No Memory, No Pain?

Today a harsh reality was verbalized.

My 5 year old son, Caleb, and I were in the car on our way to the barber shop. He needed a fresh cut for his Pre-K graduation tomorrow. For weeks he’s been talking about how “es-sited” he is about this day! But for Mommy, this is one of those difficult momentous occasions that is sure to have me heavy-hearted and in tears at some point.

As we are driving, my son is in his own world and consumed by his thoughts when he blurts out, “Mommy I was in your tummy when Daddy died, right?”

Silence. Then tears. I’m absolutely crushed.

You see, I talk about my husband in the present tense with my son, family, even friends. It comes naturally because he is still, and always will be a part of our lives. Caleb has even adopted this way of speaking. When someone asks about his daddy, he speaks of him very matter-of-factly and tells them how he is "awesome at basketball, tall with lots of tattoos, and lives in heaven!"

But in this moment, that question makes my heart fall to my stomach because I realize that my son has no memory of his dad. I don’t know why this is surprising, I know kids don’t have a first memory until three or four. Maybe I was hoping the memories I talked about with Caleb would stir up, or even implant, a memory he could hold onto.

In an instant, my mind was flooded with thoughts, but after wiping the tears I answer, “No baby, you were two and a half when Daddy died. You were with him everyday.”  

Once, someone told me it is better that Caleb doesn't have any memories of his dad, because then he won't really feel the pain of losing him. He will of course experience other pain associated with this loss and his dad's absence, but he won't have the same pain that the rest of us are experiencing. Richard was an amazing father, and witnessing a man pour out unconditional love for his children is an incredible image to hold onto. So it's deeply heartbreaking that our son will never be able to experience how much his dad loves him or even have a memory tied to that love.

A moment later I ask, “Caleb, do you remember Daddy at all?”

“No”, he answers truthfully.

Reality bites.