Life is not birth and death, but everything in between!
Author: Christina Herold Trueblood
My name is Christina Trueblood. I am married and live in Central Illinois and am the mother of two, a daughter and son. Unfortunately, I lost my son in August 2017 in a single vehicle truck accident a couple of miles from our home. He was 24. I have documented some of my story on Facebook over this first year and have been encouraged to start a blog. I hope to help other families who have gone through loss and struggle to make any sense of it. My faith has kept me going and I believe one day, we will meet those loved ones we have lost again and it will be as if no time has passed. Until then, I want to honor their lives and know they left a mark on my life! Please follow me and share your stories.
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!!
Someone asked me once, “What song gives you strength?” There you have it. “I Am Woman” it is! I just watched the movie made last year about Helen Reddy’s life, “I Am Woman.” I remember watching her on ‘The Carol Burnett Show’, ‘Sonny and Cher,’ and ‘Johnny Carson.’ Yes, I’m that old! I never realized until I watched the movie how many women were also empowered by that very same song. Helen Reddy, may you rest in peace, know your song still builds strength within me I didn’t know I had.
Seeing someone motivate and build strength in another, especially someone they have never met, is mind-boggling! It actually makes me a little envious, wishing I had the power to inspire another human to know they have more ability to survive than they ever would have thought. I would love for my poetry to be a motivational entity, but then, I’m not sure I would handle it very well. Don’t misunderstand me, I would love it. Not sure I would accept that my words could move anyone out of their situation in a upward motion. I have always thought of my poetry as personal therapy. Sadness motivates me to write in rhyme. I hope it helps others as well.
Going through what I have gone through and still be living is an empowering personal achievement. I give so much credit to my mother. She never really talked about surviving the loss of two of her eight children. She suffered in silence and shared her grief with our Lord in private. I thought that, but it was confirmed after my son died. My sister gave me a book of my mother’s about surviving the loss of a child. It was a thin book, but on the inside cover, she wrote those very words. I cried when I read them. Part for her sorrow and part because I felt her loneliness. If she only knew how much strength she provided me, she was never alone.
Surviving loss is not something I have done alone. I’ve had a lot of help. I still have triggers that open the flood gates, but I am woman, and I do roar. I am pushed from within to live, and live large. When I was pregnant, I ate for two. Now, since my son died, I breathe for two. Motivation comes in many forms. It can be songs, people, movements, and just plain words. I may not be moving mountains, but I sure hope I am moving in the right direction. If you make your voices heard, use encouraging words, actions, and cliches: this too shall pass; what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger; storms are reminders the sun will shine again, etc. We have had enough of the other kinds in this year of 2020.
Thanksgiving is just around the corner. As the pandemic lives on much longer than any plant I have ever owned, please know we are all strong, and invincible, and we all roar. Be thankful for the things that inspire you. I want to give thanks to all of those in my life who have empowered me without even knowing it. To my family, we have been through a lot of loss in our time, but I know I am who I am because of all of you. I miss those we have lost, but they are never really gone. They live in our hearts forever. We may not all be woman, but we are all strong. We cry because they are gone, but we smile because they were here.
I have witnessed so many gracious acts of mercy the last three years since the loss of son, my heart is overflowing!! Their ‘act of mercy’ was simply doing something out of sheer kindness and expecting absolutely nothing in return! This is a “pay it forward” opportunity! In these troubling times we have been having, it sure was nice to experience an act of mercy and kindness!!
An Act of Mercy is a giving gesture: feeding the hungry; donating clothing; and more, expecting nothing in return. If you go around telling everyone you did something kind for someone and are expecting praise, then it is not an act of mercy. To tell others what kindness was performed in hoping the idea catches on is a learning experience. The two are different. A true act of mercy is given from the heart in a moment when the giver usually gets more satisfaction than the receiver (although neither can be measured)!! I have a million examples, and I am humbled when I am the receiver of such kind and thoughtful gestures!!
A few months ago, a very kind person made memory quilts for me and my daughter out of my son’s clothing. The warmth the quilt provides, being wrapped in the memories of my son, is a feeling that I cannot define. I, also, cannot describe the emotions when she did not want to accept payment. I did pay and asked her to donate that money to her favorite charity, but that does not negate her true act of mercy! Time to pay it forward.
Tonight, I saw a picture posted on Facebook on Halloween of a sign printed by a family so trick or treaters would not ring their door bell only to be disappointed. The sign read, “No candy. Sorry, child with cancer. See you next year. Nice costume though.” When they looked at their door cam, they were surprised at a huge pile of candy left there for them. And they say “a child shall lead them…” And so they shall. What a gesture!! I’m not crying. You’re crying!!
