Monthly Archives

March 2018

The Little Yellow Book

I realized this week that if you don’t know me personally and you are reading my blog, I have painted you a bleak portrait of a woman missing her boy.  And I did start my tale at the beginning of my grief, and that is a dark time.  The rub of it is, that if you DO know me personally, bleak or sad or depressed are NOT the words that you might use to describe me.  After almost three years I am in a different place than when Luke first passed away, so today I want to write to you about something that helped.

It begins, as it always does, with a story.  I was at the cemetery one day that first summer.  The sun was shining brightly and the warmth from its rays made me want to close my eyes and just be. So I did. I was sitting quietly with my thoughts and with my sadness when I heard the sound of car tires crunching the stones and gravel of the road.  As it came to a stop, I peaked one eye open and saw a man and a woman get out of their respective sides and head toward a grey stone bench on the far end of the field.  I closed my eyes and went back to thinking about Luke hoping the couple wouldn’t stay long.  In those first months I didn’t tend to see very many people and I considered the cemetery MY space.  It was such a vital connection between me and my boy at that time, that I would spend up to an hour some days just sitting there.  And I didn’t like to be intruded upon.  But here they were.  After a few moments I opened my eyes again and realized the woman was headed toward me.  And that I recognized her.  It was a teacher from the elementary school.  She had retired just as my boys were coming into the system so I honestly didn’t know her all that well.

When she got to me, she stopped and asked if I remembered her.  We made small talk about school and what we were each doing these days.  After a few minutes she seemed to gather herself and she began to speak about the loss of her son.  It was a tragic recollection of an unexpected death caused by a random medical issue.  It made my heart ache to hear the pain in her voice.  She explained that she had followed our story and had been hoping to run into me because she wanted to send me a book.  It was a book of daily meditations that someone had gifted her and had helped her tremendously.   I let her know that I would be grateful for anything that might lessen the weight of loss and gave her my address.

In the fog of grief I completely forgot about the exchange until a package arrived in my mailbox.  It was the book – “Healing After Loss – Daily Meditations for Working Through Grief” by Martha Whitmore Hickman.  As I skimmed through the pages for the first time, I didn’t realize how much I would come to depend on these words to lift me up and validate my emotions.  This small yellow book SAVED ME.  Every day I would open up to the page of the date.  Some days it would be a message that somehow completely got what I was feeling about losing Luke.  Some days it would be words that encouraged me to give in to the dark moods as an important part of getting through the loss.  Most days it would be words of Hope.  Hope that, whether I believed it or not, I was going to come out on the other side of this chasm.

March 18

“What a truckload of responsibility and potential for pain we take on when we love another human being: all the dangers of misunderstanding, or betrayal, of  indifference, and ultimately, of loss.

To more than balance those dangers, we feel the possibility of life made rich through sharing experiences with another – of physical and spiritual warmth and communion, of enriched understanding and common achievement, of a stay against loneliness and isolation.

Most of us have no trouble opting for love.

But then, to have invested so much of our life’s energy in the life of a loved one – and then to find that loved one gone!  Is it any wonder we are, for a time, laid low?

But the love we have shared helps form the strength to deal with loss.  The  hope and joy we have known help us believe in the possibility of hope and joy again.

And the intensity of grief (which will moderate, though we may find it hard to believe) mirrors the intensity of shared love, which will continue to beam through our life, to illumine and nourish all that we do and are.

Love never ends. Never. “

Forgive me the long quote, but how do you not feel better after you read that?  I am incredibly grateful for the author’s ability to translate into words what for me was pure, raw emotion.  I am incredibly grateful to this teacher who reached out to comfort a fellow bereaved mama. I’ve said it before and I will say it forever – together, we get through.

So, if today is your Day One I need you to know there are resources out there that help.  Try whatever speaks to you – whether it’s books or music or journaling or therapy.  Keep trying.  And trying. Because if something helps, even if it’s only a teeny tiny bit, it is something.  It is hope.  May tomorrow be a better day. Xxx

 

Things that help

Lolo

I am at the dentist yesterday for my check-up and as we book my next appointment my hygienist says, “Next time we meet we will both have had big changes! I will be out to here (as she points to her belly -baby on board!) and your son will be away at college.”  Holy Hannah! I think to myself.  In six months, Logan will be GONE.  So I am processing this as I go out the front door and down three steps to the parking lot.  I climb into my FourRunner and as the engine starts, Lee Brice is on the radio singing a song I had never heard before called “Boy”.  It’s all about raising a son and I am instantly in tears thinking about Logan moving forward with his life… away from us.

