Monthly Archives

July 2021

I Forgive You

I forgive you. I don’t know if you need to hear this or I just need to say it, but there it is. I forgive you. It has been six years since Luke passed away and if I am honest, there weren’t many of those that I didn’t think of you with anger in my heart. It is hard losing a child. Losing a child to suicide adds another difficult layer to try and process. And in those early days, you are consumed with understanding the *why*. For me, a lot of that became you.

There were many factors that played into this belief for me. You and Luke had been going at it for two years… practically on the daily, before he passed away. Which meant that you had been affecting our whole family for that same amount of time. Luke’s reactions to his interactions with you just broke my heart. Every time. I always wished you could have seen that side of him. His sensitive side. His damaged side. His battered side. And my goodness was he battered. Now, please know I get it. The freaking rules reigned supreme. And it was your job to enforce them. With the way Luke was at that time, and the way the school system and consequences are set up, the two of you never stood a chance of getting along. A match made in hell.

But you see, we have a better perspective now of what life must have been like for you every day. Luke Inwood was no angel, lol. Being on the wrong side of his biting remarks wasn’t fun for anyone and I know you must have received more than your fair share. Did you feel sick to your stomach every time you found out he had another dhall or had upset a teacher and you were the one that had to deal with him? Did you sit at your dinner table sharing stories about this kid you just couldn’t reach? I’ll never know. I do know that you most likely simply wanted to do your job. You couldn’t possibly have anticipated that Luke’s feelings of being attacked at school would be a cog in the wheel that would lead to his death.

And that is the truth of it. School was only one of many factors that led to Luke dying by suicide. I believe that and I want you to believe that. We were all so emotional after Luke passed away and the kids helped us feed into the black mark that became Wachusett. And you. I am sorry for this, but it is true. So I write this now, hoping that guilt doesn’t eat away at you. Not that you were guilty, but I haven’t met anyone who knew Luke closely that doesn’t feel they were somehow partly responsible for what happened. We all carried it. I still carry it on my hard days. But you are not the reason Luke passed away. I don’t know if you have ever read my blogs before but I have documented for all to see the complex human being that was Luke Inwood. There were a million little things that added up to the moment Luke left the building that day. You just had the misfortune of being the last.

Raising Luke and losing Luke has made me a better teacher. I lead with my heart first. Always. I understand that behind every behavior is a broken soul crying for help and that it is my job not to consequence, not to put a band-aid on it, but to dig in and figure out the why and to help. I hope that you are doing the same. I hope that after losing not one student but two to suicide in the last few years, that compassion has taken a front seat in the high school classroom. And if not, I am first in line to help out on that initiative. #NotOneMore

I forgive you. I don’t know if you needed to hear that, but I definitely needed to say it. It has been six years since the King walked the halls of your school and the shadow of his death was long. But I don’t have room in my heart for anger or ill feelings any more. We all just did our best, didn’t we? Luke was…well, he was something, lol. I want you to know that if we meet someday… I will hug you if you will let me. We will look one another in the eye and see the pain we each carry for letting this child down. And we will cry. I will ask you to forgive me for being angry with you for so long. Hopefully you say yes, but I will understand if you don’t know what to say. Maybe we share a funny story or two of Luke in the day. Maybe I fill you in on how well Logan is doing. And then we will go our own way. Two people whose paths and stories are forever entwined. Until then….

Wishing you peace –

I need you to know

Extraordinary

I thought I was extraordinary. No, not in that full of myself, damn I am amazing kind of way. More of a “my son has died and yet I am surviving it” kind of way. When you lose a child, simply getting up and making your way through the day is a feat of strength. Grief is the universal humbler. Even the strongest of humans finds themselves on their knees time and again when their child has been returned to the stars. And I have been there, friends. This rainy month of July has put me there almost every day. Enough Mother Nature! But there have been times over the past six years when I have looked in the mirror and realized I am surviving… and more. I am moving forward, healing, and what I am most proud of…. helping others on their journey. I didn’t think I would be the kind of person that would *do something* in memory of their child, but there it is. Hope Lives Here, even the King of the Courts tournament, have brought people together in Luke’s name.

