I know that I’ll see Christiano again. This is what I tell myself over and over. But, let me be honest; it doesn’t help much; and mothers out there can relate. Do we not miss our children when they have their first overnight or when we spend a weekend away with our husbands? Do we not long to see them and to embrace them after mere hours spent apart? Sometimes the words I tell myself just aren’t enough to ease the pain. How can I stop yearning for someone so wonderfully charming and charismatic? Someone who knows me better than anyone else? Someone who has seen me at my best, and at my worst, but never let it change his love and devotion for me? I miss him terribly. I miss his serene composure and his sense of humor. I miss his passion for life and love for people. When he and I would laugh, we would laugh with our whole selves; we held nothing back. It was same when we would argue; we went all in – or all out. At times we would argue to the point of tears , but both of us both knew each others love. It was on the forefront of every raging battle, and boy, did we have lots of those. Christiano and I shared such a tight bond. We fought hard, but we loved even harder. He knew when I needed a hug, and I knew when he needed to talk. Looking back I can recount the hugs and replay the long talks. I pray that I will never forget our times, for they were so rich.
Once in a while, I would convince Christiano to come to the grocery store with me on a Saturday. It never took much more than a promise from me to let him select the snacks – this always meant we were coming home with Oreos. We would walk and shop the store, chit-chatting our way up and down the aisles. Everyone who knew Christiano would testify that he was a talker, just like his momma. But, he was also a phenomenal listener, who taught me how to be better one. Our communication skills were tried, stretched, learned and mastered; only to be tried, stretched and learned again and again. He grew me in every way. (Raising your first teenager will do that to you.) We would get done shopping fairly quickly because the talking seemed to help it go by faster; but it also usually caused us to forget where we parked. We’d laugh about it while searching the lot because we knew that ‘this was us.’ Once we found the car, we would pack it up and make our very short drive home, Christiano talking all the while. I’d give responses when I felt solicited for them, but I really liked just listening. The ride always seemed to end too quickly, for both of us. We truly enjoyed each others company and could have kept talking for hours.
About a year ago, after one of our shopping trips, we pulled into the driveway. Just as I put the car in park, Christiano reached out, put his hand on my shoulder and looked me in the eyes. He said, ‘Mom, please don’t get out yet. Can we just stay and talk some more? I love this one on one time with you.’ My first thought was of my other three children and my hungry husband, who were awaiting our arrival and our grocery goods. But, the thought in my heart said, ‘Stay, Shannon. He won’t want always want this.’ I listened to my heart, and I’m so glad I did. He talked and talked for another twenty minutes. He talked about life and his future, he talked about God, his friends, music and volleyball; and I loved every single minute of it. When he was finished sharing his heart, he hugged me, thanked me, and told me how much he valued his time alone with me. Thankfully, we had many more long talks – just the two of us. We talked at the backyard picnic table, we talked in his bedroom, we talked on the phone, and we continued to talk in the car. We had our most recent talk in the McDonald’s parking lot. We were there for hours. I miss our talks and how he made me feel. He saw me in an untainted light, even though I made many mistakes, he still made me feel like a good person. He was proud of me and saw the best in me on my worst days. Regretfully, I can’t say that I always chose to see the best in him. Sometimes, I think I was too hard on him because I wanted so much for him. I wanted him to be better than me, but looking back now, I see that he already was. Who knew that I would learn more from him than he could ever have learned from me?
Did he know?
Gabriella gave me the sweetest compliment the other day while we were in the car together. She said, ‘Mom, I think Christiano was like you.’ It made my heart smile for the first time in a while. Other people have said this same thing to me; friends, family, my husband – even a friend who went on the missions trip to Guatemala – they have all told me that he and I are, pretty much, the same person. But, it was so special coming from Gabriella. She means what she says and says what she means. That is just one of the many things that I love about her. She was referencing friendship, and how he was loved by so many, and she said I was like him. What an honor to share traits with such a beautiful young man, who touched so many people and left his profound imprint of love on a cruel and unjust world.
But, I miss him. Each and every day, as my heartache increases, my connection with this here and now life decreases. So, I’m left to feel both losses; the loss of my son and the loss of myself. Sometimes, I worry that I will lose the ‘me’ that is the most like him. He could always see the ‘me’ that I couldn’t see. Will I ever again be the ‘me’ that he wants me to be? Will I be the ‘me’ that loves others the way he did, and the way I did once? Or, is that part of ‘me’ gone until I meet my son again? Who is the ‘me’ that he saw? Is it me, after all? Who was the ‘me’ that enabled me to see all that I saw in Christiano? That enabled ‘me’ to love him at all times? Was it ever really ‘me’ at all?
I’m reminded of this verse in John 15.
‘I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire.’
Then later in verse 9, Jesus says,
‘I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love.’
That’s it. Christiano and I could be anywhere, but we were always ‘at home’ with one another. God is the creator of the love that Christiano and I shared, because God IS Love. And, isn’t that what Christ told us to do? To love others as He has loved us? It is Christ in ‘me,’ then. He is in ‘me,’ and He shines through me. After all, that was who the ‘me’ was in Christiano. That is what drew everyone to him, whether we knew it or not. That was what he and I had in common because God is what connected us from the start. He formed Christiano in my womb; He called me to be his mother; and He caused us to share the great love that we have. So, I can never really lose what Christiano and I shared because it is constant. This brings me comfort in this here and now life; even if for a moment. So, this time I will take a step forward, and maybe in an hour, I will take another hard fall back. Just as Christiano did in this life, I will walk and I will talk, I will rise and I will fall, I will laugh and I will cry. But, I will take our constant with me; in every triumph and every failure, I will take our Jesus.