On a warm afternoon in June you took your last breath. June 24th 2012, the day that will forgive divide my life into the before and after. The person I was, The person I am. Even after 4 years I am still not always comfortable living as this new being.

It has been a challenging time, learning to live without you, constantly trying to claw my way out of the abyss. Even before you died, Pastor told dad and I that we must remember we are only walking through the valley of the shadow of death, that we shouldn’t pitch a tent and stay there. He didn’t tell us how deep and long that valley would be. We both try. We try hard to rejoin the living, to not dwell on the past, but that is so difficult when the past is where YOU are, where we all were when we were happy. Sometimes the past seems like Heaven to us now.

And even though there are some moments now, four years later, that cause a hurt in my heart to rival the early days, I know that I have not pitched that tent in the valley, I am moving along, and I’ve learned a few things during these long, short years. In no particular order…

1. I miss you. I will always miss you. I won’t ever miss you less, that’s not the way it works. I am just slowly learning how to incorporate you, your memory really, which is all I have left of you, into my life.

2. There are safe people to share with, and there are people who will make me feel that I am pathologically flawed. People who make me feel that I am not “normal”, that I should be doing “better”. That I need to move on… I am learning to stay away from these people and surround myself with people who are ok with me mentioning your name, who enjoy sharing stories about you, who know that when I say I wish I could die it does not mean I am suicidal just that I miss what was and that going on without you is so very hard…. Friends who may not understand what it’s like to lose a child but who gently walk beside me as I walk this path.

3. I have always loved you. I have loved you from the day we knew you existed, the phone call telling us a baby boy was born and did we want him. I loved you more when I saw your picture, the tiny black and white picture that came out of an envelope. And my love has only grown. I have loved you through the difficult early years and all the busy years that flew so swiftly by. I have always loved you. I didn’t appreciate all that you brought to my life though. Things that now as I sit in a very quiet house that used to be filled with the raucousness of 3 active boys, I have plenty of time to ponder. You gave the most unconditional love of anyone I have ever known. There were never, ever, any strings attached. No matter what I did, you loved me. How many people are blessed to have someone who is always happy to see them? Many of us have had little ones who run to us with a hug when we come home, who shower us with toddler kisses, who light up when we enter a room… I had that for almost 26 years. Your face was the one watching for me out the window when I would pull in the driveway. You are the one who would smile and yell “hello” when I walked in. You are the one whose smile lit my world on the gloomiest of days. You are the one who wanted to be with me regardless of what kind of person I perceived myself to be. You lifted me up, higher than I had a right to be, and I never even knew it until you were gone…

4. I feel more. This is a good thing and a bad thing and I’m still learning how to handle it. I love deeper and I hurt deeper. I have less patience for drama. I hold back nothing.

5. This “lesson” also ties into the empty house and having more time to think… Your 3 ½ years with cancer were not pretty. There were some terribly traumatic events that occurred and it is probably a blessing that I was able to auto-pilot through those things so that I could be present for you in the times you needed me most. I attribute some of my ability to do that to my medical training. Somehow, I could do what needed to be done and not completely personalize it. At that time anyway. Since your death I’ve had many post traumatic incidents, or flashbacks, that have brought me to my knees both literally and figuratively. I watched you lose the ability to walk, to be relegated to a wheelchair for the rest of your life. I watched you lose the ability to go to the bathroom and to shower independently, I watched you have seizures, I watched the chemo and radiation eat your insides so that even food didn’t give you pleasure, I watched you endure surgery on your spinal cord and spine — the removal of several vertebrae to make room for the tumor to grow because it couldn’t be removed… I watched you have a stroke that temporarily took away your ability to speak and how your eyes searched mine as you lay on the gurney in the ER, how those eyes were pleading with me to help you… I was there when you realized you were dying and told me you were afraid of Jesus. I watched your pain as it grew stronger, and I was there to watch you die… This is a daily struggle that I am working on. Working on replacing bad memories with good. I look at pictures of you often as it helps me to see the smiles, the good times. There are very few photos of the really bad times, but there are a couple of you and your brothers that I can’t toss. Even though they are filled with pain there is so much love in those pictures.

6. Your Dad. Your dad is an amazing guy Jordan. My love for him is stronger now than ever. He is the person who most knows how It feels, losing you. His eyes echo my pain and his eyes also echo my joy. You have bonded us closer in your death. Your brothers are pretty amazing too and have grown into wonderful men. I believe, no, I know, that having you in their lives contributed to making them the people they are now. Family. It’s what really matters in this life, and family isn’t just blood.

7. My relationship with God has probably been the most tumultuous relationship I’ve had. One day I’m surrendering completely to His Will and the next I am turning my back to him in anger. I don’t picture God as the old, bearded, wrathful judge that I did in my younger years. In fact, my perception of him changes frequently now. Today he is a kind Father with a tear in his eye as he feels my pain on this, the fourth anniversary of your death. My faith is a work in progress.

8. The hole in my heart will never heal and I am okay with that. I am working to fill it with good things. Things that remind me of you and that honor your memory.

“…here is the deepest secret nobody knows (here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide) and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

I carry your heart (I carry it in my heart)” — ee cummings