What is life after death…?

Death has been a topic of conversation in my home and among my friends for quite a while now for obvious reasons. Not sure it will change much in the next years’ to come. This weekend, I start year three! This is the third “first” holiday, Labor Day. And still, the question remains… what is life and what is death? What is life after death? I will tell you what I believe it to be, and it is not reincarnation. It is having those left behind after you have gone keeping you alive in spirit!! The one request I have made in the passing of all my family members and loved ones I have lost…remember them in stories!! Especially, stories that will put a smile on your face or laughter in your heart!! It keeps them living for those of us who have lost them and allows those who never met them to feel as if they have!

Life is a precious gift I do not want to abuse. It was something I fought for early in my life before I even knew there was an option. Born prematurely with lungs not quite developed (I know you are all in shock!!!) but I fought and fought hard according to the stories my mom told me. They wisked me away without her even getting to see me after birth and told her the next 24 hours would tell the story. As it turns out, after depriving me of oxygen in the womb for seven months, my twin had to forego the incubator for me. He tells the story now, a half century plus later, how he saved my life! Lol! I love my brother for that!! But what if that episode set some sort of crusade in motion. Do I love life more because of that without even realizing it? Maybe. Guess I will find out when I experience what comes after this life.

With the loss of my parents and siblings, I never really questioned death, other than for my brothers, why did it come so soon? Then again, what is ‘soon?’ Is that a term I made up in my head? I thought 40, 42, and 55 were young until my son passed at 24!! Perspective on the age shifted, yet again! I already know our “dash” is the short-term we get. No one has told me the acceptable age in which the end of life is no longer grieved and we should be “ok” that a person passed away. Is it 70… 80… 100? All those at that age probably have family who will grieve their loss, too. But, eventually, at whatever age, we will at some point no longer be living and breathing this fine air we have become accustomed to.

Here on Earth, we love to live and explore and to just be. All of us will, at some point, leave this Earth! But are we just making memories for others to share when we are gone? Are we living to make life better for those that follow? Maybe not in our current state of affairs in this country, but maybe, somehow, these are all true. Our life has meaning when we live it, but it continues after we are long gone if those who knew us continue to share those stories and memories. Personally, I love to talk about those loved ones and am sad when others are afraid to bring them up in conversation out of fear of how I may respond! Don’t ever be afraid to share memories of anyone! Proof of a life well lived if those memories hold value to someone!! ❤️

Until my last breath, I am going to pray my parents, siblings, and my son, along with so many loved ones, are living the dream in eternity. May we be the best that we can be to guarantee ourselves a spot there too. For now, I will die to live and live to die! Our only guarantee. Cody has a life after death and continues to live on through us, as do the others in my family gone too soon!! I can guess what lies beyond those pearly gates and that there will be life after death in Heaven, too! Until I find out for sure, life after death is up to us still here!! Lost loved ones will continue to live on as long as we keep sharing their lives!! Keep it going strong because ALL lives lost leave someone grieving and missing them! Give all of them life after death! As always, I cry because they are gone, but I smile because they were here!!!

#lifeafterdeath #livingthedream #dietoliveandlivetodie #thedashinthemiddle

Today: not guaranteed, but is a day of learning, remembering, and surviving…

Today… not guaranteed, but is a day of learning, remembering, and surviving what I never thought I could: the funeral of my own child. Two years ago on this date was his funeral. I wrote the following poem that day. 😢💔

Today, I have a family reunion. Two years ago, it was to be held two days after the date of the funeral. My family used the funds for the reunion for the mercy dinner meal and we had no other reunion that year. This year, we are having that reunion, on that funeral date! I know that is just a random coincidence… or is it? It is amazing the strength this family has provided!!

