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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You Really Wanna Know Mr. Osteen?

I keep getting asked how I am doing. I guess people think that because we are about to hit 18 months into the grief journey that things are just peaches and cream, rainbows and pots of gold. I am actually quite the opposite. I haven’t written on it because I have been trying to sort out this mind of mine that seems to be getting more frantic and loud. But after reading an article a fellow blogger shared about Joel Osteen’s views on grief, I had to share. Osteen believes that after a certain amount of time that grievers are only wanting pity. Well, Mr. Osteen, here is my response.

I am 18 months in this new life that God has dealt me. For 18 months, I have made sure to put others before myself. My children rarely see me cry. I make sure that each day they are not living in the shadow of their brother’s death. My husband and I have struggled to keep this family that was 5 and now 4 as normal as possible. We have struggled to keep our marriage strong when we have no words to ease each others pain and are lost as to how to be partners when our life is broken. I have to the best of my ability, and often failed, tried to keep up appearances at family events. I have tried to go to parties for other people’s children. I went back to keeping children one month after the death of my son. I never missed a school event with my daughter. I made sure my living son knew he was just as important to me as my angel son. If I was asked to do something, I 97% of the time did it. The other 3% I just mentally couldn’t. I never quit putting others before myself. I never said no when asked to do something for the church. I have smiled and tried my best to keep up a sense of the old life I had while trying to learn this new life. I will admit, I failed a lot. I failed my husband numerous times. I have even failed my children. I have horribly failed my sisters and mother. But I did the best I could to try to keep the hurt, sorrow, pain, and aching I felt to myself and not lay it on the shoulders of others.

So Mr. Osteen, do you really wanna know where I am at today in my grief? I am worse off today than I was the second the doctor’s gave me a time of death. I am worse off than the day we put my boy in his grave. In fact, 18 months of faking it and trying to be strong has taken a toll on me mentally and physically. I spend most nights tossing and turning. Releasing a days worth of built up tears. I do not want to attend any family events at all because my family is the broken link. I spend most days waiting on the clock to strike 5 so that kids go home and I can start my new rituals. What new rituals you ask? Well, Joel, can I call you Joel? I used to be very OCD about my house and life. The birth of my children’s half sister quickly let me see that this curly haired little toddler was winning the battle of messes. Now the OCD is back and I have the belief that if my house is spotless nothing tragic will happen to us again. My house was a little messy when we got the call of Richie’s accident. In fact, everything bad that has directly happened to us has come at a time when the house was a little untidy. I have been cleaning the house completely. Each room has been getting a deep cleaning. I dread having to get up in the mornings to take care of others. Nothing to do with them, I just can some days barely guide myself much less others. I hate answering the phone. People start conversations with “how are you?” I text very few people. Only the ones I can be real with get them. (A very short list) I am no longer the one at church that speaks to every single person. I sometimes fake reading something so that I do not have to socialize on Sunday mornings. I am exhausted by the end of Wednesday night Bible study because I have to fake happy on the bad days. I do not watch the news because it sends me into a tailspin of PTSD. I hate FaceBook because people seem to not understand that seeing wrecked cars and kids in the hospital bring back images that haunt me every single day. The sound of a train horn makes my heart leap into my throat. I only watch movies after they have been cleared by others for my broken mind to watch. TV holds little interest for me. The Travel channel is safe I have found. I hate 6:44pm on Sundays and the 29th of every single month. I feel as if I have won the lottery if I make it to 3:30pm on the 30th or a Monday and my living children are still living. I cannot eat chicken, mashed potatoes and corn in the same meal. Tried once and had almost had a nervous breakdown. I have started panicking about where my deceased son’s belongings are. Even though I know they are safely packed away in my guest room, I still have to go see they are there. I do this numerous times a day. It is all I have left that is tangible of him. I now get up numerous times to see if my living children are still breathing as they sleep. (They are 18 & 20.) A scratch on one of them has me thinking that the limb will be amputated and they will die. I text them constantly to see if they are safe. I text their friends if I do not get a timely response. I hate leaving the house other than once a week grocery shopping and church. I have certain things that we can not do on Sundays because if we do, one of my children will die. I am failing as a friend to the ones that are closest to me. I can’t remember when I last wished someone Happy Birthday when I was the one that was always the first. I cannot concentrate on tasks that are dear to me. I start projects and quickly lose interest.I spend some days pretending so convincingly to myself that Richie will be coming home that afternoon that by 4pm I feel like I lost him all over again. Sometimes I think that I put myself back into shock just to shut my mind off.

Even worst than the mental effects is the physical ones. I constantly have stress and tension migraines. I break out in bumps and itch like crazy if one thing starts getting out of the “new normal” I am enclosing myself in. I feel tired all the time but cannot sleep. And the absolute most terrible thing…. My heart constantly feels like it is constricting. It literally hurts all day every day. I believe my heart broke the day they told me Richie had passed. Since then I can feel it 24 hours a day. You really never know your heart is there until you experience a loss so gut-wrenching that you cannot even fathom it until days later. Then you are fully aware of its every beat. Every bloody thump against your chest feels like you are being stabbed. Do you understand the heart hurt Mr. Osteen? I am constantly on high alert, waiting on the next terrible thing to happen so my muscles are always sore. My nerves twitch. I have developed little ticks of nervousness. Some others never notice. I just feel like I am always in pain yet have no sickness.

