Archive for December, 2013
Gabriel’s Last Day by his mother- Lisa Miller
This post from Lisa is honestly and terribly beautiful in its torment and shows a mother’s love for her child- and how those that grieve try to walk upright- her last two paragraphs are ones that every mother who has lost has experienced …
As I walked through the automatic doors of the CICU [cardiac intensive care unit] for the last time, the hallway appeared to stretch itself out before me, becoming endless. I stood up a little straighter and set out to make that endless walk through the hospital and across the street to the safety of our room without completely losing it in front of everyone along the way. Little did I know then what good practice that was going be for my new future.
* * * *
It has taken me four years to tell you the story of Gabriel’s last day. I remember every moment of his final two weeks in the hospital – and especially his death – as if it just happened. His death literally took my words away and society reinforced my silence as a condition of being allowed into the land of the living. After all, the grieving are so much easier to deal with when they keep their sorrow to themselves. 😕
I was reminded of that by a relative on Christmas Day this year. His boisterous “Merry Christmas!” greeting to me was met with as much of a smile as I could muster and I said “Something like that. Thanks, same to you.” He quickly responded “Well, this is a happy holiday for everyone else.” I sarcastically thanked him for that friendly reminder and went on to endure being a spectator to the festivities (again) and being reminded at every turn who was missing (still). Merry Christmas and Happy New Year indeed. 😐
Gabriel’s smile was bestowed for a just a briefness of time , but it remains in the hearts of his mummy and daddy . They, in turn, share with us a small smile sparkling in the darkness, given to those that pass a certain spot where a tiny tree brings light for just a little …… remembering the child of light …………
As this year passes once more it is a reminder there is a missing moonbeam, whose silvery light is lost to our world but the spark that flared into a flame of love brighter than any ray of the sun continues to burn in the hearts of those that loved their moon beam and basked in the light of his smile
December 31st with song, laughter,food, fireworks and noise makers they will not notice a small light is no longer shining this year.
But in a home in Lorain, a mother and father dread this New Years Eve, they will not celebrate because all the fireworks, lights in the sky cannot make up for the “light they lost” – their precious moonbeam -who shone so brightly for just a little while and radiated such love and truth as to shame the dark.
As I checked the stats on my blog this morning – they were off the charts – all because of the searches for the headless man. He has been revealed . He was part of a post I wrote with regard to Downton Abbey connection and truth being even more interesting than fiction 😉
I exchanged the WW2 for that boring old history of Kings and Queens and the aristocracy. However I can tell you Reality TV has nothing on these folk! But there is the connection with Downton Abbey fans. Oh! if these old walls could talk ;).
How I lost my virginity to the VERY racy real life chatelaine of Downton’s Scottish castle by Micheal Thornton
My post tied in the Downton Abbey, my mother, the abdication of a king and the late Princess Diana and today is receiving more readers than it did when first posted- ah the internet nothing goes away truly does it?
And just WHO WAS the headless man – read it for yourself :
those old photos whether on Facebook , other social media or even polaroid’s can come back to haunt……
Ok I am going to declare here and now:
I am guilty!
I too, want to see little faces light up- I was always told I spoiled my children – in fact when I got Chris his new truck ( lease) in 2004 so he would have a vehicle he could trust rather than his 2nd hand jeep- which had seen better days even when it was first purchased -I was taken to task by Chris’s uncle( who is no longer with us)
“You spoil Chris he will never become anything
…..yada yada yada.
Let me tell I am so glad I spoiled my son – I am glad I bought him everything I could because of course I can no longer do that. I don’t care if I went over the top I would do it again in a heart beat. Of course that has morphed into the “Chris- Miss Presents “ for Gavin and Braedyn.
And yes I do go overboard.
Gavin announced he would like a snow mobile- because his daddy has one and a truck, and four-wheeler ( which of course Gavin also has thanks to his Chris Miss presents of previous years.
Gavin wants to be just like his daddy, and go along with him on all his adventures including the snow blowing of the driveway- the other present he wanted a snow blower !
I looked and looked and even I couldn’t justify $2,500 for a child’s real snow mobile- there was only one in Ohio 2nd hand for $1,000 and that was from 1981!!!!!!
and I waited with bated breath as to whether this would fill the bill… apparently it did because he slept with it.
