Conversation over pancakes

I used to make pancakes with extra egg and extra sugar. I fried them in butter, three or four to a skillet, and served them one at a time to a row of little hands running in and out of the kitchen as fast as I could fry them up. One of those little hands was Mattias’.

“Mo? Mo?”

He would inquire with a hopeful look in his eyes.

Pancakes just aren’t the same without those bright eyes and those little hands. So now I make them by the recipe and large enough to fill the skillet. We spread them with jelly or sugar or syrup and I prefer the mess to the constant sting of the hand that isn’t there.

This morning, Bear stands nervously by me, holding a plate, staking his place in line.

“Mom?” he begins. “Mom, it’s like the worst of my depression is over.”

I look in his eyes. They are bright, hopeful even. He still won’t sleep in his room because he can’t bear waking up and not seeing his brother’s smile, but it is a far cry from rocking himself in the corner through much of the day dreading the coming of night. And I remember the night he began to pass through the door, the night he described it as a door he had to pass through.

“Why did Tiggy have to die? It’s so frustrating. Why can’t I think about anything else? Why do I have to go through it again and again every night?”

So many conversations. So many hugs. So many tears. But in the end, I had no answers. I was crying out the same hurt. Over and over and over.

But on that night, I had been doing some reading. I had found some comfort in the fact that my little Bear seemed a textbook example for how a seven year old deals with grief. And I told him that. I told him that he was normal. That his fears were normal. That his mind playing the accident over and over was normal.

I compared it to how your tongue plays with a loose tooth even if it hurts. I told him that was part of how his mind was healing itself.

His tears stopped and he looked at me curiously.

“Really?”

“Yes, really. Mommy does it to. We all do. And you know what? My email box is full of notes from people who lost a child or a brother or a sister or a parent. They all have those thoughts, too.”

“Can I see?”

I hesitated. My instinct was still to protect him from that much death and heartache, but realized there was nothing I could do to protect him from what he had already witnessed. So I opened it up and showed him.

“See the ones that say ‘Contact form results?’ Those are the emails people sent us after they read about what happened to Tiggy.”

I started scrolling through page after page of emails so he could see just how many there were. His tears of frustration were replaced with a sort of shocked smile.

“All those people wrote about Tiggy?”

“Yes. And you know what else? They say it gets easier. That a day will come when you stop replaying that night in your mind over and over and start remembering more and more of the happy things. They say it always hurts a little and that you will never forget how much it hurt to lose him, but that this pain right now gets better.”

He seemed to like that thought.

“So it’s like a door you have to pass through?”

“Yes. Like a door. And your happy memories are all waiting for you on the other side. They won’t go away.”

He had seemed so relieved even then and every day since he has seemed a little more like his old self with a little less fear of night and a little more hope for the future.

But this batch of pancakes is done. I offer him a smile and a pancake and watch him leave the kitchen as tears begin to sting my eyes.

0 thoughts on “Conversation over pancakes

  1. It isn’t my ability, Cara. I’m sure of that much. These conversations are so hard. In a lot of ways, I feel like I’m standing on this side of the door watching my children slowly pass through before me. My own thoughts aren’t so obsessive anymore and I can think of other things, but right now I really only feel like I’ve gotten better at managing it. I don’t actually feel any better.

    But my prayer from the beginning has been that I can be here for my children and can help guide them through it. I don’t want to check out of their lives, though at times it is incredibly tempting. I love them as much as I love their little brother and that brings comfort and joy in this world, too.
    Dana recently posted…Conversation over pancakesMy Profile

  2. This is a beautiful post Dana. God is surely using you to bring comfort to your children. It’s like that scripture in Corinthians that says we are to comfort those with the same comfort we have received and even though your comfort is not complete, God is still able to use you to minister to your children in a way that only their mom can comfort them. One day, my friend, you will walk through that door. And that is not an easy door to walk through either, for me, I was afraid I would forget. As sad as it sounds, I was afraid I would forget my pain, my grief but you never forget. It is always there but it’s not always present in your now.

  3. Rebekah says:

    Dana,

    I want you to know how much your posts touch my heart. I have a little son Tiggy’s age, as well as a 5 year old and a 6 day old. I cry as I read about the grief that your family is going through. I cannot imagine it, and pray that I will never know it for myself. I am a stranger to you, and know that words can’t make things “better”, but I just wanted to express how sorry I am that you have lost your son. He seems like such a sweetheart and I know you are missing him more than words can describe! My mother’s heart aches for you.

    I have a friend named Christina who lost her little boy just before he turned 3. He died after a 5 month battle with a terrible disease. She writes about her journey through grief in her blog: http://www.storyofjudson.com . I have been so blessed by her family and by her thoughts; maybe you might find them encouraging too as you walk a similar path.

    Love in Christ,
    Rebekah

  4. sarah says:

    God has blessed you with wisdom is dealing with your children’s pain. I continue to pray for you all and think of little Tiggy often when I’m watching my own son.

    I also believe that God can and will use your blog to help others who are dealing with tragedy.

  5. Q says:

    Indeed, a door that you will all walk through. The only difference is, you don’t know you’re near it, or walking through it, or just past it. You just live your life, and one day you look back and realize that you haven’t cried for a few days . . . and you don’t, as often, have to remind yourself to breathe.

    You are doing great!

  6. The door with happy memories on the other side. I really like that.

    When I let me boys go to Camp Agape I wanted them to know that they weren’t alone in their grief. It was a good thing for them, where they were able to freely talk about Christian and their emotions with a Christian buddy that understands loss first hand.

