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Nothing Lasts Forever

24 Mar

I don’t know how it started. I don’t remember if someone gave me this tip when I was young and it stuck with me. But somewhere along the way, I learned this coping skill, and it’s something I repeat to myself often, sometimes multiple times a day.
“Nothing lasts forever.”
I cannot run another second on this treadmill. “Nothing lasts forever.”
This day of work is never going to end. “Nothing lasts forever.”
My baby will never ever ever sleep through the night. “Nothing lasts forever.”

Shit labor hurts. “Nothing lasts forever.”

For some reason, this little mantra works for me. If I can remember that whatever difficult/annoying/painful/boring thing I’m going through isn’t going to last forever and will eventually be over, it makes it easier to bear.

It also helps me to remember to live in the moment and enjoy what this wonderful life has provided for me. In the same way that bad things don’t last forever, sometimes the good things don’t either.

 My babies still hug me and kiss me and have chubby cheeks and adorable fat rolls. “Nothing lasts forever.”

 If I drop a few more pounds, I could probably be in a bikini for the summer. “Nothing lasts forever.”

 I’m so lucky my parents are such amazing grandparents to my kids. “Nothing lasts forever.”

It took 23 years for me to run into a situation in which “Nothing lasts forever” didn’t apply.

My brother died on March 24, 2006. It has been five years since I have heard his voice. Five years since he took a breath or hugged his son or smiled. I have since had two babies, switched jobs, moved. There have been earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, and tsunamis. When he was alive, there was no iphone. DVR wasn’t in every home and the United States had never elected an African American president.  He has missed so much. The anger I have about this situation sits on the surface of my soul, threatening to take over.

 When the pain overwhelms me, as it still does on an almost daily basis, telling myself “Nothing lasts forever” doesn’t work. This will hurt forever. Or at least for as long as I live. It doesn’t get easier. The pain changes, yes. It has become my new life, my new state of being, my new “normal”. But it is there. Always.

 Today I took Nolan to the scene of my brother’s accident. I wasn’t going to let him get out of the car, but he was curious and I want to be honest with him about what happened to Nathan. There is a cross there with flowers and stuffed animals, so I did my best to explain that this was the spot that Uncle Nathan got his boo-boo and where he went to heaven. I told him that we come here and leave flowers or presents so that Uncle Nathan can see them from heaven and know how much we love and miss him. I explained that Uncle Nathan can see us and that if he wanted, Nolan could say hi to Uncle Nathan. Nolan said “I’m feeling shy Mommy. I can’t see him.” I explained that we couldn’t see him, but he could see us. It was then that Nolan threw his head back and with a huge smile said “Hi Uncle Nathan! I’m Nolan!”

 For the rest of the day, Nolan talked about Uncle Nathan dying. He understandably had a ton of questions. How did he die? Why did he die? Why didn’t they stop the car when it went off the road? How did he get to heaven? Did he float up through the sky? I did my best to answer them in a way he could understand, but he brought me to my knees when he said “Mommy? Do you know what I want Uncle Nathan to do? I want him to leave heaven and come here so I can meet him.”

 It is in those moments that no mantra, no hug, no friend, nothing will make me feel better. A four-year old, in his sweet innocence, captured the one thing that I can’t have. The one thing that makes it impossible for me to let go of this pain.  The one thing that will always be. My brother will always be gone. I can “talk” to him all I want. I can pray,  I can write him letters, I can visit his cross. He is gone.

Some days I’m sure that I can’t handle one more minute of it. The finality of the situation overwhelms me and a life empty of one of my best friends stretches out before me and I want to give up. I am buoyed only by the love of my family and friends and my determination to be a good mom. I also owe it to my brother to make his life mean more than his death. Yes, I bear the pain of losing my brother. It is in me, it is who I am. But I also have the love and support of an amazing man and two incredibly sweet and loving children. They will always be the reason I don’t allow myself to drown in the pain of losing Nathan.  I guess some things do last forever.


When you can't find the words

4 Jan

How do you explain something to a three year old that you don’t really understand yourself?
I run into this problem a lot. Like when Nolan asks me why the sky is blue or what our chins are for or how dolphins jump so high or why there aren’t any dinosaurs or why I married Daddy.  He doesn’t accept “I don’t know” as an answer. He isn’t placated by “God just made it that way.” He wants to know why, and he wants a detailed answer. Most of the time I can come up with something that sounds relatively intelligent and not too confusing. I can give him enough information so that he feels as though his question has been answered, but he isn’t overwhelmed by peripheral information that he can’t yet grasp.
But sometimes I can’t.
“Mommy, sometimes you get sad because you miss Uncle Nathan.”
“Yes buddy, I do. I miss him a lot and I wish I could see him.”
“It makes me sad too because I will never get to see him.”
“Yes angel, that makes me very, very sad too.”
“But where is he?”
“He lives in heaven with God.”
“He died and had to go live with God.”
“But why did he die?”
I’m okay with telling Nolan that Nathan lives with God. I’m okay saying that he died. I’m okay with us talking about him and how much we miss him. Where I fumble is when he wants me to explain why and how he died. I don’t know how to explain it to him in a way that he can understand that won’t also scare him.
Do I tell him he died in a car accident? I don’t want him to be afraid of getting in a car.
Do I tell him that something hit his head? I don’t want him to be scared every time he or his sister falls down.
Do I tell him that God decided it was time for Nathan to come to heaven and that it happens to everyone? I don’t want him to be scared that God is going to decide it’s time for him or Tessa or Mommy or Daddy to die.
This is when I fumble. I don’t know why Nathan died. I know how he died. I don’t know why. And I don’t know how to explain that to a three year old when I struggle every second of every day to try to figure out why.
“Oh baby. Uncle Nathan got a boo-boo that the doctors couldn’t fix and he died.”
The silence descends over us and I see his little brow furrow between those beautiful brown eyes.


 Now he’s going to be scared that the doctors can never fix him or Tessa or Mommy or Daddy. I can practically see the wheels turning in his little mind, wondering and worrying about what will happen if he or Sissy or Mommy or Daddy gets a boo-boo the doctors can’t fix.

 “Sometimes people get boo-boos the doctors can’t fix. Doctors can fix boo-boos almost all of the time, but sometimes they can’t. But I don’t want you to worry. You and Sissy and Mommy and Daddy won’t get any boo-boos that the doctors can’t fix.”


 Now I’ve lied. Not only have I given the impression that my brother ever stood a chance of surviving (he did not) but I’ve also made a promise I can’t possibly guarantee.

 “Okay Mommy. Look Mommy!! That is where we go to church school! Do you know that God is in our hearts?”

 “Yes baby, I do. That’s right.”

 Thank God for Sunday School.

 I’m scared I’ve handled this horribly wrong. Because both Hubs and I talk about Nathan frequently, death is on Nolan’s mind a lot. He asks about it a lot. On one particular day we were all in the car and Nolan’s questions about death were incessant. Hubs, thinking that it was going to make me upset and sad, asked him to stop talking about it. But I told him it was okay, because I don’t want it to be a taboo subject. Whether we like it or not, death is a major part of our lives. I don’t want to discourage my kids’ questions about my brother or about death. I don’t want them to associate death with Nathan and therefore feel like they can’t talk about him.  But fuck. I just don’t know if I’ve responded in a healthy manner.

 I wish someone could explain it to me.