Monthly Archives

February 2018

Where Luke Rests Easy

Somehow, at some point, the Inwood family had a conversation about what each of us wanted after we died. I don’t know if we were getting ready for a trip or had just seen a movie, but boy, am I grateful for that discussion.  John and I had always talked about being cremated and we had always said we would sprinkle our ashes on the family land back in Canada.  John has a special spot that speaks to him; I just wanted to be under a big ole tree somewhere near John.  It was as we shared this with the boys that Luke announced that there was no way he was going to be cremated.  He wanted to be buried and he wanted to be buried right here in Rutland.  “This is where I am from!” he argued.  I didn’t get into it with him, but I didn’t see how that was going to work.  In my head I wanted us all together in Canada and I could have pushed the point, but the kids were young so I honestly just filed it away under “Never going to need this information”.

Turns out we did.  As we sat with Rick from Miles Funeral Home making arrangements, I thanked the Universe a million times that we knew Luke’s wishes.  I can smile now thinking about how ticked off he would have been on the other side, looking down if he had been cremated.  He would have shook his head, rolled his eyes, and told himself – she never listens to me.  Lol.

But we did listen.  Luke’s resting place is a peaceful spot at the back of Rutland Cemetery.   It is beautiful and serene and I like to think our boy would be pleased.  Luke passing away first changed what the rest of us wanted, of course.  Turns out we will all be together in the 01543.   Please file this under “Hopefully won’t need this for information for awhile.” 🙂

So here’s what I do need you to know: If today is your Day One, take the time to figure out what your loved one would want.  Slow down and really think about how you want to do this for your child.  This is permanent.  We were lucky to have this information when we needed it, but final wishes isn’t a conversation most people have with their kiddos.  Just know if you follow your heart, you will make the right decision.  I have to say I love that Luke is at the Rutland Cemetery.  It’s an easy place for his friends to get to and I love when they leave little trinkets to show they were thinking of him.  I love that they don’t have to come to our house to feel connected to their friend.  I also love that the cemetery is right down the road. I go every day.  Every. Day.  It has given me a place to put my grief outside of our home.  I feel like when I stop in I can get all my feelings out – good or bad – and leave them there.  This way, I can be a little bit stronger for John and Logan and myself when I get home.  This has helped me SO much that I’m not sure I can adequately describe it.  Trust me when I say it can help.

If today is not your Day One, consider having a dialogue with your children about their final wishes.  Obviously you know if your child is ready for this or not, and I am not suggesting littles are up for it, but I teach ten year olds and I can tell you they are deep thinkers and are already forming opinions about the world around them. Just be open to the opportunity when it arises.   Maybe it starts with what you want.  Maybe it starts with the loss of a beloved pet.  Maybe it starts because someone in your community passes away.  Whatever the reason, I feel that by talking about it, we make death and dying not quite so scary.  But those are just my thoughts.  Feel free to file them under Never Going to Need this Information. Xxx

 

 

 

The FIrst Days

This Kid

Glenwood Elementary School, 2005.  The year I met This Kid.  At ten years old he was funny and charming as hell.  ALWAYS had a big smile on his face.  He and his buddies were frat boys in the making – they ruled the playground and spent most of their six and a half hours together giggling their hineys off.  In fifth grade, This Kid already had a GIRLFRIEND and it amused me to no end to watch them sit on the curb together at recess, side by side, quietly observing their classmates and content just to be knee to knee.  The third graders thought he was a god and I am not sure they were wrong. 🙂

In middle school, This Kid excelled at all the sports, but what he really loved was basketball.  My own son made the middle school team and I loved to watch This Kid in action at the games.  He had passion and really great hair. lol.  He also had THE girl.  Coincidentally, THE girl happened to be Luke’s soul-sister/best friend and Luke hated him for it.  Luke and This Kid developed a friendly rivalry.  Well, maybe not so friendly.  Luke might have had a bit of a mouth on him and the tale is still told of the day This Kid ended up in a fight with Luke on our front lawn.  It was an epic throw down with “seconds” on hand just in case back-up was required, but turns out it was quick and dirty.  This Kid went away bruised, but victorious.  As Luke’s mom, can I just say – Curse You, This Kid!

Did I mention This Kid has more charisma than one human being should be allowed?  I will never forget chaperoning the eighth grade semi-formal.  Seventh grade parents were in charge because, as an eighth grader, you definitely didn’t want your own parents in attendance.  As grown up as the kiddos thought they were, they were really acting like littles – playing with glow sticks, boys and girls in separate corners – until the song “Jump on It” came on.  You know the one made famous in Fresh Prince of Bel-Air?  All of sudden, there was This Kid whooping it up and busting out moves to rival Justin Timberlake and the whole grade joined in.  I think all of the adults were a little in awe – he was that impressive.

