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Things that help

Thanksgiving 101

“Dear Patty, I am about to go through my first Thanksgiving without my son and I don’t know what to expect. Any words of advice?”

First of all, I am sorry this is your world right now. I feel like you can’t hear that enough in the early days of loss. I am sorry. I am sorry. I am sorry. I want you to know I see you and I recognize how hard it is to get up and go through the day. But time carries on whether we want it to or not, doesn’t it? Sigh. And here comes Thanksgiving.

We had always spent Thanksgiving with our friends in the neighborhood, and the year Luke passed away, we decided to try and keep things normal and see how it went. I made my required dishes, the mashed potatoes and whiskey glazed carrots and pumpkin cheesecake, and trudged up the hill with John and Logan to the Sachs’ house. I tried to have a glass of wine and smile and make small talk, and I thought I was doing brilliantly until it was time to go into the dining room and have dinner. I took one step through the archway and looked at the table, and despite it being decorated with beautiful crystal and fall decor and everything Thanksgiving, all I could see was what was missing. There was no place setting for my boy. My beautiful, beautiful Luke. So, I cried. Everyone waited for me to be ready, I was surrounded by love and support after all, and then we ate. It was fine. Mostly. Decently horrible. Actually. But sometimes decently horrible is the best you can expect.

So, what are my options?

Activities that involve friends or family: We had made the choice to be with our friends for the holiday and honestly, it wasn’t a bad strategy. This family loves us and there was no pressure for things to go a certain way. If we had bolted mid-meal they would have totally understood. Going with your usual routine or tradition is always an option. Sometimes it makes you feel like your life hasn’t changed that much, or maybe you are in a little bit of denial (like I was), and taking the step to treat Thanksgiving as business as usual can be comforting. Especially if it involves friends and family who will love you no matter what emotions you display.

Thanksgiving with just the immediate family: Logan and John and I did this one year, and I have to admit, I didn’t love it. We did up the bird and our sides and our desserts, but because it was just us, it felt more like a nice dinner for the three of us, rather than Thanksgiving. All that being said, you have to choose what is best for YOU. And if being in the comfort of your home with only your immediate family sounds like the best way to deal with the day, then go for it

Skip it altogether: A childhood friend of John’s lost her son about a year after Luke passed away. Any time a significant occasion was approaching – Birthdays, Mother’s Day, Christmas – she would book herself a flight out of town and wait for the whole time period to pass by. Make like it wasn’t even happening. Crazy? Nope. Genius. If *out of sight, out of mind* was her way of getting through emotionally charged days, I call it a success. And you can do the same. If you want to stay in your jammies and binge your favorite show, or sit in a comfy chair and read, or even stay in bed all day, and pretend it is just another day, I say YES.

So, here’s what I need you to know: Thanksgiving is a holiday that celebrates all things family and when you are missing someone you love, it is, in a word, hard. It is damn hard. Thanksgiving is chock full of memories, and all around you are sights and sounds and smells that will remind you of your loved one. So, go easy on yourself. Try not to expect to much or do to much. Let people help you, if you can. And above all, give yourself the gift of grace and acceptance no matter what way you decide to spend this holiday. Sometimes, our number one job in grief is to protect our heart. So this is me, telling you, whatever you choose, it’s okay. Protect your heart.

See you on the other side. Xxx

Things that help

Cali For Luke

One of the things we discovered after Luke passed away was that he was trying to orchestrate a trip across country to California with a few of his buddies. Luke had travelled to Cali for his first big gaming tournament the previous year and fell in love with the weather, the vibe, and the pretty girls, lol. He also loved that he received VIP treatment on his return plane ride and he was convinced it was because he looked like a model. OI! What an ego. 🙂

A California road trip. It was easy to picture the young hooligans crammed into a vehicle, and not showering, and sleeping in the car all in the pursuit of happiness. The stories that would come out of that adventure! And it was in this spirit that I thought it would be a tremendous gift to Luke, and his boys, if we could somehow bring this dream to life.

I don’t know how I convinced John this was a good idea. He likes his alone time when we vacation and spending a week with all these teenagers wouldn’t normally be his first suggestion on how to spend his summer holiday, lol. But honestly, I think after you lose a child, especially in those early months, you will do anything to keep their spirit and their memory alive. So, I found a house outside San Francisco and rented it for ten days in July of 2016. I wish I had a picture of the lads’ faces when we told them that Christmas. I believe Eric called me a Queen and what else did I need after that? We weren’t going to drive there, of course, but we told the boys to get to San Francisco however they could and the rest was on us.

