As life progresses, we all have moments that can be a defining moment or a pivotal moment. Some will define you with a label of sorts and some can cause you to change the path you are on forever. Up until four years ago, I am not sure I even realized I had a major, pivotal moment in my life. Defining moments, yes. I got married, became a mother, was employed. All defining. I don’t recall taking steps to literally change what I did or who I was based on a single event from a standing moment in time. This is how I view pivotal moments, ones that changed the very being of who I am.
When my brothers and parents died, my life went on. They were still my brothers and my parents. I can’t describe any moments that changed the structure of my actions. Yes, I mourned their losses. Yes, I miss them being here. But the lives that were pivotally changed were my mother’s life and those of my brothers’ spouses. I went home to my husband and children. Those losses still left a void, but at some level, being the youngest, I knew this would happen in my future at some point. It just happened sooner than I thought it would.
When my son died four years ago, it was both a defining moment and a pivotal one for me. I went from a mother with two kids to a survivor of losing one. I became defined as a bereaved parent. The hardest part of this for me was when everyone else went back to their “normal” life knowing mine will never be the same. This was what my mother and sister-in-laws went through making it a pivotal moment. My pivot was no different but developed further over the following changes: through my writing and then when we lost the first of one of his friends. That second part, the loss of another young life, was truly my moment of taking more serious action. Yes, I am still a bereaved mother, but now I am a mother on a mission!
A year and a half ago, I was asked to present my son’s story to the Victims Impact Panel for my county and I agreed. It was difficult the first couple times, but if I could change the path of even one person during those sessions, it is worth it!! While giving my presentation, I introduce everyone to my son and provide a list of attributes that best describe his life. Those are the qualities I want to define my son: a redneck, truck-loving mechanic who loved bonfires and music. He was my human radio and could name an artist and learn words to a song after only hearing it once. We all make choices: good and bad. We can’t change what happened, but we can pivot in this moment to change the future.
During my presentation, I see people that could have been my child. During the most recent panel, one participant said I reminded him of his mother. I took this as an opportunity. I told him I could yell at him if it helped, but what he needed to do was own the moment. It was a bad decision, but did not have to be his defining moment. Time to pivot. Learn from it. Change the course. Turn a negative into a positive.
Most of us seem fine to accept moments in time and move on. Those become defining moments. The day we got married. The day we graduated. For my son, the day a DUI was issued. Dates that define us, but did not change us as a whole. My true pivotal moment with my son feels just as strong as the day the twin towers were hit on 9/11/01. That day changed a lot of people, along with the country. It was more than a date on a calendar. It was pivotal.
I wish I could go back in time and teach the pivot move to my son. I did have him own his actions, but had not connected the dots of defining or pivotal yet. I think we were close, but not close enough. I cannot undo the past, but my hope is to change the future, one presentation, Facebook post, or blog post at a time! I am sure I can analyze my past to find more pivotal moments, but none will compare to the life-changing experience of losing my son. It changed me forever.
For those struggling through a pivotal moment in their life, I hope they can try and find the positive direction from that point in time and decide to use that experience to find what they are truly capable of surviving. I think I finally understand “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” It took me a half of a century plus, but I get it. This experience has taught me the most about myself and how our lives can change, not to mention how we can change, in one pivotal motion.
I cry because he is gone, but I smile because he was here…
Everyone remembers their first heartbreak! We blame ourselves for our shortcomings. We blame our friends. We hold grudges against the other for the heartbreak caused. In all reality, this is one of the most valuable lessons in life. Why? Because it is one of the first times pain causes us to reflect on who we are and what we are capable of enduring. Let me explain…
Getting over a loss is not the same as living through a loss, but it’s where we start. Emotional pain is hard to describe, yet it can create a physical pain and make a person feel sick and broken. Break-ups and divorce are an ending. But there is life after that. It’s a new and different life than what a person may have perceived when the relationship started, so there is still an adjustment. Parties in the break-up might feel resentment, hurt, anger, betrayal, lack of self-worth, confusion, and sometimes, even relief. But the big picture is, break-ups teach us about the pain of losing something we had in our life.
Break-ups are different than loss from death of a loved one. In fact, I think sometimes break-ups are worse than death. We have no choice but to accept death at some point. Break-ups come with rejection and hurt. Doesn’t change the fact we have to get up and move forward, and I hope we all do!!
Living with the pain of a lost loved one is also creating a “new normal” that hadn’t been planned, especially when the loss was your child (at any age)!! We don’t ever want to plan on it. Circumstances may give us a head’s up of the possibility such as a cancer diagnosis. (Those words are heart-wrenching to any parent.) But, we have to move forward anyway. And that is hard and it hurts!!
People tend to say things to make a person feel better in situations of heartbreak and loss. It is with good intentions, but it doesn’t always work. I could provide a list of things not to say, but everyone reacts differently, so that wouldn’t really be fruitful. I can say this! “Time does NOT heal all wounds!” Not sure who thought that one up, but they are wrong. Time may heal external wounds, but even those usually leave a scar. Time cannot replace or repair the hole left when the loss is the death of your child, no matter how expected it may be. We just learn to live with that pain. Every day.
How do we survive? One day at a time. Sometimes, it is seconds at a time, or minutes. I could go on and on. My son has been gone four years today and I still have moments where the flood gates open and I can’t turn them off. Those usually happen when there is something I wish I could tell him, or when I would have enjoyed his reaction to a situation, or even just to hear his voice. It can come from thin air without cause or reason.
Time may help our soul, or our attitude, or our every day survival plan. Time doesn’t stop for the living. Another hard lesson! I totally understand emotional scars now. I get how people cannot erase the pain of certain experiences. Some things are there in our minds and pain for our heart with every breath we take. We relate the everyday happenings to survival of those experiences. Sometimes, we have to convince ourselves of how we managed the day before just to get through today, and many times, it is unconsciously done: a coping mechanism.
So, time does NOT heal all wounds. Almost all wounds leave scars of some sort, but sometimes, death leaves a hole that cannot be mended. We live, but it is different. It will never be better than before, but we still have many things to be grateful for. I don’t ever want to overlook those moments due to my scar tissue! I will do what I have to to honor the memories and mend as much as possible to continue and be the best version of myself, scars and all!! I continue to cry because he is gone, but I will always smile because he was here!!
