Lately, all I can do is think, Wth Jesus! Wth were you thinking giving me this life? I know that we are not given more than we can handle by you but WTH? Am I really this superwoman you believe I am? Why must my life be spent living happy moments under the veil of grief that covers me? Why did you choose me for this particular life? Wth? Is it because you knew I could put on a brave face for everyone else? Do you know that under that apparent brave face is a hollowed out space of nothingness? A space where I do not know what I really feel at any real moment? It is just a space where I hide myself to keep any real emotions or feelings from showing. A space where I have learned to live with private tears, private hurts, loneliness and sorrow. Torn between wanting to run from it all and being drawn back to the ones I have to take care of. Never stop running. Run from people, places and things. Run until everything goes away and no one knows me. Where no one knows this brave face. Where I can be the me I want to be. Just run until I shed off all the expectations of the ones I love, of the people watching. Just run until this life falls off my shoulders and I become so light I can fly with the dragonflies. Am I destined to always be here where I have to do what is right for others and not for myself? To be black on the inside while fake rainbows beam from the outside? Wth? Wth? Wth? Just let me run!
In 3 days, my first born son will be 23 years old. In 3 days, I will not be able to tell him Happy Birthday. In 3 days, he will be celebrating his birthday in heaven. In 3 days, it will mark the 3rd birthday he has had without me. In 3 days, I pray that I make it through the day.
It has been quite a while since I have wrote. There has been a lot going on. I had surgery. Church has kept us going. Our kids and everyone else has kept our calendar full. My daughter announced that she is going to have a baby so I am going to be a Granny. My niece has moved in. School is out and summer fun is underway. So so much is keeping us busy that I would like to say that is why I haven’t put pen to paper. But sadly it is not.
I have let something terrible happen in my life. I have let someone take my joy away. Actually more than one person. But to start, I let the words of someone who is very bitter with their own life get to me. Get into my head and into my heart. I let this person strip me down to the core with her words and leave me questioning everything in my life. What makes this so sad? This person knew the right words to say and how to use them. Even sadder, none of the words she said were true or even relevant. I had never in my life been spoken to with such hate and anger as I was then. Even though I knew everything she was saying was just pure hate, I let it sink in until it took my joy. I let this person who is so miserable in her own life, damage mine.
It caused a ripple effect too. It started with me feeling down from the words. Then it had me questioning the things said. This caused me to start letting other things get to me. Other people’s problem became like bricks on my shoulders. I let the words and actions that were so tiny aggravate or hurt me like they were the worst in the world. I even let someone at church almost rob me of my safe place at the altar. I would show up to places with an escape plan already in place and dread in my mind. I was only happy at home in my comfort zone.
What brought me out of it? I just dug in deeper and read more of my Bible. I did more praying and even more praying after that. Then one night last week, I had just had it. I realized that I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t joyful. I was sad. I was lonely. I was faking my way through so much of life that I quit even really living. So I reclaimed my joy. I took back my happy. I gave all the burdens that I was taking on from others back. I turned a deaf ear to negative and an eye to the positive. I for the first time in a long time got the urge to write again. I gave the hateful person that started this downward spiral to the Lord and her words to pray. I hope she finds happiness somewhere in her life and gets right with God. But for me, I am reclaiming all that is good, happy and joyful for me.
And now the writing begins……………….
A friend of mine that lost her son shortly after I lost mine has been going through total heck at work. She was only given two weeks leave after the passing of her only son. Since she has been back to work, there are days where she has had to call in because grief had consumed her to the point that she could not get out of the bed. She has decided to leave her job after one too many inconsiderate write-ups over her actions. T (as I will call her) asked if I would help write her resignation letter for her. She thought I could help her put into words exactly what grief has done to her. Us. And all the mourning parents.
