Wait, YOU’RE This Kid’s Mother?

The day I went in for Luke’s IEP meeting, I was nervous. If you didn’t read last time, John and I were at our wit’s end with regard to Luke and his difficulties with school, and we were really depending on his team of educators to help us come up with a plan to get Luke through the next two years. We knew he wasn’t going to Harvard. Heck, we knew he was barely going to pass his classes. We just wanted to get him through.

So I show up at the Guidance office at 7:35 am and they escort me to a conference room across the hall. Everyone is already there and each face turns toward me as I come in. As a teacher, I love to meet the parents behind each student. I think I am always surprised by exterior characteristics – that parents aren’t just larger versions of their kiddos, lol, but the interior characteristics are almost always a match. That student who struggles to say much during class discussions quite often has a parent who sits quietly during conferences. That kiddo that comes in every day with a sunny, positive attitude? Probably a caregiver who radiates, as well. I don’t want to generalize, but a correlation can usually be made. So, in I walk, and I wonder what those teachers were expecting? Someone angry? Defensive? It most definitely wasn’t Miss Mary Poppins here. 🙂

The meeting was an eye-opener. Remember, I had only heard Luke’s side of the story about what was happening at high school. According to him, every teacher was a shrew and out to get him and make his life difficult. What I heard that day were teachers using best practices to help my boy, and concern about what wasn’t working, and ideas around how to get him help. These were invested educators who were also stymied over how to best move Luke forward. I was pleasant through the whole process. I was grateful when the team decided Luke qualified for an IEP which in turn meant he would have an ASR block in his schedule. I thought he was SAVED.

When I got up to leave, one of the teacher’s stood up and shook my hand.

“It was nice to meet you,” she said. “You are not at all what I was expecting.” I remembering chuckling or smiling in response and going on my way, but that comment stayed with me. Exactly who did they think was raising Luke Inwood?

So here’s what I need you to know: Hard kiddos happen to good people. We are a society that likes to pass judgement and no more so than on other parents. Surely, if that kid is a f – up, his or her parents are doing something wrong. Is he running wild? Don’t they have expectations? Consequences? And my personal favorite – “If that child lived under my roof, I would never allow any of that behavior. That kid would be fixed.” Oh, to be so righteous! You know what I know about my fellow parents raising hard kids? They are TIRED and they are TRYING and they are SCARED. Scared that any one of the horrible outcomes they worry about night after night might actually happen, and they are struggling like hell to try and ward off the evils. It is EXHAUSTING. Let me say it again – Hard kiddos happen to good people, friends. These parents already judge themselves enough. Let’s instead extend our patience and understanding and support. You know what the Good Book says, “But for the Grace of God go I.” Xxx

The Rise and Fall

I’d Like an IEP With a Side Order of ASR, Please

When we last left off, our main character, Luke Inwood, had just been diagnosed with ADHD. He was working this like nobody’s business and had suddenly developed a *bouncing leg* because… you know… he had ADHD and couldn’t stop himself. 🙂 This both amused me and irritated me and it’s one of the reasons I don’t like labels. Give a person a label and he or she is sure to live up to it.

What WAS true was that Luke was still not doing well at school. It was the middle of Grade 10 and it was obvious that this year was going to go down in flames if steps weren’t taken to help Luke out. What that might look like I had no idea, but Luke’s therapist, prior to leaving the practice, had suggested something called ASR or Academic Support. This was a class where students were pulled out to work on organizational skills, homework completion, and any other intervention activities that might need one-on-one or small group support. I thought this sounded like a game changer for Luke because all the zeros he was accumulating around homework were impacting his grades in a way that he could never recover from.

So I inquired about the ASR and found out you have to have an IEP to qualify for this accommodation. So THEN I started asking about getting Luke on an IEP. An IEP is an Individualized Education Program. They can be put in place for any number of reasons – learning disabilities or physical disabilities, for example – and the goal is to provide the needed support to allow students to access the curriculum in a way they would not be able to without the accommodations. Logan had an IEP in elementary school for speech therapy so I was not new to the process. But Logan on an IEP for speech and Luke on an IEP for whatever the heck we want to call what was happening at High School were not the same thing. At Logan’s IEP meetings we would sit around the table and talk about how sweet and wonderful and hard working he was. It was more of a formality or update on his progress. This was not the case for Luke.

