Christmas Eve, we went to my SIL and BIL-IL’s house. The kids, not surprisingly, were hopped up. We managed to get everyone to eat a decent amount of dinner (Feast of the Seven Fishes — everything was delicious; my MIL and SIL outdid themselves again), but the children still had energy to burn. The plan was to go to service, come back, have cookies, and open presents. My SIL decided to put on some dance music so the kids could get their wiggles out.
Now, in case you are not aware, SIL’s son, Nephew, was born about 6 months after we lost Gabriel. He is one of many children born in 2003 who reflect our son back at us. The majority of the time, it’s nothing notable, just a fact.
Nephew *adores* Michael. I think he was more excited than Dan when he found out we were having a boy. Nephew has been, literally, odd man out, with a younger sister and two girl cousins. One of the sweetest things he ever said to me was, “I can’t wait to teach him (Michael) how to play catch.” I’m not sure M was even born yet. That’s how excited Nephew was.
M, of course, pays back the adoration in kind.
So, fast forward to Christmas Eve Living Room Dance Party of 2012. The girls are skipping around, Nephew is grooving, M is jumping and waving his arms up and down. Nephew and M start holding hands and jumping together; Nephew even picks M up and twirls around with him for awhile. M is throwing his head back and laughing, laughing.
And, for me, it’s funny and bittersweet all at once, and grief, that devil, that old friend, is a wave that rushes over me. I forget about it, you see, so when it comes, it engulfs.
I blink back some tears, and smile a little, and then I look across the room and into the kitchen where my husband is standing, his face to the wall, his hands gripping the counter, his shoulders slumped in a position that I recognize as late-stage grief — the wave is over him, too. And I go to him, wrap my arms around his torso, and press my face into his back.
“I know,” I say. We cry together.
I don’t know who notices our moment. I don’t know how long it lasts. It doesn’t matter; it’s our moment; it’s our grief. The wave recedes enough for us to gather ourselves together and go through the rest of the evening.
We attended service at my SIL’s Presbyterian church. As we were pulling in, Dan observed, “This is where we came for Compassionate Friends.” He was right. “I just wonder sometimes,” he went on, sitting in the parking lot, our live son in the back of the car chatting to himself (the girls had traveled in another car with Niece), “what kind of big brother he would have been. If he’d have been a good cousin. If he and [Nephew] would be good friends.” More unanswered questions.
Rather than deepening our grief to attend service at this building, for me, it brought it full circle, closed the loop for this year. We went in to pray with our children, our family, our Nephew and Niece, to hear the music, the Word (John 1:1–5 was one of the readings), and to light our candles against the darkness.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5
“…the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Matthew 4:16
In the wake of grief, again, is peace, is life, is light.
If you’re curious, here’s The Never Ending Story (Part 1), from April 2011