Memorial Day, every day…

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.

#memeorialdaycovidstyle #memotialdayeveryday #gonebutneverforgotten #thedashinthemiddle

The road to my next step…

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!


#gonebutnotforgotten #dontdrinkanddrive #roadtohell #thedashinthemiddle

What makes me ‘me’ and you ‘you’? It’s the tape…

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!”

#iamwhoiam #battlescarsandmaskingtape #morealikethandifferent #thedashinthemiddle

Japanese artist and senior at Musashino Art University Nasa Funahara builds beautiful painterly compositions completely out of masking tape.

What I thought I could(n’t) do…

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!!

#babysteps #amessageleftbehind #gonebutnotforgotten #thedashinthemiddle

My next step, I must try harder…

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.

#tryhardertoteach #toomanytooyoumg #dontdrinkanddrive #thedashinthemiddle

I am the storm…

Devil, you got nothing!! I have been to hell and back and it is not for me. I choose Heaven and to follow my Lord through anything. Hell had nothing to soothe the pain I felt and have endured these last couple of years. The devil once whispered that I could not withstand the storm. I reminded the devil, I am the storm!! Here I am, and I am still standing…

During this Lenten season, do not let this corona virus (or as my son would have called it, the “beer flu”) let you think our God does not exist or that He would ever leave you alone and helpless. Not going to happen. We are strong and we are still standing. No man-made virus will destroy us or our faith.

Every day I wake up and get out of bed is a good day. Whether I am quarantined or not, it is a good day if I am alive. Since the loss of my son, I realize every day is a gift. I do not want to disrespect God by thinking otherwise. We all know we are going to die someday. We don’t necessarily get to choose that path. If you are choosing to disobey the guidelines in place to protect you during this pandemic, you are not only making a choice, you could be forcing that choice on innocent bystanders. Unless you are front line workers, follow all precautions. Please.

For those going through this pandemic from the front line, I applaud you!! I have braved this from the comfort of my own home. I know a large percentage of us will be exposed, but I sure don’t want to be one who gives it to another! Stay home and stay safe if you can! But do so knowing others took the front line for us! Sounds very familiar and biblical! God bless them!

For those who have lost a loved one during this outbreak, my heart hurts for you. You are now experiencing a version of my hell. For that, I am sorry. Please do not give up on your faith. I have found my way through this is to be the person my son would want me to be, that he would be proud of. Never give up and know you are the storm and you are not alone!!

Stay safe and out of harm’s way if you are able. Your life is important and so is that of others in our paths. To the front line and first responders, you are true heroes!! Thank you! Together, let’s be the storm that wipes out this devil! The world can come together, even though we are physically apart!

God bless!

#coronavirussucks #hearthunters #standingtogetherwhilestayingapart #thedashinthemiddle

Living the dream…

I sit in the dark… a lot! Sometimes, I think I am trying to make myself believe none of the things that happened actually happened. It is similar to an out-of-body experience. I see myself, but it is different. Almost make believe. But, it did happen. And, here I am… living the dream! Not in the context I would like…

How did I get here? Am I doing what is “normal” according to others? Is there a normal? I have been told I handled my situation (ie the loss of my son) with much grace. Not sure how true that is. I think there are times I pretend. I do this so I can get up and go to work each day, or hug my daughter and still be able to let go and let her leave my home. Maybe I do so I can play with my grandkids and not see how much he would have influenced his niece and nephew.

I am sure there is a coping mechanism that I cannot analyze, or need to analyze. Bottom line, I have to exist. In whatever form I take or methods that take over, I have to find reason to get out of bed every day. If not, I will die with my son. So, I choose life and memories.

Memories are something no one can take from you. We have ALL had bad things happen, misfortunes, loss. How we deal with those define us. No, we are not all weak, strong, or incapable. We are ALL survivors… of whatever misfortune was bestowed upon us. Trust me when I say this is not an overnight transition. It has been two and a half years plus for me and I am still trying to find my way. I am also hoping I am helping lead others to the path of “moving forward.”

I use that term kind of loosely “move forward.” We do not, and cannot, move on. We move forward. The child I lost is always ever-present in my life. I think that I needed to write this out to gain that perspective. I kept feeling like I was living outside my body and the motions I was going through were just that, motions. Feeling a little better calling it a “coping mechanism.” Still feels a little like a dream or, for a better word, “not real.”