The request had me thinking of the best thing to say. How to exactly describe what we go through. How do you explain to someone that has never lost a child what it feels like to have a piece of your soul lost forever? How do explain how your heart never will beat the same way it used to? How do you let them know that grief does not pick non-business hours to rear its ugly head? I do not think there is any way to really get the full impact of having so much of your life disappear in the blink of an eye. Sure we may have been fine when we left work on Tuesday. But the dream we had that night of our child made us wake up thinking that he was just down the hall in his bed. And then realizing we woke from our dream to the nightmare of reality. Yes we were just fine when we left for lunch. But while in the car at the drive-thru our child’s favorite song came on the radio, leaving us crying hysterically and cars honking their horns at us. Then there are birthdays, holidays, anniversaries of death and life. What about the sadness we feel when our child’s friends accomplish all the things he should be here for? We not only grieve the past and present but also the lost future. We will grieve when we see our friends with their grandchildren we were robbed of. We will grieve when we watch his best friend walk down the aisle without our son as his best man. We will grieve every empty space at the dinner table, the empty stocking, the quiet nights, the missing sound of laughter and all the messy messes that we desperately miss.
How do you put a time on how much work you can miss after the loss of a child? When you give birth you are given at least six weeks maternity leave. They even give the same amount to Fathers now! But only to receive two weeks bereavement time to mourn the loss of 19 years worth of hopes and dreams? It takes two weeks just to come out of the shock and fog! There is no textbook example of grief time because no one person grieves the same as another. Some can handle day to day routines like before with a hard exterior. Some will crack in public over random thoughts. Some will never get on with life. Some will tackle life and grieve quietly in the inside. I guess I was lucky that I did not have to return to any sort of job after I lost my son. I never really sat back and thought about the pain and hardship that my son’s Father, his Bonus Mom or my Husband felt. So how do I try and help her explain this to her employers? There is no possible way for them to understand shy of them losing their own child. And there is no way I would ever wish this torturous pain on anyone…
First, let me say this…. To the people that said year two would be easier, you can go suck an egg. A rotten egg. Because truth is, year two is worse. A lot worse.
Year one we were spending it in shock and getting used to the fact that our son was not going to walk through the door ever again. We were so determined to be strong for our living children and give them a “normal” life that we put all of our emotions on the back burner. Stored them up for a later date. And while we accomplished giving them as best of this “normal” life as we could, we lost a little bit of our lives.
We entered year two with a fire that we were going to do all things different this year. We would live and laugh and remember our son with smiles and make new memories. That fire quickly was doused with all the tears that had been put up out of the way in year one. The strength that I had been leaning on faded away and faith is the only thing that kept me standing. Many days have been spent in the bed crying watching the clock. I had gotten really good at knowing how long it would take for me get my face to unpuff and go back to its normal hue and just how many cold rags it would take. I have figured out how long I can stay awake crying at night and still be able to get enough sleep to function for the family. I only thought I had mastered the face of strength and poise last year. this second year, I deserve an academy award.
Life did not stop at all this year for one second and give us a chance to breathe. One thing after another. Small things, big things, teenage troubles that made us want to pull our hair out, car troubles, loss of some dear ones, money troubles, health scares with my Mom and all this while trying to repair what death has done to my marriage. (more on the marriage later)
We did have our moments that we were overly blessed with. We met the man that has my son’s heart. Lance came and we showed him the town we raised our son and he got to meet Richie’s family and friends. We met a young lady that can now run because of his gift. We were able to travel and watch Morgan graduate college. I was baptized! Richie’s best friend is married now and expecting a blessing of his own. Mom is getting better by the day. My spiritual life while being tested almost daily is growing. I have met and made lifetime friends that are on the same road with me that I can find reasons to laugh with and cry too. I have made friends at church that give me reason to laugh daily!
Death ,however, still has its shadow over my head. It is almost like sometimes I am scared for something good to happen for fear of bad creeping in. That I am told will ease with time but never go away completely. Year two has taught me to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Keep praying. Keep helping others. Put a smile on face even when I am a river of tears on the inside. And just keep on going. Oh, and to stock up on ice packs for the swollen teary face. Bring it on year three!
