Spread Over Everything

“There is spread over everything a vague sense of wrongness. . . of something amiss.”

– C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

I wake up thinking about my dead son. I go to sleep thinking about my dead son. Every thought, decision, and reaction spread throughout each day are all doused in the soul numbing reality that my son Charlie is dead.  It doesn’t matter where I am, who I am with, or what I am doing; Charlie not being with me is all that I’m thinking about.  Some people try to tell me that time heals all wounds.  None of these people have felt their child die in their arms.

Do you know what I miss the most?  His shoes being left in the middle of the front hallway.  His Spiderman underwear on the floor of the bathroom when I go take a shower before work.  When he would pronounce the letter “L” like it was a “W” and correct himself immediately.  “NOT wwwoo-otion, Daddy.  Lllloo-tion.”  When we’d fight about me not letting him climb on top of the toilet to reach the sink to wash his hands after he went potty.  I miss showing him off at people’s parties and at restaurants.  I miss when he would drop the “f-bomb” in perfect context- totally my influence– and then put himself into a timeout- totally Vanessa’s influence.  When he’d follow behind me with his lawnmower to, “make sure he got the spots I missed.”  When he’d beg me to jump off that fucking diving board.

Intellectually, I understand how “time heals all wounds” but my emotions will not allow that train of thought.  And truthfully, I don’t want to ever get “there.”  The only thing time has done is take me farther away from Charlie and that is not what I want.  I miss the feel of his sinewy body wrapped around me as I held him.  He would gently dig his heels into me and hold onto my thumb as I carried him around.  I miss the sound of his raspy and melodic voice.  I miss his penetrating brown eyes that were filled with love and wonder.  There is so much more about him that I miss but fear I’ve already forgotten.  Those “15 second” interactions that made up our life together have slowly and unwantedly faded from my memory.

When I started this blog my original intention was to share stories about Charlie and his beautiful life.  He was such a great kid with a pure heart.  He was tender, gentle, and loving.  Instead of giving his sports’ class coach a high five like everyone else, Charlie had to give him a hug too.  He loved to sing songs, read books, and do puzzles.  Char could sing his ABC’s before he was two and his vocabulary rivaled that of most 4 year olds.  He was an engagd and protective older brother.  Always quick to get a diaper, bottle or pacifier to stop Danny from, “ccwwwying.  Not ccwwwying, Daddy.  Cccrryying.”  I remember one time walking in on him trying to feed Danny his yogurt because, “Danno told me he was hungry so I gave him my yogurt.”  He shared, took his turn, and always said his “please and thank-yous.”  He would look at other kids who yelled, “Mine!”, like they were crazy.  (Full disclosure:  Danno yells, “mine.”  A lot.  And hits people.  And throws things at their faces.  “The Shark” cannot be stopped.  He can only sometimes be contained.)

There will be no more memories made with Charlie.  We will always be “less one” no matter what we’re doing.  Vacations, eating out, and going to the zoo.  Going on walks, doing yard work, and going to the pool.  Responding to e-vites, signing thank you cards, and sending future holiday cards.  (We didn’t send one out last year.  We weren’t having a Happy Holiday season so why fake it?)  We’re a family of five physically represented by only four.  Why send out a card with a picture of an incomplete family on it?

What most people may think provides me a respite from my grief is what actually makes me hurt even more- living children.  Especially mine.  I can’t count the amount of times I’ve begun to call Danny by Charlie’s name.  I can’t look at Danny without seeing Charlie.  My stomach hits the floor when I walk into a room and see Dan because he looks exactly like Charlie.  I’ll catch a quick glimpse of Dan and there’s a brief instance when I seriously think I’m looking at Charlie.  A chill spreads over my body as I feel that void in my soul swallow me whole.

It always feels like something is amiss.  Nothing ever feels right or complete.  I’ve read that amputees can feel pain in their amputated limbs.  This sensation is called “phantom limb”.  Instead of having a phantom limb, I have a phantom soul.  I am constantly hurting.  It does not matter what I am doing or who I am with, Charlie’s absence is what I am thinking about.  There is no hiding from it.  There is no disguising it. There is no sugar-coating it.  Charlie is dead.  He is not here.  This little boy filled with love and promise is gone forever and all I’m left with are memories, pictures, and videos.  And pain.  And guilt.  And anger.  And sadness.

