My Heart’s Endless Breaking

Lonely Woman Silhouette Swinging At Sunset On The Beach

Sometimes, I’m fine. I mean, I’m really fine. I go along, doing the things I do, writing books and raising boys, and I’m fine. And then one night, I go to sleep and Robb is there to meet me for coffee, and it’s my very undoing all over again.

We haven’t visited in my dreams in such a long time. He looked so good, so healthy, so him. It was all present day, I am who I am now, and he is who he was, is, would be if he were here.

He was trying to talk me into moving to Texas. And I kept saying, “But I live in Denver, honey. Remember? This was where we wanted to be. I’m in Colorado. If I move to Texas, then I won’t be here.” Profound, I know. He kept talking about the church, how great the church is. It’s so global, he told me. I realized that he wasn’t trying to talk me into Texas, but he was telling me about this place where he is, how great it will be when we are together.

I woke up feeling like I had been with him, which is the very nature of dreams, the suspension of reality while the untrue becomes truth for just a little while. He feels so close right now, just out of my reach. And everything feels raw and tender all over again. I feel like I am one large, deep, dark purple, tender bruise.

I listened to a segment on NPR about a man who was diagnosed with this rare bone cancer, and all he could think about were his little girls. All they would miss without him, all he would miss by leaving too soon. So he put together what he called a Council of Dads to love his girls in his absence. It was all lovely and moving, but then the story ended and they rolled the audible credits with an update: the guy lived, he is cancer free, and his family is healthy and whole.

And suddenly, I was furious.

I flipped off the radio, cursing expletives and vaguely thankful my kids weren’t in the car. I was so mad at the guy who got to live, who gets to raise his little girls. I was mad that there’s a council of men standing at the ready. I was mad for the drama of it all, that I had followed this tragic story expecting to find one I could identify with. I felt manipulated, and I truly hate, hate, being manipulated. But mostly I was just mad that the story I live is just how it goes.

My guys are getting older. We have entered a new stage, a golden in-between place where they are not little children but not yet young men, where they want to do things, learn skills, and take adventures that are above my pay grade.

A boy needs a dad. These boys need theirs.

The thing about childhood loss is that you just keep losing and losing and losing what you’ve lost. Just when you find your stride, you discover another way you need the person you don’t have. To my heart’s endless breaking, it’s becoming harder, so very much harder, to be both mom and dad to them.

It doesn’t go away. You just learn to live inside it.

Lonely Woman Silhouette Swinging At Sunset On The Beach

Tricia Lott Williford

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  1. I had a similar experience listening to our local Christian radio station one day. A Bible study teacher was telling how she learned to “let her son go” when he was in a serious automobile accident. He was at death’s door as she and her husband drove to the hospital, and they were thinking they would be saying their final goodbyes. On the way, she came to realize her son really belongs to God and she had to just “let him go” back into God’s hands. I hung on as she spoke because we had recently buried our 32-year-old son. Then her son lived and is now leading a wonderful life with his family, etc. etc. etc. I was furious! How dare she say she learned what it is to let go of her child when she never had to let him go! I am the grandmother watching two young boys grow up without their dad and wondering how they will fare; the mother-in-law feeling helpless to lift the burden and pain from their mother. I cling to God’s promise that he is the father to the fatherless and pray my grandsons will know the sufficiency of his grace. This is a rocky road and I’m learning there are many travelers on it.

  2. I also know that pain. My husband died of a seizure when our son (our only child) was 12. He’s now 14 and really feeling lost without his dad. He just seems “stuck”…doesn’t want to be a kid, doesn’t know how to be a man, and anything I try to do to go guide him in that arena is met with disdain. Most of the time my grief on his behalf far outweighs my own.

  3. Oh Tricia, how I relate to this post. I haven’t met Mike in my dreams in far too long, but I know how it is to wake from such a dream, and to feel that first intense, red hot loss all over again. The stages of grief just circle around and around…you don’t “go through” the stages and emerge whole, ever. Today I was in the anger stage…because I had to mow and it’s hot and humid and I HATE MOWING and Mike left me to mow the over an acre yard that HE wanted. And then I came in, all hot and sweaty, and read this post, and went straight into another stage. I feel for you, I feel for me, I feel for the loss of your boys and my daughter and this very unfair and unkind world. Sending you a big, giant, widow-to-widow hug from Ohio.

  4. How very true!

  5. I know your pain I was that small boy many years ago . Trying to grow up in a world of moms and dads. I’m grown now and yes there was many times that I wanted more time with him and was angry with my mother for not being able to find a man to be the dad that I had lost. Yet even in my lack of knowing all that was going on god was watching and working to show me his great love for me. He has promised to be with the orphan and widow, he is not one to break his promise. With the loss of my dad a piece of me was lost also,but in his faithfulness he has given to me an over flowing of love for others and to my children the need to express love and care to others. My hope is that you live long and enjoy the time with your boys, they will forever be your man in so many ways.

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