Losing Bradley

| January 10, 2017 | 1 Comment

I will always think of 2016 as the worst year in my life. This is the year I lost my child, Bradley. Yes, he was a grown man, balding and starting to show some wrinkles, but I saw none of that. To me he was always my child, my first born. He is what made me a mother, what made his dad and me parents. We were young, probably too young, yet with his birth, it was parents we became.

Thoughts of him as a baby are still with me. This beautiful boy with big soulful eyes and a sweet loving disposition made parenting easy. I could put him in a playpen with his favorite toys around him and a baby cookie in his hand and he would be content for hours. Rarely did he cry, rarely was in angry. He was such a good child, that we were not prepared for the coming of his brother, known lovingly as a “handful.”

As he grew, Brad continued to bring us joy, a good student, a tolerant brother and of course madly in love with his mommy. And then he became a teen. Teenage years are not easy. Mom is no longer your love, rather mom is a policeman with the nerve to give you rules and restrictions and all the boundaries teenagers fight against. Easygoing Brad became a son we did not recognize. There were experiments with alcohol and pot, sneaking out at night or sneaking a girlfriend in and all those things we worry about as parents.

But time marches on, no matter the circumstances. As he evolved from the nightmare teen to a more mature young adult, the need that most teens have to rebel changed to a need to find himself as an adult. From the time he was little he wanted to be a teacher, to work with young children. His education put him on that career path and he found joy as an elementary school teacher. He met his wife, a fellow teacher, they married and had two children of their own and all was well in the world, for a time that is.

Illness has no parameters. It does not pick and choose. When I was CEO of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, I saw that first hand. I saw the horror of life threatening illness consume a child and the family that loved them so. Many of these children died very young.

I have tried to center on that and take solace knowing I had my son for so long compared to the families I met. But solace is not sufficient. The loss of a child is not natural, no matter their age. It is a trick life plays on us.

We are not supposed to lose a child, it is them who live longer, not us. It is just not right. When he got ill he suffered a great deal. We all use the adage, well at least he’s not in pain any more. That is an intellectual tool to justify the loss. I say that all the time. I know that it is true, yet it does little to lessen the grief. Grief means I will never ever see him again, holidays will always be one person short, and looking at photos will always be painful. But that is life and living means dying is closer. We are mere mortals.

Good things happened in 2016 too. I finished a play I am writing with fellow writers, I directed a few shows. I have a new person in my life whose company I truly enjoy. My grandkids are all healthy and although I have a few new conditions that limit my diet, I am healthy too. I try to concentrate on what I have rather than on what I have lost, but it is not easy. It has only been four months. The pain is still new. Still raw. I miss him. I know that time heals. I am waiting for that time to come.

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  1. avatar Nancy Wilkins-Diehr says:

    Ilene,

    I very much enjoy your columns and thought it was particularly courageous to write about the loss of your son. Thank you for giving us such inspiring articles to read in the Sentinel.

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