This morning as I sit on the back deck with my paper and coffee, I look up for a moment to see the bright purple flowers covering my lawn. It’s a weed, they tell me, and it will take over everything. Something I should probably get rid of. Yet, to me, the beautiful purple blossoms remind me of Tanner, of his February birthstone, and the bright purple lupines that we used to collect for our breakfast table on spring mornings such as these. I realize, I have no intention of getting rid of these “weeds.” My definition of beauty is entirely different than it was before I lost him, and I find solstice in knowing that, wherever we are, signs of him emerge. Beauty no longer means a beautifully, well-pruned lawn that a hired hand created, but gardens created for Tanner by his sister and I, flowers specifically chosen and planted with our miraculous little Tanner in mind.
Our lives have come a long way since that day in August, since our world plummeted and grief was the only emotion we knew. I have come to call a wonderful man my husband, who stood by us as the days grew darker before we could find the light again. Nicole has learned to speak about her emotions after working through therapy, and mentioning the memories of Tanner now brings us joy instead of only sorrow. I’ve come to realize how blessed I must be to have had a little boy whose funeral was filled with hundreds of people whose lives had changed simply by knowing him. His zest for life was unmatched, and it helps to keep me in check when I forgot that the little things often matter much more than I give them credit for.
I’ve watched Nicole’s compassionate ways unfold when she witnesses another child in emotional turmoil, and her passion to see others treated fairly and justly always leaves me beaming with pride. When I see my usually quiet child stand in defense of another who has been the victim of bullying or neglect, my emotions are mixed. I know that to get here, to this level of understanding as an eight year old, she has felt much more pain than a lifetime should hold…but, then I am reminded of this quote by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross: “The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” I can only hope, that as she continues her journey through her grief, her compassion and understanding for what truly matters will continue to bloom.
It’s true that we emerge as different people on the other side of grief…it’s not possible to lose such a significant part of who you are and continue on being the same person. Spontaneity is something we embrace, as you really never know when your last day will arrive. We tend to stay up too late on weekends, with “too many” extra children filling our home, the laughter bouncing off the walls, often until 12:00 a.m. We eat ice cream probably more than we should, and don’t spend much time worrying about the latest fashion crazes. We can often be found curled up together watching a movie or diving into a good book, rather than worrying about the perfect order of our house. We’re too busy cherishing the time we have together, knowing all too well that tomorrow isn’t a guarantee. Our perspective on life has forever changed, and our journey through grief has opened our eyes to so many of life’s wonders that were often pushed away until “we found the time” to enjoy them. Sometimes tomorrow doesn’t come….you’ve got to remember to live today.
No matter what we are doing, the knowledge that our time together will eventually come to an end is never far from our thoughts. Because of this Tanner, we’ve learned that you’ll never truly be “gone.” You’re here with us when we see a beautiful purple flower emerge, when your favorite song comes on the radio and Sissy proudly does the “Tanner dance,” when we remember to walk a little slower & and be patient with one another when the bad days hit, & when we see somebody struggling and offer to lend a helping hand, even if it means sacrificing our own plans. You’ve taught us so many lessons that have forever changed the way we live our lives. We miss you every single day, and love you with a love beyond measure. These holes in our hearts that losing you created, are slowly beginning to fill with all of the beautiful memories you gave us, and a new understanding of what a “meaningful” life really is. If you were really only meant to be here for four short, beautiful years, I am so immensely grateful that I was the one whom you called “Mommy.”