My Heart and Soul Ache For You
I see it behind her ever present smile, deep beneath her positive attitude, I see it in her eyes. They say the eyes are the window to the soul, and her beautiful soul is aching. At moments when we reach out to each other, our eyes gaze into each other's and in that instant I see the pain. Pain for me and the devastating pain of losing another child.
The most devastating loss of all.
Is there no greater love than that of a Mother's love for her child? The life that begins within us, we nurture and carry within our womb, we touch our aching belly and marvel at their movements. We talk to them, sing to them and hope and dream for them, even before laying eyes on them.
We give birth to them and cry in joy at the miracle we created. The moment they are laid in our arms, we know without question what undying love is, in that instant we understand the Mother and Child bond.
We nurture, they grow. We rejoice in their milestones. We agonize over whether or not we are doing a good job. We hope they live a long, healthy, happy, prosperous life.
Our worst fear is that we will outlive them.
My mother-in-law had five children, three boys and two girls. The very opposite of ours. Her fourth child, and third boy contracted spinal meningitis at the age of six months. Within one weekend her precious son, the one who most resembled her, would begin a downward spiral lasting eight years. Eight years of heartache for a mother who would wonder what could have been for him. In the 1970's, you grieved behind closed doors, you accepted, you prayed and you went on with your life.
She saw the rest grow to adulthood, marry and bring her a dozen grandchildren. One of her daughters, the older of the two, and a mother herself, became ill with cancer. We were told it was terminal and the doctors gave her a year. With her strength and will to live, the love and support of friends and family, she survived eighteen months, long enough to celebrate her own daughter's fifth birthday. In the early morning hours of a sunny October day, my mother-in-law learned that her third child, her oldest daughter, had slipped away. She went to grief counseling, prayed and read many books on coping with the loss of a child. It helped, she says.
In December of 2009, she again experienced the loss of a child, my husband. Though a grown man with a family of his own, still, and forever would be, her child. One she carried, gave birth to, nurtured, marveled at his milestones (and there were many), one she loved unconditionally and unequivocally.
She often says, she still can't believe he is gone. Her eyes fill with tears and I see her try to dispell the immense grief she must be feeling. She shares her experience of grief counseling with me, and what helped her through the pain of losing her children. Understanding the stages of grief, she says, was of the utmost importance. Knowing that the see-saw and abundance of mixed emotions were normal and all part of the process, helped her tremendously. She encourages me to go. Selflessly, she embraces me and asks me how I'm doing. I reply that I'm doing okay and ask how she is doing. She replies much the same. Though I know in my heart, she's less than okay. Maybe she sees that in me as well. Though we've both lost this man forever from our lives, it is a much different loss.
I look at my own children and simply can not fathom the tremendous devastation of losing one of them, let alone three. I have such admiration for her and her continued love of life in spite of it all. I wish there was some way that I could take away her pain, yet I never want to feel it for myself.