Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Before and After

This is my son Dustin. I just LOVE this picture. My sister-in-law took it. She is quite talented as you can see. Dustin is 15 months old here. He is 4 years old now. I forgot about those chubby knees. I forgot how cute he was. I miss those days.

When I look at this picture a flood of memories come rushing back. Just weeks before I watched my husband get on a ship bound for Iraq not to return for at least 6 months (which became 8 months) and packed everything we owned in storage and moved to my parent's house with my son. We would wait out the separation there.

It was me and Dustin against the world, mom and son making the most of dad's time away. And make the most of it we did.

We took walks daily and went to the park regularly. We went to the farmer's market every Saturday morning where Dustin ate strawberries, green tops and all. Occasionally we fell asleep together for afternoon naps and practiced holding our breath in my parent's pool. Daily we used baby sign language, read books, stacked blocks, and sung songs. We even hopped a red-eye or two and had a few adventures sleeping on couches and seeing friends and family in other cities and states.

It was our special time. Just him and I.

What you can't see hidden in the story of that photo are the lonely nights, tears, and unexpected hardships that befall temporary single motherhood. I worried a lot during those months. My husband was not on vacation, he was in Iraq, fighting a war. I just wanted him home safely. I was also very lonely during that time. Putting Dustin to bed at night wasn't as much of a break from a long day chasing a toddler as it was a reminder that I was alone. It would get too quiet sometimes and I missed having a warm body to curl up to in bed at night. Sometimes I would let Dustin sleep in my bed with me just to distract myself from my loneliness. It was tough to take care of my son by myself for eight months, I had regular moments of frustration and exhaustion, but none of them compared to the loneliness of all those quiet nights.

My grandfather also died that summer, and I didn't know it then, but he would be the first of a string of losses in my life.

Harder days were ahead.

This picture represents the life I miss. When my hardest days were a temporary adjustment to a situation with a certain end. When the most exhausting thing in my life was a chubby-kneed little toddler who brought me more joy than I could measure. When I could count down the days until we were all together again...

Today when I see this picture I not only see the life that was, but the life that will never be.

I should have another picture of chubby knees, two sets from the cutest identical twins you ever saw.

But I had to let that picture go when I let them go. Along with a thousand other pictures that will never be.

This picture makes me smile. I see my favorite little boy in the world during a very special time in our lives. I see my old life.

But it also makes me a little sad. I see in it life before...

before loss
before grief
before Aubrey and Ellie

It is bittersweet.

Bittersweet in the most precious way imaginable though.

As I write this, the little boy in my belly is kicking away...I am already impressed with his fiery little personality. He likes his presence known. And I like him. I deeply hope to have a chubby-knee picture of him someday.

And when I look at it I will be reminded not of before, but of after.

God is so gracious to provide us with an after.

What is your after?

1 comment:

  1. I am just starting to see the fog lift and hoping for a nice 'after' soon. Mostly, I am completely changed and get glimpses of the 'old me' that I miss so much.

    Part of loosing my baby girl for me was trying to keep her alive in a small way ~ I believe this is part of God's gift ~ my after. I started Beyond Words Designs in Amelia's honor and putting my energy into creating art for baby loss parents has proven to be healing for me.



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