Repeating what I have said in all of my posts, death will not change the love I have for my son. It will not take all the good things that happened while he was alive. It will not overshadow all the good things I have in my life. I miss him every single day. I hurt for the things I did not get to witness. Those things were never a guarantee. They were a wish. A dream. A hope. I have to learn to live with the fact they didn’t happen. But I can dream. I can close my eyes and think about what might have been. Had he lived. Had he gotten married. Had he had children. But those are just wishful dreams…

My real dream was that I had a son. A good son. A wild son. A redneck son. A son who liked beer. A son who liked music. A son who loved to sing in the shower. A son who did sing with a famous person onstage. A son who was a phenomenal mechanic. A son who took apart every vehicle he owned and left half the parts in the yard. A son who came home late and blared the tv. A son who slept at least eight hours a day, usually during daylight hours. But he was my son. My reality. He may be a memory to a lot of people, but in my heart, he is still my son. His heart will beat within me until mine stops beating.

Therapy. This is therapy. My out of body experience is a dream. Or a memory. I choose to not stop dreaming if this is the case. If this keeps my son alive in my heart and mind, so be it! You will catch me living this dream for a long time (I hope). As always, I cry because he is gone, but I smile because he was here. Thank you for sharing my dream…

#livinthedeam #outofsightnotoutofmind #mysonlivesinme #thedashinthemiddle

It’s ok to laugh… and it’s ok to cry!

When faced with an emotional situation, our minds are overwhelmed trying figure out what is ok, or not ok! We think we have to be strong in front of others. I say, “don’t hold back!” It’s ok to laugh, and it’s ok to cry! I think there is a Patty Loveless song in there somewhere. Grief is an odd duck! It comes in waves, and we try to control it. That is a very hard thing to do! The stance we take of showing a brave face is painful!! I write my way through it!!

Survivor’s guilt can jump in on good days. Good things are going to happen in life after the loss of a loved one. We can’t stop the good anymore than we can stop the bad from happening, nor should we want to! It’s bad enough we guilt ourselves for smiling or laughing. It’s a whole other story when we blame others for having good moments, or God forbid , someone tries to make a grieving parent feel bad for having a good moment. I’ve witnessed it. It didn’t happen to me personally. If it had, trust me when I say that person would have gotten an earful, and then some. What people don’t understand of a grieving parent is that we are fighting internal battles constantly, and no one should ever pass judgement, especially on those grieving!

I have encouraged those grieving (by the way, that never stops) to write down a positive thing that happens every day. It’s therapeutic and life -changing! We need to acknowledge the good that continues! It is in those moments when we will start seeing a common thread. I like to think they are signs from our loved one to let us know it will be ok. Call me quirky!!

Flip side, some people want to hold back their tears when they are sad. Why? Tears are not a bad thing and there is no shame in shedding them. Don’t let people guilt you if you cry anymore than they should if you smile or laugh. We all have emotions and it makes me sad to think we criticize a person, man or woman, who has emotions they need to express.

People are complicated, yet not. Some people read. Some of us tend to write. Some people put themselves into those words. I know several have been though similar events I write about. I had someone tell me recently that she cries when she reads what I write. I want you to know I am touched by the fact she told me and it is possible to feel the emotions of my words. I hope the tears are healing and therapeutic for those readers. They are for me.

I have written for my own therapy for many, many years. I actually cry, and sometimes laugh, at what I wrote. The emotions are still there for me too!! Words are what gets me through tough situations. I can go back and reread them when I feel compelled. Don’t misunderstand. I enjoy therapeutic conversations too, but unless they are recorded, I may not retain ALL the wonderful advice and conversations shared. That does not mean I don’t want to talk about situations. Trust me! I am never at a loss for words!! Ask my family. Lol!

Whatever is therapeutic (and legal!) should not be disputed or lessened for those who have things they need to deal with or expressions they wish to convey!! You have all heard the expression “laughter is the best medicine.’ It is very healing, but so is letting go of the tears. Tears are not a sign of weakness. A good cry can calm the emotions just as much as a good laugh!

I encourage those who feel overwhelmed to seek outside help. Some try to be so strong around certain people, maybe an outside person can be your sounding board. This could be the best of both worlds. Bottom line, you are never alone! Talk, cry, write, whatever, it is ok to laugh and it is ok to cry!

I am finding as time goes forward, we all have very different coping mechanisms. I never want to forget those who have gone before me, especially my own son! I will continue to write, talk, speak his name, laugh at some of the stories he left us with, and cry at the void that will forever remain! And guess what, it’s ok! I don’t ask you to agree with me. I ask that we respect those grieving, in whatever coping methods that will allow them to get up each day.

#itsoktolaugh #gonebutnotforgotten #thedashinthemiddle

I am a witness…

As we head into the Lenten season, we are once again reminded of the sacrifices made on our behalf. We relive Mother Mary seeing her son die before her. I can relate. There is a spiritual feeling in me when I think of my son up there in Heaven standing next to our Heavenly Father in all His glory. I will survive this knowing he is safe. It will all make sense later. I can’t try and figure it out. I won’t get the answers down here. Until then, I will remain a witness in life.