I am fired up today! Since the minute our son passed away people say things like “tomorrow isn’t promised’ and such. I have always brushed these little saying off and let them roll away with the wind. Since taking my me time this summer and trying to heal, it seems as if this is everyone’s favorite saying. If I don’t go to something, they say it. If I do go to something, they say it. If some random person dies that I hardly know, they say, “You know better than all of us that tomorrow isn’t promised.” Well, guess what???? NO CRAP SHERLOCK! I DO KNOW THIS! WHAT IS YOUR FIRST CLUE THAT I DO? MAYBE THE FACT THAT I BURIED MY 20 YEAR OLD SON?
Yes, tomorrow isn’t promised. I promised my son that he would be going off to his new job and being the best ever at it. Promised him that I would be calling him the next morning to make sure he got up. I promised my son that we were all going to go to the mountains in a few months. Promised his brothers and sisters that he would be there for Wednesday supper. Promised his brothers and sisters that they could pick up the playful joking in a few days. Promised my husband that him and Richie could go to some tournament they were looking forward to. I promised myself that I would watch my first born become the best Richie he could be. I promised myself that I would have little Richies running through my house and would be spoiling them like crazy. I promised myself that I would continue making family dinner twice a week every week until I was too old. I promised my three children that they were going to get to fight over who I would live with when I got that old. You know what? I promised my whole family and myself that we would be having Taco Tuesday that New Year’s Eve and would spend it together having game night! Well, you know…..I DIDN’T GET TACO TUESDAY BECAUSE MY SON DIED THAT MONDAY.
I am well aware tomorrow isn’t promised. I live it every day. It is the first thing I know in the morning. I know it all through the day. I know it night when I lay my head down. I know it when I pick up my phone to ask Richie what time he will be home. I know it when I see the pain in my children’s eyes. I know it when his birthday comes around. I know it when I don’t have all three of my children at my supper table. I know it Christmas, Easter, birthdays, Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. I Know it at 1 pm, 3 pm, 10 am! I know it every single second of my life.
What makes me even more angry is the people saying it. Not every one that says it means it to upset me. But the ones that say it to guilt me! It is more they are saying it out of their guilt. They missed the opportunity to know my child whole heartedly and now feel they need to say it to make amends. Your loss now shut up. Then the ones that have not spoken to me in months that say it to guilt me into coming to something they are doing. The ones that I have cut out of my circle and now use it to get me to open the door again. Then the ones that say it just to say it. I do not play the death card. I never use my son’s death as an excuse for anything so why are they using it? Stop saying it. Stop using it!
This has been building with me for weeks. I told my husband that I would no longer got to anything we were invited to if someone said that to me. He agreed. So if you say it, I will not come and will take a break from you for a while also. So please, KINDLY SHUT YOU PIE HOLE!
And yes, I know that some of you are gonna say to keep me away anyway…. for that, thank you! Jerks!
First I want to say that I am not wanting sympathy or anything! I am just posting this because I am having one of those days. I have to get the feelings out of my head, through my fingers. So please, don’t pity me and let my written emotional diarrhea begin!
