Nothing brings out the inner-kid in you quite like having a two-year-old. It is a special age in which the child learns and grows at such a torrid pace that every day is full of new discovery. If you take the time to live vicariously through (scratch that) engage with (that sounds better) your two-year-old, you get to go back and relive a lot of those adventures yourself. This past weekend, Tripp donned his Batman costume and grabbed his pumpkin goodie bag in preparation for his first time trick-or-treating. Then, on Sunday, the weather dipped to a blustery sixty-eight degrees, so Tripp got to experience roasting marshmallows over an open fire and making s’mores for the first time. These moments are indescribably special. So when I felt myself feeling down after Tripp’s first experience at Universal Studios a few weeks ago, I was confused.
My wife was invited to speak at a conference in Orlando (she’s kinda a big deal), and the organizers put her up in a hotel for the weekend. So, our hotel room was covered, and then thanks to the generosity of a friend of mine, we received one-day park passes as well. It was the perfect opportunity to introduce Tripp to Dr. Seuss world, butter beer, and lots of different “train” rides (Tripp’s newfound favorite). The travel was a bit tiring, and carrying or chasing a toddler around the park was draining, but it didn’t explain why I felt so oddly devoid of excitement, or even joy, as I drove home Saturday night.
Sunday, I found myself in an irritable, angry, even bitter mood. I couldn’t explain it, but it persisted. The next few days, I was sullen. Finally, by Wednesday night I was able to put my finger on the problem. When I was in the parks at Universal, I had taken pictures of Tripp that I eagerly anticipated sharing with everyone I could think of. Only, the one person I wanted to share them with more than anyone else was gone.
Donna has spoken at length about all the “firsts” we must experience in the grief process, so all these exciting changes in Tripp’s life shouldn’t have surprised me when they triggered my grief. But, they did. By Wednesday night, I was astounded by the emotion flooding and flowing through me. Put simply, I missed my mother. In that sense, maybe seeing the pure, unadulterated joy in my son brought out my “inner kid” in more ways than one, but the more I thought about my mother being gone, the more each breath seemed as insufferable as it did when my mother first passed over a year and a half ago. It just seemed there was no way through that night and into the next day.
As had happened the day after I lost my mother, I received a message in an unusual fashion. It is difficult to explain how I received it, because it did not come to me as a thought does and it wasn’t something I heard or otherwise sensed. I would liken it more to an upload into my brain. It wasn’t there, and then it was. It began in my subconscious, and it built until it became so prominent in my conscience that I could focus on nothing else. It was this chorus:
shine in our hearts,
shine through the darkness.
Christ, be our light,
shine in your church,
I knew the song well from having heard it in church throughout my life, and its lyrics have always spoken to me, especially in that moment. It felt like a message, no, a reminder, of what I believe, of what my mother had instilled in me. There was only one way through that night, and it was Christ’s light. I prayed, and slowly the storm passed. The flood of emotion receded and I was able to get to sleep remembering the promise that “he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more” (Revelation 21:4).
Since then, knowing that all these wonderful experiences with my son would invoke memories of my mother has helped me to anticipate and mitigate my emotions. I can acknowledge the legitimacy of my sorrow, and then focus on the joy and love I feel toward, and that I know my mother would have showered on Tripp. And, above all else, I know I have the Light of the World to get me through the darkness.