Fast forward to high school and things started to go slightly awry.  Don’t get me wrong, This Kid was having a great time.  This group of kiddos partied like it was 1999, but academics was just not his thing.  Suddenly, it’s senior year and This Kid isn’t graduating and all his friends are.  Seems like everyone has a plan for moving forward and This Kid doesn’t.

So he doesn’t graduate and he goes to work in our small town.  I keep track of him.  Still has the same great smile, still has the same great charm, but in my head, I start to imagine what it is like watching all your friends start to have these awesome college experiences while you are not.  Don’t get me wrong.  College is not for everyone – society just makes you feel like it’s the only choice.  So I have to imagine that it is hard not to have this or even to not want this path.  This Kid?  This Kid just wants to have a good time.   He just wants to hang with his boys, shoot some hoops, flirt with a pretty girl, and laugh.  Is that so wrong? Not in my books.  I kept trying to tell This Kid “you have time”.  “You’re just a youngster, for crying out loud.  Your life will come together.”  But you and I know that life at that age can seem insurmountable.

When Luke passes away, This Kid comes to see me.  It is This Kid who records the most memorable comment in the Jar and gains my love forever.  There is so much history between Luke and This Kid, and in so many ways This Kid reminds me of my boy.  Maybe that’s why I have a soft spot for him.  They were both Kings of their grades.  They were both the kind of guy you really loved to party with.  They were both the kind of guy who, when you say their name, you immediately start to smile thinking of all the stories you associate with them.  Legends.

New Year’s Eve, 2018.  I hear from This Kid via a message on Twitter.  Words of love and kindness and he melts my heart all over again.  I’m worried about him because it”s been awhile and I don’t know what he is up to.  I don’t know what is giving him hope.  I don’t want This Kid to have peaked at 17.  I want him to charm and smile his way into a life that includes a great partner, gratifying work, and maybe some kids he can coach in basketball and baseball.  SO, when I see his momma JUST this week I say “How is This Kid?”  and she says he could use some help.  So I offer.  And he accepts.  But between our text Friday at 3 pm arranging a time to get together and this very Saturday morning as the dark sky is lifting, something terrible happens.  And now This Kid is in a hospital bed and he has the challenge of a lifetime in front of him.

So this is what I need you to know, This Kid:  I have lost something, too.  I know what it is to have a piece of you missing and how much that hurts.  You need to know you will feel sorry for yourself in the next few months and that is okay.  You and I will get together over a beer and discuss whose life is worse.   You need to know that you are about to find out you are so much stronger than you ever imagined.  And you are STRONG, This Kid.  You need to know that you have friends, and family, and a whole gosh darn community to help you through this. And you WILL get through this.  Breathe, This Kid.  Cry, This Kid. We gotchu.  We are the 01543. Xxx

 

 

I need you to know

A Love Letter to Shakey Graves

Dear Alejandro,

I have never written a love letter to a songwriter before, but here I am.  You need to know that your songs saved my life.  You need to know that your words helped me get through the incredibly hard days when I first lost my seventeen year old son.  You need to know that even now, three years later, your music is what I turn to when my heart needs to remember or needs to be lifted.  This is why I love you.

My son Luke passed away on April 14, 2015.  I am grateful that a friend of ours had introduced us to your music before then, and Dearly Departed was already a favorite song of mine.  I know you didn’t write the lyrics about losing a loved one, but when we were selecting songs to play at Luke’s wake I knew I wanted that song.  More than 1000 people came that evening and it took everything I had to stay strong.  Every time those opening beats of Dearly Departed would come over the speakers, I would look down the long line of people and that song would fill me with the energy to get through.  Dearly Departed and losing Luke are forever entwined for me, but in the most positive of ways.  “You and I both know that the house is haunted; You and I both know that the ghost is me”

Luke rests easy just down the road from our house at the town cemetery.  It has become my daily ritual to walk there.   The first time I went down, I pulled on my sneakers, grabbed my phone, and plugged in my headphones.  I went to Pandora and made myself a Shakey Graves station and the universe went to work.  Family and Genus spoke to me first.  Forgive me all of my interpretations, but it was like you wrote this song walking to a cemetery yourself.  “Where, where we will wait for friends and family to pass away or come in handy.”  But it was the bit at the end – the recording of the one girl asking her friend questions – that really got me.  The responses are just so typical of what Luke Inwood might say that it made me smile and took my breath away.

“What are your plans for the future?  I don’t have any.

You don’t have any plans at all? No.

Would you like to go to college? No.

Would you like to go to business school? Laughs – No.

