My Decade After David (AD)

Purple flower growing on crack street, soft focus, blank text

April 18, 2009. It was a Saturday morning. One of those cloudless, vibrant blue-sky spring mornings in Virginia. The kind of morning that sends people outdoors early. To garden, do yardwork, see what’s growing that needs to be cut. And that’s where David was. Outdoors. Mowing the lawn.

It was also Easter week. Less than a week earlier, we’d celebrated the gift of resurrection and new life.

Springtime. Easter. A dying of what had been. Transformation. New life.

The symbolism of all that has not been lost on me.

This being the 10th anniversary, I wanted to take the entire day to do something special to commemorate this man in my life – a man who appreciated my sense of adventure, even if he didn’t always want to come along.

David SWEC
Can’t you just hear him saying, “You want me to go where?”

He was secure enough to let go and say, “You go, honey.”

And while I went exploring outdoors, he stayed indoors watching “the game.”

So, for today, in honor of David letting me be free to fully be myself, I planned a hike and quiet time in nature, bringing my journal along.

 

But first I had a mammogram. Something I’d scheduled months earlier without thinking about what date it fell on. Funny thing is, as I was filling out the paperwork at the imaging center this morning, I remembered the first mammogram I had done after David died. Only one month had passed. When I got to the line in the paperwork that requested an emergency contact, I stopped. My eyes filled with tears. Who would be my emergency contact now? I couldn’t put Davis. He had just turned 15. I thought of neighbors, friends, my sister in Raleigh. But I didn’t want to put anyone else’s name. I only wanted David to be there for me.

This morning, filling out the paperwork, it all felt quite different. None of that unbearable well of grief threatening me like an undertow. None of that sadness knowing I can’t go back to the way things were.

Instead, I felt happy with my new life. I recognized how blessed I am. How free I am to choose, every day, how I want to live.

That recognition in itself, of how far I’ve come, was worth the discomfort of the mammogram.

I used to think, especially in the beginning, why am I still here? Why did David have to die? Why couldn’t it have been me? In the midst of my grief, I would tell myself that Davis needed his dad more than he did me. It may seem silly now, but I genuinely felt inadequate for the task of raising a teenage son on my own. I felt unprepared – mentally, emotionally, financially. I worried about so many things.

Over time I’ve come to see that, beyond what my insecure ego was telling me, I do have a purpose. And it’s not simply raising Davis well. Although that was certainly extremely important in itself.

I am here to learn how to love. It’s a lesson I’ve been slowly learning. And I have a long way to go.

Organ Mtn Rock in shade
A rock in the shade – what more could you want?

During my hike I stopped to sit on a rock (what else can you sit on in the desert?) to write in my journal about David and the “deathless beauty” of love, as Jim Finley explains it.  How this love that can never die is pouring itself out as my life and everything around me. How that same love that David and I expressed for each other is alive in other couples I see caring for each other.  I especially recognize it in those who have been married a long time and have these little expressions of familiarity and endearment. The preciousness of it makes me smile. I’m thinking about this love when I get a text from Davis, all the way in Nome, telling me how much he loves me and his dad, and he’ll be thinking about us today.

Yes, love is deathless. No matter what form it takes. No matter how physically distant it seems.

It pours itself out infinitely. Encompassing everything. And 10 years later, I’m still learning to pause and take it in.

Organ Mountains April 2019
View of Organ Mountains on this glorious spring day
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What Love Looks Like

unconditional-love
Today is the sixth anniversary. It happened on a Saturday morning, not unlike this one. David died looking up at a bright blue spring sky. Warm sunshine beaming down.

It doesn’t seem like it could be six years already. And yet it feels like forever since I heard him call me “honey,” touched his skin, felt his body close to mine, and smelled his scent as I nuzzled my nose into his beard.

It’s true what they say — your life changes forever once you lose someone you love that much. Certainly my life and my son Davis’s changed forever on April 18, 2009. But I’m sure Davis would agree with me — our lives didn’t change in a negative, feeling resentful, why-did-this-happen-to-me kind of way.

Sure, it’s taken time for us to heal. To move through the tough, painful feelings and come out the other side. To begin to recognize the blessings in the pain. You realize you’ve grown and matured in ways you couldn’t have otherwise. You realize this is your path.

When Davis and I talk about losing David, we agree. We’ve made choices and gone in directions neither of us would have if David were still alive.

