I Remember Every Detail That Made My Child Uniquely Mine
When each of my children were born I studied them for a long, long time. I ran my fingers across the tip of their noses. I grasped their tiny hands into mine and looked in awe. I slid my fingers ever so gently across their heads leaning down and smelling that newborn baby smell. I loved how each of their tiny feet fit into the palm of my hand. These are just some of the things I’ll never forget. A love as deep as a parent’s love wants to soak up everything about our child. We even study the pores of our child’s skin!
As our children grow older, we continue to love them with this same intensity — maybe even more if that’s possible. We know the way their lips curve into a smile. We know the look that comes right before the tears. We know the sound of their feet skipping across the floor.
As parents we never forget the smallest of details that make our child uniquely ours.
When a child dies, there is an immediate fear that we’ll forget. We fear that we won’t remember the sound of our child’s voice. We’re so afraid we won’t remember the smell of our child’s hair after he’s been outside playing football in the cool, crisp air. We fear we’ll forget that special look our child gave us when we said, “Okay, it’s time to go to bed — now!”
When child loss takes place we’re overcome with the fear that we will forget those tiny details about our child that nobody else knew!
I had to say hello and goodbye to my baby Samuel in the same day. I only had a few moments with him — to hold him close to me, to kiss the tip of his tiny nose, to hold his small hands inside of mine, to put his wee toes against my cheeks.
I only had a few precious moments with my son who was born still, but those moments are forever etched upon my heart and soul. And, I will never forget what it felt like to hold his tiny body next to mine.
It was different when my adult son Mike died. Much different because I had the gift of precious time with Mike for eighteen years. I had time to watch him grow. I had time to see the changes that took place in him. I had time to see him change from a toddler to a teen to an adult. I had time to see him get married, to become a husband and father.
We had years and years of memories together to bind our love even closer.
Once Mike left for college, he met the girl of his dreams, got married and lived a thousand miles away. No longer did we spend lots of time together. In fact, he was only able to visit once a year — and on the really special occasions two times a year.
Christmas was our time together — the time when Mike made certain that he and his family came to visit. And, what a visit we had each year! He didn’t miss coming home once in twenty-four years! Oh, how much I wish I had expressed to him how much those visits meant! I often took it for granted that he would be home. There were times when his kids were all sick, when money was low, and when he had to get back in just a few days to work. But, he never missed a Christmas. Never!
And, on each one of those precious visits, the details of Mike became more special to me. My child. My son. My firstborn son. Unique in so many ways. Mine.
The one year anniversary of Mike’s death is coming up on May 22, and my heart is hurting. If you’ve lost a child, you understand. Every day the ache seems just a bit worse because I know for sure that there will never be a Christmas again when Mike will be throwing open the kitchen door saying, “Let the party begin!”
I miss him. We all miss him. We miss him so much that it hurts!
As a mother, I don’t ever want to forget the things that made Mike uniquely Mike. He had a bump in the bridge of his nose — a Roman nose — that made him look so handsome. His hair was thick and silky. His skin was tanned like he had been in the summer sun all year round. He had a dimple right in the center of his chin. And, his lips. I can see the shape of his mouth right now as I’m writing. His features were perfect to me. Always perfect.
And, I don’t ever want to forget one detail of what made my son uniquely my son.
Unashamedly, I hovered over his body before I had to say my final goodbye, tears streaming down my face soaking his shirt. My hands touched his lips one last time. My fingers ran through his thick hair — I can feel his hair right now. I put his hands in mine one last time. I hadn’t held his strong hands in so long. Once adulthood comes, the hand holding between parent and child stops. But, I held his hand — just one more time. Only this time, my hand fit perfectly into Mike’s hand.
And, I wept even more.
I don’t ever want to forget even one detail of my child. Sometimes I close my eyes and I can see him standing in the garage with his plaid shirt leaning up against the wall. I remember the jacket he was wearing the last time I saw him. I remember the brown shoes. I remember how he had his hair slicked back. I remember how animated his voice was as he was telling me how he finally caught the groundhog that was driving me crazy!