In this year of 2020, people are wired differently. People who have never been into politics are suddenly very informed (and should be)! Many are frightened, scared, lonely, and battling information that is as diverse as the population! Let’s bring back kindness and acts of mercy. Let’s do for someone else today. Write a letter to someone in a nursing home that has been alone because of the pandemic. Buy the coffee for the person behind you at the drive through. Call your aunt or uncle that live alone and miss their family. Help someone who is struggling to get through the day when others turn to look away. Be the reason someone smiles. Acts of mercy are about people, and love, and kindness. Let’s bring it back.
Starting right this minute, do the kind thing. Every person is fighting a battle we know nothing about. We all have situations we don’t speak of, advertise, or know how to get through. Many things we will never get over, and must learn a new normal. These internal battles can definitely use an act of kindness, a gentle gesture, and/or an angel in disguise. Be that angel. You would be surprised how therapeutic it is for the receiver as well as the giver.
Let’s get through these last couple of months of 2020 with a giving attitude! Let’s be the change we want to see. We cannot bring back yesterday, but can make tomorrow better. Pray for our country, our salvation, and our most vulnerable!
I totally understand memoirs now. We could all write one and they would all be different. Life is a living book and all of our encounters with those we have in our lives are chapters. One of the motivators I have every day is, “What do I want my pages to say?” I asked my son that question once just a month or so before he died. He told me his pages would be full. At the time, I didn’t think he had done enough at 24 years of age to fulfill that statement, but I was wrong. What an eye opener! It is also a point of reflection for me!
We all have those chapters that we want to slam the book shut on and it makes us happy to be passed that part! Some chapters are very hard to close. They are happy things we don’t want to ever forget or grief-stricken moments we can’t seem to get passed. Some chapters are short. Some seem to be a book within themself. When a chapter ends, whatever the chapter consisted of, it is STILL, and always will be, a part of our book. And, we are chapters in others’ books, even after our book concludes!
Any time (or chapter) of each year can be easy or difficult! We have weddings, births, and happy times, but we may also lose loved ones such as our parents, siblings, and even a child or children. Those chapters are not over necessarily! I still draw on my mother’s strength and can hear her words as if she is standing next to me! She guides me in the chapters since I lost my son, knowing she had been there too! My son still guides me and is helping me help others (I hope I’m helping)!! This allows him to be part of my future chapters as well!
This post is not just about what the people we love have left within our chapters. This is about what mark we will leave on this world and in the chapters of those we have in our lives. The world is in a crazy place right now. I am not sure any of us want to write anything down. If we do, I think we are all going to look back at Chapter 2020 and freak a little!!
The point of this post is to reflect on these “Chapters.” Our book continues on. What do we want our pages to say? What do I want MY pages to say? My chapters are not over, and I am still the same person as previous portions of this book of life, but hopefully, wiser, stronger, and more forgiving than my younger chapters. I am a work in progress. I can’t be both God-fearing and hate-filled. I can’t stand tall and cower under pressure. Life is too short! Make sure your chapters reflect the real you!
As I continue on, please know those who are in my life are such a huge part of my story. I hope the lines I am within your chapters have left a positive mark in your life, or maybe I will be a bright spot in your future! As with my son, and all those who have left from the chapters in my book of life, I cry because you are gone, but I smile because you were here!!
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust… Is that all we are and have to look forward to? Not by a long shot! We only have one life, but what we do with that life leaves more than ashes!! We are so much more!! As I watched a Hallmark movie (because I didn’t know if this movie would be different from the other 999 😳), I did catch a scene I do not see often in a lot of their love stories, an older man releasing his late wife’s ashes. It kind of hit me… I don’t want to let go!
My son died in a single vehicle accident, and I know I may have mentioned it before but, his vehicle caught fire and I never got to see him after the accident. He was identified through dental records. His father and I had him cremated, for obvious reasons, and we decided not to bury his ashes. Now, he rests in an urn… at our home… in a corner… on a shelf… in a perpetual time out! As I watched the show with the older gentleman releasing the ashes off a dock and into a body of water. I just looked over at the urn in the corner (you have to know where to look because to anyone else, you wouldn’t see it because it is part of a shrine of memorabilia), I told Cody, “nope! You are home and that is where you are staying!” Similar to his boots by the door, home to stay. Right now, I can’t imagine him anywhere else. But I have so much more than ashes!! I have beads made out of flowers from his funeral hanging in my car, a charm holder on my purse with charms reminding me of him, a bracelet on my wrist made out of buttons off his shirts, a pillow in my living room with his actual signature, and so much more!
