Losing a Piece of Me
by Tammie Thompson
Imagine someone has opened your chest with clawed hands,
grabbed your heart in a crushing grip and torn it from your body.
But you do not die. You remain alive, in agony.
Agony that will continue for days,
weeks, months and years.
This is what it feels like when your child dies.
This is how I felt when my son Dale died,
age two years and one day.
To hold the limp body of my precious child in my arms
and feel its emptiness was pain that defies words.
I sat cradling my beautiful child, knowing that I
would never again see his smile,
hear his laugh
or feel his hand clinging to mine.
I would never again hold his warm body close and
breathe in the scent of his hair. I would never
know the person he would have grown up to be.
I walked from the room knowing that I had seen
and held my child for the last time ever.
I wondered why I still lived,
and how I was supposed to keep going.
I wanted to die; I wasn't suicidal - it's just that
the only way to end my pain was death,
and I ached to hold him in my arms again.
Never again will I feel 'whole'.
My whole future is flavored by the loss of my son.
A part of me went with him,
and a gaping hole exists that his warm
presence once filled.
I asked questions that no one could answer;
Why did he die?
Why not me instead?
Death has struck close to me once -
what if it happens again?
What do I do now?
How will I manage?
Why am I still here?
I rode an emotional roller coaster.
One moment I felt I was managing well -
the next I was curled up in a corner
pleading with God to take me, right now.
I went for long periods where I did well and thought,
"Okay, I've accepted it."
Then out of the blue, it hit me anew -
"He's dead. God, he's really dead."
And I began a new round of grieving.
Gradually, I found that the lows
weren't quite as low as the previous ones,
and that I rose from them quicker.
Then just when I thought I was cruising on a level piece of track,
it dropped out from under me yet again.
I did this over and over and over,
but living with it gradually became easier,
and I even found that I could live a 'normal' life again,
although it was a new normality.
I will never forget Dale.
He will live forever in my heart
and in my memories.
Death makes him no less a part of our family.
Living with the fact that my child has died
does not mean forgetting.
It means knowing and accepting that he is gone,
but still holding close those precious memories.
It means that my love for him does not change,
but that I don't allow my grief for his death
to over-rule my life forever.
It's about remembering that Dale would not expect
nor want me to spend the rest of my life
My new normality is not necessarily an unhappy one.
Dale's life and death is part of what makes me who I am.
It has had an immense impact on the way I look at life,
and although I wish he was still here,
I know that I have grown from my experience.
Dale's official date of death is the 2nd of January, 1995,
the day he was taken off life support,
but I tend to think of the real date of his death
as the 31st of December, 1994,
the day he drowned.
Even though his heart had been started again,
he was gone.
As I write this, it's the 30th of December, 1998;
Dale's 6th birthday.
I wonder what he would look like now,
and imagine him playing with his brothers,
even as I sit here writing about his death.
We tend to celebrate his birthday rather than his death-day.
To us it's more important that he was born than that he died.
We choose to celebrate his life,
not his death.
It means more to us
that he was here
than that he left.