There are so many different kinds of sad. I learn new ways to miss Joel every week. Tonight was a raw kind of sadness that made us all feel like no time had passed at all since Joel died. I was going through papers and came across a sweet card someone had written Joel for his third birthday. It was written to him, and I realized I didn’t know what to do with it. I had kept all the cards people had written to Joel when he was sick, because when he was old enough to understand, but not remember, his illness I was going to let him read all the cards people had written him. I always imagined what it would be like to explain to Joel how much his life had meant to so many people, and let him read the things people had written to him, the prayers people had prayed for him. I spent a lot of time praying that Joel would have a real and intimate relationship with God, so that the stories of his miracle did not become a burden to him, something he was told about but didn’t feel for himself, a legend he couldn’t quite live up to. So, I looked at that card and sobbed, and explained to Ryan that I didn’t know what to do with all those things now. So I kept it. For now, if I’m not sure, I keep it, and I can decide in the years to come if it is helpful to have these things to look at and remember.
Keeping that card reminded me there were things I didn’t have to keep any more, medical statements, pump instructions, study disclosures, medication information forms, old prescriptions, old bills. I had kept so many papers that we didn’t need, and that had absolutely no emotional value to us, and yet, even as I went to throw them away, it sparked a new emotion in me. I thought about how satisfying it would have been to throw all those same papers away had Joel been healed or cured. Instead, I was filled with the pang of a future joy, stolen before we could know it.
When I went back to the living room, Caleb and Ryan were on the floor. Ryan held Caleb in his arms, and I could tell they had been sitting this way for a while. Caleb had heard me cry about the birthday card, and so I joined them, and we sat on the couch, holding each other, talking and crying. I told Caleb how proud I was of how hard he has worked this year, he has had so much make-up work to do, from recent illnesses and his long absence in San Francisco, and he has worked many hours catching up on a lot of it. He was in the middle of school work tonight when he was interrupted by our shared emotions. I also told him that he was so special and that I loved him every bit as much as I loved Joel, and that I loved knowing him and what he thinks about, I love the questions he asks, and the things I get to see him be good at. I told him that even though I am sad I never got to know Joel the way I wanted to, that I wanted to appreciate even more that I do get to know Caleb, and Isaac and Elijah and Zoe. I reminded him that we get to love and appreciate each other in a way that most families never will, because we won’t take each other for granted. We’ll know it’s amazing to get to listen to each other, hold each other, cry together and learn more every day about our family.


There are 3 comments for this post.

  1. Kay on May 22, 2014 2:14 pm

    A friend of mine told me about another family going through a similar set of circumstances. They just lost their five-year-old son, one of a set of twins, to a brain tumor a few days ago. I wondered if anyone had shared the blog address with your family. His name was Ben Sauer and his mom keeps a blog at bensauer . blogspot . com

    My deepest and most heartfelt condolences are with your family during this difficult time, as well as congratulations on your beautiful new little girl.

  2. Julie on May 23, 2014 12:32 am

    Hi! First off, I am so sorry about Joel’s passing. We lost a son a little over ten years ago, and my heart aches for the grief you and your family are processing through right now. There are no words. It is intense and unpredictable. Keep being open with each other, and keep being kind to each other. This will be an intense year, to say the least.

    I know we have never met, but I ran across your blog a year or so ago, through a friend of a friend, but I have never posted anything. Your posts since Joel’s death, have really taken me back to ten years ago, and what we went through. I just wanted to ask you if had a copy of a book called “Tear Soup”? It is a book about living with grief, and I think it would be helpful for you and especially helpful for your boys. It is very well done, and something that we still read with our kids, even ten years later. I thought I should mention it to you.

    It takes a lot of time. A lot. Be patient with yourself and with each other.

  3. Amy gerhard on May 23, 2014 10:13 am

    Amy you are such a wonderful mother. You are an inspiration to so many of us, to be the kind of godly mother you are. You never lose sight of what is truly important. Hang in there through this process called grief…our sadness doesn’t leave but it changes, and He will hold you through it. Love and prayers…

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