It has been almost four years since I lost my son. Memories are the only things I have left. I say that, then I look around my house and our property. There really is so much more. But those things come with the house.
When my siblings and I downsized our mother’s living arrangements, moved her from the house she raised eight children in to a small apartment just her size, we convinced her that nostalgia lives in our hearts, not in the walls and in our belongings. I think we were partly right.
Now, I sit in a house that is really too big for two people, but I can look at the couch and imagine the times Cody and I sat in this living room and the conversations we had while he sat on that couch, or slept, or ate his food, etc. Will those visions go with me if I remove that couch, or put that couch somewhere else? Will it take more effort on my part to have those memories surface, where now they are there at every glance? Truth be told, if someone walked in my house right now, they’d assume Cody still lived there! His boots are still by the door. His tools are still in the garage. His hunting clothes still hang with all the other hunting things he had! Truth: I can change all that, but I don’t want to. Not sure how to process that.
Many things have changed, and I acknowledge that. No empty Gatorade bottles with his tobacco spit in it spread out through the house (not really an item I miss)! Pictures have been rearranged. His clothes are removed (except for a few sitting on the dryer)! I keep those there so that every once in awhile, I yell down the basement steps and tell him to come get his crap off the dryer, just because I can! It just feels right sometimes. But, again, I can’t take that situation to any other location and have it feel right!
I hope my mother adjusted well when we moved her. The big difference between the house and the loss of our sons is that my brothers did not live at home when they passed away as my son did. That seems to be the biggest hurdle I have with those memories! I don’t really have them with him anywhere else! I guess that mixes a little reality with the memory.
Bottom line, we find comfort where we can. I’m not sure I want to disrupt it, but I know at some point, I may have to. There will come a time when the furniture has to go, tools will need to be removed, and the hunting clothes will be given away, sold, or tossed. My biggest fear is the traces will be gone and I will have nothing “real” to go with that memory. It is a fear I hope truly never becomes a reality, but I am trying to brace myself anyway. I hope we were more correct when convincing our mother than I am right now, but time will tell. Until then, I will think of my son when I look at that corner of the couch, or trip on his tools in the garage, or see his hunting clothes hanging when hunting season hits, or when folding laundry and putting it on the dryer. It works for me. Least thing changed so far, I cry because he is gone, but I smile because he was here!
I just finished reading a short story about a boy who didn’t listen, ran wild, was stubborn, definitely was not quiet, and who was this person’s son. Can you say “hammer, nail, head?” That is what it was like. He wasn’t perfect, but he was mine! None of us are perfect, but those imperfections are missed just as much as the things he did right.
As summer progresses, I hear the loud trucks passing the house. I pray for each one just in case they have ideas that aren’t the best for them, but makes them happy. I never want to deprive a person of fun, but until my last breath, I will do what I can to help them avoid putting their loved ones through hell when it could have been avoided. This is my mission in life now. I won’t apologize for it. An example—he was my son!
In a world where it seems that the only goal people have is to make every other person agree with them, this is one situation I would push on that agenda. Don’t drink and drive. There are too many options available for those who need a ride. Pride should not be a consideration in this scenario and, unfortunately, I think it plays too big of a role. My son is included in that scenario!
Good people can make bad decisions. I see it in the headlines daily these days. I know I am not the first one who has said “what the hell are they thinking?” All choices and decisions have a domino effect on others. We all need to think through situations. Very seldom is a decision one-sided. Don’t ever assume otherwise. Just as my son probably never thought about all the people who got caught and were forever changed by his one decision. But he was still my son.
I am not a mover and a shaker, but I want everyone to know their life has value. The more I do the presentation to others about what happened to my son, the more I find out how alone people think they are. They are not! We are all someone’s son or daughter. Even if those parents are not here on this Earth! And all of us are more than a bad decision. My son had a life that was more than just drinking and driving on one fatal night, he was my son!
I miss my son every single day. Every day something happens I wish he were here for me to talk to about: good, bad, or indifferent. He was wild. He was bull-headed. He was fun. He loved trucks. He loved mud. He loved music. He loved life. He was my son.
I am not sure where I was headed with this post, other than no one is an island. Someone out there loves you. Someone out there cares more than you will ever know. Do the right thing. Doesn’t mean it is the easy thing. It is ok to want to have fun, be wild and crazy, drink a bit, but have a plan. And for those who love you, we will continue to do so. I want all those who like to “enjoy a drink” to hug your designated drivers instead of thinking they are a stick in the mud for not drinking. I think they should wear capes and be hailed heroes!
As summer nights get rowdy and bonfires glow bright, give your keys to someone before you get started. Let your loved ones waiting know where you are and that you are safe. If my son were to walk in the door right now, I’d hug him and probably smack him at the same time. We get over being mad. I can’t get over his death, only through it with the help of others. I miss him. I am mad at him. I am also sad for all those who lost him as well. Like me, I am sure they cry because he is gone, but smile because he was here.
Someone sent me a message that started off with, “I took a walk today…” It may seem like a pretty simple statement to most. Let me tell you how HUGE these words truly are!! These words recently made me cry, but not for the reasons you are thinking of…
These few, short words were the beginning of an IM sent to me a couple of weeks after my Mother’s Day blog post. They were followed by a long message, but it’s these words I focused on. Why? Because it has been my goal since I started this blog to stop at least ONE person from thinking they are ok to drive when they probably shouldn’t! This person took a walk instead! It’s literal music to my ears! Turns out, it was also a birthday gift. The day I received them it was my birthday!! Win/win!!
I will go a little further here. This young man knew my son! He respected my son. He wanted me to know he also learned from my son and the lesson of “it’s not how far you have to drive, it’s the condition in which you drive, and those who are affected by that decision!“ Remember, one person, one decision, one night.
The Mother’s Day post was by far one of the hardest posts to write. It has details many of my own family and most of his friends didn’t know or had ever seen. It has also been the most read post to date, and for that, I am hopeful that more will decide to “take a walk,” or call a friend, an Uber, or a parent! Parents will be glad you did! Friends will be the first to offer! Consider supporting your local community and call an Uber driver. It’s ok to get a ride or take a walk (just be careful)! Walking comes with its own dangers.
