Good things still happen…

Survivor’s guilt is quite the hurdle!! Five years in and I still have moments. Truth be told, I always will. Something I should actually be used to, but still catches me off guard and sometimes, just out of the blue. Those darn triggers!! But I have to tell myself, good things can still happen, and that is ok! Hallmark calls then “God Winks.” Sounds good!

Driving down the country roads (no choice with where I live), the beauty is everywhere during the changing color of the trees and the wildlife that abounds when BOOM! a song comes on that changes everything!! I could hear my son singing like he used to when he was driving, in his room, or taking a shower, loud and somewhat off-key, and there I am, in the midst of beauty, crying like I had just lost him yesterday. I don’t know why, but I take those moments and realize, I will have good moments and I will have sad moments, and I will always miss him.

During this hunting season, I think it hits me more. I know it hits his dad harder. They were hunting buddies! They were a duo and when that void is this big, you can’t help but feel it. I think that may be why it hits harder. I know I am not the only one. That being said, I have NEVER been the only one affected by his death. That should make me feel, if nothing else, not alone. If it were only that simple.

As the holidays hit, I find the void and triggers to be even bigger. I always take my thoughts back to the first Christmas without him. My husband and I were crying if the wind blew the other direction. When it hits hard now, I remember that one moment, at my darkest moment that Christmas, being shown the sonogram of our future grandchild! That ONE MOMENT is iconic and always brings me back to the reality that I will still have good and moving moments in the future. My son would want that happiness for me and that alone will keep me in the here and now as well.

As we head into the Christmas season and the hopes for the new year (which is to just be better than this last year), move forward with the realization that good days and good moments still exist. We may have to look for them sometimes, but they are there, giving hope for the future. Embrace them! Know that bad times will come, and that is ok. Good times will be there too! I still encourage a “positive of the day” and to acknowledge those moments, as small as you might think they are. They are a guiding force!

I am entering this Christmas with faith and hope. I think the world has forgotten the reason for the season. I don’t ever want to forget the real reason. Forget about the ribbons and bows. I think it is love for each other and proof that a miracle can, and will, happen every day. It’s about love of family and friends, those with us in person and in spirit!

May everyone have a blessed Christmas and cheers to a better year in 2023! They say you only live once (yolo). I disagree. I believe you only die once. We live every day. I don’t want to take any of those days for granted, the good and the bad. For all of those who are suffering, may you find the joy in Christmas. Like you, I cry because they are gone, but I smile because they were here, for whatever time I was blessed with!

#itschristmastime #gonebutnotforgotten #forever24 #thedashinthemiddle

There are always choices to choose from…

In every aspect of living, we are given choices: stay on the ground when you get knocked down or get up; run away or stand and fight; love with forgiveness or hate with bitterness; laugh because you can or cry because you can’t find the good. There are many more, but you get the point. The choice isn’t always easy. Our biggest challenges we face are when life throws changes we didn’t plan on and we are given two choices: accept it or deny it. That’s the start of a chain reaction of choices.

No one wants to lose a loved one. I pray for those that do because more than likely, they had to watch a loved one suffer! Without question, hard to do!! The choices we are faced with when losing a loved one are just like every other situation in our lives, two choices at a time. One may lead to the next option, if there are still choices we have to make. Fate may present the situation, but, ultimately, we decide the actions we take in response. No two people will respond exactly the same either, and that is ok!

When I lost my son five years ago, I was faced with options, and yes, one decision presented me with another set of choices. I chose to continue to love my son, as opposed to being angry at him for his decision. I had to accept it was his decision to drink and drive. Then, I had to find a negative or a positive from that decision. I found a positive that no one else was hurt, that he didn’t know it was coming, and that he did not suffer (which many parents have had to witness their child do)! And then, I had to decide to die with him or live for him. I chose to live! I try to live the best life I can FOR him. He would not want it any other way. I also chose to find a positive every day that reflects a good life and a blessed life!

