Every year as August starts to wind down, the school supplies hit the shelves, and the air has a little nip in it, my body without my mind even telling it begins to move into "Our season". I don't even know that that is the right words for it, but it is our season of life, ultimate love, and loss.
Back to school time, one of my favorite times of year in general, and even more so since having children is now filled with the greatest joy, and an over arching sense of sadness as I feel the parts of our family that are missing and would be part of this joy. It is much like most things in our life these days. Happiness mixed with often tear bringing sadness for the things that they will never experience, and there for we will never experience with them. This year my dear Sophie is entering into third grade and while I know that she will be excited to be around her friends, I am sensing some sadness from her after being home and my buddy since March. We have had our battles but she has been my side kick in crafting, reading, home reorganization, church going etc. The separation is going to be hard on us both, but I know in my heart that my job is to help build her wings so she can fly, and school is where she is supposed to be. Charlotte would be entering into first grade. It takes my breath away to think about that. I have found myself these last few weeks lost in day dreams imaging what it would have been like for her to go to school, and to think about all the amazing lessons she would have continued to teach those around her. I find my heart longing for her to be here with us more and more as we move closer to the day we said good-bye. And Maggie. She would be almost two years old this fall. What would our life be like with a two year old running around? What kind of beautiful chaos would we be living in? It something that I can hardly imagine to be honest, because it makes my heart hurt a lot. It is hard to not longingly look at families with multiple children wishing that that was our story, that we had a house full of fighting, laughter, and endless chaos. That we had two stacks of back to school supplies laid out, with first of school outfits and bows. And three little lovies to get ready tomorrow morning as the older two headed off for their big day at school.
I have begun a great shift. In some ways it started before COVID happened, it started as I entered into last years season of loss, a fall where I felt physically the sadness more than I ever had, and a fall where I was sadder than I understood, and didn't understand until clarity was revealed in Israel. A clarity that was beyond this worlds understanding. Being home more often during COVID time has given me time to spend in my grief, time to understand who I am, and time to grow into who I was always supposed to be. To do this, I had to first accept who I am, and embrace myself - knowing this is the person I always was, hiding behind fear and rejection. This means that I more fully embrace my grief. I carry my sadness in my body, and always will carry it until the day I cross back over the veil and into my heavenly home. I am not only sadness but there wall always be pieces of sadness that accompany me in all I do, all I experience and all I feel. Things will never be just amazing, they will be filled with joy AND with a longing that leaves a hole inside me that can never be filled. Everything about me is both and.
For the majority of those around me my children are not forefront in their minds obviously, but what makes me sad is that very few in my life understand the grief I have been forced to carry with in all I do. I embrace it, but it was not my choice to have. People know that those who have lost have grief, but what no one will ever understand unless they have lost a child, is how intricately that grief is woven into the pages of our life story. As I move in to who I am meant to be, I am embracing that loss and grief is a big part of who I am. I am also embracing that my sadness comes in waves, and sometimes the waves force me to tread water for a long time until the tide recedes. The thing is that this is something that I have to ride out alone. I know now that I will be ok, that the wave eventually diminishes and I can walk out of the water with my grief picked up and put back into the the compartment of my body I always carry it, but other people cannot keep me from drowning, nor can they pick up the pieces. I have to experience it, and feel it to my core, and if I don't, I haven't done the work and that wave will come upon me again and again and again. I am ok with this. I have accepted that I have no control over when these waves of grief arrive, how long they last, and how many pieces I have to pick up. I am also starting to accept that the number of people around me who actually understand this, and know what I need are a small special group. It is a hard thing to do, be friends with me. To ride out the waves knowing that I am sad, knowing there is nothing one can do, and knowing that the waves are exhausting and that I retreat internally both in my mind and in my home. But they know that I will be back, the take the good with the bad, and wait for me to come out the other end.
My season of loss it sneaking up on me faster than I would like it to. I hope that some can remember that behind the smile is a sad heart, a mind that is frantically remembering and reliving the last moments of my dad's life in September, Maggie's death in October, and Charlotte's life in November, and longing for them all during the holiday season that feels like it has a large void that can never be filled. I hope that some can give grace for the things that I want to do and be for everyone but sometimes just cannot, and am learning to say no when I just am not able. I will never ask anyone to understand, but I hope that some can empathize with the fact that two of my children have died and I will never be the same, nor will I be the person I was trying to be in the year or two after their deaths. I have accepted, embraced, and dare I say like the person that I am (because of them), and I have accepted the fact that I will never really fit perfectly in anywhere ever again because I am different. I see and feel life through different lenses, and I know that that is impossible to both explain and understand, and there are maybe a handful of people who understand as close to the whole me as possible. The fact that there are any at all makes me thankful beyond measure to be apart of the family I am apart of, that I ended up on the same weekend rotation as my BFF, and that a few special people have been sprinkled into my life throughout the last few years.
Back to school is hard for me for so many reasons. And even more reasons this year with COVID and differences in what school looks like. I hope that whether you are virtual or in person, whether you believe in masks or not, whether you think this pandemic is real or it isn't, and whether you are ready to sent them back or frustrated or angry with how things look - take a step back, take a deep breath in, and as you let that breath out, think about the some of us like me who these things don't matter, what matters is that I am sending to less children to school each year than I would be had they lived. We would be back to school for two and a toddler, instead of back to school for one. For me suddenly the things mentioned above and all the other things, opinions, frustrations, anger etc. mean nothing, and all I can think about are the two that are not. Charlotte and Maggie.