Monthly Archives

December 2017

Froggir

My son was a competitive gamer.  His handle was Froggir.  I know, I know.  You’re reading this telling yourself – Gaming is not really a thing.  “Gamers” are what we call kiddos who spend too much time on the XBox and are putting off getting a real life.  HA!  I was there, too.  At an early age Luke discovered his excellent reflexes and hand-eye coordination made him pretty decent at online gaming.  Turns out, you play long enough, and do well enough, and suddenly people want to recruit you for a team and sponsor you to play under their organization.  Say what?!  But it was true and Luke’s career began.

During Luke’s sixteenth summer he went to his first gaming event.  In California.  Without us. Now this kid couldn’t get himself out of bed for school every morning, so I wasn’t sure how he was going to navigate his way through an airport, to another state, and figure out how to get himself to his team.  But he did and he THRIVED!  He loved every minute of it, and his team did fairly well for their first go at the big times.  You should have seen me. This naysayer stalked every minute, every play, every win online and I was SO PROUD.  I was mostly happy that Lukester had found something that gave him some joy.

Just for the record, gaming is not all roses and sunshine.  It’s hard work.  You have to play A LOT.  Reputation and attitude are everything and Luke struggled to align himself with great players.  These are all young people, young in age and some young in behavior, and trying to blend four personalities to compete was tricky.  Some organizations are not organized, or honest, and you get traded A LOT.  If you’re lucky, you meet some really great characters, you get mentored by an awesome owner, and your team WINS.

And that is where Luke was January 2015.  His team was FLYING and after a tough event they qualified for the Million Dollar Tourney in Las Vegas.  It was the mother of all tournaments and the lads were psyched.  There was only one problem: they found out a rule had been introduced and, where previously your parents could sign you in, all players now had to be 18.  Luke wasn’t.  Neither was one of the other boys.  They both got the boot.

Luke continued to play after that, but he was never the same.   Three months later, he was gone.  I don’t think even I understood how large the gaming community was until the night of Luke’s death.  We were on our way home from the vigil and Logan was looking at his phone as we walked into the garage and all of a sudden, he shouts, “Mum, Luke is trending on Twitter”.  John and I didn’t even really understand what that meant, of course, until Logan explained it to us.  But there it was and it was because of the gamers.  The gaming community had made a pact to all tweet in Froggir’s memory at exactly the same time and ALL AROUND THE WORLD it happened. Thousands of people were remembering Luke and we were floored.   It was a Gaming organization who started the Go Fund Me account that allowed us to redo the Rutland Basketball courts.  It was a gamer who made the video that went viral that still brings me to tears when I hear Luke’s voice.  It was two gamers who traveled to Massachusetts because they loved him and wanted to be here for his wake.  It was all those gamers who tweeted the most beautiful words and truly helped my heart.

So what I need you to know is this:  if this is your Day One, let the kids do the things they need to do to remember your child.  T-shirts, bracelets, hashtags.  It helps them and it sure is heck is going to help you.  If this isn’t your Day One and you’re reading this and you have kids, can I just say this?  Help your child find something they love.  It might not be YOUR first choice, it might not be conventional, but everyone deserves to fill their days with something that makes them happy.  xxx

Froggir’s Tribute Video

The FIrst Days

“I’m okay if you’re okay”

I thought long and hard about what kind of post I wanted to write two sleeps, as we like to say at the Inwood House, before Christmas.  The OCD part of me wanted to continue with my First Days posts, but deep in my heart, the message I really wanted you to have on this day is that there is HOPE.  I wanted you to know that whether this is your Day One, Day One Hundred, or Nine Years Later there are things out there that remind us that every sunrise brings new promise.

My saving grace has been the children.  Now I say “children”, but what I really mean is Luke’s friends.  I mentioned last post that Luke was lucky enough to have an amazing circle of friends.  The Rutland crew really solidified in Middle School and from that point forward, they did everything together.  It was boys and girls alike and, although it morphed a bit in High School, the faces going in and out of my garage remained the same.  Luke once tweeted there wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do for his boys and that is the truth of it.  Luke was happiest partying or even just hanging out with his friends. There were many a night I could hear them laughing their asses off in the basement and it made my mom heart happy knowing he had such. good. friends.

