I’ve written this 100 times, and 100 times I’ve missed the mark. There truly are no words. No words to express the constant mix of emotions, frequent mood shifts, and feelings of two opposing emotions at the same time. No words to express what losing a child really feels like. No words to express the immense gratitude we feel to those who surround us with love and support day in and day out.
This past year, I have learned more than I ever wanted to know in this lifetime. I have been enlightened in a way I wish I could give back. To whom or to what, I don’t know. And I would never willingly put this on anyone else anyway. I live with a gaping hole in my heart and in my life that nothing will ever fill. I will always have moments I can’t predict. Moments that take me by surprise and bring tears to my eyes in an instant. Moments that all I can think about is the fact that Peyton isn’t here, that he never got to turn 4, that I have to live the rest of my life without him.
There was a line drawn in the sand when Peyton got sick. For a while we thought it would be a life filled with hospital and doctor visits; a kid who would never truly be healthy. We were trying to work through all of those possibilities in our heads. What would Peyton’s life be like? Will he be able to go to school? Will he have trouble paying attention or making friends? Will kids make fun of him if he shows up with no hair or looking sickly? Will Emma and Jacob always feel like they have to fight for mommy and daddy’s attention? Will they grow up feeling unloved, or resenting Peyton? How will we manage all of this?
Then there was a thicker line drawn. A line we couldn’t uncross. On February 25th, 2015, our lives turned into every parent’s worst nightmare. We became different people instantly. We have many of the same characteristics, and some people will never even notice the difference. It’s in how we feel. It’s in our internal reactions to certain things that before we wouldn’t have noticed. I’m surprised our hearts still beat. The pain was so intense in the beginning that it brought physical illness with it for both Eric and me. It carried with it a fog so thick we were unable to make even simple decisions. Our normal routine became complicated and exhausting. I couldn’t answer straightforward questions. It was all we could do to take care of Emma and Jacob and I can’t tell you how that even happened. My memory hasn’t yet returned. I struggle with the inability to explain this to people. I don’t know why certain things are easy and “normal” some days and so complicated other days. Some days I don’t even know it’s happening; I am just unable to make decisions and function in an expected capacity.
These are the days that are real; the days I can’t deny his absence. The days I wonder what he would look like today, and long to see him interacting with his brother and sister. The days I wish we could turn back time and live forever in those crazy 5 months when they were all alive and well and here. Peyton was 3 and 3 months, Emma was 1 and 11 months, and Jacob was 4 months. It was a hectic time with them all being so little, but we were all so happy that it didn’t feel hectic. Why did Peyton get sick? Why did he have to go? Why couldn’t it have been me instead? I begged God to take me instead, but that wasn’t part of the plan. I then begged God to take me with him. Who was going to watch out for Peyton now? I’m his mother – I’m supposed to take care of him! I’m supposed to make sure he doesn’t get hurt and lead the way so he’s not scared. Peyton was only comfortable around a handful of people, and they are all here. How am I supposed to drive away from the hospital without him and be okay with that? How am I supposed to answer when people ask me how many kids I have? Or what is inevitably to follow, how old they are? Why does society seem to expect people to stop talking about their children who have died as if they are no longer our children, or no longer very much a part of our every day lives? None of this makes sense. It goes against everything I’ve ever known or felt.
Those are the bad days, but they aren’t all bad now. Easier days are coming more frequently and allow me to move forward with a little more joy. I’m told that eventually moments of joy will be more joyous than they were in the before, that they offset the bad moments. I look forward to those moments. For now, we do have moments – even days – of joy. We enjoy that time with Emma and Jacob, and don’t question why they have arrived. It’s too easy to slip back into a bad day.
I watch Peyton’s friends growing up around us and it seems odd to me. I have a hard time understanding their development. I have no idea what they are capable of or when they will be starting Kindergarten. I can’t think in too much detail about that yet, but I do love hearing stories from their moms about how they are doing, things they say about Peyton, how they pray for him and haven’t forgotten him. My heart aches for them, too. How do you explain to a 3-year-old that their friend has disappeared forever? Emma is nearing the age Peyton was when he got sick. She should be moving into his last classroom at school soon. We will cross that bridge when we get to it.
People I know – many who are “new” friends – have been through some tragic experiences. I’m now aware of many of them, and these people are a big part of my inspiration because I can see that they have survived, and many of them are thriving. One person in particular, who lost a child several years ago, has gotten me through some of my roughest patches this past year. He provided me with the knowledge that MY life hasn’t actually ended. I can live again, be happy again, and be a good mom to all 3 of my children. Being happy doesn’t mean I love or miss Peyton any less. That will never change. His specific words when I asked what a good day looks like is that I will have some “pretty freaking awesome” days. I needed to know that because at the time, a “good” day was still a really bad day. I didn’t know, after 6 months of bad days, that some actual good days would come again.
We have been shown so much love, kindness and generosity over this past year. I’ve never seen so many people come together to provide support. It has been like a safety net for us and it helped to carry us through the year. We’ve heard from so many other bereaved parents that people disappear after you lose a child. If that has happened to us, we haven’t noticed. Our friends, family, neighbors and community are all so awesome! I wish everybody who has lost a child had such a wonderful support group because it really does make a difference. Eric and I are lucky to have each other’s support and understanding as well. We may not say it often, but we are grateful for all of this every day.
This is the best I can do to explain this with the words in our language. I do believe things will become clear when we die, and words won’t be necessary. I believe Peyton is in a beautiful place and that he is waiting for us. But here and now, there truly are no words that can fully describe the pain of living without your child. And there are no words that others can say that will fix any of this. We all know that. We aren’t looking for a fix. Most of the time we just want to share our memories and stories of Peyton, and to hear yours as well. Old stories are sure to be repeated through the years, but they are all we have. We will also continue to share stories of signs. Peyton has sent us so many signs! I never believed in them that much before, but now it’s too much to pass off as coincidence. Now I understand; it’s part of the enlightenment. I hope to write another blog soon on the beautiful signs he sends to so many of us. For Eric and me, it’s a little like having him home for a brief period of time.