Every Friday afternoon at St. Francis School, our 5th class would have ‘Show and Tell.” It was always fun except for one Friday when Kenny, the oldest kid in the class, showed us something that I can still see when I close my eyes.
He got up in front of us, rolled up his sleeve and we saw several long, red scars on his right arm. We couldn’t imagine what the scars were from until he reached into his pocket and pulled out a paperclip that he had opened.
Then, he showed us how he cut himself. Only there was no blood this time.
The only thing he said to the class was, “Don’t do this. There are better ways than this to prove to yourself that you’re alive.” He sat down and nobody moved. Some of us thought he was crazy. Some of us were just sad. I was sad. I remember feeling sad for him.
I knew I would never hurt myself like that but there was something about him, a certain freedom to show us that he could no longer keep this secret to himself. It was almost a warning.
That’s how I’ve come to feel about my scars now. I want to show you. I have a very loud voice in me that says, “hide them.”
A quieter voice tells me that my scars are a gift. A gift for both of us. It’s a part of who we are.
When we were ready for another child, at 38, we visited a specialist. This time my clock was ticking really loud so we felt we had little time. So we started an aggressive IVF(InVitro Fertilization) treatment.
This proved to be a crazy adventure: with enough eggs for 3 Easter bunnies, a fearful doctor, and a bank account drying up to the tune of $20,000. When we stopped thinking about getting pregnant, we actually got pregnant.
I didn’t know if I was heading for Labor & Delivery or Geriatrics.
Tyler was a healthy, heavy(10 pounds) baby and was welcomed into our family by his big brother, Ryan. And now, at 39, we had it all.
Then Ryan died and we didn’t “have it all” anymore.
Tyler didn’t have the brother or sister that we wanted for him. So, we “came out of retirement” to give Tyler a sibling.
And though we’d made up our mind so quickly, it was neither quick nor easy. So many emotions, not the least of which was fear. That’s when I remembered that “Perfect Love casts out all fear.”(1 John 4:18)
At first, I felt robbed when Ryan died. Like, “Why me, Lord?” Where’s my miracle since You are the Supreme Being on the Supreme Court?
I grew up believing that God can fix what’s broken, or at least, give a heads-up. But we were hung out to dry. No warning. So, naturally, I began to look for who to blame. I finally said it face-to-face,
“It’s all Your fault, God.”
This rocked my Friendship with God, and if I’m not mistaken, we broke up for a while because placing blame was the only way I knew to get clear of this. To shed my skin like a snake and move on.
But as time passed, I discovered the real Answer to the question, “Why me, Lord?”
What did I do to deserve this Grace? Nothing.
That’s when I realized this is about God, not me. Grace is a gift from the hand of God whose face looks very much like my 2-year-old, Tyler, my little miracle worker.
Why me, Lord?
If there is someone in your orbit who needs this, please share.
But when it came down to it, I ducked. I knew I would take that bullet, but when it comes down to it our instinct is to save ourselves. That’s very hard for me to admit because I don’t want to be like that.
I fully expected not to leave the fire without my babies in my arms. If I’m not responsible for my children, who is?
When you think about it, Life is a series of choices. And the choices are ours. Yours may not be as dramatic as mine but you have to admit every day and every night we are bombarded with choices.
It’s why some of us can’t sleep.
There are things that happen to us in life that are not our choice. Like Ryan dying in the fire, or somebody ‘gets’ cancer. They didn’t choose it.
But that’s when we learn the deepest truth about choices. It doesn’t matter nearly enough what happens to us as what we do with ‘what happens to us.’
A Mother’s number one job is Not to ”secure your own mask before securing the mask of your child.”
Job numero uno is to take a round from a rifle for your kid. Like it or not, Moms, we are their saviors. As I’ve said before, I wanted to save my seven-and-a-half son, Ryan, from the fire. Not only did I not save him, I never got to him. I ran.
Ryan burned to death.
No mother could fail more completely. And I will never get over it however old I get. I hear what you’re saying:
‘‘It was an accident, Dawn.”’
“You did the best you could, Dawn.”
”Ryan is better off, Dawn.”
“Imagine all the future problems God protected Ryan from, Dawn!”
Is that all you got? Fuggedaboutit! There is nothing you can say that I haven’t heard already. And this tragedy cannot be understood unless you are a member of a very small sorority of mothers whose young child died violently. (It’s the Sorority nobody rushes!)
It has taken me seventeen years (6,205 nights) to say what I’ve said to you today. What have I learned?
There’s no way in Hell that I would have considered doing the mommy job of preparing the funeral for my baby boy. Not physically, not mentally, not emotionally, not psychologically, not spiritually, not nothingly. It’ll take everything I’ve got to sit thru it.
Ryan’s funeral could have been the ‘worst of the worst nights of my life.’
But Ron saved the day. He got his heartbroken self up in front of everyone, and told them the “7 things I learned from my Son.” Let me tell you some of what he said that afternoon.
“When my son, Ryan, came along, I prided myself on teaching him the alphabet and soccer and flattered myself that I was a good teacher, but as I look back I now see that I was actually still learning and that I was still learning more important lessons than I was teaching.
Lesson 1- Appreciate Life
Lesson 2- Smiles are Infectious
Lesson 3- Explore your world
Lesson 4- Don’t take yourself too seriously
Lesson 5- Don’t confuse intelligence with experience
Lesson 6- Charity means giving when it hurts
Lesson 7- …and the greatest of these is Love.”
That, my friends, should tell you the kind of son we enjoyed in Ryan.
Even when I was a little girl, I didn’t play “House.” I didn’t dream about being somebody’s Mommy. Carrying a baby gets in the way of climbing trees, and my goal was a tree a day. I climbed in the daytime and read under the covers at night.
I didn’t play with girls and I didn’t chase boys. No dolls, no football, which left me up a tree (literally), but I liked the company I was keeping. I liked being by myself.
So this isn’t going to be the usual story about a girlie-girl raised by her parents. If anybody raised me I raised me.
The ‘best day of my life’ might have been the day I discovered I liked myself as I was, and that I could do for myself. In other words, I was born a person in my own right. That was one fine day when I figured that out.
the ‘best day of my life’ might have been when I left home at nineteen, rode the bus to Port Authority in the City of New York. Imagine, a teenager moving to Manhattan and becoming a Playboy bunny.
By now you’ve noticed that I cannot be categorized, or corraled.
All I knew was that a Playboy bunny wasn’t like any other girl, so I qualified. BTW, if there was a way to set up a bunny reunion tonight, you could go all around the room, asking the other girls about me:
They won’t remember me, or,
I wasn’t like anyone else wearing a tail.
The single ‘best day of my life’ was when my first child was born when I became Ryans Mommy!
(Okay… Next time we meet: “The worst day of my life!”)