Tuesday, December 1, 2009


I remember as a kid falling or sliding or otherwise injuring myself.  The wound would bleed, we'd wash it and care for it.  Then the scab would form.  For a kid, leaving that darn thing alone is one of the most difficult things in the world.  "Leave that alone!", warnings would come from mom that it would scar.

The holidays this year have been a bit easier to navigate than I expected.   It has been difficult to be sure, but we're managing.  We're learning coping mechanisms to handle the tougher moments.  We learned from a friend in the same situation that lighting a candle on a holiday in memory of their child was helpful.  On Thanksgiving we had a candle burning throughout the day.  The more public acknowledgement of Henry was comforting.

Changing things up completely has been another strategy.  While its good to remember and have traditions, when those traditions have such sharp edges, they're difficult to handle.  Halloween, we more or less avoided and tried to do the minimum possible to give the girls an enjoyable time.  Our pumpkin carving the day before Halloween barely qualified.  So far the girls haven't noticed that they were never lit.

Sometimes I liken grief of this sort to losing a limb.  It changes how we deal with everything.  How I wake, how I brush my teeth (a picture of Henry at Disney is next to my sink), how I interact with people, how I think of myself and my family.  It changes the fabric of experience in such a thorough way that we're forced to learn to live again in this new reality.  How do I keep him close while continuing to live without becoming calloused, distant or apathetic?

So I keep returning to that wound.  It looks like it's healing and then I pick at it.  Think of him.  Wade in his memory.  Stand at his still-perfect room now collecting dust.  See his ashes.  Longingly look at photos of this same time last year.  Remember how it felt to hold him and listen to his conversations.

I keep picking at that scab.  It will definitely leave a scar.


rlbates said...

The good thing about a scar is it means the wound has healed. The scar may be minimal or gnarly, but the wound is healed. {{{hugs}}} to you.

Granya said...

It's so good to read of your thoughts again.

Introspective, sensitive, personal, poignant.

Michelle said...

I thought about your family a lot on Thanksgiving day, wondering how you all were doing, and said a prayer for strength for you. The candle is a wonderful idea. I will think of Henry every time I see one throughout the holidays.

Michelle in VT

Anonymous said...

I, too, have been thinking about your family a lot and wondering what one does when they have children who need them, who need the holidays but they also have the pain of loss that must be so great it is hard to put on that smile for the others. My heart goes out to all of you and I hope that you may be able to have some joy this holiday season, through the pain that we all know is there. We all love your family and think of you still.
I know I've said it before, but I really believe you have a book in this site that could be helpful to so many. I have never known anyone who can describe their feelings and experiences in the way you can.
Thinking of all of you and praying for you.

Alan said...


We have never met, but I suppose many poeople touched by your family's story are like me. Henry's grandparents go to our church in Walkersville, so I guess my connection started there. I have written a comment once before to your site.

Over the months I have revisited Henry's Gift. I have drawn so much from reading your family's story. I am not sure why I enjoy catching up with your story. I have shed many a tear to hear your pain, your joys, your sorrows, your adjustments to life after Henry...you know better than I all you have shared on this blog. I do ask myself, why do I do this to myself? I am at work stealing a moment and trying to hold back tears. Why do I do this...read your family's story with such intimate details?

There are probably several answers. One, I know I care. How could anyone not care about your family having read so much of your sory. I am concerned for you and your wife. No parent should have to go through this. I am conerned about your girls. I was a the youngest and little brother to 3 older sisters. I loved them, and still do. I know the bond siblings can have. I am also concerned for all who lived life throughout all of this with your family. I hope and pray they can resume a "normal" life (whatever that is) as time passes.

I think I also read this because you give me inspiration. I am a Dad of 3 girls, 12, 11 and 4. My youngest was close to Henry's age. So I guess I see myself in your shoes in many ways. You have been so strong throughout by sharing so much. Your writings show a Dad, a Husband, a Son, and a Friend, who has such strong insights into life and one's own emotions. You really make me realize how I can look at things differently in my own life at times. You have a special gift to be able to share so much.

Last, and perhaps the most trivial in some ways, is I share Henry's birthday. This is nothing that either Henry or I controlled. We just happen to have a similar day we both emerged into this earth, albeit many years apart. I hope you do not mind, but I take pride in sharing this day with your son. I will forever share a day with this wonderful little boy who I never met, that breathed life into so many others.

Thank you again for sharing your story with me, and with everyone.


Kathy said...

For me, grief is a big ungainly piece of furniture that someone gives you. You can't get rid of it and it doesn't fit anywhere in your house.

The first place you put it never works, you are constantly crashing into it, it blocks the doorways, you stub your toe into it.

So you try it here and there, turn it this way and that and eventually you find somewhere that works more or less.

But then you move to a different place or you redecorate and suddenly there's nowhere to put it again. The process to find somewhere where it's not in the way starts all over again.

And so it goes. I'm not sure anyone ever finds the perfect place for such a large ungainly piece of furniture but its yours and it goes where you go, for the rest of your life.

The holidays are particularly treacherous. I think Henry's tree is a great idea.

Praying for wisdom and enlightenment on your journey.