Monday, June 20, 2016

The Weight of Grief and The Light that Shines

Joe's first Father's Day with Domani was also the only one he was able to celebrate with his son. By the time the next Father's Day rolled around Joe had been gone six months and the day took on a particular emptiness in our home. That emptiness is certainly not lost on me as I got to celebrate yet one more Father's Day with my own dad or as I look back on all the years past when I was able to make heartfelt cards, awkwardly-colored ties, and strange sculptures to mark the day.

This year was Domani's first enrolled in an official school program. He has loved his preschool and all of his teachers have encouraged him and inspired his development in beautiful and unique ways, but there have been some emotionally challenging moments given the grief that he carries with him. This week leading up to Father's Day has been especially tough. It's been a week full of dad art projects and books about dads and conversations about dads. It was enough to make me weepy just reading the daily progress reports about what they were working on in each subject area.

In fact, after reading the first day's report I sat in my car and cried for five minutes. The weight this child bears and the love and light with which he bears it.

I am thankful beyond words for the conscious way his teachers and caregivers surrounded him with love this week and made space for both his reality and his emotions - giving hugs when needed and allowing for common sense modifications of the projects. I didn't have to prompt them to do it. They just knew. He made things for his grandpas and something for his Uncle Chris. I chatted regularly with the teaching staff about how he was doing and responding. He was loved and supported not only by me, but by a school full of amazing professionals.

On Thursday, when I picked him up from school I asked him if he wanted to go to the Mets game the following night. His eyes lit up with excitement. That night, before he went to bed he told me that he missed daddy and that he hadn't made anything for him. I told him that I would make sure he would have time to make something on Saturday - in plenty of time for Father's Day. I could tell he was relieved. Oh, the things that occupy the mind of a five year old who misses his dad. The weight this child bears and the love and light with which he bears it.

On Friday, I picked him up early from school so we could go to the Mets game. I sensed from him both relief at the end of the week and excitement to show me the things he had made - a card, a colored tie, a wall hanging with a saw - thoughtful, sweet art projects. Grief is complicated and often means we end up with a mix of many emotions that are hard to pick apart. I realized this about myself within the first year after Joe died. I am seeing this in Domani more and more.

We had a fun time together at the game. It was a much needed night to enjoy each other's company at one of the places that is most comfortable for us. The Mets weren't in on the poetry of the night though and lost. At least we came away with cool Neil Walker shirts.

After getting our Neil Walker shirts at the Mets game Friday Night
On Saturday, Domani came with me to a work meeting and - using the art supplies we had carefully packed into his bookbag - created a picture for his dad. He told me that I had to help with it as well so we decided blue and orange hearts would be the best contribution from mom.

Domani's picture (with 2 hearts from mom) for Dad

After the meeting and before we headed up for yet another Mets game, we brought the picture to the cemetery. Domani always remembers details about our trips to the cemetery and this was no exception. "Mom, remember last time we were here it was before Bella's birthday party and Uncle Scott was with us?" Yeah, buddy. I remember. Next time it will be "Mom, remember last time we were here it was right before Father's Day and the Braves beat the Mets 4-3?" And I'll say, yeah, buddy. You cheered right up until the end that night. Just like you always do. The weight this child bears and the love and light with which he bears it.

Cheering until the bitter end at Saturday night's Mets game

On Father's Day in 2011 I gave Joe a board book I had made called Daddy and Me. It had photos of Joe and Domani along with short captions. The two of them would look at it from time to time, but truthfully it really became a treasure to Domani over the last year. He keeps the book close and has everything about it memorized. So it seemed fitting that for Father's Day this year I would give Domani a new Daddy and Me board book to add to the mix. I gave it to him this morning and the first time we read it together I didn't even make it to the third page before I was choking back the tears.

With his new Daddy and Me book on Father's Day

Damn it. It was just not the way Father's Day was supposed to be in our house. 

But Domani is proud of his dad and he showed that book around today to anyone who would look at it. To me, that's worth tearing up a million times trying to read it to him. The weight this child bears and the love and light with which he bears it.

Then tonight after we got home from a day of celebrating fathers and a family birthday we completed our weekly baseball standings board. The ONLY thing that changed on the board from last week was the Mets moved to 3rd place and the Marlins to 2nd place. Domani was devastated. He almost didn't even want to do the board. Instead of inserting them, he set the hats on top of the slots and pouted. Except that he does the board every week and he knows that people wait to see it. So when I asked him if he just wanted to skip it, he said no and he put those hats where they belonged. Then, even though I told him he didn't have to take a picture with it, he held it up and squeaked out a smile. I could not be more proud of him. The weight this child bears and the love and light with which he bears it.

The weekly standings board :-(


  1. "Grief is complicated and often means we end up with a mix of many emotions that are hard to pick apart."


    Anne, the depth of love you have for this little man is unparalleled. He's SO lucky to have you in his life. You're the best Mom ever!

    1. Thank you, Gerry. Always appreciate your thoughtful comments!