Logan is the kind of child you dream about having.  Despite the fact that he didn’t sleep through the night for a while, he was an easy, good-spirited child.  He loved everything and always had a big smile on his face.  He was a curious kiddo so we had a few calls to Poison Control: Plant fertilizer, L’Oreal Shampoo, and acorns all made their way through his system – and, yep, acorns “pass” lol

Logan loved his mummy.  He enjoyed reading and baking together, and he was one heck of a good snuggler.  When it was time for preschool, my gentle giant would wrap himself around me and cry to not go.  He was already more than half my height, but Miss Nancy would somehow pry him off and ensure me he would be fine while I was gone.  I, of course, would go down to the car and sob myself silly.  Momma Guilt is the worst.

Logan thrived at school and has developed into the most amazing young man.  He is smart, and thoughtful, and well-behaved.  He is incredibly comfortable in his own skin and never really caved to the pressure to fit in with his peers.  He has a great group of kids that he has been friends with almost his whole life.  They seem to appreciate his perspective, his politics, and his love of a good pun. 🙂  He is responsible, respectful, and always makes good choices.  He is driven and disciplined.  In short, Logan is no trouble.  At all.

When Luke passed away, this boy was a rock.  We included him in all  the decisions that we made and his input was invaluable.  AT FOURTEEN. Even now he is able to discuss what happened to Luke with a maturity beyond his years.  I’m not saying he likes to talk about it – he keeps a tight lid on his emotions – and it makes me incredibly sad to think he has to say on occasion – Ya, my brother died.

Since Luke passed away I have not wanted to leave Logan alone.  It’s not so much about the fact that he can’t handle himself as that I can’t bear to let him out of my sight. I try not to spend more than one night away if we have plans and I will skip showers the next morning to get back as quickly as I can.  I feel like as long as I have eyes on him, nothing bad can happen.  And deep in my gut I realize I am TERRIFIED of losing him.

So here we are in Senior Year, anxiously waiting to hear where Logan will decide to go to college.  And even though I have worked hard over the past three years to not leave him on his own, HE is going to leave ME in five short months.  And I know this is the way it should be.  And I know he will be fine.  And I know he will do amazing things.  I’m just not sure what will happen to me.  The son that has given me reason to cry less than a handful of times his whole life, now has me sobbing.

” ’cause you’re part of me.  And a part of you will always be my boy.”

So here’s what I need you to know:  After the death of a child, it is easy to fall into a pattern of sorrow and pain focused on that missing sweetie, but try to remember your other children need you, too.  Trying to keep things normal for Logan also helped to keep things as normal as one could expect for John and I, as well. Don’t desert the babies left behind, dive into loving them! I promise you it will help you heal. And if you are reading this and you are fortunate enough to have a Logan Inwood kind of kid – don’t take it for granted.  Thank the Universe every day for the easy ones.  I love you, Lolo. Xxx

 

 

 

I need you to know

The Coldest Winter

It was sometime in January during my first winter of grieving.  “The coldest winter” to steal a term coined by some young friends.  And it was cold.  Cold and dark in my house and in my heart.  I am not going to sugarcoat it, friends.  That first winter you spend without your child seems like some new hell.  For those of you who are affected by seasonal disorder, you understand the depression and feeling of not wanting to face the day that a grieving mama experiences.  Just multiply that times a million.

But here I am getting through.  I get up each day in the dark, head to school and teach the kiddos, and come home and go to the cemetery.  I curse the winter once more as I leave school each day because dusk comes that much earlier and I have to race from my job to put my eyes on where Luke rests easy.  But I do it.  Until this one day in January.  We wake up to one heck of a snow storm in progress.  School is inevitably canceled and I keep looking out the window wondering how I am ever going to be able to go to the cemetery.  I keep myself busy and around 3 in the afternoon the snow stops and the plowing begins and I am psyched.  As soon as I can convince John to clear the driveway I am in my car and headed down the road.  I turn the corner and start down the hill and as I glance down I realize there is still snow… everywhere… even in the entrance way.  THE CEMETERY IS NOT PLOWED!  These words scream in my head and I am beyond angry.  Doesn’t the town realize people need to get in here?  I think to myself.  So, I take the first street to turn around and head back up to the top of the hill.  I am grinding my teeth, fuming over the incompetence of the DPW or whomever is responsible for keeping the road clear.  I decide to park my car at Ted’s and walk myself down to where I need to be.

As I am typing I realize it must have been a Monday because Ted’s was closed.  I remember this because I was worried I would get a ticket or towed or something for parking in their lot.  So I left a note – on the back of a school paper – in lipstick.  Not kidding.

