Another One of Those People
Today I had the privilege of spending time with a fellow club member. Her son died less than a month before Chandler.
We hadn’t met face-to-face before but had been introduced online to one another through a mutual friend. We decided to meet at the lake in RSM for a walk — a gorgeous day for it!
I put on my name tag from church to give a visual cue that this was me since, despite what appears to be a widespread notion, there’s really no tell-tale way to identify the mom in the crowd whose son died. We would joke later in our conversation about how people assume there’s some kind of “look” you’re supposed to take on after losing a child. “Oh, that must be her — she looks like she’s lost a son.”
What are we supposed to look like?
There have been plenty of moments with no makeup. Or makeup that’s smeared with tears. Or eyes red from crying. Or public wardrobes that seem to have been assembled while blindfolded and drinking heavily.
But not always. Quite often, I fix my hair, put on makeup, and make an attempt at matching my clothes.
Another thing we talked about hearing a lot is, “You’re so strong.” Almost simultaneously, we said, “What choice do we have?”
Speaking for myself, it’s not that I don’t appreciate the sentiment. It’s encouraging and nice to hear, even though inside I’m thinking, “What else can I do? Crawl in a hole and not come out?”
For me, strong means I try to remember that other people in the world want me to be around. They want me to show up. So I will take care of myself the best I know how. Strong, to me, means I admit my ultimate dependence on God to carry me through this — in supernatural and natural ways. I will take little miracles and cold kombuchas. Both bless my soul. And strong means I lean into the purpose God has for me on this planet, whatever that is.
One of the things that went unsaid, I think, is that each time one of us said a sentence containing any form of the phrase “when _____ died,” it was piercing.
We don’t want to hear it. But it’s the truth. Do you say the truth, or do you soften it with “when he passed” or “before everything happened” or some other linguistic gymnastics to refer to the fact that the child you have loved all their life will never hug you again on this earth?
A few blogs ago, I wrote about being one of those people now. My friend had not read my blog, and I hadn’t mentioned writing about that. Toward the end of our time together today, she told me that soon after her son died, her husband said to her, “We are those people now.”
I’m grateful to get to know another one of those people.