Eight years ago, on a cold and dreary November day, Rob and I picked Zach up from school to take him to our local hospital for an MRI. We wanted to find out why he was still having pain in his left hip after two months of physical therapy. We thought it was likely something simple, like a torn hip flexor. But it wasn’t simple. It was a tumor.
The word “tumor,” spoken aloud by one doctor, changed our lives completely and forever.
I think about that phrase – our lives changed completely and forever, and I ask myself, is it true? Did our lives change completely and forever? Were there some parts of life that escaped the numbing touch of cancer? After four and a half years without Zach, I’ve decided the answer is no.
Much about our lives looks the same as it did before: I am still married to Rob, we still live in the same house, practice our faith and prefer comfy nights at home by the fire rather than nights on the town. But it’s all different now; not like the complete devastation of a nuclear bomb going off, but more like a sumptuous looking Thanksgiving dinner with each dish missing an essential flavor.
Our lives are like pumpkin pie without nutmeg, green bean casserole without the fried onions on top and Champagne without bubbles. It’s not that we don’t have sparks of joy in life anymore – we most certainly do. And, we probably experience them more than most people do. It’s just that we’re missing the key ingredient that made “the Sobiechs” the Sobiechs. Our lives were sweeter when Zach was here.
But, I’m okay with reminders that life is different now. I’m okay with sitting down at the dinner table with my family knowing that our essential ingredient, Zach, is missing, because it is in the missing that he feels closest now.
I never want to lose the ache of losing him because that is how I care for Zach now.
After Zach died, a friend shared that he believes the strong ache of missing a loved one means the person’s soul is close. I think he is right.
So when I feel that deep, painful ache of missing Zach, I thank him for remembering his mom and for coming to visit.
And I let him know that the tears are okay, because if I cannot have the sweetness of his physical presence anymore, I will gladly take the saltiness of his spiritual visits.