Must you, Mother?! Logan and the lads

All in all, going to California was an incredible experience. Logan and I hadn’t been many places on holiday so we welcomed the adventure. And Northern California is gorgeous! Very different from New England and I enjoyed every minute of playing tourist – Napa Valley, the Red Wood National Park, San Francisco Bay. It was all beautiful and interesting and memorable. It was also a lot of fun to treat the lads to this experience and see it through their eighteen year old eyes. It was like having not one Luke, but three with us on our journey. I loved that they were constantly giggling, running out to get cigarettes, chasing Pokemon on their phones. We stayed up most nights under the stars at the house, chatting about life and love and all things philosophical. I don’t know how everyone else felt, but for me every minute felt like tiny band-aids being placed across my heart. Healing.

At the end of our time together, the boys made their way down to L.A. and Logan, John, and I made our way back to Massachusetts. The trip was bittersweet, as is everything we do after our child passes away. I took comfort in the fact that it felt like we were honoring a dream of Luke’s. It wasn’t a rowdy, cross-country drunk fest, but more quiet moments celebrating our boy who longed to be bigger than life. And for this momma, it was enough.

So here’s what I need you to know: When we lose someone we love, the desire to keep their memory alive or pay homage to everything they loved can be a guiding force. It might feel crazy or extravagant or outside of your comfort zone, but don’t fight it! What greater feeling in the world is there than standing on a beach watching the waves crash in and thinking, Bill or Jane or Luke would have loved this? Doing something in your loved one’s honor is a testament to your relationship and I think one of the last beautiful acts we can share with our child, or parent, or spouse. I believe our dearly departed are always with us, cheering us on and smiling at our adventures. I will never forget my amazement at *seeing* Luke in our pics from California – this spiral of energy in the corner of most every shot – letting us know that he was with us every step of the way. Magical! So polar plunge, hike the Appalachian trail, write a book – whatever and however you honor your love is up to you… and always right. Here’s to connecting from this world to the other side of the stars. Xxx #CaliForLuke

Things that help

Paging Miss Patty

I have missed you! I have missed this. And by this I mean taking the time each week to share what is in my head and in my heart. Covid has led to so many changes in our world and not having the time to write has been one of many in mine. I want to issue a sincere thank you to all of you that have reached out to check in on me and see why I haven’t been writing. Or as one person said to me, “What the hell, Inwood! Where’s the blog?!” 🙂

Deciding to put the blog on the backburner was not a choice, but a necessity. The district I teach in is using the hybrid model and as much as I love having my kiddos in from of me, it truly means we are teaching two classrooms every day. It is HARD and it it EXHAUSTING and I try not to complain because, as we are fond of saying at the Inwood house, it can always be worse. I also have this little side gig called Hope Lives Here that is thriving not despite Covid, but because of it. Grief is especially lonely at this time and I love that we are helping and connecting so many people with our support groups and our Private Facebook page.

So what’s a girl to do when something’s got to give? I think my experience speaks to the fact that we always find time to do the necessities in life, the chores, the paying jobs, but at the detriment of the things we love – the things that fill our hearts with joy. When my schedule gets tight I never seem to be able to find the time to walk or to read: Two things I tell my students I would die without. And isn’t that how it feels when we put our passions to the side? Like our souls are getting sucked dry with the must dos?

So here’s what I need you to know: Patty’s got her groove back! lol or at least my priorities straight. I realized I can’t give all I have to my work and to service and nothing to myself and neither can you! I am painfully aware of what folks are doing every day, the sacrifices being made, the energy being put into just getting by…. These are truly extraordinary circumstances. But might I suggest that we all try and find some balance.. some space for the activities that make our hearts sing? I know it won’t be perfect – we might only work out once in the month or write a blog every now and again – but a little self-love will go a long way toward making this Covid crap seem a bit less horrible. I hope you will share what you are doing to make your heart happy in the comments here or on Facebook. Let’s inspire each other! #TogetherWeGetThrough

Things that help

Signs

John and I were just discussing the other day how, after Luke passed away, we spent every minute reading and researching about *Heaven* or what happens after you die. I had always believed in a life after this one, but John was a bit more scientific and struggled around the where and the how of changing planes, so to speak. We read a number of books by mediums, books by people who had made successful connections with their loved ones on the other side, and books by people who had near death experiences and could describe what *Heaven* looked like. What we really wanted was to understand how to maintain our connection with our boy who no longer walked on the Planet Earth. And to know that Luke was okay wherever he was. This. SO MUCH.

