No parent should have to add a grave blanket to their list of Christmas gifts to buy their children. It's a little bit appalling. Yet add it I did, and I was happy to. Why? Because it was something I could do for him. One of the worst parts of losing a child is the unfinished feeling you have. You haven't finished raising him, seeing what he was destined to become. As a Catholic I know that Ryan became exactly what God planned for him and his early death was part of that plan, but as a parent I wanted to see him go to high school, plan for a future, to be part of what he was to become. I was supposed to finish before him, he was to be there for me at the end and usher me into my Father's house. It feels all mixed up.
So now I do what I can for him. We ordered a beautiful headstone which can't go up until the spring, and I placed a blanket of evergreen on his grave. It was made by a dear friend, who is a florist and was covered in little musical instruments with a pretty little manger set in the middle. Every time we go visit Ryan there are plants and statues, little gifts and letters from people. It makes us happy to know he is remembered and loved, even still.
I have to confess to being royally annoyed that Christmas is going forward without my son. It seems so wrong that there be so much happiness when my heart aches so badly. Then I look into the faces of my children. They are happy about Christmas. The small ones are looking for Jesus to be in the manger in the morning and the wee ones are so excited to put the last piece on the magnetic Advent calendar. Then, of course, there is a jolly old elf due to arrive in the dark hours of the night. Their happiness touches me and helps me to focus on the joy. There can be joy even in our darkest hours because joy isn't really an emotion the way happy and sad is. Joy is the knowing that there is eternal bliss waiting. That God sacrificed His Son for our salvation. Joy is intellectual and carries on while happiness and sadness are fleeting. So I will take the joy and I will bide my time for happiness. It will come.
In the meantime, i do what I can for him. I speak to him in prayer, I attend as many Masses said for him as I can, and materially, I cover his grave in a mother's tears and a blanket of evergreen.
Mary Ellen, you, your family and Ryan are in my prayers. My family is walking the same path, mourning the loss of our sweet 8 month old baby. She has been gone for 5 years now. Watching the world move forward when all I wanted was to turn back time was so incredibly difficult. Your faith is strong and God will carry each of you through these painful times. Weeping may endure through the night, but joy comes in the morning.
Mary Ellen, Thank you for sharing your feelings with all of us. I know it will help so many. I have been praying for you especially at this time and wondering how you must be doing. Thank you for taking the time to share. Words just don’t seem adequate. Please know you are surrounded with prayer from those close to you and those far away.
Betty Beguiles says
It’s hard for me to put into words but you have given me a truly precious Christmas gift in writing this post. It touched my heart and moved me in so many ways. Thank you for your sweet heart and tender honesty. Thank you for allowing all of us, especially is mothers, to share (in the tiniest of ways) this journey with you. It has been such a blessing to me. You and your family will be in my prayers. And again, I am so sorry for your loss.
Kristen Laurence says
Mary Ellen, I’m in tears. This is such an incredibly beautiful post. I love you and my heart aches for you. We love Ryan, and my girls pray to him at night before bed to watch over them. Thank you for being such a beautiful witness to the Cross, and know that we will pray especially for all of you today.
I’m thinking Ryan is having a truly Merry Christmas, while we only get a taste of it here. Bless you Mary Ellen!
Mary Ellen, such a beautiful post. I am walking the same path as you. This will be our 3rd Christmas without our son. Your words echo my own thoughts as we get ready for Christmas. You and your family continue to be in my prayers.
I am in tears as well. A beautiful post.
Merry Christmas, Mary Ellen. Our prayers are with you all.
I, too, am in tears. I continue to hold all of you in prayer.
Voice in the Crowd says
Your family is in our prayers. I wrote a blog post a few weeks back that was very similar to this one about laying a grave covering at Christmas after a loss.
I can definitely relate to what your are writing.
I wish your family peace and Faith this Christmas.
Alice Gunther says
Crying with you dear friend.
Karen Edmisten says
A hug for you, and tears across the miles.
Wishing you many blessings in this Christmas season and in the New Year. So many are grateful for Ryan’s life, and I hope that gives you peace.
Praying and crying with you, my friend.
Lisa Mladinich says
Ryan is so lucky to have you for a mom. Your love for him was used by God in so many ways. His life continues to flower in hearts and minds, in memories and in love. Friendships still surround him and all of you because of every mundane task you have attended to, every moment of hospitality offered to others, every extra effort to get the family to church, to classes, to parties, to activities. Riches shared daily, slowly, in love. May our newborn Christ shower you and your family with Christmas blessings, and may His Mother wrap you all snugly in her Immaculate Heart.
My heart aches for you and for all the mothers who must try to focus on joy through their endless loss at this time. I pray for strength for you. And I thank you for the blessings you give me, a stranger so far away – the light of faith and hope you give me. It’s almost as if I can see Ryan smiling down from heaven.
Nissa Gadbois says
We’ve been thinking of you so much this Advent and will continue to pray with you and for you through Christmastide and always.
Mary Ellen…how exquisitely beautiful and eloquent is your expression of a pain, a suffering that I can’t begin to comprehend. Your great faith and love shines in the words you’ve written. May God continue to bless and comfort you and your dear family. How Ryan must have rejoiced at your remembrance…how sweet will that reunion be, when you meet him again, in heaven.
Prayers…and a hug!
I feel your pain, I just remarked similiar words to my Olivers Godmother. Why do I do the grave gifts? because I can!
and this is 4 years out from his death, be assured you are in my heaart and prayers.
Tears here, too, beautiful mother.
Sending this to a friend who is hurting mightily right now. But you are right, joy and happiness are not the same, and we can find joy smack in the middle of our earthly trials.
A joyful Christmastide to you, dear Mary Ellen. God love you, and all those who have lost their precious children.
I held you close in my thoughts and prayers this Christmas Eve. My heart was aching right along with you with “something that felt… unfinished” Our boys attended ( I am sure) the most beautiful Mass in heaven right along side the alters we watched that night. I know they are keeping us and our families in prayer. Love to you sweet Mary Ellen, Love Emily
Dear Mary Ellen,
This must be so hard for you, I cannot imagine your loss.
I am so sad for you and the pain you feel.
Praying for you and your family
Donna Marie says
This is so beautiful and touching..I am in tears! Thank you for sharing such tender moments with us. We pray for your family all of the time!
God love you, dear lady!
Nike Shox says
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