My son gave me several years of frustration, but there were many happy times that outweighed those moments by far. I still loved him every single day of it. He had to know it! The best way to measure the love you have for someone you have lost is to honor the life and moments you shared. Some deaths are of people you knew, acquaintances, friend of a friend. Many hit you at your core and you have to learn all new. A new way of getting up; a new way of going out; a new way of breathing each day; a new way of life. But still, two choices at a time.

I could really go on and on with this. Life does give you choices. We choose more options along the way than we can count, or even realize they are “choices.” I choose the positive for me every time I can. This goes for those situations I didn’t ask for and had no choice but to deal with… one choice at a time. With my son, I cry because he is gone, but I choose to smile because he was here!

😇🌈🦋💙🎶🇺🇸🦌🎤🛻🎼🥾

#choices #gonebutnotforgotten #dontdrinkanddrive #thedashinthemiddle

What will my legacy be…

Today, my parents would have been married 71 years. I think about the life they built and the legacy and stories left behind. They had eight children together, all very different, but very close children. We had eight different personalities; eight different opinions; eight different lifestyles; and one love for family! We all were successful in our own right and, for parents, I think that is a lot to be proud of. No, we were not all doctors, lawyers, and CEO’s. In fact, none of us were. It wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns, but we all lived well because of those two people. What an amazing legacy! What will my legacy be?

I write so much about survival, which must include being the youngest of eight children (by four minutes of my twin) as well as loss of some of those siblings and loved ones. I tend to forget about just being me and what my input into society will be. Legacies are not created from just getting through things. Legacies are created by changing and creating. What we put in is what we get out. If surviving is my only goal, it won’t be my legacy, but my legacy may be weaved in somewhere.

Several people recently have mentioned to me that I should write a book. My book would be about survival. It is already started, so I did some deep diving into what moves me to write. As I reread my words, almost always I am writing about how to survive and get through situations. Most times, they seem sad, but with hope written in between each line.

My motivation to write tends to come to me when I am rattled or facing an iconic or difficult situation. Words help me through. Putting them on paper (metaphorically) puts them in guide format. Analyzing each segment of my writings takes time, but I see the guidance outlined. This may only be visible to me, but my hope is that others benefit from that written plan.

So, if I am analyzing my words, I must ask myself, where does that inspiration and motivation come from? That is an easy answer—parents and faith! My mother has been guiding me since Day One! Faith has been there since as well because I believe it is what guided her. When I was younger (like 50 years ago) I would write with hope and faith. One of my first “shared” poems, I gave to a friend who gave a baby up for adoption. My poem was placed with other items in case that child ever wanted to find his birth mother. I was 14 when I wrote it. My mother was so moved that I wrote the poem and that my friend did what she did with it. She mentioned that “act of love” many times over the next several decades. Faith guided me to that moment.

Many times, I would write something, not even knowing I had friends in situations that related to it. I hope others related as well. I think words help us, whether spoken or written. I tend to lose myself in the words and something else steps in and finishes the sentence or finds the word that rhymes. I don’t believe I am ever alone with my writing. I can describe it almost as if it were an out-of-body experience. Many times, it was the ONLY way to describe it.

This post also came about from a keynote speaker I had the privilege to listen to recently. She asked us what the three words were that we hoped described us the best. I wrote: survivor, faithful, and inspirational. This is what I want my legacy to be. This is what I aspire to become. I know I may not always live up to these descriptions, but my goal is to live up to them the majority of the time.

If the passing of my son is what inspires me to help others through their situation, then I must include the faith and survival aspects on that mission. They are a combo. I cannot do one without the others. And please do not think I am any way asking for affirmations to this. I am not fishing for compliments. These are wishful goals I can only try and aspire to. I think we all truly want this outcome in the actions we present. We just present differently. Some do this in the form of music; others preach gospel; and, some, become motivational speakers.

This speaker also asked what our favorite quote is. My quote: “be the change you want to see in the world.” Mahatma Ghandi. Too many rely on others to make their life better. I don’t. I don’t believe we are all leaders, but we are not all followers either. The world needs balance. I need balance. This is why I write.

My parents inspired me every day to be me. My dad died when I was only 26. Two brothers followed him leaving my mother to deal with those losses without him. She had shown me the strength to survive and also relied on her faith to get through it. So, on the anniversary of the day our “family” started, I can only hope to leave a legacy of memories, strength, faith, and inspiration. It’s a goal if nothing else.