Signs frequently come up in grief books and talks as validation from a loved one that they are near by and thinking of you. When you first lose someone, I think you look desperately for those signs – a dime on the ground, a cardinal, a feather – these are considered traditional tokens from the other side. I joke about this now, but when Luke first passed away EVERYTHING was a sign, lol. Every song, every bird, every combination of numbers represented my boy trying to send a message to his momma. And that is OKAY. I tell fellow grievers that if it makes your heart feel a little bit better believing that something is a sign, then IT IS. Grief is a personal journey and anything that makes it more tolerable is truth for you. Lukester for me now is a blue jay – Canadian, loud mouthed, pushing his way into the feeder squawking as much as to say – Look at me guys! I am here! I love that kid and I love that darn bird.

I think the signs that catch you by surprise are the most satisfying for the soul. You know the ones you just can’t quite explain, but there it is? John and I have had a number of incredible experiences that have solidified our belief that Luke is still in our lives and messing with us.

It was July 2015. Three months after Luke had passed away and I was eagerly anticipating our upcoming visit with Heather Lee, a local medium. It was like we had scheduled a meeting with Luke and I desperately wanted him to come through and tell me he loved me and he was sorry. (Sidebar – so that didn’t happen. Darn kids. He did come through, however. See my blog, http://pattyinwood.xyz/are-you-there-luke-its-me-merm/ to read about this visit.)

In the week leading up to our appointment, I was making my regular daily treks to the cemetery. On one of these days, I happened to move a plaque, placed by Luke’s grandma by his headstone, to clear away some dead grass and lo and behold, a teeny tiny frog was sitting there. Now, if you know my son’s story you know his gaming handle was…. wait for it, Froggir. Little tiny frog hanging out at the cemetery – coincidence? I believed not. That little frog was there every day for the week or so before we went to see Heather, and every time I saw it, I smiled a little secret smile. I see you son, I would think to myself. It gets better. The day we were going to see Heather, it was a gorgeous summer day and so Logan and John and I headed out to Long Pond for a boat ride. We pulled the boat behind the Durango the few short miles to the water, backed it down the boat ramp, and got ready to jump in. And as I swung my leg over the side, I spotted it. Sitting smack dab in the middle of the boat… was a frog. I know, I know, its a lake, Patty, surely that can happen. But in the history of our adventures on Long Pond, some seven years perhaps, NEVER had a frog come along for the ride. Think what you want, but that it happened on this of all days? Luke. Definitely.

Luke and I have quite a connection over music. He likes to mess with me and throw *his* songs on when I am in the car or listening to music at home or school. I will never forget one particularly hard day I was at B.E.S. I had a student who was giving me a run for my money and to regroup during my prep period, I put on Pandora to relax and refocus while I graded some papers. It was my Dierks Bentley station – country – and about two songs in, See You Again came on. ‘Cause THAT’S country, lol. Oh, Lukester. I had a good cry and felt like my kid was saying, “Hey, you raised ME. This student is a piece of cake, lol.” It helped.

John feels Luke when he sees hawks. My man loves to golf and there is a red-tailed hawk that often shows up when John is on the course at Quail Hollow. It likes to perch on a branch nearby and look at him. John likes to talk to him when he is alone. I love this image. Sigh. <3 Once John was golfing with two of our bestfriends and the hawk literally followed them around the course, flying over them from hole to hole. Tim and TJ noticed the bird and remarked on how odd it was. John didn’t come out and say, uh huh, that’s my boy, because that would sound crazy, lol, but we were both in awe when he shared the story with me later that evening.

Last story. It was my birthday this week. Yep, another year older. Logan and his girlfriend, Cailyn, came out for dinner on Saturday. It was Cailyn’s birthday this week, too! We had elected to order from a local restaurant, Ladd’s, because the boys were in charge of dinner and this was just easier for them, lol. We ordered pizza and I had a hankering for Hawaiian. I love pineapple and don’t often order something that only I will eat, but hey! It was my birthday. We did that newfangled contactless delivery and John and Logan set up all our munchies on the table in the screened-in porch. Only problem was there were three pizzas, but no Hawaiian! Logan and Cailyn had their pepperoni, John had his Dishboy, and my pizza? Turns out the last one was a Buffalo Chix pizza – LUKE’S favorite! HA!!! Still f*cking with you, mom. Especially on your birthday.

