When our baby boy, Luke, was born on Halloween in 1979..... it was snowing. I remember that day as clear as if it were yesterday, but it was many, many years ago. I held my little boy close to me and I felt his warmth. I pulled him close and kissed his sweet little cheek. I cried when I held him knowing that he finally made his way to me. He had come so far to finally find his way home. That first winter of his life is a memory that I will never forget. I would stand at the window with my baby boy in my arms and my little girl by my side and just watch as the snow floated down from Heaven to find its way to us in that sleepy little town in Idaho.
When our grown boy made his way to our little cabin in the woods..... it was snowing. He came through the front door brushing the newly fallen snow from his coat, I held him close to me and felt his warmth. I had to tiptoe to kiss him on the cheek. That night when everyone had fallen to sleep, I cried silently in my bed knowing that he had safely made his way to me. That last winter of his life is a memory that I will never forget. I stood at the window the next morning as he left and just watched as the snow floated down from Heaven to find its way to us at that little cabin in the mountains in Arizona.
It was twenty-one years between that first and last winter. Many years have passed since Luke's very last winter. Were those days long ago? Should those days be forgotten? In reality they were very long ago, but those days long ago will never be forgotten. In my mind I can visit those days from the past, and all the time between then and now somehow disappears. I know that the future holds for me the reality of those days long ago. I have far to go, but when I finally find my way home, I will hold him close and feel his warmth. I will kiss him on the cheek, and we will stand together and watch the snow gently float down from Heaven to the earth below and days long ago will be no more.
Sometimes when I am in the midst of a cold, lonely winter I wish so much for the warmth of springtime. It is much the same in my grief. Oh, how I wish for the days when the world seemed so much warmer. I have suffered the loss of someone so very special that it is very difficult to break away from that long, cold winter and look for the sun. It feels so dark, and cold, and dreary in this place of grief, and I feel so alone. I find myself frozen in the icy shadow of death, and in the fear of grief, and in the pain of tears. The cold I feel inside is a reminder of all of these things that I now have been forced to live with.
Spring is coming.... even though it seems as if the long, cold winter will never end. The spring that is coming is very different from the spring that I used to share with Luke. In those days I took for granted how wonderful a morning breeze could feel as it skimmed across my face, how beautiful the sunrise was, and how mystical the thunder and rain were. The fragrance of the blooming flowers was something that we breathed in, not knowing that one day soon the flowers would loose their beauty and fragrance.
If only I could have those days back again, but I know they are gone forever. What I can have is the knowing that Luke is with me in all of these things that I long for. He is in the morning breeze, the sunrise, the thunder, the rain, and the fragrance and beauty of the flowers.
With time.... a different kind of spring will come again. I have to open every one of my senses to the possibility that Luke is close, and is here, and is saying "hello". So I will step out of that cold, dark, dreary room and find the wonders that await me, because.... here comes the sun.
I feel him in the morning breeze
As it skims across my face.
I see him in the sunrise
As it brightens up this place.
I hear him in the thunder
Before the sky begins to drip.
I taste him in the raindrops
That trickle down across my lips.
I smell him in the fragrance
Of every flower that's in bloom.
But these things I just imagine
From the corners of my room.
It's winter here in my room.
There's a chill down to my bones.
It's dark, and cold, and dreary
And I feel so all alone.
The cold is a reminder
Of this frigid, frozen fear
That casts those icy shadows
Of death, and grief, and tears.
I'm hoping for the sunshine,
Fragrant breezes, thunder, rain.
But most of all I'm hoping for...
A very early spring.
A winter night is cold and dark and silent. Well, at least it usually is.
When Luke was six years old and our daughter Emily was eight years old, and we were living in Louisiana, we all took our very first ski trip to Winter Park, Colorado in January. I had searched all the pamphlets for fun family things for us to do in the snow.
