Where Have The Tears Gone?

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If you read my post yesterday, you know that I experienced a connection to God and Joaquin like never before on Monday afternoon. This connection left me so peaceful that I felt extremely energized. I fell asleep for the first time ever on Monday night with no tears in my eyes. And what followed was confusing. I tossed and turned throughout the night. So much for inner peace. But I wasn’t torn or sad. I just couldn’t sleep. I was just confused. I felt guilty.
My son died almost 3.5 weeks ago and I am not crying myself to sleep for the first time ever? How can that be? Is it possible that I’m forgetting him?? I continued to toss and turn and I when I finally fell asleep I realized that I started to remember my dreams again. I hadn’t been able to recall any dreams since Joaquin died. But I recall them now. Joaquin isn’t in my dreams but I at least know that my dreams have returned. When I woke up on Tuesday I woke up feeling very different. I didn’t feel like I was floating. Or dreaming. And things didn’t seem surreal anymore. I felt energized. But the confusion lingers.
When I finally spoke to a friend who has experienced the loss of a child as well, I quickly told her my experience and I immediately felt bad for doing so. Was it wrong to share my “awesome/peaceful” experience with her so soon? Would she hate me? I apologized for doing so as I realized that perhaps she had yet to find inner peace and I shared my guilt from the night before and I asked if it was remotely possible that I was forgetting Joaquin (yes, conversations with other moms that have lost a child are crazy like this…the words just spill out between us – no filter and no walking on eggshells when the topic is death)? She assured me no all across the board. She has had her moments of peace and she assured me that what I am experiencing is that I am adjusting to my new normal and that heck no – I am NOT forgetting Joaquin. I was told that my tears would return soon.  They won’t come as often but they will always be there. I don’t want to cry forever but I most definitely don’t ever want stop thinking about my sweet boy.
Later that Tuesday evening I did something that I hadn’t done in 4 months. I was still feeling energized and I was longing to feel that connection to God and Joaquin. I dug out my running shoes, changed my clothes, left my music behind and walked out the door. I started off with a very slow walk and slowly began to jog. My legs felt heavier than usual. Very unlike the first time I attempted jogging at the beginning of the year. But as I switched gears between jogging and walking I realized something that I had never experienced before. I could listen. Clearly. The sounds were everywhere. It’s as if I had been given new ears. I enjoyed my time outside. And I could literally see the huge driving force in my life ahead of me, the little one next to me and the huge army behind me. It was just me, Him, Joaquin and my team. On the path, alongside the noises that God wants me to hear – nothing else mattered. I found my peace.

woman walking

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Listening Over Lunch

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Yesterday was not my typical Monday. Although, it started off as it normally does these days (dragging, missing Joaquin) I noticed I had an extra pep in my usually slow step. The pep wasn’t brought on by the fact that I was going into work (although knowing that I was working a half day made me smile) but instead by the fact that I was meeting a friend for lunch. This friend was yet another college pal, one that wanted to pull herself away from her frenzied home life and drive the four hours just to see me. How can one not smile when someone does this for you?
While I was happy for me, my heart ached for my husband. Upon waking I had noticed that he was moving at a much slower pace. He was missing Joaquin more than usual. Sure enough the text came in close to noon, “I can’t shake it. I can’t stop thinking about Joaquin”. I was in a meeting so I couldn’t pull away and call him but I prayed that God could read the text I sent my husband. “Even through your tears, talk to God, get out of the house and get to work!” I hated that he was feeling this way and there was nothing more that I could do. I prayed that work would provide him the distraction he needed to get through one more day.
As lunch time arrived, I drove to meet my friend and her sister and what followed was nothing short of mystical and divine. As much as I love to share my life with everyone, what I experienced over lunch yesterday was much too special to share here (although I don’t mind sharing it one on one so just ask and I’ll be more than happy to). It was a moment that left me in awe and tears. As a matter of fact, we were all in tears and I swear I noticed a manager that perhaps overheard the conversation walk away in tears as well. It was what I needed to feel the final connection with God and Joaquin. I felt complete again. I felt like I was finally on the right track. I was getting clues as to where I was going but yesterday’s lunch conversation (which involved LISTENING…again!!) told me I was close. So close that I could literally jump out of my skin. I walked away from our three hour lunch practically bouncing! As a matter of fact, I can guarantee Joaquin was bouncing along with me.
I still physically miss Joaquin every minute of the day but I realize that he’s not going anywhere. We are a team. We’ve been a team. And a great team, at that. Joaquin was sent to me to change me. And he did – I’ve said it before Joaquin passed away and I’ll continue to say it until the day we meet again in Heaven. To listen to all of the outside noise and not allow God to change me through Joaquin would be such a shame. There is no way I am allowing my sadness to overshadow what God meant for me through my sweet boy. I’m yours God. Use me.

