By Ellen Schoonover
Tonight, I am sitting out on our porch listening to the birds sing as the day ends. It almost sounds as though they are competing as to who can be the loudest. It is a beautiful spring night much like the one two years ago in the aftermath of your death. It was a stark contrast for me then…the birds. They were chipping and singing while my heart and soul were desperately crying for you. I didn’t want to hear happy chirping birds then. Tonight, as I sit out here and listen, I reminisce where I was then versus where I am now.
I attended the funeral of a young man yesterday. I don’t think you knew him. His parents live in our neighborhood. He was 26 and had one sibling, an older brother. Hearing about his death and attending the services gave me a feeling of deja vu. I was re-living you, through the eyes of their family. This time though, I was re-living it as a wiser and more seasoned bereaved mom. One who understands that what they’re experiencing now, is nothing compared to what they will experience in the weeks ahead, as that wonderful protective veil called shock, is replaced with reality and their heart and soul begins to accept what the mind already knows. I was brought right back to that crushing moment when they realized that they will never see their son’s smiling face or hear his laugh again.
I remembered your calling hours when I saw the many young people who were his friends holding on to each other as they looked at pictures and videos at the funeral home. They were in disbelief and horror that one of their own had fallen. I watched knowing that each of them would never be the same because, while they not only lost their friend, they lost whatever they had left of their childhood and the idea that each one of them was invincible. I watched as his parents, being fueled by the rush of adrenaline and cortisol as stress will do, were able to smile, laugh, talk, and hug in almost a manic way. One might ask, did they really understand their son had just died since they were not crumbled in a heap in a corner? Thankfully, probably not. They heard the words…they wrote the obit…. they picked the coffin…. But did they understand?
Honestly, it is just too much for a parent to take in at first. We spend every waking minute from the time a child is born protecting and keeping them from harm. It is too unimaginable that we let them slip from our grasp. But I know what is coming for them. The deep, raw realization, that when it all quiets down and the throngs of people stop coming over, they will be lost and there is no compass that will ever help them find their way back to reality.
They will forever live as strangers in a strange land. A land called grief. Sure, they’ll get used to living in this foreign place. They’ll adjust to new customs, new ideas, but they’ll learn they can’t ever go back. I know all that now, but I also know that, one day, they will be able to listen to the birds sing again and they will come to realize, with certainty, that if God can watch over the tiny singing sparrow, He most certainly will watch over them! He certainly has for me. Miss you every day, Matty B!