Braedyn, was a little bewildered by all the boxes and wrappings but soon got into the spirit of the hunt. Braedyn is obsessed with deer- he loves them !!! I was very happy he liked his present from Nog ( Nikki tells me she awoke this morning to find both Braedyn and the deer in her bed!
Braedyn ,finally big enough to reach the pedals on his “own” battery operated vehicle ( Chris Miss Present) , was pleased he no longer has to sit in the passenger seat with his brother. The jeep is reminiscent of the blue jeep his Uncle Chris once had.
But I wasn’t the only one spoiling the two little boys, their Uncles and Aunts, Nana , and friends also wanted to see little faces alight. Maybe that is what we do not so much “spoiling the child” as trying to fulfill a wish of joy of our own through their smiles.
After Christmas night, I came home to this house with no decorations, from my visits with Christmas,
to an email from a cousin . I didn’t know him growing up we found each other through the “net”. He was my grandmother’s sister grandson, her son married and then later divorced and his son lost touch with this side of the family. Although he had tracked down the family stats etc through “ancestry sites” the stories weren’t fleshed out about the people mentioned.
Luckily for him family stories and scandals still had a “living history” via my mum and some of the things I remembered . That in turn took my own mind back to those early Christmases of my youth in England .
The 1950’s in the US must have been terribly different here ( if Happy Days reruns are to be believed) – London England was still suffering the ravages of the Blitz , there was not a lot of money about and in some case rationing .
As I looked at the Christmas tree that adorned the Captain Wilford house one year,
it reminded me of the little table top tree we had in its pot of earth, covered with home-made paper chains that sat on a table in our living room in England when I wasn’t much older than Braedyn . Father Christmas would come and I would get one big present ( usually a special doll) and needed clothes. But the parties and the people were what I remember most- so much laughter and uncles dressing up, games that included Pass the Parcel and Riding the Plank (blindfolded) into outer space.
I have written about my “wealthy” grandmother ” . I don’t remember ever getting a present from her, or for that matter anyone besides Father Christmas. BUT at Christmas I was allowed for a short time to go into my rich grandmother’s drawing-room with the adults. I told my cousin of those Christmases
I remembered that Christmas night- there were aunts and uncles and lots of people. There were no other children and there wasn’t a tree, even a tiny one decked out with paper chains. However there were silver serving dishes , tea services , brass, silks ,satins, curtains and door hangings with plush velvets and large floor lamps whose fringed shades moved and swayed – the firelight reflected off the crystal. It was all very Aladdin’s cave- like, there weren’t any of the thick slices of homemade bread with lemon curd, or slices of cream cake but dates, and figs and turkish delight, dainty little cakes and sandwiches.
I thought today of laughter and children , true family and true friends, who through these many months have stood by me and held me in their thoughts and have been patient and understanding .
but the best present was in the middle of Christmas chaos when a small boy not yet two – left all the excitement of toys and wrapping , sought me out , curled up on my lap – held my fingers tight in his little hand , cuddled up and fell fast asleep…..whilst Christmas passed into another “past” and memories were made …..this little child gave me the comfort and unconditional love I needed……….
Yes! I spoiled my children – but they became adults who were fiercely loyal, generous, caring and brave………. and I would not change a thing……..
The chocolates in the advent calendars are suspiciously gone already— it must be that Christopher Pop-In- Kins – the Christmas Elf who hides in the home and on Christmas Eve returns to the North Pole to tell Santa about his young friends and his recent holiday adventure – http://www.elffun.com/christopher-pop-in-kins/
ate them already!
“All that hiding must make him hungry – NOG!”
and who could argue with the child with the halo????
Braedyn has been shopping and dropping-
“Why can’t we go to NOG’s and POOH BAH”S house- we promise not to be naughty-”
NOG’S NOTE– Santa Claus – via UPS and FED Ex has turned NOG’s living room and hallway into a “Box Store” – Nog is now on a first name bases with delivery men… and since the “boxes” have pictures – that means no visits from prying little eyes.
There have been concerts with Nog and Nana and Pooh Bah and Santa has checked in , special Red Lobster lunches , (they have the best crayons….) and shopping with Nog and Pooh Bah for mummy….
wrapping and trimming our special tree .
