(continued from Damaging)

Enough people had mentioned their worry for Mo while I was planning Maxie's Benefit this year, that I had to pause and wonder if honoring Maxie's memory would somehow screw up Mo.  I was talking to my friend Kim about it and she shared a story from her own life with me that solidified the way I feel about the whole subject.  

Kim told me that she had an uncle who died before she was born, when he was just a kid.  Every year, her grandparents put together a large fundraising event in his honor.  She told me that her whole family would get all dressed up and sit at the head table and the whole room would be filled.  She said that she knew the whole event was to honor her uncle's memory and she felt very special to be a part of it - she loved that she and her family were the guests of honor on that day.  She knew that it was meaningful and important.  This is something that I will carry with me - this story of Kim's uncle's benefit.  My intent is that Mo and his future siblings will be proud of being Maxie's siblings, that they will see themselves as the guests of honor within our Maxie tributes and memorials, and that they will know that they are a part of something very important.  

I made a new friend last week with whom I had an instant connection.  She wrote me a couple of months ago in response to my post about whether I needed a carseat for vacation and offered to lend me her Sit N Stroll.  I took her up on the offer and then went over to her house last week to drop it off.  We ended up hanging out for a while, sharing some inappropriate stories and jokes, laughing A LOT and talking about some heavier stuff too.  It turns out that her parents lost two children - a three month old baby before my friend was born and an older child in his twenties when my new friend was a preteen.  There were a lot of things she shared about having this experience in life but one thing that stuck with me most was that her parents have survived.  I know that sounds crazy - because OF COURSE they did....but sometimes it still seems like I won't, even though I will.  My new friend is hilarious (and you know how important that is to me) and well-adjusted (seemingly - I mean I don't know her THAT well ;)), but she knows that bad things happen to people in this life.  She knows about loss and compassion. 

Someone in one of my Facebook grief groups shared this post that she'd read the other day that really touched me.  It is written by a woman who lost a sister who was only eight weeks old when the author was only two.  She has no memory of that baby sister, only memories of honoring and memorializing that sister.  The post is about a very vivid dream she had in adulthood about that sister.  "Shortly after the dream", she writes, "I asked my mom about the decision to make Rachel such a part of the fabric of our lives. Many families experience a miscarriage or the death of a young child and do not discuss it openly or often as we do. She told me something I’ll never forget. She said, 'I wanted you all to grow up knowing that bad things happen, for no reason, things you think you can't survive, but you can, you do. We did.'

What I really want - need - long for - dream about - is for Mo to KNOW Max.  For them to grow up together, to play together, to argue and make up.  They are so much alike.  Mo has the same disposition as Max did.  Raising Mo through babyhood was so much like raising Max that I get  their idiosyncrasies mixed up.  I know that they would have loved each other.  I KNOW that with all of my soul.  And, they would have only been a year and a half apart - best men at each others wedding, travel buddies, best friends.  It guts me to think about it.  But, I recognize that what IS is that Mo may feel very little connection to Max as he gets older, just that his mommy and daddy loved this boy and that he is gone and we celebrate his life with various rituals....and that's ok.  Let's face it - none of it is really ok but it just is.

What I hope this tragic experience will give Mo is the knowledge that horrific things can happen in this life but that people can and do survive (and even thrive), that having compassion will enrich his life and may make a difference in someone else's life, and that no matter what happens, we will always love and adore him.  And, even if he doesn't get any one of those lessons from Maxie's legacy, I hope he will always feel proud of being a guest of honor whenever we memorialize his incredible big brother.


Becca said...

I love that post about the other sister. Thank you for sharing that.

Tara said...

Maxie is your son. He is a part of your family. I think it would actually be a disservice to Mo to have his brother not be remembered or be treated as a family member.