So, fast forward to Luke’s death and uppermost in my mind are the lads.  How did losing their best friend at seventeen become part of their personal history?  How the heck do you cope with that?  You don’t have any strategies at seventeen.  I was worried sick about what this was going to do to them.  The day we laid Luke to rest we had an Irish Funeral at our house and everyone was there.  I will never forget the moment late that night, as I sat on my back deck looking up at the stars with Luke’s bestie, Eric, when he looked over at me with tears in his eyes and said, “What about me?  What am I supposed to do now?”  I remember I hugged him hard and my heart cracked open and made a place for Eric that will always be his. I made a promise to myself,  in that moment, that I would take care of this kid and do whatever I could to get him through this.  The amazing thing that happened, though, was that over the next several months with every call, every text, every visit I had with Eric that I thought was helping him, it was actually helping me.   Eric lets me love him like I would love my own seventeen year old son, and for that act of kindness, I have no words.  It has been EVERYTHING.

Eric is not my only savior.  I hesitate to try and list all their names because there are SO MANY lovelies that do little things to take care of my heart. Justin stopped by when he was delivering pizzas to say hey.  Toni tags me on Twitter for Best Friend Day.  Fran writes me the most beautiful letters.  Thad, Dom, Camden, Cody, Brendan, Sam, Beck, Justin, Alex, Devin, Cam, Nate, Ashley, Berkeley, Gray, Madi – my sweet Madi and Haley, and all the Taylors, and oh my gosh, BILLY,  let me love them and call them my own.  And every time I see one of them or text with them or call them, it is this beautiful thread that ties them, and Luke, and I together forever and we are all stronger for it.

It was almost a year after Luke had passed away that my boy, Eric, and I were on the front step having a heart to heart.  He is a rock, this boy, and plays his cards very close to the chest.  Eric seemed to be doing well, but I was worried that what I was seeing was maybe just an act to make me feel better. So I asked.

“Are you okay?”  I knew the meaning behind my words was made clear through my tone and the concern in my eyes.

“I’m okay if you’re okay,” he responded.

“I’m okay,”  I  whispered back.  And I smiled and we hugged and  I realized it was the truth.  We were okay.

So what I need you to know is:  Your Hope is out there.  Hope that tomorrow will be better.  Hope that each day will get easier.  Maybe it’s a project, or a garden, or a walk in the woods.  Maybe it’s a therapist, or a friend, or a healer.  Maybe it’s a book or a quote that speaks to your heart.  Or maybe, just maybe, it’s the best friends of your son.

Wishing you Hope this holiday. xxx

 

 

 

 

Things that help

“The Strongest Woman I Know”

Day One.  About 5 o’clock.  Somebody, I don’t remember who, informs us that the children, which is how I always referred to Luke’s friends, had decided to have a vigil at Memorial Park in our town.  They wanted us to know in case we wanted to go. I didn’t know how to respond when so many concerns filled my head.  Leave my house?  Talk to people?  Look at other people’s LIVING children?  I wasn’t sure I had it in me to go through the motions that might be required.  John and I talked about it privately and eventually came to the decision that we would let our son, Logan, make the call.  We were desperate to lessen the pain of losing his brother and knew what the days ahead were going to entail for him emotionally.

Logan, in his typical matter of fact way announced, “Why wouldn’t we?” and there it was.  As soon as it was dark and the time was near, we got into the car.  It was mid-April and the weather was unseasonably warm, but I remember pulling out my denim jacket and putting it on.  Memorial Field is at the center of town and right next to the basketball courts Luke had spent countless hours playing with his friends.  Uptown.  There is so much emotion and so many memories in that one word.  Uptown we headed.  There were cars everywhere so we parked across the road in the church parking lot.  The three of us got out of the car, held hands, and crossed the road.  I was not prepared for what I saw and until the day I die the image will be forever burned in my heart.  There were kids, it seemed like hundreds of kids, gathered in a circle on the field.   I could barely see candles lit at the center of the group. All of these people had come for Luke?  I was touched right to my very core.  What was most amazing was someone had placed a large white spotlight on the field and it was aimed at the sky.  This beautiful symbol seemed to connect us to the heavens and my heart swelled thinking about Luke looking down and seeing all this love.  The large group was completely silent save the sobbing.  There was a lot of sobbing.

We walked over to the kids and stood on the outside of the circle.  I searched for the faces that I needed to see – I was so worried about Luke’s closest friends and how they were handling the news.  Our anonymity, however, didn’t last long.  Parents spotted us and began to come over to hug us, hold us, and tell us how sorry they were.  I tried to stay focused, but I just kept looking for the kids.  There was Jeff, Brendan, Justin, Camden, Chris…. where was Eric?  I pushed my way toward the lads, aching to hold Luke’s friends in my arms.   Suddenly, two of Luke’s closest girl friends, Taylor and Casey, were in front of me, visibly upset and crying. How had I forgotten the girls?!  Luke was fortunate to be popular with his peers and as I looked around it felt like they were all there.  Luke had lived for his social connections, and at this moment it was crystal clear.  I needed to let them know how much Luke had loved each and every one.