communion of saints

Grieving Diva

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So far this week has been chaotic yet cleansing.  My Monday started off horribly.  Perhaps it’s because I knew my coworker would be out the whole day or perhaps it’s because I just did not want to be there.  I woke up feeling sad.  And the sadness continued throughout the day.  I dreaded the phone calls that came in.  But somehow, I made it through the day.  Albeit, crying practically the whole day and crying myself to sleep…but the next morning I woke up alive.  A survivor once more.

Tuesday started off ok enough.  Until my anger and grief got the best of me at work.  When a grieving mother encounters mundane things that make absolutely no sense to anyone, she may fly the cuckoo’s nest.  When someone complains about ungrateful, grown children, points fingers in the workplace or makes things about themselves in front of a grieving parent – well, you better watch out.  Hell hath no fury like a grieving parent.  And so when THAT happened I decided (perhaps wrongfully so) to use choice words in the work place.  And when said coworker, with no compassion in his voice told me to stop talking that way, well, it just added fuel to my fire.  I listened to my inner voice and grabbed my purse and keys and stormed off.  I knew well enough that I would return but I needed time to just be.  And so, I parked my car across from Joaquin’s old school and imagined him there.  I imagined him smiling, walking out in his little khaki shorts, blue shirt and Mickey Mouse backpack.  Oh, how I feel him there.  And when I did, I cried.  And I cried.  And I allowed myself to ask the dreaded “why?” over and over again.  And then I wiped my tears and went back to work, ignoring that man and apologizing to the others.  They understood.  Did he?  Probably not.  A fellow grieving mom calls those moments her “Do you know who I am?” moments.  It’s like I’ve become a grieving diva but she seems to make her appearance only in front of the people that I have little tolerance for.

Later that day, the grieving diva and husband were treated to a couples massage.  And the worries of the world were finally lifted away, if only for one hour.  I finally felt a bit whole again and I could swear that I heard Joaquin whisper, “I wuv you, mommy”.  I came home centered and relaxed. I ended the night well and woke up the next day feeling the same.  It made me wonder what other practices I could find, besides prayer, that would help me feel that way.  So far I’ve only found meditation and yoga, something I may start looking into if my new theology teacher doesn’t fail me.  Oh, did I forget to mention that the awesome friend of mine from college that is helping me on my spiritual journey assigned me homework?  And a lot of it!  Am I intimidated?  No.  Excited?  Yes.  Confused?  You better believe it.  But I have her number on speed dial and plan to call her.  Often.  My friend, if you’re reading this, you’ve been warned.

And last night I ended up going to a bereavement class at my church.  I was looking forward to it but freaked out as soon as I got there because two ladies, a mother and a daughter, were crying so, so much.  Don’t get me wrong, they weren’t making me uncomfortable.  This reformed emotional basket case seems to hold it together, for the most part (not counting grieving diva moments), pretty well in front of others.  So far, my moments come by myself, with my spouse or with my parents.  Every so often, I tear up with fellow grieving parents.  Yesterday, I let it all out with a good friend over the phone while at work after I felt defeated.  She cried with me and promised to help me keep Joaquin’s fight going.  But I was hesitant to cry in front of strangers.

two-women-hugging

As the meeting began, the mother that had initially left me shaken shared the grief of losing her son.  And as she did, I said a quick and silent prayer.  All I wanted to do was to hug her and never let her go.  Perhaps, we could cry together.  As I listened, I just couldn’t understand her pain.  You may wonder, “But how?  You son just passed away almost three weeks ago?”.   But you see, everybody’s mourning style is different and their grief is different.  And the situation is different.  Even if her child had died from the exact same things as Joaquin did at the exact same age, I couldn’t possibly understand.  It’s not my place to understand.  It’s only my place to be patient, excuse her when she doesn’t act herself, to love her and pray for her.  I teared up once in front of my new friends when I admitted I never thought I would be “that mother”.  But I am.  And just like Joaquin wore his scars proudly and with no shame, I will wear my battle wounds the same way too.  I spoke of my journey and how beautifully painful and bittersweet it was.  And then it hit me.  My “moments” come like waves.  Some so big they knock you down so deep you struggle to come up for air.  And when I come up for air and dry myself off, I very well may act like a grieving diva.  And so what?  Deal with it.  I know I am.

