Can a mother forget the infant at her breast, walk away from the baby she bore? – Isaiah 49:15a, MSG
It is Mother’s Day today, but all I can focus on is the fact that four years ago, on the 9th of May, I laid my eldest son to rest. Because I lost a child, each Mother’s Day since his passing, I am mystified whenever I think about being a mother who outlived her oldest son.
I am utterly bewildered because I feel sad and happy on Mother’s Day. I am sad because I lost a son whom I miss every day, and I am blessed (happy) because I still have a son – my youngest son – whom I see every day.
Furthermore, because I am still grieving Ade’s death, Mother’s Day is extremely bittersweet. That is to say, on one hand, I feel immense joy because I was blessed with two sons (Ade and Tarik). I also feel enormous gratitude for every moment I have had with both of them. On the other hand, the pain from missing Ade is so intense that it frequently lessens the joy I should be feeling for Tarik who is alive. Then too, the deep anguish I feel because I miss Ade often diminishes the genuine thankfulness I should be expressing for the time I still have with Tarik.
I am the mother of a child who is not alive. I am also the mother of a child who is alive. Let there be no doubt about it. I love both of my sons in unique and special ways, but the uncomfortable truth is one of them is dead. That is why it is difficult for me – a grieving mother – to feel immense joy all day long on Mother’s Day, especially since I am torn between feeling joy and happiness for Tarik and grief and anguish for Ade. I am certain that all bereaved mothers who have surviving children live with many of the same confusing contrasts.
The bottom line is that since May 2, 2017, when my firstborn son died, Mother’s Day became a day that is hard for me to enjoy because I live with an emptiness that no one – not even my alive son – can fill. As a result, I more than likely will be sad and unsociable on Mother’s Day. I may even need to be by myself.
Whatever shape my grief takes on Mother’s Day, I don’t want people to lecture me about how I shouldn’t forget just how “lucky” I am to have a son who is alive. Losing a child changed everything for me. In other words, I am a different kind of mother because I am a different kind of normal. Therefore, the people who want to support me on difficult days like Mother’s Day need to understand that supporting me means accepting that I am a grieving mother who will always love and miss her deceased son, as well as will always love her living son and will always be immensely grateful that he is alive.
Today is the second anniversary of the day my oldest son died. What I say in my mini-memoir, Untimely Farewells, about that melancholy May 2 is that I was feeling apprehensive. So:
“…I thought that if I went for a walk that it would calm me. It didn’t. As soon as I started walking, I burst into tears. While wailing, I suddenly blurted out a desperate plea.
“Father,” I sobbed, “please take me,
instead of my son. I have lived a relatively long life. He is too young to die.
Plus, he needs to be here for his sons and his new grandson. They surely will
suffer immensely, if Ade were to die. They can do without me, but not their dad.
Please, Father, let Ade live, if that is
Your Will. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.”
I prayed similar prayers during that
twenty or thirty-minute walk, as well as throughout that day. Still, my
uneasiness continued to intensify; so much so, that by six o’clock in the
evening I felt too sick to be around my family — my younger son, his wife, and
their children — so I went to bed.
By now, my entire body seemed to know
that Ade was dying. That was why all I wanted to do was to escape that
unbearable truth by sleeping my hurt away. I had not been asleep all that long
before Tarik was sitting next to me on my bed, shaking me, and begging me to
“wake up.” He repeated his plea. “Please wake up, Mom. You have to wake up,
now.” It was 7:50 p.m., my time.
Awake but a bit fuzzy, I asked Tarik, “Why do I need to wake up,” and before he could say “Ade is gone, Mom,” I already knew it. I immediately started crying, while simultaneously trying to push Tarik away and asking, aloud, “Why, God, why?” However, Tarik wouldn’t let me pull away from him. We cried together in each other’s arms.” (pp. 172-173)
That day, I joined a club that mothers everywhere hope they will never have to join. I became a permanent member of the Mothers Who Have Lost a Child club. What I also say in my mini-memoir is it is unfortunate that “…even though I eventually could rejoice with God that Ade was no longer suffering pain, I couldn’t avoid grieving his loss” (p. 182).
Two years later, I am still grieving the loss of my son, Olumuyiwa Ade Keen. Even though I am not, nor have I ever been, paralyzed by a deep-seated depression, I do feel sad at times, even more so on days like today.
grief experts have come up with their own list of things a grieving person can
do that supposedly will help him or her deal with the anniversary of a loved one’s
death, but the truth is nothing and no human being can get me through today. Only
the Holy Spirit can comfort me while helping me deal with Ade’s death, and He
is doing just that. Thank You, Holy Spirit!
