Fighting for Control

I’m far enough into this that I know it’s real. Samuel is not coming back and we cannot change what’s happened. But I still find myself resisting it. As if fighting against it will somehow reduce the consequences or the pain.

It does for a little.

I still want control.

Apparently the control I had over my life was a delusion, but it was a comfortable one. It gave me security. Looking back I realize it was a shaky security. I must have known, deep inside, that it was pretense, otherwise why would I have been afraid? I worked diligently to keep my family safe, but still worried about something bad happening. I’d tell the kids things like, “don’t play at the top of the stairs” and “don’t jump on the top bunk, you could fall and break your neck.” Through proactive mothering I tried to increase my control and ensure the safety of my family.

I also used faith to protect our lives. I knew that God didn’t protect us from all bad things, but I still prayed that way. Keep us safe, guard us from this or that calamity, heal our illnesses, bring peace to our stressful situations. Maybe God would protect us from most bad things, even if he didn’t protect us from all of them. And when those moderate bad things came, it was simple to trust God. Food allergies, celiac disease, complete overhaul of how we cook and eat…a burden for sure, but God is sovereign, and we trust him. The stress of raising young children, including one with some attachment issues…God is in control and will give us what we need. Even when the tree fell on our house and destroyed half of it, we praised God for protecting us and were eager to see his faithfulness. The whole top half of our house was rebuilt and remodeled and paid for by insurance. See, it was really a blessing in disguise. I had faith. “All things work together for the good of those who love him…” God was in control, so I felt in control.

I’ve lost that now.

God might still be in control, but he has absolutely and completely taken the last little bit of control away from me. And yet I keep trying to get it back by not giving in. This is not something I can accept, and I don’t want to find the silver lining. It isn’t fair that Samuel died. He won’t grow up, fall in love, have kids. He won’t even graduate from kindergarten. Not even that. And it’s so wrong I can’t stand it.

My life is all wrong now too. I don’t want to be a grieving mother. I don’t want to go to a grief group. I don’t want to be one of them. I don’t want to be sad and disheveled or for anyone to see that my house is becoming a cluttered mess. I know it’s normal in my situation, and that’s the problem. I don’t want to get flustered and red-eyed when someone asks how many kids I have, and I don’t want to be the woman, 20 years from now, that blurts out to strangers something about having a kid in heaven. I am so tired of crying. I’m tired of being so tired. This is not my life. I reject it all. I want control back.

I’m like a child, refusing to get in the car. I’m going to kick and scream as I’m dragged to the car and snapped into my car seat. And even as we drive down the road, I’m glaring, arms crossed, furious, refusing to go. I’m aware that it’s futile. I can’t stop.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

I didn’t expect it, but this afternoon I met “one of them.” I met another mother who lost a child. Her son died years ago, when he was 26. Today this mother was laying on her couch, recovering from knee surgery. She didn’t spill out the story of her son in an awkward way. She told me to let me know that she’s on the same road, she understands. And she seemed lovely to me, with a beautiful heart. She spoke with joy and contentment. I didn’t want to leave. It gave me a piece of hope.

Broken Feet

Samuel hated for anyone to touch his feet.

When we first got him, he wouldn’t take off his shoes. He wore them for days, even to bed, before he let us take them off. The rest of us wear socks at most in the house, but Samuel put shoes on first thing in the morning. Run barefoot on the back porch or in the grass? Never. Boots were even better than shoes. He loved weight on his feet.

Cutting his toenails was torture, no exaggeration. We tried different approaches, but it always ended the same way. Samuel screaming and fighting, Jeremy and I both holding him down while I rushed to trim off the overgrown nails. They would get so long. I know they were painful, but he didn’t care. Anything was better than having someone near his feet.  And the ordeal of trimming them was bad enough that I put it off as long as possible.

Right before his second birthday he had surgery to repair his cleft palate, and was in the hospital for 3 days. They put an IV in his foot. He hated it, but he was too little to move it to his arm or hand. I had to keep his feet covered with a blanket at all times because he grew hysterical if he saw it. It was a relief when it finally came out.

Feet are a minor thing when compared to a fatal brain injury. But the doctors were pretty sure that both of Samuel’s feet were broken in the accident. They didn’t do x-rays. I guess when you’re dying of head trauma they don’t care what happened to your feet. I didn’t see any bruising, but both of them swelled in the few days he was in a coma. (If it was a coma, no one used that word…too many things we don’t know.) They kept his body temperature low in the hospital. It was an attempt to help his brain swelling go down. But it also meant that he wasn’t covered with a blanket, and he didn’t have socks on. His cold, swollen feet were there for everyone to see. He would have hated that. I know it’s a little thing, but it is heavy on my heart. Why did he have to break his feet?

Time

I’ve always thought time was a good thing when it came to pain. I tell my kids this often. If you bear it, it will stop hurting. Your scrapes and bumps will heal, and in a few days you will forget all about it. Even pain that doesn’t heal eventually dulls with the passing of time.

Until now. Time doesn’t fix this one. Time is unmerciful, because time adds to the pain. Today is a whole day without Samuel, one more day than yesterday was. Each new day is a new hurt. It only gets worse.

Changing the Calendar

Some days have a particular sadness.

Today I changed the calendar from February to March.  It is the 6th, after all.  It’s such a simple thing to do, flip the paper up, hook it over the nail.  But it is hard to turn.  The calendar pages feel like they are chained down.  February, gone without Samuel.  He didn’t get to dig through a Valentine goodie bag with his classmates, and he missed Michael’s birthday.  March, now moving on without Samuel.  He won’t get to explore the arrival of spring outside, he won’t shriek and run to me when he sees the first bee of the season.   And I am so sad.

There are reminders of Samuel everywhere.  I hope that someday these bring me a happy remembering, but now they declare his loss, over and over.  His backpack is still by the back door.  I haven’t even looked inside.  It’s in the way, but I can’t bring myself to move it.  Somehow that would be an acceptance that he won’t use it again.  He loved his backpack.  I don’t just grieve the loss of Samuel’s life, but I grieve every little piece of loss that goes with it.  I grieve every meal he doesn’t eat with us, every morning that we don’t rush around the house trying to find his shoes, every evening that I don’t read him a story and tuck him into bed.

His toys and clothes sit unmoving, untouched.  I don’t hear his little feet thumping down the hallway.  And the table isn’t covered with his papers and drawings.  I normally think of the presence of something being overwhelming.  But this is absence, and it’s overwhelming too.  How does the absence of something feel so heavy, like a landslide has buried our home and our lives?  A landslide of emptiness that feels as crushing as solid rocks.