I’m sure everyone has had a moment in their life where they come across a mother who has lost a child and certain things about that mother grabbed their attention, whether it be how good she looked, or how bad; how friendly, or how sad. There is just something that mesmerizes you. Maybe not, maybe the generalization of everyone is a little much, but it has always been that way for me. I remember every mother I have ever met who has lost a child. They all had one thing in common to me, one thing that…for lack of a better word “weirded” me out, and that’s how they chose to memorialize their children in their homes.
I remember the first mother I ran across as a child. She was in her seventies and had lost two of her sons as young boys in a car accident. I didn’t know this for a long time. Nothing she did was less than normal to me. Just a cute old lady that lived across the street from a family member. She would let me inside now and then for cookies or a chat. One day, for some reason I’m not sure of, I went upstairs. I must have been curious. I remember opening doors to different bedrooms and then finally opening one that was clearly a boys room. Two unmade twin beds, clothes and toys scattered about. It had old-fashioned wallpaper and decor. It literally looked like two boys had just left the house for school but thirty years ago. All I thought was how how exciting it was that she had a room full of toys. So like any little girl, I started to play. When the old lady came upstairs, I will never forget her face as she opened the door and saw me playing. She looked horrified and immediately tearful. She kindly asked me to go home and I did. I told my family member the story and it was then that she decided to tell me about the lady losing her two young boys. I didn’t understand as a child. I found it creepy that she would have their room that way after all the years that had passed. I never went there again; I looked at her house as almost haunted. As I got older, I thought about her from time to time and actually told this story to friends when we talked about horrific accidents involving children.
My friend Shawn dated a guy named Ben when we were in our twenties. His aunt lived very close to him and I went with Shawn to visit her once. She decorated a lot like I do, pictures everywhere, so naturally I looked. I noticed one thing in particular about the hundreds of pictures she had up. There were quite a few of a teenage boy. He was good looking, someone I would have been interested in if we had gone to high school together. They wouldn’t have been odd to me except for the fact that they were pictures most people replaced with newer ones. One was a high school picture, you know the cheesy ones with the color background you could choose yourself. A prom picture standing next to a car, nothing I would deem frame-worthy. They all looked old, from another decade, not as polished and clear as the ones you see now. There were also more pictures of him on her wall than of any other person. As we were leaving, I asked Shawn about it and she had said that he was their son who had died in a car accident as a teenager. I remember feeling sick to my stomach. How awful. I pictured them getting that call. You can’t help it, your mind just goes to the horror of it all. To the event that took a completely healthy person out of this world. How one call can change your life forever….
In my twenties, I lived with my ex next door to his brother Jason and his wife Angie. Angie had been married before and had two daughters from a previous marriage. Her youngest, Autumn had died at the age of three or four, I’m not sure. When she first moved in, she did what every woman would do. She tried her best to make that bachelor pad a home. I remember walking into a house that was usually very gloomy and dingy to find a house fully decorated. It’s amazing what a woman’s touch can do to a home. As I walked into the front room, I saw a chest in the corner, and on top of it were pictures of Autumn and toys she must have loved…there was also a medal for donating her organs. Like the room of the two young boys I told you about earlier, it made me feel uneasy. I didn’t know if I should look at it or not. If I should ask about her or not. I tried my hardest not to, but at the same time my curiosity killed me. I only looked closely if Angie wasn’t there. Almost like I didn’t want to get caught looking. Like I was doing something wrong or invading her privacy somehow. I never once asked her about Autumn or about her things.
I look back on all these women and the one thing they all had in common was heartbreak. Although they smiled and carried on conversations, it almost seemed monotone or rehearsed. I realize now that although this was probably an accurate observation, it also had a lot to do with how I viewed them after learning about their tragedies. Every time I saw them or spoke to them, I always thought of what they had been through. I searched their faces as I talked to them, looking for something; I’m not quite sure what. I also wondered why they would do the things they did in their homes. To me it seemed bizarre. Didn’t they know this made people feel uneasy?
Now that I am in this club, I completely understand. Their “things” are all they had left of their children. They carry their smell, your memories. Moms in general have a hard time parting with these things. I have watched them getting clothes and toys ready for garage sales and such, opening boxes with the inevitable “ooh’s” and “aah’s” as they reached in and pulled out an outfit or toy they remember their child playing with or wearing. Now just imagine if your child died. These “things” now become your everything. They are tangible proof that your child was here. They are all you have physically left of them to touch and hold. I remember that first night, the day Nash died. I thought very strongly about putting all of his clothes and toys in bed with me. I remember walking into his nursery and holding all of these things as close to me as possible. I remember certain nights laying on his nursery floor curled up with all of his blankets. These “things” become your everything. His nursery still remains, for the most part, untouched. I go in every night before bed and touch all of his toys and talk to him. I walk around the room and look at every inch. My memories are so vivid when I’m in there and I can’t imagine a time when I will ever feel comfortable changing it. One of my worst fears in life is a fire or tornado…his nursery and things being gone. I can’t imagine and I don’t want to. If there is even a tornado watch, Nash’s urn goes with me to the basement.
So many people made amazing things for us after Nash died. Todd’s cousins put some of our favorite pictures of Nash in a large frame. My friend Misty put two of our favorite pictures of Nash on canvas for us, so did my sister-in-law Amanda and her friend Beth. My sister Melissa gave me a beautiful glass rose that I wasn’t quite sure what to do with but loved. I knew I wanted them all up somewhere in our home. For whatever reason, I wanted them all together. It bothered me to separate them. I decided I wanted an area. Somewhere in my house with all of his pictures. A space I could go and sit and feel closer to him. I started hanging these pictures in the corner of our bedroom. I bought a shelf and placed the rose and Nash’s urn on top of it. Then I put the rocker there and beside that an end table, lamp and another picture of Nash. I told my friend Jessie about it and she made me a sign for the corner that says “The Nash Nook.” When Crue wakes up in the middle of the night, it’s where I rock him back to sleep. I don’t know if it’s the color of the pictures or that he sees a smiling baby, but he stares and smiles as he looks over my shoulder at them. I go to The Nash Nook to cry, to smile, to write, to rock Crue, to feel closer to Nash. It’s my own little peace of heaven here on earth.
If I knew now what I didn’t know then, I wouldn’t have shied away from these things. I would have asked those mothers about their children. If they didn’t want you to ask, they wouldn’t put those things out. If its a hard day and too painful to talk about, they won’t, but I know they would be grateful that you asked. That you wanted to know about their child. It’s scary and uncomfortable, I understand that for sure, and its also a gamble. I have heard that some people find it impossible to talk about their angel. I think for the most part though, there are more that want to. I know for me, just hearing Nash’s name out of someone else’s mouth makes me smile. If they cry, cry with them; know that they are crying because they are not used to people asking. They are used to people being too afraid. Know that you may be the first person in a long time they have even talked about their angel with. You may be exactly what they need. So when you see a room, pictures, or even toys of someone’s angel, know that these “things” are all they have left from a happier time.