4 years ago my youngest cub Matthew passed from this world. He was 24 years old. It was Feb 18th 2009.
He fell on Sunday January 18th 2009 and chose to leave this world exactly four weeks later, the same date and time he fell.
I have joined the crowd of parents who grieve the passing of their children. While my grief is not as raw as those first few years January and February are still challenging weeks to get through. Will I eventually “get over” the challenge of these weeks? No, those who have journeyed with grief know you don’t get over it. You learn to adapt, to try to live as much as possible “at peace” with these emotions that tumbled so uninvited into my life with that early Sunday morning phone call.
Grief is a unique journey for each of us. Yes, there are signposts, those stages of grief that friends wonder about because it is easier to react when they know “what stage we are in”! Yet my experience is that the stages are as helpful as a “pocket in a singlet”. They do not prepare you for the dementing, excruciatingly painful journey that begins when you realise your child is passing from this world and you have “that discussion” with the Dr’s where it is agreed medical treatment will switch to palliative care and in the coming days you sit by his bed and listen to his breathing become coarser, more laboured and the silence between each breath grows longer and longer and still you wait as his body gradually surrenders to death.
In “The Anthem” Leonard Cohen sings
“There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in”
In grief everything is cracked, everything is broken and as for light getting in? There is only darkness, days where you sit and stare because the mind cannot formulate coherent thoughts.
I was graced in those days to have a wise counsellor who did not help me through the stages but simply encouraged me to hang on because in time grief would metamorphise from something which threatened to consume and destroy my life to something which lived within me because my soul could live with the pain.
Yes, there is a crack in everything and the light is getting in. There is pain and I can now live with that pain. I watch other fathers and their sons and my heart hurts and I remember my son’s laughter and the light comes in. Life has become a journey of both/and. These next few weeks will be a challenge and a time to remember. As challenging as this time may be I choose to also honour the gift of Matthew’s life.