Our Final Days – Four Years Later
This is the last picture we have as a family of four.
I was forcefully reminded as I started my morning commute today that this is the week I hate. The recurring flashbacks of those final days for our family, of what we thought was a normal week.
- Crazy mornings trying to get Toby fed, Luke dressed, ready and out the door for work and school.
- Schedules coordinated for pick-up and drop off of two boys.
- School buses making each commute that day a little longer but giving me more time to talk and sing with my boys in the car. Both of them in the backseat. Both visible when I looked in the rear view.
- Dinners in the kitchen with Luke running around and Toby in the swing or in one of our arms while we cooked.
- Playing in the backyard after dinner – hitting the baseball, riding bikes, taking walks to the park.
- Bedtime routines – which included 2 baths and 2 books, but one set of nighttime prayers.
I can vividly see each of these moments. I don’t even have to close my eyes. But they are so quickly swept away by the flashbacks of Wednesday, August 24. The day that so cruelly changed our lives forever and took our baby boy from us.
I try to change my commutes this week so I don’t have to sit at the light, staring at the building where I had to leave my son.
This morning I saw the first school bus and it had me crying immediately. I can hear the conversation that morning in the car, between Luke & I. Our niece and nephew were having their first day of school and we were talking about them getting on the bus and we also saw about 15 school buses from home to the sitters.
I want to go back to that day and make myself stay home. Call off work. Tell the sitter “The boys won’t be there today.” And just have a day with my little boys. My God – would things have been different?
I hate nighttime. It’s not the dark that I’m afraid of. It’s every other monster that meets me there. Memories. Smells. Sounds. Visuals. They are all a trigger for me.
The restlessness of knowing what this week is started for me last night. I laid in bed last night starring at the moon through the blinds. Wondering where Toby was or what he was doing.
Can he hear me? Can he see me? Does he sit with Luke at night and make sure he’s safe? Who did he help today? Will we ever know who our little boy protected? Saved? Watched over? What does he look like? Does he have straight hair or curly? What is his favorite thing to do? Book to read? Song to sing?
You hear the phrase “Bargaining with God” most of the time in a homily at church or during a tragic time. You don’t know the depths of that phrase until you’re at your lowest. You think you have bargained in your lifetime, until you realize you’ve only been wishing, asking for his blessing.
I have bargained with God. I bargained with him as I sat in a hospital room, just my husband and I, holding our son, who had died two hours before.
I bargained with God on my drive to the hospital. Asking him to hold Toby and tell him I was coming.
I bargained with God that night when we came home. I sat on the kitchen floor and cried looking at all his bottles I had washed and ready to feed him, when we should have come home from work that day, as a family.
I bargained with God last summer when I was at my lowest point, feeling like I couldn’t go on. Screaming at God – “Why did you take him? How could you have possibly needed him more?
Why couldn’t you take me? I’ve lived a good life. I’ve known happiness and love. I’ve been fortunate enough to see many places and try many things. I married the love of my life who has done nothing but support and love me, through everything. I have carried and brought into this world three beautiful boys who have made my heart grow bigger and made me a mom. I could have gone. Would I have been scared and probably sad, being in Heaven and watching them – yes! But I think my heart could have healed knowing I could protect them, be their guardian and know they were being raised by the best father they could ever have.
Why couldn’t it have been me?
I’ve said this to God so many times in the past 48 months and still have no answer. But, it hits me the hardest during this week. With every other possible emotion and feeling, it all comes raining down.
There is one thing I know for certain, given the choice, I’d do it all over again. Even if it was just for 12 weeks and 5 days. I would take every moment; every smile; every laugh; every moment of Luke & Toby together; every moment of all four of us at home that summer; every sleepless night or 3 am feeding; every bath time that didn’t go as planned; every single second that my son was an arms-length away or in my sight. I would take it. Even if I knew the timetable we were on. I’d probably still bargain with God every day.
But I’d take it.
*This post was written in 2018 and only a few pieces of it were updated, because it it still true, four years into grief.