Please note, I have, at no time in my life, ever wished to have my child die before me nor do I wish that for any parent!! The statistics from 2017 were 19% of parents will have a child die before them!! Those statistics compute to almost one of five parents. That may have changed, but if it did, it only went up!! How do we get passed the stigma that it will never be us? How do we say, “enjoy our children now!!” Tomorrow is not guaranteed!! Bereaved parents find this out the hard way.

I view my situation as that I didn’t lose my child. I know where he is. What I lost was a future with him, seeing him get married, have children, and seeing the person I knew he could be. That makes me sad all by itself. I cannot say that it should’ve been me. I can only wish it had been. To say you are not supposed to bury your child gives me guilt. Why? Because I did have a child die before me and now I have to live with that just as Mother Mary did! Continually reminding me of the fact just makes the pain an endless heartache. I would rather be grateful for the time I was blessed with and hold tight to the memories rather than continually remind myself of the things I will not get to experience. It just extends my heartache.

I think we perpetuate the sadness we feel when we convince ourselves we should be above surviving our children. As I have said a thousand times, our only guarantee is that we will die. We don’t get to choose the order sometimes!! When I say we perpetuate the sadness, I am referring to the statement that we convince ourselves it will never be us, and then it is!! Every time we remind ourselves it was us, and that it should not have been, we are sad all over again! It seems unfair, but then again, we all know life is unfair!

So how do we get over repeating our sadness. We don’t. We get through it knowing we will meet again! That is what the Lenten season is all about!! It is my guiding force. We should all focus on enjoying the love of those in our lives now. We are not guaranteed tomorrow. None of us.

I have convinced myself that my son is still with me: in my heart; in my actions; in my life. He just happens to be in a room I am not allowed to enter yet. Our gracious and loving God will tell me when it is my turn. I have offered the care of my son up to Him until then. That gives me great peace!

I don’t want to perpetuate the heartache and relive it every day. I need to know my son is alive in my heart and I had a great life with him! I miss his presence, but he is with me in more ways than I can count. My actions are enhanced with the love I had for my child going forward with each breath, step, and action. I want the love I still have in my heart to be reverberated in the life I live from now on. And that applies to both my children. I still have a child alive who is watching me, no matter her age. I LIVE for her and my grandchildren too! They are my witness.

I know I have repeated myself several times. I don’t want to be reminded of what I don’t have. I want to remember what I experienced and was blessed with! This time of year hits me right in the heart, literally. The prodigal son has returned home. I cry because he is gone, but I smile because he was here. I am a witness to the Glory He provides.

#lentenseason #iamawitness #iwillseeyouagain #thedashinthemiddle

It’s your birthday, son…

It’s your birthday, son! On this day, 27 years ago, it was quite a joyous celebration!! The 24-1/2 years that followed weren’t too bad either!! You gave your dad and I a run for our money during the last five years you were on this Earth, but I wouldn’t trade the time I had with you for all the money in the world!!

Saw a gift that would have been perfect for you this past weekend! Actually, the entire event reminded me of you! It was the Whitetails Unlimited event! Everything was guns, camouflage, or an American flag!! I just walked by and smiled knowing you would have been eyeing it all!!! You were so easy to buy for without a doubt!!

There are a lot of people who still miss your everyday presence!! I am at the top of that list, but I am so grateful for the years I did have! I don’t want to ever forget them, or have them overshadowed by the grief I have with you gone! I want to relish in the wonderful memories and stories you left us with!! A lot of those memories still make my hair change color, but they were a part of you, therefore, a forever part of me!

I must say, it has been quite a year already! I see so much of you in your niece! She is so spirited and funny!! She absolutely loves music!! ALL music!! This fact proves you are an influence on her!! You were our human radio and she is right in tow!! Not only your love of music, but her expressions!! Love every one of them! You would be such an awesome uncle!! Your nephew still remembers you quite fondly and loves knowing all the things around the house that were yours!! Melts my heart!!

One of your dearest brothers from another mother gave us quite a scare when he and your dad went to make sure the deer stands were safe and secure for hunting season!! Up the first deer stand and he came crashing down!! Luckily, your dad took great care of him, but the emotions were hard to contain! He came so close to permanent, if not fatal, injuries!! Luckily, he healed from the fractures he suffered in his back!! I thought he had an angel looking out for him. He thought maybe you pushed him!! Wink wink!! We know better!!

I know you have more company with you this year than you had last year! I am saddened one of your hunting buddies has joined you!! His parents need to know you are watching out for him and guiding him around up in Heaven! I need that too! All his buddies (and a lot of yours) gave him a great send off with another truck run. I hope it is not a trend that is repeated anytime soon! I want it to be many, many years before anymore of your friends join you!!

