Vol. 22, No. 5,514 - The American Reporter - September 7, 2016

by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
January 29, 2008

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ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga.. -- It seems to be more often lately that the sentiment is spoken but it's always been out there: "You never get over the death of your child." This is true. But the heartfelt expressions come from some who cannot fathom the notion of losing a child; their own child is who is in their mind, not another mother's child.

They speak with the words gathering in their throat and tears beginning to swell in their eyes. I have lost a 15-year-old son in 1973 to a blind curve where his swerving bicycle and the Volkswagen's screeching brakes could not prevent the accident that took his life almost instantly. I know this woman's fears as she comments on learning our first-born died. She was consoling me but fearing for herself. I understand that now.

I also understand it's not the loss of the child staying with you throughout your life; it's the dread that you will fail to remember. We are not equipped to mourn every moment of our lives; we are strengthened to move on, grow, develop, raise the other children to a life they deserve, give them and your husband your best - knowing all along that you have not been decimated by the loss but fortified to continue with grace.

Beneath the veil of the outward smile is a nagging fear that you have to continue to keep him actively in your memory so you wont forget his last words, his voice, his laugh - down to the sound of his bounding down the stairs before he left that last morning. I'm practiced now and he's firmly with me as naturally as the words and music to a song I haven't heard for 30 or 40 years.

However, there was a time in the seventies when raising the other six children with all the clamoring attendant on getting them up, dressed, off to school, home for the snacks, homework - well "clamor" speaks for itself - the dread of forgetting to remember bordered on panic.

It was around this time I decided the only way I could have uninterrupted time to spend in remembering Jack was to leave the house on Sunday morning at 6:30 a.m. and, instead of going to Mass, I would go to the cemetery and just be there. I did that for many years. It was my private time as well as my secret.

One winter's morning with snow on the grounds and more snow falling with blustery winds driving it off the roadways and into snow-formed mounds, I was sitting in my car next to Jack's tombstone just at the side of the road. I got out and with a windshield-wiper brush, I cleared away snow revealing what we had engraved: His name, years of birth and death and a reminder to any passers by: HE KISSED THE WIND.

The snow was piling up but still not in the flat pattern you'd expect. I got back in the car and relaxed in the quiet reverie. I thought of Jack and went over his life with joy. He had been our only child for three years before the other six came along all in a row. There was more one-on-one with out first born perhaps making it easier to remember.

There was noone anywhere around. I could see the main highway, U.S. 19, usually heavy with traffic but at 7:15 on a Sunday morning, it was gray and silent.

The song, "I Remember You," a Johnny Mercer hit from the 1940s, came on as soon as I turned on the ignition. I sat and listened as the car warmed up and the last lines turned my quiet reverie into my openly sobbing.

When my life is through
And the angels ask me to recall
The thrill of them all
I shall tell them I remember you.

It was good crying but it was time to go. I moved ahead on the now snow-covered road but almost instantly found a bank of snow that brought the car to a wheel-spinning halt. I raced the engine as I tried to push through it. Nowhere, I got nowhere.

I got out. No gloves, no hat, no boots - nothing but a windshield-wiper scraper with a small shovel on the other end. I started digging but the mound was in front of the front tires and behind. I couldn't reach. I was out of breath and very aware of how alone I was. No one was around anywhere. This was a pre-cell phone. When I could breathe more easily, I tried again. There was no possibility of something to spread under tires, no road salt, and no sand. I have never felt so helpless.

My hands were so numb I had to get back into the car. I was red-faced and breathing hard. I shivered as I put the key into the ignition. I thought I'd try one more time before just ... well, one more time. They think I'm in church. I have to get home to get the kids ready for 9:00 Mass. No one knows where I am. I tried not to panic. Screaming wouldn't help and tears would freeze on my face.

Well, as it turns out, when my frozen hand moved the frozen gearshift, it didn't move from Park to Drive... it only got as far as Reverse. When I stepped on the gas, expecting to spin my wheels forward, I started moving backward - easily. Since I had really stepped on the gas firmly, I now had to step on the brake, hard. I jerked forward and took a look behind me. The road into the mound was as clear as when I drove up the roadway to the gravesite. The mound was only in front.

Still breathing hard, but so relieved, I started to laugh. I laughed and laughed at my stupidity. I laughed until I hurt. I had to look back at the road behind me.

How could I not have seen the obvious?

I backed up, made a three-point turn, then went against the one-way arrows all the way down the rolling hills and out onto the highway. The house was still quiet and I flopped on the bed next to John, still wearing my coat, still trying to catch my breath. "John, wake up, we have to put a shovel in the car. You never can tell when you'll need one."

Visit longtime AR Correspondent Constance Daley at her Website.

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