About two weeks after Noah died, a lady named Annie took this bracelet off her wrist and put it on mine. Her son Graeme had died two years prior. He was hit by a car. I love how she spelled his name. I told her so, too. She smiled. She was at the point of counting in years. I was still at the point of counting in days. Practically minutes.
Hal and I talked with her for hours at our cousin Arlene’s house. My tears just instantly started to fall as I typed that sentence and was brought back to that afternoon, six years ago. The raw days.
We looked at her in awe. How was she still here two years later? She just looked like a normal pretty mom. When I picture her in my mind now, I see her as simultaneously stunned and serene, carefully choosing the right words to say to us. I remember being so desperate for a magic sentence. I hung on her every word. She said it all came down to love.
“Love never dies. The only thing that is real is love. And our love for our children will now be different but the same”
…or words to that effect.
I struggled to have that make sense. Inside I cried “BULLSHIT! I want Noah back!!”
Annie took off the simple silver bracelet hand stamped with LOVE that a friend had given her after Graeme died. She said it was now my turn to wear it. She told me that when I’m ready, I will pass it along to someone who needs it. I struggle with the fact that I still don’t feel ready. I feel almost ashamed. I’m afraid to let that strength go.
We received letters and books and suggestions from other parents. Some found us. Some we found. A friend from high school lost her 16 year old daughter, Mara, in a car accident. I had no idea. She sent helpful books and offered an eternally open ear.
My mother-in-law’s friend of seventy five years lost her son, Tom, in 9/11. Never in a million years did I think she and I would have the death of our sons in common.
Many other pieces of wisdom from the “sad clubhouse” rolled in. When something would resonate with us, it felt like a little piece of hope dropped at our feet. A sentence to recite or thought to think to ourselves repeatedly when we couldn’t hang on much longer. Some made sense and others didn’t make sense until a few years later.
“Don’t skip a step”
This made sense about a year later when I tried to force my okay-ness. You can’t. You will want to but you can’t. You will go backwards and sideways and spiral out of control. I still abide by that one when I’m pushing myself too much. Stretching myself too thin. For Hal, for Miriam, for family and friends. For me.
“You will think you’re going crazy but you’re not.”
This was told to me at Noah’s funeral by an old friend’s mother. She had lost her daughter, Susan, to cancer. Thank god I had that sentence put in my head from day one. Nothing could’ve been truer. And it still is. I still lose my mind in the confusion and shock. Over and over. It takes a lot of exhausting work to process the crazy. And make friends with it. I think I have. Most of the time.
We found that more mothers were doing the talking. The resources for Hal were a little harder to find. About a year after Noah died we learned about a professional entertainer and clown (just like Hal had been before the accident) who lost his son, Luca, in an accident. I found him on Facebook. I wrote to him. He wrote right back. I remember the first sentence of his email. It was something to this effect.
“Holy Shit! I can’t believe this happened to you.”
We have been friends ever since. There is a language that parents who have lost children speak. A short hand. They know that nothing is too crazy to say. Because the craziest has happened.
Just two days ago an old friend asked me for advice on what to say to an adult college student of hers. Her student’s 16 year old daughter, Macy, was just killed in a car accident. So I’ve been thinking about what to say. I’ve been asked to do this before. And I will be asked to do it again and I’m more than happy to do whatever I can. I feel it’s my duty. It helps me and I hope it helps them too. Maybe the LOVE bracelet gives me that strength and that’s why I still have it. If I had a million dollars, I would buy one for every hurting parent I know.
One gift you can all give to hurting parents is to say their child’s name. Never be afraid to say their name. It’s like music to our ears in a way. The most beautiful word. Synonymous with Love. I just polished the LOVE bracelet last night. I could feel Noah by my side as I did it.
4 thoughts on “Listening Ears”
My heart broke with ever word I read. I have no words for this read except… I felt like I was in a movie and everyone was crying that was on the set! Erica, Noah touched my heart and thought me to see the world so different, sometimes the bad…But mostly the beauty of it. Thank you for Noah and thank you for who you are. I love you!
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Beautiful, as usual. Thank you.
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Dear sweet lady,
My name is Amy. I just already this blog and I have to tell you. I am 38 years old. When I was 17 I had a son who was born premature. He lived 14 months. He had alot of medical problems. Too many to list here but in short I went through 18 brain surgeries with my son Tristan. I was already a mother to a two year old boy as well. We lived in the hospital for 14 months before the doctor’s came to me and said it was time again for another brain surgery. I could do this surgery and he would maybe live a few more months or I can let him go. It was a very very hard decision, but I chose to let him take his peace and go home to God. Hardest decision ice ever made in my life. 20 years later and I still cry for my son EVERYDAY. The pain of losing a child is harsh and strong and never goes away. I struggle everyday still. I work with one only the ladies you had mentioned in your blog, I try to help her get through her loss as beat I can, because you see, I’ve been there and I feel that us mother’s need to help each other get through life without our children. It is hard but it has to be done. I just wanted to say I think that your blog is WONDERFUL. I will pray for you and these other women in your blog. God bless,
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Oh Amy! Thank you so much for writing to me! What a beautiful name, Tristan! I’m so sorry. I was told by another bereaved parent in my early days of losing Noah (this man had also lost a son in a swimming pool accident)that we should consider it a blessing that our sons passed on their own. We didn’t have to watch them “as they weren’t” in a hospital with tubes and surgeries and never knowing how or if they’d be the boys they were again. I could not imagine having to make a decision like you made for Tristan. My wish and prayer for all the amazing parents I’ve met since I started writing is that we try not to punish ourselves but it’s hard, I know. I’m so glad your friend has you in her life. Thank you for being the strong mother you are to BOTH your children. I really appreciate you telling your story. I’ll be thinking about Tristan and you. Love, Erica