I have brief moments when I think someone might find this odd, but then I remember, I don’t care what others think. I have already told my daughter, the ashes will be handed to her as part of her inheritance! My husband and I both plan to be cremated and put in an urn… on a shelf… in a corner! She can decide where we go from there. It isn’t like we will be able to fight back! Or will we…😜
I think I do keep Cody here so my heart knows he is home, and I am ok with that! It does not hurt me to look at the urn, or to know it is there. I think it would hurt worse if he wasn’t home. If he had been buried, I would visit the cemetery! Can’t say I’d visit as often as I do with him at home. But, that’s just me.
So, as I write this and remember that childhood chant , “ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” I realize I gotta do what I gotta do!! In all seriousness, my son will always be here, whether in an urn, in pictures, on charms, in memories, or just residing in my heart. The image in my mind is what I see when I look in that corner. It is the same image I would have if my son had been buried in a cemetery, in a vault, or at sea. The person we are while we are alive is what those who love us will picture when they visit us after we are gone. Make those memories count!! As always, I cry because he is gone, but I smile because he was here!
I have mentioned before, when my son and I meet up again, the first thing he will say is, “I’m sorry.” That was confirmed recently, sort of. Caught me off guard a little, but not as much as you would think.
I received a letter recently in the mail from an anonymous person. I’m assuming it was a female because who else would Cody haunt, right? In this letter, it was mentioned his funeral card kept showing up after ‘she’ thought it had been put away. Finally getting the hint, she left it out and told Cody to let her know what he wanted to say. A couple weeks went by and the message was delivered. She told me in the letter, she got up at that moment and wrote it down… “Tell my mom and dad I am sorry. I didn’t mean to do it.” Message confirmed what I thought.
Do I believe our loved ones speak to us from beyond? Absolutely!! I love the thought of new messages coming from him, or anyone I have loved and lost. Those we have lost are not really lost. We know where they are. They also never die. They will live in our hearts forever.
I also want to thank those who continue to read, follow, speak of, and share stories regarding Cody. This allows his life to continue and I will continue to share as long as people are willing to listen! As always, I cry because he is gone, but I smile because he was here.
I have spent the past week posting one poem each day on Facebook that I had written since my son has passed. Writing is my therapy. It helps soothe my thoughts and anxieties. I hope it continues to help others since I just renewed my domain for another year. Speaking of another year, here we are! Another anniversary…
This date is my cross at the side of the road. Today marks the third anniversary since my son died. Yesterday, I got to say it was two plus years. Now, I am forced to acknowledge an additional year. We knew this day was coming. As a bereaved parent, like all bereaved parents, certain things are triggers and hit us all very differently. For me, dates are huge! I still want to celebrate the life he had and the years I had with him. Death does not change the love you have for your child(ren).
As a married couple, “we are having a baby” should be the happiest words you share. I know for me they were! All my pregnancies were planned. We beamed with joy each time we shared our good news. We knew what was coming!! Now, imagine the sorrow when you get the news that your son has died. It doesn’t matter the age, but in my situation, he was 24 years old. Three years ago today was that day…
The days I had my babies and became a mother were the happiest days of my life. When I speak of dates, it is similar to biblical terms for me. We have “BC” in biblical terms “before Christ” and then we have after. Same here except it is “with Cody” and then “without.” I had a life before children. It was great. The part of my life, since I met my husband and started our family, was a totally different “me,” a better me! Same for my life after losing a child, a totally different me, but changed in a totally different way, with appreciation for many things I had taken for granted! I am sad, but know happiness. I feel weak, but know I am strong. My heart breaks, but I have so much love!
When I miscarried in between my two kids, it was devastating and heartbreaking, to say the least. One of my sister-in-laws and my best friend we’re both due around the same time. My mother wanted to tell them so I could avoid the awkwardness of it, but I chose to tell them. If I hadn’t, they would not know how to share their joy with me. And, I was still very happy for them. It was my brother’s first biological child and my best friend’s first born. Turns out, getting pregnant wasn’t my issue. I delivered my son three months after them.
Now, telling people you are expecting being the happiest news, telling someone you lost your child (after delivering and at any age) is by far the worst and most devastating news! In the same case as my miscarriage, I choose to talk about it openly, and for the same reason. I don’t want anyone feeling awkward around me, especially when speaking about my son. I enjoy talking about him and truly hope people don’t get tired of me doing so. It keeps his memory alive for me.
