Today you would be 30 years old. Thirty years old. I can’t believe it. I wonder who you would have become, if you’d be married, if you’d have children of your own. You were still just a kid, just becoming an adult. You had kid dreams of what you were going to do, like get out of the Army, move to Miami and be a DJ at night and live on the beach. Of course, you’d throw in, “I’ll go to school during the day” to keep me satisfied.
But you had grown up dreams, too. You never told me why, and I knew there was something going on, but after your squad was switched your whole attitude changed. You were believing in your life-long dreams. You were going to stay in the Army, switch your MOS after deployment and go to DLI, go to college and become a lawyer, just like you planned since you were 4-years-old. But, you couldn’t resist talking about, especially to me, your other big plan to move to Miami.
Everyone talks about how much fun you were, how wild and crazy you were, the life of every party. Everyone talks about how you made everything you could into a party, how you were never serious. Life is made up of moments, and you were determined to create as many moments as you could. Being serious was for later. But you didn’t get later. Of all the regrets to have, not having the chance to be serious is not a bad one.
A lot of the moms I know regret their son not having had enough moments, regretted how much time their son spent being serious and working for a future they didn’t get to live. That is one thing I don’t have to regret. As much as I’m sad you didn’t get a future, at least you had a past. You lived life on your terms, did what you wanted to do in each and every moment regardless of what anyone else had to say, most of all me. You drove me crazy, defied me and life’s conventions and expectations at every turn, but always with a smile.
You know I was beyond proud of you. I was in awe of you since the day you were born. I would just look at you and be amazed that I got to be your mom. Yes, plenty of times I’d look at you and see your limitless potential and fight with you to get you to be your best self, to be who you could be. I thank God I was able to tell you, that you knew, that no matter what you always knew, your mom loved you more than life itself.
I knew you could do and be anything you wanted and that sometimes created an unfair burden on you. Sometimes, you complained, I loved you too much and focused too much on your future and didn’t just let you be the wild and crazy child. I thank God that you lived long enough to mature enough to know it was always because I loved and admired and saw so much in you. My regrets are all about not the life you lived, my regrets are all about holding out the bright shiny future I saw in front of you and letting that blind me to the process of living for the moment.
Another regret a lot of moms I know struggle with is something every parent feels. As a parent, we try our best, to be the best we can be for our child. We all fail. We all make mistakes. You forgave me for all my mistakes and failures. I don’t have to live with the regret of not knowing that you understood I wasn’t perfect, far from it, but you forgave me and loved me anyway. Most parents have to wait until their child has children of their own, and even then, may not ever hear it directly. At the ripe old age of 18, you somehow had the maturity and perspective to understand this, and the heart to make sure you told me. And you told me, again and again.
The day you enlisted I knew that I was no longer the conductor of your life directing the notes you would play. You were about to start playing a piece of music I didn’t know. All I could do was watch and listen, of course as your biggest fan sitting front row and center. Almost nine years ago, the music stopped. This morning, I realized I can still hear the music in my memory, a song that wasn’t finished. I want more than anything to hear the next movement, even just one more note. I have no idea what it would be, just as I couldn’t have imagined what the song you were playing sounded like before you played it. There were so many themes, so many harmonies both subtle and bold, and at times, there was even a strong counter melody that made the primary melody hard to detect.
For days now I’ve been crying at the thought that you would be thirty years old today. We call it anticipatory grief and it’s been so loud in my heart I haven’t been able to hear anything else. Last night I went to sleep talking to you, begging you to help me through today. This morning I woke up and my heart is quieter. I am still sad, and even crying, but it is just a little softer and once again I’m amazed and in awe of you.
This morning, I could hear that melody this is your heart, the heart that cared for everyone else, that was always there for others. It is fun and bright and full of life, joy and more than a few surprisingly mischievous notes. Yes, the sad countermelody is still playing and will never stop, but I can hear the theme of the music again. I won’t ever know what the next movement would sound like, except that it would be amazing to hear. The world is a little quieter without your song, but I can still hear it’s echo.