my four yera old died, I was certain my family would never be the same
again. It is true and have been proven over and over that we will
no longer be the typical family living at the end of the cul-de-sac.
We may look the same (only because I have not been daring enough to don
all black as our Victorian ancestors) but our hearts have been mangled
and our future dimmed. Through death we have been marked -- for life.
In the course
of any given week I can clearly note how changes have come and stayed with
us. Events that seemed insignificant when Daniel was alive now hold
powerful and emotional memories. Seeing the boxes of Cocoa Puffs on the
grocery store shelf, hearing the lyrics to Toy Story's theme song "You've
Got A Friend In Me" and driving past the local McDonald's brings jolts
of pain to my broken heart.
feel uncomfortable as they see my eyes well up with tears during these
times of remembering some of the favorite things a lively little boy with
an infectious grin enjoyed so much. The neighbors may be bothered
by my woeful cries as I stand on my deck and stare into the night sky,
wondering where Heaven lies and what my child is doing.
Yes, we have
changed. I, as the mother, can no longer promise (as I use to) that
nothing bad will ever happen to any of us. Nor can we believe that
if you pray hard enough and just hold onto faith your fervent prayers will
be answered as you desire. For now, in our grief, all we can see
is a little boy with cancer who died one cold winter night though surrounded
by the prayers of church leaders and believers.
At first when
Daniel left us, I seldom went to the cemetery but now we often take a picnic
and venture to the grassy lawn beside his marker. We named the cemetery
Daniel's Place and the kids and I leave messages for my husband to meet
us there after work. We eat, decorate Daniel's grave and the older
two run and do cartwheels. The baby picks at blades of grass.
my two year old passes a cemetery with flowers on the markers he says,
"I wanna go playground and play."
No, we are
not the same. How many two year olds say they want to watch their
deceased brother? I am not sure if Benjamin understands exactly who
Daniel is but he loves to tell me, "I wanna watch Daniel." and I know this
means to pop a video of his older brother into the VCR. Benjamin
sits in his highchair, his pudgy face round with a big smile.
How many seven
year olds write on their list to Santa that this Christmas, they want things
to remind them of their brother who died? How many of them have to
tell you that the line "if you wish hard enough it will come true" is not
a true statement, and they have proof it is not?
has been lost and we will never be able to have the sunshine existence
that many like to hold onto (I know I sure did). But I like to believe
that in spite of our devastation due to Daniel's death and our yearnings
to have him here as part of our family again, we have, though broken, grwon
to be strong people of character. More than ever before we are able
to mourn woefully with those who are in despair and pain. We are
able to comfort with truths like "I don't understand" instead of "Well,
it will get better."
I know I have
been to the bank of life where death meets and begged death to take me,
too, for I knew there was no way I could live without my son. I have
since learned that living and thriving on this difficult earth takes much
more that just being happy. I have exteneded my view to see that
I am not the only one who suffers or feels life is unfair. I'm sure
both my neighbor who has a mentally handicapped child and my friend whose
husband suddenly left her and her children feel life is no bowl of fresh
death I have learned life is really short, and so I argue less with my
husband and children and when I do lose my temper, I am much quicker to
apologize. I eat more ice-cream and not just the generic brand for
I think after all I've been through, I am worthy of Haagen-Dazs.
(This is quite an achievement coming from one of the world's most thrifty
people.) I want to send more cards to friends, just because...I want
to spend less time working on trying to get grouchy people to like me and
instead focus on those who appreciate my love.
And now at
family get-togethers, I hug everyone tighter when I tell them good-bye,
not just my 86-year-old grandmother. For in this extended family
we have, over the years seen death take three children and therefore know
that death cares not about one's age. Anyone could die before I see
get so excited when I let myself think what I would do if Daniel were to
come back to us. I think for the first day I would want to spend
it in intervals of hugging him and making pancakes with lost of maple syrup
for him to eat. But whether I like it or not, and as marked and wounded
as I am, life still calls me to live.
So I don't
want to just be the "lady whose child died." I want to be the lady
who gained wisdom, enlarged her heart, supplied the box of "Puffs" to those
with teary eyes and daily seeks to love like the Bible passage of I Corfinthians
13. And when seen talking to the starry night sky, I want others
to hear not just the anguished yearnings over a precious four-year-old
son, but the great revelations that have been received ~ knowledge of how
to really be alive, teachings of life that can only be discovered from
the death of a part of us ~ the death of a child.
Alice J. Wisler
Daniel ~ 8/25/92 ~ 2/2/97
Alice's Web site