Tag Archives: death of a child

Twenty-Three Months

Without you in our world,

Twenty-three seconds feels as long as twenty-three months,

Twenty-three months feels as short as twenty-three seconds.

 

How is time measured?

By the warmth of the breeze?

Whispers around a corner?

Creeping of ghosts at night?

 

Time has little meaning:

Not by breaths

Or tears,

But days counted until another milestone.

 

Too many milestones.

Too many elevenths of every month. 

But what is the alternative?

 

Passing time brings memories:

Your smirky smile,

Your asinine jokes and pranks,

Your innocence.

 

How I miss your sudden appearances:

Presenting me with armloads of irreparable mending

or taking over the garage to service your vehicle

or wearing a perplexed look, seeking advice.

 

I miss our talks.

I miss you in the driveway with your truck.

I even miss empty Bud cans scattered about the house!

 

Time brought the bad:

The scourge of cancer,

Your fight to live,

Your last breaths.

 

Twenty-three months.

Where has time gone?

Tears are as fresh twenty-three months ago

as they are today.

 

Matt.jpg

 

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C.A. MacKenzie is the author of (among other books) the novel WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama/thriller, available from the author or at various retailers including Amazon [https://www.amazon.com/Wolves-Dont-Knock-C-MacKenzie/dp/1927529387/].

 

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November 11

I write a poem in memory of my son Matthew every month on the 11th. I don’t always post them to my blog but I am today, being Remembrance Day.

Matt13

Twenty months ago today

I laid my son—not his memory—

to rest.

 

With my every breath

I remember him,

whether my eyes are open or closed.

 

I see dragonflies, ladybugs,

faces in the clouds,

I find a coin beneath papers,

I feel gentle breezes, smell

the outdoors, listen to

whispers in the wind.

 

All for naught!

 

He’s above my computer,

watching while I work.

Some days I want to toss the canvas

through the window,

other days I grasp him to my chest.

 

These many months later

I still hear his last cries:

“I have a heart, Mom,

I have a heart.”

 

I’ll never forget.

 

I don’t want to forget.

 

I try to write my story—his story,

our story,

I need it told

but I face ruthless white

and can’t control tears.

How can I write of my dead son?

How can I put his death on paper?

 

Stately granite guarding remains

rises from the ground,

I caress the stone

and feel its warmth,

running my fingers over the etching

as if reading Braille,

Later when the sun exchanges

places with the moon—

after darkness covers day—

light will peek from Heaven

to highlight specks of blue and grey.

 

I’m a private person

living on repeat,

sharing sorrow with those who listen

and with those who don’t.

Another’s grief is uncomfortable,

and my pain’s not lessened with time served.

 

I didn’t ask for this position—

the grieving mother role—

I had prayed for miracles,

would have assumed the sun’s persona

and given him the moon

had I been able.

 

Death happened too suddenly—

too unexpectedly—

and before our next breath

he was gone,

without time for more prayer

or waiting for a miracle.

 

I’m not looking for sympathy,

I share to honour him.

I don’t need you to mop my tears

or quash my cries.

I fight my own battles

and survive my own wars.

 

I must keep his memory alive

until the day I die,

I need to remember.

 

So on this Remembrance Day

as I did last year and as I’ll do the next

and the next and the next and the next

until I die…

I honour the veterans

and though my son never served,

I honour him too.

poppy

Lest we forget.

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C.A. MacKenzie is the author of the novel WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama/thriller, available from the author or at various retailers, including Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Wolves-Dont-Knock-C-MacKenzie/dp/1927529387/.

 

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Oh, Dragonfly

Barbasol Championship - Round Two

(September 11, 2018: Eighteen Months)

Oh, Dragonfly

It soars
Up and down,
Over and across,
Swooping like a crow,
Soaring like an eagle,
Small,
Inconsequential,
Its shadow dark,
Larger on ground than in air.

Zooming over the glistening water,
Teeny wings unfolded,
Fluttering,
Almost scraping the water
And then coming toward me,
Wings spread like an airplane—
Or an angel.

Is it trying to catch my attention?
I watch,
Wait,
Wonder.

Even with grandchildren
Laughing, splashing, yelling,
It remains
Unfrightened,
Bold, soundless,
Flying in, flying out.

My vision blurs.
My throat constricts.

Could it be?

They say dragonflies are
A symbol of resurrection,
The deceased returning:
A fairy sprinkling dust
Or an angel planting kisses.

I watch you zoom by,
Disappearing for seconds,
Returning just as quickly
And landing on my knee—
A sign of good luck!

My son, is that you?

Oh, how you loved the pool,
The lounger you reclined upon
Rests in the same place.

I see you there,
Deep in thought,
Eyes closed,
Soaking up too much sun,
But I don’t admonish.

Not anymore.

No matter where you are:
Floating forever in eternity,
Twinkling with the stars,
Sleeping on the moon,
Dancing with the clouds,
Marvelling at mars,
Or returning to earth
If only for moments
As a fleeting dragonfly,
I’ll take what I can.

