Social media has a way of reminding you what you have – and what you don’t have. As I try to deal with the pain of losing a lifelong friend two years ago by remembering the happy times, seeing her pictures on social media reminds of how much she was loved and it’s made my heart heavy. You never get past the loss of loved ones. You just learn how to deal with your new reality. Fast forward to today where I am now seeing everyone posting about their kids’ first day of school. Hits my heart in a different way.

As we gear up for a new school year, I can hardly believe I am the mother of a middle schooler and a freshman in high school – and oh yeah, that painful dagger that always reminds me of what’s missing. I should also be the mother of a senior in high school. My Nathaniel should be driving. He should be planning for his senior pictures to be placed in the yearbook, we should be talking about college, or whatever his plans were going to be after high school. And don’t forget his Graduation party, Homecoming, Prom. It definitely gets difficult not to be angry that we were all cheated of these wonderful milestones. Sometimes it makes me sad to feel like I’m sitting on the sidelines as other parents get to experience their children growing in a way that I never will with Nathaniel. That’s a loss I will always have to deal with. On the other side of the coin, I am so grateful to be living this life and watching Lucas and Matthew grow. This part makes my heart happy.

More often than not, my memories and my heart stand still in time. Sometimes we sit at the dinner table and imagine what Nathaniel would be like. His brothers are more certain than I about what he would think is cool. While it truly breaks my heart at times, it does give me some peace in knowing that they haven’t forgotten his memory. I know as the years pass, the real memories of them together as children will fade. In fact, Matthew has said he doesn’t remember spending time together with Nathaniel, and while that breaks my heart, I understand. All we have are pictures of them together, but he was so small when Nathaniel passed, how could he remember? What he knows is that his brother loved him, that they played together, and all the things his brother loved, because we remind him. I hope as they grow older, Lucas and Matthew continue to honor their brother in a way that doesn’t consume them but keeps him close to their hearts. There are some days I think we have made great strides because of what we are accomplishing with Team Nathaniel on his behalf, and because I do think we have given our children a great childhood that I hope they will look back on one day and remember the good times. Other days, I feel like my heart is still living in the past and can’t seem to let go of a time when I had all my children under one roof, and life was good. That was a long time ago, but my heart remembers that place well.

Fall used to be one of my favorite times of year. I love when the leaves change colors and the weather gets a little cooler, but now, this time of year brings me great sadness. The beginning of each school year reminds me that Nathaniel is no longer here, and that’s always going to hurt. I breathe, and remind myself to take life one day at a time. I try to stay focused on wonderful blessings I am thankful for.

All I can say is cherish the time you have with your children. Time is not guaranteed to anyone. Appreciate the milestones- even the small ones. It may seem like nothing now, but trust me, as time goes on, they become more and more valuable. Things I took for granted early on, like Nathaniel’s artwork and poems that I boxed away have become my Monets. We are so grateful to have Matthew and Lucas to keep us going and reminding us how wonderful and beautiful life still is despite the heartache we have all endured. Here’s to a safe and successful school year to all, and to the cherished moments in between.

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