I cry because they are gone, but I smile because they were here!!

#legacy #survival #inspiration #thedashinthemiddle

❤️😇🌈🎼💙🇺🇸👰‍♀️💍🤵‍♂️🙏🎶🫂

Five years later… 😇

At this time, five years ago, I was numb. I had questions with no answers. Truth: I still have questions with no answers! The big difference from then and now, I quit asking. Now, I don’t take anything for granted! The sadness of losing a child never really goes away. With faith and hope, it is comforted, but I will always be sad at the future we all missed out on but thankful for the years I did have.

Time is an oxymoron. Time stands still and moves forward at the same exact moment. I am different than I was five years ago, yet feel like the same person. I am an oxymoron as well. Part of me died that day, yet another part of me came to life. It was the epiphany that none of us are getting out alive. For months after, I literally was a robot in many ways. I got up and went to work. I came home and made dinner. I still did all the motions, but with a dark cloud looming over me. I had to burst through the darkness. Was it easy? Hell no! But I could no longer live stagnant.

Physically, when I was pregnant with each of my kids, I ate for two. Their life depended on me. Mentally, I realized that in the death of a child, my child’s life still depended on me. My heart still holds that child tightly, as does his father’s heart and soul. We decided to “live” for our son. That tradition started three years ago. We took our first “Watch this, hold my beer” vacation to do things Cody would have loved! Those who knew him knew he was fearless! So, zip lining, mountain climbing (as best as two old people can do), and a little day-drinking it was!! I went outside my comfort zone to honor his memory! If stupid Covid had not hit, we would have done it every year. Turns out, “Watch this, hold my beer 2.0” happens this year! We are ready!

I think back to this day from five years ago and feel so many emotions. Most prominent emotion was the warmth in knowing how many lives were touched by the child I brought into this world! I was proud that so many had positive things to say. Of course, no one wants to hear negatives of their recently departed, and most have the decency not to speak ill of the dead, but I know that it is unrealistic to believe everything he did was the “make you feel good all over” stuff! That is truly what keeps him ‘real’ for me. Strange thing to hear, but even stranger to say, I know!

Truth of the matter is what happened to my son five years ago may have been his fate, but maybe it was mine too. For two years, I have shared his story with others. Many have asked during my presentations, “How do you have the courage to stand up and share this story?” How? How can I not!? The better question to ask is “Why?” To hopefully prevent other families of repeating this outcome. It is therapeutic in many ways. I don’t know how to explain it any better than that. To do nothing cannot be part of the plan!

Five years and so much has changed, yet remains the same. I catch myself still listening for the garage door to open. I still flip through his Facebook and tag him in posts all of the time! I still have his boots by the door and his tools spread out in the garage. Another truth, I still have his shirt by the dryer so I can yell down the steps for him to come get his crap! It’s a mom thing.

Five years gone, and yet here I sit: writing, sharing, smiling, and crying. Again, not so much has changed. Moments that I sit just thinking of the memories and reliving them over and over like an old favorite movie, makes me smile. I think to myself, “I brought that ball of energy into this world,” and I don’t regret a single minute. I miss him every day, but I also know he is safe where he is. No pain, no heartache. That is for us, and if we didn’t feel it, I would be sad. He had a great sense of humor and he would not want us sad. It is ok to be sad at times, but he would not want me to live there, so I won’t.

Five years, wow!! Every time I say it out loud, it is with disbelief. My love for that kid lives on and on. His spirit, well it has been consumed and reincarnated in his four year old niece!! A spitfire and ball of energy just like her uncle. I’ll take every second of it too!! It does pose the question, “Are we ever really gone?” Nope! We live on in those around us.

Five years from now, I will probably still feel the same, but with more comparisons to his niece and nephew that will prove, once again, his spirit lives on (at least I hope). I will continue to write and I will also continue to smile and cry. I have noticed a trend starting… For those that knew Cody, think of a story (hopefully one that makes you smile and not cringe) and look up to the sky and smile. If you drive a diesel, blow some smoke. If you still drink (but don’t drive when you do!) raise your beer and yell “here’s to you ‘Merica!! Yee yee!” He would love it and so would I!! And, if you are like me, you cry because he is gone, but smile because he was here!!!