Braedyn loved the trains and trees at Black River Landing
and now it is time to wish you all lots and lots of what you love the best ……. The Lorain Dudes- Braedyn and Gavin
December 19th- As I type this morning, once again watching the sunrise over the twinkling lights of the neighbors Christmas decorations lighting the now bare branches of the cherry tree, I am reminded of another December 19th. The day the Lombardis , your bride Angela http://my.clevelandclinic.org/staff_directory/staff_display.aspx?DoctorID=16147 , the Vykas , Gonzales, Zaworskis and Gotts and Father Divas took you my son, to their “family plot” without your kith or kin .
It was an act ( in my view) of pure selfishness,vindictiveness and without pity.
“Your name was RITCHEY , NOT – Lombardi , Vyka , Gonzales, Gott or Zaworski . You were taken to their faith and their closure, denying your family even the “time of your interment in their selfishness.”
As someone said
“it is like Chris’ family didn’t exist”
That day, just a week before the celebration of Christmas, a day of celebration, where they dress in their finest, attend a church and profess to their God they are worthy of taking Him and His Son into their hearts. They celebrate the “Mother of their Church ”
http://www.morningjournal.com/general-news/20091221/mary-mother-of-god-begins-anew but have taken– seemingly without a thought to the consequences of such an act, of inflicting further pain to another mother.
The Memorialization by Bereaved Parents Project– gave me a chance not only to share my son, his story and to realize I was not alone – there were others who walked the path who needed……….
Memorialization by Bereaved Parents
The death of a child is a devastating loss that has a profound impact on parents and a families . Prior research has found that maintaining /continuing bonds with deceased children is common and can be very beneficial.
This project sought to understand how bereaved parents maintain such bonds through memorializing their children as well as the meaning they find in doing so. Participants were asked to provide photographs that depict how they memorialize and remember their children thus allowing participants to provide the visual images of their choosing that capture unique aspects of their experience……….
Their children died from a variety of causes , including illness, accident , murder and unknown causes. All of the participants are female and are diverse in terms of age ethnicity, religious/spiritual beliefs and sexual orientation.
These mothers , including myself , all have the need to remember “out loud” in their own way; whether it is leaving tokens of love at the last tangible place on this earth that holds their child, a special place to go and reflect or call out to the silence “WHY” ?
The need to have their son or daughter remembered for a life that was lived, no matter how brief . The need to have a repository , if you will, of the love that was for that son or daughter that was theirs alone. A love that still flows from a mothers heart , seeking the child for which it was meant.
When the Lombardis, your bride and the “creatures of control” took you away into that place of deceit and cowardice – for not one had the strength to speak of “pity” for your family. The death of human kindness on that day led to the birth of my own memorial. A place where I revisit your life, your story and I can cry my tears and shout WHY? to the morning sunrise. I can remember you and let your art speak ….
I have only words to describe , it is a terrible thing to live out your life without the laughter of your son , incommunicable to those who have not felt this grief’s slashing ferocity. Words are inadequate………
“I will never forget the first moment I saw her work. I felt something inside me stir. It was a connection to the abyss, to the darkness of grief- I knew Kollwitz had seen something that I had also seen. I felt she, too, was a keeper of the dark secrets.
Kollwitz birthed art of the soul, from the depths of traumatic grief so frightening that few dare allow themselves to really see it. During WWII, her art (perceived accurately as anti-war) was banned by Hitler. She witnessed, first hand, the horrors of war and lost far too much because of it: Her grandson, named Peter after her dead son, lost his life in war too.
Look at her work. I mean, really look at it. ”
ED NOTE: Kollwitz’s work can be raw and full of truths it can scream the most primordial scream and does
She wrote of her son:
[I] made a drawing: the mother letting her dead son
slide into her arms.
I might make a hundred such drawings
and yet I do not get any closer to him.
I am seeking him.
As if I had to find him in my work.
And yet everything I do is so childishly foolish and inadequate…
I am shattered, weakened, drained by tears…
Yet new flowers have grown up which would not have grown
without the tears shed this year.
Men do not know the souls of one another.
Only the galley slaves know one another,
who side by side are chained, and gasp for breath.
The Interview Continued:
Do you feel that memorializing/remembering your child in this way has been beneficial to you? If so, can you describe some of the benefits?
Yes, writing about Chris and his story has been very cathartic, for me at least- and has also filled a need I believe every mother and father has to have their child’s life recognized , they existed, they contributed no matter how little the time .
