Today we returned from our first family vacation as a family of three — a spring break trip to Palm Springs that we planned months ago, then canceled when we got Julian’s diagnosis, then un-canceled a couple of weeks ago. It was also a crash course in how to go into a restaurant and say, “table for three.”
I’ve been focusing so hard on what I consider to be the “big” things, like donating most of Julian’s toys and clothes, I hadn’t really prepared myself for the “little” things, like asking for a table at restaurant. Or realizing that when I canceled Julian’s airplane ticket, I didn’t ask the agent to make sure we ended up with three seats together. So instead, we ended up with two aisles and a window.
On both flights, I had to ask the person assigned to the middle seat if they’d mind taking the other aisle seat, so we could have the row of three. Of course I didn’t say out loud the rest of the sentence that was automatically completed in my head: “…because this middle seat was originally assigned to our other son, who died a month ago.”
On the flight out to CA, I was able to focus on the positive. I noticed that it was sort of nice that we had a row to ourselves, and I had the luxury of sitting by the window instead of how we often used to arrange ourselves, with me in the middle seat between the two boys, and John across the aisle.
But on today’s flight home, I wasn’t prepared for how that same conversation with a stranger would make me cry through the take-off and most of the rest of the flight.
Even thinking about it now makes me aware, again, of the challenge of wanting to move forward *and* wanting to honor him. I so easily become critical of myself — how can I sit here, enjoying the window seat, when I’d give anything to have HIM sitting here, and me complaining about getting stuck in the middle seat?
And that’s just the thing. Of course I’d rather have him here. Of COURSE. I’m not trying to convince myself that we are somehow better off now, because we can fit in one row on an airplane.
But, the fact is, there will be some nice things about being a family of three. And I have to remind myself that it’s ok to notice this. I have to literally give myself permission.
So, I’m doing that now: I give myself permission to miss him terribly, and cry through a 3-hour plane ride, and enjoy the view from my window seat.
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April 3, 2011 at 6:47 pm
Hi! I’d still like to have coffee someday down the line. Although I am one hundred percent unsure of the right words to say, I wanted to at least say that my kids have mentioned Julian several times the last few weeks and I have held all of you in prayer. I thought Julian’s memorial was very special and the pictures you shared were priceless. I will be honored to follow your blog.
April 3, 2011 at 7:45 pm
Hi Karen, I really appreciate that you’ve continued to reach out to me. I would love to have coffee sometime.
April 3, 2011 at 7:30 pm
Thank you for your honest sharing Emily. What I recognized in your writing was the allowance in your life to experience some joy in the midst of your loss. I pray you can continue to do this. You will honor your son best by remembering him well which I know you will do. Yes, remembering him well and living your life to the fullest in his absence, I think it is human nature to think the thoughts that you had about honoring Julian. Extend grace to yourself and allow yourself to enjoy what you have and who you have to share it with. I hope I made some sense. I tried anyways… words are hard to come by in such a situation.
April 3, 2011 at 7:44 pm
Thank you, Bill. It’s nice to know there are others out there supporting me in my efforts to honor him *and* living life to the fullest.
April 3, 2011 at 7:35 pm
I am honored by how brave you are. I have learned much from reading the Caring Bridge journal and now your blog. My heart goes out to you, John and Oscar. I think you are correct – there is no normal and the death of a child. Every day is a new beginning for each of you and you have to do and feel as the unique being you are without risk of judgement.
April 3, 2011 at 7:43 pm
Thank you, Diane. I really appreciate your support.
Peggy Kline Kirkpatrick
April 3, 2011 at 8:50 pm
I thought of you earlier today, recognizing its significance for you. I am glad that the three of you were able to travel to California for a week of rejuvenation and good weather (we were in San Diego the prior, “cold,” week). I can imagine how the smallest things (airplane seat arrangements, among them) are very signficant when they are being done for the first time without Julian.
I was wondering how you have been doing since the memorial service, and I am glad that you are now blogging. I can understand how it would be therapeutic for you; additionally, you are allowing a window into your world for the people who care about you. I look forward to following your candid and moving journey into your “new normal.” You continue to be in my thoughts and prayers.
April 3, 2011 at 10:06 pm
Dear Emily, This is a beautiful blog that honors the memory of Julian in a very meaningful way. Thank you for sharing your journey with us.