As I acknowledge this date, August 20th, I am reminded of the joy of finding out I was pregnant again, of delivering a son to carry on the family name, to the chaos that comes from having a boy who was involved in so many things, loved all kinds of music, fought for hours to do fifteen minutes worth of work, could take a truck apart in no time and never failed to put it back together with leftover parts, who loved to sing at the top of his lungs, loved to hunt anything and everything, and when he loved anything or anyone, it was with everything in his being (which turns out was how he fought also), and left a trail of many family and friends who still miss him almost as much as I do.
So, we knew this day was coming. For the next 364 days, I now have to say he has been gone three plus years. Another year! Forever and yesterday combined into one. I do hope the message he left for me to tell others has stopped any new members to this club. I am not sure what the statistics are today for families who have lost a child. They used to be around 19% (or almost 1 out of 5 parents). Today, I am sure it is higher with the rampage of violence we have experienced. Too many, but again, none of us are exempt.
Today, put a smile on your face if you knew my son. I will. Speak of memories or stories that make you laugh or smile. He is missed beyond belief by many, and his life is worth never forgetting! Today, with the many who have gone before, and several who have followed, we cry because they are gone, but we smile because they were here. Forever loved and never forgotten…
I am getting close to the 3-year anniversary of the worst day of my life, the loss of my son! How have I gotten here in what seems the blink of an eye? I have some theories. As I spend time and think about how I managed these almost last three years and the motions of my new normal, it seems to ease my anxiety as that anniversary approaches. This date is difficult. A far cry from the anticipation of waiting for Christmas Day, but there is still a countdown. The closer it gets, the tighter the feeling in my chest and the wonder of “how” did I get here!
I still am in awe that my mother and my aunt (on my dad’s side) did this twice! Those two women both lost two sons each. Even though they were at different ages and for different reasons, we know a loss is a loss. Those ladies didn’t have social media and the support I feel I have. How did they do it and not die too? A question I will never get an answer to, but am guessing it was similar to mine, living every day with a beating heart for them!! Also, knowing where they are and that they are at peace!!
For me, I keep my son alive in my heart every second of every minute of every hour of every day! The time seems to stand still and yet goes by quickly, or so it seems! Just as the fact that my daughter is turning 30 this year when it seems like yesterday I gave birth!! I do believe by never letting him die in my heart, he will not die in my every day actions. I have said it before, and it works, I live for him every day!
Last year, my husband and I took a trip on that anniversary and tried to do things our son would have enjoyed doing. A lot of it was outside my comfort zone, but since our son lived on the edge of fear and fun, I did too!! We called it the “watch this, hold my beer” tour. He would have loved it! We zip-lined, walked across the sky bridge in Gatlinburg, and drank moonshine! All things I had never done before.
This year, I have just changed positions and am not taking a week off to celebrate his life. I am still hoping to take the day off. There are two days a year I will not work if at all possible: his date of birth and his date of death. If I did work, my mind would not be in it. I think most would understand that. I still want to do something. Just haven’t decided what it will be yet.
As I approach that fateful date in one month, I know my heart will be heavy again for all the things that both my son himself and us as parents missed out on. I have to know with my faith, he is still with me and I am happy for all the joy he did experience! I think he would be proud of some of the efforts I have made to honor him and live in memory of him!
I did speak at my first DUI offenders class as a victim’s advocate this month. I was nervous. I talked to Cody a lot before and after. I knew I would get emotional during the presentation, just wasn’t sure at what point it would hit me. I made it almost all the way through my slide presentation. Pretty proud of that too. I wanted facts to go with it and it took me almost three years to uncover those facts. I knew he had been drinking that night. I just didn’t know how much! Shocked at what I discovered, yet not. I know I would have not dealt as well had it been earlier in my grief. Glad I waited for the signs for that discovery.
Here is what that lesson taught me. Cody still has messages for me. I don’t always know, at first, what they are for, but it always makes sense down the road. I am so grateful for those signs! It makes it easier to get up each day knowing I will still have new moments in which he is a part of. I would prefer his actual presence, but I still know he is there in spirit! It will have to do.
As I await the next 31 days to pass, know that losing a child is, and always will be, the worst thing a parent will go through. Also know, we are never alone in that situation and need each other to hold our hands, be a person to turn to and lean on, and we were blessed to be their parent! The life they leave behind is something we never want to forget or stop talking about. I speak my son’s name often as if he is in the next room, or is about to get off work, and even on his way home to eat his favorite meal that I still cook! I do these things a lot while in this stretch waiting for that anniversary. As much as I hate adding another year gone, I don’t ever want to forget the years I had!! As always, I cry because he is gone, but I smile because he was here!!
