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"I Only Hurt When I’m Breathing"

“I only hurt when I’m breathing,” a random post on Facebook, anonymous, yet so completely relevant to this grieving of losing a child. 

I found a Mother’s Day card a few weeks ago. Dylan’s last Mother’s Day card to me in May of 2012. (I wasn’t looking for the card, I simply saw its bright orange color peering out from beneath a stack of papers I hadn’t been through in awhile and was drawn to its happy color). On the front, “mom,” then beautiful glittery bright pink and yellow flowers, then in the bottom right corner, “I can’t remember a time when I didn’t need your love and support. . .” Inside, “. . .and I can’t imagine a time when I won’t.” Beneath the message, “Happy Mother’s Day With Love.”

Dylan signed the card–and this part gets me every time I read and reread what he wrote–

     “I’ll love you forever mom.
                                         Love, Dylan”

Dylan Andrew Brown, March 19, 1992-June 25, 2012
Just turned 20 years old
A beautiful soul, my beloved son

And so I see Dylan’s words on this orange card (orange was always Dylan’s favorite color as a child) and for the first time, see so clearly in this message that, for whatever reason, he couldn’t stay.

Tomorrow is Dylan’s Memorial date. Year three. 1095 days since his suicide on June 25th 2012. I have invited those who knew and loved Dylan to come over, as well as those who know and love me as I walk out this now life’s journey without Dylan alongside me. There will be pizza, Dylan’s favorite–Domino’s, salad–because I always insisted on something healthy, chocolate–oh, how Dylan loved chocolate–Reese’s peanut butter cups, really good chocolate, Godiva, Anthony Thomas, and good old Hershey’s. Every year for his birthday I’d ask him what kind of cake he wanted me to make. I have always cooked from scratch, and while Dylan loved my traditional annual fall Apple Dapple cake, he treasured my Wowie (chocolate of course!) cake. For 19 years, I made a Wowie cake for his birthday at his request. I hope they have Wowie cake in heaven.

Completely in love with my son–the famous Wowie cake Dylan always asked for.

The tears come randomly, triggers come easily right now, I am emotionally exhausted and enervated, not unlike early acute grieving, my heart hurts, and I lie wide open, fragile, vulnerable, worn out, sad,  exposed, listless, not wanting to do anything. It all seems to much–showering, dressing, doing what needs to be done, putting one foot in front of the other, trying to carry this pretense of being “okay” to the outside world. As in the beginning as is now, it truly does only hurt when I’m breathing which is, of course, 24/7/365. Ugh.

I wish I could skip tomorrow. Opt out. Take the day out of the calendar. Wake up from this hellish nightmare that is now the shape, breath, and linear direction of my life as is, as now. I slept forever last night. 10, 11 hours. Not enough. Nothing can be enough at this point in time, the day before my son died. I died too, but sadly, find myself still in this living, breathing, doing, being earthly body. Some days, I’m not even sure why I’m here. Most days I don’t know why I’m still here without my child. A mother belongs with her son. Parents belong with their children. Life isn’t supposed to happen this way.

I am drawn to watching young men in restaurants or out and about, young adults who are in their early 20’s (Dylan would have just turned 23 years old). I see their easy demeanor, hear their laughter, see their easy going smiles, hear them banter and call each other “bro.” God, the ache. I miss my son.

Dylan, Senior Year, 2010, Senior Picture

It is hard to learn to live without–without possibility, potential, likelihood, “normal,” for whatever that means. It means I don’t fit in most of the time when I’m with my friends and in my community because the crux of their lives is their focus on children–theirs, their grandchildren, their daughter-in-laws, their children’s rites of passage–graduation, the first job, the launch into the career, graduate school, academic accolades and honors and scholarships and grants, concern over their child’s choice of a girlfriend/boyfriend, concern and worry about an upcoming marriage, empty-nest syndrome, hope for grandchildren, pregnancy–sigh. . .grandchildren.

I will never know any of these again. My life is strange. It hasn’t been invented yet. There is no manual or standard or how-to. I don’t often run into those who have lost children and so much of the time, feel lost in a community I’ve grown up in. I can’t quite make things fit. I try–God knows I try, but inside, even when I’m doing my best to hide my deep, deep ache and sadness and pangs of longing as they talk about their children and grandchildren, I feel so separate and alone.

I could live in hugs right now. I took warm laundry out of the dryer this morning and wrapped my arms around it. The warmth, the softness, the give. The missing, my connection to Dylan, the way he smelled, the way his clothes smelled, teenaged boy smell, his beautiful chestnut silky hair, the arc of his nose, the profile of his face, those gorgeous dark brown eyes, chocolate brown, that I could have just stared into forever.

I fell in love March 19, 1992 when Dylan was born, though truly have loved him since I knew he was inside me. Today, three years after his death, my child still is inside me. He always was my lifeblood coursing through me, my heart’s joy, the beat and rhythm and passion of all that I did. Dylan was part of me and even now, I am still part of him. Thank God for hope, for faith that someday I will see him again. It is just this interim that bears so much pain.

Turbulent dreams, all my dreams are of loss, of losing, of being stolen from, of being desperate and chaotic and running wildly. I awaken each day exhausted, alive and breathing in the fully alert state of realizing Dylan’s death is final. It has been 3 years, but still I struggle.

Last night I practiced Tai Chi–hard, focused, mentally and physically challenging, way longer than I should have, about three hours. I forgot to eat, was run ragged by the time I got home, find myself doing too much all the time right now, but this is how I keep on keeping on right now. I simply have to be aware when keeping busy becomes avoidance and delaying the necessary grieving and mourning I must do of my son right now.

Tonight, Tai Chi practice for one hour. Tomorrow, plans throughout the day. Meeting bereaved mothers for lunch. I will be with my family, my mom, my sister. I will light a candle in the morning, write a letter to Dylan, go where the day leads. I’ve found all along that the lead-in is always worse than the actual day. I pray this is true of tomorrow as well. May the day bring me peace and love and beautiful powerful remembrance of my precious and beloved Dylan. Always the love, always the remembering.

Dylan–oh that beautiful smile! and Nikki, Summer of 2010.

By Beth Brown

Rememberer of dreams. Whisperer of gardens green.
At the whim of "Most Beloved" and a hot cup of tea.
I live life between, straddled here now and then,
My continuity through writing--
Pen dripping ink, mind swirling confused,
Love lingering still, and Most Beloved's purring soothes.

Blogger at "Gardens at Effingham" (where cats do the talking) and "My Forever Son" (where a mother's heart runs deep after losing her son to suicide)
Musician. Writer. Literary Connoisseur.
At the whim of a calico cat and a strong cup of tea.