As we head into a holiday weekend (my son’s favorite holiday to boot), please be responsible. I cannot stress this enough! No one wants your fun to end up as a tragedy, especially me!! Think of your parents, siblings, significant others, children, friends, and family!!! I know what it feels like to have that conversation with the police and coroner! I don’t wish that on my worst enemy! This weekend, make a plan, take a walk, call a friend, but please don’t drink and drive. Whether you are around the corner from your home or a mile away, or ten minutes away, it’s not worth the risk!!!
This July 4th, as we gather together (FINALLY), I think of the past year and a half and all the unknowns we have experienced! I pray for health and safety for all! This holiday represents our freedom and the ability to make decisions with that free will. Use that privilege wisely! And, as you celebrate, remember my redneck son and his pride in his ‘Merica!! Yee yee’! I miss him and cry because he is gone, but I still smile because he was here!!
This is my 31st Father’s Day without my dad. Mind you, I only had him for twenty-five before he died. Yet, I can still describe him in detail, feel his presence at pivotal moments in my life, and both my kids could describe him growing up without ever having physically met him. How is that? Faith and love. I never let him die completely. He lives on in my heart, my words, and my actions. My faith tells me he is still very much a part of my life! I am ok with that!!
People who have never really lost someone very close to them, at least at an age where death is understood, have a hard time because they feel death is final. It may seem so until you had this happen, lived a few years after, been through other major life hurdles, do we then realize those we lost are never really gone.
I swore to behave the same way when I lost my son. This may be the reason people think I have dealt with this loss with grace. Again, until you have gone through the actions of having a person live on in your heart, this may look easy and graceful, but it really has to do with faith. Faith got me through this before. Faith will get me through this again. Faith is knowing we will meet again because the love you have for those in your life will have an everlasting meaning. First time around was not easy, nor has any loss been easy. Without my faith, it sure would have been a lot more difficult.
I hope that when I am gone from this Earth, a positive mark will be left behind that allows those I love to never forget me. Don’t know if it will be, but I hate the thought that what happens on Earth is finite for any of us. I feel there must be a higher purpose for our being here as opposed to just existing. That is where my faith gets stronger. I want to believe those we have lost are guiding us to a better outcome and will be there waiting for us when our Earthly life is done.
My dad was, and is, very important to me. He was a pillar of strength. My son is no different. He sure left a mark on a lot of people in his 24-1/2 short years. My brothers and my mother all got into the same category, as did so many others who have gone before us. As long as we think about them, remember who they were, what they taught us (to do and not to do), their lives will live on forever!
I hope that those who have their fathers still with them realize the gift in front of them. To all the fathers who have lost a child, I hope you feel your child’s presence today and know you are loved and appreciated! I know not all relationships are Hallmark examples, but many are!
I miss my dad as much today as I did when he first died, but I know he is in a better place and in good company! I look up today and know my son finally got me meet him and they are celebrating! Faith and love! I cry because they are gone, but I smile because they were here.
I was asked if I realized how much I loved my son after he died. No, I realized how much I lost when he died. I knew how much I loved him. I could not love my children more, alive or dead. Simple, right? Oh, if only it were that simple. We never truly appreciate what we have until it is gone. Truth!
When a child dies, we tend to put them on a pedestal and highlight only their wonderful qualities while forgetting their human ones. I tried not to do that for a couple of reasons. I truly hope that my children know/knew how much I love and admire the people they have grown into. I never want to reduce the level of the pedestal, but I never want to forget the real humans and emotions from being a mother! I know that sounds strange, but it keeps the memory more alive by remembering ALL the things we have been through. I don’t want to only remember the great kid my son was! Ever! But he wasn’t perfect! He was real!
You cannot measure love, nor can you measure loss. The thing I lost out on was the same thing my son lost out on, his future! That was never a guarantee. Our only guarantee at birth is death. Everything else is what we make it. That leaves me with 24-1/2 years of what he lived and I take it all and refuse to let go. That includes the trials and tribulations he put me through. They were real! The gray hair I had I earned!! Why I only got 24-1/2 years is not my focus. My focus is the 24-1/2 years I DID get! I loved every single minute of it!
No, you cannot measure love. It is timeless and endless in this situation. No, you cannot measure loss. I can only imagine what I could have had. That’s all any of us can do. Truly, I am not sure any of us will cross every item off of our bucket list. Doesn’t mean we should keep it short. It does, however, signify the importance of living!
Make your dash count! We will all have a beginning and an end! We will all have happy moments, sad moments, learning moments, but never have regret moments! Your life, and mine, will be measured by the dash in the middle! That’s where all the memories, life, love, special moments, heartbreaks, good decisions, and bad decisions will live. As stated before, the beginning and the end are finite. The dash is everlasting!! It’s the reason we cry because you are gone, but smile because you were here!!
Mother’s Day! So many thoughts. So many emotions. The Lord knew what he was doing when he created our mothers. I know this from every person posting how their mother is the best. Some proof He put the right kids with the right parents. I could argue with them all because I know I had the best mom in the world. I thought I could never be like her, yet here I am, on Mother’s Day, and one of my children is not here to say “I have the best mom ever!” Just as my mom experienced! I know my son loved me and I hope he thought I was the “best” too! I do hope I get a sign from the heavens that makes me think he is saying Happy Mother’s Day!!! My focus of this blog is not my story on Mother’s Day. This is Cody’s story. I have been feeling like it was time for his side to come out.
Teenagers and young adults who have a mother who tell them to call them when they reach their destination, or wake them up when they get home, I want to share Cody’s story and tell you why this makes them the best mother for you. I want to tell you what visions they have from Cody’s view. I want you to honor their wishes every single time they ask you to do something. This is the message Cody left behind. But let me warn you, it can get graphic, but it is real and it is what goes through a mother’s (and father’s) mind every night they wait.
