Tonight was one of those nights. I went to Monday night yoga as usual, not really feeling any different than I had all day. It was Monday, and time to get back into my work routine. I ran into class a few minutes late, placed my yoga mat down on the floor and began to do the relaxation breathing. I closed my eyes and began visualizing a beautiful beach scene when suddenly out of nowhere………I could feel myself beginning to shake from the inside and then it happened.
Hot tears began streaming down my face.
Not now. Please not now. Not in this crowded room of women. I don’t want them to see me crying. I didn’t even know why I was crying. Where did these tears come from? I didn’t want everyone staring at me, and I didn’t want to try to come up with some reason I was crying.
I continued to do the breathing exercises and kept wiping the tears away from my face. As I lay there with nothing except my thoughts, suddenly I knew why I was crying. Yesterday had hit me like a ton of bricks. We celebrated my third child’s birthday who is now the same age as his older brother Mike who died.
As we sang happy birthday I wanted to scream, “This isn’t right. It’s not fair! This isn’t how it was ever supposed to be!”
My children were always Michelle, Mike and Joe. I called them the triplets because they were so close in age. Now things have changed. That’s no longer the family line-up. It’s now Michelle, Joe, and Tim and it doesn’t sound right. Worse yet, it doesn’t feel right.
I don’t think I’ll ever be “okay” with Mike missing from our family. He was always “my oldest son.” I don’t know how to count time anymore. Who is the oldest now? Mike or Joe? Mike’s life paused forever last year on May 22, 2015, and that space feels wrong. That space in our family hurts. My heart hearts. Everything about losing a child hurts.
As I watched my children at the birthday party yesterday, there was lots of laughter. We reminisced how we celebrated birthdays when they were younger. In fact, Joe said, “The birthday hat. Mom, you’re missing the birthday hat! We haven’t seen that old hat in years!”
“Oh, no we’re not missing the hat! You know I’d never throw that away!” I ran inside and grabbed the birthday hat that was worn every year by my children until they became adults. There it was — musty and dirty and definitely frayed around the edges. It was great to see so much laughter and to see that old hat make its appearance again.
But, yesterday’s laughter was different. Yesterday we were missing Mike. Without saying one word, we all felt it. We needed that moment with the birthday hat. We needed to see it again. We needed to picture Mike playing his silly antics as he wore the hat. We needed the hat to bring us to a place where we could feel Mike’s presence.
Yesterday, the meaning of the hat changed, though. The hat was passed on to the younger brother who is now the oldest brother. The hat is now a symbol of much more than birthday parties and young kids. That hat holds within it memories of treasured moments that only we as a family know about. That old hat will forever be a sacred memento of beautiful, happy times shared with Mike, the oldest brother who left us far, far too soon.
You are loved so much, Mike!
And, the hole in my heart grew a bit deeper as I gently placed the hat upon the shelf in my bedroom closet holding some of the most blessed, wonderful memories we have of my forever oldest son.
*If this story touched you because you have also felt the pain of child loss, I urge you to get a copy of “Child Loss — The Heartbreak and the Hope” today!