I’ll grasp every sign:
Every whisper,
Every breath,
Every touch.

Even if not you
I’ll pretend,
I’ll hold memories dear
To my chest,
At my breast,
Within my heart.

I sigh…
Oh, dragonfly,
Where have you gone?

I watch and wait.

You don’t return.

But that’s okay
For I’ll wake another morning,
I’ll search another day.

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In memory of my beloved, always missed son Matthew. Gone eighteen months today.

As Matt said numerous times the last too-short eight weeks of his life after we were given the diagnosis: “F*** cancer.” I echo his sentiments. (Can you imagine: two months from diagnosis to death!?)

I’ll miss you until my last breath.

Matt alone (2)

 

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C.A. MacKenzie is the author of WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama with elements of thriller, suspense, mystery, romance, and family dynamics. Buy it on Amazon. Also available locally from the author and at other local retailers.

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July 11 – Sixteen Months

Heart is brokenfix

A piece of my heart ripped from my soul
Sixteen months ago,
Since then so many cliches of life and death
And sometimes there are no words,
No white, no black,
Just mucky grey between masses of nothing.

We honour you in death as we never did in life,
But isn’t that the way of humans—
Not missing something until it’s gone,
Withholding words until it’s too late.

I’d give all my next heartbeats to
Hug you one last time,
To tell you “I love you” in case you didn’t know
Because no one can hear those words enough,
I’d ask for forgiveness for my wrongs,
For not being perfect,
But throughout your thirty-six years
I tried my best,
But still, I could have done more.
We can all do more.

Balloons don’t go to Heaven
And though lovely
With colourful meaning and love,
That rubbery sheath
Harms the environment.
We need to protect our future
As I couldn’t protect yours,
A mama can only do so much,
Which I did not know until your death.

I tried so hard to save you,
But could I have done more?
Though my heart says otherwise
My mind screeches NO!
The word “incurable” exists
And I don’t know why,
Prayers, doctors, money…
Nothing could save you.

I’ll grieve every day with that
Empty hole in my heart,
That missing fragment I live without,
For I still breathe and function,
I still eat and drink and play
But I’m not whole.
My heart can never be repaired.
No amount of thread or glue can help.
Not even tissues can dry all my tears.
Nothing can bring you back.
Nothing.

I’m not sure of my beliefs,
What my future holds after I’m gone.
Will we meet again?
I’m sorry to waver,
To not fully believe,
I’m like my father who opined that
Once we’re gone, we’re gone, and
Nothing remains but stone or ash.

But forever and always:
There are whispers in the wind,
Rustling through the trees,
Birds chirping,
Deer scampering across the field.
Perhaps it’s you, calling out.

I think of you too often,
Wondering where you are
In this game of life and death.
Within this vast landscape of living
Where does life end and death begin?
When does death end?

My son, my son,
These are words I could never imagine
saying, writing, or thinking.
Who could ever predict this loss?
Not I.
And now I ponder the future
And other wretched events that linger,
For if your death occurred, nothing is sacred
and more loss surely waits,
Waiting like the moon to rise or the sun to set,
For no one is immune to life and death.

We all have our beginnings and our endings,
And, oh, how horrid the endings.

 

Matt candle crop

 

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Two Candles

I’m eating a Boston cream donut today.

Boston cream donuts: your favourite kind.

Matt nine years old 001 (2)

Since your death I’ve eaten too many,

Always an excuse to eat one—or two.

 

Too many excuses to drink and eat.

 

Today’s your birthday in Heaven at 38

Where you’ll continue to age,

But here on earth, forever 36.

Matt19crop

Always 36.

 

In my solitude I insert candles in the donut,

Between my tears I light two wicks:

One for each birthday you’ve missed on earth.

 

boston cream

 

I make a wish—a wish that’ll never come true—

And blow out flickering flames.

 

Happy birthday in Heaven, sweet son.

Happy birthday, Matthew, my cherubic babe.

Matt baby

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My Experiences with Death

My Experiences with Death

(This is an abridged version of my essay for the Guided Autobiography course I’m taking.)

I was nine when I experienced my first death, too young to understand and grieve for a grandfather far away in Bermuda, a man I’d seen maybe a half dozen times. I don’t remember being told he had died, but I found my mother in the basement laundry room, weeping, and asked what was wrong. We didn’t go to his funeral; I don’t think Mom went either, being pregnant at the time with my youngest sibling. Nine was the age of my granddaughter Taylor, when she stood by her uncle Matthew’s open coffin, staring and crying so hard I thought she was having a meltdown.

My next experiences with deaths were years later, when my grandmothers died at the ages of 89 and 90 (my paternal grandmother achieving her goal of reaching her ninetieth birthday). I was close to them both and grieved, of course, but it was if their deaths were expected, at their ages. Plus they were grandparents, and all grandparents die before the rest of us, right? How funny perspectives change. Now that I’m a grandmother, I hate how I had justified their deaths. I don’t want my grandchildren to say, “Oh, she was a granny; she was old. She needed to die.”