Do you have a nickname? Well, sometimes people call me things, but I’d rather not say. :)”

I could go on for every song of yours I know.  Business Lunch had much the same effect as Family and Genus.  There is this bit at the beginning of these young men talking to one another and it reminds me of when the lads would gather here and play ping pong and a joy- filled “Oh, DUDE” would come flying up the stairs.   Hardwired makes me think about how Luke came into this world with his demons – his anxiety and his mental illness, and as much as he tried, he couldn’t escape it.  “Cause I am as I came, and I’ll still be the same, I’ve got nothing to blame, I was hardwired.”

Only Son; If Not For You; The Perfect Parts; Roll the Bones – each of these songs takes me to a moment walking up and down the well worn path I have created between our house and King Luke.  It seems the universe has always sent me the song I needed at just the right time.  Some days I need to cry.  Some days they have made me angry and curse.  Most days it’s like your melodies grab hold of my heart and say Well ,well, let me pick you up and carry you a bit.  And for that I am forever grateful.

Let me end with Unlucky Skin/ Built to Roam.  THIS SONG.  Luke’s life was just.so.hard. and my husband and I spoke often about how it shouldn’t be that hard to be seventeen years old.  But it was for him. Every little bit and this idea that maybe he had been born into unlucky skin really spoke to me.  How, if you believe this, the universe puts you here and for some people, the circumstances you are put in are not that great.  How death might be a blessing.

Think of me often
Loosen my coffin
Let all the bugs in my wooden home

Ooh
Won’t be long till I belong
Without all of this unlucky skin

And so Alejandro, I ask you to please forgive a bereaved mama her ramblings.  Just know they come from the heart and if some day we are to meet, I will pour us both a drink, tell you the story of Luke Inwood, and help you sing these songs that heal me.

With Love and Gratitude,

Patty Inwood

 

 

 

 

 

 

Things that help

The Memory Jar

To tell you about the Memory Jar I have to take you back a bit.  You need to know that Jeff Wlodarczak (or Thad depending on when you met him in life) and Luke had been friends since fourth grade.  They really solidified their relationship a year later as they discovered a mutual appreciation for class antics, agitating Mrs. Atlas, and playing football.  Over the next eight years, Luke spent a lot of time with Jeff and his family and the Wlodarczak house was like a second home for him.  It was certainly his favorite party location. 🙂

Berkeley is Jeff’s sister.  Not only did she have one knucklehead younger sibling to contend with, she also had Luke.  Thankfully, Berks is one of those together, chill young ladies you dream about raising, and she easily handled Luke’s teasing and shenanigans.  When Luke passed away, Berkeley took all her Wlodarczak love and poured it into the wake.  Jodi and Berks did so much, but the memory jar was the most perfect idea.

I’m not sure who first told me Berkeley was making a memory jar.  ‘It’s so people can write down their favorite memory of Luke’ someone explained.  I thought it was a nice idea, but I think my fog made it impossible for me to really think about what it was or whether or not I would even like it.  Turns out it was incredibly healing, not just for me, but for the writers.  During the wake, as people waited in line, they would come to the spot of the memory jar.  It was a large, decorated mason jar and there were small slips of paper to record a few words.  Just enough words.  By the end of the evening, the memory jar was filled to the top with folded pieces of paper.  We didn’t open them just then.  The night had been long and we were not emotionally in a place to read them.

The memory jar came home with us and sat on the dining room table until late into the night of Luke’s Irish Funeral.  I’m not going to lie, friends, I was a few adult beverages in, I was sad, and the jar was calling my name.  I sat down at the table and unscrewed the lid.  One by one I removed and read the tiny pieces of love that people had left us.  I was so touched that each one shared a story or an anecdote that the writer felt best captured Luke or their relationship to Luke.  I laughed, I sobbed.  My heart swelled with gratitude.

“Your mandles made me cringe, but you rocked the sh#t out of those shades.  Love you bro.”

“When Luke was a freshman I had to beg him to stop talking in class.  One day we made a deal – if he would be quiet I would rap 99 problems by JayZ.  He won – I rapped.”

“Our English teacher got a phone call and turned and told Luke his notebook was in the office.  He replied – I haven’t had a notebook since September.  It was March.”

And my favorite –

“He was a f*cker, but he was OUR f*cker”

Even now, this makes me smile.  Don’t get me wrong, there were a bunch of heartfelt sentiments in that jar, but these slips just captured Luke’s personality and impact in a way nothing else could.  And for that, Miss Berkeley Wlodarczak, I thank you. <3

So here’s what I need you to know:  If today is your Day 1 or maybe your One Year Anniversary, you need a Memory Jar.  Give people a chance to stop and reflect and carefully write down the words that best describe what they thought of your child.  This is such a unique way to keep your child’s spirit alive and on my saddest days I love to go into Luke’s room and reread all of the comments.  It has become our permanent record that says He was Here, He Made People Laugh, He Was Loved.  That jar was everything.  Xxx

 

 

 

Things that help