Momservation: No mother has a child to spare.
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I had been avoiding Facebook because sometimes you just get tired of too much information, feeling obligated to wish someone happy birthday, like their status, or act like you care about another picture of some fringe friend’s food.
But of course, I got sucked back in like I always do. Only this time the first status I saw didn’t make me roll my eyes or scroll quickly down in disinterest.
It clenched my heart and punched me in the gut, sick with sorrow for a virtual stranger I claimed as a friend on Facebook.
A girl I had last spoken to in high school or maybe a reunion (and whom I still related to as the girl I knew instead of the woman she became), was reeling from the sudden and tragic loss of her 15 year-old son.
Suddenly it didn’t matter that I didn’t really know her anymore despite the years of Facebook status updates coloring in who she’d become and making me voyeuristically familiar with her life and family.
She was a mother who lost her child. She was someone who was seeking the comfort of Facebook friends, gasping for something, anything to help her breathe again. And I wanted to help her as if she were my very best friend—because in this sorority of motherhood, even a relative stranger’s pain becomes your pain when the unthinkable happens.
How did he die?
It doesn’t matter. When you lose a child, as my mother has—giving me a front row seat to life’s cruelest blow, the “how” doesn’t become about what happened. It becomes about how to carry on. How to survive. How to make the hollow pain that threatens to consume you from the inside out, just for one second let you catch your breath. It becomes about how to keep finding the will to live in a world that doesn’t include your beating heart anymore.
In a heart wrenching reversal I became instantly appreciative for Facebook. At her lowest point, Amy was reaching out to this forum to find strength from a collective of random friends—old, new, fringe, fake, genuine, loyal, colleagues, neighbors, family, congregation, community—made in her 43 years of walking this life.
And this community responded with heartwarming love, support, prayers, kind words and kind gestures; desperate to prop this woman up in her darkest hour of need no matter what their relationship to her had been or was.
My heart recoiled in horror when I briefly allowed myself to step into Amy’s reality. I could not even for a nanosecond imagine such a fate for my own nearly 15 year-old son without feeling like I was being buried alive. And yet, here was Amy: Liking each and every outreach of support. Posting pictures of her beloved, handsome, the-world-at-his-feet son; Pictures of her family as she would always see it—with Wyatt in it. Posting pictures from her son Stuart’s graduation from Navy A-school despite having to immediately leave to go bury another son—so achingly painful a reality that despite it seeming impossible, life still does go on. Giving a painfully raw Facebook status update both eloquent and devastating:
“Chicago skies have now opened up to cry tears of heaven with me for my beautiful boy Wyatt Bredell. I am headed home to a world I no longer understand, to a reality I can’t accept, to a void that will never be filled. I don’t want to come home because the nightmare will be real. Thank you for your love, prayers, and kind words.”
For the first time in a long time I loved Facebook for what it was giving this old acquaintance of mine: a life ring. It didn’t matter the make-up of this database of people or how she collected them. All that mattered was that Amy was reaching out, drowning in her ocean of grief, and a Facebook army created one big arm to reach back to try and keep her afloat.
I cannot stop thinking about Amy and her family and their torturous road ahead. All of us who have left words of support on her Facebook page know that though it eases our heartache for her, there is nothing that can stop her and her family’s devastated sorrow. But since it seems to give her a measure of comfort to see this outpouring of love and support, all we can do is try.
If you would like to become part of the army of Facebook friends trying to be Amy Ruefenacht Callahan’s life ring of support in her ocean of grief for her son Wyatt Bredell, please share this story. Let her see that though we didn’t know her son, we didn’t need to to know his life mattered and that he will be missed. No mother has a child to spare and her pain is our pain.