I looked at my foot closely as I continued to rub coconut oil onto it in hopes of softening the skin surrounding the scar. That scar is now twenty-four years old and it still looks like it became a part of me yesterday. Normally, scar tissue isn’t something that I would look at, but this scar is different. This scar was given to me by my son Mike who died on May 22, 2015.
I never, ever want this scar to go away because locked up in that puffy mess is a well-spring of memories that make my heart smile!
The Fourth of July twenty-four years ago was like most other July 4ths. We had a family picnic, followed by a fun day of being together, ending with watching the fireworks in town and finally closing out the day by letting the kids do their own small fireworks display at home. We live in the country and the kids lived for this fun day when they could really let loose, dance around outside late at night flashing their sparklers and setting off their little string poppers, fire crackers, and Roman candles. The grand finale was always setting off a bottle rocket in our field and watching the quick flashing and hearing the loud whistle whirring across the starry sky.
On this particular night, it began to softly rain so we set up the chairs in our garage, while Mike and his brothers stood far back in the driveway to prepare to put on a show of glitter and lights for us.
As the grand finale approached we were all excited! We were hoping upon all hope that the bottle rocket wouldn’t be a dud (which happens many times). Mike lit it, and yelled to his brothers to “get back”!
The next few second were a chaotic surprise. The rain must have caused the bottle rocket to tilt to the side and instead of shooting straight up into the air like it was supposed to, it came whizzing past us in the garage making three circles around and finally finding its way to my foot!
Ouch! Oh, my! I can still feel the heat from that thing as it brushed against my foot. We all ran to take cover from the speeding flame that finally made its way out of the garage and landed on the driveway in a pile of gravel and mud!
My foot was blistered in three different places, but one spot was especially not looking too good. That thing bubbled up and needless to say I had a pretty good burn.
Mike felt terrible, but once I assured him I was okay the teasing began. Every Fourth of July from that time forward we talked about that wild night when Mike set off the bottle rocket that found my foot in a crowded garage full of people. We laughed until we cried each year, and I had the scar on my foot to prove it.
This year there were no firecrackers. There were not bottle caps. There wasn’t one Roman candle. And, no, there wasn’t a bottle rocket. In fact, just a couple of us rode into town to quietly watch the fireworks display.
I sat in the car rather than lay out on a blanket under the stars and watch the sky light up — something I’ve never done before. To be truthful, I didn’t want the others to see the tears streaming down my face. Mike loved fireworks from the time he could crawl. He was never afraid. Instead he ran around the football field where the fireworks were being set off and said he was trying to catch some of the “sparkling rain” falling from the sky.
My hand rubbed softly across the scar on my foot as I thought about Mike and all of the fun we had as a family. Mike knew how to bring such life to any gathering. This year was a quiet year for me. It’s odd how something like a tiny scar can release so many precious memories of times with a child you loved so very much.
That scar will always be part of me, and it will serve as a special reminder from this time forward of the night when Mike’s bottle rocket chose me.
Coincidence? I don’t think so. I think this scar was definitely meant to be!
We love and miss you so much, Mike!
*If you identified in any way with the sentiments in this story from my heart, then I urge you to get a copy of my most recent book, “Child Loss: The Heartbreak and the Hope.”