does it get any easier?

Sigh. Here we are again. In this crappy month of April. On Jackson’s Angel Day. This is a hard day. And I don’t think this particular day will ever be anything but. This is the day, three years ago, that our lives changed. Forever. It’s the day my heart cracked wide open, never to fully heal. It’s the day I realized “it” could happen to me and that tomorrow is not promised to any of us.

I hate the month of April with every ounce of my being. And yet I love it with all my heart. How is it possible to feel such vastly different emotions about one thing? It’s a constant tug of war in my heart because it’s the month that took my son away from me, but it also is the month that gave him life. I have an immense sense of gratitude for having Jackson with us for his two short years. They were two of the best years of my life. And there is one thing that I know without a doubt. Every day here on earth, he was surrounded by love. It was palpable. That boy knew love. And he was, and still is, loved beyond measure.

Someone asked me the other day, “Does it get any easier?” I had to stop and think about it for a minute before I answered.

I don’t think easy is the right word. It still hurts like hell every day, but I have learned how to manage my grief and the pain. While the days aren’t nearly as hard to get through as they were in those first days, weeks, months and year without Jackson, I wouldn’t say they are easier; they’re just different. I don’t spend my days crying any more, but there isn’t an hour that I don’t think about him or miss him. There are still tears, but when they come, they are more like a leaky faucet and less of a torrential downpour. When the skies do open up and the rains come, I let them. Because with the tears come healing for me.

Two years ago our dear friends and neighbors gathered their resources and bought our family this beautiful tree in Jackson’s memory. I love this tree for so many reasons; it truly represents Jackson. It is here because of a lot of love from our friends, and Jackson was full of love. It’s a tall, strong tree, and my little boy was the strongest little fighter. And in the fall, our tree radiates bright orange and red just like Jackson’s colorful personality. I love this tree. I spend many days sitting in a chair by the window, looking out at it and thinking of my son.

Jackson's Tree

Jackson’s Tree

As I anticipated April’s arrival this year, I sat and stared out the window at his tree. I talked to Jackson as I normally do, and I thought how great it would be if I saw a bright red cardinal just sitting on one of the branches of his tree. For the next week and a half, every time I looked at the tree, I envisioned a cardinal gracefully sitting on a thin branch, never expecting anything more.

One morning last week, as I prepared to head off to a coffee shop to work on a few upcoming projects that will honor Jackson, a bright and beautiful red cardinal landed on Jackson’s tree! He sat on the bottom limb of Jackson’s tree and stayed for a few minutes as we all admired his beauty. DSC_1953After the cardinal left, my body was shaking. I know that was Jackson. I know it. My sweet boy orchestrated this cardinal’s visit for me. Sending me his love to help me get through this awful month on a morning I was solely focused on him.

I constantly walk this steady line of balancing the grief with the gratitude. The grief is hard but the gratitude gives me peace. Both will come in waves and wash over me, one at a time. And while today will be filled with more grief and hurt, I live in gratitude for the two years I had Jackson with me and in my arms. And I am grateful when his sweet kisses from Heaven arrive because they envelop me in his love, and that love carries me through the hardest days.