“Walking down to the cemetery.  Back in fifteen minutes.  Thank you. ”

So I put the note in my front windshield, lock my car, and start making my way down the road.  The sidewalks haven’t been cleared and I am on the road with cars whizzing past me.  And I am mad.  I am MARCHING down to the cemetery and I am silently repeating to myself that NOTHING will keep me from getting to my boy.  I am his Mother and I haven’t missed one day and I am getting there today no matter what!  When I get to the wall of the cemetery I climb the snowbank and start cutting across the yard.  And the snow is deep – like up to my knees deep.  Now as I clumsily take step after step in the snow, it is getting into my boots and I am getting cold and I am getting madder by the minute.  I am feeling incredibly sorry for myself and the universe that conspired to put me in this spot on this day.  How has this become my life?!

So now I am crying and cold and trying to walk with what felt like the heaviest steps I had ever taken.  I don’t know if you have tried navigating through deep snow recently, but it is hard work – exhausting even – and my heart is pounding.  It felt like miles till I eventually stood in front of Luke’s headstone.  I remember stopping and looking around at the glistening snow covering everything and it was so frosty and forbidding and I was so satisfied that I was there.  I had done it. And I realized at that moment, that in life, or in death, there is nothing a momma, this momma, wouldn’t do for her boys.  So, I took off my glove, bent down to the ground, and with my pointer finger I carved the word “LOVE”  into the icy crust.  And then I made the long trek back.

Here’s what I need you to know:  If today is your Day One, you are going to have days that feel like everyone and everything is working against you to put you in this place.  You will curse God, the Universe, Mother Nature, and anything else you can think of for giving you even one day without your baby.  And that is okay.  Feel it, scream about it, cry over it.  Not every day is a good day.  And whether this is your Day One or not, if you are a parent, you are an amazing human being.  You have been given a soul to love and to protect and I know you are doing it with tenderness and determination.  It is a bond that begins even before that first breath and it is a bond that is never broken.  Never.  What a gift.  Xxx.

 

 

 

 

 

The FIrst Days

Now I Lay You Down To Sleep

It is interesting to me, that there are still so many societal “expectations” or rules about how things should be done when it comes to the occasions of weddings, and births, and deaths.  There is pressure to do things a certain way that might make people make a decision that is counter to what they practice in their day to day lives.  For example. a person could have never gone to church their entire lives and yet their family wants a service, led by someone from a church, before their loved one is laid to rest.

Now don’t think I am about to launch a discussion about what you believe versus what I believe versus what my neighbor down the street believes about God or the Universe or Higher Beings.  I am not that girl.  I am a Free to Be You and Me kind of girl. 🙂  Today I simply want to share what we did and how much peace it gave my heart during a time of great sadness.

When Luke passed away, John and I both knew we did not want a minister to conduct Luke’s funeral service.  Luke had only ever been in a church when he was baptized and he clearly would not have memories of that.  As a family we spoke often about honoring the Earth and the creatures on it.  We gave thanks at dinner for the farmer and the animal that gave its life for our meals.  We loved trees and plants and every tiny creature.  We have always deemed ourselves spiritual and JB has been known to say that the Great Outdoors is his church.  John does not, however, believe in organized religion and his opinion had a strong effect on both the boys.  As we strove to make Luke’s arrangements reflect who he was as an individual, the decision to not have an officiant of religious standing was an easy one.

Enter my friend Jane.  Jane has always said she would’ve made an excellent minister’s wife.  Preferably in Wales, but that’s another story. lol.  We have known Jane since we moved to the United States.  She is funny, and smart, and creative, and she happens to be somewhat of a “grief expert”.  When Luke passed away, it was Jane who messaged me every day with thoughts of love and loss and hope.  Her words were so incredibly articulate and spot on to what we were feeling that I knew she should be the one to say a few words at Luke’s funeral.

So I asked and she accepted.  We did it right down at the cemetery.  It was a small gathering of family and Jane did a wonderful job saying just the right things.  We were out in the sunlight among the sounds of the wind swishing in the trees, and the water splashing over the rock waterfall, and a dog howling in the distance.  That dog.  It cried and it cried.  I swore at the time that the dog sensed my pain and cried for me and my boy.  Even now when I go to the cemetery, when that dog cries it takes me right back to that Sunday and I cry harder still.  Staring at a coffin, knowing that the body of your child is inside; knowing that you are never going to see them or hold them again; knowing that as soon as you leave a machine is going to lower them into the ground; knowing that this is forever – it is a dark, dark place to be.

So here’s what I need you to know:  If today is your Day One, don’t feel pressured to follow a certain protocol as you lay your baby to rest.  Do what feels right for you and your family.  If you want a church funeral, have a church funeral.  If you don’t want anyone there, don’t invite anyone.  If you want to sprinkle ashes in the ocean, do that.  Release balloons into the sky?  Beautiful.  There is no right or wrong answer.  However you want to say your final goodbye is something only you and your heart can decide.  And if today is your Day One – I am sending you strength and love because this just might be the hardest day of all.  From my heart to yours. Xxx

The FIrst Days