I have three children. My two youngest were killed by a drunk driver a year ago. I can't imagine telling their grieving older brother to pretend like they never existed. It shouldn't be any different for little Mo just because he came along after Maxie. I realize the circumstances are different, but are they really? You have two children. How does anyone expect you to feel or act otherwise? I think that kind of deception and the pain that it would cause you would be even more damaging for Mo. I'm sure these people mean well...they just don't understand because they can't.

I have had family members ask me if I would like them to put away their pictures of my kids. They worry that seeing them is too painful for me. What they can't understand is that trying to "erase" them or hide their existance would be a million times more painful.

Maxie's Mommy said...

Tara - I am so sorry for your loss. One year isn't long enough to even begin to process losing two children. Sending you love and strength. Thank you for your wise comment.

Tara Prince said...

I only recently began to search out other grieving mothers. I thought it would just be too painful to read about the deaths of other children, but I felt so alone that I needed to try to find someone who might be able to understand. I was so shocked to read the words on blogs like yours. Blogs where grieving moms were just honest and real. Some of your words are words I could have written myself. I finally felt some sort of validation or at the very least "normal". I know you and other moms have questioned the value of sharing your feelings so publicly. I just want you to know that there is value to what you do and it does help others who are suffering. I'm not brave enough to have a blog. Maybe one day.

Auntie Mip said...

Dear Max and Mo's Mommy.

I am a stranger to you, led here from another blog. I have silently read save a few comments here and there. I have ached with you and rejoiced with you.

Yesterday's post, then today's...well I didn't even finish reading I just HAD to come here and comment.

You see I understand this in a very real and unique way. Yesterday would have been my brother's 52nd birthday. He was 6 and a half when he died after a near 5 year battle with leukemia. You are right, well meaning and good intentioned people say remarkably dumb things. My parents had 1 daughter and 1 son when David was diagnosed. My sister was born shortly after he was diagnosed and I followed 15 months later. My parents actually got a card form very close friends when I was born that said "better luck next time" because I was girl and everyone knew their only son was going to die. Everyone with a leukemia diagnosis died in the 60's. They presumably were distraught I was yet another girl.

Here's the thing though. I had a GREAT childhood. I have no idea how they did it, but my parents were able to keep their all consuming grief from spilling over too far. We talked about David all the time. Celebrated his birthday. Looked at pictures and read the letters my uncle wrote to him when he was hospitalized. He created all these magical characters and wrote such great stories in these letters.

My mom recently gave me David's rosary. I sobbed as I accepted it. I asked her how she managed to to keep it together and not succumb to the pain. She said she had a choice to make. She could live or she could wither away into nothingness. She said she would never do that because it would not honor how hard David fought. She said my sisters and I were her "blessed distractions" and gave her strength. She said that while the pain was always there in time it just stopped hurting so damn bad...her words.

It has been 46 years since David died. We grieve every day. But my mama has taught me well that grief and joy can co-exist peacefully. Your Mo knows love And you will share the beauty that was Max. It won't hurt him anymore than it hurt my baby brother who came two years after David died. You have a beautiful family and story. That story includes the horror of Max's death but there is beauty and strength in the surviving and Mo can only grow and learn from this. And even the most tragic and heartbreaking of stories can come full circle and have a happy ending. Exactly 28 years to the day that our David died my brother's son was born and yes we had a David again.

God Bless you and your beautiful family! You are a wonderful mother. And the love and light in Mo's eyes tells the story or how deeply he is loved and how well you care for him all the while grieving the loss of your beautiful Maxie.

Maxie's Mommy said...

Thank you so much for sharing your story Auntie Mip. These stories are my inspiration and help me so much to know that I can do this. XOXO

Anonymous said...

My grandmother lost her brother when she was very young. The loss left such a mark on our family, she is nearly 90 and it's still with her.

I can't imagine not knowing about this part of our family's story. It would leave so many unanswered questions.

I am sure people tell you all the time to "move on" but your children need context in order to fully understand and appreciate their family. Better to deal with it in front of them than cover it up and leave them wondering.