It is only noon and I have already been through every emotion I can. I am angry, sad, happy, worried, hurt and all in between. I have no idea what has triggered this day. Maybe lack of sleep or a slight sunburn from the extremely fun day in the sun yesterday. Maybe it is guilt because I had fun yesterday. I don’t know what it is but I am just over it. I am missing my son so bad that it feels like I have been gut punched today. I am missing my living children because they are always gone living their life. I am upset that the boy was snappy at me this morning for no reason. Aggravated because the girl decided to wash clothes on the one morning I could sleep in a little. Frustrated because I have no clue what to make for supper with no desire to do it anyway. Depressed because I am just not wanting to fold the massive pike of laundry that has built up. The dog has been spazzing out and running up and down the hall all morning and when she does get still, she farts constantly. I am hurt because I feel like I do not get any recognition of pride from the ones I look for it most in. I feel like nothing I do matters to anyone around here. I feel like I am not as important to most of the people that I put first and on pedestals, I am sick of hearing about the latest Monticello scandal when people should be rallying around a little girl in town that lost her father in a senseless shooting. I want to go back to the beach. I want to go to the mountains and sit on my Uncle’s porch and have him tell me it’s all going to be okay. I want a back slapping hug from my Granny. I want to eat a bowl of strawberry ice cream with my Grandpa. I am wondering if I was as good of a Mom all these years as I should have been. Did I give my children all they needed growing up? Do they resent me because I could not give them all they wanted? I am worried about my Mother, what reason I cannot pinpoint. I feel fat. I feel ugly. I am mad at myself because I have those superficial feeling. I am at a loss to fix a relationship that just never comes easy. I am at a loss as to how to make some things at home better. I miss Dillon who has moved to another state. I miss my house being filled with teenagers during the summer. I am mad because I feel the empty nest. I just ate a handful of Cheet-Ohs so now I am feeling really fat. I feel like a failure as a friend for not being there for everyone like I should. I feel like I am too needy at times. I am tired of keeping things inside when they make me want to explode. I am terrified of making changes soon that will benefit me for the better but may upset other people. I am sick of saying yes. I dread saying no. I just want to go back to bed. I just feel UGH!
I asked a friend if she was going to an event we were attending. She just looked at me and smirked no. I was taken aback and asked why. She just said, “You know why. The look.” Yes. I know the look.
Since I started going out in public again after Richie’s death, I have gotten the look. It is now a year and four months later and I still get the look. I was visiting another church a few weeks ago and got the look. At first, the look made me want to scream at people. I was getting this look because in this small town, I was the mother of the boy who got hit by the train. What made it worse was his cousin being in a freak deadly accident ten months before his. One person asked one time if I thought there was a curse on the kids of the family. I guess the poor ignorant soul did not know that the boys were cousins by marriage. (Even though we do not believe in the word Step Family) In the car rider line the first day I went to pick up Krista after the accident, the lady who gets the numbers of cars was the mother of one Richie’s closest friends. She got me to roll the window down to give me her condolences and talk a bit. When I rolled my window down, every window in the line went down. I didn’t know if I should sink into the floor or tell them to line up for a Q&A session.
The worse looks are the ones were people know who you are and look at you like you are a saddest person on the planet yet shy away from you as if death is catching. A very good friend of mine, or what I thought was a very good friend, actually turned and went back down the aisle at the grocery store like I had snakes for hair. I brushed it off as it was too soon for her to find words. The next time, I said she was just in a hurry,. The third time, I knew she was a coward and wanted to scream at her that her kids wouldn’t die if she talked to me. It’s not like I have the gypsy power from Thinner and if you touch me you get a curse. Death is not contagious. I certainly hope that their stupidity and ignorance isn’t catching either.
How long must I go around with this Scarlett Letter D on my forehead? D for Death, I know I carry the death of my son with me every single day. I try to live a life full of smiles and laughter for my two living children. I feel as if they have the same letter D on their forehead. Same for my husband. Someone actually asked my daughter one time if her brother was the dead kid. She was mortified! We live everyday with the fact that Richie is o longer with us. We do not need the head cock, the sympathy stare or the hanging of the head. What we do need is your smiles. We need your prayers. We need your “glad to see you” hugs. We need your laughter. We need you to say our names. We need you to say Richie’s name. We need you to be our friends and family that you always have been. We need you to just be so that we can learn to just be also.
I had a wonderful weekend! I got to go away for the night with Jeff and have a very delicious meal at a little place we found. The next day I got to spend the entire day with Jeff, Morgan (Richie’s tissue recip), Rodney (Morgan’s Dad), Tracy from LifeLink and her husband Shane. We spent the day at Atlanta Motor Speedway with Joey Gase and his family and crew. I was having just the most wonderful time….. And then it hit me!