“Today”

Today I laid to rest my son

Something I can’t believe I’ve done

I know it was not my Plan anyway

I also know I will see you again someday

My faith will lead and guide me too

To the path that will bring me back to you

Gone from here, but will live forever

In the hearts of many, never to be severed

My son, I know today was rough

And I know tomorrow is going to be tough

But for now, your memory will lead the way

For us to get through all this today

Tomorrow will be here before I blink

And, once again, I will have to think

How to live with you gone away

When tomorrow again becomes today…

Christina Herold Trueblood

8/24/2017

Everyday, I strive to live the best life possible for those who cannot! This day is no exception. I cry because you are gone, but smile because you were here!! 😘❤️🌈😇🙏😎🎼🕊

#todayisanotherday #familyiseverything #thedashinthemiddle

Second anniversary… two whole years!! Still not celebrating, but I will honor the memory!!!

I have read and reread all the things I have written over the past two years and I have come to a conclusion, burying a child is like starting over as an infant! The first year is learning how to do EVERYTHING (over)!! I cried a lot! Then, I learned to crawl, followed by standing and, then walking. I was able to put a few words together, asked “why?” A LOT!!, and then, eventually formed more coherent sentences.

I spent that first year looking at everything as if I had been seeing it for the first time, scared sometimes, and had a few happy moments. Please do not confuse this situation with a “rebirth.” I was not reborn. I found Jesus a long time ago and he has not moved, nor changed! Still my Savior! I just had a lot of things in common with being born! I was relearning how to do things with a huge void! That void was not there during my first birth umpteen years ago!

Now, I am wrapping up year two. I have put words into complete sentences; learned to walk a little longer and farther; the tears and crying are not all the time; and I am sleeping through the night. With so many similarities to being a baby to a toddler that I have experienced, I fear for those in my path for year three! I remember that “3” was so much worse than the “terrible 2’s” but you’ve been warned!! Lol!! Many things this second year were very similar, just with a “second” in front of it rather than a “first.” I still have my melt-downs, but they aren’t as long and drawn out. I spend more time smiling at the memories, as opposed to feeling cheated for all the things I didn’t get to do or see happen!

One thing is very different this time! I have vowed to LIVE for Cody, instead of dying with him!! If he can’t do things, I must do them for him! This will be living the best life with his memory close to my heart. I want to know he is with me, proud of me, and smiling down knowing “we” are doing these things together! I feel this is the best tribute to him I can offer! Crying with sadness that he is no longer actually in front of me will still be part of the grieving process, but it isn’t the only process! So, to honor his memory, his dad and I went on a “watch this, hold my beer” vacation!! I went zip lining, walked across a bridge on a rope from one side of a mountain to a mountain across from it (wasn’t as far as it sounds, but I did it!), went on a sky tram, AND drank moonshine!! These are ALL things that boy of mine would do if he were here, and I hope he is proud of me for going outside my comfort zone! I’m sure he’s ‘high-five’ing me right now (if I raised my hand!!) 😉 I haven’t gone skydiving yet, but it isn’t off the bucket list yet!!

None of us are meant for this Earth forever, and I know that when I am called home, I don’t want others to stop living their best life either! I want to be living proof that we can continue to honor and keep memories alive of those we have loved so dearly and lost! I don’t want to waste a minute of my life not thinking good thoughts and smiling at good memories, nor do I want to forget about those still here, that loved him and miss him too!

I will continue to make new memories, but will hold onto these ones with Cody in them a little tighter than most. He was my son! I brought him into this world with no guarantees… except one!!! I will love him FOREVER!! As always, I cry because he is gone, but I smile because he was here!!

#gonetwoyears #myonlyson #iloveyouforever #thedashinthemiddle

This was the “spark” for www.thedashinthemiddle… This was my post from Facebook one year ago tomorrow!

This is my Facebook post from 8/20/2018. I am sharing it a day early leading up to my two year anniversary. I want to share how far I have come on this journey and the healing process. I can only hope these posts have helped others. Writing has, once again, proven very therapeutic for me!

ONEYEAR AGO: This is a hard day! This is a milestone that I may acknowledge, but will not celebrate! This day marks one year of not having my son, Cody, grace this Earth! How did I get here? I will tell you how I have coped to this point… faith!! My guiding force!! Another guiding force is the strength I gain from my family and friends.

Glenn and I never wanted to be here and deal with losing a child. We know others have been here too, but each situation has its own detail. Knowing this does not make any of them less to deal with in any way, shape, or form! Knowing we are not alone makes us sad but gives us hope that we can, and will survive!