#gonebutnotforgotten #fiveyearsgone #forever24 #thedashinthemiddle

Faith is the rope… and hope is where I get the strength to hold on!

I read a post from a young father who lost his young daughter, I am assuming to cancer. It was heartfelt and faithful… to both our God and his daughter. It truly had me moved and hopeful that I am just as strong. He mentioned the hope he has to pull him through, for without hope, we will not survive. He is so right! Faith has been the rope I hold onto, and hope is the stronghold knowing I will see my son again. It is with that faith and hope I march forward every single day.

For those of us in this unwanted club of parents who have lost a child, hope is a factor in how we survive. With no hope and only despair, we succumb to the dark hole that sucks faith right out of our soul and life from the living. I have seen it and it breaks my heart. Grief takes many forms. One of my first blog posts describes it very straight-forward. I didn’t see it as much then as I do now, but hope is the centerpiece. We have a choice: go skydiving and live for your loved one, or dig a hole right next to them and die with them. Both stand for the love you had for them, so the choice is ours. One of the things I think that pulls us into the darkness, besides no hope, is we are afraid others will think we don’t care. Far from the truth! I am not sure there is a gauge to measure that, but I don’t believe that is the case. There is no judgement on how people grieve. We can only decide for ourselves which route we take. But, what would our loved ones want us to do?

When my father died, my grandmother was still alive. She was 87 years old. She lived another 8 years after his passing and never spoke his name, at least that I can recall. I asked my mother once, “why doesn’t grandma talk about dad?” She said that it must cause her great pain to think about him no longer being here. Me, I wanted to talk about him all the time! I never wanted to forget the stories or memories I had. I was afraid not to talk about him. The loss of my son is no different.

I hold onto faith and know he lives on in my heart and that I will see him again when my Earthly time is done as I will with all those who have gone before me. My faith tells me this will happen and I believe it with all of my heart. No one can prove me wrong, so if it makes me face life head on, so be it! Faith is the rope, hope is my strength. It doesn’t mean I don’t have to hang on tight for the ride, but must keep my faith and hope during those times when the palms are slipping knowing in my heart of hearts, a glorious reunion awaits. And, as always, I cry because he is gone, but I smile because he was here!

#faithandhope #gonebutnotforgotten #wewillmeetagain #thedashinthemiddle

One common denominator… life was unfinished!

I speak with a lot of people who have lost a loved one. Those loved ones can be at any level: parent, sibling, child, or spouse/significant other. There is one common denominator in every conversation: they all had plans that didn’t get to happen. This, in turn, leaves us with unfinished plans, memories that didn’t happen, pictures not taken, and dreams of what could have been.

I do believe this is the hurdle that many get tripped up on. We feel robbed, denied, and broken. How do we get “over” these unfinished parts? How do we come to terms with something we looked so forward to never coming to fruition? I have but only one suggestion: faith! Sounds easy, but isn’t always a wave of a wand. We have to believe our loved one is safe, happy, and that their life left a permanent mark for us to hold onto.

Everyone has plans for tomorrow that are not guaranteed. None of us are guaranteed tomorrow. If we don’t live to see it, it is a loss to those who survive it. Almost every death is the same story, different people. We are born and then we die. What we do in the middle is our legacy. This legacy can be for minutes, hours, years, or decades, but every one of those variables is just as precious as the next!! That is what we need to focus on. This existence should always supersede the unfinished list left behind. This is our mark to hold onto.

The biggest hurdle for me was getting over guilt of a good or happy moment. How can I be happy with this loss hovering over me? This is another faith moment. Those happy moments were being sent to me. My loved one doesn’t want me sad all of the time. This is when I decided to do some of those “moments” for my loved one. No, not all moments can be created and fulfilled, but metaphorically, I live “for” them. I do things I know my loved ones would have loved. I believe they would want that. I cannot complete the life I wished for them, but I can make sure they live on in the life I now live!

