“Does remembering you son cause you pain?”
That is a tough question to answer. Yes and No. Yes, to relive some of the moments of hurt is painful. To relive the moment the doctor told us that Joshua was not going to get better. To relive the moment his body was carried from our house to the funeral home. Those are painful memories. To walk through them in my mind is to generate tears in my eyes.
But also, No. To remember how Barbara rocked Joshua in the “big chair” and sang to him is to remember her love for him and his bright smile, looking into her eyes. To remember his loud laugh is to remember the joy he brought into our lives. To remember how we cared for him is to remember how God loves the weak. To remember such things also generates tears, but different kinds of tears, tears of joy.
So, I want to remember. Even the painful memories remind me of the authentic hurt that is part of this world. But, more importantly, to remember is to give value to Joshua’s life and remember how his life shaped me. To forget him would be to negate his value and existence. To remember him is to value him.
I am part of an ongoing small group of parents who have lost children. One of the things I hear often in that group is how they love to talk about their children, and how much it means for someone to ask about them. Too often people are afraid (and understandably so) to remember with us since they are fearful that we might be hurt by remembering.
But actually one of the greatest joys of a parent who has lost a child is from someone to remember their child. We need people to “remember with us,” share with us about our children, and walk with us. We love to remember our children, but we don’t want to burden you with our pain. We don’t want to hurt you, or perhaps worse bore you. And that is why we react so openly when you want to talk about our children. We love to remember–it renews their value in our lives.
When you meet someone who has lost a child, I know it can be awkward as to what to say or do or how to react. Let me offer a few suggestions. Ask, “What is your child’s name?” [Note: “is” not “was”. Our children still live!] To name a child is to give identity, reality and value. That you want to know their name says something about how you care. Ask a question about the child–it shows you are interested. Be willing to listen as we remember, and don’t change the subject. Share our joy, and perhaps also our pain.
Thanks for remembering with me. It may hurt a little to remember, but it would hurt more if no one remembered.