    It’s a different kind of normal.
    MarshaMarshaMarsha recently posted…HOTM Conference ticket giveawayMy Profile

  7. Summer says:

    Dearest Dana,

    My name is Summer. Summer Nichols. I don’t have a blog or a website. Hopefully my email shows up so you can see it! I’m so touched by your blog and read faithfully before Dec. I remember being in disbelief and just pure shock when you wrote that first note to say goodbye. I’ve never lost a child. I have lost a family member to suicide. My grandfather. He was the Rock of our whole extended family. One day he killed himself for unclear reasons, but we think because of news of terminal cancer. When you have such an unexpected loss, it’s what I call freight train grief. It felt, at first, as if someone had punched us all in the stomach and knocked the wind out of us. —as though a freight train ran us over, yet we were still alive. I felt like I was mostly surfing an ocean of grief. Grief was poured over everything. Every joy, every moment in time, every fiber of my old life. I’m writing because I just want to share with you that the ocean of grief will receed. It will shrink over time. It won’t rage on forever. You will always have a house on the beach, but someday you won’t be surfing anymore over that ocean of devastation. It won’t flood through every thought, moment and space. It will shrink back away and still you will be able to see it in the distance. I’m just praying to God that your beach house can stand on the best, most beautiful spot. That all of us who live on the “beach” would be visible to you, while your still out on the surf. And that the LIGHTHOUSE of God would shine so brightly that you and your sweet family can see your way home in even the worst of raging seas of grief.
    From my little beach house by the sea, I pray for your safe harbor.
    Summer Nichols
    foursweetpaws@gmail.com

  8. I think you could bind all of these posts into a book so other families in need can see what pain and loss looks like and what the bottom and the long slow climb out looks like. You are so amazing, you put your pain and your family’s pain so plainly into stark and heart piercing words – I can’t imagine how you possibly get through each day except for the bright little faces of the children around you….and the one in your mind….I think of you so often, and in my own way pray for your pain to lessen…..

  9. Isn’t it strange how we all sent you messages to strengthen you to continue through the worst of tragedies and we also helped Bear directly.
    Even through the fresh tears on my face I can smile knowing that so many helped your son see that he is not alone. Because that is how you feel at this time, completely alone, even though you aren’t. Bear knows this now and I hope he continues to heal.
    I’m continually amazed at the way you handle the conversations with your children. I don’t know if I would come up with the same answers but somehow you find them when they are needed.

    Many hugs Dana…….
    Dawn Braddock recently posted…Inside a bear den with Lily- Hope and the newborn cubsMy Profile

  10. Bless you Dear, Sweet, Mama! You are allowing the Father to work in and through you. Such a blessing you are giving to your children. I am one of those who lost a brother. I was Bear’s age. I send my love to your little Bear… Or Bear probably thinks of himself as “Big Bear”. He has a wonderful little heart and God will fill it full again! God bless you all!
    Theresa Lindamood recently posted…40 Off Grand Re-Opening SaleMy Profile

  11. Dana,

    It is so beautiful to see how God is using you to help your children through their grief. The words you are speaking to your children are life giving and healing.

    I know that this is an un-imaginably difficult time for you, but I believe you are doing an amazing job of shepherding your childrens’ hearts. I pray that through your words and nurturing, your children would see God move in amazing ways in their lives. I stand in awe that during such a difficult time, you have the ability to truly let God use you in ways that most of us only hope to in regular daily life – without the added difficulty of a tragedy.

    Continually praying for your family and sending virtual hugs.

    Laura
    Laura @ Homemaking Joyfully recently posted…Ice- Ice babyMy Profile

  12. Bittersweet but beautiful. I am glad he is making his way through that door way and down the path even. It is wonderful to be able to do that.
    I am also glad that he was able to see that it is not just him that has these fears and feelings. Great job Mama.
    I think I’ll make my Little One’s some pancakes for dinner. It’s always a good time for a fun treat is it not? 😉 Bless you are your family.
    Bethy___Boo recently posted…Well Im Gross and DCS Should be CalledMy Profile

  13. It is so amazing to see your family’s closeness and how well you are able to deal with each of your children’s questions, fears, and hurt. I see improvement already. Heavenly Father is so good. He is seeing you through, he is guiding you and your family. Your little ones are blessed to have a mommy like you. Take care dear one and God Bless
    Enjoy Country Living

  14. Deb says:

    Dear Dana and family,

    I’m a fellow Nebraskan (Lincoln-ite, actually) who checks into your blog “every so often.”

    The Lord led me to check just after the accident. Even though we’ve never met face to face, I was in shock. I want you to know that each time the Lord brings you and your family to my mind, I pray. I lift your names before the Throne.

    I, too, am in awe of your strength, Dana. The Lord is surely filling you with His power – His power to put one foot in front of the other and the power to comfort your children during this most difficult time.

    In Him Who is Able,
    Deb

  15. Love the tooth analogy- that’s exactly what it’s like!

    I’m 18 months out from my mom’s expected death from cancer – and I’m still replaying it. Not as often. Not as vividly. But still. I think it’s because the mind just has to process it. And as life goes on and things fill up the space our loved one use to fill, it becomes less and less – never going away totally of course – we wouldn’t want that, but like a misty memory that makes it easier for us to look at from time to time.
    Elena recently posted…New Izzy ArtMy Profile

  16. Mary says:

    Dana, I have a 7 year old and one Tiggy’s age… When we heard about the accident I also told my kids so that they could pray for you all… My 7 year old guy is always thinking of yours. Every night he prays for Bear – so that his memories will fade of that terrible night and that all the good memories will shine through. I can’t imagine what would be worse: losing the little one or watching the pain of the older children. We’re ALWAYS praying for you. I wish there was something else, something concrete or material, but there’s nothing that would change what is happening. Let Bear know that another little boy is thinking of him…

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