Baby Mine

jumbo_dumbo_storkI love most Disney movies, and one of my early favorites when the kids were little was Dumbo. The gist of the story is that, after a long-awaited arrival, the stork delivers baby Dumbo to his mother, Mrs. Jumbo. Everyone thinks he is so cute – until he unfurls his huge ears, and then everyone is shocked and horrified because he is so different. They turn their backs on him and exclude him. They make fun of him and one of the other elephants calls him a “freak.” Mrs. Jumbo, though, adores him just as he is.

clipdumbo212As the circus opens to the public, mama elephant proudly encourages her offspring to meet the people. But, as kids at the circus make fun of him for his ears, his mother moves him away from the tormentors to protect him. When they keep harassing and making fun of him, she goes berserk at the thought that anyone would hurt or torment her precious little one. She would do anything to protect her baby from the insults. As a result of her actions, she is deemed violent and forcibly separated from Dumbo, locked up in a solitary cage. At one point, lonely Dumbo goes to visit mama elephant in her prison, and Mrs. Jumbo sings the song “Baby Mine” to Dumbo, her precious little one. It’s a universal song with a universal message – one that every mother would wish to impress upon the hearts of her children – of how wonderful and precious they are, just as they are. In the end, Dumbo learns that what makes him different is what makes him special.

I recently watched an interview on PBS of Ron Suskind, a Pulitzer-winning journalist whose son is autistic. Of the Dumbo film, Mr. Suskind says:

“Dumbo, in a way, is a simple story, and its simplicity – the core of it – is of such powerful resonance that it sneaks up and just whacks you…It’s a moment of love and of arrival, of birth. And then the ears!! Oh, my! Just look at those ears! There isn’t anyone who doesn’t feel pain then. ‘It’s all the fault of that f-r-e-a-k.’

‘I don’t want to be the outcast. Don’t leave me behind. And the things that make me different, I want to hide them. I don’t want people to see that. I don’t want to be left out’…Dumbo’s about how we all yearn to be part of the main, how we all just want to be like everyone else.

I’m just different, but the thing that make me different is the not a thing I need to wrestle with and hide. It’s a thing, once I recognize, it allows me to soar. It’s not ‘in spite of’ what makes me different that I did it, it’s because of it.”

Not to over-analyze a children’s cartoon, but this story speaks to me on several levels.

First – for all of those children who are different or feel different, for those who aren’t accepted or are bullied for some real or perceived flaw – you have something inside of you that makes you very special. Some very successful people have gone through periods of time when others didn’t believe in them (Albert Einstein, John Lennon, etc.). People who were considered “geeks” in school have changed the world (Bill Gates, and many others). Believe in yourself. Give yourself time to soar.

Second – a mother’s love is stronger than any chain. My kids have all been – as the song says – “close to my heart never to part…you’re so precious to me, sweet as can be, baby of mine.” I hope they know how much I loved them from the minute they were born and how much they have meant to me every minute of every day from the minute I knew I was pregnant. The only thing I ever wanted to be in this life was a mom. There have been times when my heart was so full of love for my children – so full of awe and wonder that they were actually our precious children, born into our family and given to us by God –  that my heart could hardly hold it all.

Third – no one likes to feel like an outsider. The one thing about the deep grief following the death of a child is that it can be a very lonely walk. I remember recognizing the feeling that I would never be the same, that people would never look at me the same after Jason died. After his death, one of Jason’s friends posted on his social media account  that he would never be able to look at us or Alina’s parents the same, that he would always see us as “marked.”  At a Christmas concert that first year, I remember glancing across the room in time to see friends, heads huddled close together talking, as they were obviously discussing Joe and me.

As bereaved parents, you become the ultimate outsider. I remember feeling like I was on the other side of the glass wall, looking in, as people celebrated this or that. The everyday joys belonged to others and not to me. I still feel that way. Unless you have walked this walk, I can’t imagine one would understand what it’s like to have relationships with people you value disappear into thin air – not just for a while, but literally for years or forever. We became pariahs, through none of our own actions. I literally never heard from some people ever again, people I had known for years and considered great “Christian” people, good friends.