So, with faith and love, I get up and breathe for those loved ones lost. I live my best life with them tucked safely in my heart, knowing they will never know pain now and are at peace. Faith knowing that I was blessed with my specific amount of time and I am holding onto those memories with all my strength and will. I cannot dwell on what didn’t get to happen, and if I do, I am forgetting the good I did have. I don’t ever want to forget the good. I still may cry because they are gone, but I continue to smile because they were here. ❤️🎼🦌🌈🎤🎶💙🛻😇🥾

#unfinishedlife #gonebutnotforgotten #livingforthem #thedashinthemiddle

One More Day…

I know I have written about this particular subject previously. When we lose a loved one, our first thought is, “I wish I had one more day…!” What would we do with one more day? Many country songs have been written making the same plea. There are no right or wrong answers, but I had a glimpse of this. I am not sure what triggered it, but it provided many mixed emotions.

“How did I get a glimpse?” you ask. Well, I dreamed it! I dreamed that I “dreamed” my son’s death and that he was really alive! I was thrilled and relieved! I loved hearing his voice and wondered how I could imagine him dead when he wasn’t! He had not changed. He was still the son I remembered and still did things I was not exactly happy about. It was real!! I did not all of a sudden think the things that I wish he hadn’t done were now ok! Again, it was “real!” Then, I woke up and relived the heartache all over again! Is that what would happen with one more day?

My suggestion is treat every day as if it is your last. Say the things you want to say and hug everyone if that’s your thing (it is mine)!!! One more day only happens for the living if we are lucky. I never want to take that for granted ever again! One more day would not have removed the heartache that followed the loss. One more day would not have “prepared” me better. One more day could have only provided another day of memories. It would not have provided less regret, less heartache, or less grief. It only leaves us wanting one more day… then one more…

My way of coping has always been to trust my son is safe in the arms of our Creator, safe from harm, happy, and Home. We are all temporary for this Earth, every one of us. My advice remains the same: live like it is your last day on Earth! If we are blessed with one more day, make it count! LIVE for today. Tomorrow is not guaranteed!

So, my one more day was a dream! In this dream, I still don’t believe I acted like tomorrow may not come for my son. I enjoyed hearing his voice, and I think I actually enjoyed being with him, happy with him, and mad at him. Again, it was real! I didn’t swoon over him, babying him, or letting him believe any wrongs were now ok just because he was alive!

My glimpse was just another day, but it was also another day of waking up to the realization he was no longer here. Watch what you wish for. The heartache and grief were still there and would be no matter how many days I was given. It just is. I never want to forget he was here. I want to remember every single minute: good, bad, or indifferent. But, I can’t wish for one more day. It turned out to be groundhog’s day and repeated what I already knew. Call me selfish, but reliving the loss already happens without a wish being granted! Every day is one more day of crying because he is gone, but smiling because he was here!

#onemoreday ##gonebutnotforgotten #dreamsdoseemreal #thedashinthemidlldle

Let me know if you’ve heard this one…

I catch myself telling a story but not sure I have not already shared with the audience in front of me. I suppose I should start telling my story with the first line being, “let me know if you’ve heard this one…” Certain stories never get old and should be repeated… often! If a story about a bad situation or decision can stop even one from making the same grave mistake, it should never be shelved, but used for reference daily.

So, I have reached out to a few more venues to share Cody’s story. I feel bad that it makes me feel good to share this story over and over. As I stated before, I always want to talk about my son. I never want anyone to forget him or the kind of person he was! He was a good kid! I also don’t want any more family members to go through this anguish. I have also come to realize there are a lot of my “sons” out there.

Raise your hand if you have to tell your kids more than once to do anything! That goes for cleaning their room, taking out the garbage, doing their homework, or just picking up their stuff. We have to, as parents, repeatedly tell them things. This situation is no different. In fact, it should be said over and over and over on purpose! There was not one time my kid left the house when I would NOT tell him to behave; don’t drink and drive, it’s not worth it; and so on. So telling this over and over makes perfect sense to me.

