As a mother of one, I was terrified to add another child to the mix. How could I do this to Christian? What if I didn’t have enough love for both children? How would I handle those times when both of them needed me at the same time? These are all questions that ran through my mind. Very common questions and thoughts. All were answered as soon as my second son entered the world. I had just given Christian one of the best gifts, a younger brother. From personal experience, I knew what a gift this was. Having a sibling means having someone to play with, someone to learn from, someone to share with. Sure, there would be a learning curve, but eventually he would thank me for this other being who would wholly understand the idiosyncrasies of our family, like no one else.
That time did not arrive as quickly as I had hoped! The learning curve and adjustment took some time. Quite honestly, it was probably more difficult for me than him. When the time came however, that he and Anthony were able to play together, they melted my heart. There was a lot of fighting. I am not going to sugar coat that. There were also a ton of laughs. The two of them together would sing silly songs, dance around, play with cars, build blocks; all the normal things that brothers do. As a parent, seeing two beings who you love more than anything, love and enjoy each other, makes your heart sing.
Then, when Anthony was one, we found out there would be yet another little person added to our family. Surprise and fear are just two words I will use to describe our emotions at that time. After getting over the surprise, excitement also set in. We knew that baby number three would complete our family. We were overjoyed when Nicky made us a family of five, no one more than Christian. Anthony had just turned two, but Christian, at the age of five really loved Nicky. He was the first person to make him laugh, he loved helping me take care of him and he loved being an older brother to two younger siblings. With three boys under five, I was completely overwhelmed. We added a move into that equation when Nicky was eight months old and I was spent! The boys, however, rolled with it all. They grew closer and closer. When Christian went off to Kindergarten, Anthony would say immediately after he left, “I miss Christian.” Life was fast paced, demanding, crazy and exhausting.
Fast forward to today, where my two boys are five and seven. Life is fast paced, demanding, crazy and exhausting. That love and admiration between all three brothers remains. Added into the equation is the sadness of their oldest brother not being here physically. It is a harrowing experience to try to explain to a five and seven year old where their brother is, why he is not here, when they will see him again and that most people don’t enter heaven that young. Children simply do not process things the way we do, which was a positive aspect of them being so young when we lost Christian. As they grow however, and their brains mature, so does their level of understanding.
Anthony, who is seven, seems to be entering a deeper level of understanding. A few different things have happened lately, leading me to this conclusion. Just yesterday, while playing at a nature park with friends, he broke down in tears. At this park there is a beautiful memorial to Christian. It is a tree with three bird houses, one for each of my boys. Under it is a rock with Christian’s name inscribed on it. Anthony was sitting on the rock, sobbing. When I reached him he verbalized that each time he sees something that reminds him of his brother or hears someone talking about his brother, it makes him want to cry. Heart breaking, simply heart breaking. A child at the young age of seven should not have to deal with the depth and meaning of the emotions surrounding such a tragedy. This is his journey, though. Through my own journey I have learned that there is nothing I can do to change that. He needs to walk his own path. Certainly I can, and do, guide him. I encourage him to feel his feelings and share. As a family, we talk about Christian openly and often. Yet, no one truly knows how Anthony feels, other than children in his position.
It is downright terrifying to know that as much as I want to take this pain away from him, I cannot. My mother has voiced this same sentiment to me about my own journey and pain. All I can do is let Anthony know that he will never be alone on his journey. He will always have his family walking beside him. I can also give him the tools to get through his pain. No one escapes the world without pain. My hope for him is that learning how to use these tools at a young age will make him that much stronger. He needs to know we are a family of fighters. We are a family of strength. We are a family of love. If nothing else, my hope is that he learns this. Child loss is an ongoing barrage of emotions, especially for the family. I must arm my children with the tools to walk on their journey through their pain. Along with their angel, I will never let them walk alone. Love to heaven…