Updated: Feb 20, 2020
Hallmark holidays have never been important to me and I am not a fan of 'forced celebrations' like Valentines Day or even wedding anniversaries. I am more in the camp of 'everyday is a reason to celebrate' and impromptu joy-filled moments.
The first 12 months of child loss are full of 'making it through' these forced celebrations that I would just as soon ignore. They are painful reminders of the love that has been lost, of the joy that is no more. Mother's Day is definitely one of those days. Two of my four children live in heaven which makes me feel like a HUGE failure as a mother. It's tough to not make that correlation. That aside, I am just very sad. My heart is broken. I do not feel like celebrating.
Thursday leading in to this weekend I received beautiful roses from my sweet husband whose sole intention was to make this weekend as easy for me as possible. But the roses were a harsh reminder of what is lost. He asked about planning a family dinner with my parents and my first instinct was a negative response. Not because I did not want to see them, but because I did not want to feel the pain of the day. And I've been thinking about the hear-wrenching sermon that is sure to come in this morning's sermon at church. Again, more pain that I would prefer to avoid. Friday morning as I was getting ready for work, make-up halfway done, I burst into tears. And this morning, Sunday, I awoke with a heaviness, a shattered heart and spent an hour pouring out my grief. This day is hard.
But throughout these past few days, when my mind was clear, as I have pondered the question of how to 'make it through' this day, Mary has come to mind over and over again. Jesus' mother. The young girl who was given a child she did not ask for. The woman who lost the son she cherished. Mary endured much fear and pain in her motherhood journey. When I compare my journey to hers I see that I too received a child I did not ask for and experienced much pain and fear.
This started with Drue, Jake's twin. I did not set out to have twins and was initially very scared about it. And then Drue was taken to heaven, and I was left with enormous pain and asking God WHY; why give me a child I did not ask for only to take him away. And God gave me an answer. Drue was sent here to save my life. There was a tumor growing inside my brain that I was not aware of. Drue's presence, along with Jake, inside my body, caused that tumor to grow more rapidly than it should have so the Doctors could locate it. The neurosurgeon who diagnosed it told me that the twin pregnancy saved my life. So, God did have a plan, and it was bigger and better than mine. And there was purpose to my fear and suffering.
But Tristan....how does his life and death compare? Mary was forced to stand by and watch her beloved son Jesus walk towards the cross to be crucified. He chose death. Jesus died for our sins. He was doing the job he was sent here to do and all Mary could do was stand by and watch, and pray and grieve. Tristan also chose to walk towards death. Now I know it was not to serve the greater good, he was doing what he wanted to do and so it does not seem like there would be any comparisons, but the months leading up to Tristan's death were filled with amazing moments. From the beginning of his life Tristan was introduced to Jesus, at his baptism, in the youth group I led and at the summer camps he attended. One year, his first at Kamp Kanakuk, Tristan received the All Around Best Camper award. I will admit that I was shocked! Tristan had a heart for Jesus in his younger years. But then adolescence and drugs came along and he quit going to church, didn't seem to be interested in God. My son willingly walked towards death. He chose, over and over again, to use drugs, though I told him many times that death was a possibility once you walked down that path. In October of 2016 when he was in a mental hospital for evaluation after a psychotic episode we had a strange and fascinating encounter with an elderly gentleman. Tristan had spent his time there reading from one of his books about Buddhism. This gentleman approached us telling us he had been with Jesus during times when he was being persecuted. He talked about death and suffering. He gave Tristan one of his own books about the Dahli Llama. And he looked directly at me and said that there was a lot of hard work ahead and more pain and suffering to come. I remember being transfixed by him. That moment stayed with me long after we left the hospital. And sure enough, there was more pain and suffering leading up to and since Tristan's death. But along the way, Tristan did several things that were, it seemed like, a direct result of his heart for God, that I had not seen in years. First, when his good friend was in the throes of addiction, and could not be convinced by anyone else to take that final step into treatment, Tristan reached out, at exactly the right moment, and convinced him to take that final step. (I am happy to report that today, this friend is on his own recovery journey and making good progress.) A few months later Tristan was, what I now believe to be, experiencing a hypo-manic episode. He and another buddy went off on what we called a 'boon-doggle'. Tristan was inconsolable about a billboard in Harrison, Arkansas that projected racial hatred. It was a billboard put up by members of the KKK. And Tristan cried over this billboard and the evil message. He and his friend, late one night, drove over to Harrison. And at 4am they walked through an overgrown field with spray-paint and a recorder and Tristan de-faced that sign writing BLACK LIVES MATTR across the base of it. He did not take any photos though we were able to get one before the property owner had the sign removed shortly after Tristan's death. When I called him out about it, he was so proud of himself for taking a stand against bigotry to make a positive difference. And he did.
We all rejoiced when that awful piece of hatred was removed ! When Tristan returned home from that road trip, still in a hypo mania state, he told me that God had performed many miracles for him that saved his life several times and that driving home he was out of gas, rolling in on fumes, but God got him here safely. He said to me that his 'religion was changed'. Tristan remembered his heart for God. And then he was gone. And all I could do was stand by and watch, with fear and heart-wrenching pain.
Being able to hold on to and reflect on these meaningful moments, as a mother, fills my heart love, pride and joy. Even in my brokenness, I know that both of my sons are with their Heavenly Father, right where they are supposed to be. And that I am still here, living in pain, but right where I am supposed to be, to do the work that God has laid out before me, sharing my faith journey of motherhood, sharing Tristan's addiction story in the hopes it will help others, and doing what I can to make a positive difference in this world.
My own mother is 76 years old. Someday I will mourn her when she is no longer here to celebrate with on Mother's Day. And I have several friends who were young mothers that left this world too soon, unable to raise their own children. I have been blessed with the experience of raising three of my four children. So today I will celebrate this day with the joy of those blessings, with thanksgiving for my own mother and with gratitude for the role model of Mary. I pray to have her heart and strength and will journey on to do God's will until that day comes that I am reunited with my sons and able to live with our Heavenly Father in his eternal kingdom.