And so, I thought this was pretty fantastic. Cue the pat on the back, lol. But I am reading this book called The Second Mountain by David Brooks and in it he talks about something called *the Weavers*. These are the people in our communities just silently weaving themselves and their good intentions and actions into the fiber of our lives. And so I put my book down and reflected on who the weavers might be in my world and it was in that moment I realized I was not extraordinary. I realized we are SURROUNDED by these amazing humans who have picked themselves up after tragedy and made our little corner of the world a better place. I immediately thought of the Gengels and the incredible foundation and orphanage they created after the loss of their daughter. I thought of the Thibodeaus who, after the death of their boy, made it so that defibrillators are EVERYWHERE to save lives. But my mind couldn’t stop there. I thought of the Wolfus Family raising tens of thousands of dollars for the Shrewsbury Youth Organization in honor of their daughter. My sweet Katie raising dollars to provide *cuddle cots* to grieving families in local hospitals. To Judy and Ozzy hosting massive festivals to raise money and awareness in honor of their daughter, also gone too soon. So many folks taking incredible steps to make a difference in their child’s memory.

But not all acts of our local weavers are around grief. My dear friend Darlene, for example, is taking Lyme disease education and prevention to the next level in Central Massachusetts. And I think, most important of all, is not all acts of weavers are grand gestures and in the public eye. They are every day wonderful actions taken by every day wonderful humans just wanting to make life a little better for the rest of us: Michele with her church youth group, Angie and Taryn and Robyn watching over the elders, teens Ethan and Emma and Zoe and Robin and Darcy spending their time helping out for Hope Lives Here. Which brings me to this… I posted on Facebook about this incredible story I had read called When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller and this passage spoke to me. It takes place between two of the main characters, Lily and RIcky as Lily is trying to figure out whether she can handle the monumental and important task she has taken on for herself- Whether she can save the day.

“But I don’t know, that kind of sounds like what happens in comic books. The hero is just a regular person, until suddenly the world needs them. And they have powers and a cool suit, but underneath it all, they’re still trying to figure it out. They’re still scared.”

A strand of hair escapes my braid, and I tuck it behind my ear. “And then what? What do they do?”

He shrugs, “They save the word anyway, even though they’re not ready. And they get stronger, and they learn who they are as they go along.”

I nod. It’s comforting that not even superheroes have it figured it out. But at the same time, of course, they save the world. They’re SUPER.

“I think that’s how you figure out who you are,” Ricky says. “You do new, brave things, and you find out who YOU is in not-you situations.”

So there it is. Life throws all of us “not-you” situations – whether it is starting at a new school, taking on a new job, receiving a challenging health prognosis, or losing someone you love. And it is in those moments, even though we aren’t ready, even if we don’t want it, that we go through a metamorphosis. We take the darkness or the fear and we turn it into love and action. And like the thousands of raindrops streaming down each July day, there are countless folks in Rutland and Boylston and beyond doing selfless, generous acts without once thinking about the why.. YOU are doing this. YOU are extraordinary. So the next time we meet and I hug a little longer than usual, I am not being weird, I am just looking for your red cape. Xxx

I need you to know

Next Stop – Home

It was January of 2008 when my Uncle Pete passed away. Uncle Pete was smart and funny and larger than life and we were all devastated by his death. We were already living down in Massachusetts and I wanted to get home to Canada to support my family and be there for my Auntie Anne and my cousins. Trouble was, we were in the process of finalizing our green cards. At this last stage, our passports had been confiscated and we couldn’t travel until the final papers were approved. It was due to happen any day and with the news of Uncle Pete’s passing, we needed those papers like yesterday. I was in contact with my family daily as we waited to hear when services would be taking place. Every morning as I checked the mailbox for that big white government envelope, my stomach would feel sick, worried that our paperwork wouldn’t come through in time and that we would miss the funeral. I desperately wanted to be there. Life, I have learned, is about showing up for the people you love.

At this same time Michael Buble, a much loved Canadian singer you know from the Bubbly seltzer commercials, had a song out called “Home” and every time I would hear it, I would cry.

Let me go home

I’m just too far from where you are

I wanna come home

Home – Michael Buble

I wanted to get home, too, Michael! Thankfully, the Universe came together, as it always does, and Uncle Pete’s services were delayed just long enough for us to receive our green cards and permission to travel.