It’s summer! This time of year brings so many thoughts and memories! As we get closer to that anniversary date, it’s hard to not think about that last summer in 2017. Although, right now, I can’t imagine what it would have been like for my son. He was a rebel of epic proportions. He definitely would not have quarantined well at all, let alone let someone tell him you can’t have fun on July4th!!! It was his favorite holiday!!
Lately, it seems every song on the radio is reminding me of my son and I can hear him singing!! Just heard “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus and I’ll be damned if it didn’t bring tears! Funny, the most out-of-the-blue things can just hit me like a brick!!
Last night, the trigger was the smell of the fire as I was burning the trash in our burn barrel. That kid loved a good bonfire! He loved any reason to get together with friends! My little social butterfly!!
This past weekend, my husband and I went up to LeClaire, Iowa. Quaint little tourist town. Buffalo Wild Bill Cody was from there and has a museum located in town. The main road is Cody Road and they have Cody Road Coffee House, Cody Road Whiskey, and Cody Road several others stores. Hard not to think about your child named Cody!
As I muddle through July, Bereaved Parents’ Month, I inch closer to the month of August, the anniversary month. I try not to dwell on all the things I missed out on, and want to be thankful for all the great things I did get to experience with my son. I know many did not get as much as I did. I am grateful, but that doesn’t mean I still can’t be a little upset and sad. I am both! I will celebrate my son this month, and next month, and the month after that!
For all his friends that choose to celebrate this July 4th despite the recommendations, lift one up to Cody and yell ‘here’s to you, Merica!!! He would love that!! And, as always, I cry because he is gone, but I smile because he was here!!
For almost three years, I have been strongly and adamantly searching for positives from negative situations. Sometimes, it takes hours. Sometimes, it takes days. This time, weeks.
Several months ago, we were hit with a pandemic. A corona virus my son would have nicknamed the “beer flu.” At first, when they closed schools, I thought ‘knee jerk’ reaction. Then, things started seeming more and more serious. I thought to myself, maybe it wasn’t a knee jerk reaction. Granted, I am probably not considered someone of high risk. As days, weeks, and months went on and restrictions were mandated months after the onset, I am back to knee jerk. Putting on a mask three months after the virus started seemed like going on birth control when you were three months pregnant.
Then, the chaos started after a man was killed by a police officer during an arrest. The world came unglued. In many ways, I totally understand the uproar. Police brutality in this situation. Unnecessary force by all accounts. It was a white cop and a black man. This has been seen before and that has to stop. This does not mean all cops are bad either, just as all blacks are not bad!The protests were done, and for many, were done peacefully. But, then there were riots. The riots that followed instilled a lot of fear in a lot of people and took away from the point at hand. How did looting a store and hurting, if not killing the owner, prove this ‘cause’?
I have described situations as a ‘cause’ or a ‘bandwagon.’ A cause is something that will benefit a lot of people. A bandwagon is something people jump on without thinking or knowing what outcome will happen and not thinking of the cause and effect of their actions will have. For the above situations, it involved both.
I have always tried to be a peacemaker in situations. I have never looked at anyone for the color of their skin. Yet, during all this, I have been accused of being unsympathetic to the virus; instigating hatred from a shared Facebook post, and called on about what was thought to be a white supremacy attitude. That’s a lot to take in for a peacemaker! Hard to spin the positive, but I am going to try.
First off, I cannot apologize for the color of my skin. I was born that way. My point was not the color, but that we all bleed red. Personally, I think everyone should embrace their heritage!! I also believe we should all be treated with kindness and respect until we are faced with a reason not to, such as someone endangering you. The thought or implication of danger due to the color of their skin is not ok!! Second, I am sympathetic to those who have contracted this illness and suffered or died. I just happen to not be afraid of it. I have been out and about and have not tried to make anyone uncomfortable. I also sat in a salon chair with no one around knowing it was part of the non-essential businesses and then went to the grocery store that was packed and wondered how a grocery store was safer. To follow up with instigating anger, my only comment to what I shared was how it resembled a movie! Now, I ask you, where was the original problem in any of this and why did I have to defend myself or my actions? We all have actions, but lately every move is viewed as “with” or “against” a situation! So why did I feel the need to clarify? Because I am a peacemaker!
Now, to find the positive in any of this… one thing I am grateful for now is my son is not alive to witness this. He would have gone full redneck on society and I would not have been able to contain him! I imagine he would have done a ‘Tony Stark’ and given out his address to have them come to him! He also wanted what was right, but did not like feeling like his liberties were at risk. Strange way to come up with a positive, but there you go.
