Time has a way of setting your pain to mute.

When my son first died, my brain nearly split in half with the constant screaming in the background of my every thought. My baby is dead! He’s gone! My life is over. His life is over. My pain had a voice, amplified to a banshee’s cry, enough to rake skin off of bone. The reality of Riyad’s death was so strong, it ripped through all logic to a knot of hysteria trapped in my throat.

Today it remains an undeniable truth, as horrific and debilitating as ever—yet, the cries are duller. The fact of his death will forever hang upon my shoulders, weighing down my heavy heart. Yet the ferocity of his death has settled, as if I were coming to terms with an amputated limb, the tingling of its absence eventually brought to a halt.

As time passes since my son’s death, his memories change form. While he is still with me, his essence, his soul, has intermingled within my own. These precious recollections of his brief life have become waves; sound bytes through the air; particles of time and space and pain intermingling to form one sacred memory, one that can never be desecrated, even as all other memories fade in time. A mother’s love will last.

He gives me permission to live, while the whispers of his life linger on the fringes of my mind. His brief existence takes shape as my personal apparition, floating between the dead and the living, tethered to the world by my love for him. It is hardwired into my DNA, as much a fact of nature as it is an unspoken truth of the heart.

Occasionally I will listen to the echoes, these whispers—fragments of better days, an unbroken past. I will wind the dial in my mind, increase the decibels to the familiar frantic terror that clutched me in its grasp when we were told he had first died. The screaming pain floods me as I revisit what is both the most horrific and the most intimate of details—the sight of my precious child’s burial beneath the earth, away from my aching arms; birthing his tiny, lifeless body; the broken bliss of his pregnancy, his first few flutters and kicks, before the fateful day I noticed they had stopped.

Then I bid him farewell (for now), and in my mind, I cradle him and kiss his head. I turn the dial down and hold him close, in my heart, until I seek to revisit him again. For Riyad is a secret that I choose to hold. He is there, present among every conversation, a beautiful soul lingering on the sidelines of my every action, my every waking moment. He is my personal ghost, his name an echo spoken into eternity, within the grief cave all mothers have wailed in, lamenting their precious babies, and now they fervently hold their memories close.

The love for our children is eternal, existing amidst the fringes of lie and death. Yet the love can never be separated from the pain. To love them is to grieve them, a heavy choice that we have grown to accept. If I can embrace the blissful memory of my son, I will gladly take the pain alongside it—whether an echo, or a shout, his existence is real, and he is loved.

Is your love and your pain one in the same? How are you doing?