It’s been sunny these last days of July. But this morning, rain has come. Sad and gray; kind of how I feel on the inside today. I’m sitting at my coffee shop, doing some self-care by sitting still for a while with my coffee and my bagel. I do have to say that the self-care coffee part is for my heart; it’s not for my body, because coffee burns my tummy …but I just want it so much …emotionally speaking. I am at that place where my body is trying to tell me to make some changes, like not drinking my decaf coffee, no caffeine, no potato, no sugar, no dairy and no gluten. I think that is a lot of demands for a body to make. But, as I am experiencing some of the consequences of ignoring my body’s prodding, (which I won’t go into because I’m trying hard to be in denial of them) I’m beginning to crack, and wishing someone would come cook dairy free, gluten free, sugar free, potato free meals for me. I would totally be their best friend if they would just do that.
Today my son was born 37 years ago. It was my due date and very early in the morning, my water broke. He was my number three baby, so labor wasn’t too long. This was back in the day when the ‘in’thing was natural childbirth with no epidural or anything else. So there was some desperate grabbing of Kevin’s shirt collar with both fists as I tried to escape the labor pains. Luckily, Ryan was born after only about eight hours. This was also back when most deliveries were surprises: boy or girl. After having two girls, we just expected it to be another girl. It was an amazing surprise to see a little boy squeeze out! He was our tiniest baby at 7 pounds 5 ounces. They laid him on my tummy and we cried. He peed.
All week I have been preparing for today; going in and out of sadness throughout the week, which made the days feel heavy. Rightfully so. My son, who died 6 years and 8 months ago is not here to celebrate his birthday today. We all grieve differently. Seriously different. Some of us want to be with people so we don’t feel alone and completely overwhelmed with our sad feelings. Some of us, like me, need time alone to allow the grief to emerge. When I am with people, somehow my sorrow is pushed to the side so I can be present with my friends. Well …somewhat present. When we are carrying the huge feelings of loss, its difficult to be completely present. So, I spent the morning by myself at my coffee shop – hiding in my booth. But when I returned home, my husband had been immersed in his grief as well. And that’s when it can get tricky. Because, for me at least, I realize there is some anger behind my grief. I don’t want this to be our story. I don’t want Ryan to be gone. And so once I am home, as we begin interacting about some house projects for the day – all my intense, angry, frustrated, deeply sorrowful feelings ooze out. Maybe not “ooze.” It’s more like a volcano with lava that is hot and spreading with a scary intensity that says, “you better get out of the way!” I am not proud that sometimes my grief makes my loved one afraid he is going to get burned. But to be honest and fair, I try to warn everyone to stay away. Sometimes it even requires some alcohol. (Not for my spouse, but for me). Okay, it doesn’t require alcohol, but once in a while, on fiercely hard days, it is a comfort food – like the Mint Mojito and chocolate chip cookies I am having right now. ‘Just saying. But I am convinced that it is best to get my muck boots on and wade through the messy, sad stuff that comes up. Because it’s all inside me. It’s all here anyway. Pretending it’s not inside me doesn’t make it true. And I also think that all the tragic, devastating losses that we each encounter in life, deserves some time. You survived something you never thought you could, and that loss is worthy of some tears and some prime time.
Today I read again a favorite beautifully illustrated book, Tear Soup: “One day as Grandy and Chester were going for a drive, Chester asked, ‘Mom says you’ve been making tear soup. What does that mean?’ ‘Well, tear soup is a way for you to sort through all the different types of feelings and memories you have when you lose someone or something special. . . Some days when you are making tear soup it’s even hard to breathe.’ There were things that Grandy never wanted to forget. These included the good times and the bad times, the silly and the sad times. With her arms full of memories Grandy made many trips to the kitchen. One at a time, she slowly stirred all her precious . . . memories into the pot. . . . ‘So what else have you learned by making tear soup, Grandy?’ ‘I’ve learned that grief, like a pot of soup, changes the longer it simmers and the more things you put into it . . . And most importantly, I’ve learned that there is something down deep within all of us ready to help us survive the things we think we can’t survive.’”And so today, I took extra time to remember.
As a little boy, Ryan loved to dress up in costumes. Anything could be a costume. He would mix and match whatever he found, and pretend he was a mailman, cowboy, or perhaps an eccentric traveler. He loved the Bible and as early as two years old, toted it around with him. He loved to journal. Even when he could barely write his letters, he would make meaningful scribbles that I knew were profound to him. Ryan always had a wisdom beyond his age. As a preschooler, he would speak truth into a moment that either made us smile or weep just a little. That insightful wisdom continued through his life of thirty years, with the most powerful, enlightened, mysterious and funny insights. (One of his deep desires in childhood was a wish that we would have named him “Jokey.”)Those insights were beautifully shared in his blog posts in the last 17 months of his life. (grassrootsconspiracy.com) We discovered after we could not stop Ryan from running after his sisters with mouth open, trying to bite them throughout the day, that he was allergic to red food dye. And that would make him crazy, bouncing off the walls . . . savagely biting anything in his path. But once the drugs and dye were out of his system – Ryan loved people even as a little boy. Everyone belonged. Always.
I connected briefly with a dear friend today, she had brought over a little vase of miniature roses to speak into our grief and add to our tear soup. She shared that she noticed the unexpected rain this morning and thought heaven was weeping with us. I love when even in the unconscious – we connect.
And no, the mint mojitio and chocolate chip cookies did not set well on my tummy. Truth be told.
I love you. I miss Ry so damn much. ❤️
Love you too.
And I miss him so damn much too
Thank you Brenda for sharing this. Also thank you for leaving Ryan’s blog up, although I suppose there is no way in the world you will ever take it down. I was very impressed with his writing and his honesty and I benefited from reading it. Some of his posts I copied onto a computer file I made for myself that I titled Wise Words never suspecting that one day I would be locked in a battle with cancer myself. Now I want to go back and read his complete blog. He was a very special guy and the world is poorer for his having been snatched from it so soon, but ever so much richer because he lived here!
Yes, the world is poorer with him gone. He brought life to everyone he met. Thank you Phillis for sharing
I only knew little Ryan, in the years you were at Winding Way. I knew you had some of the most beautiful children I had ever seen. I loved them, as I loved you and Kevin.. not close up and personal, as I would have liked, but because I was childless, and children is where your rightful focus was at that time, with Kevin being our youth minister, but I felt like an outsider looking in. Not anyone’s fault, but because I didn’t qualify, cause I didn’t have children. I actually felt jealous of others who did. How I grieved, and still grieve, at 74 years of age, that I am chidless.
Brenda, I do not share this to diminish your grief, in any way. It’s not possible! I cannot imagine what it is like to lose your child, but do share in your grief. I love your family. You are so special, to so many..
Sorry for delayed response. Thank you for your thoughtful sharing of your heart. Much love