Witnessing the arrival of spring

February 23, 2019

Chelsea, Shawn and Ryan

Chelsea and Ryan on our way back from Hilton Head Island

 "You don't get through it, it doesn't get better, it just gets different."

I used to hate February, after all, my son died in February, and my father died in February. The shortest month of the year and I had to hold my breath just to get through it. 

But the cold and damp of winter pairs well with grief, the drab grey exterior matching the turmoil of grief’s interior.  And although winter felt fitting for grief, spring felt like a betrayal. My heart can summon up that spring over 25 years ago where sadness and anger rocked with me on the front porch swing as I scribbled my sorrow in tear stained journals.

Spring was just another reminder of how life goes on, the burst of nature in tiny details were one more nudge to remind me that I was the only one sitting still. Tears stung my eyes as I listened to the worlds chatter while I sat unable to move. Birds singing, flowers blooming, even the green of the grass played a role in my sadness.

This year, for the first time, I did a pay it forward to acknowledge Ryan’s death. Pay it forward has always been about celebrating Ryan’s birth, but this year I realized that actually it has always been about remembering Ryan. He has been gone for 5 times the years that he lived; yet there are days when I can still hear his giggles like it was yesterday.

Ryan was a sweet, silly, shy little boy that loved coloring, memory games and Nintendo. We watched Aladdin, Jungle book and Fern Gully so often I can still, to this day, sing all the songs of each movie.

He made us laugh with silly songs he made up; he made us smile with his caring nature and the stories shared by his preschool teacher of how his calming influence helped his schoolmates.

For years, he and I were a team when shopping. We would search the grocery isles patiently looking for any of the items we needed. Once Chelsea learned to talk, she became our voice and stopped anyone walking by, and spoke for us all.  After losing Ryan, everything was painful, and on most days, even the rows of cereal at the grocery store were too much to bear.

Loss doesn’t go away, time doesn’t make it better, the only thing time does is teach us how to live with the emptiness, and that is a troubled path to navigate. But grief is not a license to be angry or mean, it is a means of growth through pain and you can emerge as a teacher of love.

I don’t know today what it would be like to have my son as a grown man, I only know of that 5-year-old boy. Memories take the helm on this roller coaster of life and loss, like the flicker of a candle both illuminating and destructive.

I write about Ryan, my grief and the sorting of these mixed up emotions to help myself, hopefully help others, and maybe even inspire someone who is grieving on their front porch swing witnessing the arrival of spring. 


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  • February 26, 2019 @ 5:42 AM EST
    By Tina   (Unraveling My Heart the Write Way)
    I don't always get to hear from the recipients and I am still filled with joy. But there is something special about learning and knowing how Ryan's memory can go on with others... thank you for sharing and happy birthday to your girls!
  • February 25, 2019 @ 9:28 PM EST
    By Marissa
    Hi Tina,

    We were the recipients of your generous gift in Ryan's name this year (2/23/19). For us, February 23rd signifies the birth date of our twin girls. On 2/23/19, they turned 6 years old and were able to celebrate with the gorgeous (and delicious!) cupcakes from Cupcake a Day. I am always so grateful to celebrate another birthday with my girls, when I had originally thought I might not be blessed with children, but your gift was such a wonderful reminder how valuable life truly is. I just wanted you to know that your gift in memory of Ryan has truly touched our family, and we will continue to pay it forward. Your family is in our prayers.

    Best Regards,

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