The first thing we did was to enroll in Ski School. Emily and Luke went to their little ski class on the slopes and Robin (Luke's dad) and I went to our adult ski class. After several hours of trying to learn to ski the instructor took us to a small slope, which then we did not realize was the children's slope.... AKA the 'bunny slope'. We, the adult class members, received instructions to ski down the hill. After only one morning of instruction we all arrogantly thought we were now 'seasoned' skiers until most everyone in our class began falling and running into each other and tumbling down the hill. I'm sure it was a funny sight to see from a distance. But it wasn't very funny to us because we were all trying to look like we 'knew' what we were doing. So there we all were laying on the ground when the "children's ski school" came flying past us looking like they had skied for years. As Emily and Luke passed us while we were laying on the ground you could hear the little sarcastic remarks of "Hey momma!" and "Hey daddy!" followed by little giggles. (It took many years to live that moment down.) But finally we ALL learned how to ski and had a great time on the slopes.
At night we went snow tubing. It was so much fun slipping down that tubing hill and just sailing across the ice. We also went ice skating and I had the bruises to prove it. Saucer sledding was an amazingly fast way to get from the top of the sledding hill to the bottom and Robin and I went faster than the kids because the more you weigh the faster you go. Oh how Emily and Luke laughed at us as we screamed down that hill. Building a snowman was a real treat for the kids and we dressed him up proudly and named him Ned.
The most memorable experience of the trip was a horse-drawn sleight ride through the woods at night. This was an activity that I had researched and we all really wanted to experience 'dashing through the snow in a one horse open sleigh'. When we arrived at the meeting place for the sleigh ride there were about twenty other people who had also reserved the sleigh ride for that very same night. The anticipation was wonderful and we were all filled with excitement for our trip through the woods in a real horse-drawn sleigh. When we all boarded the sleigh the temperature outside was about 10 degrees and the night was black. There were no stars or no moon that could be seen. We all sat there shivering in the dark waiting for the sleigh ride to begin. Everyone on the sleigh ride looked very cold. Huddled together was our little family of four trying to stay warm. The ride finally began and bells on the sleigh were jingling as we rode deep into the woods. It was so dark that we could not even see our hands in front of our faces. There was deep snow everywhere that could only be seen up ahead with the help of the faint light from the lantern on the front of the sleigh. It was extremely cold. I looked up at the rest of the people on the sleigh ride and could see that they were freezing too. I expected to experience "laughing all the way", but everyone on the sleigh ride was silent, not making a sound.... all focusing on trying to keep warm just as we were. It was a very miserable ride and we had all paid a lot to take this "winter wonderland sleigh ride." After what seemed like a very, very long ride, the sleigh finally pulled up to
a clearing in the woods. The sleigh stopped and the driver got out and proceeded to build a campfire as we all unloaded from the sleigh but still no one was saying a word. Everyone was in a circle around the campfire area while we were waiting anxiously for this driver to get the darn fire built. Still no one was talking and the only sounds that could be heard were the sounds of shivering bones and chattering teeth. After several minutes, but what seemed like hours, of this dark bone chilling and very uncomfortably silence .... comes the sound of a six-year-old sarcastic little voice that echoed throughout the forest, delivered by none other than our Luke......"Are we having fun yet?" The silence was immediately broken by the laughter of EVERYONE there including the driver. After that everyone began talking, the driver got the fire going, and before we knew it we all were sipping on hot cocoa as the sound of laughter and talking drifted through that cold winter sky in the darkness of woods. If it hadn't been for that one little statement, coming from one little boy, the entire WILDERNESS WINTER WONDERLAND EXPERIENCE would have been a disaster. Everyone left feeling as though they had a wonderful time.
These memories of that first snowy vacation will forever remind my heart, my mind, and my soul that life was good. Luke had a way of making us all laugh through his entire twenty-one years that he was on this earth. Since Luke died sometimes it feels exactly as it did on that sleigh ride so long ago.... no laughter, no warmth, and no light. When that feeling surrounds me I search for hope and I search for Luke. I just have to remember to laugh at the memories, be warmed by the spirit, and to come out of the darkness and look to the light that will forever shine upon us all from that happy, warm, and bright Heavenly home that will someday be ours too.