Cody’s message has been spoken, but not to the world. It has been relayed to the Victim’s Impact Panel for Peoria County once a month for almost a year. Granted, it took this mom two and a half years to ask for and acknowledge the information. Now is the time to share his side of the story. It is Mother’s Day and getting warmer. The young crowd is starting their bonfires and gatherings that usually contain alcohol. Cody needs every person to know what one person’s one decision on one night can do to their mothers, and fathers, and siblings, and friends, and world!
Cody left the house that night to go fishing. He went with a friend and was not far from home, a couple of miles behind our home, at a friend’s lake. He drank too much, too fast, and fought his friend for his keys. He only had a couple of miles, a few turns, and he would be home, right? Wrong! One person, one decision, one night.
At around midnight or shortly after, mom here started texting and calling. No answer. I sent him a text message and asked if he needed a ride. No response. Started calling after that. My calls went straight to voice mail. My heart was hoping he had just crawled in his truck and fallen asleep at the site he was fishing at. My mind had an entirely different image, and it is the image every parent gets when their child has not called them when they get to their destination if that destination is different than their home. Now I wait…
About 1:30am, there was a knock on the door. I was already awake as every mother is when in this mode of “where are they and are they safe?” Standing at my door was a Deputy Sheriff. He asked me if anyone at this address drove a green ‘98 Chevy truck. I said “yes, my son” with dread already coming to my words. He asked his name and if he was at home. I told him “Cody” and that he was fishing with a friend. He told me the vehicle was involved in an accident and could he come in.” My mind has now shifted to another DUI!! Crap!! He started in through the door and I yelled for my husband, Cody’s father. The officer came in and there was another person with him as he introduced us to the coroner! Yep! My heart sank! I stopped him from speaking and immediately called my sister! My brother-in-law is a retired LT Deputy Sheriff. I wanted to be able to speak before anything was said because I was afraid of what I was about to hear. My brother-in-law answered the phone with one word—-“what?” Can’t be good getting a phone call at that hour. I informed him that a deputy sheriff and the coroner were standing in my living room. He swiftly said “on my way” and hung up.
So, what happened next is a recollection as best as I can describe it. Other than the world caving in, this is my best guess to the following chain of events… The coroner knelt down in front of me as I had to sit down. He held my hand while my husband was knelt down next to me holding the other and asked if I knew how to get a hold of his friend. I didn’t have the number, but he proceeded to tell us the truck hit a tree and caught on fire. Then he asked if my son had a dentist. What!?!? Why!?!? The victim in the vehicle could not be identified! Now I am in a position of “Do I now want that to be my son or someone else’s!! I wanted option ‘C’ but wasn’t offered. I gave them the orthodontist that Cody went to for braces. Thought that would be the most recent. They did tell me they were pretty sure it was Cody, but had to wait to confirm. My sister and brother-in-law arrived. They went over everything with them. From there, it’s kind of a blur. I don’t even know when they left.
Here is what we found out later: a passerby called 9-1-1 at 11:23pm, just one hour before I started texting him. That passerby knew Cody. Pray for that passerby! I’m sure there are very few fires he will witness in his life where this image is not haunting him.
We then proceeded to call his sister (almost 2 hours away working third shift as an ICU nurse) and his 19 year old girlfriend. Let me tell you I think I know what dying feels like! I did it every time I had to call someone and give this news. By 7am, my house was full! All family! All just as scared, shocked, and bewildered as I was! Then, around 8am, his friend he was fishing with pulled in our drive to pick up his trailer. Confirmation made! He was pale as a ghost as we explained Cody didn’t make it home that night. His friend had left before him. He had NO idea!!
Now, I was planning the funeral of my 24-year old son. Remember, one person, one decision, one night. I even got up to speak after the priest was done speaking that day. I warned all the young people there that this could have been prevented. I didn’t know the details, but I knew THAT detail. Now let’s fast forward 2-1/2 years…
January 2020, one of my sons good friends was killed in an ATV accident. Drinking was involved, but now I put myself right there where his mother is and relive all the steps! Not that I had gotten very far in my own steps, but now I knew what they are feeling, what they are thinking, and what they have in their future! We are going to call this the first major sign. His friend was 20 years old and a passenger. I wished his friends would have heard me.
Sign Two: three months after his friend in January, another accident by one in his group. This young man was 21, single vehicle, now what do I do!?!?! What is the message they need to hear to assure them they are not invincible? My next step…
I contacted the county and asked for my son’s police report. Remember, I had not gotten any details of that night. I knew it would not bring my son back. But now, I needed this information to stop any more of his friends from joining him! The county personnel actually phoned me one day. It was a woman. She told me she had received my request. I asked if there was an issue, were fees involved, I would pay. She said “no” because of the Freedom of Information Act, I was privy to the records, but as a mom to a mom, could she please withhold the photos of my son. (The last time I saw my son was him walking away from the house to go fishing. The next time I saw him, he was in an urn.) I told her she could withhold them, but I wanted pictures of his truck and the scene. “Not a problem,” she said. This took me 2-1/2 years to ask for! I was nervous.
A week later, my package arrived containing the police report and a cd with photos. I knew what was in it but couldn’t open it. I called and told my daughter it was here. My daughter, ICU nurse and protector, came over and grabbed the disk and took off to view them first. Nothing really shocked her from what she expected, so in I went! This is what I saw!!
The photo is disturbing, but puts the pieces together of what happened and why he didn’t live through this accident. What people don’t know is that if his truck had went right instead of left, it could have hit a house that had small children in it. Praise Jesus for looking out for them!! Note: he uprooted the tree where the bark is missing, so his truck bounced. Hard to look at, I know. This is where my son died. The young kids and young adults need to see this. They need to ask themselves, “is that drive worth the chance for this to be what I leave behind?” THIS IS CODY’s MESSAGE!!
Remember, he was fishing just a few miles behind our home. A few turns and he would have been home. Here is a little perspective:
Cody’s message: it doesn’t matter how far you have to go, it is not worth the risk. This year, make a pact to do what is right, not what is easiest (or what you think is easiest). I want all people reading this to spread the message: Designated Drivers (DDs) are heroes!!! Period!!!
