Thursday, December 27, 2007

Merry Christmas! We did have a less difficult Christmas than it had been for the last several years. Anna's fiance Mike spent the day with us and sort of filled the role of young adult male. I think it is entirely possible that Thomas would have enjoyed knowing Mike and certainly Mike has filled an empty niche for Matthew. This question of families reconfiguring after a death: it had never occurred to me before Thomas died, but I guess the deaths I had experienced before had all been of older people whose children had left home and created their own lives and families. Without Thomas there is a gap in our family, but now Anna is moving on and thinking about starting her own family, beginning with her wedding in August, so things are changing anyway . . .

In March of 2005, we also moved Richard's mother, Thomas's grandmother, to a senior apartment near us. It was a distraction but it was also necessary for her to be near us (my sister-in-law had a disabling stroke in March of 2004 which made it necessary for us to take responsibility for Grandma). We spent several weeks shopping for furniture and necessities for a new apartment, something she really enjoyed and which I was glad to do. Thomas had loved shopping--as I said earlier, he loved buying new clothes--when he was a younger kid, we could always make him feel better by buying a flashlight. We have the world's best collection of flashlights. Shopping for Grandma just seemed like something he would understand.

And then April happened. I think I want to be wide awake when I talk about April of 2005 in detail (it's almost midnight here!)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Since I have become active in PTA again, I'm on about ten listserves (maybe only five, but really, I am hardly exaggerating!). Last night or this morning, a message came looking for gently-used winter jackets in various sizes, including the largest need for Mens' L. We have, I think, three jackets that belonged to Thomas in our basement in the portable closet containing a lot of his civilian clothes. He really liked clothes--and these are nice jackets. I should give them away. I need to give them away. I'm just not sure that I can zip open the closet and remove the coats and bundle them up and hand them over to Patti; at least not without falling apart. You do the things you are ready to do: I know that I'm close to being ready to do this. It just feels
like I'm giving some of him away, but I know that's not true. Like E.T., he's right here and he's never leaving.

So why can't I give these things away?

I forgot one of the March, 2005 deaths. My sister's best friend, Carolyn, died of ovarian cancer early that month as well. I had not known Carolyn well but in late October of 2004, she and my sister came to my house to stay for a week and tour Washington. She wanted to see Washington before she died. We did as much as we could, driving to Mount Vernon on a beautiful fall day, taking the bus tour to see the monuments, including the VietNam memorial which I had never visited before. The visit had to be cut short as Carolyn was finding it increasingly difficult to get around and so they went home a couple of days earlier than planned. A week and a half after they left, Thomas was killed, two weeks later my sister had come back.

All I can say is, it was a privilege to host Carolyn on that final trip. Thomas had met her at the end of September when I was out in Washington (state), just a small connection, but important.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

A long pause to take care of the people left behind, including myself. Last Saturday, the Maryland Chapter of the Gold Star Mothers had a meeting, only the second one I've gotten to out of four in our revived chapter, and it was excellent. Three women who are counselors, one of whom is associated with Compassionate Friends (an organization of bereaved parents, their children having died of no-matter-what cause), these three women came to our meeting to offer their wisdom and experience in the matter of grieving a child. It is different for parents, and for mothers than it is for the siblings or even spouses. I took their handouts and forgot their cards but I expect if I need them, I'll be able to find them. And because God is economical sometimes, I was able to turn around and offer this four days later to another bereaved mother, a woman who works in the same store, who lost her son on Thomas's third anniversary. Yes, it was unreal. I am just grateful that I had some useful words for her and that she felt a shade more hopeful when we had finished . . . It will never be worth losing Thomas, but sometimes there are moments of reward.

Thinking back to the beginning of 2005, I realized that I had forgotten to mention three other deaths that occurred during March and April. All three people were expected to die. It was no surprise when Terry Schiavo passed away, amidst the controversy and bitterness of her family's disunity. I pray that she is at peace. The other two, one private, the other public, by contrast were deeply peaceful. My friend Debbie lost her mother, Tracy, at the beginning of March. Tracy was in her mid-80's and had been ready to go for a while. Finally, at the end of several months of hospitalizations for a broken hip and compromised breathing, she passed away quietly. And then there was Pope John Paul II. Richard had met him briefly the previous year at an audience that was part of a conference he had gone to in Rome about (ironically) care of the dying. As a Catholic, I mourned the loss of this man, but also as a Catholic, I recognized that he was at peace. When Tracy died, and then the Pope, I cried for the first time in months over something unconnected with Thomas.

Labels: ,