So here’s what I need you to know: If you haven’t lost someone you love, you have just read all of my words and thought to yourself – this woman is certifiable! lol And you are allowed. Talk to me when death graces your doorstep. And if you have lost someone you love, you have read my words and know exactly what I am talking about. Trust in YOUR signs, whatever they may be. May they bring peace and lightness and maybe even a little laughter to your heart. Keep’em coming, son. From this world to the next – I love you. Xxx

I need you to know, Things that help

Who Knew

“You home/awake?”

Now, when my phone goes off at 8:30 am it’s something. I confess I am not a phone person – it doesn’t live in my hand and I don’t check it a million times a day to make sure I am not missing anything going on in the world, lol. When I am home it sits in a basket on the counter in the kitchen. If I hear it ding I will wander over and see what is what. Usually. My close friends and family will tell you that’s probably an almost never, HA! But hey, I am the one telling the story here.

So, as I was saying, I was sitting in my chair in the living room finishing off coffee number two when my phone dings. And then dings again. So I figure something is up and make my way over to the far counter and take a look at my messages. It’s Chris – one of Luke’s oldest and dearest friends.

“Hey Chris! As in you want to chat or you want to come over?” I replied. I am not surprised a young sir wants to visit or talk. As I have written before, many of the lovelies will come over or call me up when they want to hash out something going on in their lives. I don’t tell them anything different than their parents would… I am just not their parents, lol. And therein lies my popularity.

“I’m coming over.”

“Hey there… give me ten minutes. I will meet you out back.” What he doesn’t see is that I am still in my jammies and haven’t brushed my teeth OR put in my contacts and almost no one sees me in glasses these days. Well before I know it, I can hear footsteps clomping up the wood stairs and the screened-in porch door creak open. I quickly throw on a sundress (because what else does one wear to a morning chat session?) and head down to the main level. And there he is. Ruggedly handsome with dark curly hair, bearded up, and wait a minute… yep, smelling distinctly of *eau de Budwieser*, lol.

“Are we hugging?” I ask, although I am not sure I would have taken no for an answer.

“We’re hugging.” Chris gives me a very decent squeeze for a young person. I always say good hugging is a learned art and takes years of experience, but some of us are more gifted huggers, lol. We head out to the upper deck where it is shady and have a seat. Turns out Chris had spent the night with some Rutland friends. There were beers involved and he had crashed in town for the night. Smart move, I am thinking to myself. But hey, this kid has always been smart.

Iced coffee in hand, Chris starts to talk. And hey, this kid has always been a talker, too, so there is no shortage of conversation. We talk about everything under the sun – memories of growing up in Rutland, me being his librarian, a little about Luke, a lot about life, his job, his family. Turns out he didn’t need fixing, he just needed a fix – of us, of the Inwoods. And it was just such a good two or three hours. Honestly, I didn’t notice how much time had passed until I went in to get us all some water; John had joined us at some point. I eventually had to kick him out and send him on his way because I was taking a flourless chocolate cake to a friend’s house that afternoon and that dessert was not going to bake itself. We hugged, of course, amid promises of seeing one another soon. My fingers are still crossed.

What Chris couldn’t possibly have known was I was having a hard week. I look forward to the day when the Fourth of July doesn’t drag my heart down missing Luke and all the memories of the kids during year after year of our amazing small town celebrations. But it wasn’t to be this year. I was low, and truth be told, crying every damn day. Working out and crying, eating salad and crying, watering the flowers and crying. I just couldn’t keep my emotions in check. Even John recognized the direness of the situation and suggested we go up and see Logan – my surefire, feel better solution.

But after Friday morning, I felt better. Chris had come over and reminded me that my boy had one heck of a friend group and you know what I tell myself – if kids this great loved my boy, he must’ve been alright. By sitting in that wicker chair and sharing everything going on in his world, Chris made us feel connected and important and loved; like maintaining our relationship was a big deal to him. It is in those moments that John and I get a glimpse, even if just a small one, of life at 23. Turns out Chris wasn’t the only one needing a fix that Friday. I needed my 23 year old fix, too. Love you, buddy. Xxx

Things that help

Anyone Can Do One Day

If Luke was to create a Top Ten list – David Letterman style – of Things That Irritate Me The Most, ‘Being Told What To Do’ and ‘Highschool’ would both jockey for the top position.

