Today, my four year old looked at Kenneth’s picture on the wall and said “That’s my brother Kenneth! He’s in Heaven though.” He thought for a minute, then asked, “Mama, when Kenneth is all done being in Heaven, can he come to my house?”
It just about broke my heart to have to tell him that people can’t come back from Heaven. I posted about what he’d said on a small, private message board, and one of my friends said something that I’ve heard many times: “I don’t know how you do it.”
The truth is, most days I’m not sure, either. The answer has changed over time, and sometimes it’s different from day to day.
In the beginning, I got through by trying to remember to breathe. I gave myself over to my grief body and soul. If I wanted to cry, I cried. If I wanted to yell and scream, I waited until I was home and blistered God’s ears.
Now, it’s a little different. In some ways, the beginning was almost easier because I knew to expect the grief and the overwhelming pain. There was no surprise in living in the darkness. Just shy of six years later, things in life are mostly normal. Mostly. Every now and then, a moment happens that is a kick to the gut, a knife to the heart. Those moments are hard, because they never seem to happen at a time I expect. They catch me off guard and take my breath away, and many times they happen in such a way that I have to maintain my composure, like when my son asks me if his brother can come to his house.
I should never have to explain to my son that his brother will never come to our house, but it is our reality. How do I do it? By doing what I have to do, and doing my best to do it well. My son deserves to have his questions answered, even if it feels like answering the questions steals my breath and knocks me flat. Will I cry later? Probably. I’ll save my tears for after my son is in bed, use this blog for catharsis while he watches his nightly cartoon, and pray that somehow God gives me the strength to do this for another round.
All of us are given things in life that we didn’t choose, but were instead chosen for us. I didn’t choose any of this, but I have it. In life, we have a choice. We can get knocked over by whatever unfair circumstance that gets dished out and choose to stay down and stay bitter, or we can choose to allow our grief and hurt to have its season and then try to live again. You can’t choose what happens to you in life, but you can choose how you respond to it.
How do I do it? I’m too stubborn to give up. I love my other children too much to have their lives overshadowed by Kenneth’s, but I love Kenneth too much to pretend that he was never here and didn’t matter. It’s a balancing act. Sometimes I fall, but I get back up again.
Nobody ever said life was fair or easy.