. And I apologize for my poor English (I am from Denmark).

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    1. Your English is great. Thanks for reading.

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  14. I stumbled upon your blog today and am captivated by the beautiful writing and the story of love for your son. I hope that being able to express it, even to readers like me who are strangers, offers you some form of solace. My heartfelt good wishes to you and your family.

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