The official time is 3:29 am and I have now been awake for a little over an hour. A question that Eli asked me a week ago has taken wings inside my head and now I am awake, trying to answer this question within my own heart.
“Mom, will it ever stop hurting?”
I knew exactly why my 13 year old son asked this question
I have been witness to his grief journey
Eli misses Manny.
I can see it all over him
I know the signs.
The year Seth died Eli was 5. In the months leading up to his death Seth was a daily part of Eli’s life. We had a huge map in our dining room with pins stuck where we knew he had been. We were learning about Iraq’s history, the food they ate, and every day each child would find a scripture to read for Seth, and every morning without fail we would pray these scriptures for him. When Seth had come out to visit, Eli and Seth had played army with his plastic green army men. So it wasn’t surprising that while Seth was out fighting in a real war Eli and his green army men would fight another. I don’t remember a lot about the months following Seth’s death but I do remember that when we moved to Oregon that year and especially that December, I would often find him outside playing army. I would call off the deck and ask him what he was doing and he would always holler back, Seth and I are busy playing army. This is how a newly 6 year old handles his grief.
It wasn’t until 3 this morning that I realized this is what Eli is doing again. I can’t keep a basketball out of his hands right now. When he isn’t doing school, he is shooting hoops, when he isn’t at home shooting hoops he is at the community center shooting hoops. Shooting hoops is the last sport Manny coached. Eli was blessed to spend almost every day with Manny in the weeks preceding his death. At 13, he is dealing with his grief over Manny’s death the same way he dealt with Seth’s death, he is honoring his time with him by doing the same thing he was doing with him when he was alive.
So my answer to him is yes and no, son. Grief is a lifelong journey, each journey is different, but each journey prepares you for the next time you have to begin it. Grief doesn’t ever go away, it changes everything about you. It changes how you view the world. Who you were the day before Manny died isn’t the person you were the day after. There will be days you will be so sad that you can’t leave the house, there will be days you will be so angry that you will punch your door, and there will be days you are determined to make Manny proud of you. You have a why now son.
“I already had a why before mom.”
I know son but now you have two whys. You have two people that you want to share with the world, two people who you think the world should know about and it is your job to share Seth and Manny with the world. Think of all the people who know about Seth and Manny now, because you shared them with them. Every game you pitch, people see you do something on the mound and every time someone asks what is that kid doing someone hears about Seth and Manny. They live on through you. Other people get to experience Manny and Seth through you; they live on through your stories.
As his mom I so wish I could have protected him from grief just a little longer. I wish he could have been unfamiliar to this kind of pain, I wish I could heal these wounds for him but I have to trust that these hurts are part of the refiners fire he needs to endure in order to become the man he was created to be.
Oh what an honor to be loved so deeply!