When a Child Dies #11 . . . from Diane
I am Megan’s mom.
I had that title for 10 years. I know I am still Megan’s mom, but many people don’t know me anymore as Megan’s mom. They know me as Mike’s wife, Chris’s mom, Matt’s mom, Mrs. Cope (their teacher), Mimi… It seems like a lifetime ago, but I am still Megan’s mom.
Those 10 years were some of the most exhausting, formative years of my life. Megan had many challenges in her short lifetime. She had bone anomalies and mental challenges which caused her to develop slower physically and mentally. But she was a happy, fun-loving ball of fire! She never stopped. She was the energizer bunny! She didn’t sleep, which means we didn’t sleep. We were exhausted!
Megan taught me to live for each day. I learned that lesson from the very beginning. I could only think of how to survive that day. I couldn’t worry about the next day. Without realizing it, she was already preparing me for the journey I would have to live out without her. You see, walking through grief is a one day at a time journey.
I experienced grief at so many different levels with her. I grieved early on for the “normal” daughter I would never have. And, yet, I couldn’t picture Megan any other way. I loved her for her.
Because she was so all-consuming, when she left us, my life took on a dramatic change. My life consisted of taking care of her 24-7. I had three sheets with single spaced instructions on how to take care of Megan posted inside our kitchen cabinets. I was so afraid something would happen to me and no one would know how to take care of her. She had several medicines, a feeding tube (the last couple years of her life), percussion treatments, asthma treatments, etc. (I realize Mike could have taken care of her alone, but I was the one who usually took care of most of her medical needs.) So, when she was gone, it was so very different.
I spent hours just sitting. Chris was two years old at the time. I plopped him down in front of videos and sat. I’m not proud of that. But I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t think. At night, I would cry for hours in the closet. I tried desperately to hold it together until Chris and Matt were asleep in their beds and then I would cry. I felt as though my arm had been cut off. I felt as though I was in a dark, black hole. There was no light. I didn’t realize how much despair I felt until I was listening to the news one morning and heard about the Oklahoma bombing that killed so many people. I remember thinking I wished I had been in that building. And then I remember thinking that I couldn’t believe I thought that. Of course, I didn’t want to leave Mike or our children. But, at that moment, I realized how heavy my grief was and it surprised me.
Not long after that, Mike was asked to help lead a spiritual retreat in Switzerland. I did not want to go. I know that is hard to believe. Who wouldn’t want to go to Switzerland! All I wanted to do was stay cocooned in my house away from everyone and everything. But I went. This trip became a healing balm for me. I know you are thinking this came from all that time in scripture and prayer. Although I’m sure that helped, it was more a near-death experience for me. At least, in my memory it was near-death; Mike might tell it a little differently.
While we were in Switzerland, Mike and Darryl Tippens led us through a morning of scripture and meditation. Then they would send us off in the afternoons for contemplation, fun, rest, whatever we needed to help be renewed. We would set off for hikes every afternoon with several from the group.
One particular day, we reached a part of the path that was full of snow. In fact, there was no path anymore and there was a sign with red tape on it. Now, I was with a group of very smart people. But I soon realized none of them had any common sense, except for me. I insisted that the red tape crisscrossed on the sign was a universal message that meant stop. My adventurous group didn’t want to believe the sign. My choice was to turn back and walk back on the trail by myself or go on with the group. I did not want to be by myself, so I trudged forward. We walked on guessing the direction we should go. We were finally close to the top of the mountain and realized we would have to climb up the side of the mountain to get to the top. I was to go first. I placed my hands in the snow and my feet. Then I froze. I couldn’t move. I was so afraid I was going to fall to my death. And then I prayed, “Please God, don’t let me die on this mountain.” That was a moment of epiphany for me. At that moment, I knew I really did want to live. I did make it to the top of that mountain at which time I sat down and cried like a baby. I cried because I was alive and knew that my life was going to go on, even without Megan.
My grief journey began in a very dark hole with no light. Little by little tiny specks of light broke through the darkness. Those were the moments that I knew I might be ok someday. My moment on top of the Switzerland mountain was a tiny bit of light breaking through for me. Later, I began to feel as though I had parts of days with actual light. Now, I walk in the light for the most part. As I’ve read all the comments on Mike’s blog the past couple weeks and as we get to walk through grief with friends, I find myself revisiting the darkness. But it is never as dark as it was for me those first few years. I walk in the light, enjoy my family, and long for the day I will be with my sweet Megan again.