There are several stages of grief: denial; anger; acceptance; and forgiveness. Some situations do not hit all levels, but it will at least hit one. I think I hit three during this first year. Some levels lasted longer than others. Denial hit first… waiting for sounds such as his loud truck pulling up in front of the house, the garage door opening, the tv to come on late at night and be too loud for me to sleep, and his alarm going off in the morning signaling the start of another work day. The denial for me was thinking these would still happen. They had to! It was part of my normal routine. But they did stop much to my dismay.

I think I touched on anger, but it was brief. I wanted to be angry at Cody at first, but when your actions result in the ultimate price paid, what would my anger accomplish? He was by himself in the vehicle (thank you, Lord!) and he was a grown man and knew his actions were his own. I had spoken those words to him many times over the five years prior to that fateful night. We are to blame for our own actions and reactions, but cannot be held accountable for others’ actions and reactions. This made my options for placing blame quite limited. I did get angry that I can’t add new memories or photos. I accepted what has happened and tried to make peace with the fact Cody has gone to a far better place to wait for us. Therefore, forgiveness seemed easy in this situation.

Facing all the “firsts” since that day was hard! The bandaid has been pulled off and the healing has begun. We, as a family, have faced the sadness head-on and with as much grace as possible. This does not guarantee our roller coaster ride is over, but it has made one full lap around the track and allows us to be more prepared for some of the dips and turns in the laps that follow.

I cannot express my appreciation enough to those who have kept us in your thoughts, prayed with us and for us, and spent time reading my journal entries and poems throughout this first year. Writing has been therapy for me for many years, proven even more so during all of this! For all those that knew Cody, please keep his memory alive by never forgetting stories of him and continuing to share. I will not promise they won’t make me cry, but this is another oxy-moron situation: I cry at the sadness these memories may create, but my heart swells with pride that the memories still hold value to those who share! I actually love Facebook for having the memories pop up every now and then! I look at those as a sign.

The strength all of you have provided has encouraged us to get up and face each day this past year. ‘Difficult’ does not begin to describe the emotions involved in this path, but ‘faith’ does! I praise our Lord for being with me and my family and friends as He provided much needed strength every single day!! We will continue to celebrate the life Cody lived and all the wonderful, hair raising, and hair-brained ideas the kid had in the 24 years we were blessed with. His journey will continue on in our hearts, and I know the day we meet again, it will be as if no time has passed. Until then, we count the blessings in front of us, take NOTHING for granted, and thank the Lord for each day we are given for our “dash” between life and death! Our actions will speak volumes after we are gone, make them positive, and continue to find a positive in every day…

Below are the pictures from the beginning and just before his last days with us, both joyous days. His dash in the middle will live on forever through us! I love you, son!! 😢🌈🕊🙏😇❤️🇺🇸

#gonebutnotforgotten #foreverinourhearts #thedashinthemiddle

Anniversaries… not all are to be celebrated…

Anniversaries… not all are meant to be celebrated, but are a huge reminder of what we have been given to celebrate!!

As the two year mark hits the calendar, I am reminded of all the times I need to celebrate, moments that included the LIFE of my son, Cody!! There was a lot of life in his 24-1/2 years!! His dad and I are going on vacation to celebrate his life and do fun things he would enjoy!! We are even going to try a few things that might have started with “watch this, hold my beer!!” I do I believe he coined the phrase!!!

I don’t want to ever forget all the fun times. I know with the ups, there were downs. I want to remember those too!! Those moments make him still seem with me and alive!! Brings the ‘normal’ back into play!!

Emotions are all over the place, but not as bad as last year!! I will always wish he was still with us, and I miss him every day!! People may want to accuse me of “getting over” this loss. I stand here today and acknowledge he is gone, but not one day goes by where I am “over” anything! Faith doesn’t get a person over the loss, it gets me through it!! I have faith that my son is in good hands. That will do for now.

Many times, I miss the things I had hoped to experience! We all have hopes and dreams. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to witness all of them! But, many of my hopes and dreams were realized. I must never forget that!! He has left a mark on many and will live on through stories (I hope) for many years, and even generations to come!! Hopefully, those stories won’t give young kids bad ideas to try. I don’t want their mom’s hair turning gray too early!!

