My inclination was to always shield my children from the subject of "death". I felt it was too "scary" of a subject to talk about with them. I titled this Eyes Wide Shut because that's exactly how I was with the subject of death. My eyes were open to the fact that it existed, but I always shut out the subject with my children. I by no means expect all parents to feel the same way I do. It IS a scary subject. Since we lost our precious Collin, my kids have been exposed to so much. They see their mother crying daily-sometimes I'm in hysterics. They see their parents' anger. They see us praying. They hear us talking about "what ifs" and "how do we go on?" The scariest of all...they saw their still, lifeless brother in a baby casket.
When Collin passed away one of our worries was how do we explain this to our children? They saw mommy pregnant and now I've gone to the hospital to have the baby, but he won't be coming home. Their expereince with death has only been with the over-fed goldfish that my mother in law insists on giving them. What do we tell them? How do we explain this? The first thing we did was AVOID it altogether. Manny didn't come home on that Monday night until they were in bed. He left the next day before them, as to not have to tell them anything. (Again, eyes were shut) We kept them home from school on that Tuesday with fear that someone might accidently tell them something about Collin. We didn't know how to handle the situation. What parent would?? Not only did we have to worry about our devastation, but our childrens' emotional well being.
I was released from the hospital the day after Collin was stillborn. We immediately went to the funeral home and planned his funeral. Again, we wanted to shield the kids from seeing him. I was determined that he was going to be buried the same day as his funeral service. But, God works in HIS way. He had another plan. He gave us time to be with Collin at the funeral home. We were able to hold him and touch him for several days. It gave us time to decide that it WAS right for the kids to see him. Because they've never been exposed to or talked to about death, this was SCARY for them. I'll admit, I never thought that I could hold something that no longer had its spirit. But when it's your child....your shut eyes open VERY wide!!! I wanted to look at every inch of his perfect body. I wanted to kiss him all over. And I did!
Cade and Caleb looked at him from afar. Chloe touched him and later held him. We took pictures (which I'm eternally grateful for now) with him. I sometimes feel we didn't take enough of him!!! Death now had a face-their little brother.
Collin's service and burial was the first experience with death that my kids have been exposed to. It now leaves them with the question "wow, if Collin can die, can I?" Chloe asked me that question as we walked through the cemetery yesterday. In the past, my answer would have been "oh Chloe, don't worry about things like that. That won't happen for MANY years" Today my answer is "we never know what the future holds for us. We hope to have a long life here on Earth, but the truth is we never know. We need to appreciate every second we have here. And our future is certain that we will meet Collin again and experience the GREATEST love and happiness that we've ever known-in Heaven".
I've now started REALLY talking to my kids about the importance of living every moment and appreciating thier life. It's something I'm struggling to do at the moment. I know Collin is in a happy place, but the selfish side of me wants him here with us. Now as part of my kids' summer routine, we go visit the cemetery at least three times a week. We walk around and fix flowers on other's graves. We talk about proper etiquette at a cemetery-don't ever walk across graves. We look at dates and talk about the people's lives that are buried at Ft. Sam. We notice how many are children, taken too soon. We look at others who have served our country bravely. Somehow, even with death all around us, it's a peaceful place.
Losing Collin isn't a blessing, but the lessons he is teaching us are profound. I can no longer say that my family's EYES are WIDE SHUT....we live with death daily and all that it entails. But, we also live with the promise that we will someday meet our son in Heaven.
We love you Collin. We miss you every second of every day.