By the time the required testing and reports had been completed it was March when we got together for Luke’s initial meeting. I remember gathering my thoughts prior to going in and all I really wanted them to know was Luke was not making adequate progress and we, as his parents, had no idea how to fix it. Luke was on a 504 for his diagnosis of ADHD, but those accommodations like preferential seating, for example, were clearly not doing the trick. It was just not enough and as I sat at the long conference table that day, I desperately hoped that one of them, someone, could help my child. What I needed was a gosh darn miracle.

So here’s what I need you to know: It is not easy to be the parent of a child struggling in school. We just want our kids to be happy, to be like all the other kids coming to school every day and having a great experience, and yet they are not. So when we show up at those IEP meetings, we are looking to you, as the educators, as the team of professionals, to give us a little hope. We, more than anyone else, know what the *challenges* are with our kiddos; we are looking to you and that IEP to help make things just a little more *right*. Turns out an IEP is not a miracle cure, but more on that next time. Sending love to all my fellow IEP families. Xxx

I need you to know, The Rise and Fall

We Appreciate Your Patience

So, I find myself in a tough space, mentally. Today I was going to blog about getting Luke on an IEP and to aid in the process I went back and looked over all those emails between myself and his teachers and administrators during his time at WRHS. All. Those. Emails. I type the words “Luke Inwood” into my search box for sent items and the list that is generated is maybe 75 emails long for four years. Maybe more. Stop for a moment and think about how often you reach out to a teacher. Maybe a few times a year? And the older your student gets, maybe not at all. After all, the student is supposed to assume the responsibility of being in contact with their teachers in high school, not the parents. Sigh. That clearly did not happen for my boy.

As I started reading through them, trying to get a sense of the order of events around getting Luke more help, I couldn’t help but notice the tone of my correspondence with everyone involved. I kept apologizing for Luke and whatever had happened – the missing homework, the sleeping, the attitude, the tardiness – whatever it was I was “SORRY“. And I thanked them over and over again for their “continued patience” with our son. And as I read all this I just felt so sick to my stomach. It brought back the desperation I had around trying to fix what was going on with Lukester. If I could just find the right words to make him see how to help himself; if I could just find the right words to help the school understand we were a good family and we wanted to make this situation with Luke better; if I could just find the right words to explain that our Luke was a good boy who for whatever reason was lost and could not figure out how to navigate High School. I never found the right words.

So, today I feel a little lost myself. When you see all that evidence as a whole it is a bit sickening. I read the email I shared above and it feels like I did a whole lot of appeasing and not enough fighting. I feel a lot of guilt over that. I feel a lot of sadness that high school was such a difficult journey for Luke. Those four years are manageable for most kids and each day was a damn trial for ours. Turns out, when you lose a child to suicide, trying to find forgiveness – for yourself, for others, for your baby – is a damn long road. I appreciate your patience.

The Rise and Fall

ADHD… Or Is It?

Nothing makes me more sad than rereading emails between myself and the high school during the time Luke was there. Yes, I still have them. Those emails tell the sorry tale of a momma just trying to help her kid find his way and make it through the teen years as painlessly as possible without pissing off every educator that crossed his path. Sigh. Spoiler alert. The ending will make you cry.

I have written previously about Luke’s freshman year at Wachusett. It was not a stellar beginning. Soon after, November to be exact, Luke ended up with a diagnosis of ADHD. John and I never really understood the diagnosis at the time. We were parents, not practitioners, and the ins and outs of ADHD were a bit beyond us. We thought ADHD was those “hyper” kids who couldn’t stay still in a classroom setting and that was definitely not Luke. I know we filled out some sort of questionnaire at the doctor’s office, and Luke also rated himself, and those results were used to determine the diagnosis. Luke was in the care of a therapist or psychologist, or something. I’m not sure what the official title was, but it was someone parents assume know what they are talking about. The problem was, when the doc made this determination, he didn’t know my child. He had only just met him. He used these checked boxes or the lack of checked boxes to decide what Luke was. And he may have been correct. Again, I am no expert. What I do know is we were surprised. We were expecting an “obstinate child” diagnosis. lol Is that a thing?

