On December 6, the Eastern Church celebrates the feast of St. Nicholas. Our parish holds a St. Nicholas celebration on the Sunday before St. Nicholas day. It is always a good time and seeing the joy on the face of the kids is powerful. This was the first St. Nicholas day that Ryan knew that the person in the bishop outfit wasn’t the real St. Nicholas. It was also the first St. Nicholas day without his mom.
The start of the St. Nicholas day weekend didn’t go so good. I had a voicemail from school at 8:30am on Friday. When I listened to it, Ryan was asking for other numbers to reach his Dad. I called his teacher and she explained that Ryan was having a bad day, curled up in a ball on the playground and that he only wanted to talk to me. She called back a few minutes later and Ryan was on the phone. He told me he was sad because his friends were asking about his grandparents from his Mom. He knows they were not good people and that he was sad that they were mean to her. He went on to say that he will never see or hear his Mom again and that made him sad. We talked about that, he asked me to tell him a funny story about Theresa and he went back to class.
When he got home that night we talked about the day and he asked to read the blog that I had kept during Theresa’s journey. I had reactivated it to download the website for archiving, so I let him read it. I asked him to read it from oldest to newest and he did. When he finished, the tears and snot were flying. He said some of the same things he said on April 17th. It’s not fair that Mom won’t be there to see me graduate high school, graduate college, start an engineering company, get married and be a grandma. After he settled down a bit he asked me to take him to Phoenix to see his Mom. Saturday was going to be too busy, so I said Sunday would work best.
After church on Sunday we drove to Phoenix and he asked if we could stop and get some flowers. He chose pink, I chose tulips as they were Theresa’s favorite. When we got to the columbarium, we went over to the St. Nicholas section and he spent about 5 minutes holding the flowers, placing his hand on the marker and talking to his Mom. He walked around the pathway a few times, each time returning to the St. Nicholas section and staring at Theresa’s marker. He noticed that she was in the St. Nicholas section and said isn’t it neat that we came up here after celebrating St. Nicholas day at church. That was a special moment and will probably become an annual tradition. We left a prayer card of St. Michael that was given to me by a nurse in July. On the back is a prayer for law enforcement and it seemed fitting to leave that along with the byzantine cross that I put on her marker on the same day I got the prayer card.
He saw a bench and asked if we could talk. When we sat down he said, “Isn’t it special that Mom didn’t want to leave us. That she told Father she wasn’t at peace with leaving us”. I said that she didn’t want to leave us and given the choice, she would never had left. He looked at me and asked “If it was you lying in the bed instead of Mom, would you have wanted to leave?” I told him my response would have been the same as Theresa’s. I would have never chosen to leave them alone. He said I believe that Mom will be a saint someday. I told him she will probably never be a named saint, but that any just spirit brought to perfection is a saint. I believe with all my being that Theresa is or will be brought to perfection in the Kingdom. He told me that he understands why it happened. I asked him about that and he said that we don’t know why God chose to take Mom, but it is his choice to give or take life and that we won’t understand until it is our turn. There is a wisdom in my little boy that far surpasses most adults walking the earth. How many people are mired in sadness or grief at the loss of someone to death, divorce or any other reason. They can’t function, they won’t get out of bed. Yet, here is my 10 year old boy explaining to me the Divine Kingship of God. After a bit, we got back in the car and drove home.
Tuesday was the feast day of St. Nicholas. I went out to the gym for some exercise and when I returned home I found a written page in Ryan’s journal sitting on my desk. Before bed he wrote: “Dear Log, This is a rough part of my life. (The first Christmas without mom.) These words pain me, even though they are true. Brian and Breelynn are constantly yakking about what they are going to get their moms. I wish I could join them. At least I still have Dad. There is a line in a Keith Urban song that says, “You and me gonna be all right”. I feel that is true for me and dad. I did not tell him this, but I say this to him: I love you. These were his words, not something he was told to write, not something he copied from a book or page. These came straight from the heart.
I went into his room and he was already falling asleep. I laid down with him for a few minutes and told him, “You’re right. You and me are gonna be alright…I love you Ryan” He stirred, woke up for a minute and gave me a big smile. He remembered that it was St. Nicholas day and sat his shoes out. St. Nicholas brought him a Hershey bar, some M&M’s and a beautiful orchid with Theresa’s holy card.