As we wind down from Labor Day weekend full of activities at our local round-up and fair, I’m encompassed by a little quiet reflection this eve of the first day surrounds me. I am exhausted from the hustle and bustle of early mornings and late nights. My days consisted of carnivals, nursing a twisted ankle, applying band aids to cuts, welcoming a spontaneous guest for the weekend, enduring the jaw dropping booby traps from my adorable five-year old, and did I mention the impromptu piglet that suddenly joined the family on Saturday. Pig pen construction still in progress. All I can do is laugh. Nothing really surprises me anymore.
Among the laundry, cooking and house cleaning to come, getting back on a schedule is something to look forward to. Yet as I scroll through social media and texts, my mind is overwhelmed by first day of school pictures of all these children.
For a mother whose child has died it hurts. Honestly, it’s bittersweet and sucks really. Part of you longs with envy at those parents of children getting to revel in the excitement of classmates, lockers and team sports and those whose kids are healthy and happy. Of course we’re delighted for them, however, we grieving parents never get over it. While I am grateful for my other four children entering school, no matter how many years have passed, this time of year we are involuntarily given that dreaded reminder that our child is gone.
Today Lydia should be starting her sophomore year. Wow. That is so hard to imagine. However, I do find myself wondering how she would dress and do her hair. Would she wear make-up? Still love dresses? Be playing volleyball because of course she would be so tall? Would she be driving?
I can’t help but to think of my life ten years ago. Lydia had just passed away six weeks earlier, 7/16/08. It was time for Hunter to start preschool. I wanted to keep him with me, but knew he needed social interaction with kids his age. Staying in his depressing dungeon of a home alone was not the best place.
Months of driving him eight miles one way to preschool, I would cry every morning on the way there and on the way back home, sobbing at the wheel as I felt the eeriness of an empty car seat behind me, saying softly to myself “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.” Sadly, I would drop him off, then weep and wail uncontrollably all the way home, crawling back into bed alone where I would remain until it was time to pick him up. For months this was my routine.
Yet I vividly remember those days in the trenches, nearly six years ago, home as a single parent to a two month old, a two-year old, 3-year-old, and six-year-old, while my husband began a new job and relocated to a new town. It was crazy.
There were times when I didn’t think I could do it. Working part-time while up to my ears in diapers and potty training, spills and refereeing sibling rivalry, while laundry and housekeeping didn’t stand a chance. Reruns of Dora the Explorer and Barney the Dinosaur played incessantly. Fueled by coffee and chocolate, daily mocha’s became my saving grace.
To say I was exhausted was an understatement. The circles under my eyes were evidence that could not be dismissed. To say I didn’t enjoy it would be wrong, because I did. But in all seriousness, it was so hard.
I used to fantasize about the day that all kids would be in school and I could actually have a moment to myself to do my own thing, to even clean the house and go to the bathroom alone. To just breathe.
Baby after baby came, life was busy. I put my grief on hold, focusing on these new blessings in my life. They were indeed a much-needed buffer to the pain I was holding on the inside. Yet as the years progressed, and gradually each child entered school age, I was left with my baby who is now five. The last couple years, we have enjoyed our togetherness, special activities and 1/1 time.
The day I had been eager for the last four years has arrived. Now my youngest enters kindergarten. This little spitfire who makes me laugh all day, telling jokes, yet generously gives hugs and kisses, always wanting to protect and love his mama will be on his own.
Another chilling reminder of the day my Lydia anxiously awaited for, the first day of kindergarten she never got to see, her youngest brother is now experiencing. Bittersweet for sure.
The day has come I am once again alone, but this time it’s different. Looking back, I cannot believe how fast time went by. The day I begged and pleaded for in my desperate moments has arrived and now I am not quite sure how I feel about it. In a way, I’m sad for me but excited for him. The new world that awaits, he is sure to find fascinating.
I have come to a different kind of sadness. It’s not one of sorrow, but one filled with hope and expectation. Remembering where I used to be and seeing how far I have come, I look forward to starting a new chapter laced with endless possibilities, embracing change and knowing this journey I’m on is not my own.
Memories are the key not to the past, but to the future-Corrie Ten Boom
In the meantime, I will enjoy what’s left of summer and eagerly anticipate the days of autumn to come. My favorite time of year.
No matter what season you are in, brighter days are ahead. Just hang on-one day at a time!