Another mother has joined this club, and again, not nominated, encouraged, or celebrated, but still welcomed with open hearts (and arms) as we mourn another loss that didn’t have to be. A story we don’t want repeated, but still is to our dismay. This represents a loss of a future, dreams never realized, and memories never made. I want to say, “Stop me if you’ve heard this one…” but sadly, I repeat myself again! 🥲

When a parent loses a child (at any age), those of us who have been through that loss relive every moment again. We don’t want to, but we do. It’s inevitable. It is a foot in a bucket of cement for us. Not one parent who has lost a child will tell you different.

Last week, a dear friend was discussing her daughter moving many states away. She is very sad her daughter and grandchildren are now a major jaunt (vacation time) away from her reach. She confessed to me that she gets through it knowing she can still talk to, FaceTime, and visit her family knowing her co-worker (me) does not have that opportunity with one of her children. For that, she is grateful. I am happy for her, but little does she know, I get through each day with the same perspective: I, too, will see my son again! It just isn’t going to be by traveling by car, plane, or boat. Doesn’t change my mindset. It is how I cope. He is in another room, but not one I can enter just yet.

As Easter approaches, which is such an emotional time for me, I am reminded that Jesus also left his mother in the same situation. With Faith and love, not to mention a solid conviction, she knew he rose to the Heavens and she would see him again. Passion of the Christ is a moment in the Bible I can truly relate to. I will see him again, and it will be as if no time has passed. No need to rush on my part. And truth be told, if he had a chance to come back to Earth, he wouldn’t! He made it home! He is safe! He is loved! As a mother, what a wonderful vision in my mind! I can sleep with that image in my head. Easter, like my story, repeats itself and reminds us telling a valuable story is worth repeating every chance we get!!

So, stop me if you’ve heard this one… A faithful servant who died young (to me) is now in Heaven watching over us! He is missed and loved as much today by all those who let Him into their hearts. We will see Him again and it will be glorious! He taught us much in life, and just as much in death! We are forever changed because He was in our lives. We are better for knowing Him! And, as always, we cry because he is gone, BUT we smile because he was here!

May the spirit of Easter renew your faith and love of Christ. He is Risen!!

#heisrisen #gonebutnotforgotten #forever24 #thedashinthemiddle

Role model… my mom!

Every person has another person they look up to and admire. If we are lucky, we are surrounded by them. But there is always that one: the one who just makes you smile; the one who convinces you it isn’t as hard as we think it is; the one you never want to disappoint; the one who is a role model; the one you want to aspire to. For me, that was my mother.

Today, February 18th, is her birthday. The year she graced this earth was 1932. This is her 15th birthday in Heaven and there has not been a day since her passing I have not thought about her. I have missed her in every way, especially when I lost my son. But, she taught me so much about that loss before she died. She buried two of my brothers before she passed. The Lord works in mysterious ways, and that was evident!! Because of that, she was literally there with me. I can’t explain it, but it is true!

As I age, (and I am on the downside of the hill) I still aspire to be like my mother. She had a great personality, an infectious laugh, a sound mind and thought process, and listened as well as conversed. I say these things with confidence that all who knew her felt this way. Those attributes are not uncommon, but they truly are rare to all be in the same person, especially the listening and talking parts, and she did this all with grace!

I put my mother on a pedestal because she deserves it. She raised eight children who, I must admit also, turned out to be great humans. I don’t think any of us were perfect, but we were perfect as a family. That is a fact I am very proud of!! She taught me more than I can ever repay.

People have told me how well I have survived the loss of a child; that they are proud of me. Well, first off, “Thank you.” Secondly, we are all survivors, until we aren’t. I had two choices: surrender or survive. I truly hope I am making both my mother and my son proud, but we all grieve differently. I just happened to have a role model to show me how she did it with such grace. Did the Lord do that? I have no doubt, because we know He has a plan we have no control over. Did God make us lose our sons? Let’s just say the Lord held our hands and our hearts while we grieved through it.

While I can still hear and feel my mother in my life, I know it’s just the echoes she left me with. I smile every time I think of her! She warms my heart. I have an image in my mind of all the family I have lost, sitting up in Heaven, conversing around the table, and laughing at how we fumble through our every day existence without them. My mother was my role model, and I am blessed by that!

