Cluster of Peach Daylilies in summer
Peach Daylily

Memorial Dates

“To those of you that still feel you aren’t even sure you want to be
here and you can’t imagine ever being happy again. The pain does
change, it softens. You will want to live again and be able to enjoy
life again. It will never be like before but the crushing, all
consuming pain you feel right now will soften. You will be able to
live with it. It just becomes part of you.”

A Bereaved mother

June in the Midwest

June in the Midwest can be gorgeous, the grandeur of spring flowers and trees still in full bloom cascading into the full blooming of early summer’s finest flowers. Roses of all colors. Tea Hybrids and climbing roses, ground roses and double-knockout varieties opening blooms. Flowers and magnolia blossoms wafting their perfume. Cottonwood trees sending forth wispy air balloons that look and sift like snow. Perennials welcoming summer sunshine. And finally, annuals can be planted without risk of a late spring frost.

Pink Roses in June
Pink Roses in June

And the rains come too. Sometimes in a deluge that can leave puddles and spit mulch from around the flower beds. Sometimes in short bursts—cloud bursts. Sometimes for days where all is amuck and even flowers cast their blooms downward out sheer pressure of the heavy pelting of rain.

Yellow Orchid on a wood windowsill looking out the window at puddles and rain
Yellow Orchid and Yet More Rain

And both of these—the beautiful sunshine under blue skies and the rainy days filled with puddles and mud—work in symmetry to create the June landscape and backdrop I call home. Home where I live. Home where Dylan and I lived. Home that houses as much brilliance as darkness, as much joy as weeping.

And maybe June is special because here in the Midwest, we have many more gray days than sunny ones. In June, we get drenched in sunshine, even when the rains come, because the gray is less than permeable.

But mostly, I approach Memorial Dates with dread.

May and Mother’s Day begin my march forward toward a day I’d like to send into exile, a date in time I’d like to eradicate from the map of my existence and Dylan’s. A day I don’t want to happen because it means I have to lose my son all over again.

Beth Brown, My Forever Son

Marching into Exile

It has been 8 years since I lost Dylan, yet June 25 now feels exactly like it did on June 25, 2012. It has since that calendar date changed my life in 2012, and June 25 probably always will feel harsh. May and Mother’s Day begin my march forward toward a day I’d like to send into exile, a date in time I’d like to eradicate from the map of my existence and Dylan’s. A day I don’t want to happen because it means I have to lose my son all over again.

The days leading up to June 25 feel both slowed down and accelerated all the while suspended. There’s no easy way to come down on his memorial date. There is only excruciating pain. Feeling overwhelmed. Wanting time to stop because then there won’t be a knock on my door at 4:00 a.m., a deputy sheriff and two others standing gawking, a plastic bag with Dylan’s cell phone and wallet. There won’t be words spoken that cannot be taken back: “Your son had some convulsions, and he didn’t make it.” A lifetime to make him and his death announced in less than a few seconds.

Desperate dreams try to problem-solve: How can it be that my only child, my beautiful, barely but 20-year-old son is dead? How and Dear God why? Why did I let that happen? How did I let this happen? Is it something I made happen? Something I didn’t do?

And yet I know Dylan’s death wasn’t about me, that his last words to me on June 24, 2012 were “I love you too Mom” And yet—And yet— And yet—

I hate memorial dates. Didn’t want to wake up today. If I just don’t wake up on June 25th, then surely my son is, just as always, here. Here. With me.

I hate having to walk back through this flood of pain between June 25th and June 29th, the day of his funeral.

Looking at Rain in Hemlocks through a window
Rain, Rain, and More Rain

I hate June 24th for being the last day I ever saw Dylan alive.

June here today is breathtakingly beautiful. Perfectly temperate, mid 70’s, beautiful blue skies and sun. All is green and growing. Life vibrant and reverberating everywhere in the songbirds’ calls and the neighbors out walking. Everywhere there is life. But I cannot find my own.

I lost who I was on June 25th, 2012, and while I’ve sought so hard to redeem what is left of me, to live resiliently in the wake of my son’s death, I find myself paper-thin today, able to be whisked away on even the gentlest of winds, even in the kindest of days, even in the midst of brilliant blue skies and sunshine.

My heart breaks a million times over and over again, and in the midst of social isolation, not even being able to have the most precious connection of being able to receive hugs. My mother lives 2 streets away, but I haven’t hugged her since early March. She holds Dylan’s memories, knows the pain of losing Dylan, sees the ongoing struggles and grief of her daughter, and my sister lives a bit out of town, but still close enough for all of us to have gathered for lunch and to talk, and most importantly, to hug.

Remembering Laughter

I remember General Tso’s chicken and fortune cookies. The Chinese Lantern restaurant with its cloth table cloth and ornate decor. Double Dragon restaurant. Seat-in or take-out in styrofoam boxes. Cups of won-ton soup and Dylan laughing. Dylan with us. Dylan a part of us.

Dylan loved General Tso’s chicken. For each of these enormously impossible memorial dates I’ve had to travel through (2012 until now), my mom, sister, and I have gathered to eat at one of our local Chinese restaurants. In June of 2013, we gathered to remember Dylan by eating at his favorite restaurant. It was his first- year memorial date. Later that evening after a lengthy day of rain with the sun suddenly bursting though in the evening, my mom and sister called me to tell to look outside. I did and a gorgeous rainbow stretched across the sky.

On June 25, 2014, Dylan’s two-year memorial date, my mom, sister, and I gathered yet again to remember Dylan’s favorite restaurant. Again and later that evening, Mom and my sister called to tell me to look outside. A double rainbow arced across the sky.

The years continue to turn, sometimes predictably (spring, summer, fall, winter), sometimes completely off-course (pandemic during the winter, spring, summer, fall of 2020 and yet still into 2021), and always with preordained calendar dates (Easter, Christmas, Halloween, Labor Day, Memorial Day). I hate that my calendar now includes the memorial date of my son, but I can’t undo what’s already been done.

I am alone today. (June 25, 2020 and in lock-down during the pandemic). It hurts to be alone. I have a little white cat who adores me and keeps me going on the roughest of days, but oh how I miss hugs. And oh how terribly much I miss Dylan’s hugs. And Dylan’s love. And Dylan’s laugh.

I miss my son.

Beth, Dylan’s Mom
March 19, 1992-June 25, 2012
Forever my heart, my wings, my love

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Mr. Lincoln tea hybrid red rose in full bloom in June photographclose up

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