Little Henley Bee passed away yesterday morning. I was on a lunch date with Gavin when I checked my phone and I couldn’t stop myself from crying at the table. I asked Ty to send her Mommy an entire window full of ladybugs today, like he did for me the day after he died and like my young cousin did for her mommy the day of her funeral. A friend recently sent me the pages from a memoir she was reading where the author tells the story of her nephew that died at a young age from neuroblastoma. She said that family gathered and stood paralyzed around the white coffin before he was laid to rest. Then a swarm of ladybugs flew in and landed on the coffin. The young children in the family started laughing and jumping around chasing the ladybugs. “I saw this as a sign from God that he was welcoming Charlie. And in the smiles of the children, His reminder that life goes on.”
On Wednesday, Ty was gone nine months. Nine long, painful, dreadful months. The same amount of time that I carried him in my belly and the same amount of time that passed when this picture was taken of him at nine months old.
In these nine months Lou and I have forced so many things that helped us process our grief. We travel, we spend a lot of time alone together, and we stay up late talking about Ty and all we’ve been through. We reach out to other parents like us, because really, no one else can understand. We talk freely and openly about Ty around friends and family so they know it is important. And we stare in awe at sleeping Gavin, who now holds Ty’s place in our bed. We are doing okay. It goes without saying that we miss Ty in everything we do, but we are figuring out how to keep smiling through the pain. We have stopped fighting the grief and we are learning to live with it instead. Like an annoying neighbor who just won’t move away, our grief is always lurking, but we choose to ignore it as best we can and try to enjoy ourselves regardless.
“Happy” will never be the same for me, but it can coexist with the hurt and it can help me smile when remembering my special boy, instead of breaking down into a puddle of tears. It’s a crooked, broken smile with a sting in the tail, but it is still a genuine smile and I am proud of that. I feel blessed and lucky that I am learning to live again.
I have learned that sometimes, happiness is a choice. I have been smiling a lot lately. Laughing. I can even say that I have had fun this summer. I was thinking about this today, feeling so terribly guilty, and then I started to wonder if I have a choice about being happy. I feel like sometimes I do, which is an incredible revelation! Similar to when I am tired and anxious and Gavin is acting off-the-wall, my first reaction is to yell and become frenzied with anger, but I try to stop and remember that he is only four. That when he has no patience and doesn’t listen to a word I say – to show him more patience so he can learn by example. When my tears come rolling in I let them, because I want to remember and cry for Ty every day, but instead of stopping and wallowing in it – I allow it to pass and I think about what he would want if he was watching me.
I think that I am choosing to smile. I am choosing to LIVE! Because that is what Ty would want, and what Gavin deserves.
I am certainly not naive enough to suggest that one’s mental health can be controlled, nor can one’s physical health. Ty is a very unfortunate example of just how much control we don’t have over our health. But I will say that I have a new perspective on grief and my mental well being. I have found – at least for me – that I have the ability to work through the pain and avoid incessant grief by keeping perspective. Just as much as I can choose to eat healthier and exercise, I am finding ways to cope “healthier.” And it’s working.
On a daily basis, we can feed our bodies and our minds in so many ways. Get off the couch. If it’s a beautiful day, take a walk around the yard and smell the flowers – literally. Think about the people in your life and be cognizant of their differences. Forgive. It will free your mind. Put the cookie down, change into your sneakers and go for a run. OR – eat the cookie that you have been thinking about for days! Slowly relish in every little bite and remind yourself that it is a reward. Shake off your anger. Kill your anxiety by making a cup of tea, and forcing yourself to sit-down and sip it slowly. Stop checking your phone every minute and enjoy the company you are with or the silence that surrounds you (I have a lot of trouble resisting this one). After it rains, remember to stop on your way to your car and breathe in the magnificent smell of wet grass. Look up for loved ones lost. I do this constantly. I search the sky for Ty. I don’t always see him, but I do always see something beautiful. Then there are the times he smacks me in the face with something like his shining star busting through a cloudy night, or the clouds in the shape of a “T” and “Y” like the other night – unbelievable, I know, but it happened. I couldn’t take a picture because it was dusk but it was clearly there. Right above my house. Reminding me that he is always present. Remember that our children are little sponges, and that fun is contagious so we should all try to have more fun in our everyday lives.
Lou and I have noticed that many people we met over the years are very serious around us. People who don’t know us well are afraid to crack jokes because we might think it inappropriate. Sometimes we over analyze our own behavior and worry that others think we don’t miss Ty enough because we are laughing, joking around of visibly enjoying ourselves. I know it’s a foolish idea, but the thought does cross our minds.
On the contrary. Lou and I prefer to make jokes and to laugh in the face of our pain. So please, feel free to laugh with us!
Gavin is the main thing that keeps laughter alive in this house. Thank God for him. I can’t help but think about how much fun he would have with Ty. Their personalities were so incredibly different, but together they were still two peas in a pod. We talk about Ty all the time, and I know Gavin wishes he had his brother to play with. Being stuck at home is always boring and sad, so instead we send him to camp 3 days a week and he is having SUCH a great time. Always looking at the empty chair at the table while remembering how important it is to keep living for Gavin. He deserves it.