Every night before I went to bed I checked on the kids. It started when I was an anxious first-time mom and I had to make sure the baby was still breathing. It eventually became a sweet, peaceful ritual.
The boys slept in bunk beds in their room, and Jana was across the hall. I’d walk in, collect the books scattered across their beds, and move fallen stuffed bunnies and puppies back to their pillows. I’d pull covers off Jana, who bundles up so much she sweats. And I’d pull covers onto the boys, who kick their blankets and lay curled up with cold bare legs. I’d kiss them again and whisper nighttime prayers of God’s love and mine.
Since the accident I have not been checking on them. I walk past their doors and wonder why, but still don’t go in. I feel guilty for being too tired to accomplish one more thing before I collapse into bed. I’m frustrated with the defeatist attitude I’ve developed about prayer. If God wants to take them, he will, so why pray? And I’m ashamed that I struggle to be fully engaged with them, even when our story is a painful reminder that I should treasure the days. I want to look at the little faces I love and hold the moment forever. Still, every night, I walk past their doors.
Tonight I walked in, and the instant pain I felt revealed the real reason I have avoided my nighttime ritual. Samuel wasn’t there. His covers were flat and unnaturally neat. I couldn’t kiss his cheek and tuck blue bunny under his arm. There weren’t any contraband toys hidden inside his pillowcase. He wasn’t laying on the bottom bunk, skinny legs sticking every which way, stretched sideways or backwards or half off his bed. He seemed to invent new sleeping positions every week. He had personality, even in his sleep.
Tears came as I fought for breath. He’s gone. He’s five but he doesn’t get bedtime kisses from his mommy anymore. It’s all wrong.
Grief is cold sheets. Grief is a bedspread that stays smooth, week after week. Grief is a once loved stuffed animal that sits unhugged on an empty pillow.