Shafts of light cut sharply through the southern facing windows of the greenhouse. Dust particles dance and sway like fairies celebrating the last rays of sun before evening. I sink into the comfortable green couch that was my family’s refuge in times when children’s tears needed comforting, sprained ankles and fevers required rest, and just plain old snuggling was required. I wait for my son, Ryan, to finish dressing for bed, and join me for our nightly story time ritual. No longer a toddler, he was a busy five year old, with legs sturdy enough to win races with his older sister, climb the cottonwood tree behind our house, and ride his bike to the end of the street by himself.
"Are you ready yet, little man?" I call, hoping my voice carried up the stairs. Soon, I hear small footsteps running down to join me. I scoop him up, noticing he has chosen his light blue t-shirt with Alvin and the Chipmunks on the front, and I wrap him in the cocoon of my grandmother’s colorful afghan. He smiles and works his arm out to encircle my waist and lay his head on my shoulder.
Life will never be better than this, I think to myself. I close my eyes to savor the love of this precious moment. Surely, heaven will be like this.
I tilt my head to kiss the top of his blonde head and linger to breathe in the fragrance of shampoo and soap. Little boys can get so sweaty after a day of playing outdoors, but tonight freshly bathed, I revel in his scent.
“I want Goodnight Moon,” he says in a husky little boy voice. Of course, I want Goodnight Moon too. Such a simple book, but the repetition has always tickled Ryan’s funny bone. Tonight, is no exception. When we get to the part where the little old lady whispers hush and bids goodnight to mush, he cannot contain his laughter. Giggles roll over him as he repeats the words again and again. “Goodnight to the little old lady, goodnight moon and goodnight mush”…
This precious memory is tucked away in my heart.
Ryan died by suicide at age 24, and I struggled to make sense of it. Grief had spun my life out of control, and I needed to hold onto something bigger than myself. The moon in the night sky became a symbol that supported me during the most intense sadness. Each month I watched as the moon completed its phases and I was filled with a sense of mystery and the overwhelming peace that I craved.
The moon was a shining beacon to my heart, a powerful sign that one day all will be well. Psalms 89:37 says, “It shall be established forever as the moon, and [as] a faithful witness in heaven. Selah.” KJV. God is present in the seemingly random events of our lives, as well as tragedies that make no sense, but he has set signs in the earth as reminders of his eternal faithfulness.
Even now, nearly 15 years later, when the moon is full, I often go outside and gaze upward and think about God’s faithfulness. Sometimes, with tears, sometimes without, I whisper to Ryan; goodnight dear son, never goodbye, but see you later. Goodnight, sleep well. I will see you in my dreams, and one day I will again hold you in my arms.
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown.
Biography for Desiree Woodland 2020
Desiree Woodland and her husband Gary, live in Albuquerque, New Mexico. They have two children, Michelle, and Ryan. Following Ryan’s suicide, she wrote a book called, I Still Believe.
After 19 years, she retired from teaching to promote the use of a curriculum in NM schools called “Breaking the Silence NM” which teaches students mental illness and suicide awareness. She is on the board of Breaking the Silence NM, as well as Survivors of Suicide in Albuquerque where she facilitates a mother’s survivor group. She is part of an outreach program for newly bereaved survivors of suicide loss called Healing Conversations from American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. She holds a master’s Level Certificate in Grief and Loss. Her writing has been published in Grief Digest, Just Between Us online magazine, the Oasis anthology, and local publications. Her story, “Goodnight Moon” was first published in the Southwest Writers 2020 anthology.