Others expected me to understand how difficult it was for them to be around me. One gal wrote, “You have often been in my prayers, my thoughts. I want to call, come to visit, but I don’t know what to say. I don’t know how to relate to your pain and like a chicken I stay away and I don’t call and I don’t visit. I have many reminders of you…so I do pray…and my thoughts go to you and your pain and how hard it must be every day to live with the reminders and the emptiness.” She goes on to talk about how difficult it is going to be to have her son, Jason’s friend, go off to college and how much she will miss him and that the hardest part of parenting is letting go. She ended the note by saying she would have access to a car soon and that she would “make work of seeing” me. I never did hear from her.

I learned early on that I had to hide my grief and make it palatable so that people would want to be around me. At least, I thought I had to make it palatable. In retrospect, I’m not sure it made any difference. People disappeared, anyway, and I don’t think there was anything I could have done about it.

I, especially, think it was difficult for our daughter being “different” at 17 years old. It’s never easy being the teenage girl who is different than everyone else, and losing your brother in a car accident really sets us apart from everyone else. While other girls were buying prom dresses and planning for graduation, she was helping pick out her brother’s casket and choosing photos and songs for his memorial service. I wish I could say her friends stepped up and surrounded her with love and caring, but that was far from the case. She and Jason were so close their entire lives, and I would have done anything to spare her the pain she walked through. Losing a brother is horrendous; being made to feel an outcast because of it is also a horrible thing.

I’m not sure I agree entirely with the last paragraph of Mr. Suskind’s comments about difficulties or differences making us soar. It rather feels like one of those “what doesn’t kill us makes us strongerplatitudes. But, because of what we have walked through, I feel like I have a deeper empathy for those who suffer deep loss. I hope so. And I hope I can do my small part to raise awareness of what it’s like to be the bereaved parent and sibling to a fantastic, wonderful, incredible, phenomenal young man like Jason. If I can encourage some measure of kindness toward bereaved families, I will feel like I have done my part.

Miss you always, my precious boy.

Baby Mine

Baby mine, don’t you cry.
Baby mine, dry your eyes.
Rest your head close to my heart,
Never to part,
Baby of mine.

Little one, when you play;
Don’t you mind what they say.
Let those eyes sparkle and shine,
Never a tear,
Baby of mine.

If they knew sweet little you
They’d end up loving you too.
All those same people who scold you;
What they’d give just for the right to hold you.

From your head down to your toes,
You’re not much, goodness knows.
But you’re so precious to me,
Sweet as can be,
Baby of mine.

All of those people who scold you,
What they’d give just for the right to hold you.

From your head down to your toes
You’re not much, goodness knows.
But you’re so precious to me,
Sweet as can be,
Baby of mine.
Baby of mine

Dumbo photos courtesy of https://www.disneyclips.com
© 2018 Rebecca R. Carney
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Tears

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They say it gets easier with time

But I can’t seem to stop the tears from flowing today

My precious boy, I love you…always

I miss you…always

 

~Mom

 

© 2017 Rebecca R. Carney

Jason David Carney – 7/29/82 – 3/3/02

How many children do you have?

My husband and I went out to dinner the other night with my bosses, their spouses and an out-of-town businessman whom I had only met once previously. In the course of conversation,  the businessman asked me, “How many children do you have?” “Three,” I answered. “How old are they?” he asked.

Most parents proudly rattle off the names and ages of their kids or grandkids, where they live, what they do, where they go to school, their latest accomplishments, and the like. To a parent who has had a child die, it’s not that easy or carefree any more.

You would think, after all these years, it would get easier to answer these questions than it used to be in the years following Jason’s death. I thought I had it figured out what to say, but then I stumble on the words.

I think I’ve come to the conclusion that, no matter how long it’s been or what the situation is, they’re never easy questions to answer when you have lost a child. Some questions just prick that tender spot in your heart. Sometimes it hammers the place in your heart. Sometimes tears are so close to the surface that it takes everything you have to keep yourself together.

As a person who generally sees both sides of every coin, part of me wants to stay absolutely true to who I am and the experiences I have gone through. I want to honor the memory of our precious son – the most wonderful young man in the world – no matter how uncomfortable it makes others. But, I also know that saying our precious son was killed by a drunk driver when he was 19 years old is conversation stopper. Conversation comes to a screeching halt and things get really awkward all of a sudden. It makes everyone uncomfortable. Conversation gets stilted and everyone tiptoes around the topic of a child dying while working to find a comfortable flow in the conversation again. It’s hard to be the one who makes people so uncomfortable.

