Sometimes, I just close my eyes and picture him. I remember his smile. His soft voice. His gentle touch with his baby brother. I remember how he and his sister, Ava, were such good friends (most of the time). Sometimes, I even forget how much I miss him. Not because it goes away, but because I don’t always let myself go there.

It has been three years. It’s not fresh, but it’s not gone. There are days when that part of my life really seems more like a different life rather than a few years ago.
And all I can think right now is how much I want to hug him. I have no words. Sometimes no feelings, even. – Still {when all else fades away}

It’s August again. This time of year seems to be coming back around so much faster anymore.

I meant to take sunflowers to put on Thao’s grave. I didn’t. I put it off. I didn’t want to go there. I didn’t want to face it today. Or yesterday. Or the days before. And now the sunflowers are dying.

It’s too late. Again.

I often have really good intentions. But then the days get going and I don’t want to. I don’t want to take the time to cry. I don’t want to face the harsh, raw reality of time. Time that has passed. Time that feels lost. Time that I miss. Time that will never be again.

Because even though I have hope, even though I know my eternal soul will be reunited with my Thao in perfection with Jesus, our Savior, it hurts here on earth.

It hurts here in this moment. It hurts here remembering a 5-year-old who shouldn’t have had to die. It hurts to bury a child. It hurts to have things so backward.

He should have lived to bury me. He should have lived to make me worry about middle school and turning 12.

He should be telling me not to cry, not to fuss over his last year before being a teenager. A teenager. He was barely out of preschool.

That baby brother I wrote about in my book is now seven. Seven years old with a baby brother of his own. A baby brother whose lips are gently familiar. A baby brother who should have the luxury of being toted around by all of his loving siblings, not just four of them.

I haven’t let myself come here, to the grave. I haven’t let myself acknowledge that I feel I’ve failed him because his grave is bare. I haven’t . . . 

Visiting the grave reminds me of all the times I haven’t been.

Visiting the grave brings on an overwhelming amount of pain and guilt.

I’m not sure I can explain to you the mama guilt of living life unless you’ve lost a child. The last thing I want is for outsiders to think we’ve moved on.

This internal war rages on, friends. This life versus death. This living versus dying. This joy versus sorrow. This peace versus pain.

My head knows it isn’t one or the other. I don’t have to choose to be present with the living or be sad because of the dying. I don’t have to choose. I cannot choose because it will always be both. There will always be joy in the new things my living children learn. There will be joy with every birthday we are blessed to celebrate. And there will always be a shadow of sorrow because five was all we lived with Thao. Because there is always room for one more. Because death feels so wrong.

I’m not writing after the valley or on the upside of the pain. Today I am writing in the pain, in the sorrow.

Because this part of the grief journey deserves to be known as well as the settled soul parts. Because even though at times we know the truth, we know how we should feel, we believe in the hope of Heaven and all the beautiful promises, our hearts feel weary. Our souls feel heavy.

Because time feels a punishment when waiting to be with your child again.
I can’t count the days since I’ve held him. But I remember what it feels like. I feel his weight in my arms as I weep at his grave. As I marvel at the beauty of the midwest summer sky, I miss him. I gasp. It has been seven years since we celebrated his last birthday. When will I hold him again?

If I only had one more day. One more day to hold him.

My thoughts end there because I force them to. I want to be fully present in this day to enjoy my daughter and celebrate her birthday. Gone are the days of joint birthday parties and dinosaur cakes. Gone are the days of Thao + Ava. Gone are the days . . . but what I wouldn’t give to have just one more.

If I truly understood eternity, I tell myself. If time were not such a curse, I say. What is this life that time is both friend and foe? One day closer also means one day further away from the day I last heard that precious voice.

Each day they grow unseen until suddenly as mamas we notice they are grown. This bittersweet part of parenting. Lamenting over how old they are, how grown they act, how big they are to hold. But what I wouldn’t give to be lamenting over a 12-year-old this year.

Lord, hold us this season. Remind us to rest in you. Remind us of heaven and perfection and beauty here on earth. Thank you, Lord. We bless your name. But also, come. Come, Lord Jesus. Come.

This post originally appeared on the author’s blog

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Tiffany Nardoni

As a little girl Tiffany wanted only to be a wife and a mother. Life was planned and goals were set. Things were working out, until they weren’t. Dreams were shattered when Tiffany and her husband, Jeff, lost their sweet Thao, their firstborn son. Picking up the pieces isn’t easy, but God is using this unplanned life for something good. Tiffany currently resides in the midwest with her husband and their four children. Her favorite things include homeschooling, adventuring, coffee and writing. Her first book, Still (when all else fades away), was released last year in memory of her son, Thao. You can find out more on her blog, http://www.tiffanynardoni.com/