After the truck run, those kids all got together to toast their lost friend! I must say, there were a couple that looked like you! One in particular kind of freaked your sister out a bit!! He was tall, had your thinning hair and scruffy beard-like hair on his face! He knew of you and said he had been told by several people that he resembled you!! Another one that resembles you is one of your friends that you did hang with! He also had been told he looked like you, but he wasn’t losing his hair as quickly!! He mumbled like you though!! I did enjoy listening to him! It was like you were there with us, but I already knew you were!! That was just another sign proving it!!

As I send this letter up to you, know my heart is heavy knowing I cannot hug you and wish you birthday wishes in person!! I can’t say “happy birthday!” It isn’t that I don’t want to. I know every day in Heaven must be happy! At least, I hope so! I am sending birthday wishes galore though!! I celebrate today for you and because of you, my son!! I am better because you graced my life!! I am proud to be your mom!! Death can not change that!! You and your sister were my greatest accomplishments!!

For those other parents in this boat, I hope they, too, know that with the grace of God, our kids are happy and taken care of. Most of all, we know you are safe in His loving arms!

I will celebrate the life you lived today with stories and music! I know your friends are all thinking of you!! It makes me happy that they still smile when they speak of you!! They still honk as they drive by!! Smoke stacks on a diesel truck still bring back fond memories as well as burning rubber!! Today, we raise our glasses and beers in toast of a short life that was full!! We miss you and love you!! May God wrap you in His arms for me and hug you in a way I wish I could! Until we meet again… I cry because you are gone, but I celebrate because you were here!!!



#itsyourbirthday #rainbowbabyangelbaby #lifeisshort #thedashinthemiddle

I interrupt this regularly scheduled program called… life!

Mass this weekend was very interesting. The homily gave me a new way of thinking about those out-of-the-ordinary moments in our life. When something happens; good, bad, or indifferent, who do you turn to? Who do you talk to? Who do you ask questions to? If your answer was “God,” your answer matched mine. For those that don’t have faith, this won’t make a lot of sense. If you have faith in our Lord, you, too, know there is a Plan we know nothing about, but hopefully can accept with grace.

Many people having this interruption, whatever it is, will look up and ask God “why?” It is not something we may get an answer to right away. It may not be anything God had a hand in creating, but He will be there to see us through. Remember, the devil walks among us! We need to trust that our actions from there will lead us to the best possible outcome. Sometimes, we have to walk the line and have faith that there is a reason at the end of our walk, wherever that leads us!!

We question our own actions to see if we are partly to blame. We ask if there was anything different we could have done to stop whatever events happened in our path. We want to blame others if we think it could have been avoided. There are many reactions, but the most important reaction is to look up and commit, “give me the strength and guidance to get through whatever happens from here.”

Prayer is a very powerful thing. Trust is also powerful! Having trust in someone or something means you will accept things that may not be easy.

Sometimes, the message is very clear when things happen. Don’t mess with fire. Don’t drink and drive. Safety first. To a lot of young kids, that sounds boring. I have threatened to wrap up all of my son’s friends in bubble wrap to avoid the thought of their parents going through my situation. My interruption was outside my control, and I don’t regret that my son lived life to the fullest!!

When something out of the ordinary happens, we don’t always stop and appreciate all the times things went right. Maybe this is an underlying message as well. We don’t know why things happen; why cancer exists; why accidents happen; why people feel the need to take out a slew of complete strangers before ending their own life; why planes crash; why famous people seem to be held up and expected to never have bad things happen. It’s called life and we are all subject to its misfortunes.

I, too, had all the above- mentioned questions. I just look up and ask “what do I do with this newfound situation? How do I turn it into a positive?” Writing is how I try to contribute. I hope it helps others. The loss of my son is not my only “interruption” in this program called “Life.” This one just hit a lot harder. I have found some positives to pull from it. I still wish it had not happened and hope that is not how that statement is portrayed. I lived to see another day. There is a reason for that even though I felt like part of me died that day!!

When your regularly scheduled life hits an interruption, step back, look up, ask for help and guidance. It is not a sign of weakness. Prayer, as I stated, is very powerful. Remember, the devil preys on our weaknesses. Do not succumb to his level. Have faith. The sun will shine another day and whatever hell we are going through on this Earth, we are not alone. The answers will come in due time, and maybe not while we are on this Earth, but is part of the Plan we know nothing about.

You may now proceed to your regularly scheduled program…

#thingcalledlife #lifeinterrupted #thedashinthemiddle

It’s like a time warp…

Watching another family go through the loss of a child is difficult, knowing I know what they are thinking, feeling, and have to expect going forward!! And, just as in the case with my son, the send off was a room full of young persons blended into a big blob of camouflage!!