When my son died we were left with a love that had no outlet. The love that was exclusively for him, that had been his since the day he was born ( and for my part before he was born) has no direction, it has no outlet it seems to bottle up inside one , the grief and lost love chokes and builds inside until it literally brings you to your knees.
Sometimes the writing ( like now) causes floods of tears so you can’t see the keyboard and holding back the gulping breaths so you can finish is physically painful, but it also releases.
My daughter and my husband have difficulty in reading , the wounds are so raw but I have saved each post on disc for them and the grandchildren so if and when they are ready it will be available .
Has your family/community/culture been supportive of you and your wish to memorialize and/or remember your child? If so, please describe.
Since I write the unvarnished, and non-sugarcoated truth in all my writings from politics, to history , to the organized church
( especially the Roman Catholic Church- who enabled the taking of my son)-
the various treatments due to cancer, some of the international and local community are angry, some are helped especially those going through cancer treatments , some are pleased to know Chris better.
A great many are uncomfortable- there is sometimes a rawness to my writings that people don’t want to face. But on the whole I am not writing for them but for me and the promise to Chris I wouldn’t let the world forget him.
Have you encountered any resistance from your family/community/culture about your desire to memorialize and/or remember your child? If so, please describe.
Oh yes – some wish I would go away 🙂 some want us to “let it go” – “get on with your life “, “move forward”.
By putting thoughts and our story out for the whole wide world to see or stumble upon opens one to criticism .
Some say horrible things but there is sort of an immunity that comes when you lose a child , apart from losing another child – it is the worst thing that can happen the hurt and pain is literally ground zero – their words cannot burn or sting because you are already in a place of such torment their words, for me at least, are just mere words like so many raindrops splashing on the surface of a bottomless lake.
The last question was published in Part One of this series:
the result to be continued………
If your photograph includes decorations at a child’s grave or special place in your home/nature, how long have the objects shown in the photograph been there? Are they still there?
My collage as stated is just a few of the pieces that I love and hang on the walls of our house and that of his sisters. The one black and white window piece -he standing on the outside of the window– I have had printed into card form and use them as a thank you to the people who donate to the yearly Cleveland Institute of Art Scholarship we have in Christopher’s memory.
The memorial on my blog is ongoing
Do you frequently make changes to this space (such as by adding or changing objects placed there)?
Since the space is my blog and the internet the changes are frequent
Has anything ever happened to your memorial/remembrance space (such as object disappearing or being damaged)? If so, what was this like for you? What were your emotions and reactions?
The most terrifying aspect was not my personal memorial for Chris , but the fact he was buried in a place not of our faith or cultural heritage. We [his immediate family] had no say as to that aspect or his headstone and no control over the “decorations ” of balloons and garden wind ornaments ,pumpkin lights and cake offerings ( which drew vermin and ants) put there by the in-laws.
They were not of our culture and Chris hated what they used to do to the graves of their deceased family members and stated as such many times. To have what was left of my son subjected to this absolutely wounded us to the core. To us as “HIS” family it was a desecration
Fortunately, the bride – Angela (Lombardi) Ritchey DO– has moved on to another romantic liaison and apparently she and her kind no longer visits the grave with any frequency.
Chris, was not a child to have balloons and holiday decorations, which I could understand if he were, but a grown man. We never go to that place of deceit but many friends , who visit their own loved ones, make sure to remove anything they know would hurt us or minimize the loss of Chris with childish knickknacks and for them we are most grateful.
How often do you visit this space? Are there times of year when you visit this space more frequently? Are there times in your life when you have stopped visiting this space? Why and for how long?
We don’t visit the place they buried his cremains- it has become a place of insult and control- Chris’s family visit him in our thoughts every day . Our grandchildren, only one of whom was born at the time of his death- know their Uncle Chris There is always a “Chris-miss” present from him every birthday and Christmas.
My daughter, has a wall of his artwork in her house and the children know who he is , she keeps her brother alive for them .His artwork appears on the street signs in this neighborhood and just yesterday [ AT THE TIME OF THE INTERVIEW] we were at an event and there was a mural he had painted as a summer job- a mural on a storage shed at a park. The mural is still there and my daughter took the photo of the children in front of that mural- saying Uncle Chris painted this…… and the questions started and the discussion once more turned to Chris.
TO BE CONTINUED……..