Monthly Archives

January 2018

Dearly Departed

You need to know writing this particular post is hard.  I have tried for several weeks to put down my feelings around Luke’s wake, but there is a lot of emotion still tied to that evening.  It dawned on me recently that by sharing out the events around Luke’s death, I am reliving it all over again.  Some days I am strong enough to do this; most days I am not.  I am motivated by the thought that maybe a newly bereaved mama will stumble across this blog and will use it to plan a wake worthy of the sweet child she is missing.  And so I begin.

A wake is not for the person who has passed away.  In truth, the wake or calling hours as some refer to it, is for the people who are left behind.  It’s a much needed chance to look another person in the eye and say “I’m sorry.  I loved him, too. ”  Luke’s wake might have been the most important night of my life.   John and I wanted it to be a true reflection of who Luke was and the things that were important to him.  We didn’t want it to be a traditional deal with hushed voices and crying and a long line of people you don’t know to say “I’m sorry” to.  So we were thoughtful about the decisions we made, and mindful of the fact that so many teenagers would be there.  The night was everything we needed it to be.  Here’s what helped my heart:

Miles Funeral Home.  Miles was recommended to us by a close friend.  They were compassionate, thoughtful, and professional.  From start to finish, Rick and his team made the experience as easy as possible for us so that we didn’t have to do a lot of thinking.  They were also understanding of our desire to keep the wake true to Luke and accommodated all our requests.  I still remember showing up for Luke’s burial and they had put a canopy over the grave site, blocking out  the sun.  It was gloomy and I hated it and with one comment they had it moved without a grumble.  Yes, I know they get paid to do this, but they still do it WELL and I am thankful for our experience there.

The personal touches.  There were so many small  things that made the night “Luke”.  When you walked through the door that night we had put up a sign.  It’s the image for this blog.  We really wanted to set the tone from the moment you came in.  It still makes me smile thinking about how many people commented on that sign and how it put them at ease.    There were photo posters everywhere that Jodi and Berkeley, Donna and Sue, and my Dad and TJ had made and they were just such a great way to remember Luke at his happiest.  We had two videos going that night, also.  The tribute video was one and Berkeley had made a more personal one of the Luke Inwood she knew.  Berkeley was also responsible for the memory jar.  I have mentioned this before and I will blog about it sometime soon.  I’m not sure the wake would have been as warm without the Berkeley touches.  She has my heart forever because of this.  All these little things created an atmosphere that made it feel more like you were coming to see us at our home and I am grateful for the feeling of warmth and love all these things created.

The basketball.  I can only giggle when I think about the basketball.  My sister came up with the great idea of having a basketball at the wake that the kids could sign as they came  through.  We put it on display with a silver sharpie and were all set.  Well, Luke’s closest friends were invited into the wake a bit earlier so they could have a private moment together.  They loved  the basketball idea, but it turns out they didn’t want anyone else to sign it so they kept taking it and hiding it. 🙂  Someone would see it and put it back where it belonged until we got wind of what they were up to.  SO the basketball was put away for good and now rests with Lukester forever.  Those lads.

Music.  If you are close to any of the Inwood family, you know we breathe music.  Miles offered up the usual canned classical stuff, but we wanted a soundtrack of Luke’s life.  This was an afternoon of picking just the right songs, but I know we nailed it because so many people commented on it.  Yep, there was some swearing, yep, there was some rap, and yep, it was perfect.   John and I also picked a few songs that reminded us of our relationship with our boy:  Old Man by Neil Young, but performed by Redlight King; Dearly Departed by Shakey Graves.  And thank goodness for Dearly Departed.  I will write a love letter to Shakey Graves soon, but every time that song came on I would look up and see the long line of people and it would fill me with the strength to keep going.

1,326.  That’s how many people came through.  Well, that’s how many signed the book.  John and I were blown away by the outpouring of love from the community.  So many people from Rutland, from Wachusett, from Pop Warner, from Boylston –  all there to give us a hug.  Or maybe I should say, all there so I could hug them.  I knew in my bones that the wake was my opportunity, maybe my only opportunity, to let people know how important they were to Luke and how much he loved them. So as each one came up, we would hug and then I would talk about their connection to Luke and how much it meant to us.  They shared their stories and their tears.  It was personal and beautiful and perfect.  We were hours, HOURS, getting to everyone, but it was well worth the long night.

So what I need you to know is this:  If today is your Day One,  you need a wake.  You need it, your family needs it, anyone who loved your child needs it.  There are moments from that night that I will remember for the rest of my life and in a very good way.  So, please do this. Really plan it and make it a true representation of who your child really was, swear words and all.  Yes, it’s like saying goodbye 1,326 times, but your heart will be glad you did.

