At least…..

“At least you had 20 years with Richie” If I had a dollar for every time I have been told that! I could I certainly could live high in the hog until the end of my days! I usually just nod my head and not think about it. But in the past few days it has really struck a chord with me. Does this mean I am luckier in my son’s death for the 20 years as opposed to someone who only had a few days, weeks or years? I am going to give four different death stories that have touched my life. They all have different amounts of time and circumstances. Then we will see who is luckier.

Let’s start with Renee. She was pregnant and excited for the new life she was carrying. Her family was busy buying everything they could get their hands on. Then she went into early labor. Just a week before the six month mark. She fought for more than a week and then the doctors had no choice but to deliver. Little Ian was delivered and only survived just shy of 2 hours. In this short time she held her baby, loved him, prayed for him and memorized every part of his tiny self. Time with her child: less than 2 hours.

Zack was the son of Tonya. Tonya spent ten years trying to have a child. Then when she gave up, God blessed her with a son. She raised Zack for 18 years. He was on the way to his high school graduation rehearsal when he was in a car accident. A few days later in ICU, he turned 19. Five days after that, he succumbed to his injuries. In the 19 years Tonya had Zack, she raised him, loved him and lived for her only child. Time with her child: 19 years 5 days.

Richie was my son. He was my firstborn of three. If you have been following my blog, you know our story. Summing us up because I will spend hours writing of his life, he was called home after an auto accident almost two years ago. Time with my child: 20 years 5 months 23 days

Ricky is the son of a precious lady named Mrs. Laurie. He is one of two sons she had. He fought hard to beat cancer but lost his battle in March. He was a loving husband, father and grandfather. Time with her child: 52 years 5 months 21 days

So which one of use Mothers is luckier? Is it one that has lots of memories to cling to? Lots of memories at times that cause us to want to scream because they are nothing more than memories now? The one that got 19 years with  her only child she didn’t think she would have? The one that had 20 years and but has her other children? 52 full years with a son that she thought would bury her? I could go into great detail about what each has and what others don’t. The one that has grandchildren from her child to watch versus the one that will never have a grandchild. The way people say it it almost makes me think that I should have one the lottery. Oh I had 20 years so bells and whistles and confetti should come out. On and on I could go!

But why compare. If we all four were to sit down to discuss our stories together, we would all have the same feeling… This is horrible all around. None of us is luckier for the amount of time we had. None if us are sitting around thinking about how the time we had was just the right amount. Not one of us would say that if we had a minute more it would have just ruined our lives. Or one minute less would have been much easier. You cannot put an amount on time when it comes to your children! The natural order a Mother thinks is this: The perfect amount of time we should have with our children is the time we have until our death, not theirs. That is the most perfect time no matter what it is. No matter how many other children we have. No matter how many memories we have.

I am not lucky for the 20 years, 5 months and 23 days I had. I am grateful for the 20 years, 5 months and 23 days I had. Forever grateful! Anytime we have with our children we should be grateful for. No matter what age our children are called home, we will mourn the could haves. We will forever wonder what they would be doing at this time in their life. What would we be doing. All I know is each and every day when I talk to God, I ask him to give my son love for me and ask him to just let me live one minute longer than my children still here with me.

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Self Under Construction

Well, I did it. I have officially decided to take time for myself, I have decided to for once to take care of me. This decision has racked me with pain, guilt and many sleepless nights. By all means, the outward appearance that everyone sees is of someone who is smiling, handling life and seems “okay”. The truth is that person has mastered putting on the face of happy deception. In reality, I spend my nights tossing and turning. Crying and screaming into my pillow. I spend my days with headaches and pure exhaustion. On the days that are good for me, there are the moments that fleet across my mind and will have me crying hysterically for a brief second. But that second is enough to leave me just ready for the day to end so I can crawl into the bed with sleepless exhaustion.

I was spending my days taking care of children when I could barely take care of myself. It is hard to put on a smile and fix grill cheese for these innocent faces when you just want to be alone. It has not been fair to them or me. They are not getting the best me they deserve. How do you answer them when they ask why you are crying? Well little child, I am crying because I miss fixing my son peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Or how about I am crying because Richie used to play this game with you and it hurts me now to do it. Not fair at all for them to have this sad mess instead of the MumMum that used to dance with them and sing at the top of my lungs over the littlest things. Not fair at all.

So what do I do when the last child leaves each day. I immediately go into shut down mode. I do not want to deal with life. I do not want to do anything. I want to go to bed at 5:30 and sulk in my own world. This is not fair to my husband or two children living at home with us. Well, Luke and Savannah are grown you may say. They can take care of themselves.Jeff can get his own supper and let you rest you say. Yes, they can and yes at times they do. But is this fair to them. They did not sign up for this grief ride either. I am the Mom. I am to take care of them no matter their age and I am to be the Mom. They do not deserve a Mom that shuts down from life every evening and does not share in their life fully. I should be making meals for us to eat around our table and hearing about their day. Instead they have been getting a Mom that is quick tempered, stressed, red eyed, frazzled and just a teary mess. My husband does not deserve to come home to a wife that tells him she has had a bad day and is going to bed the minute he walks in the door. How many moments have I missed with them that I can’t get back? Have I gone on too long like this that they no longer desire to be around me?

Then there is this….. Jeff and I have no more children we are responsible for. They have been raised, graduated and are off making there way in the world. What do we do now? We have always taken care of them and put them first always. I can’t count how many date nights were spent with a car load of kids and their friends because we didn’t want to leave them. Now what do we do? Are we even still close enough as husband and wife to be us? What if we don’t even like each other? How do we be us with just us? This scares me more than anything. How do we handle being married with just us? We are having to learn each other all over again.

