Dear Justin,

Thirty-two years ago your dad and I were in the labor and delivery wing of the hospital. Your due date was March 27th and you were prompt in keeping to the schedule. We still had seven hours of labor to go, but we didn’t know that, we just knew we could not wait to meet you.

I filled this week to the brim, made sure each day was packed from dawn to midnight. I thought maybe this year I could outrun your birthday, maybe it would be easier, just another day in March. But my heart remembers. It is doing that flutter thing where it beats so hard and adrenaline pumps through my body, my throat aches from tears that need to be shed.

I did the math, then had to do it again counting on my fingers. You died September 2010, this is the seventh birthday without you. It makes my head hurt because I can’t figure that out, it does not compute. You would be thirty-two tomorrow. I try to picture in my mind’s eye what you would look like and I get nothing, it is like a dense fog rolls in and I can’t see.

I have a wisp of a dream from last week. I must have had a moment with both you and your grandmother, the veil between worlds thins at night. I only have muted images, a sense more than a vision. But I woke up feeling whole. For thirty seconds that awful feeling of something not quite right was gone. Then I remembered.

Your dad and I went to Longwood Gardens to catch the blue poppies in bloom. This was a hard growing season for the poppies and many were showing signs of stress, they turn purple when stressed. Their bloom season draws huge crowds and many voiced their disappointment in the poppies lack of large blooms and vigor this year. I saw only their courage. They bloom and have to stay in one place, they cannot move of their own volition to a cooler room. They endure the heat and the crowds. They have a constant stream of visitors gathering in their space. I don’t believe they are immune to the disappointment of the onlookers in their appearance. Their little blue heads tip down as if to hide their faces.

Your dad and I sat on a bench with them for a long time. We watched crowds come and go. Their life is so short, they bloom for ten to fourteen days. I look at them and I think of you. Your life was short, I see you in the ethereal blue petals of the poppies. Their petals are delicate and thin and they allow light to shine through them.

My heart has settled down, I remind myself to let those grief waves move through me. Grief whips up into a towering wave in minutes and there is nothing to do but ride through the fury. Then the waves get smaller and smaller. I have learned to hold space for myself, to not sit in judgement of missing you, longing for you, but to nurture my fluttering heart, it remembers beating for two.

Happy Birthday Justin, you are my first and last thought, and every thought in between.
Love, Mom


18 thoughts on “That Flutter Heart Thing

  1. Dear Terri,
    Our oldest daughter was killed in a scooter accident while vacationing in Taiwan on April 2, 2013. Next Sunday we will have been without her on this earth for four years. On March 16 we marked what would have been her 23rd birthday. I call this my season of grief–I began to feel it in my body this year on March 1. 16 days until her birthday; another 17 days until April 2– 33 days. Throughout the year I have the waves of grief you write about that come and go, but at this time it is always more intense. I have read your blog for several years now and I appreciate your honesty about your feelings, no matter what they are. Thank you for being part of my online support–it has helped me through the rough times especially. Blessings to you –Ellen

    • Dear Ellen,
      Thank you so much for your note and thank you for sharing your daughter with me. I am humbled and honored to be part of your journey, thank you for your company as well. Thinking of you and holding you close in thought as you walk this season of grief. I will remember you especially on April 2nd, four years is a minute in grief years, be good to you. Love, Terri

  2. What a lovely love letter to your son. Thinking of you always, love Aunt Pat

    • I love you too Aunt Pat! You are never far from my thoughts. I would call, but I turn into such a sniffling mess when I hear your voice.

  3. Thinking wishful thoughts of Justin on his birthday. So hard to explain but you find the words that manage to come close. I love, ” But I woke up feeling whole. For thirty seconds that awful feeling of something not quite right was gone.” For people who don’t know, that’s our whole life. We just learn to work with it. Hoping tomorrow comes fast for you. ❤ Annika

    • Thank you Annika. I am so sorry I missed Kirsten’s anniversary date. I feel like I lost the entire month of March. I think you often.

  4. My heavy season of grief begins on my b-day (7/21) and runs through Amy’s devastation day (8/4) to her birthday (8/12) straight until the end of the month of August. This year i ended that season with a surprise cancer diagnosis. As I fight this disease, I am reminded how much I want to live to be here for my loved ones on this side of the veil. Never in all my writings have I written that I want to die. Terri, I think of you often. Amy would have been 32 this August but instead is forever 27. Remembering Justin — Amy’s friend on the other side of the veil. Sending you love.

    • Dearest Dee,
      Thank you for writing, I know every minute of energy is precious. I see Amy every morning when I sit down at my desk. I think of you often too Dee, I continue to hold you close in thought and prayer. Sending you all my love, Terri

  5. I really love this post. It is real and true of Justin and of a mothers heart…” it remembers beating for two”. Love to all the Jacksons especially today.

    • Thank you Liz for your unwavering companionship on this journey. We love you too.

  6. Dear Terri,
    Many of your words in the “The Flutter Heart Thing” resonated with me. I unwillingly joined you on your grief journey 16 months ago after losing my 33 year old son, and only child. I, too, find/found myself wanting to “outrun” things in my daily existence (it’s no longer a life) such as the heartache, the gut-wrenching nausea, the insomnia, the trembling, and the wailing….which sounds like the mournful cries of a wounded animal. In this raw time of new nothing computes. Thank you for your heartfelt words that touched my heart as only one bereaved mother can express to another. I hope your Justin and my Kyle have found each other beyond the veil. Sending love and blessings – Jean

    • Dear Jean,
      I am so very sorry for the loss of your son, Kyle. I am sitting here remembering what it like at sixteen months, so raw, life bleeding out of me, and the pain. Nausea was and still is a near constant companion. Be good to you, be gentle and kind to you. I am here if you want to talk. I too hope Justin and Kyle have met, I believe our children find each other. May there be some gentle moments today. Love, Terri

  7. Oh Terri. I’ve been holding space, waiting for a quiet moment to read this post. It is stunning in its emotional breadth and sheer writing beauty. The flutter heart, riding the waves of grief, those fleeting poppies, your eternal love for dear Justin. ❤️

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