I never want someone who has not been through the loss of a child to ever really try to put themself in that position. If you have never lost a child, thank God right now, where you stand!! Seriously!! I would not wish this on my worst enemy!!! It is similar to being stuck in a sad time warp! This past weekend, the wormhole opened up again at the loss of one of my son’s friend!!

Those who have tried to empathize have compared this loss to their child leaving, for whatever reason. There is quite a difference between leaving the homestead and dying. Some parents think they feel some similarities, but the difference is more like a Grand Canyon. When a child drives alone for the first time, leaves for college, or moves out on their own, some of those anxieties parents experience might be very similar, but ours are permanent. Our child won’t be driving back home after their trip, or moving all their crap back in when money gets tight, or packing up a dorm room after graduation. As a parent, we choke back tears, have fears and anxiety about the child not being at home anymore, but those feelings are laced with a layer of hope that a bereaved parent won’t feel. Our feelings are them leaving and remaining stuck in an endless time warp of never being able to return, but us not wanting them to feel gone.

I will continue to share my stories because that allows me to talk about my son. It won’t bring him back, but it allows him to still be present in my life that way. I hope the new members of this unfortunate club feel that way too! So many people are afraid to bring up his name for fear it will make me cry. I am okay with that! Crying is, and will always be, part of this process! The tears don’t stop, but we still smile too! Those conversations and stories are important! Don’t hold back. If we are in a position or frame of mind that is different, we will let you know. For the record, I haven’t asked one person yet to not ask me about my son!!

As we lay another person to rest today, know it isn’t about the age or the things they won’t get to do, it’s about the life lived! Remember the dash in the middle of those two dates, beginning and end, are the story! How we live when we are alive will tell the stories after we are gone! Share often and never forget!

Brandon, our newest angel, now with his buddy, we will cry because you are gone, but smile because you were here!! Rest easy. The hard part for you is over. Just help the rest of us now…

#resteasyupthere #youngagebutbiglife #flyhighonthatmountain #thedashinthemiddle

Welcome home!! It’s not final, but it can feel like it…

Give me strength!! We are about to attend the funeral of another young person in our lives. It is always hard because they seem so final. But it isn’t always the finale. During these moments, I draw on the strength that has gotten me to here… my faith!!

Even though it has been nearly two and a half years since I lost my son, the void is still like a crater. I fill that crater with memories, stories, pictures, and prayers! The void will always be there, but so will all those things I have to remember him. I just don’t get “new” stories, memories, and photos to go with them. That has to be the hardest part.

The first thing I realized is nothing can replace my son. From there, I had to learn a new normal without him. The new members of this unwanted club will have to learn that too, as hard as it is. I hope they, too, will draw on the strength of their faith to get there. We have to know they are in a good place. As a parent, that is always the hope for our children. We want to know they are ok!

I have repeatedly said that our only guarantee in life is that we will die. We don’t always know when or how. We don’t know if we will suffer horribly or go peacefully. We also can’t guarantee that our children will outlive us, as many of us have found out the hard way!!

As we start the day tomorrow, say a prayer for the family saying goodbye to their son, brother, nephew, and friend and hello to their new angel. May the Lord wrap them in his loving care not only tomorrow, but also for the road ahead of them, knowing that his suffering is over and he is in his forever home with those who have gone before him. This is not the final step, and he awaits us with open arms. Now, many more understand how we cry because they are gone, but smile because they were here!!!

#gonetoosoonforus #inHislovingcare #newangelamongus #thedashinthemiddle

I’ve been there, and am still there… and am not alone!

As I sit here, thoughts are rampant!! One of my son’s buddies was killed last night in an ATV accident. He was 20 years old. My heart hurts… for many reasons!! For those of you who have lost a child, when another passes, it is like repeating your own loss all over again!! We know exactly what that family is going through… step by step by step!! 😢

To those that are new to this unfortunate club, my heart aches for you and I have no easy words. I wish there was something I could say that takes away the pain of your loss. The only thing I can tell you is I am here for you!! I will stay quiet in a corner if needed. I will hold your hand. I will get you more Kleenex. I will listen to you and do whatever is needed. But I can’t take away the pain!!

I can tell you I will continue to talk about your son. I will share stories to remember the life he lived! I will look at pictures over and over and over. I know his life had meaning, and will continue to have meaning!! He was here for a reason and has changed the lives of many!

I know the first of everything you experience without him will bring tears: first holiday; first birthday, of his or anyone; the first day you don’t get a call or card of condolence; and so many more. I can tell you there will be triggers you cannot prepare yourself for. They will hit you out of nowhere! You might be driving down the road, folding laundry, cleaning up a mess, buying groceries, or watching tv. No prepping yourself. Just know on those days, I will be praying for you!