I was sitting up on the pit boxes next to all these great people watching the race which had gotten kinda dull. No wrecks, no pit stops. Just driving in circles. It hit me in the “down time” that I was only right there in that moment at that particular time because my son had died. I replayed over a year’s worth of events in my mind. The call, the hospital, the death of my child, donating his organs, the funeral, the crying, the pain, the letters to his recipients, the letters from his recipients, meeting his recipients…. The whole year flashed in a few seconds. I looked over at this beautiful girl sitting next to me that had received a gift from my son, Our paths would have never crossed if he was living. I looked at this lady from LIfeLink who I treasure as a friend. I would have never known her if he was living. I looked at the Donate Life car as it passed by us. I would have never even thought about being an advocate/volunteer for this if my son was living. Probably would have never heard of it. All this in this moment in my life would not be happening if my precious boy were still breathing and at home raiding my fridge! How sad to think that I only know these wonderful people because my wonderful amazing son is not here.
This is where the catch 22 of a grieving parent happens. We would trade all the breaths we are still breathing ourselves for our child to still be here. We mourn and cry every single day. We may not do it publicly. In fact, mine is usually done when home alone or between the hours of 12am – 4am (as you can tell from the bags under my eyes). But what are we Moms and Dads to do when we catch ourselves having fun and smiling? I still have two living children that deserve a Mom who laughs and smiles. What am I to do when the thought creeps into my head while having a family fun day with them of, “what if Rich was here?” Life goes on as everyone tells me. I feel like I am two-faced for telling everyone to live, laugh and love when I am feeling guilty at times for doing it.
Now, do not get me wrong, I cherish each and every single person I have met since our on D-Day. A whole lot of these people I cannot imagine not having in my life. But the thought more often than not creeps in my mind of what if or would I be? I would have not know the friendship from most. The smile and dreams of a young girl. The life of a grandfather trying to fill his grand-children’s life with love for as long as God allows. I have talked to some other Moms who are in my grieving shoes about this and they agree with me. We are all trying to live life like our children would want us to yet we get sucked back in with guilt when we are catching ourselves doing just that, laughing and smiling. Sometimes it does not hit me until hours after and I am in my alone time. Then as I reflect on the day, it hits me. I think I will forever be in this catch 22 of sorts. I will forever be in a never ending circle of grief. Like the car I was watching on the race track. In turn one, I am happy. In turn two, I am laughing. In turn three, I feel guilt for laughing. Turn four I have to pull it together and take a quick breather. And by the time I come across to turn one again, I am laughing. Forever in a circle, forever in a turmoil of happiness and grief.
It is approaching the one year anniversary of my son’s death. Here is what I have learned.
- I CAN do all things through CHRIST who strengthens me.
- Never question God. You may not like the answer you get.
- Never stop praying. EVER
- My children and husband are my life.
- The pain of losing a child never lessens, just hides occasionally.
- My life story and journey is not the only one. There is always someone with a greater life story.
- Never say it can’t get worse. You are just testing God.
- Be thankful for what you have and cherish it. It can be gone in an instant.
- My family is amazing.
- My friends are my rock.
- My church family is my lifeline on most days.
- My Bible is my therapy.
- The altar at church is my safe place.
- Some people lack the ability to have true compassion and only have public compassion.
- My son’s friends are the most amazing people ever.
- Giving is way better than receiving.
- A hand written letter or card means more than any flower arrangement.
- ALL of my children are my heroes!
- My husband is my true love.
- Death can test a marriage worse than any affair or untruth no matter how strong you think yours is.
- My marriage can survive anything.
- Some people relish in lies and attention to make them the center of death and that is not only disgusting but sad.
- The people you love most will say the most hurtful things to you.
- The people that truly deeply love you will give you a hug rather than speak.
- Death opens up a whole other world of stories you never would have listened to.
- The people you meet in your journey are put there for a reason. Stop and take time to get to know the reason.
- I have made some lifelong friends with the same grief. Brought together by sadness and formed cheerful forever relationships.
- Love your children no matter what. And tell them constantly.
- Death changes you completely.
- Death is not choosy. It takes young, old, healthy, sick, the good and the bad.
- Me and my family are forever changed and are forever closer. And we are still a FAMILY OF FIVE!