I am not posting this to make mothers cry or to allow anyone to feel sorry for me. According to several mediums and/or psychics, Cody is very sorry for what we have gone through and he didn’t mean for this to happen. I know in my heart that if he were standing next to me, he would want me to forgive him. I did that on Day 1, just so you know. This is his message, not mine. Please take this as a message it was intended.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers here on Earth, including my wonderful daughter, and to the ones we have had to say goodbye to. As we celebrate today, remember the joy of becoming a mother, having your mother with you, and all the ups and downs that created the life you live and the memories you have! If I could do it all over again, I may change a phrase or two, but I wouldn’t trade the years I was blessed with. For all I know, God put Cody here for me to be able to spread this message. When I get to see him again, I will confirm that! I am proud to have had the mother God gave me and to have been Cody’s mother!! I am who I am because of my mother. I know she is hugging my son and I am grateful for all they gave me! I cry because they are gone, but I smile because they were here.
A very wise person posted this phrase recently: my chance, my choice. Profound words when you think about them. Those words can be applied to many, many situations. We are given a chance every day we wake up. We get to choose what we do with that chance. Make it count in the best way possible!
Today is Bereaved Mother’s Day, the first Sunday in May. It was not my choice, but today is my chance to help others. I have no miracle cure for the sadness that comes with the title. It is a forever sadness. I do, however, celebrate that I was my child’s mom! I want to help others in this club to choose celebration!
The reason I think this hits me so hard today is because of the blame game being spread across this world! I don’t know how so many can blame others for the choices they are making. We can blame many for their actions, but we can’t blame them for our reaction! That is our choice!
I could go on and on. Take the chance given and choose happiness. Choose gladness for what is and what was, and know we are not guaranteed the future we dream of. We are, however given the chance to make today count. If my son taught me anything, that is it! My chance, my choice!
To all those thinking of loved ones no longer with us, choose the memories that make you smile. To parents in this bereaved club of survivors, choose memories that fill your heart with moments that say “I’d do it all over again just to feel this emotion again!” My chance, my choice! I cry because he is gone, but I smile because he was here!
Easter brings out some raw emotions for me. Hope, life, and everlastingly love of a mother to her son. Jesus was only 32 years old when his prophecy was fulfilled. Losing a child at any age is difficult! I wonder what Mary thought about the loss of her son. Of course, she already knew he was special being the Immaculate Conception and all. But what did she envision for Him?
Losing an adult child seems to have other issues! We have so many memories of when they were little and so many expectations during those times, when they pass before we get to witness those expectations coming to fruition, our imagination runs wild!
My son died at 24, was not married, and to my surprise, had no children. I still hold out hope that someone may knock on my door and introduce me to a grandchild, but as time goes on, that hope fades. I did get to witness him finding love! That makes my heart happy! But I still have that wonder of what I didn’t get to see him experience. What kind of future would he have had? Was he saved from something worse? Would my son have had children of his own, and if so, what kind of dad would he have been? Would he have, at one point along the way, realized everything we did for him and know how much we did out of love, despite what he thought at the time?
I know I will never know the answers, and none of us usually get to cross everything off of our bucket list. If we keep that list short and simple, maybe. Top of the list: love those around you as if you may not get another chance tomorrow! None of us are guaranteed tomorrow. Even bubble wrap cannot protect us from our destiny. And for all I know, this was exactly that, as it was with Jesus. Questions will forever remain unanswered until we meet again. Well, unless you want to trust the supernatural. I may indulge, but the answer still comes with a question mark to its validity.
Imagination is a wonderful and powerful thing. I get to create the future in my mind I had wished for my son since the day of his birth. It lets me sleep at night. I also imagine him next to Jesus, living it up, and happy. My ultimate wish for him. If I am sad, it is my sadness, not his. He reached his final resting place. I can only have peace that even though he didn’t live and experience my expectations for his future, he fulfilled the destiny set the day he entered this world and was rewarded on the day he left us. I can live with that.
This Easter, I look to the Heavens, smile, and know in my heart, my imagination isn’t too far from reality. Easter is about redemption, everlasting love, forgiveness, and light. I may not get to hold him, but I have him in my heart always! He is my prodigal son and he has returned home. He was here on loan, but the love I have for my children is eternal. Easter reminds me of that every year (even though it is an ever-present fact). He is Risen! As always, I cry because he is gone, but I smile because he was here.
So, another psychic story. This is getting good, as well as eerie. The newest message given to my daughter last month regarding my son is that Dad and I need to let go and heal. Well, I, for one, would like to know how that works! Is it possible and what exactly does it mean?
Letting go is not something I can do. Deadbeat dads do this when they father a child with a person they had no intentions of staying with, and then go through life like it never happened. That is NOT something my husband and I can do. My pregnancies were planned and welcomed! We love our kids with all our heart. Letting go doesn’t happen because one died. Letting go of guilt, in whatever form it takes, is something we need to let go of. Survivor’s guilt comes to mind. Guilt of words spoke or unspoken, maybe. Some of this is even a hurdle to try and let go of. If this is what he was referring to, I can promise to try.
Healing is another thing. Do you heal from this type of loss, the loss of a child? At any age? Do we ever truly heal when we lose a loved one, at any level? I know I am better for having my son in my life. I know he is at peace. I am not sure healing is what I would call this, but I get up every day and function like a person who has a job. I eat. I laugh at funny things. I also know my son is not coming back. I say with confidence I do these things because several parents in my shoes cannot say this! To me, that is a huge step forward towards healing.
So, what is the next step? I write, and write with hope. I have never lost hope of many things: my son at peace; me at peace; my husband and daughter at peace; the sun shining another day; and last but not least, seeing my son when this Earthly world is finished with me and I go to my forever home! I will also see my parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, and uncles! All of whom have left marks on my life and helped form me to who I am today. You can thank them or blame them. Either way, I have hope of seeing them again if they let me through those gates! As far as healing, I am not sure I will ever be “ok” with losing my son. It is not a parent’s dream when we bring them into the world, nor our expectations during our living years. Truth is, I am not alone in this club, and never will be.