As always, I cry because they are gone, but I smile because they were here! Here is a poem I wrote that describes it best…

#gonebutnotforgotten #birthdayinheaven #theblankpage #thedashinthemiddle

It’s your 29th birthday, Son! #5 since you’ve been gone…

Every year, I have written you a letter on your birthday. This year will be no different. I like to recap all the experiences we have had this past year. We know you were here in spirit! We felt it many times!!

We have just had a send off to Heaven for your Uncle Mark!! I know you greeted him with open arms and thanked him for being here for us in every way when we lost you. He and your aunt were the first call I made that night. Truth is, I didn’t even know what had happened to you yet when I phoned him. I just knew it wasn’t good and that all the words being spoken to your dad and me by the deputy sheriff and the coroner would need a sound person to decipher and translate for us! That he did with flying colors!

One thing I also did this past week was I posted a lot on Facebook leading up to today. Maliciously, I wanted to make sure no one forgets you. It is my biggest fear. I can’t explain it, but it’s the greatest fear I have. I told your story several times this past year for the Victim’s Impact Panel. I do believe I am helping other mothers/parents/offenders avoid our predicament. I hope so anyway! I feel it has been a calling for me! It also doesn’t hurt me to spend an hour talking about you! Especially when I have a captive audience that cannot escape. It reminds me of when you and/or your sister would get stuck in the car on the long ride into school after you made me mad before leaving the house!! Lol!! You once told me it was the worst part of moving so far out into the country. The lectures only lasted 3/4 of mile before we moved and got lengthened to a 20 mile drive!!

This year, the pandemic and politics have not changed too drastically! Although, I do believe the people of this country are starting to understand that what we hear and what actually happened resemble the stories a kindergartner tells their parents, and the blame game just has older kindergartners yelling “it’s not my fault!” I’d say it was funny if it weren’t so sad… Prices have soared! Your gas guzzler truck would not be fairing well at all! You would still drive one though, I know!!

That sweet girl you fell in love with is getting married this year! I believe you would be very proud of her strength! I know you will watch over her as well as she embarks on the adventure of her lifetime!!

Speaking of adventures, we have sure been on one with your niece and nephew! That little girl is the female version of you!! They both are actually a lot like you; cute, stubborn, smart, funny, lover of animals, witty, messy, and very good eaters! I can pretty much write the book on what your sister will experience! When she was younger, her view was that of a sibling, not a parent! Changes drastically from the other perspective!

As always, my letter just rambles on and on! I want you to know you are loved and missed every day. I will always continue to share stories and smile when others tell stories! Just so you know, my hair still changes color pretty quickly for some of them! I know your 24-1/2 years are not as many as I had hoped to get with you, but I never want to forget you lived in those years. I could write a book on the amount of material you provided (and may still). We will see… One thing remains the same, I cry because you are gone, but I smile because you were here!! Today, and always, we celebrate you!!

Love, Mom

#forever24 #birthdayinheaven #gonebutnotforgotten #thedashinthemiddle

It’s Christmas…

Well, it’s Christmas again! The year went fast. A lot has changed, yet remains the same. One of life’s oxymorons we get to experience. As the holidays ensue, please remember to be kind. Not everyone is having a “merry” Christmas. Some are just trying to survive the holiday.

As we count the members of our families who are no longer here to celebrate, let’s not forget the ones that are! The memories of Christmas’ past will always be a goal in the present! Create memories that will be there to bring a smile to your face and warm your heart, but remind yourself, these are memories for others as well.

This is a short post just to say “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year” to all! May 2022 bring joy and happiness. As I reminisce about years’ of the ‘good ol’ days,’ I want to remind myself today is a great day to create moments to remember! I miss those that are no longer with us, but they are forever in my heart!! I cry because they are gone, but I smile because they were here!!

Merry Christmas!!🎄🎁

#merrychristmas #memoriesinthemaking #gonebutnotforgotten #thedashinthemiddle

Live life, for you and because of them…!!

