Thursday, March 27, 2014

Envious of Those Who Have What I Lost

We are told not to covet in the Bible, so I know it's wrong.

But sometimes, I'm so envious of mothers and sons that it hurts. I want that back, even if it is some "that" I never really had. I wanted those moments with my son, those moments stolen by bad choices and addiction, those moments forfeited to confusion and fear.

A group of healthy young men sitting together at church doing what healthy young men do can push me to tears. A mother hugging her son makes me turn away in pain. Boys of all ages make me want to reach out and somehow save them, but of course teens and young men are the worst. They bring back the loss along with the dreams.

I gravitate toward those wounded like me, those who have lost children, especially sons, to illnesses or sudden tragedies, or who are struggling with the knowledge that the phone call I got could be the one they get tomorrow. We huddle together when we meet, or we reach across the miles to one another through Google+ and Facebook and prop each other up as we try to stumble through our lives. We're like lepers, hiding our disease so we can blend in with the rest of society, but only truly safe and able to be ourselves when we are together and can let down our pretenses that life is anywhere near what we want it to be.

We're a secret society, like Masons, where everyone knows you're a member, but they don't really know what you do. There's no secret handshake or special ring to wear and we don't have benefit pancake suppers where the rest of the world gets to visit our special hall, but there's one hell of an initiation ceremony and it's a lifetime membership with dues paid daily.

We all wish we weren't members, but we wouldn't force anyone to take our place even if we had the option, because it's that horrible.

All the same, we look at other mothers with their "normal" children, particularly those at or near the age when we last held our own, and it's hard not to be covetous of someone else's life.

Sometimes that life is one we know only through that same social media that connects us with one another. It's a friend sharing the fact she's had a meal with her son, that her son is home from college for spring break, that he's getting married, or had a birthday. It's those little, everyday things we expected to happen or took for granted and never thought a thing about that break our hearts because they're as gone as the snow that fell earlier this week and vanished by midafternoon, leaving nothing but memories and mud.

Yet I know, even as I covet these moments of celebration, that they aren't the whole picture, and they may be hiding secrets as painful as those I once hid.

One of my new friends (a probationary member of the club who is still living a life where she clings to hope) posted a picture of her son's birthday not long ago. He was just a year older than Ethan would have been in a few weeks. The post made me cry, because he was here to celebrate his birthday and there was probably a family get together and hugs and love and all the things I miss so badly.

She messaged me a few days later that he was losing his battle with drugs again and the thread to happiness was unraveling.

It was easy, when I saw her happiness, to forget for a little while that fear she lives with every day. The fear I lived with for years; the fear that this time he won't come back and there won't be more birthdays or holidays or hugs or even tomorrows. Her honesty reminded me of all the pain, and I wouldn't trade places with her for the chance to hold Ethan one more time and then lose him all over again. The road this far has been too hard for me to ever want to start over.

So I watch other mothers hug their sons while my own ache to do so, trying not to envy them their moments when I don't know their reality or what their life holds. Instead, when I get the chance, I urge them to hug their children, boys and girls, and savor the moments because none of us knows how suddenly the future can be snatched away.

None of us knows when we'll be left with what we really had all along, our dreams and memories, our prayers and faith, and the task of making it through another day struggling to figure out what it all means with empty arms and no one to lean on but each other and God.

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