 

Crossroads

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Several things happened this weekend and they all involved talking about Joaquin, again.  It started with lunch with a friend on Friday afternoon.  Towards the end of our conversation, her eyes welled up in tears and we both sat in awe of the whole thing.  I said, “A mother’s instinct is amazing and even more so when we have a connection to God”.  A second visit happened when I ran into a friend on Saturday while I watched Alejandro at his golf lesson.  This particular friend had attended Joaquin’s funeral mass and we finally got the opportunity to speak.  It was such a good visit as she bravely asked questions.  In many circumstances, people tiptoe around the topic of death, especially that of a child’s death.  But she didn’t because she felt a connection.  She stated, “Forgive me if I’m being frank”.  Frank?  Gosh no!  I want people to talk to me about what they’re feeling and what our journey has done for them.  My friends, my life is an open book for a reason.  Please, ask away!

Later that afternoon,  I was on the phone with an old college friend.  My friend is a busy homeschooling mom that works for a parish in her area and as the years passed we spoke less frequently, but had managed to speak prior to Joaquin’s passing.  She had been sending me texts with prayers and support from the day that Joaquin went in until just a few days ago.  I was desperate to talk to her and I finally did this Saturday.

And when we spoke it was beautiful.  We spoke of St. Michael the Arch Angel as she suggested that I keep his prayer handy for those times when I feel like I am afraid.  She reminded me of the Pieta (a painting or sculpture depicting the Virgin Mary cradling the dead body of Jesus)

pieta

and how, when you look closely, you can see her sorrow and anguish and at the same time you can see her peace.  I got chills as I told her that my last moment with Joaquin was very similar.  I have never connected more to our Blessed Mother than I did then.  I was, of course, anguished and sad that I would no longer physically have my beautiful son, but at that moment I was at peace because he had no more tubes, no more pain and more than anything I could hold him again.  While my husband and Alejandro cried around me, I was at peace knowing my sweet boy was whole again.

I asked her how she got to where she is now.  Because truth be told, when I met her she was just a fun college girl just like the rest of us (although she was always more pious than many of us).  She shared with me that through all the pain and anguish that she had suffered in the past, she has always felt peaceful in the presence of our Lord.  I couldn’t agree more.  I blurted out that I was feeling overwhelmed because I felt like I had finally been graced by God – something that I had been craving for years – at yet, I didn’t know where to go next with it.  In a nutshell, I told her I wanted to be like her.  I want to know exactly what to say, what to pray, how to pray.  I felt like I was at a crossroads and didn’t know which road God wanted me to take next.  She laughed and told me I was silly.  She reminded me that I shouldn’t be overwhelmed but instead told me that if I can continue to listen to God, as I clearly have especially in the last three months, that I would soon know where God needs me.

So, yesterday, as my husband worked and Alejandro spent Sunday with my parents, I did what felt right in my heart.  I turned off the TV and prayed.  I spoke (and yes cried) to God and Joaquin for a good ten minutes. I texted two friends when I was done.   Both are mourning mothers.   One friend, whose loss is more recent, admitted that as she received my text she was not doing well and she didn’t know what to do.  She was on the verge of a meltdown and home alone with both of her children.  I gave her some simple advice (get out of the house and go to your mom’s!!) and told her I was there if she needed me.  As that was going on, I asked my other friend to join me at mass.  She agreed.  And there we were.  Two friends, both mourning the loss of their children in the place where I have finally come to find peace.  As I sat there and once again, let His words sink in, part of Psalms 46:10 came to mind, “be still and know that I am God…”.

When we left mass I checked my phone and my other friend’s text awaited me “The kids and I are dressed and singing in the car on our way to my mom’s.  Stepping out into the sun makes a difference, fast! Thanks for sending that text at the exact right moment.”

Then I realized, God is in control of my crossroads. My trust and faith is in God and Him alone. He never fails. So, I will gladly sit back and let Him lead me.

crossroads

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I Can Only Imagine

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Yesterday we started our lives with yet another “new normal”.  It may not be normal for others but it’s normal for us now.  I wasn’t sure I was ready to start work again but after my bad day on Tuesday I decided maybe it was a good idea to start my daily routine.  The biggest thing on my mind believe it or not were my clothes.  Dear Lord, my clothes!!