I will be honest here. My son gave me five years of pushing the possibility of losing him in a driving accident. I cringed every time I knew he was driving. Not all because of drinking. He was a dare devil. But, the legal system took his license away a couple times for the very reason of drinking and driving. So, was this a shock? Not entirely. Still not what I wanted, but something I warned him about several times. He never left the house without a warning. Seems kids/young adults are invincible. They never believe it will happen to them. We don’t want to think they will get sick, get cancer, get in trouble, etc. The list goes on and on. Another club that cannot be avoided, the club of “not my child.” It happens and it happened to me too.
Not sure where I was going with this post other than healing is a long, drawn out process and does not happen overnight. As long as I am getting out of bed to see another day, I am one step closer. Closer to healing or closer to my son? Six of one, half dozen of the other. Good news is, I am ok. We are ok. My son is ok. I wanted to be mad, but when he paid the ultimate price with those actions, I can only be thankful I had him for the time I did! I cannot live with regret, remorse, or the “what if’s!” I will heal a little more every day, but I will never let go of the love I had for my son. I let go of what I cannot control and let God do the rest. Bottom line, I am a mother. I cry because he is gone, but I smile because he was here.
Ever since you have left us, I have written a letter directly to you on your birthday. Well, today is the day. I will celebrate the 24 years I was so blessed to have with you!! So, what has happened from when you would have been 27 to now, when you would have turned 28? I will share what this past year has been like and tell you I might be slightly jealous you got to miss some of it.
The downturn started when Kobe Bryant died along with his sweet, young daughter in a plane crash. Maybe you’ve met them! So sad. But at the same time that happened, a pandemic was hitting our nation. It kind of went to hell from there.
Mid-March, the world started closing everything down: restaurants, movie theaters, hair salons, gyms, and kids had to start learning online with their parents helping the teachers. The elderly were the most at risk, so your grandma and grandpa stayed home. We were glad for that. I don’t think you would have done well in many of the shutdowns. You would have been okay not going to school, but not learning from home. Been there, done that!! Your teachers remember you for that, and many more things. You were smarter than you ever gave yourself credit!
Then, the end of May, a man was killed while in police custody in Milwaukee and more hell broke loose. This is another span of time I was jealous you didn’t have to be here. I am sad at the chain of events that transpired from there. I have said it more than once, you would have gone all Tony Stark on the world and given out your address and told those rioters “Come get me! I’ll be waiting!” You were always my rebel and sticking up for those who couldn’t fight themselves. I’d have been proud and scared for you at the same time!
So, eight months into shutdowns and a pandemic, we had another presidential election. Well, that was fun…NOT!! We are going to skip this part of the year!! I bet you and Jesus are up there banging your palms onto your foreheads right now. Right there with you, son!! I miss the conversations we would have been having. Truth be told, I have imagined some of the conversations and they have been quite entertaining in my head.
The love of your life is doing well and being well cared for. She is still part of our family, of which I am so thankful. Her and her boyfriend bought a house. He is taking good care of her and has been a shoulder I know you would be glad she has! She was quite young to go through the loss of you, and, though she is strong, she needed support. For him, I am grateful!
Another thing this past year, two people have had psychics tell us in one way or another that you wanted us to know you were sorry about what happened! I never thought otherwise. One person mailed us a letter and said you were a very strong spirit. They said now that you’ve started talking, you won’t leave them alone! I’m jealous of that! So is your cousin! She wants you to haunt her too!! Lol! Feel free!
Your niece and nephew are being told all kinds of stories about you! That little niece of yours has been quite inspirited by you. It’s almost like a reincarnation of you as a girl! I am loving every minute of it!! Your sister has her moments where she is not as thrilled! Lol! She’s only two and a half, but she has that mischievous look in her eyes a lot!! We do get a chill every now and then!
This letter ended up longer than I had planned, but I had so much to say! I miss you every single day and know you are saving a spot for me! As I celebrate your life today, I will, at times, face reality that you are not physically with us! I keep you very much alive in my heart and will continue to do so! As a mother, we hold our children in our hearts for eternity. Some get to do this while watching their children grow into adults, parents, and even grandparents. I keep you forever 24, but I still keep you! As always, I cry because you are gone, but I smile because you were here!!
As I was flipping channels the other day, there on Hallmark, another lovey, dovey wedding. Who knew, right? So, the couple exchanged their vows (or tv version of the vows), but then I heard “till death do you part.” It hit me rather odd. Does death stop love? I know in wedding vows, it means you will stay married until one of you dies. I get that. But does love stop? I don’t think so, but for the loss of a child, it goes even deeper…
When a spouse dies, the surviving spouse can literally pick up, remarry, and go about their day. Sure, they may miss their previous spouse, and I am sure they do without a doubt. But their days can be replaced with a sense of normalcy. They remarry, share a home, dine together. The void gets filled so to speak. I would want that too. But there is a permanent void when the loss is your child…
There is no replacing that void. I will not get another hug from my child. I will not get to make him dinner. Well, I could, but he’s not eating it! I have nothing to replace that spot he held in my every day world. No sugar-coating. No resemblance of life before. That is the hardest thing for those who have never lost a child to ever understand. Many will have empathy for those of us in this club. I hope those who have never experienced this type of loss never have to. Truly. There is no comparison in life, or death.
So, I write. That is my void filler. I do have situations I will bring my child into now and then. I imagine his reaction. I picture him standing there making fun of me for whatever just happened and it makes me smile, for a second. Then it’s gone and the void comes right back. I have started sharing what happened to him as a goal to bring awareness to what one decision on one night by one person can do to an endless list of family and friends. I hope it helps others. It helps me and brings my son to the center of my conversation and I am good with that. I speak his name often. I don’t want anyone to ever forget him.
I do laugh. I try to be the same person I was before. Living through many losses, parents and grandparents, siblings, etc., I know life goes on. But my “normal” will never be the same. Ever. I cannot rebuild, nor do I want to. I never want to “replace” him, and I have accepted my “new normal.” Denying it doesn’t bring him back, but trying to replace him would be as if I am claiming he never lived. Death does not do us part, my friends. It only changes my future when his was cut short.
Till death do us part, and then some… cherish your family. Here and now, alive or passed away, they are forever in our hearts. Say their names, share their stories, give those that never met them the memories you have, even the ones that made your hair turn gray! Keep them real. Keep them present. Love is eternal between a parent and a child. I cry because he is gone, but I smile because he was here.
