It's been 37 years since his birth and nearly 9 since his death. He was my first born, the child I had wished for as long as I could remember. He was everything I dreamed of with a twist, and ever so much more. He would bring challenges I was unprepared for, heartache I could never have imagined and filled my heart with more love and joy than I thought possible. No one has taught me more about life, about people, about potential, about what matters, about gratitude. While his life was short and his physical abilities limited, his measurable intelligence low, he made a difference in all those whose lives he touched, and there was/is a ripple effect as those lives move forward because life does go on, and we remember.
At the nearly nine year mark of Erik's death, the intensity of my grief has lessened, but as a mother, I expect Grief to always walk with me. Most days now, Grief walks slightly behind me, lurking in the shadows. Very few catch a glimpse of my companion. Some days, Grief walks with me. Those closest to me recognize him, but there are days, most notably Erik's birthday and the day he got his wings, when Grief pushes me back and charges ahead of me. We struggle on those days, and I am often defeated but Love, Gratitude, Hope and Faith rally round with the help of family and friends until Grief once again retreats to the shadows...but he lurks, waiting for the opportunity to overcome, again.
This has been yet another life lesson. Erik continues to be my best teacher. Honestly, I really didn't fully understand grief. Consequently, though I thought of myself as compassionate and empathetic, perhaps I was not. Oh, I had lost loved ones. Every loss brings Grief along for the ride, but Grief never took me down before. My father died just six months before Erik did, and it seemed the worst possible pain until it wasn't. When Erik died, he left more than a hole in my heart. He took a part of me, a very big, important part of me with him. I am so blessed to have four surviving children all of whom mean every bit as much to me as Erik, and it was for them I found the courage to go on.
The first year following Erik's death was without a doubt, the hardest. Life as I had come to know it died right along with Erik. My husband was transferred. In order to join him, preserve our marriage, I had to give up my job which, it turns out cost me my hard worked for career. We moved hundreds of miles away from our four surviving children and our friends. Conventional wisdom would tell us, this was a very bad idea...bad, in deed.
Nearly, nine years out, I survived it all. My husband and I are still married- this, I understand is no small feat given what we've been through. We've moved twice, lost both of our mothers-his mother after a short illness just 4 months short of her 100th birthday, mine after a lengthy illness. My mother was my rock, my anchor. Grief, damn Grief, nearly swallowed me whole, again. My husband had open heart surgery shortly after receiving the "golden hand shake" from his employer. Our children have had successes and set backs. One of our daughters married and is now a Momma. I am a Grammie-proof positive that life goes on. Joy may be overshadowed by Grief, nearly smothered. Joy is resilient and will, given time and opportunity, triumph.
Nearly nine years out---life goes on. Life has changed. I have changed, but missing Erik, that doesn't change. Remembering his smile, has laugh, the funny things he said, the way he made us all feel...that doesn't change.
Today is Erik's birthday. He was born on this day 37 years ago and for that I am eternally grateful. He lived-for that I am grateful. Happy Birthday, sweet angel of mine. You live forever in my heart.