Since we had checked Joaquin in to Driscoll Children’s Hospital for his Fontan on September 30th I had been wearing the equivalent to nurse’s scrubs – sweats!!  The Thursday before his surgery I had even gone to Academy to shop for warmish, comfy clothes to wear around the hospital.  You see, for me, staying at the hospital with Joaquin meant hardly leaving his side and eating whatever I could scarf down.  And yes, a lot of times that meant super greasy, unhealthy food.  Who cares??  All I knew is that I needed to be with my baby.

When complications from Joaquin’s surgery started to arise I stopped eating.  I became the mourning, weeping mother we all imagine we would become.  But as soon as I received God’s grace and Joaquin passed away, my appetite remarkably came back.  And so when we finally returned home that Friday my family was there to greet us with an abundance of food.  The food didn’t stop until this past weekend so of course I was concerned with my work clothes.  I had nothing to wear that would fit!  Alas – I found that one last pair of faded black pants that still fit and that started my day just right.  I may have looked frumpy but at least I made it out the door!

When I got back to work today I sat down with my colleague and we talked about the impact that Joaquin’s passing had on her as a friend and as a heart mom.  She cried when she told me that Joaquin’s mass was beautiful.  I had to agree.

I told her that I have never felt such peace as I did when Paul and I walked up to the front pew.  I felt like I was finally home.  When they wheeled Joaquin’s casket right next to us I could only smile.  Joaquin was home.  The music was heavenly.  And when the service was over, Paul and I got up, hand in hand and followed Joaquin’s casket out.  I was proud of Joaquin and all that he had done in his four short years.  He did it the way that we all should.  With a smile and with a heart full of love.  And then, as we got closer to the exit, Joaquin’s music teacher and his daughters broke into a gorgeous version of Mercy Me’s “I Can Only Imagine”.  I’ll never forget the words that brought my hands up in praise and a smile to my face as I saw Joaquin’s picture by the front door:

Surrounded By Your Glory

What Will My Heart Feel?

Will I Dance For You Jesus

Or In Awe Of You Be Still?

Will I Stand In Your Presence

Or To My Knees Will I Fall?

Will I Sing Hallelujah?

Will I Be Able To Speak At All?

I Can Only Imagine

Oh Joaquin, I can only imagine your huge, beautiful, brown eyes standing in awe of the Man that loves you more than mommy and daddy ever could here on earth.  Aren’t you the lucky one?

Joaquin Birthday Pic 2

Is there a particular song that gets you to that moment that I got to in mass?  Share in the comments below.  I would love to hear all about it!

Clear the Clouds and Let the Sun Shine In

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storm clouds

The darkest days are indeed behind me.  There are, however, a lot of stormy clouds still looming around.  The sun peeks out for a bit and warms us up only to be overshadowed by those dark and gray clouds.  Today, they seem to never want to go away.

It started on Friday.  Paul and I picked a happy Alejandro up from school.  He brought smiles to our eyes when he was smiling from ear to ear.  We decided not to go home (which is the case these days) and instead ran errands.  In doing so, Paul and I noticed that it was really odd running errands as a family of three instead of four.  We whispered this to each other so Alejandro wouldn’t hear.  But the kid is not easy to fool.

Later that day we went home to start packing for our camp in.  Not a camp out…a camp in.  At my brother’s house – an effort to keep Alejandro smiling.  And it worked.  But while we packed (all of us had to go because Alejandro wouldn’t go without us) it was he that said it out loud.  “For a quick minute I thought there were four of us but there are only three”.  Kids don’t whisper.  They just speak the truth.

The camp in was a hit.  Alejandro had a blast.  But Paul and I felt out of sorts.  We imagined Joaquin chasing along his cousins and we felt like we were dragging.  The morning came and we woke up happy and ready to take Alejandro back to his golf lessons.  Epic fail.  While he was having fun, something as small as ant bites sent the kid in a tailspin and insisted this was the worst day ever.  Again.

So we went home and we started packing.  Alejandro had a day off from school on Monday and Paul and I could not fathom how we were about to entertain him without his little brother around for three whole days.  Was it the right thing to do to just pack up and get out of town?  At this point – God only knows.

Packing, unfortunately, came easy.  Something that was never the case before.  Prior to Joaquin’s passing, I had to pack two sets of clothes, two blankets, movies that both boys would agree on and of course all of Joaquin’s medicines.  This time, everything fit in a carry on suitcase and while it was lighter than ever, it weighed heavy on my heart.  But I chugged along.  We got to San Antonio and Alejandro was happy.  And so were we.  Reminders of Joaquin were everywhere there too but Alejandro’s smile kept us going.  The rest of the weekend was very much the same.  Mass brought me peace and seeing friends made me feel warm.  Until we got to the Children’s Museum.

