Mason was quite possibly the most high maintenance baby who ever existed. The sleep strikes, the incessant screaming, the crying until he threw up, the irrational tantrums when he woke from naps, the insistence on being held every waking moment... He was a grumpy, fussy baby. He refused the pacifier. He was not a child ever content to sit in a stroller or lay on a play mat.
Some weekends, my parents would come visit and my dad's sole purpose was to hold Mason and preserve my sanity. Poppa had the magic touch. He would hold him facing out and slowly walk laps through the house, gently swaying and rocking.
We may not have made it if it weren't for Poppa.
People with easy babies were quick with irritating advice. "Have you tried...?" "Oh, he needs...."
There is a little patch of dirt in my backyard, near the tree house, under the shade of a big tree that I often find myself staring at.
20 months ago, a little boy sat there with his collection of cars and drove them in hand-made tracks. By his face, I could see he was in a different world. A world with races and crashes and happy explosions.
He could sit there for hours. If I left him alone with his schoolwork, I would come back to an empty room with a sharpened pencil laying on a blank math worksheet and no kindergartner in sight.
He was outside, with the cars he had already hidden in his pocket, waiting for an opportunity like this.
In his pocket, mixed along with his favorites was at least one undesirable car, with chipped paint or a broken wheel. This he kept on hand for his 2 year-old shadow. Next to Mason, slightly apart from the land he claimed, was Griffin, making engine noises, muffled by his pacifier, copying everything Mason did.
Each of my kids have unique requests of me at bedtime. When I say goodnight to them in their beds, one will ask for my specific prayer over something, one asks for a back rub. I get requests to “way down wiff me?” or “wock me in the wocking chair?”
Mason’s request, as the house was quieting and calming at the end of the day, tucked in his bed with is favorite blankie, was to sing a song together.
As loudly as we possibly could.
He liked it to be really quiet first and then we would start by screaming out, “Go tell it on the mountain…!” And after coughing a bit after yelling the loudest at “Jesus Christ is Born!” we would do his all time favorite song. “Mom, now let’s sing New Day Dawning.”
This morning, as I sat on my couch and watched the world come awake out my front window, I felt the weight of 17 months of grief.
I saw, for the first time, these beautiful purple flowers blooming in my front yard and realized I must have missed them last year. I heard happy birds and saw the promising signs of spring in front of me.
But then, I just so happened to glance at the clock at the exact minute, 17 months ago today, that Mason left this earth.
And I am instantly back in that room. His tiny little body, so full of laughter and naughtiness just hours before, lifeless in front of me.
Seventeen months completely evaporates and it feels like it just happened this morning. That it was just yesterday that I touched him, heard his little voice, watched him running at soccer practice, read books with him in the rocking chair.
On a special New Years trip to Mammoth in 2013, Anthony took Mason out for a "planning meeting" over candy and hot chocolate. He talked with him about setting goals for the year.
He was 5 years old. And we couldn't possibly imagine we were looking at our final months with him.
During their time together, Anthony encourage him with goals that would challenge him, develop character, help him to mature, and ultimately, to know God more.
Little did he know at the time, Mason would know God in perfect and beautiful ways in less than 10 months.
His goals that day contained a variety of things. Many things encouraged and directed by Anthony, such as finishing his Awana book and learning to play an instrument. But some of them were solely dreams of Mason's.
Out of nowhere, Mason added to the list, "And fly in a plane to India."
For Christmas two years ago, Mason asked for a matchbox car garage, a lego set with guns, and an American Girl doll.
(And yes, you better believe I would have bought my son a trendy, over-priced doll had I know it would be my last Christmas with him.)
It’s not that he actually loved dolls.
It was that he loved his sister. And she loved dolls. And she had just saved her money to buy her own American Girl doll and she absolutely loved everything about dolls at that moment.
So for Mason, having an American Girl doll was having something he could enjoy with his sister.
on the wall in my kitchen (which doubles as our homeschool room) there is a progression of first day of school pictures. 5 years. back to when ella was in kindergarten, all the kids together, mason with moose ears, griffin as a baby… all kinds of memories.
the first day of school for us is about pictures, donuts, and making a new “all about me” book.
one of my favorite pages of mason’s “all about me” book last year was what he wanted to do when he grew up:
(“give my son spankings” with a picture of him spanking his son)
even if i wanted to, i don’t possess enough imagination to make this stuff up. mason was a unique little bundle of sassiness and laughter.
the first day of school is also usually about hope and excitement and the anticipation of a new year.
the first day of school for me this year was not easy. yet another milestone day captured in photographs, missing a huge chunk of my heart.
i felt a lot like griffin.
he wanted donuts.
i wanted mason.
we don’t always get what we want...
as we wrap up our school year, i look at our unfinished math books and remaining spelling lessons and i can’t help but ask myself, “did we learn anything this year?”
it has obviously been the hardest season of my life. i think back to late august and of all the ideas I had for the school year… all the field trips and unit studies and planned projects we never began.
that was a lifetime ago. and this year ended up being far from ideal.
but sometimes, we don’t get ideal.
because sometimes your little brother dies unexpectedly on a sunday morning in september. and some days, your mom can barely breathe, let alone drill math facts or diagram sentences. and sometimes you don’t get to learn state history from an organized textbook. and unfortunately, you maybe won’t get to complete all the fun geography projects or science experiments your mom planned out in the lazy days of summer, back before unexpected tragedy hit us like a freight train and changed our perceived ideal into a much different and harsh reality.
and yet, in spite of the unmet expectations, i can see how God was with us every painful moment. and i can see that we learned.
i should be planning your birthday party about now. i should be hiding presents from your eager eyes, negotiating how many things we can cram into one day and how many friends can participate. i should be explaining why you can’t get grenades for birthday gifts and agreeing that you shouldn’t have to do schoolwork on your special day
i should be making yet another target run for balloons or streamers or the candy you want hidden in your cake. and while i often get overwhelmed trying to balance answering all of your demands with more realistic plans, i do truly enjoy making you feel special.
so obviously, there is a lot of emotion with this week. i can’t help but think about 7 years ago, waking up to contractions in the middle of the night, it becoming pretty obvious it was time to have a baby, calling a friend to come over and stay with our sleeping kids… and driving to the hospital (not nearly fast enough for me) and anticipating how much our world was about to change.
and then, watching the heartbeat monitors not recovering from contractions and listening to the nurses and doctor come rushing into my room time after time. that emergency c-section was scary. everyone moved so fast, so urgently...
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