I write for therapy, but we all deal with reality differently. I find it therapeutic to put words on paper (metaphorically since I don’t actually use a pen and paper) and sometimes, they actually rhyme. Many people have told me they find some comfort in my words, or can relate my writings to their own personal situations. I hope it does help, but I really use these words as guides mostly, ending each session with hope for tomorrow and gratefulness for the past. I spend a lot of time trying to find positives out of negatives. The loss of my son is no different, although I still struggle. How would I want someone to respond if the tables were turned and I died, which we know is inevitable? Would I want them mourning my loss everyday or celebrating the positives I left behind? I hope the latter. I really want people to just live with no regrets.

In one of my posts, I mentioned how I had asked my son, “If you were to write your own autobiography, what would your pages say?” I can only write what I am thinking or have done, not what I have said or done has been perceived, received, or acknowledged. So many go day to day wondering what people might think about them or their actions. I am here to tell everyone that we should look inside ourself and quit worrying about what others’ think. Our actions will define us more in our reflection and what we have to show in the mirror of life than anyone’s reaction or perception. Live for you!! My son taught me that!!

Hopefully, those who know you don’t look back with regret. How many times have you gone to a funeral and said, “I wish we had stayed in touch more.” Or, “I wish I had told them how much they meant to me.” Most times, we will miss someone for all the right reasons; they left a mark on our life and will leave a void in our future. The one thing we can’t change then that we can change now is how we treat each other while we are here on this Earth!

When we die, and we know we will eventually, the perception others’ have will be how they treat our death. Leave positives!! Choose joy and triumph each day and negate sadness and loss. I want to celebrate life, mine and yours! I want those I love to celebrate my life after I have been reunited with those I have lost. Find the joy. Share the love. Learn from mistakes. Most of all, live life and love life as if tomorrow is not guaranteed because it’s not. I truly hope my son would be proud of me that I want to remember the person and not the vacancy. That is what I would have wanted from him had I gone first.

We are all here for a short time. Every interaction we have gives us a fork in the road. You can choose right or left, up or down, love or hate, as well as joy or sadness. We can spend all our effort being angry at another’s actions, but we cannot blame them for our reaction. That is on us. Choose joy. Choose happy memories. But, most of all, live. If the tables were turned and I had gone before my son, I would not want him sitting around wondering “what if.”

The closer we get to the holidays, the more I have to convince myself my son would want me happy. Holidays can be a big reminder of those happy family times, but is the time that void is really apparent. Turning the table (or lazy Susan in my world), I will remember those I have lost and cherish those who remain. Positive vibes is what those I have lost would hope for us. It is what I hope for. No regrets.

This week of thanksgiving, be the one who takes time to visit, call, email, or post to those family and friends. Say the things that you are thankful and grateful for. Spin the positives and weed out the negatives. Life is short. Be the reason someone smiles. Look up and thank those who have gone before you for all the positive marks and changes they made in your life. And, as always, I still may cry because they are gone, but I also smile because they were here…

#happythanksgiving #livefortoday #lifeisshort #thedashinthemiddle

Defining moments vs Pivotal moments…

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…

#forever24 #pivotalmoments #findthepositive #thedashinthemiddle

Time does NOT heal all wounds. We just learn to live through the pain…

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!!

#gonefouryears #forever24 #timedoesnotalwaysheal #thedashinthemiddle

Is it the house, or is it the memories…

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!

#gonealmostfouryears #forever24 #ifwallscouldtalk #thedashinthemiddle

He was my son…

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.

#forever24 #designateddriversareheroes #gonebutnotforgotten #thedashinthemiddle

“I took a walk today…”

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!!

#forever24 #letfreedomring #americathebeautiful #thedashinthemiddle

How I know life lives on even after someone dies… faith and love!

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.

#fathersday #gonebutnotforgotten #faithandlove #thedashinthemiddle

Death measures loss, not love…

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!!

#forever24 #gonebutnotforgotten #loveiseternal #thedashinthemiddle

Cody’s Story: A Mother’s Day message…

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 last Mother’s Day post.

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.

#happymothersday #forever24 #codysmessage #thedashinthemiddle