So, here is my boy with ADHD. I’m thinking okay, maybe this will solve our problems. Maybe we will try meds and the school will make some changes and we will *fix* Luke. But it didn’t. The anxiety and health issues continued, the arguing with teachers continued, the sleeping in class continued, the lack of motivation around school work continued, the not sleeping at night continued. He didn’t get better not because we all weren’t trying, but because there was more going on than we realized.

Depression is one sneaky bugger. If you’re not careful, you might think you are just feeling down…. for a really long time… because you suck… so why wouldn’t you feel down… and you can’t sleep… thinking about how hopeless you are… and how much better everyone else is… and then you stop caring…. but then everyone thinks you are unmotivated…. and you don’t care…. but you do. And you blame your self for all of this, or life, but no seventeen year old, heck, no ADULT would call it what it is: DEPRESSION.

If you do a Google search using the terms Depression and ADHD you will find lots of compelling evidence around how the two are tied together or misdiagnosed for one another.

Truth be told, when Luke was going through high school, we weren’t talking about mental health the way we are now, just four years later. I used to get caught up asking myself why. Why didn’t any of us think that maybe something was “mentally” up with Luke? Surely his teachers knew his behavior was off – why didn’t they sound the alarm? But depression is one sneaky bugger. And maybe, just like John and I, they didn’t know what to look for. Because sometimes a smart aleck kid who sasses you and sleeps all period and doesn’t do his work in your forty minute block is just a smart aleck kid. But sometimes, it isn’t.

So here’s what I need you to know: Oprah says, “When you know better, you do better” and folks, we know better. Mental health issues are not a fad. Anxiety and depression are on the uptick. And bad news, friends! A child can have multiple diagnoses. As reported, Depression and ADHD could both be contributing to your child’s struggles. As a parent, if you are seeing behavior that concerns you, ask questions and use a professional to help you get to the bottom of it. If you are an educator and you are seeing behavior that concerns you, please, PLEASE talk to the parents, to your peers, to the psychologist in your building to determine how to best help that child. It’s going to take all of us, talking about it, working together, to make a difference, but we can do it. I’ve got my eye on you, Depression, and I am saying “WE WILL NOT BE TRICKED AGAIN!” #NotOneMore

The Rise and Fall

I Can’t Fix It

So, we have had National Suicide Awareness Month and World Mental Health Day recently, and to say the lovelies and suicide are a little on my mind is an understatement. After the loss of yet another young person in our community, I was having a moment with my boss (he may have asked how I was doing at just the wrong time, lol) and I commented that I “just want to fix it”.

But suicide, and the reasons leading up to it, is complicated and layered and there is most definitely not a one sizes fits all solution. When Luke first passed away I convinced myself that if we could just get the kiddos to understand that they are loved and that the same love that exists between a child and a parent when they are living, leaves a gaping hole in our hearts when we lose that child, it would help. Perhaps, I thought, if we focused on reminding the kiddos of the love, it might save one. What I have realized since then is that my own son, despite hearing it every single day from his parents, despite having the most amazing friend group ever, didn’t understand how much he was loved. Could be part of the depression, could be a lack of self-confidence, but he had convinced himself that we were all better off without him. And I don’t know how to fix that same feeling for others.

I used to think if we focused on what gets left behind – parents and friends and teammates, for example – and how devastated an entire community is after the loss of someone to suicide, it might be enough to save one. 13 Reasons Why was airing at this time and my response was you only need 1 Reason Why Not: There is Someone who gets left behind who thought you were their whole world. Unfortunately, it is well documented that once an individual decides on suicide, it is like entering a black tunnel and their only focus is on that final act. The ability to stop and reevaluate becomes almost impossible. Based on the 2017 Youth Risk Behaviors Survey, 7.4 percent of youth in grades 9-12 reported that they had made at least one suicide attempt in the past 12 months. That statistic is STAGGERING. That is a lot of young lovelies in so much emotional pain, they feel death is the only option. They aren’t stopping to think about who might be affected. I don’t know how to fix that.