 

 

The FIrst Days

Tuesdays

I used to hate Tuesdays.  At this point it’s down to a comfortable disdain, but still… every Tuesday fills me with a little sadness, a little heartache.  Luke died on a Tuesday.  I didn’t think this would be a “thing”, but it turns out it is.  I counted the days after he passed away  – 2 days without Luke, 3 days without Luke, 4 days without Luke – and then I started to count the weeks.  This is where the Tuesday comes into play.  It was my marker of passing time.  Every Tuesday was one more week since I had seen my boy’s face; since I had woken up in the morning and gone to his room and shook his big, girly butt to get him up for school.  I didn’t want to fixate on the date, but it just happened.  Hating Tuesdays gave me one day a week to stop and mourn my son and maybe feel a little sorry for myself.

I am also not fond of the 14th of any month.  Luke passed away on April 14th and well, it’s like the Tuesdays.  I put a small heart on every 14 of every month in my daytimer.  I still do.  I don’t count the months anymore – not since the first year anniversary – but I like to mark the time and give my heart the space to grieve and remember.  I have a routine I go through every 14th.  First thing is the crash site.  I sit at the top of the hill and imagine what Luke was thinking just before he pressed the gas pedal down.  I drive down to the gulley and roll down my window and I listen to the water splash down over the rocks.  I stare at the graffiti and the crosses and the empty Fireball bottles and think about Luke and his friends.  And I cry.  The cemetery is next, but I go there every day so this is a place of comfort and peace for me.

When I get home I curl up in my chair, put Patch on my lap, and grab my laptop.  This is the only time I watch the tribute video Thomas made.  It gives me a chance to hear Luke’s voice and see his smirk and it almost feels like he is still right here.  Almost.  Did I mention I cry?  And I howl like an animal caught in a trap, so deep is the hole losing Luke has left.  Then I go to bed and the next day the counting starts again.

Last year a co-worker suggested I pick just one day to house my grief.  He said it out of kindness and he said it out of not knowing, but the truth of it is one day is not enough.  Losing a child is a pain beyond anything you could imagine if you haven’t walked in those shoes.  You are never, ever whole again.  You just figure out how to survive with a missing piece of your heart.

So here’s what I need you to know:  If you have lost a child, you need a day.  Or two.  Or one hundred.  Give yourself permission to crawl into that black hole and sob and wail and remember and think about the what ifs and the whys.  Some day you will summon the strength to see the sun rise over the horizon, but not that day.  That day, or those days, are for you to miss your child.  And it’s okay to take as many days as you need.  And when you’re ready and you start to heal.. you won’t need every day.  It will be every other day or every couple of days or every Tuesday or every 14th.  But I swear… there is the promise of increasing peace in every sunset.  It does get better.  After all, as Scarlett O’Hara declared, tomorrow is another day.   Xxx

 

 

 

Milestones

Things aren’t always what they seem

Putting my heart on this page every week has not been easy.  Don’t get me wrong – I like to talk and share about the ins and outs of life like anybody, but when it comes to who I am on the inside and my truest feelings, well… I can count on both hands the number of times in the past three years I have let someone see my pain for what it really is.

And now I have invited you all in and today I am not sure how I feel about it.  I have been staring at the picture of Luke that I put in last week’s post and every time I do, it makes me catch my breath. What was I thinking sharing this with the world?   Of all the posters that were created for Luke’s wake, this is the one that most perfectly captures the sweet, sensitive, thoughtful boy that Luke was.  I would tell everyone viewing the posters that they all would remember Luke as a teenager, as a partier, as a wild child, but this picture… this one was MY Luke.  My beautiful boy.  Luke had a carefully crafted persona that he allowed the rest of the world to see, but as his mom I was privy to the vulnerable Luke Inwood.  See it there in his eyes?  And now I am sharing him with you.  Luke would be pissed, for sure. lol.

Luke had different personalities depending on the situation, but don’t we all?  People are complicated and complex and layered.  We encounter difficult, challenging personalities all the time and quite often we choose to label them as difficult and challenging and clearly a$$holes.  But maybe that is just what they want you to see.  Maybe that’s how they survive.  I think about Luke in school, especially high school, and I cringe imagining what it was like trying to teach this child.  He slept or sassed or sarcastically responded his way through four years.  He didn’t do any work and he certainly didn’t make it easy for adults to like him.  He was written off as a behavior problem, as a loser, as a “not going to amount to anything” kid.  I would sit at IEP meetings and try and convince the people there that Luke was only like this at school.  HA!  I am sure they didn’t believe me, but by about age fifteen, John and I had finally accepted that school was not Luke’s favorite thing and we weren’t going to argue over it anymore.  We actually told him to quit if it made him so unhappy.  He didn’t, of course, but as a result, our relationship for the last few years of Luke’s life was good.  Not perfect, but peaceful.  We loved him for who he was.  I am grateful for that now.