There are many more positives here. I have learned a lot about politics, the law, the human race, and survival. I learned I have a voice and I might make a difference, though however small it is. I have found compassion still exists!! A positive I do not want to overlook is that I have never seen myself through the eyes of someone else, and for whatever I do going forward, I can now visualize that perception. I hope it is always positive from their side and mine!!
From this point forward, take nothing for granted and live! Follow ten simple rules and all will be good! For those that need reminded of those ten rules, open a Bible!! They are in there! I pray God continues to watch over all of us, even though there are many times I feel I have failed Him! He is a forgiving God! I pray peace is found soon and will continue to seek the positives!
Memorial Day, every day, especially to parents who have lost a child! These official holidays remind us of the void in our family. I still want to acknowledge ALL those who have gone before us, even those who were lost protecting me when they didn’t even know me. God bless them!
This Memorial Day is a bit different than those past, but still the same message. For me, almost all holidays are some sort of Memorial Day, but for family members. My family picks holidays to leave this Earth, but that is an act of God. Brings a different meaning to those days. This one in particular is my second oldest brother, Denny. He had his heart attack eleven years ago and died the following Friday. He was always the life of the party!! Now, this holiday is his. But not only…
As we head into this Memorial Day, think about those who have sacrificed so that we can have the freedoms we take for granted, at least, prior to this covid thing. We can go anywhere and do almost anything, and do we really appreciate it? We don’t always acknowledge it until someone tries to take it away. Welcome to the first pandemic holiday!!
Being shut in and not allowed to go out to eat, or travel on a three day weekend should not hinder us from spending the day thinking about those no longer here! Call a friend! Visit a relative! Visit the cemetery (trust me, they can’t give you this beer flu)! But acknowledge those who made that sacrifice so you could do those things. But, it shouldn’t just be one day a year. Acknowledge those sacrifices every single day!!
I spend almost every day thinking about people who are no longer with us at some point during my day. This does not, however, prevent me from remembering ALL the wonderful people still here today!! I have had such a support system during my life, and I want to say “thank you” to all of them today, those here and gone.
This is the third Memorial Day without my son, but it is the 30th without my dad, and as I said before, it was eleven years ago I last had my brother here with us. So, as I think about them, I also remember all the other family members not with us and all the wonderful times we shared. I pray I never forget. I cry because they are gone, but I smile because they were here.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions… How many times has that been said? That phrase never leads to a happy ending. We know the road to hell could be what you leave behind. I know my son set out to have a good time that fateful night and did not think him not living through the drive home would be the end result. What we went through from that point on, as a family and group of his friends, was a lot like hell!! Because of this, I have vowed to try harder to get my message across to those who want to just have a good time! I don’t want to put a damper on their good fun, but I do want them to think hard about the choices they are making and the ramifications involved. So here is my next step…
I have been asked if I would be willing to speak at a DUI offenders class. Without hesitation, absolutely!! There are so many things I want to say, but I know I need to send a message and not just share my story. After the most recent loss of another young life, I know whatever I say to this group must have valid and strong facts to go with my message. So, as hard as it was, I got the records of my son’s wreck. That was a big step for me since I had not seen any of the information from that night! Wow! Glad I waited almost three years to do it.
Here is what I received: the police report; photos of the wreck and scene, but no photos of my son (purposefully withheld); and the toxicology report. That was a lot of information to absorb! Not going to lie, my heart hurt from it because it didn’t have to be! One phone call could have changed everything!!
After viewing these records, I did some research. How many drinks did my son have in order to be in the condition he was in? What would that do to his frame of mind? Well, the answer was a lot to drink and the truth of the matter is that he probably didn’t feel anything. I am conflicted between seeing that as a blessing or a curse! Blessing for him, curse for me and the survivors!!
My goal now is to share this information and try and stop the next loss. I have completed a PowerPoint to share this message, and I hope it works. If it stops one more person from joining these young men, it will be worth going through the pain of looking at those pictures and reading those reports! I don’t wish this on anymore families!!
So, I felt it only right to share this information with his sister, girlfriend at the time he passed, and one of his closest friends that was like a brother from another mother! Can’t say they were completely shocked either, but I am glad they had the ability to see them this way and not spread out through social media. I don’t plan on sharing those in that manner, unless shock therapy is required. Trust me, it took me almost three years to look at them! They are not pleasant, even now, but I feel they are necessary to make my point.
