Memories, Emotions, and Signs from Heaven

These last few days have been hard. I thought I was emotionally ready for the New Year, but my gosh, was I fooling myself.

It’s been a series of small things that stir my emotions. Unpacking gifts for the boys; putting new clothes away for a 4year old and an infant, knowing there’s years of clothes in between that should be here, but they’re not. Birthdays for our nieces and friends babies. Watching Zeke grow by the week and seeing his wide eyes – it’s like looking right into Toby’s.

There are certain pictures of Toby that I have saved as favorites, but I haven’t scrolled back in a few months to 2016. I went into my photos today to look for some a few I knew I had of Toby, where Zeke is resembling him.

I scrolled back to June 2016 and flipped through all the pictures.

Luke was so little, that’s the age Toby would be today. I got to pictures from July and so many thoughts were running through my head and without thinking the words that came out of my mouth scared me “How could we have even known, God, that in a month he would be gone?”

There are times when I tell people about our children and I say “Toby is our middle son, and would be two, but he died when he was 12 weeks old.”

That sentence brings my heart to my throat. Sometimes I repeat it when I’m by myself just to get the anger out and let the tears fall, when I’m alone and only God can hear me. It’s often followed by thoughts like “Is that really true? How can that be? Why is Toby not here with us?” It takes me back to August 24 when I ran into the hospital yelling for Dan and my son. The nurse that took me back to the room said before she opened the door “Are you ready?” and in that moment I knew Toby had died. I swear time stopped and I am regularly taken back to that moment. I can see everything going on in the ER; I can hear everything and there’s a distinct smell that hits me. It was so bright in there that day. Stark white. Blinding, like a dream. Only it wasn’t.

PTSD is a bitch. An uncontrollable bitch.

In the midst of all this running through my head this afternoon, I was cleaning out a closet in the basement where a chest of barely used toys is to have some organization to the madness in our home right now. I was throwing mismatched toys away and things that were broken. When I got to the bottom of the chest, these three small items were there.

Another bereaved mother, Ginny, who has become a friend of mine, would call this a #tobywink.

The first year that Toby was gone I found little things everywhere that I knew were from him – feathers, pennies, songs on the radio, things in the mail. Those small things do not appear daily but I can still feel the presence of Angels at certain moments. And there have been many times when the work of the Foundation has helped a family or baby and through their message to us I can hear Toby. It may sound crazy, but as his mother, I believe in those moments when my heart tells me he is near. And then there are moments, like this afternoon, when we’ve been having hard days and the tears fall just like the did in the first months after Toby died, when he appears right in front of me and I both cry and smile.

These moments help me carry on. They are the moments that shake me – clear my mind, to some degree – and help me to hear him telling me he is ok and right here with us, even though we can’t see or hold him. Sometimes I hear him say “I’m here mommy” others it’s more “Let it go. It won’t help.” when my heart is weak. Other times it’s signs he sends to Luke, who is quick to tell me “Toby’s playing with me and he likes this or he said that.” Those moments are my favorite and that is when I can quickly look up, smile, and say “I see you, Toby. Love you, buddy.”

This doesn’t get any easier. Time doesn’t heal anything when you’re a grieving parent. It provides distance between what could have been and what is and it moves us closer to the day we will be with Toby again. Time also carries moments that break our wounds open and moments that provide happiness & sadness at the same time.

2017 and 2018 have taught me that it’s ok to feel both emotions together and that if I can let my guard down and be in the moment with those feelings – whether it’s a minute, hour, day, week – I will sometimes be able to work through them and others I have to pack them up and try again another day. That’s the best I can do.

I am only human. I am a mother whose son died and on that day, a part of me died too. Some days I accept that. Some days I can’t bear to believe it.

I am trying though and 2019 is giving me another 365 days to work on and through all of it.

I’ve learned that the deepest joy is known by those who have also experienced the deepest pain. I’ve seen that unending grief is really just a sign of unending love.”

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