I miss my little boy. The fact that I write that should come as no surprise to anyone, but my reason for writing that may… You see there are times where I do not miss Rees. – now before you stop reading and turn off your computer in disgust, bear with me. – There are times where I forget that Rees is gone. Times where my life is just as it ever was and my days are completely indiscernible from the days prior to his death. These times are few and far between, yet I have noticed their duration apparently burgeons on a daily basis. With each passing day I notice the constant pain that followed immediately after Rees’ passing seems to yield, ever so slightly, to a peace that no longer seems alien to me. Unfortunately, that peace comes at a price… All of the sudden, out of nowhere, I am reminded that Rees is gone and I feel that pain all over again and I find myself missing my little man. It’s a pain that is indescribable and immeasurable. Every time it happens, I lose my little boy all over again. Every single time.
Nothing that I described is out of the ordinary for a parent that loses a child. I know this pain will be a lifelong one, and I realize that what I am going through now is all a part of the grieving process, whose very job it is to ensure that I can go on functioning and be a productive member of society. Even though I am aware of the process that grieving entails, I find it quite perplexing. The whole process seems paradoxical in that its designed to heal you by taking things from you… In the beginning of the process you find yourself holding on to everything about your lost loved one’s life in a mad scramble reminiscent of someone trying to save a family heirloom from a fire. Your brain overloads trying to process everything that person was in a vain hope to place it all in a safe location so that you may recall it at a later date. As the days pass you start to wonder if you are already forgetting parts of their life with you as you face little moments where you accept the fact they are no longer here. As time continues its inevitable march you stop worrying about holding onto those little things mostly because you start to fear you are forgetting the bigger picture. Meanwhile, at the same time you find yourself going a greater amount of time without remembering or thinking about your loved one’s absence. Before you know it, your life sets into a new routine in which that person is simply no longer a major part of your daily life, you accept it, and you enter what many call “The new normal”.
I hate the “New Normal”. For me, it means that my life is in a place where I am supposed to be able to function as I used to, and for the most part I do. The “new normal” is the place where your friends and family want you to be so that they no longer have to worry is he ok? When the new normal is reached I think most people assume your life is back on track and you are ready to move forward and all is well. The kid gloves come off and people expect that you are good to go. This is really the hardest time in the entire process. It is the time where the inner you wants to scream “NO! I AM NOT OK!”, with the outer you belying any such notion. It’s the time you find yourself crying for no reason in moments of solitude, and often times faking a smile to insulate those you care about from your pain. I often refer to this phenonomenon as “the hidden me” – as almost no one knows that you are going through it at the time. The end result of the “new normal” is that, in reality, a new YOU is made…
There definitely is a new me that came into existence on October 27th, 2012. This new me is less brash, confident and social. The new me has fears the old me would have laughed off as needless worries. Recent events in my life which should elicit utter joy, have instead filled me a dread fueled by my knowledge that life can change in a nanosecond – and not everything can be fixed. To my old self, the new me living in this “new normal” would appear to be a gross aberration of what I once was: broken and not quite “right”. It’s like a shattered porcelain doll that once glued back together takes up the same physical space and form yet always feels broken due to all the cracks in its visage. I often wonder how much my cracks are showing to those around me…
Not everything about the new me is a negative change however. The events that transpired after Rees’ passing, both good and bad, placed me on the course I find myself on today. I knew early on in this process that Samantha and I needed to do something positive lest we be consumed by our grief and despair. I had the guidance of those who lost children before me to help steer my course and give me guidance. I was aware of the challenges and keen to avoid the pitfalls. It seems that, almost universally, parents who lose a child either transcend the loss with something positive or they fall into the abyss and never recover. It is almost as if there is literally no middle ground in this situation. The loss either allows you to magnify your virtues or your vices, never anything in-between. I knew the course I had to follow and I believe that path was set by Rees.
I used to suffer from terrible night-terrors for years. Night after night I would awaken from my sleep with an overwhelming fear of the presence of something “else” that was in the room watching me. I never could place my finger on what it was, but in my stupefied state I seemed to have an awareness of it that faded when true consciousness returned to me. Sam used to ask me what it was, and I never could explain it – almost like it was something that was just at the edge of my recollection. Regardless of what the presence was (Sam used to joke it was the aliens from my homeworld that wanted me back), the feeling I got from it was always the same: I did not succeed in what I was supposed to do and my time was nearing an end. Often times I would awaken so startled from this experience I would jump out of bed and turn the lights on screaming unintelligibly back at “it”. Sam would always calm me down and ease me back to sleep. Of and on this happened for more than 10 years.
It all stopped a week after Rees died. The last night terror I had was that night. As I recall it started the same way, but this time there was a difference. There was no nebulous presence, it was clear this time who it was: Rees. He wasn’t my 22 month old Rees though, it was his spirit, his essence – his soul that was talking to me. I remember seeing lights darting across my bedroom ceiling like electrical signals zipping across a circuit board. I never saw Rees, I just “heard” him and saw these lights. I remember reaching my hands up towards the ceiling at them, and I recall the message loud and clear: “You know your path now, you know what you have to do.” The commotion woke Sam up and she grabbed my outstretched arms and put them down. She started talking me down like she always did, but this time I was calm. This time I was at peace. I told her what I saw, and that what we had talked about in regards to ReesSpecht life was the path we needed to follow and Rees wanted us to. She never questioned it and though I know those lights and his voice was not there in the room for her to see, it was for me. I don’t care if my brain was making all of that up – it was real to me and it was an affirmation of what we were about to do.
I am not a religous man. I was raised Catholic but I do not practice any religion at all anymore. I admit that at one point in my life I was a devout Atheist. I did not believe in anything greater than that which I could observe. That all started to change after my father passed away (Read Goodbye to see why). Whatever doubt I had about something greater than me has since vaporized in the wake of Rees’ passing. Too many things have occurred that I can not write off as merely coincidence. I believe that Rees was put here by a higher power to change our lives. I truly, deeply believe it. I don’t care if people think I am crazy for that thought. I believe it, it’s what drives my wife and I to do what we do, and in the end that is all that matters.
A couple of weeks ago we received a really horrible message from someone who accused me of trying to capitalize off of Rees’ death. She admonished my wife and I for doing what we do merely for a little boy “Who toddled off and drowned”. To her, our loss was nothing compared to the loss that others have gone through and we seemingly had no right to do what we were doing because we simply did not experience the magnitude of loss that she apparently thought we needed to start something like this. To her, and anyone else who would question why we are doing this, my answer is simple: We believe it is what we need to do. I believe in ReesSpecht Life and the kindness it promotes without any sense of doubt whatsoever because I feel there is something higher telling me this is what I was meant to do. I don’t have anything empirical that backs this up, but then again that is precisely what faith is all about. I may have my doubts about whether or not we will achieve our goals, but that is healthy. Doubt fuels the fire of success. Without doubt there would be nothing to strive for, because all would guaranteed. My new normal has me in a place where I am a changed man with doubt; the difference is that doubt is countered by a faith a I never had before. I miss my little boy… but I thank him every night for the faith he gave me that we can make this a better world, one Rees’ Piece at a time.