Now the biggest one…. How do I take care of me? I have always taken care of others. My kids, their friends, my husband(s), others people’s kids, my family, my friends and even the daggum hamster! Now how do I take care of me? I have decided to start counseling to work through some of the things that are haunting me.Things that have haunted me since childhood. I have decided to rest. That is the hardest adjustment so far. I cannot sit still from thinking I have to do something. I am going to write, read, cross-stitch, volunteer at church and just take a walk. If I want to stay up all night crying, I will. If I want to scream at 12:34 in the afternoon because I want my son back, I will. If I want to go have lunch with my handsome son Luke, I will. If I want to go rambling with Savannah, I will. If I want to surprise Jeff with a picnic lunch in his office, I will. (I have always wanted to do that) I will do what makes me happy. I will take care of myself. I will for once let the grief out instead of holding it in until everyone else is taken care of. For once in my life, I will be under construction to be a better me for me. Not for others. Please pray for me. Aside from burying my son, this is the hardest thing I have ever had to do.

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Dear Jeff,

Dear Jeff,
We are on the eve of our 10th wedding anniversary. 10 years! I think it is safe to say we beat the odds people gave us in the beginning. 15 years total to all the ones that doubted.
When you think about it, it says a lot of our love for each other as to how we did make it this far. We have been through things that most couples never experience or could even fathom. We have been broke, jobless, medical issues, teenage years with the kids, issues of the heart, family drama, issues of self and worst of all the loss of a child. Looking at all the statistics we have beat all odds that said we should have divorced multiple times. But through it all we know at the end of the day that the morning means nothing without each other. We can face anything that is thrown our way. We may not handle it the best way, say things that make each other mad or cry, or truthfully make us want to smack some sense into the other. But in the end, we handle it our way and go from evil looks to smiles and laughter.
The past 19 months have been the real test of us. Even after the loss, we have been thrown things that just seem unfair for us to have to even entertain our already burdened souls with. Sometimes I think God gives us these trials to show others how to stand next to each other with your head high even when you want to get under the covers and not face the day. While walking our enormously large and clumsy puppy this morning, I was thinking about tomorrow. The plans we had made didn’t work out like we wanted. We made other plans instead and didn’t even get disappointed. Rolled with even more punches. And then, while Maggie Moose was doing her large pile of stinky business,  I saw it. Right there on the septic clean out pipe. A tall dandelion standing strongly beside it with a slightly shorter broken one next it. It made me think of us for two reasons. You the tall strong one and me the broken damaged one being held up by you. Many times you have had to hold me up and keep me from falling into despair and self-pity.  Many times I have leaned on you for guidance on how to get out of life’s mud pits.
The other reason is simply, out of all life’s crap, beauty will grow. It made me think of Robert`s words on joy and happiness. We may not always have happiness in our life but we should always find the joy. So in the spot where all the crap goes, a beautiful symbol of us grew. Today’s joy was from two flowers, one tall and strong, one slightly broken, found while letting the dog poo.
I cherish the years we have had. I look forward to the years to come. We can handle the joys and heartaches thrown at us as long as we look for the flower in the poop! I love you every day!
Your wife,
B

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One Year Without Richie

Well, one year came and went on the 30th. Didn’t really send me into a deep fit of depression like I thought it would. Now the day before, the 29th….. That day was the worst! It started on the night of the 28th after I had gotten into bed. I realized that when I woke up, it would have be a year since I heard his voice, saw his face or heard his quirky smile. I started crying. I started crying and I couldn’t stop crying. I cried until my eyes started swelling. Until my nose was a flowing river of what I call crying snot. Jeff came in the room and just stood there beside the bed holding y hand because there was nothing he could do to make it better. I cried after he left me alone. I prayed. I prayed hard for strength. I prayed and asked God all the questions that I know I shouldn’t ask but the Mother in me did anyway. I asked why my son? I asked why not me? If it was something to be asked, I asked. Then thinking I had made God angry for questioning him, I cried and prayed harder for forgiveness. I cried off and on all day on the 29th. I waited until 6:44 that evening to breathe easy because my surviving kids made it to that time on that day. crazy, I know. But to me it was an accomplishment. When you lose a child, you come up with all kinds of superstitions and little goals in life. We never eat Hamburger Helper on Sundays or let Jeff pick the movie to watch. Yes, I know that eating Hamburger Helper on Sunday has nothing to do with the mortality of my children but who am I to test it? (Little secret, we haven’t ate that flavor helper since the accident either. It is now tainted.)
Then came the next day. December 30th! One entire year since they said my son didn’t make it. Oddly, I felt at peace that day. Maybe I had cried out all the tears the day before. But I just kept thinking that my son was in heaven. He was not here on Earth in pain or in this messed up world. He was celebrating with Jesus! I wondered little thoughts all day like, do they give you parties in heaven for your arrival dates? Wonder if God has him cake and YooHoo? Now do not get me wrong, I was very upset that day. Just a calmer upset. I went and put up a new wreath for him at the cemetery. I visited a little while and I came home. I missed him all day but just thought of the glory he is in.
I made it through a year without Richie. Everyone says that if you make it past one year, it gets better. That person needs to be hit in the toe with a hammer. It feels the same whether it is one day, one week, one month, one year or one year and 4 days.
I made it through year one. Let’s see how year two does.
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