Grief is not something you will get over, especially the loss of your child! It is different than any other loss you will have. This does not mean you don’t love others you have lost. This loss doesn’t make you a widow(er) or an orphan. This loss makes you incomplete. You may never feel whole again. You will not get over this loss, but you will get through it! Hold on tight for the bumpy ride ahead. Through all of it, know many of us are here still praying! That won’t stop!! Ever!!

I want to sugarcoat it but I can’t. I can only stress to not lose yourself and your purpose. You are now living for your son as well. Live the best life possible. You will find joy in the things around you. Give yourself time to heal and some of that beauty will return. You will never stop missing your child, but he will continue to give you purpose! He will be shining down on you and give you signs right when he knows you need them. Keep the faith and know he is in good hands!

This is an ongoing process you will go through. Do not feel alone or that you have to do this alone! Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. You have many here to help along the way. As with my son, I know you will cry because he is gone, but I want you to smile because he was here!

#gonetoosoon #neverforgotten #buddiesinheaven #thedashinthemiddle

Another New Year is coming…

It’s the end of another year. I have mixed emotions at this time of the year. Every person hopes your next year is your best year yet! My year may be better than my last, but it will never be my “best” year ever! I have peaked for the “best” years’ ever and I wish I had known it then. I may have treated those years better and respected my time more. I know I would have been a lot more thankful!! Those “best” years were when I had both my children to hold and hug and touch!!!

What happens after the worst year ever? That was 2017 for me! Leaving 2017 and heading into 2018 was rough. I felt like I was losing my son all over again. I had him alive in 2017 for a lot of it. Closing that year was facing an entire year without him. It was a mindset I could not change. I have done better since, but the feeling of desertion was hard to shake. It was a cold reality.

I will still have good years, maybe even great. I will still make great memories, but they will never come close to what I had! I had always appreciated my children and I know they knew (and know) they are loved! Any years that follow 2017 may be described as great (hopefully!) but they will never be the “best” year!! The really great news here is that does not mean I will stop trying to live my best life!

The first year, 2018, was spent trying to redefine “normal ” and move forward. We all know you don’t “get over” the loss of a child. You get through it. I have finally lost all the weight that came with my depression in 2018. I also started this blog to help others as well as myself. This is my therapy! 2019 was spent trying to move forward and in a very positive direction. Hitting 2019 came with personal changes and constant ways of trying to honor my son’s memory! I feel I have accomplished that!

As I head into the year 2020, I am continuing the positive attitude! I will strive to live the best life possible and continue to honor the memory of my son. My husband and I plan on doing a trip every year near the anniversary date and do things that would make him proud and do things he would have enjoyed, too! I still want people to drive by and honk! Share funny stories! Smile when you think of him! Those are the best ways to keep his spirit alive and thriving…never forget! As always, I cry because he is gone, but I smile because he was here!!

May all of you enjoy your holiday. Be safe! I won’t wish for the best year yet, but may you live your best life possible in the year to come!!

#happynewyear #memoriesliveforever #thedashinthemiddle

Went by to see you today…

For all those grieving a loss this holiday season, know you are not alone. Our hearts are always heavier during the festive times because their absence is much more evident. My prayers to you and your families.

I went by to see you today…

Went by to see you today, it’s getting close to Christmas

Wanted to fill you in, tell you what’s happening with us.

I talked about the kids a bit, my job and all that stuff

Went on and on about money, how there never seems enough.

It’s getting cold outside so the conversation was shorter than wished

But I wanted you to know how much you are loved and missed

I knelt down to brush the dirt and leaves away off the stone’s hearth

And to once again say “it’s lonely without you here on Earth”

The holidays are a time of year that is heavier on our heart

And reminds us ever so gently that we are far apart

As the families gather and celebrate this holiday

Know I miss you, I love you, and think of you every day!

Christina Herold Trueblood


#alwaysinourhearts #forevermissed #thedashinthemiddle

Be positive… no matter what!!

I have spent the last two+ years trying to find a positive in a very not-positive situation. I want to feel the good and am very saddened by how people are responding to things just because they have a different opinion, especially on social media! I give presentations and tell my audience to THINK before posting anything on social media. This stands for True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary, and Kind!! I would love it if everyone did that!!

It’s December and with so many reasons to be grateful and kind, I am amazed at how many cling to the negative! They believe fake news because they want it to be true and disrespect people for no other reason than their point of view! I am not referring to defending yourself or your beliefs, which validates my point of there being so much negative out there. I am referring to the negative connotations of peoples’ actions and words!! It’s sad! Spin the positive, people!! If you don’t like someone or something, focus on the things you do like and leave the rest alone!