I often wished Luke’s teachers and administrators could’ve had the opportunity to get to know Luke on another level.  Wouldn’t it have been helpful if every time he was being a teenage dork they could’ve seen through him to the little six year old self struggling on the inside?  Luke’s attitude was a defense mechanism to hide all the anxiety and fear he had.  And he had a lot.  Turns out raising Luke made me a better teacher because I know as hard as behavior kids try to push me away, what they really need is more love, more love, more love.

So this is what I need you to know:  People don’t fit into perfect little categories.  We are all parts light and dark depending on the day.  It would be easy to say Patty Inwood is writing this blog so she must be doing fine, but it is not that straightforward.  It would be easy to say Luke Inwood was a troubled young man, but it’s not that straightforward, either.  There is an old expression that says “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about” and that is the truth of it.  So open your hearts, people.   Be kind to all the kiddos – especially the ones that push back.  And remember – More love, more love, more love.

 

 

I need you to know

One Hard Thing

To say that the process of “laying someone to rest” is overwhelming is an understatement.  There is just so much to do and, in the throws of grief, you really don’t want to do any of it.  Frankly, with sleepless night after sleepless night, you just want to sit in a corner, alone, and nurse your “how the hell is this happening to me” attitude and cry and cry and cry.

But there is no time for that.

As I’ve mentioned before I am a bit OCD, (just a bit? I can hear my sister teasing) and routines and lists have always added comfort amid the chaos for me.  This time in my life was no exception.  The morning after Luke passed away, I sat down with my coffee and I made a list of all the things I knew we had to do: meet with the funeral home, write an obituary, plan the wake, pick out pictures, call the coroner’s office, pick out a plot at the cemetery, purchase a headstone, plan the funeral, breathe, and breathe, and breathe.

When John came down that morning, we sat at the island and we hugged and I leaned into him and said, “This is the one hard thing we have to do today.”  Miles Funeral Home was first on our list.  We took Logan with us because we wanted the whole wake and funeral deal to be true to who we were as a family and we also wanted it to be as easy to handle as possible for Logan, given the situation at hand.  We talked in the car on the way over about what we wanted and what we didn’t want.  Yes, to the closed casket; no, to a minister for our funeral service.  Rick was wonderful, but when conversation turned to Luke’s body being held longer by the coroner because they needed a specialist to identify Luke via his dental records – it was the fire, you see – well…. I stopped listening and withdrew to a dark spot in my brain.  We were all done after that.

So, even though we had done our one hard thing for the day, there was still much to be taken care of.  Thankfully, we were surrounded by our friends and our family.  We had called our parents the day before and our family swept in from Canada.  This included John’s father, Lyle, who never goes anywhere and suddenly found himself in another country facing the saddest of situations.  Our family and our friends were like busy little ants taking care of the details we didn’t have the heart or the energy to handle.  TJ was in charge of my Dad – they created the most beautiful posters of my boy for the wake and put together the cards that people took as a memory of the wake that, to this day, I see in bedrooms and on kitchen counters.  Jodi and Berkeley – well, friends, I’m not sure I have the words to describe the warmth they added to Luke’s wake with their beautiful collages from pictures they collected from people who knew Luke.  Berkeley made a video that so perfectly captured all the joy our families have had together.  And then there was this memory jar.  I will talk about this jar another time, but THAT JAR.  That jar turned out to be everything.

My mom and sister were in charge of the house, and me, of course.  They made sure Logie ate, they did laundry, and dishes, and talked with whomever stopped by.  They let me nap when I had to.  Both our families were so supportive, especially considering they had their own sadness to contend with.  The hotels in Worcester ended up being all booked so our family stayed in the Super 8 in Gardner because there was nowhere to stay out our home.  At 9 pm every night they would get in their cars and head out and the next day it would all begin again.  John and I would get up and decide what our one hard thing to do that day was going to be and our friends and family took care of the rest.  That is how we got through.

So if this is your Day One I need you to know this:  there are too many things for one person, or even two people to take care of when you lose a child.  Pick one hard thing to do every day and let your support system handle the rest.  Asking for help is difficult, but in this situation, it will save you.  And if your one hard thing to do  some days is just breathe, let it be.

 

 

 

The FIrst Days