Until we are able to reconvene in public again, I will sit on this PowerPoint. It will not, however, prevent me from continuing to spread a message that drinking and driving do not mix! In honor of my son, and those friends who have so recently joined him, refrain from drinking if you are driving, or call a friend, family member, Uber, or cab!! It doesn’t have to end badly!! I still cry because he is gone, but I smile because he was here!! I want to honor his memory and remind everyone he was more than that fatal decision that night!
I did a couple of posts awhile back about how we are all different, yet more alike than we realize. This reflection keeps coming up as I meet new people who have this unwanted club membership. We all have a story to tell. No one is immune to the trials and tribulations of life! We have battle scars, open wounds, heartbreak, tragedies, and loss. How we survive those things and still see beauty is one of the many wonders of the world. Before passing judgment on anyone, think about the pieces of a person you cannot see. This is not the same as looking at others through rose colored glasses. This is looking at someone through the literal masking tape that is holding them together.
When my daughter was in kindergarten, her teacher told me she would believe half of what my child says if I promised to believe half of what I heard. Makes sense for a five year old. Think about that comment and realize now how we only hear half a story and leave out details when speaking about our own story! Life is literally the telephone game all over again!! So many details are overlooked, misinterpreted, ignored, or unspoken. These are the details under the tape, the ones that hurt to talk about and would definitely change the story!! Be kind! We are all dealing with a different story!
My personal battle scars have left so much scar tissue, I am not sure I have regular tissue remaining. I need to know what these battle scars have provided. I have preached and preached over the last few decades (thanks to my mom’s influence) to find a positive from every, and I mean EVERY, situation. I try! I am also trying to help others through horrible situations so they may find or see some beauty through the cracks!
So, what makes me ‘me’ and you ‘you’? Many of the same things, yet so much more. I have faith and lean on it regularly! I am a mother and a wife. I am also a bereaved parent. Dig a little deeper, I have lost siblings, three to be exact, and at a fairly early start. I was 26 when I lost my dad and 30 when I lost my first sibling. Little did I know that dealing with those losses at an early age would be prep for losing a child who was only 24 years old. With my faith, I know there is a plan. I don’t always analyze the plan, but sometimes the dots just line up. Doesn’t mean I talk about those losses, even though they are a huge part of what makes me ‘me!’
Be kind. Know there is a big part of the story you don’t know, didn’t hear, or is covered in masking tape. Our kaleidoscope of life’s trials and tribulations taped together into a story with a beautiful underlining. We are who we are because of what we have been through and those who have crossed our path, been born into our lives, and are part of our roll of tape holding us together.
We are not in this world to be compared and charted. It is not a competition of battle scars and who survived ‘better’ if that should even be a thought! Remember the stitches and tape holding our lives together are entwined with each other. We are more alike than we are different and not all our rainbows have the colors in the same order.
For all those I have loved and lost, parents, siblings, and my son, I cry because they are gone, but I smile because they were here!! They made me “me!”
I have found the best motivational speech someone can give me usually starts with, “you can’t!” I believe there is nothing I cannot do aside from surgery on anyone. I thought I enjoyed a challenge. This current one, not so much, but I am doing my best. If someone had asked me three years ago if I could survive losing a child, I could not see how it could be part of my future. I have said it, and heard so many people say they could not bare losing a child. Yet, here I am, doing what I thought I couldn’t do…
We all need to know what moves us and motivates us to take that first step, and then the next. What makes me want to see tomorrow dealing with this tremendous loss? I can tell you emphatically, I still live for my children, living and not living! But, I do have to take it in steps. Another step forward means I can do another thing I didn’t think I could do. Last week, I requested the records of my son’s wreck. Baby steps. I am four months away from the three-year mark and two more of the boys on my son’s friends list have died. That is now my motivation, an opportunity to shed light on this tragedy to avoid more tragedies!
So, what will I do with this information? Well, first, I need to find the courage to open the file. It should be here today or tomorrow. The county actually called me personally and asked if they could refrain from sending certain photos, especially those of him. Remember, I have seen nothing from that night and did not get to see him after. I saw my son walk away from the house that night to go fishing and the next time I saw him, he was in an urn. Since he was identified through dental records, his dad and I did not have any chance, and that could have been my son’s gift to us. I don’t want the image of him afterwards to be what I see when I close my eyes at night, but I know he left a message that needs to be shared.
I have been asked if I would be willing to speak at a group of DUI offenders. I most certainly will, but I need a strong message as to what they risk every time they get behind the wheel when they shouldn’t. I am living proof of that aftermath! And, now, two more families are members in this unwanted club of parents who have lost a child, and this is why! This is why I need to take this next step!