When Luke was about 18 years old, and living at home, he left one day to go across town to meet some friends. I walked out to his car to see him off and to get my HUG and my "I love you mom" from Luke. He got in his car and as I leaned through the window to give him a kiss I noticed that he had a piece of paper taped over his gas gauge. I said "Luke, what is this?" He proudly said..."That's faith." I said..."What do you mean?" He said, "Well, I'm never sure if I am going to have enough money to put gas in my car, so I just cover up my gauge, and go by faith." I said firmly..."Luke, you can NOT ride around with your gas gauge covered up!" Luke said... "It's okay Mom, I will be taken care of." I said..."No, it is not okay, Luke... you are going to run out of gas!" Luke said..."God will take care of me." At that point I was getting really angry with him for doing something that, at the time, I thought was so ridiculous. So I said very firmly, "Luke... God is a busy man, and I don't think he has time to keep up with your gas tank." Luke then got angry with me, tore the paper off and said..."Mom, you just need to have a little more faith."
Three years later Luke died, and I really needed that faith that Luke always talked about. I was lost and didn't know where to turn. I searched for help on my computer and stumbled upon the Compassionate Friends site where I found a link to a grief group called Grieving Parents. This group was my salvation! I had found a place where I could talk about Luke and others would listen and they would talk about their children and their loss and I didn't feel so alone anymore. During that first week on-line I met so many sad and caring parents. I received a welcome from a mom in New Jersey who had lost her son Danny, just a few months before Luke had died. I noticed that in her email under her signature..... Arlene, Danny's forever mom... were the words "Walk by faith, not by sight." I felt an immediate connection to her and to her son. I told her Luke's story about his gas gauge and she responded with such support and understanding. From that day on we were the best of friends and still are after almost 13 years of grieving. Hardly a day goes by that we don't communicate on-line. We have visited each other's homes and shared so many stories about our boys. Arlene has received many signs from Luke and I have received many signs from Danny. She calls our boys "The Dynamic Duo". Luke has become a part of her family, just as Danny has become a part of our family. "Oh Danny Boy I love you so."
Danny died January 10, 2001 and Luke died April 3, 2001. Luke and Danny never knew each other on earth. I certainly don't know how things work in this universe but I feel that Danny and Luke were friends long before they even came to earth. I often imagine Danny standing there in Heaven waiting for Luke as he entered Heaven just a few months after Danny did, then Danny putting his arm around Luke and saying... "Welcome home old friend."
We know that our boys brought us together all those years ago so that we could help each other on this long, lonely journey. Luke and Danny are together in Heaven, they send us signs, they are okay, and they will meet us when our time comes. I know all these things because of something that my son tried to tell me many years ago... "Mom, you just need to have a little more faith."
The earth is so still this cold New Year's morning.
The ground is bare, there's a hush in every tree.
I have but only one New Year's resolution,
To try and understand why... you were TAKEN FROM ME.
I sat in your garden this New Years morning.
I looked at your stone inscribed 2001.
My heart questions what me eyes tell me.
Have you really been away that long?
That year is coldly etched on your stone.
That year is forever a time from the past.
It's when I last touched you, it seems like forever,
But somehow it seems the years move by so fast.
Seems like yesterday you called on New Year's morning,
To tell me of your celebration on New Year's eve.
We talked and laughed but now I'm crying.
I just don't understand why... you had to leave.
It seems that you had so much to offer.
There's less happiness since you've been gone.
You loved so much and you gave so much.
Your absence just seems so very wrong.
Doesn't God realize the world needs your laughter?
How can the world continue without your smile?
We need you to hold us and we need you to touch us.
We need you to walk with us down these lonely miles.
I've had too many years to absorb these feelings,
I've had too many years to live without you, my son.
My world has ceased while life has continued.
I just can't believe another year has come.
I really understand that you won't be returning,
Even though I pray for it down on my knees.
I really understand that you're in a better place.
But I don't understand why... you were TAKEN FROM ME.