Had my father taken better care of himself, he may have lived longer than 72. When he started passing out at the kitchen table due to lack of oxygen, Mom forced him to go to the hospital. He didn’t want to go, saying, “They’ll put me down.” She always regretted her decision, wishing she had let him die peacefully in his sleep.

While Dad was in the hospital, the nurses told us to limit our numbers in the small waiting room, as other families were unable to use it while we were there. Other than short rotations to shower and bring in food, we were there for five days. Mom slept in a cot by his bed, while eight of us (me, my four siblings and their spouses) snuck into a large empty room, snatched linens from the closet, and slept on the cold, hard floor. Nurses found us there the first night, in the dark, and told us to leave. As before, we ignored them, and the second night they brought us pillows.

When we were told there was no hope for Dad, they moved him out of intensive care and nine of us hovered around his hospital bed, waiting. When we thought he had breathed his last, a hush swept over the room. Stunned and shocked, we all looked at each other. And then he groaned, a deep guttural sigh, and we all jumped. Naïve me thought he had come back to life; perhaps the others had, too. This was my and my siblings’ first real experience with death.

Seventeen years later, my mother’s death, on Good Friday, in 2016, was worse. Perhaps it’s because I’d been closer to my mother. I must have been in denial my mother would ever die because it took me and my brother three days after she was admitted to the hospital before we flew to Ontario from Nova Scotia. My once-vibrant mother had morphed into a shrunken, frail woman, shrouded in linens like Dad had been, with numerous tubes and wires snaking from beneath the sheets. Mom had always taken care of herself. She even had her own teeth—pristine perfect teeth—pure white without the use of whitening agents. When the paramedics arrived at her home to transport her to the hospital for observation after a fall, the first thing they wanted was to remove her teeth. Someone said, “No, her teeth are her own,” which changed the paramedics’ attitude, realizing they weren’t dealing with the usual elderly senior.

Mom, like my father, didn’t have to die, even at 89. She was caught in a catch-22 type situation. Drugs for pneumonia would work against her heart condition, and drugs for her heart would work against the pneumonia. Ironically, she was scheduled for heart surgery to remedy her minor heart condition until pneumonia struck. Oddly, no one, including her, knew she had pneumonia until after that minor fall at her home.

We children had the horror of deciding our mother’s fate. After agonizing for hours, we decided to let her go. We left the room while they transported her down the hall to palliative care. One of my brothers and I returned to her condo, a five-minute walk away, while my sister and another brother sat in the waiting room. My youngest brother was on his way.

As it turned out, my siblings and I thankfully didn’t have to play God. Unbeknownst to anyone, Mom had been dumped, and ignored, in the palliative care room and died alone. The nurses forgot to notify my two siblings in the waiting room that they could go to her room, and when my brother and sister decided two hours of waiting was long enough, they snuck into her room. My two sons, driving almost nonstop from Nova Scotia to Ontario, had stopped to pick up my nephew in Ottawa, and arrived minutes too late. My nephew was the only one who went in to see her body. I almost wished I had never left home because she never really knew I, or anyone, was there, and now all I remember is a shriveled figure that was not my mother.

The loss of a child is an unsurmountable grief, from everything I’ve read, a death that stays with a parent forever. And I know that to be true, something I never ever thought would happen to me. It’s a constant ache. Life is different now. Some mornings I don’t want to get out of bed; some nights I can’t go to bed. I don’t want to be around people as much anymore, either. I don’t remember crying much immediately after my son died, but I must have, because my husband caught me one day. “You can’t keep crying like this,” he said. “You have to get over it.” And then he paused, “Well, it’s only been two weeks, I guess it’s okay.” I was aghast. My husband was telling me I couldn’t be upset? I know he regretted his words immediately after saying them. Matt wasn’t his son, so he doesn’t suffer my pain; he doesn’t know what it feels like.

Matt’s death, a year after my mother’s, has overshadowed hers, and I hate I don’t think of her as much anymore, being so consumed with him. But occasionally, I’ll pick up the phone to call her, forgetting, mostly wanting to share my grief with her.

One horrendously rainy afternoon, when Gary and I were driving to a burial, I reached to the floor for my purse and my phone. I needed to tell my mother how sad I was going to a burial and how wet we’d all be. And then I hesitated. And the tears flowed. The burial was hers.

I read Ted Kennedy’s memoir, True Compass, a few years ago. He wrote a passage that resonated with me: “I wish that life were simpler. I wish that loved ones didn’t have to die too young. I wish that tragedy never haunted a single soul. But to wish all that is to ask for an end to our humanity.” I loved his eloquent wording, and after digesting his words, I understood why death exists and received confirmation of that the next time I looked at my grandchildren. If death didn’t exist, neither could birth. Life brings birth and death, giving us a certain perspective, making us appreciate life.

The other day, I discovered a grief quote on Facebook. One of the lines rings true: “Grief is just love with no place to go.”

 

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