I officially became a mom two days after Mother’s Day, 22 years ago. It was the single most
transforming day of my life – or at least I thought it was at the time. I struggled with life as a new mom. Sleepless nights and long lonely days did not sit well with me. I was far from home without many friends and much support. I had David and I had Dylan and they were my entire universe. Dylan became as attached to me as much as any child ever could. I could not make a move without him by my side. God forbid if anyone else pushed his stroller, he would lose his little baby mind. It had to be me, always me. If I am being completely honest, it drove me crazy at times. Who was this little one who loved me so fiercely I felt I couldn't breathe sometimes. How could someone so small change my life so much. How could he become my everything and what would happen to me if I let him? I did not know then how much I would long for those days, what I would give up to have them back. I did not appreciate what I had at the time. I often feel guilt over this but I know in my heart it is very normal . We all take things for granted and fail to appreciate what we have until it is gone. When Dylan died, I swore this would not happen to me again. I swore to myself that I would never again fail to appreciate the power of the moment, the sweet blessing of time. That I would never again take life and its blessings for granted. I can’t say I succeed in this all of the time, but my perspective has been forever changed.
Tuesday is Dylan’s 22nd birthday. Another one of those dates on the calendar that brings with it a complex mixture of happiness and sadness, anxiety and joy. This date, however, is a bit easier to know what to do with. While the date of his death brings with it each year an unforgiveable hell, the date of his birth at least allows me a modicum of happiness. I know that it is alright to celebrate, to share our happy stories and memories. To celebrate the life he lived and the way he lived it. But it also brings with it the stress and anxiety of how to do this without feeling sad, anxious and pissed off. Happiness and sadness are two sides of the same coin in everything I feel about my son at this time in my life. How do I celebrate the life he lived without mourning the life he lost? How do I acknowledge the accomplishments he achieved without morning the dreams he left unfulfilled? It is an inner struggle I will spend the rest of my days trying to manage. It is what our lives have become. The happy is always colored with the sad. But, in the same respect, the ugly will always be tinted with the beautiful.
I will never forget the happy, beautiful soul he was. I will never forget his laugh, his smile, his amazing sense of humor. He loved with a ferocity beyond his years and that loved started with me, and for that I will be forever grateful. He was the ultimate mama’s boy, even as he grew into a young man. He made me what I am today with his life and with his death. His birth made me a mother and his death showed me the strength of that word. It showed me what a mother can and will do for her child. The absolute hardest thing I have ever had to do as a mother is survive. Life brought me to the precipice of death and then told me I could go no further. It told me I had to let him do this on his own because I had more mothering left to do here on earth. I had two more precious boys left to pour my love into. I had to find that mother’s strength and pick myself up and keep going. I had to live to honor Dylan’s life. I had to accept the unacceptable and continue on. And so I have. I have focused on putting one foot in front of the other until it has become second nature again.
I have learned that mothering is not for the faint of heart. It is hard - sometimes nearly impossible. It is something so emotionally dangerous it is a wonder anyone ever takes it on willingly. There is a quote by Elizabeth Stone that says ”Making the decision to have a child –it’s momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body”. It is leaving yourself unprotected and vulnerable. Taking off your emotional armor and leaving yourself naked and raw. But as with all of life, it is so much more. It is beauty tinted with fear, love tinted with loss.
In Dylan’s final days he told us that one of his greatest regrets was that he would never be able to be a father. It was a knife in my heart. It was one of those sentences that once spoken will never leave your mind. My response was something I still regret saying. I guess I was naively trying to lessen his pain. But, what I told him was this - "I would never want you to become a father if you had even a small chance of going through the hell that I am going through right now." I wanted to let him know that I wanted to protect his heart from pain. I wanted him to know that wearing your heart outside of your body was so damn frightening when it was being ripped in two on a daily basis. But I regret those words now. I wish I told him that I would gladly suffer any pain to be his mom. That being a mother to him and his brothers is my life’s greatest accomplishment. That there is no pain I would not endure for them. That I would gladly walk into any battle unarmed and unprotected for them. For there is nothing greater than a mother’s love for her children. It is worth any pain - without exception. It is everything.
For all you moms out there who wear your hearts outside your body each day – thank you. You are amazing. You have chosen to open yourself up and love so fiercely it is frightening. You have made yourself vulnerable so others can be protected by your love. You have given of yourself so that you may receive. And even if called to make the ultimate sacrifice and have that heart of yours ripped and torn in two, you would gladly do it all over again. There is no love on earth like the love of a parent for their child and Dylan, my son, it is also my greatest regret that you will never know that love from the perspective of a parent. I only hope you realized it from the perspective of a child. A child that was, and is, loved and cherished beyond measure.
So, to my boys on this Mother’s Day, please know you are my life’s sweetest blessings. You allow me to know a mother’s love and gain a mother’s strength. And to my sweet Dylan on his 22nd birthday, thank you for loving me so fiercely it took my breath away. That is what love is supposed to do.