I’ve been feeling so tired and vulnerable thinking about my children and how to love them and protect them as they navigate their way through their days with grief as a companion. So many of my thoughts too, have been of Jordan. It is my second Mother’s Day without him and it is no easier than the first. I’d fooled myself into thinking that this year would be easier but it’s not. Grief has circled around and put me in a raw place. Every bud and flower of spring serves as a reminder that the world goes on whether I’m ready or not.
“Mama, what do you want for Mother’s Day?” My daughter Lindsay posed this question to me a few weeks ago and she caught me unprepared. I was not ready to answer because I’d been putting off thinking about Mother’s day, as though that would make the day further away. I told her I didn’t know yet but I would think about it. She wanted to know what gift she could buy me. All I could think of were the things that I want and need that can’t be gift-wrapped.
Mother’s day has a new representation for me now. I am the mother of four. My oldest son is gone, killed in a car accident on October 12th, 2008. My other son is 17 and wears his weariness and grief like a backpack. He misses his brother so much. When he does share his sorrow with me he talks of the things he and Jordan won’t get to do together. On days when his friend’s complaints about mundane things make him angry and he wants to tell them, “Shut up. There are bigger things going on in the world” he instead wishes for his brother to talk with and counsel him.
What do I want for Mother’s Day? I want to know that my children can sleep without fear of bad thoughts or dreams. I want the longing and ache that has taken residence inside our home to go away for a while. As composed as my children are, able to attend school and do well, I’m occasionally jarred by an image that lets me know how close to the surface their fears and grief are. Just days ago I was driving home with my daughters when we had to pull over because of a fire truck passing us, sirens blaring. It continued up the street and then we started to drive again. As I made the left turn onto our block, fire trucks, ambulances and police cars blocked the corner where our house sits. Lindsay looked at the scene and said, “Merrick.” I touched her arm and saw the fear in her eyes and the vein in her neck pulsing. I told her, “It’s not Merrick. Merrick is fine. You don’t have to worry about your brother.” She then exhaled and said, “As long as it’s not Merrick.” I reassured her again still stroking her arm. We made our way to the driveway and I asked Lindsay before she got out of the car if she was okay. She told me she was. She tried to recover by making jokes and talking fast but I could tell she was still unsettled. The girls let themselves into the house, and I sat in the car for a few more minutes. I rested my head on the steering wheel trying to make sense of what just happened. Of all the places for a congregation of emergency vehicles to happen, it happened in front of my house and my daughters. It brought back all the painful memories of my imaginings of Jordan’s accident scene and I admitted to myself that when I told Lindsay that, “It’s not Merrick,” I was telling myself that too. I fought back tears because I didn’t know if I’d be able to stop once I started. My daughter had just uttered her brother’s name when she saw emergency vehicles. She’s carrying right under the surface so much fear.
What do I want for Mother’s Day? I want to be present for my family. Right now, my insides are swabbed to saturation with the responsibilities, doubts, fears and sorrows that being a mother who has lost a child bring. Vigilance has not allowed me many opportunities to sit with myself and find respite. I need to remember how to be Jackie, how to nurture myself so that I can care for my family. I’ll talk with friends, I’ll read and maybe see a movie with Mark. I need to reconnect with the person I am. The person who believes that “joy comes in the morning.” I hope to continue to be strong even when weariness sets in. I resolve to honor my authentic self, to give that part of me the same nurturance and love I give others. I will try to find peace in who I am. I take it as my right.
What do I want for Mother’s Day? I want my 3 living children to always love and respect each other. I see them reconfiguring their relationship with each other, having to find an internal place for their love for Jordan but also a new way of being siblings without their oldest brother as guide. I want my daughters’ fears to be eased when their dad or brother are late coming home. I want my children to always feel comfortable talking to their dad or me when they are troubled or sad. I want to be available to them when they need to express their sorrow. I want to continue to normalize our life and routine, to set limits for them so that they grow up understanding they have to earn what they get.
What do I want for Mother’s Day? I want my children to feel real joy without guilt. They are too young to live a life without real joy. I want to be a good mother to my children. For my second Mother’s Day proclaiming I am the mother of four and having three children to hold and have look at me expectantly for signs of surprise and gratitude. I want them to see me be joyous. They need to know that they matter to me as equally as their brother Jordan. I will not let grief rob me of mothering my children and sharing a life of love and joy with them. On Mother’s Day, I will stand in that space reminding myself of the eternal relationship I have with Jordan, hoping to again feel his presence. In the midst of my sorrow, I will find the joy in what motherhood has given me. My gifts are eternal ones- Jordan, Merrick, Lindsay and Kendall.