I was thrust into the role of someone I did not want to be. This new identity was forced upon me, and I had absolutely no idea how to navigate this new persona. There have been many times, I have cursed the ‘one’ who decided to assign it to me as I struggle constantly with “Why me?” I have no idea what I am doing or how to get to where I need to be or when I will ever get there. There are no books to scour through, no medicine to take nor manuals with detailed instructions. I am in a constant state of confusion. In a matter of seconds, my 32 years with my handsome son had come to a complete and devastating end, and I lost all control of who I was.
As women, God gives us the most miraculous and unexplainable gift. He gives us the ability to give life to another human being. From the moment of conception, our bodies begin to protect and nurture this child growing inside of us. As soon as that little line turns blue, or pink, we begin to take extra measures of precaution to ensure that we do everything humanly possible to give birth to a healthy child. After months of waiting, planning, and worrying, a beautiful baby is finally placed in our arms. We look at this perfect, wondrous human being we created and promise that we will do everything in our power to always keep them from harm. We continually try to create a haven, a bubble of sorts to ensure nothing ever hurts them. Our lives become consumed ensuring that they are always safe and healthy. Then, in a blink of an eye, that power is taken away. The promises we made to them in their first few minutes of life have become lies. The control we once thought we had, has been stripped away. Who ultimately decides that and why was it taken away from me?
One of my all-time favorite movies is Steel Magnolias. It’s a true story of a group of Southern friends that navigate their lives with love, laughter, and strength. There is a part in the movie where Sally Fields daughter, Julia Roberts, is in a coma. (Spoiler alert) when the family sees that there is no hope, they decide to turn off the machines. Moments later, after her daughter dies, Sally Fields starts running out of the hospital in a panic. She’s trying to get to her grandson, or maybe she’s just trying to run away from the pain. A few days later, at the cemetery, Sally Fields’ character stands stoically and very composed next to her daughter’s coffin. Everyone else has started to walk away. Her small group of friends notices that she hasn’t moved and walked back to guide her and give her words of encouragement. Sally Fields character, after checking her hair in a hand mirror, replies with the following monologue: “I’m fine, I’m fine! I can jog all the way to Texas, but my daughter can’t!” Oh, God! I’m so MAD!! I wanna know how that baby will ever know what a great mother she was! “WHHHYYYY!!?? WWHHYYYY?!! Lord, I want to know WHY?! No, NO, I’m supposed to go first! I was always ready to go first!! This is not supposed to happen! God, I can’t take this!! I don’t think I can take this!! I just need to hit something!!”
No truer words were ever spoken.
I first watched the movie before Joey died. Sally Fields was so convincing as a grieved mother that you couldn’t help but cry along with her. I tried to put myself in her character’s place and I wondered how I would react to losing one of my children. Would I be as calm and collected as she was in the beginning or would I be that crazy maniac screaming her lungs out in a cemetery? Of course, never in a million years did I think it would come to fruition, yet here I am, and I want to tell you that you are both. When I first received the news, I too wanted to start running but we were 5 hours away from home on a major highway. After a 30 second meltdown, I pulled myself together and managed to keep my composure. I didn’t cry, and somehow, I even managed to call up the hotel we were supposed to check into and cancel our reservations. I calmly told the man that answered that we weren’t going to make it because I had just received a call that my son had died. There were a few seconds of silence. I’m sure he was taken aback. He gave me his condolences, I thanked him and hung up. I still wonder about that moment and at times I feel guilty that I wasn’t a complete basket case. I can only assume that I was in shock and my body’s defense mechanism kicked in. The ‘Whys and No’s started once I walked into the hospital and days following. I, like Sally Fields’ character, desperately wanted to hit someone. Hell hath no fury like a grieving mom.
All these years later, if you were just meeting me, you would not know how broken I am or how much I struggle with who I am supposed to be now. Sometimes, I find the challenges of navigating this new person overwhelming, and I suffer in silence with the new me, not wanting to pass on the burden to my family. Often when I am staring out into the horizon thinking of Joey and how much I miss him, my husband will ask me what I’m thinking of. I go into character and smile. “Nothing, honestly” I cheerfully answer as I swallow my pain. The person you see before is a mere mortal of who I used to be and sadly, I don’t know who I am to become. Every morning when I wake up, I go into character and start my day repeating the same old adage ‘Why me?