Sitting on the porch, I hear what used to be a comforting sound to me….the chirp of crickets on a warm summer evening. As I sat there rocking in the chair, that sound no longer comforted me…it actually made me feel isolated, forsaken, and afflicted. I find that to be true of many things that once brought me comfort. Life has changed so much, and it’s like I’m having to learn how to redefine what normal and peace means. Things that once brought me peace now leave my heart feeling discontent and distressed. I find myself, often times, in these formerly cheerful and relaxing situations, fighting anxiety and I guess what could be considered panic attacks. My new “normal” has become extremely abnormal and leaves me with feelings and emotions that constantly swirl inside of me like a storm. My new “normal” has transformed and restructured my family. It has forced me to question everything that I once knew and understood. It has renewed some friendships, while terminating others. It has made me feel as if I am living in a completely different world. Not only have I lost my son, but I have lost life as I once knew it…life with him…and now I have to live life without him…and things will never be the same. That is my new normal…and I’m trying to learn to function in that new world.
Thinking about those crickets chirping makes me think of Aaron…He HATED crickets. They weren’t soothing to him at all…especially if one got in the house at night. I remember one night in particular. Aaron had woken up and heard a cricket chirping in the house. He searched relentlessly until he found it. If it took him 45 minutes to find it…he wouldn’t give up until he had conquered the chirping bandit. I’m not sure what it was about the sound of a cricket that would rouse Aaron from a deep sleep, but it was one thing that could get him up and out of the bed quicker than anything else. I guess I should have learned to use that in some way in the mornings when it came to getting him out of bed for school, because he was the hardest kid in the world to wake up. As a child, Aaron would often fall asleep before I could get him in the tub. So, I would take him to the bathroom and give him a bath and would NEVER wake up….not even once. He was the heaviest sleeper I had ever seen….but a cricket….that had the ability to startle him awake. Now, the sound of crickets hold a completely new meaning for me….they create an atmosphere of loss and loneliness…an atmosphere of sadness deep within my soul.
This dislike of crickets also makes me think of his disdain for bees. Bees were Aaron’s enemy from an early age. I remember the day that his fear of bees really started…Aaron was 3 and he was helping his dad in the yard. There was a patch of ground underneath some oak trees in our yard on which grass wouldn’t grow. In an effort to make the ground suitable for grass, Aaron and his dad were spreading lime. What none of us knew was that between those two oak trees was a hole in the ground that nested a swarm of yellow jackets. All I can remember is, hearing Aaron scream. I stepped out of the door and saw his dad carrying him with bees chasing and stinging them both. When they finally got in the house, there were still bees on Aaron…stinging him. I think Aaron was stung at least 4 to 5 times. It was horrible. After I got Aaron settled down and taken care of, his dad went outside and poured gasoline in the ground and burned the nest. We told Aaron about what his dad had done, thinking it would bring him comfort. With fear in his eyes, he looked at me and frantically said, “But momma, what if the bees go to heaven and sting Jesus?” He was almost hysterical with that though. We had to work hard to assure him that the bees would not be able to sting Jesus. It took some time, but we finally convinced him that Jesus would be ok….Such a caring heart from such an early age.
As I travel down this new path of “normalcy”, I am learning some things about life and being a parent. One of the most profound, I learned from a very wise friend. What is it you ask? What is this profound insight? Well, I was talking with a friend about raising my kids and some of the things I had tried to instill in them as I “raised” them. He looked at me and said, “Or have they raised you? What have they taught you??” I began to ponder on that thought and I realized that my kids have done as much to raise me as I have them….maybe even a little bit more. What is it that we can learn from our kids? Oh, there are so many things….and I know that we teach them many the things. I’m not suggesting that parenthood isn’t about teaching your children about life, values, and the beliefs you hold dear. But there are so many things that we can learn from them, if we would only open our eyes.
As I look back, I see that both Aaron and Taylor have taught me many things. One of the most important things that they taught me is to see others for who they are and not who we want or think them to be. I have watched both of them use a different lens with which to look at others. They learned to look at many through compassionate, non-judgmental eyes…unlike many of us who have judged others by what we see. These two have shown compassion to people who others would look at with disdain….sadly to say…that even I may have looked at with disdain. Their eyes of compassion allowed them to see the inner beauty of those around them and gave them a heart for those who are often forgotten and forsaken by others. I am proud to say that despite what I may or may not have taught them that they developed their own ability to see what many of us miss on a daily basis…that there are hurting people all around us…and they need compassion, empathy, and understanding.
The learning didn’t stop there…both of my kids were wise beyond my years, because they learned, at a young age to be themselves. Despite their anxiety at times in being different, they braved the social norm and followed their own path. Aaron chose to follow his own path in fashion…tie dye…he wore tie dye when no one else even gave it a thought. I remember one Facebook post in particular..”In a country bar with a tie dye shirt…I feel out-of-place.” In any photo, he could easily be picked out…he was the one with the boldest shirt. Taylor became and still is one who is confident in her own skin…comfortable with speaking her mind despite what others may think. She is bold and will not let others sway her stance once she has developed a strong belief. As they grew, both Aaron and Taylor learned to question when no one else did…they looked for a reason to reject the social norm just because others accepted the norm. They chose to be themselves and to be who they were. That takes bravery in a world where tolerance seems to be the message…but isn’t really reality when it comes to certain views. I am proud to say that they taught me to think differently and to examine my own thoughts instead of just blindly accepting social rule.
So while we may do many things to raise our kids…they do as much raising as we do. We just have to be willing to open our eyes to learn from them instead of thinking that we always have knowledge to impart to them. While we do have knowledge and experience to impart…they have innocence that doesn’t limit their thinking. Innocence that allows them to think innovatively and with a new perspective…and sometimes that’s just what we need.
Thank you, Aaron and Taylor, for raising your mom to think more compassionately for others…Thank you for raising me to strive to be me…no matter what others may think. I continue to learn from Aaron’s legacy and from Taylor’s example…you two are my heros in a world that is not the normal I once knew. For it is by Aaron’s legacy and Taylor’s example that I will somehow be raised and will find the strength to exist in my new “abnormal” world.