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The heartbreaking cry of pain.

November 21, 2014

When I was about 12 years old, our dog caught a rabbit in the backyard. I remember being in the kitchen washing dishes that night when my mom broke into a sprint and ran outside. We had a Brittany Spaniel, never trained to hunt but hunting was in his bloodline. Rusty saw, he pounced and did what his instincts led him to do. My mother said the sound of the cry from the rabbit stopped her heart and made her run to try to help. Ironically I was in my own world, obviously with white noise in my head that kept me from being in tune to the sound that made a mother race to act. Or maybe I just didn’t have those ears yet. As I have aged and as I have taken on the honor of motherhood I have come to understand that God created the mother’s heart to love to maximum levels, but at the repercussion to also break at that parallel.

My beloved husband has been a part of this chaos and craziness that I call “life” for exactly four years now and has repeatedly said that he has experienced more death with me than he has in his entire life. (Not sure he is saying that is a good thing or something he is ok with but we won’t ask him that.) He has accompanied me to many a wake and funeral because, just to be plain simple, he is amazing that way. He has seen that I can be solid strong to support those who need my faith, compassion, and love, but he has also witnessed that the one thing that brings me to immediate breaking point is witnessing the sound of pain, the cry of a loved one left behind. The heartbreaking sound of a pain that is above any pain; the pain a person has never experienced and never believes they can survive. Witnessing the loved one follow a casket down the aisle, sit in front of the body or remains of their child, or holding hands with them while in the same room with a body that was all too recently full of life and now being readied for the grave. Living with them the painful moments of watching them offer their last goodbye.

I looked over the pictures today in the funeral home. I saw photos of a beautiful vibrant and full of life young boy who grew into an active, happy, sports enthusiast and vibrant young man, and then I turned to my right and looked at his ashes. At that very same moment I heard the same exact cry I had heard last Saturday when I met his grieving parents. That cry brought immediate tears to my eyes. I turned to the sofa in front of his memorial and saw mom sitting alone weeping. I went and sat next to her and she simply collapsed into my arms and sobbed. “I miss him so very much.”
We both cried.

As hard as I tried to focus on her and the father’s pain I saw my child in those pictures and saw myself on the sofa and I felt this pain for her that every single mother would feel and then my memory took me to that moment that my mom sprinted out of the back door at the sound of pain. (I know weird. But I am as I am.) I find it amazing how the human brain works. You can move though days on end with no recollection of an incident in your past and then one sight, one sound can launch a cinematic re-inaction that knocks you on your bum.

Once again tonight I realized that very often you can only offer sympathy, but sometimes someone’s pain, the sound and sights of that pain, wrecks pure and heartfelt empathy from you because you appreciate that agony and you fear from the depths of your heart of wearing those shoes, understanding that you would walk through that storm only in your very worst nightmare.

I drove home and couldn’t shake the sound of her cries from my head. I thought of all of the parents who recently have buried their children, in our small corner of the world 5 families that I personally know of. Though they are “adults” they were and will remain a child lost, a child buried by a parent: something that simply should not be.

I spoke to a mom today who buried two children in their early 20s. She is one of the most amazing women I have ever met. I asked her what I could offer to these parents. She said “Tell them they will feel they can not survive this, but they can and they will and they will be stronger from it.”

At times when I am called to meet a friend in their darkest hour they are always caught off guard when I tell them that I do not believe in the cliché that “God doesn’t give you anything that you can’t handle.” There are life blows that you will face that are more than YOU on your own can handle, but that is when God places support columns around you in the form of friends, family, and persons of faith and compassion who hold you up and help to walk you through the storm.

As I sat in the back of room of the funeral home today and watched the outpouring of support and love for this family I prayed that each and every person there realized that they had a responsibility, as we all do when someone we love and care about faces a life blow and tragic loss, to not appear and disappear but rather stay present and powerful in love to walk them through the sounds, the silence, the reality and this most difficult chapter of pain.

Tonight at the top of my prayers will be these and all parents who have and are to bury their child. May peace, love, comfort and strength surround them and may we who are within earshot range of the sound, sight and knowledge of their pain be moved to accompany them and stand present in their agony knowing we will need the same empathy, God forbid, we ever find ourselves in that identical nightmare moving us to emit that heart stopping cry.

Wishing you peace in your every step,

Terri O’Neill-Borders

Hope and Friendship Foundation
721 Hickory St, Lemont, IL 60439
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
Proverbs 31: 8-9


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