Monday, May 6, 2013

Matthew's brothers...

Today I dedicate this post to my boys Nathan and Will ~ Matthew's brothers

What were you doing at five years old?  Playing in the dirt?  Barbies?  Perhaps...

My son, Nathan, at five years old, was attending his little brother's funeral after three weeks of his life being totally turned upside down.

Nathan was so eager for Matthew to arrive.  He was going to teach him how to play ball, catch frogs and lizards and all that good boy stuff!  He was ready!  He made sure Matthew had the perfect 'going home' outfit...Ole Miss onesie, of course, complete with matching hat and on the bottom it said "future tailgater!"  We had no idea when we said Matthew's going home outfit, it would really be his 'going home to Jesus outfit!' 
Nathan was so proud to be Matthew's big brother!  Look at that smile! 
He bought him a little car to give to him on his arrival day... that car he placed into his brother's hand very tenderly as he laid in my arms lifeless at the funeral home.  He was buried with that special car. 

Nathan experienced the delivery room excitement alongside of us...and then the unexpected came.  His little brother lost his life and his mother would be fighting for hers.

Imagine a five year old's mind in these brief moments when there was life and then death and then there went his mama...emergency surgery and then some...

Until Matthew's birth, Nathan was only away from me one night.  The next two weeks would prove to be oh so different for him.  Loss of his brother and no one knew if I would come home to him again.  They had to prepare him for the unexpected.

I would  be un ICU for days and on life support.  He saw me twice as a kind nurse snuck him into ICU for very brief visit.  I only remember one of those visits, and that is vague, very vague.  But what a sight I must have been to my baby boy.  I had NG tubes, a ventilator, a pic line, kidney stints, JP tubes, and much more.  I was a sight, I am sure for Nathan.  I didn't look like his mommy. 

RW didn't know if he would be raising Nathan alone.  He had some very special moments with him that he shares in the book, and they are moments that remain forever etched in both of their hearts. 

Two weeks after Matthew's death, I was released from the hospital to go home.  (miraculously)  I don't remember much about that except for pulling out of the hospital with a pillow and no baby.  I was so confused.

Nathan was a trooper, so my family says.  I don't remember the first time I saw him after I was out of the hospital or what I even said to him, but looking back on it now, I wonder how his little heart felt.  What was he thinking.  So I asked him just the other day... he wrote down his response~


I can tell when Nathan is thinking about Matthew and the tragic time that changed it all for him.  He will touch his heart and that touches mine.  I can catch glimpses of him with tears in his eyes as he stands in the hallway looking at Matthew's picture.  I can tell when I need to just hug him or talk.

Many people have said to me "kids won't remember or kids are resilient, they handle things better than we older ones do."  Sure, I agree if we are talking about a broken bone or a stomach virus... but I promise you Nathan remembers so very much about losing his brother and almost losing his mother too. It's all there... in his head and his heart.  All of it. Those things are evident in his life and I believe they always will  be.

As he grows up, now 13, he still remembers that time and those days like it was yesterday.  He often says things that make me so sad for him to have experienced, and at the same time, I know because he experienced these things, he is able to have much more compassion for those who are hurting.  Losing Matthew is shaping him into who he is becoming, and I am so proud of him.  He is still Matthew's brother and through his words and his actions, I see that more and more every day.  He always did talk about him when he was little and now he still is but in a much more grown up way.  He is developing an even deeper connection and love for Matthew.  I didn't think that was possible... but it is happening.

Nathan is learning how Matthew passed away and just what happened.  His older mind is digesting it all over again and that is fresh, so fresh.  I see we are having more conversations about the depth of what happened and how.  Growing up with loss is what he has done since he was five, experiencing loss again as he is growing up at thirteen is what is happening now. 

He is also learning much about life using Matthew's death as perspective...there's nothing quite like losing someone you love to get you grounded and appreciative for what REALLY matters in life!  And Matthew's death is teaching him lots about life!  (as  it does daily with us all!)

Being thirteen is  hard stuff.  All the teens are changing and developing emotionally and psychically as well.  We have daily conversations about things happening at school and sports, etc.  And ALWAYS, ALWAYS, he takes whatever it is and applies the perspective of gratefulness that Matthew has taught him... it may be at the very end of the conversation, but it ALWAYS comes! 

We talk about how you never know what kids are experiencing themselves at home or what they are going through personally or mentally.  Nathan knows this all too well!  This is so important to teach our kids!  So very important!  Just as no one knows when Nathan is sad or having a mixture of emotions that he doesn't understand that come from growing up plus grief, no one knows when someone in class has no parent at home to tell them they love them, or care for them, or being abused.  Our words matter.  Our actions matter.  One word can make or break the spirits of a child from a peer.

Kids, of all ages, are hurting too...most in silence for fear of not being accepted or perhaps being made fun of for being the way they are.  Who they are is being shaped by what they have been through!  Please take note of that and teach our kids to be kind to one another. 

Grieving a sibling is probably not lunch room conversation, but I bet someone else in that lunch room is grieving a sibling too or on the ball field!  Everywhere! 

I write all of the time about grieving as a mom but I never forget that my boys grieve too.  Sometimes it is silent... and I can just tell... and those moments are still and where they need to be, but then there are moments that we talk and those moments I embrace for what they are.  Reminders to all of us, we all lost Matthew and we all need to do this together.

As for Will, our amazing little Will... he got a car too from his big brother!  Right before our very first family photo with Will, Nathan grabbed a car, a special car and placed it into Will's hand, just as he did with Matthew, this time, we ALL smiled!   

It was wonderful to see this smile again on Nathan's face as he was once again a BIG BROTHER with Will! 
At five years old, Will was playing ball, catching frogs and learning about lizards from his big brother! 

Tears!  Oh what a difference!!!

I didn't know how growing up with grief was going to translate into the teen years for Nathan, but I do know it is making him stronger in many areas of his life... and I don't know how Will is going to filter through it all as he grows up, but I do know that my prayer is for both of my boys to always be comfortable talking about losing Matthew, for in that we gain so much and for both of them to always feel him inside our hearts and home.  I pray that my boys will always remember the lessons that Matthew's life and death have taught  us and continue to teach us along the way.  Matthew's life is and always will be a gift, just as Nathan and Will's lives are a gift!  His brothers will always love him very much and this mama will always be grateful to watch that love continue and thrive just as it would if he were here with us on earth!  That is what is happening! 

I know many of you in this great big world are missing your siblings too!  Sending my love to all of you!  XO!

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