I know I stepped into the light and spoke.  I don’t remember my exact words, but I do know I wanted the kids to know how Luke had lived to party with them and laugh with them and how much he had loved them.  I wanted them to remember Luke as the fun-loving jackass he had been.  So I spoke. And they laughed.  And it was a beautiful, beautiful moment that catapulted my healing forward.  And then we left because I knew I couldn’t hold myself together any longer and I didn’t want to reveal the depths of my pain to anyone just yet.

Later that night in the wee hours, I read a Twitter post by one of the boys in the neighborhood that grew up alongside Luke.  All it said was, “Mrs. Inwood is the strongest woman I know.”  Eight words that changed my life.  I have always been fragile and sensitive -ask anyone – but at that moment Austin Jenkins saw me as strong in this tragic moment and I did not want to let him down.  I didn’t want to let any of them down.  I decided if this was how the children were going to view me, then I would model for them what grace and strength after loss looked like.

So what I need you to know is this:  You are stronger than you think.  You can do this.  It is damn hard, but you will get through.  And please make sure you have a vigil.  That vigil changed the course of my healing.  Every parent deserves to see their child missed, celebrated, however you want to say it.  Have someone pull out  the beam of white light, pass out the candles, and gather everyone around in a scene of love and longing so powerful even the angels cry.  Your heart needs it.

 

The FIrst Days

Circle the Wagons

The first instinct after losing a child is to lock yourself into a room and never come out.  You just want to be alone with your sadness.  My girlfriend, Kathy, is the first person that called me to say she had heard Luke had passed away.  She offered to come over, but I told her we didn’t want to see anyone, didn’t want to talk to anyone, and I begged her to control any social media posts that might get out.  She assured me she would try and I hung up my phone.  I don’t think I had been sitting in my chair for maybe ten minutes before my doorbell rang and there she stood.  She pushed her way in and held me and she never left.  Kathy may have been the first, but she was not the last.  One by one, our closest friends showed up at the door and surrounded us with love and support and whatever we needed.  They  intercepted well-meaning bearers of flowers and food.  They ran errands, organized photos and videos, and took incredible care of our son, Logan.  They were just there.

It is so difficult to accept help, especially when you are shell-shocked, but you NEED your closest friends at this time.  John and I are incredibly grateful for our crew and how they made a circle of love and protected our hearts as best they could.  And they continue to till this day.

So if this is your Day 1, don’t push away what you really need.   You NEED your friends, your inner sanctum, to shield you, if just for a little while.  One of Logan’s friends, Justin, at the wise age of seventeen, might have said it best – “We decided that no matter how rough things got,  we would be the wall that kept him safe.”

Let your besties do what they do best – let them love you.

The FIrst Days

Where are you Christmas?

The Holiday Season.  I’m not sure there could be more angst packed into three simple words.  This is such a tough thing to navigate after the loss of a child.  Here before you is a world full of song and cheer and snowflakes and Santa.  Radio and television are constant reminders of how everyone is focused on love and family and children.  But the fact is,  you are missing one.  You are broken.  And you are not quite sure how you are going to get through this most sacred of childhood traditions.

One woman I met said she refused to put up a tree or decorations or any reminder of the holiday so she wouldn’t ever have to experience it without her son.  For seven years she did this.  Another woman I know booked a trip to the Caribbean and told me she was going to pretend it was just like any other time of the year and that Christmas never happened.  My story isn’t much different.  That first year felt surreal.  I was six months into my grieving, and I was determined to keep things normal for my son, Logan.  We had spent the afternoon carting crate upon crate of Christmas decorations down from the attic and per usual, it was my job to get everything out and looking festive.  I was standing at the island, sorting through I don’t even remember what, when the next song ‘Alexa’ put on was “Where are you Christmas” from How The Grinch Stole Christmas movie.  That little girl’s voice singing those heartfelt lyrics “Why can’t I find you?  Why have you gone away? ” hit me like a smack in the face and I dropped to my knees and sobbed.   I knew right then, I couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t be in our house, in front of a tree filled with his little boy decorations, and all those memories.  My God, the memories were EVERYWHERE.

So, I called my mom, or my sister, somebody, and I told them we were coming to Canada.  It was fine.  We all went through the motions and before you knew it my first Christmas without Luke was behind me.

The moral of the story is this: what a grieving parent does every day is a hard.  What a grieving parent does to get through the holidays is an act of strength like no other.  No matter how you choose to get from December 1st to December 31st know that it is right for your journey.  No one is judging.  Travel, escape, pretend everything is okay, cry all 31 days.  Whatever works.  Just know you can do this.  Take one day at a time.  And I am here if you need me.

Where are you Christmas?

Milestones