On Losing a Child
It will be four years, next month, that my son Steven passed over. In some ways it feels like yesterday, in others, a lifetime ago. I was blessed with a near death experience shortly after Steven passed, I say blessed, despite the trauma and horror of my physical experience, because my eyes were opened. Losing a child is impossibly hard, losing an only child is even more so. After Steven passed, I could not function, the simplest tasks proved beyond me. After my extreme medical experience, I functioned differently, I was radically changed.
As a human being, my biggest downfall and greatest gift, is that I always expect things to make sense. I expect there to be logic in myself and the world around me. I always knew Steven would die young, maybe because I experienced the loss of my sister when I was a child, maybe because my dreams told me, however the knowledge came to me, I just knew. I figure I was given nine extra years with Steven as he was diagnosed with hydrocephalus at 9 years old and nearly died, he almost died again at 12 when he developed a fungal infection of his central nervous system and again at 15 when he had a hemorrhage in the ventricles of his brain. At 18 he had a DUI wreck that almost killed him and the person he hit and I realized, without doubt, that it was the beginning of the end. Six months later, when the phone rang on Sunday morning, I knew he was dead.
Logic aside, I was sure I could accept the reality of no longer being Mom, I had been prepared again and again, sitting by hospital beds, praying the neurologists could save him one more time, the fact that he died on the side of the road, on a beautiful fall evening, was almost soothing. People worried about his being in pain, I worried that he may have been scared. The pain he could have handled, his being alone with his fear was something I couldn't have handled. I talked to the coroner, read the autopsy report and felt sure that he was not aware of what hit him.
But knowing and doing are two different things, I knew I was strong enough to live my life without my son, but living my life without him was nearly impossible. The guilt of being alive, the guilt of all the wrongs I committed, the guilt of not being the very best to him that I could have been, the guilt of laughing, breathing, having, the guilt, the guilt, the guilt was almost my undoing. Some say I went a little crazy, but parents aren't supposed to bury their children and perhaps being a little crazy is the only way to survive.
What I have learned is that most parents don't listen to their kids enough, most parents want their children to become carbon copies of themselves, most parents don't see their children as separate and whole individuals, most parents don't hear the wisdom in their children's words. I am guilty of the same failures, but hindsight is full of clarity and I am learning daily from Steven. I hear his words with a new ears, I understand his struggles with new perceptions and I know without a doubt, if I could do it all over again, I would be better.
But in this lifetime, I am stuck, I can't do it again, he is dead and I am alive (or perhaps he is alive and I am dead) and I have a responsibility to learn, grow, become and meet him on the other side. I have to do what is right, what is just, I have to be fair and consider other people, I have no other choice, but to change and be a better human being than I was before. I also have to question the norms of society and of religion, because I no longer fit in this world the way I did before he passed.
Funny, when Steven was alive, he never fit in, he was a misfit, a freak (his words, not mine) and I tried to guide him into the norms of what this world expected from him, for his own good, I thought. Now that he is gone, I have become the misfit, the freak, fitting into no category, unable to function the way the world says I should, the ultimate expression of karma. I pressured him over silly things, his hair, his piercings, his clothes and now that pressure has come home to me. I should be more socially productive, I should have a job and assume the responsibilities I had before, but something in me revolts and when I don't listen, my body revolts. I now struggle with the roles, feeling inferior and less than, I have taken up his cross, unknowingly and unwillingly.
Despite it all, I feel blessed. Blessed to have been a parent for 18 years, blessed to have all my perceptions radically changed, blessed to see and understand the cycle of life, blessed to know that what we put into the world truly comes back to us, blessed to have felt the pain and survived. I will find my place in this world, I will find the sense in it all and I will see Steven again. I am a better person for having known him and I am a better person having lost him.