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.
You’ve kept track of all my wandering and my weeping. You’ve stored my many tears in your bottle—not one will be lost. For they are all recorded in your book of remembrance. ~ Psalm 56:8, TPT
I received my copies of my mini-memoir, Untimely Farewells, on Friday evening (8-10-2018). Xulon Press shipped my copies on August 6th, so if Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and The Apple Store have received their copies it still may take a couple of days before my book is available in the paperback format.
On July 24th, my publisher wrote in an email to me that “Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com should have some information up about your book in 4-8 weeks, or sooner (this is done at their pace, as they are dealing with thousands of titles).” No doubt, the same applies to The Apple Store. Additionally, the eBook format for my book also may not be ready for a few more weeks, as well.
However, Xulon Press’ online bookstore has paperback copies of my book right now. You can find my mini-memoir by either searching by author or by title. Here is the link to Xulon Press’ online bookstore: https://www.xulonpress.com/bookstore/.
As many of you may remember, I lost my son, Ade, last May. Coping with his death was difficult for me to do at times, and that was why I started writing about all the times he and I had been separated. I had heard years ago about the therapeutic benefits of writing a novel, but I had no idea that my reasons for chronicling the many heartbreaking goodbyes I faced in my life would lead to Untimely Farewells.
My mini-memoir begins when I was 20 years old (1971), and it ends when I was 66 years old (2017). Last year I had to say my final goodbye to Ade.
Death and life have taught me that child-loss is unthinkable, and they have taught me that anguish is inescapable. Additionally, death and life have taught me that grief has no expiration date. As a result, the separation I have yet to bounce back from is the ultimate untimely farewell (Ade’s death), which was the last separation Ade and I would have. These and other events from my life are in my newly published autobiography—Untimely Farewells.
~ This book is dedicated to you, Ade. Rest In Peace In Heaven, my son . . . . .
Spring isn’t the season of renewal When April’s flower does not bloom in May All because Death forgot how to behave— So hell-bent on crippling the living Perpetually with profound sorrow.
Day after day, the sounds of somberness Break the silence of sadness with painful Reminders of an unfathomable Loss that is every parent’s worst nightmare— Burying a child, no matter the age; Each gone-too-soon offspring denied time to Fully blossom as next generation, Signifying the changing of the guard.
Sunrise to sunset—compressed life unzipped During regeneration rotation Uncommonly aping winter’s barren Graveyards veiling wealth of invisible Existences—presence now replayed as Flashbacks airing on The Recall Channel.
An unwanted change inserted itself Into family dynamics, scrubbing An interaction mortals can’t restore.
Travel on circle of life is rougher Than ever since initial departure, And there’s no joy in sight, no happiness Likely ‘til arriving at journey’s end, Then the sweet reunion of glorified Bodies with souls and spirits will trigger Final renewal season for the dead In Christ and those alive when He appears.
~ the above poem is from Deep-Rooted Disposition, my new poetry manuscript; this poem is about the profound sorrow I have felt since my oldest child/son, Olumuyiwa Ade Keen, went home to be with the Lord . . . April 30, 1972 – May 2, 2017
For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you with many tears; not so that you would be made sorrowful, but that you might know the love which I have especially for you. ~ 2 Corinthians 2:4, NASB