Brandon is the second of our five children and the oldest son. In the first several weeks after his death, I’d feel absolute panic that something might happen to one my other children. An ongoing sense of panic is not compatible with my psyche and definitely wouldn’t work long term if I wanted to retain some relatively normal (whatever that means) level of mental health. Being concerned (OK, worrying) does no good. It won’t change anything that may – or may not – occur in the future. Worrying won’t help me and it won’t help any of my four living adult children live the lives they should live.
I learned long ago that “control” is an illusion. And long ago I decided I was not going to let “what might” happen in the future hang over my head in the present. I’ve known too many people who can’t enjoy the now because of a preoccupation with potential disasters that could loom in their near or distant futures – “potential” as in what may happen, not what will happen. Still, life is life and one of the few absolutes is that no one moves through life without experiencing significant physical and emotional challenges, including the death of special someone(s) at one point or another. I figured this out long ago, too. I simply wasn’t going to dwell on it until a challenge rolled or leapt onto my life’s path.
Of the challenges that could present, I always knew the death of one of my babies – and they are my babies no matter what their ages – would be the worst. That’s why I’ve always prayed for the women I know, and those I don’t, whose child has died. The age of their child at time of death doesn’t matter and neither does it matter whether it was a day ago or a lifetime ago.
Well, I was right. I can’t imagine anything worse – or I couldn’t until one of our out-of-town sons called at 11 p.m. the other night and was obviously in excruciating pain. I listened in while he talked (with great difficulty getting the words out due to pain) to his father, who is a physician, and the possibilities of what might be wrong filled me with an unexplainable dread. The call didn’t last long, as my husband told our son to call 911 and get to an emergency room immediately.
I couldn’t put myself in my usual “wait and see what the problem really is” mode. No, I immediately jumped into pure mental panic and worst-case scenario mode. My husband went to bed figuring there was nothing more he could do then and our son would call when he learned more. I stayed up, knowing I wouldn’t sleep until he’d called. I lasted a little over an hour and then sent a text. His wife, who’d stayed home with their toddler, returned the text saying he’d forgotten to take his phone to the ER with him. She wasn’t sure which hospital the paramedics had taken him to but she gave me the name of a likely possibility.
Thank God hospitals are 24/7 places and a mother can call in any time! I did have the hospital where he’d been taken and the operator put me in touch with the ER. The kind woman there gave the phone to my son so he could reassure his mother that he was feeling much better. He was just about to head for a test, but the doctor was fairly certain of the diagnosis, which while painful is also treatable and not life threatening. A weight lifted.
My poor son felt he had to apologize for scaring me. I don’t want him to feel that way or apologize for what can’t be helped. I want him know he can call us about anything at any time. Ditto for all of my adult children. My exaggerated fear is not his or his siblings’ problem. My fear is my problem. I’ll face it as best I can. Sometimes, I’ll avoid it by taking a trip to the land of Denial, which I’ve found in the last two to three years to be a beneficial vacation spot as long as I don’t stay there too long, all the while knowing the fear is hovering just below the surface – ready to pop up and yank me from Denial to a less pleasant destination.
So, memo to my children, their spouses or significant other, and my grandchildren: I’m here for you – fear and all. I’d rather deal with my fear than have you hesitate to contact me, or your father, with an important issue in order to spare me this fear. Actually, thinking you might hesitate or not contact me when you need me fills me with a much greater fear. I love each of you so very much and each is such a unique love – just as each of you is so unique. That’s what makes Brandon’s death so difficult to deal with, but that’s also what makes continuing to be part of your lives the best part of my now.