Just the other day, I watched an episode of “Hot Bench” with a lawsuit over a Facebook post! Guess what!!?!! The plaintiff won! The defendant had slandered his name and made false accusations in the comments of a post on Facebook!! It doesn’t matter who you are, what you put out on social media can hurt people! Facebook does not have a privacy button. What others see and read on there is not an invasion of privacy and can be shared and/or seen by many. It can be a very helpful and useful tool, but can also destroy a person.

One of my biggest pet peeves is the one who loves to spread bad news. Some thrive on it. I don’t get that. It’s one thing to let people know someone has died or is hurt. I believe in the power of prayer. That gives us a chance to pray for them. This is why my original Facebook post about the passing of my son being shared 400 times and laced with over 1000 emojis of thumbs up/hearts/sad faces did not bother me but actually gave me strength. Those emojis included thoughts and prayers. Nothing malicious about it. But an article with fake news that is not investigated, challenged, or corrected and is shared 100,000x because people want to believe it because it validates their negatives thoughts can be dangerous, if not destructive.

I wish we could go back to how we treated each other in the days that followed 9-11-01. We were a united nation. We didn’t look at religion, race, or political choice as a deciding factor of whether we would help our neighbor. We spoke to strangers in the store. We cried for those we had never met and rallied together. No bias. No political divide. Why do we have to go through a major thing like a terrorist attack to be nice to each other. Think of where we would be today if we had maintained that same attitude and respect over the last 18 years!!

It’s almost Christmas. I am trying to find the positives. I am trying to be happy for all those that still get to take family photos without missing family members. I am trying to remember past Christmas’ where we wished strangers shopping a “very Merry Christmas” as we left a store. We cannot get back yesterday any more than we can take back harsh words once they have been spoken. T-H-I-N-K before you speak, share an article or news item if you don’t know its truth, and before you post anything negative. It is one thing to be informed. It is another to spread misinformation or promote a negative vibe.

For many, Christmas is the hardest holiday to get through. Spin the positives! Share good things! Speak to strangers. Pray for our country, leaders, and those who are struggling. We have much to be grateful for that we overlook constantly until we no longer have it in our grasps. Be kind! We all have battles others know nothing about.

As I remember Christmas’ past, I look to the future and remember that first Christmas after I lost my son, thinking this is the darkest I had ever felt, and the ray of sunshine that came through when my daughter told me she was expecting another child! It really was a Christmas miracle and proof that life will move forward. I am spinning the positives knowing I still have family, here next to me and in Heaven!! I have been blessed!! As always, I cry because they are gone, but I smile because they were here!!

#itsalmostchristmas #spinthepositives #iamnotperfect #thedashinthemiddle

Speaking from the heart…

I have a lot of moments that are like light bulbs going on! Not all are epiphanies. Some are just common sense. Some are wishful thinking. The ‘lucky’ ones reading these get to relish in those moments. It just helps me to write it out. I hope it helps those who read them. If they don’t help you, I hope they are helping someone. It is me speaking from the heart…

We never know what we have until it is gone. And now that I know, I get very upset when I see what I can’t cherish being neglected, abused, taken for granted, and assumed! Don’t take tomorrow for granted or assume any promised experiences! You can’t get that time back or turn back any clocks to relive life. We take every day for granted until, one day, the choice is not ours to make. When someone tells you to “live – love – laugh” they know what they are talking about!! They know what vacancy is left when you don’t have tomorrow!!

Just recently, I met a divorced waitress with two boys. It sounds as if she had quite a tumultuous relationship with her ex. That being said, it still produced two sons. I know I only heard one side of the story, but my message to both sides is, “Your boys are here! Enjoy your creation!” This should not be an epiphany to them, but for me, the epiphany was this: I am so jealous that this mom and dad have a son(s) you can wrap your arms around and I don’t!! Don’t waste your dash in the middle placing blame and/or neglecting those boys. They are a precious gift!!! Treat them as such!! My only notation here is to know these boys have parents in different homes and it sounded a bit estranged, which makes me sad.

I lost a classmate just recently who was killed in a very similar fashion as my son. He left a wife and three small children behind!! Those kids won’t get a future with their dad! A flip side of my previous story. Instead of a dad who isn’t, it is a dad who can’t!! I pray for their family and hope those children were blessed with great memories and that the surviving family members share as many stories so they never forget their dad!!

Families divided by divorce or distance in miles can still have a great relationship and make great memories. I don’t want to ever say again, “I wish I would have…!” I want to say “I did…!” Life is not going to wait for you to get your heads out of your a**!!! Enjoy your family, friends, good food, good wine, and talk to each other!! Take pictures!! Most of all, let go of the bad, negative, and unhappy moments and overshadow those moments with loving thoughts! Not one of us is perfect, but we can be imperfect together!! Live!! Love!!! Laugh!!! Repeat!!! Life is short! Hearts have a hard time mending if treated wrongly. Some people don’t have do-overs!!! Make each moment and memory count!! Have no regrets!!