The motivation to stop these young adults from an early departure is allowing me to take the step I didn’t think I could take. It is a step that may be parceled out a little at a time. This is not something I want to do. This is something I need to do! Big difference. I would so rather have the angelic image of my son in my brain, and I am well aware the information I will view in these files will not come close to a heavenly image. I have faith that the message he is going to provide will outweigh the need for me to not see this file. If you knew my son, you know he fought for the underdog and was always willing to lend a hand. I know that is still the case!
So, as I take this step, please keep me in your prayers. I believe in their power and know they will allow me to do another thing I didn’t think I could do. I know this is a huge undertaking and will change me more than I think, but it is not about me. It’s about the message going forward and the need to shed light on this subject to stop others. We need to honor those young men we have lost and prevent their peers, as well as others, to leave their families and friends in a manner that can be prevented.
I see these steps in small doses: hold the file in my hands for a few days, or weeks; have my daughter (a nurse) review it first; view the file myself; pick a few things out that I know will help; let his girlfriend at the time of his death see what I want to use (she deserves not to be blindsided with this!); and put together a PowerPoint message. I write this like it is bing, bang, done. This could take awhile, I know that. One step at a time, and baby steps at that.
There is a message to provide. If it stops one person from dealing with this tragedy, it will be worth it, I am praying the message will be heard in a larger audience. Time will tell. Parents do not want to write their child’s obituary. It was, by far, one of the hardest things to write!! I am trying hard to keep others from writing this story! I know I will have hard times putting it together. I also know I need to do this. Someone once told me doing the right thing is not always doing the easy thing. I will struggle during this process, but I will be okay. I know it. I will keep pictures of my son as I remember him close for obvious reasons!! I still miss that kid and cry because he is gone, but I continue to smile because he was here!! My next post may seem quite different, but I appreciate the prayers and support!!
They say it is difficult to learn from someone else’s mistake. That is unfortunate and very apparent. Today, another one on my son’s friend’s joined him in Heaven. As a parent, I tried to warn others. It is evident they believe they are all invincible, just as my son thought he was. At my son’s funeral, I tried to tell ALL the young people there that his death was avoidable and to learn from his misjudgment. I tried. As a parent of a 24 year old, to stand up and speak at his funeral was difficult, but I felt it was necessary, and I tried.
Today, yet another friend, acquaintance, or buddy, joined my son and his friend that just passed three short months ago. I don’t know what else I can say. I know what that news does to a parent! To know the exact emotions this family will endure for the rest of their lives… the exact emotions their siblings will deal with for the rest of their lives… All the moments this family will miss out on going forward… knowing all they will have are memories and photos to replace the huge hole in their lives… I tried, and I am so sorry for them.
All the families with this unwanted club membership can speak until we are literally blue in the face. Maybe I should have gotten photos to show the brutality and devastation involved. Truth be told, I have not even seen pictures of my son’s wreck. Even so, if it could have prevented anything from happening in the future, I would have done it. I may still. I know I have to try harder.
To the newest members of this horrible club, I am sorry. I am sorry for all the nights going forward when you lay awake hoping you will hear the door open, only to end up crying yourself to sleep when reality strikes. For all the times you want to pick up the phone and call just to hear his voice message, I am sorry. For all the posts and mentioning of him that will leave you in tears, but glad to hear his name just the same, I am sorry.
To all the parents with young adults, please share my blog. To all the young people who read this, you are not invincible! Bad things happen, but some of that bad can be prevented! As a parent, you are a piece of us and we love you. We know we can’t be with you 24/7, but we would do anything in our power to keep you safe from harm. What do you wish for us? Do you want us to bury you? Do you wish harm on yourself? Look into your future and ask what you can do to make sure your dreams come true, hence, allowing our dreams to come true.
We get upset at our children’s actions sometimes. That being said, parents, the next time your child calls you in the middle of the night to pick them up to avoid driving, you hug them and thank God!! I can get over being upset with my child. I cannot get over losing my child. That is a grief that never goes away.
This is me trying harder. After starting this blog, I have already sent the request to see what it takes to get my son’s police file from the night of his accident. Still don’t know what I will actually be able to do, but I knew I would get a sign when it was right. I think it is right. Until then, I pray that no more of my son’s friends parents have to get the same visit I did, or have to write their child’s obituary, or have to look over their life in photos knowing there will never be a new photo to add. We have to try harder to make sure. Until then, we cry because you are gone, but smile because you were here.