At times, I still expect Timothy to burst through the front door, full of energy like he was just away on a long trip. A part of me thinks it’s crazy after nearly five and a half years. But there are some things that the mind won’t let go even with time, or maybe it’s the heart that won’t let it go.
I keep thinking that maybe, just maybe one of those times when I feel like I get a glimpse of him in a crowd of people or swear I hear his voice come up from behind me that it will really be him. But the reality of the matter is it’s not him and there are way too many people in this world who could be his twin, which makes it even more horrible.
His voice, much like my father’s, is fading fast in my memory and I can’t stand the idea of not remembering what his voice sounded like when he was excited, frustrated, sad or, even though I didn’t like this mood, angry. It’s one of the first memories to go. In this age of technology, there are so many ways to preserve this part of our lost loved ones forever. But for some of us who were less than tech savvy before his or my father’s death, we are left to strain and struggle to remember the littlest thing like the sound of their voices.
Many years ago, I started baking several different kinds of cookies during the Holidays for friends and family. And when Timothy was alive, it was shame on me if I baked a kind that he liked because they would be gone quicker than I could turn my head. Often times, he wouldn’t even hide his thievery and just sit on the couch with the jar of cookies in his lap like he was holding his own trophy. And for the last several years, I think I found myself always baking extras because I became so used to the cookies slowly disappearing. But I would always just be left with dozens of uneaten cookies, ready to be stuffed in tins. And for the first time since he died, the boys have started to get into the cookies, wanting to try all the kinds that I have baked. It is ironic how life comes around to help you heal in the most unusual ways, even if it is with little paws in the cookie jars now.
This time of year is supposed to be joyous and happy, and usually for the most part with three children — two little and one grown — it is exactly that. But after losing such a huge part of our lives, the hole will always be there. The pain still underlying no matter what we do. Our thoughts roaming to other times when everyone was sitting around the dinner table. But instead we try to notice the new people who have joined us at that same table while those other places still remain empty.
It’s crazy how much changes in five and a half years, but then again how much doesn’t because we just can’t let it — the pictures on the walls, the stories we find ourselves telling over and over again, the little mementos that we put around the house and the memories that pass through our minds unexpectedly without rhyme or reason.
Those glimpses I tend to have always tend to be stronger during the holidays for no reason other than I think I just wish he and my dad were here. As we enjoyed an annual family Christmas tradition this past weekend, I swore I saw the profile of a young man wearing a Fox hat, a sweatshirt and ripped-up, Hollister jeans walk by us in the crowds of people filing by. Or an older man with my father’s eyes, gesture for me to walk in front of him into a store as he held the door open. My heart tends to skip a beat when these things happen. Before it used to take all my power not to run after the young man in the crowd or stare uncomfortably at the man with my father’s eyes. But now I smile because I believe it is their way of showing they are here with us in the crowd, in the stores, in the chaos of the season, enjoying it with us as best they can in spirit.
My hope is that no parents or stepparents ever has to feel the pain that never goes away when you lose a child. That you never have to push yourself to move on with your life whether you want to or not. That you never have to search to find the joy and excitement in the Holidays because all you want to do is miss the child who is no longer there instead of seeing those who are still here. That you never have to believe that all is lost or forsaken because the answers may never come as to why this happened. That you are always blessed to see all of life’s miracles without having to understand why some are taken away while others are left. And that you understand while it may never get ‘better,’ it will go on and life will mold itself around the change to help pave the way for a new kind of ‘better’ and a new kind of normal.
During this time of year, we find solace in telling stories of the past in order to look forward to the future. And while some may not understand this, for people who have lost a child, it makes perfect sense because sometimes the only way to bring yourself into the here and now is to remember the laughter, the smiles, the love and the happiness that once was. In the beginning, happiness seemed at a minimum that was solely directed to my newborn son and my stepdaughter because we had no capacity to put it anywhere else. But as time moved on, we find there are no minimums now, instead we find more reasons to laugh, to show love and kindness to whoever comes into our lives, to smile and to actually allow ourselves to feel happiness during the Holiday season and all year round.
While I watch my boys get older and become the best of friends, my stepdaughter work through the trials, tribulations and joys of being a new mom, and now a granddaughter get bigger and bigger too, I know our lives continue to move forward in order to help us live. And when we let our guard down for just a bit and just let life take hold, it does in the most wondrous of ways without even the slightest bit of effort.
We miss the ones we lost every single day. Obviously, there is no denying that. But the comfort is that those loved ones we’ve loss may also miss the ones they’ve left behind and find their own ways to walk among us, sit by us when we feel alone, stand in the room to listen to the stories we tell, laugh with us and pass by us in the crowd to help us know they are never truly gone. But instead they are locked away in our hearts and minds, waiting patiently until we are all together again.