The worst thing a widowed mother can hear from her grieving child, “at least you still have your daddy.”. I do. At 39, I still have my daddy. How unfair. He is alive and well and I have had a lifetime of memories with him. I know him so well. I have vivid memories of my childhood with him there, I know his favorite music and certain songs or people remind me of him. He is ingrained into who I am. I have laughed and cried with him and have a lifetime of experience with my dad. He helped shaped my view of the world and I am who I am in part because of him.
My boys won’t have that.
Not with their real daddy. They are all him yet they only know this because I have told them. Not because they see it every day. They won’t have memories upon memories of vacations and they won’t remember him cheering them on from the sidelines. Some of these things did happen in their short lives but they were too young to retain it. If only they had known. Known the very short time that they would have him. They only have pictures and the stories that I tell them.
Each of them have a few vivid memories. Very random things. Isaac, now 11, remembers being 5 and laying in bed with his sick daddy watching Captain America just days before daddy took his last breath. Jonah, now 13, was 6 when daddy was sick and has a distinct memories of daddy coming home from work and wrestling with them.
Their memories of him are fleeting. My memories of him are vast and are a huge part of who I am.
We were married for 13 years, almost to the day. I have extensive memories of travels and hanging out with our best friends. The birth of our beautiful babies. Thousands of mundane, normal, beautiful days and a handful of spectacular ones. Cherished memories that now, thankfully, 6 years later, can make me smile.
My boys don’t have that.
Grieving for myself, missing him, forging ahead into new life. I have been able to push through these things. I have come out on the other side of 6 years with an understanding of my place and his in the universe. Not together. I have been able to come to a place of understanding as well as any widow can but then…..
Grief knocks down my door and barges in. Why? My boys. Watching them grow.
I am struggling to find the words to describe the turmoil my soul goes through when they do something new or I notice a small change in them. This my friends is the most painful part of widowhood for me and I don’t see it ending anytime soon. Not until I die. It’s a heavy rock to carry.
When Benji took his last breath I was there. I watched him ascend into the heavenly realm. From that second on I have had to live without him. I remember taking my first steps away from his body knowing full well that those were my first steps without him. I was taking steps into the abyss. From that second on the memories stopped. But life kept going and….they boys have not stopped growing.
Isaac turned 6, 7, 8, 9 10 and 11.
Jonah turned 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13
That seems like a lot of birthdays to bare but there are so many more coming.
I imagine a scroll and every time the boys do anything I write it down. It started very short, I could roll it up and put it in my pocket. It’s grown longer and longer and longer. Now, it’s too big for my pocket or my closet and one day it will be too big for my house. This is a scroll that Benji will never see despite its continuation. It gives me a helpless feeling.
Each growing moment with my boys comes with what feels like a physical grasp on my heart. It takes my breath away and my eyes well up. I almost have to shake my head to make it stop. Sometimes I let the tears gently fall, other times I have to hold them in. I don’t want just any person knowing the turmoil in my heart. It’s not a pain I would wish on anyone.
Watching my children grieve their daddy at first was intense and emotional. It has morphed into a sweet and gentle mentioning every now and again. Sometimes we are forced to face it. Benji wrote the boys letters before he died. One for their 13th and 18th birthdays.
Jonah turned 13 last month. It was interesting because the letter wasn’t something that I had anticipated or dreaded. It actually snuck up on me. Jonah turning 13 was a turning point in my life as a widow. I’m not raising a grieving little boy anymore but a maturing young man. I am not kidding, I would give ANYTHING to have Benji and Jonah talk. I can’t even begin to express my longing for that. For Benji to see who he is now. He would be absolutely blown away at the young man he has become. Jonah sits like him, types like him, holds his phone like him. He is fascinated by technology and when he sits with his Chrome Book doing homework I vividly remember benji sitting on the couch with his laptop after work…still working. They are the same. What would it be like for them to be in the same room? My heart would implode.
Isaac has his silliness. His name means laughter and before he was even born we knew he would be funny…and boy is he! Every time Isaac cracks us up a part of my soul cracks. I long to take a video and text him or email him or…something. I just want him to know!
He has missed so much and although I know he is dancing with Jesus, disease free with no sadness, my heart shatters for him. People say “ he is watching”. Well, I don’t know if he is or not but i’d rather be watching with him. Heaven is a place without tears or sadness so his view of them would be only goodness. He wouldn’t see their pain or heartache, disappointment or sorrow. This makes me envious as I wish I could only see the goodness that my babies experience…and not the pain. The deep, deep pain.
When Benji died I told everyone that He was going to Heaven…and I was going to hell. Thankfully, my hell is no longer. I have a beautiful new life. Despite the deep, deep sorrow I carry every. Single day. I have beauty.
The most beautiful thing is that God blessed us with a new daddy. My babies have a dad. He was not there the day they were born but his heart for them sure lives like he was. These eases the pain slightly. It sometimes take the edge off. But Benj, your absence will always be etched into my soul and into the souls of your boys. Whether they have memories or not. He is ingrained into their minds, souls and bodies.
They are walking little Benji’s without even trying.