As we come near the end of another year, I continue to cry because they are gone, but I smile because they were here!!!

#livelovelaugh #makenemories #randomthoughts #liveeveryday

I don’t want to ever forget…

The other day, someone tagged my son in a heartfelt post. It had me sobbing, remembering the moment she was referring to in that memory! At first, I was wondering why it caused tears. Then, I thought to myself, “don’t ever forget why you still cry!” The revelation hit me, I hope I cry for those endearing moments for as long as I live!
Then, a few nights after, I was on the phone with a long time friend, and the same sentiment was referred to: don’t ever stop crying! Trust me, I won’t! I also won’t stop praying for my son! It is in those moments I am closest to him.
As Christmas approaches, it seems I do a lot of both, crying and praying! As I put up my Christmas tree with all my ornaments of Christmas’ past, the tears were in full force. I have stories behind a lot of them and some were made by my children. Some are dated. Some have pictures of my child the year they were made. Some were definitely made by a child, but they hang proudly on my tree. I enjoy those memories, even though they make me cry.
We never really lose anyone. We lose out on someone, but those moments we lose were never guaranteed anyway. Hold onto the memories. Remember the times that made you laugh. And never refrain from the tears that will follow!! Those tears are heart-shaped and full of the love you still have within you!!
I pray for my son every day. I pray he is proud of his family and friends. I believe those friends he had still honor his memory. They do that every time they tag him in their hunting photos or share stories around the camp fires. Also, every time they drive by the house and honk!! I am pretty sure they still share drinking stories!!😳 I know they still leave mementoes at the scene.
Memories are all that I have of my son, but I continue to make new memories to go along with them. He would want me to. Sometimes, I catch myself wishing he were making these new memories with me, but then I realize, he is! As always, I cry because he is gone, but I smile because he was here!!
#christmasishard  #memoriesofchristmaspast  #angelsamongus #thedashinthemiddle

Another date on the calendar to remember, but not celebrate…

Today, November 24, is not just a date on a calendar. To many, it is Sunday. It could be an early celebration of Thanksgiving. To me and my family, it is a day we remember our brothers, plural! This date in 2019 marks the 25th anniversary of the loss of my oldest brother, Mike. It also marks the 17th anniversary of the loss of our brother, Pat.  Eight years apart. What are the odds? I believe dates play a huge part in our loss and not all of them are coincidence.
The fact these two brothers died on the same date is an act of God. Our mother was still alive and this gave her one day to mourn the loss of her boys. Now that I am in that club of “parents who have lost a child,” I am grateful she only had one day to recall these losses. I know several who have lost more than one child and this is not the case. I pray for them to find some peace on those days of remembering.
This could have also been my brother Mike leading Pat “home.” Pat told me Mike had been next to his bed all night one night the weekend he passed from cancer. He said our father was outside his room during that time. Both our father and Mike had been gone for years. Mike had been gone for eight and our father had died twelve years earlier. Pat’s statement that they had both been there gave me chills and comfort at the same time.
I know there is a plan we have no control over, for the most part. Some of the actions are a result of free will but I am sure God is taking care of those as well. He is a forgiving God, I have no doubt. It was a reminder today at mass while discussing the choices we have that could have a lasting affect on our future. What we don’t realize is the affect it has on everyone else!
Today, I choose to remember all the good times and moments those brothers left us with. I know they are not alone in Heaven and are at peace and well. The things that were not good with their health have been healed. The pain they suffered is gone. 
I wrote this poem after Pat died. 
God’s Great Plan
Here we are again, a time for sharing and giving
And, as years past, this is a sad Thanksgiving
We are suppose to reflect as if this year were our best
As I lay another sibling down to rest
I don’t understand the plan our Lord has for us here
Because I’ve buried two people I hold very dear
In my eyes, at least, both were too young 
To the rest of the world, their lives had just begun
As I spend this time of reflection to pray
To my Lord, my maker, I have only this to say
Lord, I’ve seen your work, and try to comprehend 
What this suffering will produce on the other end
May the pain we’ve experienced over the years
Help all to understand and overcome their fears
Help them know this great “plan” of yours
Will lead them through much greater doors
It will make us strong and appreciate
What lies ahead for us through Your Heavenly Gate
As I look to Heaven with a heavy sigh
I know we are guarded by our angels on high
May they watch over us and help us to understand
So we, too, can be at peace with God’s Great Plan!!
Christina Herold Trueblood
As always, I cry because they are gone, but I smile because they were here.
#gonebutnotforgotten  #angelsamongus  #samedategone  #thedashinthemiddle