I wrote the following poem in August of 2017. It is about the anguish and sadness losing Ade has made me feel. I originally posted this poem on August 13, 2017, in one of my WordPress blog articles. At that time, I noted that this poem was from my “Deep-Rooted Disposition” manuscript. “Moody Woman” is now the title of that same manuscript. Once again, here is my poem:
Raining Nonstop in My Heart
Human life comes with no magical number – Threescore years and ten not guaranteed to Everyone into whom the Breath of Life is breathed, Putting within all living souls an eternal soul – An endless spiritual dimension of humanity. Yet long-life promise Command is figurative – At best, most days are long in Promised Lands But years are far shorter than the psalmist’s seventy Briefer still for countless parents’ beloved sons Or daughters they received from Indian Giver: Grief’s irate criticism of living souls’ Creator. Heartache cosigns divers pejorative expressions – Death makes them intensely strange bedfellows; Thankfully, God’s Love covers a multitude of mindsets Dead set on using finger pointing to hide the pain That mentally fighting noxious emotional wounds Deepens as human nature ignores Spirit’s Healing. Child-loss pain is without equal, unlike none other – Uniquely categorized since it betters bereavements’ Other types, triggering rawest ever-conceived anger that Wages war against the unfairness of it all, hardening Hearts reluctant to see collateral beauty around them Uninterrupted by undying love that sets off joy and hope. Domino effect doesn’t just signify a future disaster – It illustrates how love that is in the middle of all life Is hearts’ forever falling domino concurrently connecting By coupling each toppled one to grief, pain, suffering, Loss, or varied other ripples, including death, as they Form rings around unending love’s collateral beauty. Even so, diabetes monkey wrenched my life – This pre-existing condition snuffed out Olumuyiwa’s candle short of my often prayed for Long-life plan for my eldest son whose Given name means: ‘God provides this.’ I’m sure Ade, denoting ‘my crown,’ will get his – For my strong soldier fought the hardest battles; Still my heart misses its vital piece needed to fix these Throbbing, flip-flopping, pounding, skipping beat Irregular rhythms’ agonizingly irksome hiccups. They’re from regularly reran videos of his life – He’s infant, teen, adult; optimist then pessimist; He’s laughing, speaking, leaving, returning, then dying In my head’s wirelessly streamed detailed scenes Of jubilation and desolation that wear me down. Every interlude between reruns baits my fear – Cruel taunts make me believe I have begun to Forget the strong-willed, handsome, animated part Of me that died, living now only in memories Daydreams summon instantly without delay. Losing Olumuyiwa unlocked soulish floodgates – Now it’s heavily raining nonstop in my old heart, Wet monsoons from an overflowing waterlogged soul; Life is surreal like I’m imprisoned and dying in The center of a floating no locks, no bars vast Airless gravity-defying water designed bubble. Losing Olumuyiwa aftereffect is canyon in heart – This too wide to close gap prevents me from ever Being same person, since grief has no expiration date – Just a myriad of sadness and hopelessness tides That confirm uncomfortable truth: he’s not here.
This second anniversary of Ade’s death is very significant. Thanks to Father God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit, I have done something, which on May 2, 2017, I didn’t think it would have ever been possible. I have survived two whole years without my oldest son, who was and still is someone as enormously important to me as life itself.
April is the cruellest month, breeding Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing Memory and desire, stirring Dull roots with spring rain. ~ ll. 1-4, The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot
I never knew how true The Waste Land’s opening line was until 2017. When my oldest son died on May 2nd of that year, I unexpectedly realized that I would never be able to celebrate his birthday with him ever again. That realization is what made Eliot’s “April is the cruellest month…” words so dead right and so distressing.
Since Ade’s birth, I always looked forward to April—not just because his birthday is in April, but also because April is the month when both of my sons (Ade and Tarik) and their dad (Maynard) were born. Over the years, celebrating the 15th with Tarik, the 19th with Maynard, and the 30th with Ade always filled me with much joy. Now, when I think about April, I have mixed feelings—joy mingled with sorrow.
For the rest of my days on Earth, April will always be seen as a cruel month—one that allows me to enjoy the happy birthday returns God grants Tarik and Maynard, while filling me with the sense of loss and sadness on Ade’s born day. Even though I am grateful that God spares my youngest son’s life, as well as the life of his dad, and even though I am grateful that my oldest son is no longer in pain, the human part of me can’t help but tear up every April.
With each April 30thI am allowed to see, I will forever be reminded that this day in 2017 was the last time Ade enjoyed his birthday in the land of the living. Additionally, I will forever be reminded that the one flower I would love to see in full bloom in May—my son, Ade—was instead plucked from the garden of life on May 2nd (just two days after his 45th birthday).