After losing Luke I thought maybe the answer was in the mental health component. My thinking was perhaps if Luke had continued to see a therapist he would have delved into the causes around his feelings of self- hatred and being unworthy of love. My thinking was maybe if Luke had been given more information around the stimulants he was prescribed for ADD he would have recognized that having suicidal thoughts can be a side affect of the drug and that quitting cold turkey can also result in suicidal thoughts. So I want to turn this around for others, but in our community there is a six month waiting list to see a counselor. SIX MONTHS. And on top of that is the issue that many of these services are not covered by Health Care plans and one family I know is paying $100 out of pocket when they take their child to therapy. Every. week. So, our mental health field needs a revamp to make it more accessible for our 15 – 24 year-olds for whom suicide is the second leading cause of death. Get me Governor Baker on the phone ’cause Houston, we have a problem. You think our kiddos are dying from vaping? Maybe the vaping, and opioids, and addictions are the numbing agents for all the pain these kiddos are in. I want to shout it from the rooftops – we need better access to mental health professionals!! According to the CDC “the prevalence of suicidal thoughts, suicidal planning and suicide attempts is significantly higher among adults aged 18-29 than among adults aged 30+”. I don’t know how to fix it.

So here’s what I need you to know: Did I mention death by suicide is one complex issue? When Luke first passed away I thought the circumstances around losing my child were unique, but now I know different. I meet parents every day struggling with raising hard kids, or navigating mental health issues for their kiddos and for themselves, or reeling from the aftermath of loss. I am not alone. But it is not all doom and gloom. We have made some progress, friends. There is at least conversation around mental health and suicide and prevention. And although I know I can’t fix it, I can talk about it. Help me keep the conversation going. Talk to your kiddos, your students, your community. It is only together that we have a chance to grow the HOPE and reduce the chances of losing our young people to suicide’s grasp. #NotOneMore

Image result for image of national suicide prevention line
I need you to know

Just a Momma Here

As always, The Universe came together in a most interesting way this weekend. I received a phone call from a very good friend Saturday morning who wanted to share about someone close to them that had lost a loved one to suicide. He had recommended reaching out to me and Hope Lives Here because, well, we know a little something about these things. As our conversation broadened to my hopes and dreams around our non-profit, he gave me some solid business advice which I thanked him for. He seemed surprised at my gratitude, but I told him I will take words of wisdom wherever I can find them. “After all,” I commented, “I’m just a momma here, trying her best.”

Coincidentally, (or not, as we believe at HLH, lol) a fellow grieving momma posted an article from Still Standing Online Magazine today (https://stillstandingmag.com/2018/12/17/on-doing-enough/?fbclid=IwAR3WqgmVLa1q9q9sAeO6yaXYayxr2oBcqamvs_wN5WMnJDzFLpGvo8AMDuM). It is an excellent resource for child loss and this article was focused on the question – Am I Doing Enough? Am I doing enough to honor the memory of my sweet son or daughter? Does it have to be a grand gesture like starting a non-profit or is it enough to remember your child in your own space in your own way? My fellow momma posted the most poignant words and with her blessing I share them here.

“Am I a terrible mother because I haven’t yet raised millions of dollars, because I have a hard time convincing and motivating myself to go to the cemetery regularly, because I haven’t started some type of non profit or hand made baskets and gifts for other loss mamas to help them in those first few moments and hours of the new level of hell they’ve just entered? Is crying a million tears enough? Is living and breathing everyday while my daughter does not enough? Is carrying my girl’s ashes around my neck daily enough? Is sharing my raw and ridiculous emotions and fears and broken family on Facebook and laying bare my heart to people enough? I don’t know the answers but I can only hope S. thinks her mama is enough. But unlike regular parents who question themselves daily, I don’t get to come home to that toddler who runs to you and smiles and hugs you and says I love you mama where you get that moment of right this second my love is enough. No one can ever answer these questions for me, so I have to be strong enough to say to myself that my love is enough, even if it never reaches a million people. I just wish I could know for sure that it reaches her.”

