As Lent began, I searched for my focus for the next 40 days. I was looking for something that I could “do” that would help me in my grief, but also something that would help provide little pieces of light and peace. When we moved into our house last year there were two cardinals that would fly into the tree in front of our window in the family room. Every time we saw them we’d always hurry to the window “do you see them?” we’d say to Luke, as one of us was holding Toby in our arms. It was a moment of the day that made us smile. Last week I was sitting on the couch and something caught my eye at the window. I looked out and it was a cardinal, by itself, sitting in the tree. I hurried to the window to get a closer look at him, there for a split second, and then he flew away. There are many articles that say cardinals are visitors, angels, from heaven. It made me wonder, were the two that visited us over the summer watching over Toby? And the new visitor, this spring, is he alone for Luke? Or is that Toby visiting us?
We went away to the beach a few weeks after Toby died. In the mornings, the sky had these beautiful clouds with strong rays of light streaming down and reflecting on the ocean. Looking at it made me wonder what that sight was like from Heaven. How beautiful that must be. Can you imagine being able to have a seat and see any spot in the world? I cannot, but just the thought of that takes my breath away. Being able to have a place to sit in Heaven and look over your entire family? That is truly amazing.
I picked up a prayer book from church at the start of Lent. It has a short daily reflection and a few excerpts from Jesus’ journey to the cross. The focus of this prayer book is just that, prayer. How we pray. What we say to God. What we ask of God. His expectations for us.
Through these reflections, the Blessed Mother’s journey through this time have been front of mind for me. She is a grieving mother. She is a strong mother with the utmost faith in God. How did she do it? Through these first 20+ days of lent, I’ve found my focus. The Blessed Mother. I am laying my grief, anger, tears, sorrow, emptiness, loneliness, a longing to hold my sweet Toby in my arms and kiss his face, and the missing sound of TWO sets of tiny feet running through the hall upstairs, or our sons innocent laughs that we will never hear because they can’t play together. All of this. I’m laying at her feet for Lent and trying to join my grief to hers.
This 24th of March marks seven months. Those of you who have continued to follow in our journey through grief, through the loss of our beautiful son Toby, I am sure you are able to see some of our highs AND lows. And while there may be more of the latter, I continue to work on finding more of the former. It is so hard. Too hard to put into words. Too hard for many to understand the struggles we face, daily. The judgement, not said, but felt, to be happy, trust, move forward, accept. It is intense and paralyzing. I know, indisputably, we do not take a thing for granted anymore. I will be the first to tell you that prior to Toby’s death yes, I did take things for granted. So while I may not look like the most grateful person when you see me, I may not smile as much as I did, the depth of my gratitude for everyday moments runs deeper than you know. For I know, more than most, how quickly my greatest blessings can be taken away. How one, “Have a good day” kiss or “I love you” can be the last. I know the immeasurable pain of being robbed of ONE of the TWO greatest joys of my life.
As the seventh month anniversary comes at the mid-way point of Lent, I am noticing a change in myself. A loss of the pause when a stranger asks me about my children, because I don’t want them to be uncomfortable. The urge to be able to talk more about our loss and our joy with Toby for the time he was here. The desire to find ways to shed light on grieving parents and the societal pretense to “not talk about it” because it’s too uncomfortable. The bad days are still so dark and the worst moments still come at the drop of a hat. I continue to work on the acceptance of that. My prayers are different and the way I talk to God has completely changed. I continue to pray that when Toby sees Dan and me, he knows that the tears we are crying or the anger that causes us to curse at the sky is because the hole in our hearts for him is so big and each day without him is so hard. That there are just no words – only tears. I continue to hope that one day, through my actions, rebuilding, and finding a purpose on this journey I did not choose for our family’s life, that I can proudly say “Let me tell you about Toby. He is the one that showed me how to love beyond all measure. How to survive the unimaginable. How to live life for him.”
I am not there yet, Toby, but I’m working on it. Continue to hold my hand and my heart, sweet boy.