As I head into next week, “anniversary week,” I will still have my emotional days, but bet on days where I am smiling at the things he did get to do and the memories he has left us with! There are many! And, yes, many will cause the gray hairs, but I am so grateful I have them!! I will not refer to this as a “happy anniversary.” It is a mark on the calendar I will acknowledge. It will be filled with memories, recollections, stories, laughter, and tears. It is a day my world changed…forever reminding me to be grateful, and to acknowledge the love you have while you have time!! The opportunity might not be there tomorrow!

Live everyday to its fullest. Laugh as often as possible. Love as if tomorrow is not promised!! As always, I cry because he is gone, but I smile because he was here!!

#tomorrowisnotpromised #livelovelaugh #thedashinthemiddle

August is hard!!

August has such a mixture of emotions! For many parents, it’s sending their children back to school. For me, it is a month of thinking about all the things I have done, and a reminder of all the things I didn’t get to witness or do with my son, Cody. These next few weeks will seem like a gauntlet: a long, narrow path I must travel to get to the next level. In three weeks, we will hit the 2-year anniversary of losing my son. Seems like forever and, then again, just yesterday… How has this time gone by so quickly, and yet every detail of that day is like it just happened? I will not celebrate the date, but I will celebrate the life of Cody! I miss him, so to honor his memory, we will do something Cody-like (that won’t get us arrested!!). It will allow us to feel his presence even stronger as we reminisce about the years we were blessed with.

My son was a gift to my life! I am sure there are many who feel the void, just maybe not in the same way I do! We are all going to die. It’s a given! But what will life be like because we were here? I know my job will get posted and filled if I were to die tomorrow. I know my house will still be standing. I know that life for all will continue on, but I hope will be somewhat different because of the part I played. I know that is the case for those I have lost, but I had never felt it as much until it was my child!! It changed my whole future, but he helped make many memories I will cherish!! We all hope to leave a mark, a void in time, a story to tell, and hopefully, pictures showing the path our journey in life has traveled. I am sure my son never knew the mark he was leaving behind on all those he came in contact with. Even the smallest of gestures might have left a permanent mark on someone. I hope it was positive, but I am sure there were some not-so-stellar moments!

I refer to the movie “Final Destination” a lot in my situation, but in reality, it is literally everyones’ destiny! We cheat death many times in our lives and do not even realize it. The end result is we will die another way if we cheat it now. I know my son cheated death more than once in his life! When he was 19, he cheated death. Can’t say he learned much from that experience, but it did not stop him from living “his” way! He did live!! Up until his last breath, he lived!! For that, I am grateful. Many parents who have lost a child do not get to declare that! They may have watched suffering and struggles that lead to the end result. I did not, so I did see him living a good life until death! I also saw my life flash before my eyes at some of his antics at times. I still have to color my hair because of those moments! I have convinced myself over these almost two years that this may have been his “final destination,” but he could have also been saved from something much worse, or had been able to put his demons to rest… I don’t know, and won’t know, until we meet again!

I will move forward, letting time play tricks on me! Again, a blessing or a curse, doesn’t matter!! I want to remember my son as if he was just here yesterday! I am so okay with that!! I will NEVER forget and NEVER get over this, but I will move forward!! LIVE!! LOVE!! And, for God’s sake, LAUGH!! Life is short!!

I know I have not traveled this path alone, and I won’t finish it alone. Even if I am standing by myself, I was NEVER alone!! The strength of those around me has held me up and helped me see tomorrow in my future. My faith, my never-ending, never-swaying faith has helped me wake up every day knowing there is a rainbow after this storm.

These next few weeks will be emotional, difficult, comforting, and heart-breaking all rolled into a blur!! I will survive it because my son would want me to, and expect nothing other from me! He is in good hands!! I can live with that image!! As always, I cry because he is gone, but I smile because he was here!!