It was there that it hit me.  There were too many children.  Way too many reminders all at once.  They all looked liked Joaquin.  Joaquin was everywhere.  But he wasn’t.  Paul pointed out a little child that was about one year old that had a sibling that was about seven or eight and said “If we had another child that’s what it would be like”.  But it bothered me because that was never my intention.  I liked the fact that Alejandro was two years older than Joaquin.  That was my plan.  My plan apparently and not God’s.  And we can’t interfere with His plans.

We left on Monday and things were fine until nighttime on the road when all we hear is sniffling coming from the back seat.  Alejandro is crying for his baby brother.  And all we can do is support him and let him cry.  It’s hard when we get home.  He cries some more and argues with us too. This is not the boy we know and love.  He cries himself to sleep as I hold him.  My prayers to God are that he let Joaquin come into Alejandro’s dream and let him have some peace.

This morning was the toughest.  I woke up angry. Not at God.  But at his surgeon.  There.  I said it.  I thought I had forgiven him but clearly I have not.  When I text my friend how I am feeling she tells me, “You need to let it all out and get angry if you need to”.  But then she tells me of how she feels that she missed out on her oldest child’s life because she was constantly mourning and crying over her daughter’s death even years later.  And that is what I am afraid of.  I don’t want to miss out on Alejandro’s life because I am constantly crying.  So I refuse.  I refuse to dwell and be that angry.  I will cry.  I will not let it take the best of me.  I will not let it take the best of Alejandro.  This family of three will patiently wait for the clouds to clear.

This Thing Called Grief

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I cry.  Yes, trust me – I do cry.  After all our company left yesterday and after finally getting caught up on Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, Paul and I decided we were exhausted.  Do you blame us?  We have been going on overdrive since our sweetpea went Home one week ago today.  So we headed to the dark bedroom and got in bed.  And there, we cried.  And cried.  And we fell asleep.

20 minutes later I woke up.  Like I literally jolted up.  Paul asked if I was ok and I said, “Yeah, I’m done”.  So here’s the deal.  I think I am just really focusing on God and Joaquin’s fighting spirit that I make myself not dwell.  I practically force myself not to.  Last night before bedtime I was missing Joaquin’s voice and I wanted to desperately listen to the videos I have on my phone of him.  But I felt like my wound was so deep at that moment that it just didn’t seem like the wisest idea.  Instead I took a quick peek at his pictures, inhaled the smell on his pajamas and went to bed.

This morning I decided to check out the five stages of grief and I am either doing things backwards or I have finally excelled in something.  Check them out.

Denial and Isolation – ok.  I think I did this.  But I did this in the hospital.  I never isolated myself but I think I was in denial or really, really holding on to hope.

Anger – I have only dealt with anger once so far.  And that was when a family member was making our family’s mourning about them and carrying out a little too dramatically.  I raged in anger and didn’t care who heard me.  This was OUR child.  How dare you drape yourself over my casket and wail uncontrollably while my six year old watches and goes from happy to scared.  How dare you?  If anyone should be doing this it should be me.  And I didn’t.  I weep in private for the sake of my living child.  Am I wrong?  Who the heck knows?  All I know is that I was livid.

Bargaining – my bargaining came in prayer form.  I mean like hard core, all night vigil prayer form.  And it worked.  He was completely healed.

Depression – I am not depressed.  I am sad.  I miss him so much.  But I refuse to be depressed.  REFUSE.  Joaquin was a happy child and I feel like I have a bit of him in me therefore I cannot be depressed.  I feel like he tells me to get up and GO!!  And what mommy doesn’t listen to their kiddos when they get that demanding.  Thank you, baby boy.

Acceptance – the most beautiful part for me.  I accepted Joaquin’s passing when I soaked in the word of God.  He was telling me it was time to let go.  Yesterday Paul and I spoke about when we really think Joaquin died.  Medically it was at 4:15 am last Friday morning.  But we think perhaps his soul had left his sweet body earlier.  We were trying to pinpoint exactly when but that’s kind of impossible.  Then I wondered.  What if he died when I spoke to Chaplain Ana?  When she whispered things I can’t remember.  When I heard her call me a woman of God.  When I exhaled and inhaled in her arms.  How can I not accept it when it happens so beautifully?

So – my grief has been all over the place.  A lot like me!!  And it doesn’t matter.  As long as you get it done.

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