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The Other Side of the Bed


I lost my son, Ryan, to cancer when he was only 8 years old. Near the end, he was semi-comatose in a hospital, where I spent many hours with him. Late one night, when all the family had gone home for the evening, I turned the lights in Ryan's room down low. I had on nature sounds to sooth Ryan as he lay there. I went over to his bed and suddenly realized that I was possibly looking at him for one of the last times. The thought shook me to my shoes, and I let my eyes drink him up, as if there was no tomorrow.
Ryan had suffered for 18 months with cancer but never complained. He handled it better than anyone I have ever seen. When it became evident he was going to die, I found myself looking at him in a different way. Others did too.
People would tell me things like, "That's not a little boy in there. He is more like a wise old man." Even before we found out he had cancer, Ryan would always say very profound things, and his caring for humanity was remarkable. I remember many times just looking at him when he said something profound and wondering to myself, "What am I dealing with here in this child?"
I have been on a spiritual journey my whole life and have looked for God in so many places. I always wanted more than traditional religion, which never felt right for me. I never could buy into it fully. I always had an understanding of things deep down inside of me that let me know when something I was hearing about God and spirituality wasn't right. It would be like an alarm went off inside me, and I steered clear, always looking for the truer path. During the course of Ryan's dying, I knew that I was to learn something or be lifted to greater understanding of some sort. It was as if a light had turned on in my head or in my spirit, and I became watchful and ready.
That night, as I stood next to his bed, Ryan's eye's were closed, and he was in his semi-comatose condition. But then he began to talk to me. Though his mouth was not forming the words, I heard his voice very cleary say to me, "Mom, do you remember the story you told me when I was little? About the time I was in heaven before I was born, and I was looking over heaven's walls, searching and searching until I saw this red-headed lady, and I said 'That's the one I want to call mom'?"
I knew immediately what he meant, but I said nothing.
"Well, Mom, you almost had it right. Now go to the other side of the bed."
I hesitated, not knowing what exactly to do.
"Go ahead," he said. "Go to the other side of the bed."
I thought I was losing my mind. Was I hearing things? The voice was so much like Ryan's, but sounded gentle and resonant and perhaps more mature.
Again he spoke. "Go to the other side of the bed, Mom, please."
I said, "Okay, Ryan, I am going to the other side of the bed now."
I walked around to the other side, and Ryan continued. "Mom, when you told me that story, you almost had it right. This is how it truly was. A long, long time ago, in a far away place, you and I had a conversation. You were looking up to me and and asking how you could get to where I was—to my spiritual level—and I told you it could be done, but that it would be very painful. I told you it would be through the death of a child. I told you I would come and be your child if you would take care of me through my illness. At that time, Mom, we made a pact together, though we would not remember our conversation or our pact. We would start our lives together without remembering, and we would either grow and learn from this experience or be destined to live it in another way."
To my mind's eye came the image of Ryan's spirit. His appearance to me was like an old sage. Then he told me the most profound thing.
He told me, "Now this is what I want you to remember while you are here on earth. Whenever you are going to make an important life-changing choice or judgment, you should always go to the other of the bed to get a different perspective. Especially when it has to do with a judgment on a fellow human." He went on to tell me the most important thing is to love and to let myself be loved. To open up my heart to the joy of living, for this was nourishment for my soul and life to my spirit. He told me he would always be with me and that this understanding would take time. I would come to that understanding as I opened myself to the process of grieving. I would have to learn how to let go of the flesh of him and allow the spirit of him to express itself to me.
Ryan died soon after, and I am only just now coming to that place in my grieving for him where I can begin to let him go. I miss my little boy so much. It is hard to let him go, but I want that full understanding, I truly do, and I have tried with everything inside me to survive this most painful event in my life: the death of my little boy, Ryan.
As I look back now to that night and to all the days and nights of Ryan's life, I see him for what he truly is: my greatest teacher. I want with everything inside me to honor my experience with Ryan, then to help others with it. Ryan's life was not in vain. He had a purpose and a mission here on earth to help me to grow. And I want to share in his mission and help others to grow. Maybe my story will help a grieving parent who can't put their feelings to words, or who just needs to hear someone validate what they are going through. To them I say, "I understand how you feel, and be assured you are not alone. Alone in your grief, yes, but not alone in your experience."
I believe the experience of a parent's loss can bring growth and wisdom to the soul which only losing a child can bring. It is deep and sacred growth, planned for and carried out from a time before coming here. All it takes to grasp this is to walk around to other side of the bed and consider it with new understanding.

Liz Weyhknecht

 

 

 
   
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