For the rest of my life, I’ll be missing the should-haves. By Lexi Behrndt
The day I realized Charlie would have turned 13 months hit me and hit me hard. Lincoln, my first started walking at 12.5 months. He should be walking right now. And for a moment, I imagined my life as if I were normal. I’d walk out of this room, and there he would be, toddling, getting into things he shouldn’t be, pulling every book off the shelf, just because he could. He’d leave a constant trail of clutter everywhere he went.
I’d walk out of the room, lay eyes on him, and when he saw me, he would smile, a big toothy grin. He’d have six teeth. Drool would be dripping down his chin, a pool around the collar of his shirt. His brother, Lincoln, would be nearby. Lincoln could never resist staying far from him. They would be sharing toys, and I know Lincoln would be getting frustrated and throwing a tantrum in there. I also know that Charlie always laughed the most when Lincoln would throw a fit.
Charlie would be in the perfect hand-me-downs, all the clothes I couldn’t resist buying on the Target clearance racks for Lincoln, Charlie would be wearing them in with the same chubby thighs, bulging belly, and perfect arm rolls.
He’d be saying momma right now. He’d cry my name out when he would get mad, and you know what? I wouldn’t even mind for one second. I’d do anything to hear “momma” just once from that sweet voice.
And when he cried, I’d scoop him into my arms, hold him like the baby he once was, and I’d kiss his perfect lips. I’d tell him that his mommy loves him, and that I’m right here as I rubbed his sandy blonde hair, and wiped the tears as they rolled down his cheeks.
It’s fun to play pretend. It gives my heart a moment of relief. That’s the way it should be — Charlie, healthy and whole and in my arms. Me, the mother of two boys who keep me running constantly with tired eyes, stained shirts, and an overflowing heart. This is the way it should be, except seven months ago, when his little lungs became too sick from congenital heart disease and pulmonary hypertension, I held him in my arms while he breathed his final breath, and I kissed him for the last time.
I didn’t just lose a baby. I lost a toddler.
I lost a goofy 3-year-old, making mischief, causing me stress, and making me giggle at his silly comments.
I lost a kindergartner, backpack on, running to kiss me with sweaty blonde hair and dirt under his fingernails at school pick-up.
I lost a third grader, helping him with math problems, and still tucking him in at night.
I lost a preteen. Reminding him to put his deodorant on everyday. Reminding him that no matter how insecure he might feel, his mom will always have his back.
I lost a high schooler. Cheering him on at a game, helping him prep for his first big date, watching as he grows into independence as a young man, one that I raised.
I lost an adult child. One who I would love forever, because no matter how old I will grow, he would always be my baby.
All the things Charlie could be. All the things he should be. I lost, and instead I hold a child-size walnut urn and cling to every memory I hold from six and a half months in my arms.
When we lose our children, we don’t just lose them at the stage they were when they passed. We lose them at every stage we missed, and our hearts will forever ache with that knowledge. There’s a whole crock of crap that says grief follows a method. It stays neatly in lines, clean, tame, strategic. When a child dies before a parent, there is nothing normal, neat clean, or tame about that.
For the rest of my life, I’ll be missing the should-haves. His little years. His growing years. The moments he should be making me rip my hair out, then the sweet ones, like the day I take him to get his license. Or the day he tells me he is going to propose. Or the day that he becomes a father. I’ll never get those days. Grief will never be methodical or neat.
And one thing I’ve learned from mothers much further along in this journey than me: grief doesn’t end. Out of a broken, beating heart comes endless love as it ebbs and flows through the constant cycles of grief. Sometimes gentle, sometimes heavy. The reminders are always there. The love is always there. After all, a mother never stops loving the child she carried.
The author with her little boy, Charlie.
From: The Mix