Mr. Osteen, I have done it your way. I have not asked for self pity. I have hated conversations that revolve around me and my loss. I have put others first. I have not wallowed in my pain shutting myself off from the world. Where has it gotten me? It has gotten me no where. I am worse off than I was 18 months ago. I took care of everyone else and did not take any time for myself. So what am I to do now? Do I tell others that I need time now all this time later to be alone and grieve with no responsibilities? Do I continue doing what I am doing and hope it gets better? Quite a predicament I am in. There is no time limit on grief. Some parents lose a child and have another in a year later. Some can never imagine another child in their home. A wife can lose her husband and marry 6 months later. A husband can lose his wife of 60 years and pass away silently that night in his sleep from a broken heart. There is no book on grief. I hate the self-help crap people have been sending me. It would help to shove it up their wazoos. (I forgot to add the part about my quick temper being even quicker.) So please, Mr. Osteen, what do I do now that the way you wrote about does not work? You can email me your answer at mrsjschell@gmail.com. I will be awaiting your response.

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UGH!

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!

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Tuesdays with Morrie

As I said, this summer I will be spending my time reading. I have now read almost all of Mitch Albom’s books. I wanted kinda of review or say a little something about each one. I do not think it will be so much as a review but as the feelings each book gave me. When you lose a child and then read books that speak of death, afterlife and such, it makes you think beyond the story. Remember this is the view point of a housewife/babysitter that mainly gets to read when in the bath, on the toilet or nap time. If I am lucky during a movie or at bedtime.

So I started with Tuesdays with Morrie. I have heard it referenced in many TV shows and when I found it in goodwill, I picked it up to see what all the fuss was about. I started with reading the inside cover and found that this was a “true story”. It is about his college professor Morrie Schwartz and his battle with ALS. He visits him every Tuesday for weeks until Morrie’s last day. Morrie shares with him the wisdom he has gathered throughout his full life.

The book is filed with pearls of wisdom. On how to deal with living, loving and dying. How to be a decent human being. How to relate to others on an emotional level. I could fill this blog with my favorite quotes from the book but I absolutely recommend that you read it yourself. You will get much more out of the book by reading it than looking at a few lines from it.

This book made me think long after putting it down. What if we knew we were going to die? What would you do? What wisdom would I have to pass on to my loved ones? Have the things I have done in my life mattered enough that someone would want to visit me every Tuesday until I died? It really makes you of the meaning of your life and how you have impacted others thus far. I have sat and thought of the things that I could say to others. I could give advice on parenting in divorce. How not to totally crumble in the death of a child.How to overcome having a loveless Father. How to make the absolute best strawberry cake you will ever eat. But is that enough? Is that what people will want to hear from me? And who would visit me? Will it be a family member childhood friend or someone I met along the way? Have I been the best me I can be to where I would have droves of people wanting to see me one last time?

This book is more than sharing the life lessons from a truly remarkable man. One that I feel like I have missed out on. It is a book that make you think about your life. How you have impacted others. And the biggest of all, have you learned anything of value to pass on to others.

I give this book more than two thumbs up or five stars. I think every school should make the senior class read it and study it. I think every parent should read it and learn from it. I just want everyone to read this book.

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How I failed my children

Yes, I the smothering Mother have failed my children! I have been wrestling with the regret of this and the guilt. How have I failed them you ask? I failed to make sure that my children grew up in the church. Yes, I have taught them about Jesus, God and read them all the stories. But where I failed was to take them to church every time the doors were open. I failed to give them the opportunity to hear the message from the pulpit. I failed to give them an altar to pray at. I failed to give them the chance to fellowship with other Christians.

Not only have I failed my children, but I have failed God. It says it clearly in the Bible:

  • Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
  • And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sitteth in thine house, and when thou walkest by  the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. Deuteronomy 6:7
  • And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4

There are many more that I could list. It says it repeatedly, teach your children, nurture your children and give them the instruction of the Lord. No where does it say just read them a Bible story at bedtime. Or stick them on the church bus to go to a vacation bible school one week out of the year. Nor does it say, take them when you feel like it or at the holidays. No it says that with diligence I am to instruct them.

I am very thankful that along the way in my children’s lives God has placed people in their path that have taught them better than I. I am glad that he brought people in their lives that taught them about salvation and led them there. The greatest gift I could teach my children in life, their salvation, I failed to it. Let me tell you, it is hard and painful admitting you failed your children. All that I have ever taught them in life means nothing compared to that. It is also very shameful to have to get on your knees and ask God to forgive you for not only failing your children but his. I have many times went and sat by my son’s headstone and asked for his forgiveness too. My children still with me know that I am truly sorry for failing them.

Now, how do I correct this bad pattern? We now attend church every time the door is open. I make sure the children know every Sunday. They are 17 & 20 so the habit of sleeping late and having a free Sunday has to be broken. I cannot force them to go. However, they do live in my house so it will now be a requirement. If I have to drag them DILIGENTLY until they go willingly, that is what I will do. I may have failed them in the younger years, but I will not fail them now. Nor will I let the pattern repeat itself when they have children.

I have failed. I have asked for forgiveness. I have been forgiven. And now I will not fail again.
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