I am inspired and love this momma so much. And this is the reality for a parent who is missing a child. Being a parent is about doing what you can to raise and love and protect the human beings in your care. It is a daily practice that requires time and energy and love. So what do you do when you have that same time and energy and love to pour into a child that no longer walks on this Earth? There’s that well known quote that says ‘Grief is Love with Nowhere to Go’. They are not wrong.

So, after a few years of missing Luke it looks like I have chosen the grand gesture. But it’s not that grand, really. When I started Hope Lives Here, it was with the support of my very best friends, and I said I only ever wanted to help one person and if we could do that, well, then we had been successful. It is almost two years later and volunteer faces have changed, and clients have come and gone, and I have stumbled, gosh darn it. Running a non-profit is not easy, friends. Add to that my amazing full-time job as an educator and supporting my family and well, saying I am busy is an understatement. But we are doing it! Still, I ask myself on the daily if what I am doing is enough. If my efforts are enough. If I am enough.

Turns out, as I reflected this morning, it doesn’t matter if I am enough. Because through all of this, through this crazy journey of Grief and Hope Lives Here, it has never been just me. I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by the most incredible people and it has only been through ALL of our efforts that my healing continues and HLH continues to grow. So, if you have ever hugged me, or sent me a card, or donated an hour of time, or donated a dollar, you have my thanks. It started because of this face –

But it’s only because I have ALL of you that I get through. I NEED all of you. Afterall, I’m just a momma here. Doing her best to honor her boy. I hope he thinks it’s enough. Xxx

I need you to know

Pete

Pete is my dad’s nickname. I don’t think I have called him “Dad” since I was a teenager. My father is the King of Nicknames, lol, and as a result, no one has a proper name in my family. Instead of Dave, Judy, Patty, Scott, and Janet, we are Pete, Dolly, Alex, Rupret, and Peanut, respectively. Don’t ask!! 🙂 This is a tradition I have continued in my own family (JB and Lolo) and my students are often gifted with a nickname. I consider these labels a term of endearment and incredibly personal. A label of Love!

My father and I are a living testament to the fact that relationships take time and effort. Pete and I struggled in my early years as so many eldest children do with their parents. As the eldest we are blazing the way for the siblings behind us and as a new parent you don’t always know how to handle each situation you are presented with the first time. My parents were young when I showed up on the scene and I often felt like we were raising one another. lol So, we had some blow outs. If you know me you know I have an opinion about well, pretty much everything 🙂 and I don’t mind sharing it. My boss calls me “passionate” hahaha. He is not wrong. So Pete and I would battle over our differences – we were both always right – and it took me a long time to forgive him for dragging me around from town to town and the emotional toll it had on me. I also spent a looooooong time trying to earn his approval. Sigh. Classic young adult struggles here.

It was when I finally became a parent myself that I began to appreciate my dad. Turns out this parenting thing wasn’t so easy lol and the things my dad had done with me were sneaking into my day to day activities. We really do turn into our parents! 🙂 Here are the things I love about HIM that have made me who I am:

I spent all this time thinking my dad was a hardass and in reality, he is a huge softy. This man is SO sentimental. My mom would argue he cries more than me these days. lol He loves tradition and family history and collects artifacts and stories that I hope are passed down for a few more generations. Presently, Pete and I are getting great mileage out of AncestryDNA. We’re from Ireland! Maybe there is a trip in our future.

My father is a reader. If I had to pick a time, I would say it was in middle school in Toronto that I realized he loved books, but in truth I don’t remember a weekend he didn’t have something in his hands. He loves detective stories and military non-fiction and probably owns every book about Winston Churchill. Me? Well, you KNOW I was a librarian, right? Nuff said.

I was raised on politics. As a businessperson, my father was always interested in policy and local representation. Don’t forget to vote! lol Whether on the phone or when visiting, I love watching my dad get all worked up over the decisions that are being made both in Canada and the US. Thank goodness Logan will have these same talks with me.

