I’ll See You Later
Before my husband, Larry, passed away, we lived in Arizona most of the year. We were fortunate to spend our summers and holidays in Illinois. This allowed the boys to get close with their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. On the flip side, family enjoyed visiting us, especially during the spring training season.
At the end of each visit when our guests would leave and give everybody a hug and say goodbye, Henry would usually respond with, “Bye, see you later”. Sometimes a little too energetically! This started a good-natured bantering between Henry and our relatives.
“I’m going to miss you Henry will you miss me?” One of them asked. To my embarrassment Henry would laugh and say, “no”. The other person would pretend to be hurt and say in a joking manner, “I’m going to miss you. You won’t miss me at all?” Henry’s response was always the same, “I’m not going to miss you because I’m going to see you again!” And then we would all laugh.
For the most part he was right. In just a few months we would be back in Illinois for the summer and we would see them. It became a running joke that Henry never missed anyone. A stance he has since passed on to Charlie! The great innocence of kids is they don’t waste time worrying about what they might lose in the future. Too bad we can’t stay innocent forever.
Unfortunately, when Henry lost his uncle, then his grandmother, he was very young, but he started to realize that death meant you wouldn’t be able to see the person again.
When Larry got sick, I was worried how I would handle the boys asking me questions about death and the possibility of Larry dying. To my surprise, when we told the boys that Larry was sick and had to go to the hospital, none of them questioned whether he would die. If they had I would have told them the truth, “we don’t know, but dad was going to get the best care possible.”
After going through a very difficult round of chemo, Larry’s body didn’t respond as we had hoped it would and we knew we wouldn’t have much time left with him. I had to tell my boys their dad was going to die. One of the worst moments of my life.
With the help of a Child life specialist, I sat with the three boys and told them the doctors had done everything they could, but dad was not going to be with us much longer. Henry knew right away what that meant and started to cry. My heart was already breaking knowing I was losing my husband, seeing my boys in pain, pretty much shattered it.
Over the next couple of days, I tried to encourage the boys to see their dad, who was no longer conscious. I wanted to help them find their own way of saying goodbye. George and Charlie couldn’t get enough of touching Larry, crawling in bed beside him, talking to him. Henry on the other hand kept a certain distance of space between him and Larry. Being a little older than George and Charlie I think he understood a little more how final death really was. Henry knew this was our final goodbye, and Henry didn’t want to say goodbye. None of us did.
After Larry died, the boys and I attended and participated in a grief therapy program at New Song, the center for grieving children. While this helped me and the boys tremendously, grief never completely goes away and over the years we have all experienced challenges at one time or another.
Of my three children, I believe Henry has had the most difficult time facing his grief and trying to heal from it. Freshman and sophomore year of high school were probably his most difficult years as his grief resurfaced. I prayed every day he would find peace, happiness and love in his heart.
During his Junior year he went on a retreat at school called Kairo’s. It was during this retreat that I feel he really found the peace he had been searching for. And the rest of his high school years were pretty “typical”, and I was more than happy to see my son experience joy in his life.
I felt blessed that he had some wonderful opportunities ahead of him. Grateful that he may have a chance of creating a life for himself that would allow him to be happy and independent. That’s really all I’ve wanted for all my kids, for them to be happy and independent.
As much as I love my kids and wish I could keep them under my wings for as long as possible, I know that’s not realistic. I just wish the time didn’t go by so fast. A reminder to cherish every moment I can while they are in my home.
Throughout the summer many people would ask me how I was feeling knowing Henry would be leaving and going to school almost 1,500 miles away from home. I would respond that I really tried hard not to think about it. I wanted to enjoy the time we had as much as I could. It was my way of coping with the inevitable, when my son leaves, it’s not only his life that is changing but mine as well.
Then the weekend that I secretly dreaded came and we flew to Chicago. We shopped for his dorm room, we visited family and enjoyed our last few days together.
The atmosphere when we arrived on campus was festive and the day took off like a whirlwind. Football meetings, a condensed parent orientation and a short window of time to move into the dorm room took up most of the day. The final event was a pig roast for the football team and parents. Even that didn’t last long. The freshman players we’re required to leave the pig roast to go meet with the doctor to assess any injuries they may have come to camp with and after was a full team meeting. Parents were told to say goodbye after the pig roast.
Wait, I wanted to shout, this is too fast, I need more time.
Secretly, I think the coach did this on purpose. No time for long drawn out weepy goodbyes!
Henry walked me to my car, and true to form, gave me a kiss, and said, “See ya later mom, I gotta go.” And off he went. No, “I’ll miss you”!
I watched him go, got in my car and waited. I waited for tears to come, but they didn’t.
Ok, I thought, it will hit me when I get home.
My flight was delayed, so I didn’t get home until after one in the morning. I was so tired I went straight to bed. I’ll face his absence in the morning, I thought as I crawled into bed. For sure the tears will come then.
But the tears didn’t come. Instead, I felt a little numb.
Of course, being a mother, I felt guilty. Is there something wrong with me? My first child left for college, and there are no tears?
Oh no, have I adopted Henry’s stance on not missing people?!
Of course, the answer is no to all the above. I know I’m not a terrible mother for not shedding tears and I certainly WILL miss him, even though I will see him very soon.
Instead of breaking down in tears I’ve had other challenges. I’ve had difficulty focusing or concentrating on my work. I’ve found myself wandering aimlessly throughout my house knowing there was so much to do, yet not really feeling like doing anything.
With all the boys back in school I’ve had my to do list ready and waiting for me to tackle each task one by one. This past week I’ve had zero motivation to do any of it.
What is wrong with me?
By Saturday, while I was sitting around watching TV, (remember no motivation) a little light bulb went on over my head and that’s when it hit me. I’ve experienced all these symptoms before. There was another time in my life that I had to recreate my life, recreate what the nucleus of my family looked like. That time was after Larry died.
It’s another realm of grief. It’s different than the grief I felt when Larry died, but it is grief, nonetheless.
After years of working so hard to create a new life for me and the boys, I’m realizing now I must work on creating a new life just for me. Henry going to college is just the beginning. I have a little time with George and Charlie still at home, but in two years they will be off to college, and I know just how fast the two years can go.
Oh boy, here we go again!
I mentioned above that I pray everyday for my boys to be happy and independent, well I think it’s time to include myself in those prayers.
Here’s to creating a Life that I want to Live!
Here’s to YOU creating a Life YOU want to Live!
I pray we all find the strength to make it happen.