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.
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 wasto my spiritual
leveland 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
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.