Tonight my heart is full. I just finished putting together a Father's Day gift for Domani that has been more than a month in the making. Friends and family have been sending me photos and written memories of his dad in order to create a memory box for him to keep and I couldn't be more excited to give it to him. This past year as Domani has been attending his peer grief support group he has become more and more interested in hearing stories about his dad so it seemed like perfect timing to pull together a gift that would do just that.
When Domani is thinking about his dad or on special days like Joe's birthday, he loves looking at old Shutterfly photo albums and the two "Daddy and Me" board books I made for Father's Day (one for Joe in 2011 and one for Domani in 2016). He has gone through those albums and books so many times over the past year especially that he almost has them memorized. I realized that it was clearly time to expand his "Joe library". We started to do that over the holidays with some family members writing down memories and a few including photos too, but I could tell that as we moved past Mother's Day and towards Father's Day there was a need to do something meaningful for him. He was looking for ways to connect to who his Dad was.
I know as his mom that I will never be able to fill the void that was left when his Dad died. There will be moments when he feels cutting pain and sometimes those moments will come in the midst of really wonderful things. There will be times that he is caught off guard by his grief - like tonight when he was asked by a well-meaning acquaintance what he had gotten his dad for Father's Day. There will be times when all he wants to do is rail against how unfair it all feels.
I know some of those things as a woman who has lost her spouse. I do not know them as a child who has lost a parent. So I do what I can to support my son. Just after Mother's Day, I made the difficult ask of friends and family to go through photos and write about their memories of our beloved Joe. I know it wasn't easy. I did it myself and for as many times as I have already cried looking at our photos from our 2010 tour of Citifield there were still a few more tears left. But things are not easy for my little guy either and I know that having these stories will be such a gift for him as he grieves his dad.
I think I received memories by every method you could imagine, with the exception of fax and carrier pigeon. The flood of Joe stories and the diversity of people who shared them were truly special. As the memories came through, I was struck most by all of the love - the love in the stories, the love in the time and emotional effort it took to tell them, and the love of those who are continuing to be in community with Domani and me through so much of life's hard stuff.
This is a beautiful box because it is full of love and I am sure we will be adding "Joe stories" to it for Domani for many years to come. This truly one of those moments in life where pain and joy can co-exist. Father's Day is hard in our house, but my heart is full and I am thankful.
I leave you with a quote I came across in a book I'm reading that has been life-changing for me this last month.
"In the end, nothing we do or say in this lifetime will matter as much as the ways we have loved one another." -Daphne Rose Kingma as quoted in The Happiness Makeover by M.J. Ryan