I didn’t think there would ever be another time in my life when I would want to be home as urgently as I did those few weeks, but then Covid happened. If you don’t know, the border to Canada has been closed to non-essential travel since the start of the pandemic. August will mark two years since we have seen any of our family. Two incredibly long years. I miss my dad talking through my morning coffee, my mom hooting when she gets a great hand in cards, my sister leaning her head close to my mine and whispering something naughty to make me giggle. I miss Buzz showing me around his garden, the taste of Donna’s amazing pies, hugging Richard and have him call me Patricia. I miss witnessing my nephews razz one another and the chatter and laughter of every Halligan gathering. I miss the way my heart feels when we go through customs and we make our way up and over the Thousand Island bridge. That steady knowing feeling you get when you are somewhere that has been a part of you, well, forever. You can take the girl out of Canada, but you can’t take the Canada out of the girl.

So here’s what I need you to know: I know I am not the only one who has had to spend extended time away from their loved ones because of the pandemic, but being one of many doesn’t make it any easier. Covid has given me a new appreciation for the relationships in my life, and none more so than my family. I told my Dad a few months ago to meet me at the St. Lawrence River and I would swim across, lol. His response was that the authorities were onto that scheme and were out on the water looking for troublemakers. Foiled again! 😉 So every month around the 20th, Prime Minister Trudeau makes an announcement and gives an update on the border situation. I just know that day is coming soon when he says American citizens will once again be welcome to Canada. And when it does, I will set a personal record for driving speeds. 🙂 I can hear my sister now… What are you going to drive? 66 mph? lol Oh, Peanut! In the meantime, I am sending love to each and everyone of our family members. We love you. We miss you. Hold on. We can’t wait to come home. Xxx

I need you to know

The Box

I stumbled onto a show a few years after Luke passed away titled Call the Midwife. I always wished it had a catchier name, but let me tell you, it is one heck of a show on the BBC channel. The series is based off a memoir chronicling the life of Jennifer Worth, a midwife in London during the 1950s. As a bereaved mom, every episode was an emotional rollercoaster. Full of heartfelt stories of women at that time in history, it dealt with family issues still relevant today: body image, women’s rights, abortion, the role of religion in society, losing a parent to dementia. But the biggest thing of all, was every episode, EVERY episode, a child was born. This miracle of life, and with it, the promise of a future. And I would cry and cry and cry… thinking about the fragility of this offering.

In one episode that really stuck with me, the couple that was expecting, also had a baby girl that had passed away two years earlier. If I remember correctly, it was from what we now call SIDS or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Unbeknownst to the couple, this new pregnancy was a trigger for their first child’s death and they were struggling with the gamut of emotions that entails: Anger at each other over the loss, guilt that they hadn’t protected that child, fear that this new baby was going to suffer the same fate. Sigh. Grief is so complicated! The midwife that had been assigned to them skillfully helped them identify what was happening and helped them realize they needed to acknowledge that child and the love they still had for their little girl. What happened next broke my heart. In the following scene, the mother walked over to a side table, opened a drawer, and pulled out a box. It was not even the size of a shoe box, and in it they had put their precious memories of their girl: a locket of hair, a picture or two, a blanket. That was what they had left to represent their child. A box.

My tears are flowing now because the truth of it is, if you have lost a child, you know this is our sad reality. I, too, have a box. It’s an old pine chest that we used as a coffee table when we first started out as a family. Now it is in the basement and it is full of Luke. The cards and banners from his wake, the mementos people have left at the cemetery, pictures of his seventeen years on Earth, some personal belongings like his mandles. When I ache to connect with my boy, when it’s an occasion like his birthday and I desperately want him back, I make my way downstairs and I go through the box. Just like you might go through a yearbook or a wedding album to revisit an important moment in your life, parents who have lost a child go through their box. Each item holds a memory, an emotion, SO much love. It is all we have left.

So here’s what I need you to know: When someone comes to me and says, “My best friend just lost a child. What do I do?” I always tell them, “They are going to need a box. Buy them a box.” I am not sure how many folks have taken me up on this advice, but if you have lost a child you know how important this is. You can’t keep everything, you see. You want to. You want to keep their room and their clothes and their belongings exactly as they were that last day they breathed. But you can’t. Sometimes there is too much pain in seeing what has been left behind of your baby and you get rid of it as soon as you can. Sometimes your heart starts to heal and you realize you don’t need a drawer full of their socks anymore. Whatever the reason, you pare down the existence of your child into a few items and you put them in the box. For safe keeping. For proof that your child was here.

What I have learned, with time, is that my connection to my child doesn’t rest solely in the box. Our love, our bond is so strong that it is an invisible thread between this world and the next. We are forever joined at the heart. And there is simply no box big enough for that.

I love you, Lukester. Xxx.

I need you to know