My heart is doing a little happy dance right now because I can finally delight in the beauty of light gleaming above the vast expanse of a cloud bank. My second book, … and then Grace smiles, is getting closer to its final period. I cannot end this work, however, without talking about, and to my son, Matthew, who has been with me throughout its conception and creation. Because of his presence in my life, I feel more prepared to offer the hope of Grace to other grieving hearts.
Before my son died, I sent him Tim Hansel’s book, You Gotta Keep Dancin’. I thought the writer’s journey with chronic pain would somehow speak to Matt, perhaps lead him to reflect on commonalities and differences between his journey and the author’s. I had read the book fully and deeply. It was important to me then. And still must be. As I look at it again, right now, I am startled to note that there are more than two dozen red marking flags, attached to pages, sentences and ideas that I believed were profound and might speak to my son’s astonishing intellect, gentle heart and pain-filled reality.
I don’t know if he ever read it. I hope he did and was somehow comforted by Hansel’s ideas about the richness of life when things are far from easy. Statements like this that could set up a conversation: “I’ve survived because I’ve discovered a new and different kind of joy . . . a joy that can coexist with uncertainty and doubt, pain, confusion, and ambiguity.” I was praying that Matt could find, or perhaps had already found, that kind of joy. But, I never knew . . . we didn’t have that conversation before his death.
After he died, I wrote Letters for Grace, a memoir of this mom who had survived her first born and was fighting to understand why. In the book I composed letters to him, filled with wonderings and questions about my life, both with and without him, longing to somehow hear answers that would bring us together through the peace of grace moments. This final letter, a compilation of those old and some new thoughts, is for you, son.
"My dear boy,
My time thinking about the place grace has in my life has morphed and grown in complexity over this tempestuous journey since your death. I’m no longer angry at God. Though I still admit to confusion about how your death fits as a piece in the puzzle that is religion, God no longer gets blamed for your death - or for me outliving my child. I believe you and God met along the way and had come to terms together. I smile to think about how that conversation full of intellectual wonder and unqualified love might have unfolded. My concerns really no longer apply.
I have had time to learn from your loss: years of searching and readjusting, of crafting one and yet another vision of a life journey, of crying when your sweet face comes to me unbidden, and smiling when that same vision is wrapped in hope and expectation. Asking you questions granted me the wisdom to understand that dwelling in the quiet of my own soul, available to hear answers as well as generate new questions, can empower me to most safely and productively propel into the fireworks of reality – a reality surrounded by possibilities and moving to a rhythm independent of my control. You’ve been an exceptional teacher, my son.
You continue to be in my life, my waking dreams, my best hopes and a continual search for my best self. How much and strongly I love you continue to feed me. I feel your arm around my shoulders, your infectious grin is a presence just over my right shoulder and I believe if I turn my head ever so slightly I can be lost in its loving, grace-filled light. I don’t know what is next for us, but I know grief no longer holds me captive because you are with me.
You are Grace, always present . . . you are forever my boy, as I am ever your Mom."
I send out heartfelt wishes for the light and love that is Grace to surround you all –