The goofy stuff: My dad can make up a story or a poem on the spot. This entertained me to no end as a little and my students are the beneficiaries of this same skill in me. I love to change the lyrics to songs to suit the activity we are working on. “Did you just make that up, right now, Mrs. Inwood?” Yep, thank my Dad. 🙂 Pete also has almost never talked in his regular voice and loves to act. He channeled Dudley Moore in Arthur for more than a year or two. 🙂 Yes, yes, I have a flair for the dramatic. Totally missed my calling for Broadway.

My father is a teacher. He began in the business world and mentored a good many folks into some incredible careers. Later in life he would teach at community college, write a few books, and currently, he was asked to go into the penitentiary system and conduct courses on running a small business. It would scare the bejeezus out of me, but he loves it because it gives the inmates HOPE. Isn’t that inspiring? I’m not crying, you’re crying.

Speaking of Hope, it is from my father I inherited this desire to give back and work toward changing our little corner of the world. My father has always loved his community and volunteering whether it be for the YMCA or the Canadian Cancer Society. I have been volunteering since I was sixteen years old and can’t think of a time I wasn’t involved in some sort of service project. I believe there isn’t anything more important than taking care of each other and where we live. Hope Lives Here is a second full-time job for me, but it is joyful and I can’t imagine my life without it. I am grateful every day that my dad modeled this for me and taught me to make it a priority.

So, those are a few of the highlights. It is startling as an adult child to reflect on how someone has shaped you over the years, but no one has impacted me more than my dad. The good, the bad, and the ugly have all contributed to the “whole” that I am today. I love you, Pete. Your great hair, your love of bread, and that you have taken so many risks where others would have backed down might be the three things I love best. <3

So here’s what I need you to know: My dad messages me every morning at four or five am when he wakes up. He remarked once that it must drive me crazy, but I have to tell you, it is the best way to start my day. Yes, they make me roll my eyes. Yes, it can be annoying to have to respond when I haven’t even had a coffee yet. But when the time comes that Pete is no longer on the Planet Earth, I just might miss those messages most of all.

Wishing the best Dad ever another year of spreading sunshine and sprinkles! Love, Alex Xxx

Milestones

If You Didn’t Know Luke Inwood, I Feel Bad For You…

There were many beautiful and complex sides to Luke Inwood and I am one of the lucky ones that got to know them. My friendship with Luke started freshman year of high school. I had heard of him throughout Middle School through his friendship with Paige Pellerin and Laura Fahey, and most importantly through his relationship with Fran- and now I was finally able to put a face to all the stories. He was goofy, outrageous, and absolutely absurd- more than the stories ever did him justice. 

When I think of him, the same few memories replay in my head. I think of the time him and Eric showed up to my work unexpectedly and pushed each other around in a shopping cart until my boss made me kick them out. I think of the time he came up to me and my high school boyfriend in the hall and asked me where my real boyfriend was (referring to one of my good friends). I think of the time he changed my foreign exchange student’s settings on COD so that he would win against him because it was too hard to play. I think of the time we tried throwing a football back and forth to each other while driving side by side and him laughing so loud while doing it. I think of playing guitar hero in his basement and him pointing out the chalice he bought on Black Friday. At the same time, I think about him making me go pick out the prettiest flowers with him so that he could attempt to win Fran back. I think about him worrying about if he wrote the right words in a letter to her . I also think about him always hugging me back when I passed him in the hall, even when he seemed too embarrassed to. 

I think these are the memories I remember most because they are what made Luke so extraordinary. He was the biggest jackass I have ever met, but he was also the biggest sweetheart. He brought so many people together and always made everyone laugh. When I think of my favorite memories in high school, I always circle back to ping-pong nights at his house or parties at Thad’s. Everyone was there and everyone was happy. 

As I sit here and type this while making sure the font is Times New Roman and size 12, I laugh thinking about how Luke got through a school year without a backpack. He did not stress the little things or take much seriously. That is something I have always admired about him. If you did not get to know the sides to Luke Inwood, I feel bad for you. And if you did, my heart breaks for you. Luke was one of a kind and his loss is one that no amount of days or years could ever heal. My heart is and will always be with his closest friends in the Rutland crew and Luke’s family. Love you always KING.


