Sometimes I visit the places we were all together. I retrace the footsteps and breathe the memories. I can still feel it. I hear the laughter and the flashbacks reel though my mind. There was great beauty and innocence here. It was a simple time in my life. And it was pretty darn near close to perfection. It is in these moments that the grief just takes over. Your body simply writhes in pain because it knows exactly what you are missing.

There is something beautiful in loss. And how it brokenly holds the pieces of your life together. A shattered life with jagged edges bound together by mere memories. And a great love that just pulsates through your veins. Undeniable, yet unaware. The love that connects us despite time or distance or even death.

One of the interesting concepts I have discovered in grief is that love continues. It is as though death has forgotten to tell the heart that it has come. There is no resolution, no promise for hope, no chance of redemption. The love just keeps on trudging forward. Day after day after day. And the heart keeps on aching for what it does not know is gone.

I have often considered whether life would be easier if I could have avoided grief altogether. But death was part of the story. And in removing death, I would have to remove life. The extraordinary life of a little boy. I could never do that. I would take a lifetime of pain if it meant knowing him for only four short years. Because on the contrary, it would also mean loving him for a lifetime. It is part of the deal . . . you cannot know love without pain. Joy without heartache. Life without death.

And perhaps, that is what brings the hope. Once you have touched the hands of death, it makes the price of love that much more costly. You can love with a completeness that you did not have before. Love becomes sacred.

In grieving, I unearthed the most difficult part of death. Unattainable love. A love that knows no bounds. A love that longs to touch, to hold. And the finality that life has ended, but love persists. It is an unquenchable thirst, an unobtainable prize, an insatiable itch. The wild desire of the heart . . . fierce and relentless. 

I have learned the agonizing truth of grief. I know the despair of loss. And I understand the risk of love. I love guardedly. Because with love now comes fear. When you know the anguish and suffering that threaten to destroy . . . it is difficult not to tread cautiously. And yet, love endures. In heartache, in sorrow, through pain or devastation . . . in the end, it remains.

I have not figured this out yet. And quite honestly, I am not sure I ever will. But I am certain of one thing: no matter how many years go by . . . love never dies. It is eternal, uncompromising and ferociously unwavering. It is why my son’s legacy lives on . . . 

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Shannon Shpak

Shannon Shpak is a writer and social media manager who is rebuilding life after loss with her 5 children. She believes in hope, perseverance and being strong . . . all legacies her son left behind.