Matt wanted to live to be a teenager. He died a month after his thirteenth birthday. The day after his birthday party, I was in the living room sitting on the floor listening to a song I was planning to have at his funeral. I was crying a waterfall of tears when he unexpectedly entered the room. He could no longer walk without aid when we left the house, but he was still able to slowly navigate the hall by supporting himself with the wall.

He looked at me and asked, “What are you doing?”

I was caught red handed. “I’m crying.”

“Why?” he stoically asked.

What was I to say? What I did say was, “This song makes me cry.”

He continued his slow march into the kitchen. “Then don’t listen to it.”

Matt no longer had the energy to cry, but there was a time when the tears flowed, and gratefully, they flowed freely.

Matt was 9 when his mother died a death he knew would be his. He spent his days at school, in cub scouts and on a baseball team. We spent our nights playing video games, watching cartoons and snuggling.

Every night from the time he came home from the intensive care a month after his birth Lydia and I would read a book to him before bedtime. By this time, Matt would always choose a particular book on Greek Mythology. We would read a chapter out of the book in the top bunk of his bunk bed; then I would turn off the light and close the door behind me.

I stood by the door every night, waiting.

First there was a sniffle.

Still waiting.

Then, there was the change in his breathing. Waiting a little more. Then the full flow of tears began.

I would walk by the light of the hallway over the scattered toys and back into the top bunk, squeeze down beside him and share his pillow.

On this particular night, I lay next to his tears, sat in silence and stroked his hair. Occasionally he would glance over, but only our eyes said anything.

I finally asked, “What are you thinking?” Was he crying for his mother? Was he crying for his brother who had died? Was he crying because he was going to die? Matt had so many reasons to cry.

One this night his response was like a howl. “I miss Mama.”

As I stroked his hair, I softly responded, “I miss Mama, too.”

Nothing much was left to say that night. I continued to stroke his hair and when the last tear slid down his cheek, more from exhaustion than conclusion, he fell asleep. I would as quietly as possible descend the ladder, weave my way through the toys to the hallway and stop to make sure his breathing was the rhythm of sleep. Then I would go to my bed and cry some more.

There have been several comments on this page that say, “I can’t stop crying.”

I hope I never stop crying. I prefer to cry alone, but over the years I’ve broken down on airplanes, in restaurants, walking on city streets and especially by the ocean’s edge. My tears have ranged from small drops that leave a slight film over my eyes to raging level five river rapids.

I am so grateful for the ability to cry. For every tear that has been shaped by my heart within the source of my sorrow finds its way into the source of my healing. I have ridden every tear wherever it’s led me. What I have found is that each tear always leads me into the Expanse. Even though my tears can often hurt, they can always heal.

Why would anybody say to another, “Don’t cry.” Have you ever seen what happens to a river that has been dammed? In my Afterloss all waters run free. I fear stagnation, not the perpetual flow of emotions that have carved this beautiful inner landscape that I get to live in.

When I am really in deep sorrow and reflection one of my most comforting reminders of this gift of life are the clouds that float by above me. When my body is too exhausted to move I lay down and watch the clouds pass. I’ve done this since I was a small child.

Today, the clouds remind me of the transitory nature of life. They symbolize the creativity of nature and the harmonization of land and sky. Clouds hold so many things for me, but one of their most precious gifts is that of life-giving rain.

I hope I never stop crying.

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