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His smile, his laughter and his tender way are what I miss the most. His love of life and his free spirited personality touched so many people during his short stay on this earth. It's so hard to believe that five years have passed since that horrendous time in our lives. Whomever said that "time heals all wounds" has never experienced the loss of a child.
Teddy and I had searched for something to help fill the void that T.J.'s death left in our hearts and souls. We considered having another child, but the fear of another loss put that idea out of our minds as fast as it had entered. We both plunged into our individual jobs, working an exhausting amount of hours to keep us from entering the door to our home. A home which held so many memories of our cherished T.J. We considered selling the house and starting fresh in a new home, but we knew that we would only be running from the memories. Not that running would have been so bad, we just knew that the memories and the pain would follow us wherever we landed. It would be like putting a Band-Aid on a festering wound.
We decided to try a vacation and took two of them over the next four and a half years. The first vacation was only six months after we lost T.J. We figured a trip to the Caribbean in the middle of winter would boost our spirits. We're probably the only couple to ever visit such a beautiful tropical paradise and not be light-hearted. I can remember Teddy saying to me one night while we were walking on the beach "it's too soon, Sara, we can't expect the pain to just go away so quickly." I think I cried more that night than the day T.J. died. I guess I thought my feelings of loss would just miraculously dissipate and with that one statement, Teddy made me realize it wasn't going to happen that way. Until we truly dealt with T.J.'s death and placed it in our realities, there would be no happiness, no peace. Neither one of us were ready to give him up. With our arms embraced, our thoughts went into the night and we cried ourselves to sleep. Thank God we hadn't lost each other.
We muddled through our lives, aching with a pain that we couldn't name, for another four years just trying to forget. Nothing worked. Our bodies were healthy, but our spirits were dead. They left us the day T.J. left us. We knew that if we didn't change something in our lives and change it soon that we might never know happiness or peace again. We decided to try another type of vacation - a retreat.
This time we traveled to the mountains of West Virginia and stayed in a cottage overlooking an exquisite lake surrounded by woodlands. We took long, thought filled walks around the lake. Whether it was in the sun or in the rain, it didn't matter. We each fell into our own silence. The last night in the cottage Teddy built a fire in the stone fireplace and we stared into the blazing embers looking for an answer to our life's dilemma. That night, after we fell asleep, I had a dream. Some may have called it a premonition; I called it our solution. The best part of the answer was that is was delivered by T.J. himself.
T.J. held my hand as he showed me our new life. I saw Teddy and me laughing, sitting around a campfire roasting marshmallows. In the shadows cast by the fire was a structure in its beginning stages. As T.J. and I made our way down a dirt lane lined with pine, oak, and hickory trees we heard owls hooting and relished in the light given off by the full moon. We walked further down the lane and around a corner into brilliant sunlit skies. Skies filled with birds of all types flying around picking berries off bushes and taking them back to their nests. Families of deer, turkeys, squirrels, and chipmunks frolicked in the dense woods as if to say, "welcome home Sara."
Then T.J. called a butterfly to his hands. It was beautifully colored with blue, purple, and black velvety wings and had three yellow spots on each one. He climbed up onto a magnificent tree stump and held his hands out to mine. He ever so gently placed the butterfly on my chest, right over my heart and said "Mommy, I am with you and Daddy always - do not ever think that I left forever." I reached down and kissed him on his forehead and then we hugged like we always had. He looked up at me with his father's deep brown eyes and said, "Mommy, the best place in this entire world or any other is still inside your hug." With that, he was gone and I awoke to a sunny morning with a smile on my face that hadn't been there in almost five years.
Teddy and I found that little piece of heaven shown to me by T.J. just two weeks after my dream and only five miles from the cottage where we had stayed. As soon as we stepped onto the land we felt T.J.'s presence. It was exactly as it was in the dream. Teddy couldn't believe how my depiction of my dream had been so exact. Pine, oak, and hickory trees, birds, animals and yes, even the dirt lane. It was the only property on the mountain that had a dirt lane. As Teddy and I walked the lane we saw our future for the first time in five years. We talked of building a log cabin and living on the land as we built. We purchased the land that same day and found the perfect spot for our camper.
Within a few months we were sitting around our campfire roasting marshmallows laughing about the building antics of the day. Teddy was so worried about me hurting myself in "my condition" that he barely allowed me to lift a hammer. And then as if to have perfect timing, a butterfly with blue, purple, and black velvety wings and three yellow spots on each one fluttered its way to me and landed on my chest, right over my heart. We looked deeply into each other's eyes and knew we were finally at peace and T.J. was with us.
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