“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” Soren Kierkegaard
For the most part, almost every second of every day, I have accepted, by now, that I will never carry another child inside of me and that I am, officially, done with that stage of my life. I’ve finally found peace with how things have turned out, recognizing that there are advantages, and many, many, joys in having only one child to raise. My son, Julian, is my friend, and we have an understanding of each other that would most likely not be there if other children were here in our home requiring portions of my attention. And honestly, who better to hike with, talk with, groan with–when our football team loses–and learn with when I get a new piece of technology, like a cell phone, and can’t seem to figure the damn thing out unless Julian is there by my side to calmly teach me what to do? Kids and technology…
Randomly, however, like a shadow slithering forward from my past, something completely out of the blue will sneak up on me and trigger such a strong painful reaction in the pit of my soul that, even now, three and a half years after the death of my last child, it still takes my breath away. It can be something simple, like a song on the radio I heard after one of my children died, or a glimpse of an old friend who takes me back in time. Or, it can be something more obvious, events and situations that almost should hurt, if you’re human.
Like watching a brother and sister hold hands and dance together at the farmer’s market, laughing and singing into each others faces, one–or both of them–with ice cream or chocolate smeared all over their faces.
Or going to one of Julian’s music concerts at school where nearly everyone, but us, has at least two children in tow to cheer on their sibling singing up on the stage.
And then there are those movies I sort of love, sort of hate, where a brother gets the honor of walking his sister down the wedding aisle, then years later becomes the “crazy uncle” who comes over on a Saturday night to babysit. My Julian will never be an uncle. That privilege was taken from him.
I’m not a fan of these thoughts, and after a ton of work, I now have the mental ability to simply “observe them” for what they are: irrational fears of both the past and the future, fears that revolve around Julian being alone, especially after his father and I are gone. They are a strong reminder of why I did what I did…why I let myself grow more and more depleted, experiencing one loss after another, in my attempt to have another child. The truth is simple: I didn’t want my son to grow up alone. I wanted him to have someone else.
Julian’s behavior after his siblings died influenced me, as well, his young uncensored actions pulling at my heartstrings. There was this one summer day, for instance, after the loss of his first brother, Gabriel, when I looked outside to where Gabriel was buried, and noticed that there were toys scattered everywhere around his grave. Nowhere else in the yard were toys to be seen…just in the area around his resting spot. There was a bright yellow wagon containing dirty outdoor blocks, a dump truck filled with rocks from our driveway, a pail and shovel from the sandbox, and cars…everywhere I looked there were toy cars scattered on the hill around his grave. Big ones, little ones, muddy and even broken ones. And I wondered how those toys ended up in that spot, because it was rare for Julian to play there.
Later that day, I got my answer. I had gone outside to do some gardening, and while kneeling down to pull some weeds, suddenly–quietly–Julian passed by me, climbing up the hill to where his brother was buried. In his hands he held a tiny orange ball, which he carefully placed on the ground next to the dump truck filled with rocks. Slowly, Julian stood up. He stood frozen, like a statue, his back to me as he stared at the cherub above Gabriel’s grave. Finally, he turned to leave, passing by me without a word…without a glance…back down the steps from where he’d come from. He was only four years old.
I realized in that moment that Julian was bringing his brother toys. My dear sweet son…he wanted to share his toys with his brother.
And so I kept trying. I failed four more times…but I kept trying.
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