One thing that a bereaved parent learns very early on is that, if you want people to stay around you and to interact with you, the responsibility falls on YOU to make people comfortable. In spite of everything we have gone through, WE have to work to make people comfortable around US. And sometimes that means that, in certain circumstances, I don’t mention the fact that I have lost the most awesome son in the world. It doesn’t seem fair, but that’s the way it is.

And so, I talked briefly about Jenna and what she’s doing…and about Eric, where he lives, what he does, how many kids he has…silently asking Jason to forgive me for avoiding talking about him. It’s just not easy any more.

I read an awesome post recently concerning the topic of bereaved parents hiding their pain. She talks about our reality being different than what we show people around us. I highly recommend reading it: https://kathleenduncan.wordpress.com/what-bereaved-parents-want-you-to-know-but-may-not-say/

© 2015 Rebecca R. Carney

The Siren Trigger

I hear sirens rush down the road this morning and I cringe. It feels as though I am at the dentist and he has touched a nerve with his drill. That’s the best way I can explain how I feel sometimes when I hear the screaming sirens of emergency vehicles. The sound touches a nerve and the zing of pain and panic goes straight through me. If my family is not close by or I don’t know where they are or if they might be in harm’s way, I feel like I curl toward the inside of me and start to pray earnestly and urgently for their safety.

Somewhere inside of me, on some level and after all these years, I am still that mother, grabbing my keys and running down the stairs to the background of screaming sirens, heading to the site of a bad car accident. I am right back in that place of panic where I am driving towards the unknown, heading directly toward the sound of those sirens, praying with all my might, “Oh, God, please NO! Please, God. NO!! I need him!!” It just couldn’t be Jason…he HAD to be all right. My family had to be safe and okay. But they weren’t. Jason wasn’t safe and and he wasn’t okay.

I no longer feel that my family and I are “protected” and that a huge tragedy such as the death of a child or close family member happens to “someone else” and not to me. I feel vulnerable. I am that mother whose precious son died in a car accident – through no fault of his own – but because of the actions of someone else. My family and I are the ones who have had to walk through a lot because of the actions of someone else. A drunk driver broadsided our son’s car at more than twice the speed limit, and Jason and Alina died instantly. Jason didn’t deserve to die. He was a good kid, making good decisions. Of all people, Jason deserved to live, to marry, to have kids, to live a long and full life. He was one of the best. When I hear them, those sirens are a trigger that reminds me that my family and I am not immune from tragedy. No one is immune. We are all vulnerable, whether we know it or not. Tragedy can – and has – touched my life. It has taken something incredibly precious from me that can’t be replaced.

The other day, as I headed home from work, the road to our house was blocked by emergency vehicles. All I could see was a little gray car (similar to Joe’s) and a young woman who looked very similar to our daughter standing next to the crumpled car. I felt myself tense up and take in a sharp breath. I reached for my phone to call Joe to make sure they were both safe at home. I had to know that they were both safe. They were safe. But I am no longer a curious onlooker to the tragedies along the roadside and to the sound of passing sirens. They have touched my life and made a deep and indelible impression, one that still zings whenever the nerve is touched by the sound of a siren.

And so I earnestly pray for the protection of my family whenever I hear sirens or see emergency vehicles. It’s not that I don’t pray for their safety at other times; I just feel an panic-y urgency to pray for the safety of my family whenever I hear those sirens go screaming by. If I know my family is safe, I pray for the people who may be impacted by what the emergency vehicles and screaming sirens represent.

Oh, God, please protect my family. I pray for your hand of protection, for your mercy, for your gracious favor and blessings to rain down on them. Be close to those whose lives may be impacted by the sound of screaming sirens from emergency vehicles. I know what those sirens can mean and how much they can impact one’s life.

© 2013 Rebecca R. Carney

Blog Recommendation – A Fellow Griever

I’d like to recommend an excellent blog by Pamela Haddock. Pamela has such a beautiful, clear ability to communicate on the subject of grief and the death of a child. The words she writes paint complete pictures that rival the completeness and beauty of her own paintings. I am in awe of this talented woman. I’m so sorry that her writing has been precipitated by the loss of her precious son.

Some of Pamela’s topics:

Suggestions for the bereaved and friends

God

Taking photographs

Simple gifts

If you have not yet discovered Pamela’s site yet, I hope you will take the time to discover it now. You will be so thankful you did!