Lastly, the one thing that I will cling to, especially in April when I think about how April 2017’s showers didn’t allow my son’s life to finish its reblooming in May 2017, is as follows:
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes and eliminate death entirely. No one will mourn or weep any longer. The pain of wounds will no longer exist, for the old order has ceased. – Revelation 21:4, TPT
Thank YOU, God, for this promise! I can hardly wait!
He always comes alongside us to comfort us in every suffering so that we can come alongside those who are in any painful trial. We can bring them this same comfort that [YeHoVaH] has poured out upon us. And just as we experience the abundance of [Yeshua HaMashiach’s] own sufferings, even more of [YeHoVaH’s] comfort will cascade upon us through our union with [Yeshua HaMashiach].
If troubles weigh us down, that just means that we will receive even more comfort to pass on to you for your deliverance! For the comfort pouring into us empowers us to bring comfort to you. And with this comfort upholding you, you can endure victoriously the same suffering that we experience. ~ 2 Corinthians 1:4-6, TPT
I have been up all night—not because I was worried about how I will handle today. I have been up all night, because I was making some very minor revisions to my memoir. Praise Good!
It’s amazing how God had me working on my memoir, starting last night and ending early this morning. It is no coincidence that my manuscript focuses on the many times Ade and I have been separated—all our untimely farewells, including the ultimate separation.
Where Ade is concerned, his ultimate separation happened on May 2, 2017. It didn’t take this first anniversary long to get here. It really seems like Ade went home to be with the Lord just yesterday.
I couldn’t visit Ade’s earthly resting place in person, but I am definite there in Spirit. I know he knows how much I love him and miss him. Those are messages I can send from wherever I may be in this world on any given May 2nd. Still, in my absence, I would love it if his grave is adorned with beautiful flowers that are from the family.
In addition to the flowers and the narrative that I have dedicated to Ade, I plan to look at many pictures of my son today. I am sure there will be some photos that will make me cry, but so far today I’ve only been smiling.
For this one-year anniversary of Ade’s death, I am re-posting the poem I wrote for his homegoing service’s program. As I say in my memoir, this poem captures my understanding of the God-kind of Hope He gives to parents who have lost a child. My poem is as follows:
Just Sleeping: Only Believe
Nothing in life happens by chance Neither by accident nor happenstance; The Fates can’t override providence Or replace it with inevitable dominance.
Destiny may be written on some stars But only Creator knows how long ours Has until we are snuffed like a candle— On the fade to black shut-eye channel.
Death brags with no reason to be proud For he claims no life God hasn’t allowed; Sorrows touch humans for many reasons But He who changes times and seasons Raises the sleeping; changes bad to good, And upgrades His aggrieved to sainthood.
The saints who still move and still breathe Must exercise the faith needed to believe They’ll see their gone-home family again Healed from all misery, illness, and pain.
Ade was 24 years old when he was diagnosed with Diabetes. From that day forward, most of his adult life was full of excruciating pain, yet he never complained. I truly am thankful to God that Ade is no longer in pain, but because on Earth grief has no expiration date my pain won’t ever end.
On this May 2, 2018, I am sending up this message on the Wings of The Dove:
I miss you, Ade. I love you, Ade. I think about you, Ade. I won’t ever forget you, Ade.
Your MOM . . . . .
Here is a critique of my soon to be published new book, Lord willing. This book is my memoir that I plan to give the title of Untimely Farewells. The critique is as follows:
“This is a beautiful and moving story that depicts the ups and downs of a wonderful family, and the relational interactions between each member; especially between the mother and her 1st born son. It is obvious that the mother-son relationship is of utmost importance and you do an exceptional job of painting a verbal portrait of this.
The writing is done well and the story also flows well. There is a cohesiveness and a natural flow to the content.” ~ Desireé Harris-Bonner, MBA
This is my first Season of Giving, my first Kwanzaa, and my first New Year without my oldest son, Olumuyiwa Ade Keen. He died on May 2, 2017. Not one day has gone by in which I haven’t felt his loss—a loss that constantly feels like the truckload of bricks that were dumped on me are relentlessly crushing me.
Needless to say, Ade’s death changed me. The person I thought I was instantly changed the second he died. Knowing what it means to feel the deepest sadness—the kind that flips a parent inside out—is why I will never be the way I was before I lost my son.
I confess. I am not over it.
I confess. I do not feel better.
I confess. I am still grieving.
I confess. These holidays aren’t merry for me.
I confess. These holidays aren’t happy for me.
These holidays have me thinking about all my loved ones who are no longer living on this Earth. I’m deeply missing all of them. However, it is my son that I miss most of all!
I love you, Ade! I miss you, Ade! Happy Holidays to you, my son!