Monday, October 21, 2013

The Third Anniversary

Memories of loved ones are like songs in our soul.
Margaret Wakeley

Waimea Canyon, Kauai

Tomorrow (October 22nd) marks three years since Matthew died. I think if there is one word to describe how I am feeling as we approach this dreaded date, it's disbelief. Disbelief that it's been three years since we talked to him, heard his contagious belly laugh and listened to his opinions on politics, movies and life in general. Three years since we gave him a hug and watched him drive back up to school. We miss him so very much.  Despite wanting to make time stop and go back to when he was healthy and living his life as a college student, time has continued to march on and we've had no choice but to continue on also. But there are days when it's hard to believe that he is no longer here.

Last year I wrote about how I wasn't really sure how we would mark the second anniversary. And here we are again, one year later, still unsure how this is done. I fully imagine that twenty years from now we will be asking the same question, and we will muddle through it the best we can. One thing that I am confident of is that being outside is the most therapeutic cure for me. So while last year we headed off to Colorado for a combination work and pleasure trip, this year we headed to Kauai. For nine days, my husband and I hiked, swam, kayaked and sat on the beach. We were lulled to sleep by crashing waves while the wind gently blew through open windows. Everyday we were outside more than we were inside, and felt the vastness of the world surround us. Somehow things are put into perspective when you are hiking down a place like Waimea Canyon and feel the geologic passages of time; it makes you realize what a blip in time this all is. I wish I had been able to capture on camera the white-tailed tropicbirds as they wove their way from side to side through the canyon. It made me feel a part of something much bigger than we can fathom, and I was comforted by it. And, of course, I felt Matthew's presence.

So now as we slog our way towards the anniversary, I hold on to those memories like a child grasping a favorite teddy bear. I also take comfort in knowing that people are holding us close in their thoughts as we pass this unwelcome milestone. For bereaved parents, life is never the same after the death of a child. We continue on and in many cases re-define our priorities with a newfound perspective on what is truly important. We continue to have meaningful friendships, work, and family time. We laugh, we cry, we exercise, we volunteer for causes we believe in, we socialize. Basically, we try and live our lives the best we can. But our hearts, which were broken open, are still broken open. They never heal. So when a friend remembers to mention our child, we are so grateful. We are grateful because we don't want them to be forgotten just because they are no longer here. You see, we carry them with us always and we hope that you, too, will remember them. I guess if there's any advice I would offer someone who knows a bereaved parent it would be this. Don't be afraid to mention their child. If you know the birth date or the anniversary of the death, tell them you are thinking of them. It helps. That small gesture can have a huge impact.

I want to end with a poem. Last year on the second anniversary I closed with a poem written by Parker Palmer for Matthew. He wrote it when he heard of Matthew's death. This year I want to close with a poem by my friend Michele who is a gifted poet. She wrote this poem (actually it's a ghazal) for Matthew and I love it. Thank you Michele.

Morning Time
by Michele Bombardier

Still a shock to say it: he died. Shocks every time.
Died at the beginning of daylight savings time.

Is that where he is? In that extra hour? Lost time?
Seemingly close, out of reach, grasping dream time.

We buried him in the rain, tears, monsoon time.
Twenty-one years old, not nearly enough time.

One month earlier, playing baseball, sweet summertime.
Then the avalanche of illness came, folding time.

Long hospital weeks, blue-lit waiting room time.
Hope pushed against the windows, prayer time.

Now in the very early hours, thinnest dawn time
a hovering, a presence, then gone. Every time.


  1. Dear Robin,
    Thinking of you and your family. I had not realized the anniversary of Matthew's passing is also the day of Nora's birth. She'll turn 13 tomorrow and your post reminds me of how precious life truly is and for me to try and not sweat the small stuff. Thank you.
    Love, Rose

  2. Dear Robin,
    What a beautiful poem..I am holding you, Israel, Jordan, and Aviva close to my heart. I will light a candle for Matthew tomorrow and send love to all of you---Looking forward to giving you a big hug on Wednesday! XO Margaret

  3. Robin, I can't believe it's been three years too. I'm glad that you and Israel went to Kauai to receive therapy and healing from the beautiful outdoors and to feel Matthew's presence. You and your family are taking care of each other the best way that you can. Thinking of you and your family at this time of year and thoroughly admiring how you're all embracing the love you had for Matthew and being okay with grieving for him year after year. It takes as long as it takes. -- Peg

  4. Dear Robin,
    I am Maureen's sister and saw your post today on her Facebook page. Your words are very meaningful and helpful to me, as we continue to work through the grief of losing Andrew, along with the gratitude for his presence in our lives. Now I will hold you and Matthew in my heart, as well. Thank you.
    With love, and Everbest,

  5. Thinking of you today, Robin and Israel. And Matthew, who I didn't know, but still mourn. xoxo

  6. Dear Robin,

    Thank you for sharing your brokenness with us...with me. It takes courage to grieve out loud and in a public place. Your Matthew, Our Matthews. You know...In much gratitude, I remain...your friend.

  7. I've been thinking about you. I'll write soon.
    Hugs, Jennifer

  8. Dear Robin,
    Your lovely remembrance-filled writing reminds me that the veil drawn across reality is thin. And that it is in the careful form of attention called contemplation that we touch and are touched by those we love, and mysteriously, Matthew is both so distant and so nearby. The photograph of Matthew says so much.
    With respect and love, Rick

  9. Robin,
    I happened upon your blog while looking at different memory quilts. My 29yr old son recently died (Oct. 9) and I am planning on making a quilt from his many plaid shirts that he loved to wear. He had moved back in with me when we found out he had a terminal form of cancer. I began quilting because I was home so much caring for him and thought a memory quilt would be very fitting. Your quilt is beautiful. I am ever grateful for the extra year and a half I had with him, but am now beginning on the journey you have been on for three yrs. Your writing echoes many of my thoughts and reassures me that what I feel is natural. Bless you for taking the time to share. Matthew was lucky to have you in his court.
    Thank you, Carolyn

    1. Carolyn, I am so sorry for your loss and want you to know that I walk with you in solidarity. Please feel free to e-mail me privately, if you wish.