On this day, fourteen years ago, we said goodbye to our dear mother. What a difficult thing to do! I miss her, the advice she gave, and so much more. If you are blessed to still have your mamas, go hug them, call, or drop by! Let them know you feel blessed to still have them. I knew there would/could be a day I have to bury my mother. You think you are prepared, but it is still hard.
My mother was very busy with us eight children. She never treated any of us better than the other and loved us with all of her being. We lost our father first and then she buried two of my brothers before she passed. That, in itself, taught me more about my mother than anything. Little did I know I’d be wearing those shoes too!
As I reflect on the last fourteen years, the last three-plus without my son, I think about all those survivors who say we are not supposed to bury our children, but how so many of us have. There is no law written that says we will not outlive our children. My mother taught me that. If I died at thirty, and had a one year old, does that mean he can die now because I already did? No. There are no guarantees for any of us! This is, by far, the hardest lesson to learn.
What my mother taught me was patience. She had a lot of it with that many children. She most definitely earned her wings. Surviving the loss of a child, or in her case, children, our time on Earth is short. It’s even shorter in Heaven, or so I am told. When I get to Heaven, it will be as if no time has passed between any of the loved ones I have lost and myself. This gives me comfort even though it feels like eternity on this side of the clouds! Patience!
I want to thank my mother for all she gave in life, and for all she continues to give. She didn’t know it but she left a legacy of truths and advice! On this day, I recall the immense loss, but also the enormous gains in my life from one person, my mother. The last fourteen years, she continues to be my voice of reason, an example of what grace really looks like, and my true guardian angel. I have been blessed and I never want to forget that! I cry because she is gone, but I smile because she was here!!
Writing has been my therapy since, well, since forever! I have been writing poetry since I was thirteen! After having reread some of those writings from way back when, I am praying the therapy worked! It sure sounded like I needed it!! I seemed to write a lot about loneliness and sadness. Funny how some things never change. Although the source of those feelings is very, very different today!
Loneliness and sadness, they are two very different emotions. I am not sure I knew that as a teenager, but I sure know it as I slide down the backside of my fifties! You can be lonely for many reasons. You can feel lonely in a crowd of people! The ‘lonely’ is: a void, a space, something missing. Sadness is an entirely different, yet similar feeling you can have even if you don’t have the void or space. You can be sad it rained, or sad something you were looking forward to was cancelled. Those of us in this club of bereaved parents, we have both intertwined. The loneliness from the void of our children who passed before us and the sadness of the things we all missed out on! I say “all” because we are sad for them as well. How do we hurdle this fence of emotions that stop us in our tracks?
I encourage everyone to find passion in doing something they feel is worthwhile to their mental health! One thing I do is I try to find a positive in every single day. If we are finding those positives, we find our loved ones on the other end. The “butterflies” that inhabit our space and let us feel our lost loved ones’ presence! This is one step over that proverbial hurdle.
Another thing I do is write, as noted before, as therapy. Whether it is in journal format or with rhyming words, it is my escape. I feel my son looking over my shoulder, correcting my grammar, and helping me choose the right photo to match my words. He did that every year when I would write my annual Christmas card when he was alive. I miss those critiques!!
The loneliness may subside during your “therapy” sessions, even if the sadness does not. I am sure the word “happy” will never be associated with this loss, but it doesn’t mean you won’t be happy at times or ever know peace. It’s ok to be happy or at peace. Our children would want us to be happy. I have to believe that with everything in my being! It is the only way I can sleep at night.
I know I have repeated my therapy sessions with myself over and over. I keep recalling how many times I would have to tell my son to do something: his homework; taking out the trash; putting his clothes away; etc! Why would this process be any different?!?! It isn’t. In my heart of hearts, I don’t want it to be over. I want to continually have something bugging me and hanging undone. It keeps him active in my life. My son has been gone almost 3-1/2 years and I still yell down the basement steps to tell him to come get his crap off the dryer! The items are still there, and will remain there for all time as far as I am concerned! Gives me a reason to yell at him and keep him real!’ Feels normal!
If you see the same sentiment over and over in my writing, that is just me trying to convince myself of the words I am typing. It is that simple! You know the person who asks the same questions five different ways looking for the one answer they want to hear? That’s me in dealing with this loss! I can ask myself many different ways how to deal, but the answer will remain: one day at a time, no matter how the question was asked! If I get up another day to face the world, I am over another hurdle and that is a good thing!
Be kind to yourself. Do what gives you momentum to face another hurdle! I promise you will feel your child(ren) closer than ever when you do! I write, but if you deal with plants, grow flowers or plant a garden! If you exercise, take walks or become a body builder. If you read, find a book that reminds you of your loved one or write. Whatever your therapy to handle the loneliness and sadness, it is the right way. There is no wrong way if you manage to bring a leg up over that hurdle. If you cannot bring that leg up, please speak to any professional or grief group. That is not a sign of weakness, in fact, requires inner strength! It is a hurdle in itself.
My son’s birthday is in four weeks! He would have been 28 years old. I will celebrate that day for the 24 years I was given. This includes the many memories that must sustain me for the rest of my years! I will write him a birthday letter as I have done every year on his birthday. More therapy! I do not wish him a happy birthday on that day. I do, however, celebrate his life and the day he came into this world! I look up to the heavens and pray he is smiling down on us!
Therapy, in the many forms I utilize, will help me get over the daily hurdles. Those sessions are not required every day as they were at the beginning. Nevertheless, they are still important! I pray for those in this club and hope your children are smiling down from Heaven and helping you over those daily hurdles. I know my son is at peace. That acceptance was a major hurdle through the tears. As always, I cry because he is gone, but I smile because he was here.
Oh, the holidays and all the joy they bring!! Most already know, holidays bring a lot of sadness too. For many, Christmas is the hardest holiday of all. I know why this is for me and do all I can to overcome the odds, even if it requires a little osmosis!!