My thanks to Miss Toni for sharing her Luke with all of us. We love you, Princess XXX

The Rise and Fall

And The Oscar Goes To…

It was the Thursday before we were to leave for Canada for the White Wedding. The sun was already beginning its descent down over the trees making long shadows across the pond. I was at the cemetery. The conversation went a little like this.

“Lukester, buddy, I love you, but I am headed up to Canada tomorrow and I am going to do my best to not think about you for the next few days. You see, a wedding is a happy occasion and I have to support the family and do that whole MC thing and no one wants me bringing things down if I get sentimental. Sigh. So. Yeah. Wish me luck with that.”

I blew him a kiss and headed out. And for the next 72 hours I tucked Luke away in my heart and hit delete any time my thoughts turned to him. He snuck out once as I gave my speech to the newleyweds because Jacob is so good about texting me on hard days, but other than that I was busy enough and surrounded by tons of happy to make it through. And let’s be honest, I was trying here.

Because that’s the truth of it, friends. Getting up everyday and putting our grief aside so that we can function like the rest of the world requires a marathon of effort. And damn fine acting skills. This fact hit me square in the head this past weekend. As I cheerleadered (I know, Chuck, this is not a word and yet this is what I did lol) myself through the weekend – You can do this, Patty. Happy thoughts only, Patty. Meryl Streep has nothing on you, Patty, lol – I realized something: There are people all around us putting on a brave face and going through the day when all they want to do is sit in a corner and cry. But we forget what loss people are carrying, don’t we, as time goes on, and they fool us by appearing so together. I observed my co-workers this week with fresh eyes and I was in awe at the strength each of them displays as they come to school appearing to be positive and in the best of spirits despite the missing. Because it doesn’t matter how long it has been – when you lose someone you love, you think about them every day. So to Bill, and Beth-Anne, and Jessica, and Bev, and Tara, and Lorraine, and all the others at my work place who make their way through the day without a loved one… you are my heroes and my inspiration. All of you out there! If you are getting up and getting on, bravo!

So here’s what I need you to know: There’s an old expression that says, “Be Kind for everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” As the young people like to say- this is Facts. This weekend in Canada was my reminder that we need to be gentle and accepting of one another.

So here is how my story ends: After the long eight hour drive home, I pulled JLO (that’s what I call my 4Runner) in to the cemetery and circled round to the back. I walked over to where my boy rests easy, knelt down on the ground, and I wailed. I let out all the emotion and love and missing that I had been holding onto out into the world. I thought about how much I missed him at the wedding. I thought about how he would never be married. I thought about all the dreams for him that were never going to come true. And then the next morning I got up, put a smile on my face and went to school. Because isn’t that just what we grievers do? I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.

I need you to know

Mr. & Mrs. White

Some days your heart is just so full of love you want to BURST! This is me after a whirlwind trip to Canada for my nephew, Jacob and his gorgeous gal, Jaime. It was a perfect weekend surrounded by just the best family and friends. My sister and her husband, the incomparable Janet and Bill, were spectacular hosts and the wedding went off without a hitch. I may or may not have been the Master of Ceremonies, lol, an honor that I will always appreciate.

I think the biggest moment of the wedding for me came during the last speech at the reception. Jaime and Jacob were addressing the crowd and thanking all the people that had come together to make their day so special. The two were passing a phone between them, hello 2019! lol, and as Jacob went to take his turn, he told me later he saw Jaime’s name on the notes and was immediately overcome with the emotion of the day. Now Jacob is always very level and composed and to see this sincere expression of pure love, well, I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house.

So here’s what I need you to know: Sometimes, in the darkness of the hard times in our lives, we lose sight of the love. The love of our partner, the love of our children, the love of our parents and siblings, the love of all our friends. As I sat looking around the reception room at all the faces just so happy for the newlyweds it struck me – We are each held dear in SO many hearts! I am, you are, we all are! We are all supported by our own personal community of caring. And how fortunate for that!! The key is to remind ourselves of this truth when we have a hard day. When the struggle is real, remember YOU ARE LOVED.

I know we all wish Jaime and Jacob much happiness as they start their journey together. And don’t forget the secret to a good marriage. 😉 Congratulations, my lovelies! Xxx

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