I could do a million things to try and distract myself from thoughts of you, but I wouldn’t be successful. As consistently as I think about your sisters, who are alive and well, I also think of you. You are my son. Your death didn’t change that.
It did rob me of the opportunity to live a lifetime with you, to teach you about life, to watch you reflect upon the world what your dad and I could have taught you. But your death, oh, how much I have learned from it, from you. I reflect upon the world the lessons you have taught me.
I know you’re there…right there, next to me, in front of me, asleep with me, comforting me when I cry, calming me when I think your sisters have died too. You’re this presence that I feel often. And when I don’t feel you, somehow, you remind me that you’re near.
Yesterday at la vista, Zoe and I were walking around and I was introducing her to her grandpa Augie and great grandparents. I kneeled at your grave and through choked back tears, I whispered, “Where are you , Leo?” And I kept on walking with Zoe.
As I approached the road, this young boy, around 10 or 12, wearing black jeans and a black hoodie with some smart ass comment disguised as the Jack Daniels logo, who was walking through the cemetery toward his home tells me how cute my baby is. He said he remembers when his brother was that small. This boy, who looked like he was up to no good, reached out to me. I wasn’t sure why.
Maybe he wanted me to write him off based on his looks so he could justify some questionable choices. Maybe he felt vulnerable seeing a mom and being alone…like he could relax and be himself for a minute. Maybe he thought I looked vulnerable and wanted to take advantage of that or comfort me. I didn’t know why he reached out; regardless, I offered him some dignified human connection.
I asked how old his brother is now. This boy stopped in his tracks and I knew we connected. He wasn’t expecting me to talk to him or to care about his family but that one simple question lit up his face. He told me his brother was three now. I commented on how crazy three year olds can be and we shared a little laugh.
Then, his face grew concerned. I think he realized why I was at la vista. He asked me if I have a child buried nearby and I said yes, I do. He was saddened and said, “you know, my mom had a baby when she was 17 and she died, my sister, she died. Then my mom had me at 19.” With a smile, I informed him that he was a rainbow baby and he agreed with me. I couldn’t help but stare in wonder at this tender hearted kid who knew what a rainbow baby was. I told him that he would never understand completely what a true blessing he is to his mom. Tears filled his eyes and he breathed “yeah, I am.”
Then he asked me about my baby. I told him about you, about your 26 days, about SIDS, and he put his hands in his pockets and said “that is so sad.” I agreed. Then, I turned Zoe to face him and I said, here is my blessing. And as tears streamed down his cheeks he said, “God bless you. Seriously. God bless you and your family.” I said it back and, feeling weak, I sat on your bench and cried. I looked up a minute later to see the boy by the fence getting ready to go home and I watched him stop to turn and look back at us before he left.
I hugged Zoe tight, left a kiss for you on your grave, and I could feel, deep in my being, your energy vibrating. I asked where you were, and you brought me a boy whose life was changed by our story.
Thank you. Thank you for those moments of pure love and human connection.