The Village Retires

by Marianne McDonald

May 19, 2009

It takes a village to survive loss of a child. Unfortunately, I know. Dylan, my son, my only child, the light of my life, was killed in a car accident at the gate of his apartment complex on May 22, 2006. Dylan is forever 19 years old. My life became two parts – before May 22, 2006, and after May 22, 2006. I can’t even think about the actual day.

I’ve done many things the past year, beginning with rafting on the Guadalupe River in New Braunfels on May 22, 2008. I rafted with my friends and Dylan’s friends. I have to say that it wasn’t as breathtaking as skydiving, but it was so fun we’re doing it again this year. We had two rafts, and a guide named Scuba. Dylan’s friends taught me how to “shoot” beer that day. They said I was in the 90th percentile for skill, and Dylan would be proud. I also did some rope swings while rafting, but the photographer wasn’t fast enough to photograph me on a swing. I’ve decided it’s a relief to have plans on Dylan’s death date so I don’t have time to sit around and think. But I’m no expert – there have only been two anniversaries so far.

Before I left Austin to go rafting last May 22, Dutch, Dewey, and I had our regular walk. On that walk, I found a heart-shaped leaf with many holes in it. Many of the holes are shaped like hearts. Even though I have a broken heart, the other hearts are there to help me. A friend from For the Love of Christi (FLOC) framed it for me – it says “two years still missing.” It is hanging where I see it every day.

I continue to talk to psychics, got my handprint done by a life purpose hand analyst (still looking for my purpose), started going to a healer twice a month, and spent Dylan’s birthday in an eight-hour intensive healing. Francis only does the intensive healing every other Thursday and Dylan’s birthday was on one of those days, so that’s the only sign I needed to decide to go.

On the more normal side of firsts for me, I planted my first garden – not sure Paw Paw or Bill would be proud because it wasn’t the size and it didn’t produce as well as theirs did, got my first pedicure, got my first massage, got stung by four yellow jackets at Dylan’s tree in Old Settler’s Park, and got trained to be a facilitator at FLOC. In June, I went on a retreat in Ruidoso, New Mexico, with other FLOC mothers (and one grandmother) who had lost children. That is where we found the book The Shack, which was very helpful to me. I read it three times. I also found a ring that says Dylan. Since we all had lost children you would think we would be a depressing group. However, it was comforting to be around others in the same situation.

On October 31, I retired from my job with the state of Texas. At my retirement party I had some of Dylan’s ashes in my pocket in a zip lock bag – well Dylan kept leaking – so it was recommended that I get something nicer to carry Dylan in. I got a dichroic cremation pendant that has some of Dylan’s ashes in it. It’s mostly different shades of glass, but some of Dylan’s ashes show through. I wear the pendant everyday with Dylan’s cross. You wouldn’t know that it has Dylan’s ashes if I didn’t tell you. All who have seen it think it’s beautiful. I got the back of the pendant engraved with “For the Love of Dylan.” When leaving the mall after getting the pendant engraved, a boy that looked just like Dylan and a girl were looking at rings at Kay’s Jewelers. The girl was down on her knees getting as close as she could to the ring case. The boy was just nodding his head and smiling – like Dylan would have been doing. I figured Dylan might have been buying a ring if he was still alive because he would probably be graduating from Texas A&M this year. Of course I circled around and stared at the boy because he looked so much like Dylan, and I had an emotional breakdown when I got to the car.

After retiring I went back to work part time in Legal – doing what I did before. After being away from work for a month, it was good to see my work friends again because they are part of my family.

Dutch and Dewey are still my constant companions. They still can’t figure out when we’re getting up early for work, and when we’re not, but I can deal with that. The comfort and compassion they provide far outweighs that flaw. Dewey is on a diet and has lost about 10 pounds. Dutch had to have surgery for mast cell cancer about 10 months ago, but I think he’s recovered from that. However, Dutch has been very sick the last 10 days. He has some kind of septic infection in his body. Last Monday I thought he was going to die he was so weak. I was having a crying attack, and Dutch was so weak all he could do was lift his head up once. He’s been on two antibiotics, a liver enzyme, and a thyroid pill – plus Billie (a vet tech at heart) and I had to give him IVs for four days – and take his temperature. They don’t make cheap rectal thermometers any more. Dutch has a digital thermometer that only takes 10 seconds to get a reading. Dutch has been the best patient through all of this. Even though Dutch is much better, he still won’t eat very much and he still has fever, so he’s getting an ultrasound tomorrow. I still don’t know if Dutch will make it, but he has had the best medical treatment and I have prayed to God and Dylan because I’m not ready to lose Dutch yet. Dutch has even been to Francis the healer twice. I told Dewey he needs to get alpha dog training from Dutch, but Dewey is not interested. I will be very sad if Dutch dies, but I know it’s not all about me. Dylan picked Dutch out, and I know Dylan will be at Rainbow Bridge waiting for my Dutchie.

After saying that I pray to God and Dylan for Dutch, it’s kind of crazy that I’ve been questioning my faith since Dylan’s death. I don’t ever remember questioning faith before. I know Dylan was a true believer of God, so I wonder what he would do if he was still here and I questioned faith. I know Aunt Dot would be upset with me. In the dictionary faith is defined as trust, belief, devotion, and loyalty. I have some of all of that, but I’ve got to get a grip on God. My problem is that I don’t think that I, personally, have ever been comforted by God. Being the logical thinker that I am, it’s hard to have a strong faith while believing that God has not comforted me in my worst time. I know that I am comforted by Dylan and that I get signs from Dylan, and I know that Dylan is on God’s team, so maybe I’m just not giving God his due credit. This year I plan to get a grip on God. I’m not sure how I’m going to do it, but it’s my plan. Maybe my purpose is tied to God since I’m still searching for that too.

Read Marianne’s annual reflections beginning with “It Takes a Village, written less than a year after the death of Marianne’s son, Dylan. Marianne has generously shared her journey with us.   Her subsequent annual updates are, “The Village Minus Two,” “The Village Retires,” “Dutch and Dutchess,” “Minus Old Knees” and “The Bible”.