That’s not to say that we would have chosen this — to live our lives without this generous, loving man beside us, supporting us. But here’s what we do choose — we choose to live full lives without him.

David is the reason why I came to El Paso. With his passing, I wanted to know what else was in store for my life. I started to seek what that might be. And I had the freedom to go find it.

But it’s much more than that. It’s about what David taught me for the 28+ years he was in my life.

He taught me how to love.

Through our relationship I learned what unconditional love might look like. He was the closet thing to it that I’d ever experienced. And that’s what gave me the courage and the willingness to open my heart to strangers. To be vulnerable in places where I’d previously been so protective. To be willing to trust.

Little by little I’ve been learning this lesson. I’m sure it’s a lifelong lesson.

But today, on this anniversary, I wanted to acknowledge this:

Because of you, David, I know what love looks like. Because of you, I carry it within me wherever I go.
Thksg2008David

A Tribute to My Son

mother and son image

Here’s the real reason I’m able to follow my heart. My son. Without his full support, I couldn’t leave my home and my life behind in Virginia. All it would take would be four words from Davis: “Mom, please don’t go.”

It’s not like he needs me. He’s 20 years old, after all, and quite capable and responsible. Since Davis left home to attend college, he’s asked very little of me. I know he can survive, and thrive, without me. But a powerful and tender chord tugs at my decision. A chord connected to an unspoken bond that has deepened over the five years since his dad died into something both precious and precarious. Precious because both of us know how much we mean to each other. Precarious because we also know anything can happen to the other. At any time. With no warning.

No one — absolutely no one — comes close to how important my son is to me. I can’t imagine loving anyone more. So, before I committed to this decision to apply to serve with the Incarnate Word Missionaries in Texas, I asked Davis what he thought of the idea. I genuinely wanted to know his concerns. He didn’t hesitate to support me. If he had any concerns, he didn’t express them. Davis simply wants me to be happy. Just like his dad would have wanted. No one supported my choices, my independence, as much as my husband David did. Now Davis is doing the same. How I could be twice blessed to have such men in my life is beyond my comprehension.

But here’s what I think. Davis is an “old soul.” If you believe, as I do, that some of us come to this earth more evolved, then you’ll understand. Since the age of four he’s been saying things that have made me pause and wonder, “Where did that come from?” Occasionally I find myself asking, “Who’s the adult here?” Maybe you have a child like this. One whose words can sometimes stop you in your tracks. I mean in a good way.

My little "old soul" and his dad
My little “old soul” and his dad

Several months after my husband died I finally entered that stage of grief called anger. If you’ve experienced a painful loss, you may be familiar with this stage: lots of complaining, resenting all the responsibilities I had to handle alone, second guessing my decisions regarding my young teenaged son, huffing and puffing at the supermarket shoppers who parked their grocery carts in the middle of the aisle (David used to do all the grocery shopping), shouting and swearing when dinner didn’t turn out quite the way I’d expected (David had been a superb cook and I regretted not standing behind him taking notes at the stove).

I remember one particular incident when my voice had lost all control. I was in my bedroom ranting and raving about something I had to do — although I can’t recall now what it was about. You know those moments when you hear the pitch of your voice and you know that whatever comes out of your mouth is not going to be good, but you’ve gone too far.

Davis stepped into the room, sat down on my bed, looked at me, and calmly said, “Mom, Dad’s gone. We can’t bring him back. You might as well stop fighting it.”

His words silenced me. That wise, sweet voice struck my heart. In that moment, I got it. I understood what I was doing to myself. And to him. He’d put an invisible mirror in front of my face, and I didn’t like what I was seeing. Grief, and guilt, consumed me.

There have been many other moments since where Davis has witnessed my faults and limitations. It’s unavoidable when you’re part of a family. But it doesn’t seem to matter what side of myself I show my son. He still loves and accepts me. And he always forgives me.

To know Davis is to know what a special gift he is. In so many ways. Not the least of which is his miraculous birth. After 12 years of trying to conceive. Three miscarriages along the way. Lots of tears, prayers, and spiritual seeking, ending with a child more perfect for me than I could have imagined.

As one of our family friends said recently, “You guys make a great team.”

Yes, we do.

Thank you, Davis. Thank you for being who you are. And for allowing me to be who I am.

I know that is all God asks of me. Of any of us. To be who we really are. And I realize it takes an immense act of humility to give back what God has given to me, warts and all. Thanks to Davis, I just might be able to believe that my warts aren’t so bad.

Mother and son
Mother and son