Gray Skies and Sunshine

“Your body is not weak for responding to triggers. It’s remembering.” – Nate Postlethwait

I couldn’t breathe. My hands trembled. My body tingled as though tiny bugs were crawling along every inch of my arms and legs. As I walked through the house, the fiery sensation slowly traveled from my stomach, flowing up into my throat finally hitting my burning face. I had never stepped foot in this house before, but my emotions couldn’t handle being there. 

As my girlfriends and I toured our rental for the week, the hits kept coming. On the front porch, in the living room, the kitchen, the hallway, and even my bedroom. I flinched with each word I laid eyes on, scrambling to turn in the other direction, forcing myself not to break down. 

“Stay strong, Amy. You can handle this,” I told myself, but my body shivered, telling me I couldn’t.

As we stepped outside on the second-story porch, it was the last straw. 

“You Are My Sunshine” screamed at me from the large bolster pillow.

“Girls, I can’t do this,” I cried.

I didn’t want to bring the mood down and ruin the week, but I was in the middle of a mild panic attack. 

My lifelong friends knew. I sang that song to Jackson a lot, but it’s also the last song I sang to him as he lay on the hospital bed lifeless. 

“You are my sunshine. My only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are gray.

You’ll never know dear, how much I love you. Please don’t take my sunshine away.”

I pleaded and begged God in those final moments. “Please don’t take my sunshine away. Please, God, I can’t live without Jackson. Don’t let this be happening.

But as the doctor knelt down next to me uttering unthinkable words, I knew. My skies would forever be tainted gray.

My plea wasn’t answered. Not that day. Not the way I so desperately wanted it to be. And even nine years later, four simple words strung together immediately take me back to those final moments of sheer desperation and grief. And it’s all too much for my heart to handle. 

Maybe it’s sadness; perhaps it’s jealousy. Maybe I’m still a little mad at the world that my prayers weren’t answered. Whatever it is, to this day, those words burn to my core.

This little trip I was on with my best friends was supposed to be a respite for all of us, and I was ruining it. Or so I felt at that moment. But if there were ever best friends, these girls are the epitome of that phrase. They swooped in, immediately taking action to ease my pain. They darted through each room with the flip of a pillow, erasing those words wherever they appeared. No hesitations; no questions asked. As I apologized and cried, they cried, too, and assured me saying sorry wasn’t necessary. 

I’m blessed to have friends that run to the problem. And while they can’t fix it, they will move mountains to support me and never make me feel less because of the emotions that come with losing a child, even almost a decade later. 

It’s hard to believe how long it’s been since I last held my baby boy. Since I’ve wrapped my arms around him and smelled his sweet head while consoling him. For years Jackson’s Angel Day has brought immense sadness. Reliving every moment of the day my son died. Every detail. Everything I would change. Every thought that ran through my mind in those final moments. I craved to be alone. Drowning in my own thoughts. Ignoring the onslaught of love surrounding me. I couldn’t handle it. It wasn’t fair. But as the years have passed, the heaviness of what occurred lingers and has shifted from deep depression to deep reflection.

I’ve grown stronger and instead of just surviving, I’m thriving these days, so it’s hard when something triggers me and I break. But what I’m learning on this journey is that thriving doesn’t look like perfection. It’s not a pain-free life filled with joy 100 percent of the time, but it’s understanding you can weave the joy and pain together. You can sit in the sadness but still smile at the goodness before you. Because a few weekends ago was a perfect example that something so simple and unexpected can trigger an emotional meltdown. But, thankfully, I have people surrounding me that choose to sit alongside me in the pain and pick me up when they know it’s time. And I can be grateful to walk through life carrying this pain because I have lost immensely, but oh, how I have loved and been loved even more.