#heretodaygonetomorrow #livelaughlove #momentstoremember #thestruggleisreal

Life can change in the blink of an eye…

When we are little and start growing older, we create all kinds of futures for ourselves. As a young girl, I fantasized about a fairytale wedding, kids, a huge home, never worrying about money, always being my ideal weight, and thinking I would have my parents well into their golden years. Well, guess what? So many of those things came close, but close only counts in horseshoes. What I did get was a prince of a husband, two beautiful children, a house I will always refer to as home, enough money to provide for our family, and I got to know my parents as an adult. The dreams we have as children are just that, dreams. The rest is a day at a time!!

What I didn’t think about when I was younger was losing a parent before I even got to have children, burying three of my six brothers before they even got to see a glimpse of retirement, and burying a child before he got to get married or had children of his own (that I know of!). The positive here: I had two beautiful children, a daughter and a son, who grew up friends! I am so proud of that! They actually enjoyed doing things together and their friends were friends. It made for a lot of enjoyment! Don’t get me wrong, they had their moments. The relationship between my brothers, sister, and I was not a lot different than my children’s relationship. We had fun growing up. Still do, with those of us who are left! My sister refers to our household growing up as an amusement park! Never a dull moment… ever!! I don’t think my children would have called it that, but I think it was far from a bad rearing.

My memories of growing up are fond memories that I will never let go of. Same with memories of my children when they were little. I am sad that my dreams of seeing them both grow into adulthood and start families of their own was only realized by one of them, but as I found out early in life, there are no guarantees. I am thankful for the dreams that did come true! When things don’t go our way, we tend to forget all the things that did go right, or as wished! I hope to never forget to appreciate those moments.

Life can change in a moment’s notice. It is 22 months tomorrow that the unexpected happed, my son died!! He was only 24! I didn’t plan on it. It was not part of my dream at all. I had no plan laid out should I bury a child. I am guessing my mother didn’t either when she had to go through that, not once, but twice! My grandmother was 87 years old when she buried my dad at the age of 60!! I’m not sure she ever mentioned his name again. I asked my mother why she thought that was. My mother said that was because the thought of him being gone must have been very painful for her. But I wanted to talk about my dad after he died in 1990. It kept him alive for me!! Then my brothers in 1994 and 2002!! My mother in 2007. Then, another brother in 2009!! None of those were planned either. But, life can change in the blink of an eye. My mother had no plan going forward, just as I had to rewrite my future…again! What we do going forward should include those loved ones. Their mark should not end there, and neither should ours!!

Life can change for the better, or for worse. In 100 years, I won’t be here either. The only thing we can do is leave a mark that may be talked about generations later. Make them good ones. Be the positive in someone’s future that brings them strength and hope. The unexpected can happen, and does happen, every single day. The obituary section is full of unfulfilled dreams being laid to rest. But, in the lines of those obits is a story that saw dreams come true, children were born, successes were achieved, life was lived. I don’t want to plan a funeral, but want to fill a story book!! That will include stories of my son, my parents, my brothers, and a lot of other near misses that I at least had envisioned, even if not realized!

I am not a huge Miley Cyrus fan, but her song “The Climb” has got to be one of the best songs ever!!! I heard it the other day!! It is the climb!! It’s the climb out of despair, out of unfulfilled dreams, of plans that changed on a dime! I want to make my loved ones proud, all of them!! They didn’t all die and I have a great support system who also mourns the same losses I do! Never alone!! We climb together! Achieve goals, or don’t, but at least try. Dream!! Don’t be afraid. If I look back in time, I have had a lot of both: fulfilled and unfulfilled dreams. But I am alive and here to tell my story. I am different. My dreams are different. But I still dream!

Life did change in the blink of an eye! And, it happened more than once!! My dreams have to change with it. This does not mean I change, at least, not on purpose! I want to hope these changes and unfulfilled dreams have made me stronger, made my loved ones proud, and tells the story of hope and survival!! I am better for having those I have lost in my life, for whatever time I had, I am grateful! I will cherish those memories forever!! I cry because they are gone, but I smile because they were here!!

#lifechangesintheblinkofaneye #thestoryofdreams #lifeismadeofchanges #memoriesmakemesmile #thedashinthemiddle