It is amazing how young children, for the most part, just keep it simple and keep it real. Our daughter Lily is now in grade one. She recently had her turn as the happy helper at school. For some of you who have read previous posts you will know that our second son Marshall passed away at two weeks old. You will also know that we speak openly about him in our family. We always try to keep him part of our family as we grow. I realize this looks different for everyone and I don’t believe there is a one size fits all approach when remembering our deceased children. Sometimes it isn’t even intentional, it just feels right. I try to limit my questioning or worrying about “what I should be doing?” or “how society would judge my actions?”, and try to follow what feels natural and comfortable for me and for our family.
Our living children often speak of their brother Marshall and share his name and life with family, friends, and out in the community. They feel safe asking us questions about his life and illness. They wonder what he would have been like and wish they could play with him. Sometimes, they are sad. They cry for him and wish he was here. But most of the time they simply know it as our “normal” and incorporate him into their lives as they see fit.
It both melts and breaks my heart at times, but this is our life and our truth. Occasionally, it may lead to an awkward conversation with other’s in public or on the playground. But I believe that it is part of life and that in these small but great ways, they are teaching little lessons of empathy and compassion. I personally don’t have many “good” reasons for why we should hide it or be ashamed that we have a son or brother in heaven.
Last school year, I shared a valentine’s project that Aidan had put a sentence to his little brother on, which was then displayed up in the halls at school. This Fall Lily, once again so unassumingly surprised me when she brought home her happy helper poster. Not only did she share with the class her love of pizza and pears but also shared that she has two brothers :> It was very natural for her and she did’t even recognize it as a big deal. I don’t really have the words to describe how I felt inside that moment when I read it. I can share though that it felt something like incredible, peaceful and comforting. I know for some it is hard to see that and it may seem shameful or too sad, but we have already lost him once. Remembering him is the easier part. We don’t feel like losing him again everyday.
Whether it be in silent memories, in cherished photos, park benches or in conversations with others I only wish for you to find some comfort and peace in remembering your lost children and your undying love for them. Thank you for the privilege of letting me share mine.