I remember thinking, “I’m so happy. I’m so happy to have this time together and I don’t want it to end.”
But, our time together did end. It ended far too soon. So, I remember. I remember every beautiful detail that made my son uniquely mine.
And, I will continue to remember with tears streaming down my face.
This message is to all parents who have lost a child. May God bless you with the gift of remembering, for in remembering we are reminded that nothing can ever separate a parent’s love for their child — not even death.
Mike, you will always be loved and you will always be remembered.
If this touched you in some way, then I urge you to get a copy of the book that was written from my heart following the death of my son: Child Loss: The Heartbreak and the Hope.
My humble thanks to those who already have the book. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I appreciate so much those who have left a review about the book. You have no idea how that warms my heart!
I have read your words Clara, and I weep., for all of us who have lost a child. I weep for my failing memory. There are so many things I don’t remember about Jesse and his young life, except pictures will trigger memories.
I cry out in frustration and anger that I did not spend the time I had with Jesse and my older son. Their Dad was so sick , I was looking after him , raising 2 boys, working full time, and finally able to go back to university, to be able to get a decent job., to give my family some hope of a future. and I feel I have failed miserably.
I have so many regrets. when I should have been spending more time with them I was with their father, desperately trying to nurse him back to health, or working, studying…….so busy.
As the children grew up there Dad died. Jesse took it hard. My older son was on his own and Jess and I lived together. He was 15 at the time. He had a lot of emotional issues that I did not see as grieving for his father. I have so much guilt, and pain over this.
I desperately ask my friends from way back, “Was I a good Mom?” I honestly don’t remember. I know the boys were always fed well, clothed. We were poor and so did not have a lot of things at that time. Life was hard.
I thought life was hard. But that was nothing compared to the shocking conclusion of Jesse’s life June 26 2013. My world stopped. I was literally in sheer shock for almost a year. I never shed a tear for months. I was very stoic and emotionless. I felt nothing. As time moved on and my shock ( or fog) lifted; those inner feelings started to collide with my outside world. That 2nd yr. and I can even say this 3rd year has been my living nightmare.
My mind just screams in agony for loss of memories. The ones I do remember are so cute and funny. Jess was such a good kid. He really was. Why didn’t I tell him that???? Why????
Now he is gone., and I am left as everyone else who has lost a child. Sheer agony and grief. A mutitude of emotions that arise out of nowhere with no sense of rhyme nor reason.
I certainly am a different person. Gone is my strenght of mind and the power to lead a group in my profession. I have crumbled to a heap on the floor of total blackness. My son is dead.
Dear Ev, I weep with you as every parent does who has lost a child. I’ve asked myself thousands of times already if my son knew how much I loved him. Did he know how proud I was of him and didn’t use words to tell him? Was I a good mother? Did he know that I would have given my life for him? If I could go back and live those days all over again, I’d be such a different mother. We all would. But, we can’t go back, and so we pray that our children knew how we were doing our best. Being a mom is both the hardest job in the entire world as well as the most rewarding job in the world. I’m sure that you were a wonderful mom to your Jesse. I can tell by the way your write of your love for him. Sending you many, many special hugs today. Losing a child is most definitely the most difficult thing we will ever have to face during our days on this earth. Thank you so much for sharing the raw pain you’re experiencing. There is some healing when we share what we feel. Sharing somehow gives less power to the pain. Many thoughts are with you.
Thank-you Clara for your words of validation. It is very powerful to know that others too have questioned themselves.
I like especially your last statement how sharing gives less power to the pain. I have felt that minorly on Silent Grief FB. But really felt it when I wrote here on this blog.
Thank-you kindly so much for you response
Ev, You’re so very welcome! I think every single one of us lays awake at night with these same questions at some point following the loss of our child. It’s a normal part of our grief to have major doubts and regrets. There’s nothing easy about this thing called child loss. My thoughts and prayers are with you.