The first Christmas after my son died, I cried at the drop of a hat. I cried trying to shop for my daughter and her family. I found everything my son would have loved! Every time I did, I cried again. I was not sure that would ever change. It has. That doesn’t mean I don’t cry, but now I picture my son with whatever gift I found he would have loved and imagine the joy on his face. That makes me happy.
I have great memories of my childhood and the days when my children were little. I think I used the “Santa” thing for several months leading up to Christmas!! If Santa could only make more trips during the year, my kids might have behaved a little better a little longer, but then the truth comes out eventually…
One of my tricks for getting through the holidays is thinking of my childhood and the things my mom did that made it special. Being one of eight children, we didn’t usually get a huge pile of gifts. My parents spent about the same amount on each of us. That means one or two might get several things while another got one big item. We tried to do the same, but even so, it always seemed one would try and calculate in their heads what something cost. As we get older, we know it has nothing to do with the money spent and everything to do with the physical presence of just being together with those you love!!
As I head into this holiday, we may only have one child to buy for, but now we have the grandchildren we get to spoil too!! Christmas will be different every year, and I cannot stick myself in a time warp thinking time would never change what I once had. It will change every year no matter what has happened. But, it will not stop me from remembering those holidays, and I do, with a smile!!
Remember all the family and friends, here and gone, and remember, we are not alone. We have real angels with us and they are happy when we are happy! Hold onto the people they were and keep them alive in your hearts!! It is my hope and prayer for all that this Christmas be spent with great memories, as well as the creation of new ones. It is what our loved ones would want for us! I know that in my heart of hearts!! It’s ok to have happiness!! As always, I cry because he is gone, but I smile because he was here!
As Christmas hits the calendar, and in a year of a pandemic, many will know what it is like not to get a photo of all their family together. I live that every single holiday. Some will not get to hug their kids goodbye. Been there too!! But I still have much to be thankful for!
I have my mom heavy on my mind right now. My mother was very strong! How strong was she? She buried two sons before she died and never let us know how bad that hurt. She got out of bed every day, though some days had to be excruciating!! Now that I’m there, too, I think about my mom in a whole new light!!
This is my fourth Christmas since the loss of my son. I keep thinking of how sad my mother must have truly felt during the holidays. She never let it show. That had to hurt. I don’t think I am like my mom. I tend to speak my heart’s feelings out loud and on paper, but for me, it feels like therapy. I don’t remember her speaking of her ‘hurt.’ I differ in many ways than my mother, but I hope not in all ways.
My mother NEVER forgot any her children, ever!! She never put one above the other and, when we were all alive, there were eight of us. Even after my brothers died, she never lifted them higher than those of us still around (which I have seen a bereaved parent do). I have two beautiful children, a son and a daughter. Just because one is in Heaven doesn’t mean I don’t have him. He is in my heart, my thoughts, and my actions every minute of every day. I don’t want to ever forget the “real” person he was, with all the things he did that come with that description. My daughter is a huge bright spot, not to mention the littles that call me “grandma!!” I am still so blessed! I never want to forget that within my grief!
As this holiday nears and families start “gathering,” remember those who have gone before us and are not here to celebrate in the conventional way. I know the first year, I cried every time I had a friend post their family photo around the tree. Now, I look at them and know how blessed they are to have that photo!! When those photos are the memories you have now, you relish in the happiness of having them.
May this next year bring peace to those suffering, healing to those with fresh loss, and comfort to those doing this all alone. Christmas is one of the best, yet saddest, of all holidays. It’s about the birth of hope! May that hope be within all of us for the future as we remember those we have lost. As always, I cry because he is gone, but I smile because he was here!!
I have had several people mention the “what if’s” lately. It has me thinking a lot about our choices, what we can control, what we can’t control, and how we can change the outcome despite the question itself. It starts here and could end here, but probably not…
I have referred to the movie “Final Destination” more than once in the last three plus years. This is my theory on the “what if’s.” Nothing may have changed the situation’s end result. Maybe the scenery was changed. Maybe the players would have been different. Maybe it would have been a different day and time. But, in reality, the “what if’s” cannot be theorized, anticipated, or made into realities. They will always be after the fact. So, we can’t ask “what if?” now. My thought for my situation is my son may have died anyway. This may have been written in a time book I wasn’t privy to. It might have had some details different is all. This is how I cope. Truthfully, I may have had him longer than was meant to be. Can’t prove or disprove it without a physic. The “what if’s” are infinite.
On this day, 26 years ago, my oldest brother died at the age of 42. What if his date of death was predetermined? As it turns out, this date 18 years ago, we also lost another brother at the age of 40. What if…? So many “what if’s…” So, so many… what if this was their destiny? What if they were meant to die on the same date years apart? Who really knows? I know who knows and I cannot question the “what if’s” and will continue to focus on the “what was!” I was blessed many times because of the “what was!” I can’t denote those focusing on the “what if’s.”
“What was…” is I was blessed with a son for 24 years! “What was” is my mother lived to see her two boys that preceded her in death live, love, get married, and have children. She was blessed and knew it too. I may not have seen my son get married and have children, but I saw him live and find love. It has to be enough because there are those who didn’t get that far. I am blessed.
I know I am stronger for having had the experiences in my life and having those I lost in my life, for whatever time I had! I have to shy away from the “what if’s” and continue to focus on the “what was” and “what is!” I have learned so much from my brothers, my parents, and my son! They all taught me about life, love, and survival.
“What if” today is the first day you take a step forward, out of the darkness, and live for “what is!”? Ask yourself, “what if this is my opportunity?” Take it! “What if this is my last day on Earth?” Live it! “What if” you look forward, not backwards? I know these “what if’s” will continue to happen while we are alive. I don’t want to live that every day. I know I will make choices that would have turned out better had I went left instead of right. We all will. It’s ok!
For all those who have the “what if I would have changed my plans that night?” or “what if I had asked him to tag along with me instead?” I don’t want you to live there! I want you to have the “I am glad I did that thing when…” and “I am glad he was my friend!” and “thank God I have those memories!” As we head into the holidays later this week, Advent, and Christmas, take every opportunity you can to live without the “what if’s!” Take time to make those calls, send those posts, share those memories! Like you all, I cry because he is gone, but I smile because he was here!!