How sad that there are so few resources for parents who have lost a child. Your comment that there is no name for a such parents is profound and quite indicative of our society’s denial of that reality. Your blog can be that difference!
You come to mind often.
Love to you all, particularly Oscar,
April 3, 2011 at 10:17 pm
Learning about you on Twitter, I followed your and Julian’s story and joined in your sadness, although your loss is almost impossible to imagine.
I am glad to see that you will keep writing, and I hope we can be of some comfort to you.
It truly is astounding that there is no word for a parent who loses a child. We need to think of one that may come close to describing it.
sending good thoughts to your and your family
April 3, 2011 at 10:38 pm
I am so glad that you are now blogging. There is not a single day that Om and I have not talked about Julian, he has become part of our life. We visit your caringbridge site to see his pictures and see if you have new post about how you are doing. I want to tell you that you are in our prayers and thoughts. You exemplify courage and hope.
I want to tell you that I was so touched and found myself so honored to attend His celebration of LIFE and 4th birthday.
I have few memories of Julian and Om from school that I would like to share with you sometime, I used to enjoy seeing them play and laugh when picking up Om at school.
I look forward to read this blog, my heart goes out to you and your family.
Love and Take care
About me – I am Om’s(Ms Maureen’s class) mom.
April 4, 2011 at 11:12 am
Emily, thank you so much for sharing your journey, your thoughts are moving and inspirational – I have a very good friend that lost a child and started Faith’s Lodge. It is a quiet place in the woods to go and be with other parents who are dealing with a life threatening illness or have lost a child, it might be of comfort for the three of you. They also do a fund raiser every year called Hope Rocks. If you are interested I would be happy to put you intouch with the Laceks. My thoughts and prayers continue to be with you
April 5, 2011 at 11:17 am
Hi Cindy, thanks for the note. I’ve heard about Hope’s Lodge from a few different people, and I hope to visit there sometime soon.
April 4, 2011 at 12:36 pm
Beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. Thanks for sharing your journey.
April 5, 2011 at 1:23 pm
A friend of mine passed your blog onto me and I love it. Almost 7 weeks ago my son, Finnley, was born sleeping after nine really amazing months in the womb. He had a knot in his cord that had been pulled tight during the beginning part of labor. While our experiences of loss are very different I just wanted to say how much I resonate with your writings. I wake up and check in the mornings to see if you’ve written something new. I find myself while I’m reading saying “Yes, that’s exactly how I feel” only you put everything into very articulate and very enjoyable writing. So thank you for sharing your experiences, your courage is helping me. With much Aloha, K
April 5, 2011 at 2:37 pm
Kimberly, thank you for your note. I’m so sorry to hear about your loss, too. I’m glad that my writing has resonated with you. It’s also helpful to me to learn there are other people (especially moms) who are experiencing the same thing. I’ll probably write another post tonight. If you haven’t already done this, you might want to “subscribe” (in the right column) to automatically get an email when I post something new. Thanks again for your comments.
April 5, 2011 at 5:32 pm
I, unfortunately, know what you are going through. I lost my 2 1/2 year old daughter. We went from having a perfectly healthy girl one day to a diagnosis of a very rare immune disorder the next and then she was gone the day after that – at the same hospital Julian lost his fight. I too find myself with the same questions as you. I am over two years into my life without Abigail. We have two other children that I am thankful for each day. When Abigail was gone and the dust settled after all of our family and visitors left it was hard. The little things were and are hard – making dinner for 4, doing dishes, giving the kids a bath, watching them grow and seeing the pictures of their sister stay the same. Just being a family of 4 is hard for us. Although on the outside we look perfectly normal – we have a huge hole in our family and we all feel it every day, but you can’t see it. We have moved forward with our huge hole. When people tell me how strong I am I have to just shake my head. Like you said so perfectly – had you asked me two years and 4 months ago what I would do if my child died I would have said that I would not survive….but here I am surviving and not only surviving but still loving life. I tell my kids often that we need to live better for Abby, that we have part of her in us and we need to live and be happy and go on for her and for ourselves. The best thing I feel I can do is to teach my children how to live with this tremendous tragedy. How to move forward and still have a love for life. I hope this will be the hardest thing they ever have to go through, but it may not be. It has shaped their character, it has changed all of our lives forever, not by choice. It is up to me to model to them how this awful tragedy can change them for the better if they allow it to. If you ever need or want to talk, please let me know. My thoughts are with you.