Once in a while you get shown the light
In the strangest of places if you look at it right.
Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter
Today marks the 7th "anniversary" of our oldest son Matthew's passing. He would be 28 years old. His younger brother and sister are now three and five years older than he was when he died. We wonder what he would be doing, where he would be living, would he have a long-term girlfriend, would he be married? How would he be navigating the peaks and valleys of his twenties? Of course we don't get to experience that with him, and that's the most painful part. Missing him and all that he brought to our lives, is our painful reality; knowing that all we have now are the many memories.
One of the hardest things for bereaved parents to manage is negotiating the pain of losing a child with the desire to live a life with meaning and joy. You don't want to turn into a bitter person, and you know that it is in your control as to how to move forward. When you are cracked open as you are following a death such as this, you look at the world differently. Things get put into perspective like never before. You really don't sweat the small stuff, because so much of it is really small stuff.
I included the above quote because this is what Matthew used for his Senior Quote in high school. At the time, both my husband and I thought that was such a great choice for a quote. It fit Matthew, and his somewhat offbeat philosophical way of looking at things. We also appreciated that he took a quote from the Grateful Dead. Little did we know then, that this has become somewhat of a mantra for us as time has unfolded. Let me give you an example. Just this summer we were down in Oregon for the total eclipse. It's hard to put into words what that was like. During those moments of totality, as we stood within the shadow of the moon, the beauty, the colors, the quality of light made time seem to stand still. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced. On the one hand, you felt small and insignificant, while on the other hand you felt incredibly connected to each other. Afterwards, as we drove away and were in that post-eclipse sort of daze we decided to turn on Pandora to the Grateful Dead station. The first song to come on was "Scarlet Begonias"-which is where Matthew's senior quote came from. Wow!
Moments like this seem to happen more often than they used to. Or perhaps it's that I am more aware and tuned in and seeing things more acutely. The protective armor has been stripped away, and the light seeps in more easily. These past seven years I have been quietly putting the broken pieces of my heart back together again, realizing nothing fits quite the same as before, that there are more spaces for the light to seep in. That's my new reality. And when I am shown the light, in whatever form it takes, I try and be grateful for it. That's what the grief of losing Matthew has taught me.