The worst kind of loss is the death of your child.  Your hopes and plans for the future get smashed.  The constant and unrelenting pain of their absence is tangible.  The sleepless nights and depression take an emotional, mental and physical toll on you and those that love you.  You feel alone, isolated and hopeless.  You feel broken and incomplete.  There is spread over everything a vague sense of wrongness.  “This I learned without wanting.  Holding my brow,” One Sunday Morning by Wilco.

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7 thoughts on “Spread Over Everything

  1. Your words always speak to me Bryan. I feel your heartache through each pain staking description.

    I remember clearly when I lost Hannah. She was supposed to be safe and protected in my body. She wasn’t. For us, they call them “phantom kicks”. Just like she was still there and nothing short of torture.

    I think of your family often and always keep you in my prayers. I know it does nothing to ease your pain. I know nothing can change the fact that your beautiful Charlie is not here, but I do pray for “Godwinks” for you. I do pray He holds you up and would allow you to even just once know that though not physically, Charlie is still here with you.

  2. “None of these people have felt their child die in their arms.” BINGO!!!

    As much as I try to communicate things to people (even my wife), Colin died with his head on my chest. He died in the very spot that was supposed to be a the safest haven on Earth. He died in a way that haunts me every second of every day. He died on his father’s chest, in his father’s care, and no one can ever understand the horror of picking up a lifeless child who should be alive for every reason except for the one that no one can explain. So, the “time heals all wounds” crap is just that…a big stinking pile. I am left with a dead child, no explanation and that same family of 5 with 4 living representatives. Simple math puts that at a 20% loss. I tell people, try losing 20% of your body weight, try taking a 20% pay cut, try living on 20% less. All of these thing can be painfully done in their own way. Next I tell them…try ripping 20% of your heart and soul out and then talk to me about how time heals all wounds. That pain never goes away. You just become a better actor over time.

  3. I read your thoughts and emotions through Kristen Spunders facebook and I cry everytime. I have 3 boys raising them on my own. 16, 13 and 6. I get angry at the teenagers smart mouth and frustrated at the “normal” teenage stuff. Then…….. I read your post and feel your pain. If it means anything you help me a lot. Just to appreciate them!!!!!!! Every minute I have with them because you just never know. Thank you. I pray for you and your family all time. I feel like I know Charlie through your amazing decriptions. Thank you. You’re an amazing dad!

  4. Time might soften things but it heals nothing. I am coming to hate cliches more and more.

    I cry when I look at pictures, videos, and memories and realize that there will never be new ones. Sometimes, I take my old pictures and edit them; cropping them, lightening them, and adding effects to make them look different. It’s the only way I will ever have “new” ones again.

  5. Bryan, today I went to google and I typed in “you were the tiniest thing I ever decided to put my whole life into” and did not find what I was looking for but I found your blog. So in reality, I think I really did find what I was looking for after all. First I want to say thank you for writing about your Charlie the way that you have. I feel like I know Charlie and I know for sure I would have loved to have known him. I am so very sorry that Charlie passed. My first born son, Chad, passed 13 days after Charlie, on February 5, 2011. I am hoping Chad and Charlie are having some fun together. My Chad was 37 but also died very suddenly…………..but he loved kids and they loved him so I would like to think they have connected in some way.

    I so understand many of the things you write about, especially the stupid ass comments that well meaning people say to you. Seriously, one of my best friends said to me last night……It is getting easier right???? No one knows…………no one can even imagine………what it is like to have your child leave this world. It is not the natural order of life.

    As I watched the video’s of you and Vanessa and Charlie and Danno and Reese I was so comforted to see how you and Vanessa interacted with Charlie in his 2 years and 10 months. It was so incredibly apparent that both of you loved that little boy with all you had. What a lucky boy Charlie was to have you as his parents.

    And so when I typed in “you were the tiniest thing I ever decided to put my whole life into” I think it was a little Charlie “wink” that sent me to your blog as I have so been feeling like there is just no one who understands how I feel. I am going to send all the positive energy I can out into this universe for you and your beautiful family. Love and Hugs, Gayle

  6. Although it’s beyond hard, please continue to write. Your words and honesty mean a lot, and you are helping people in the same situation.

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