Getting Luke motivated and out of bed every morning was my job. He stayed up way too late, slept fitfully, didn’t use an alarm, and never once in the history of his life, popped out of bed eager to start his day, lol. I have written more than once about my role in getting Luke on the bus or in the car and on his way. Sigh. Good times.

During the course of my morning Luke routine, I got in the habit of cheerleading Luke by breaking down the school year into manageable bites. At first, it was fairly large bites.

“Only 3 months till December break, son. Anyone can do three months.”

I would encourage him and cajol him into thinking that he could manage his suffering for that length of time. Problem was, those timelines became insurmountable in his mind, as his ability to deal with the consequences and negativity in his life declined. Pretty soon I was reminding him that there are only five days in the school week and “anyone can do five days”.

In Senior Year, Luke was at his lowest and he was feeling crushed by his teachers and administration and schoolwork. With his hope at an all time low, I would go into his room in the morning, shake his calf to stir him a little, and when his eyes would finally peek open, I would give him the only piece of cheerleading I had left.

“Anyone can do one day, son. Six and a half hours. You can do it, sweetie.”

And he would. He would get up and get showered, grab his coffee, and go to Wachusett. He would greet his friends in the hall, sleep though a class or two, wander the halls, laugh through lunch. And at 2:10 pm, or whatever time they released the students, he would exhale and spend the next 12 hours doing what HE wanted. Chillin’ with friends, shooting hoops, gaming. At 6 am the next morning, it would start all over again. He kept doing One Day, One Day, One Day for seven months. I think it is a testament to his damn stubbornness that he got through for as long as he did, lol.

So here’s what I want you to know: We are just finishing our second week of the Coronavirus Quarantine. Social media is flooded with folks struggling to stay at home or struggling to stay sane in this new normal. As the experts caution that we may not peak for another month or so, I would like to suggest we take inspiration from the Luke Inwood play book to get through this time. Start your day by reminding yourself that anyone can do six weeks of this. Or, if you have to, you can break it down, to just the day. Because anyone can do ONE day. And if even the day is getting you down, like a rainy Sunday in Week 3, try and get yourself back to your happy place: maybe it’s listening to music, or reading, or television. Maybe it’s hiding under the covers for longer than usual. Whatever it is, IT’S OKAY. On the days when you are not feeling your best, you need to take the time to scale back and find the joy again. Now is not the time to be Superwoman or Superman and show the world how amazing you are and how much you can do. Breathe. Live simply. Put the joy first and the strength will come. And don’t forget – Anyone can do Just One Day. Or a series of Just One Days if that’s what you need. #HoldOn

I need you to know, Things that help

Life

I couldn’t figure out what to write about this week. After all, everyone is up to their elbows in thoughts about TP and Covid-19. Did I really want to add to their sorrows? NO THANKS.

So, I hemmed and I hawed, and by this morning, I thought I had a clue. I sat down to write, but just then John rose from a deep sleep (ahem, thank you Dudeks, lol) and decided he needed fresh air and a brisk game of disc golf. Barre Falls is our favorite spot to do this, so away we went! We passed a glorious two hours amongst the rolling hills and waterfalls and made our way home shortly before 5. As we came around the corner on Wheeler Road, Sunset Farm came into view and just there, tucked in with all the grown-up Highland cows, I spied a sweet black baby calf. It was tiny! and as it galloped awkwardly toward its momma, John and I both giggled. It was so stinkin’ cute! And suddenly there it was! My inspiration for the day and for the next few weeks – LIFE.

There is nothing like the babies – baby animals and baby humans alike – to make us gasp and giggle and appreciate our world. They represent hope and faith and trust – All the qualities we need so desperately right now. The blog picture at the top of this post was a gift given to me by Farmer Johnson. If you know me or have followed my blog, you know how much I love this man and this farm. Everyday after Luke died I would walk past this place. It is stability for my head and my heart and reminds that day after day, “the sun still rises – even through the pain”. Life goes on. George (Farmer Johnson) wrote to me that the pic of the baby calf puts a smile on his face and it surely does that for me. I love you, George!

So for today, for these next few weeks, when you are low or struggling, pull up those darn cute pictures of kittens, or rabbits, or baby foxes. It is guaranteed to put a smile on your face and lightness in your heart. Life is a miracle, friends, and perseveres no matter what we throw at it.

Just Google baby anything. It’ll make your heart sing. Xxx

Things that help

Shine On, Son, Shine On

We sat around the table Monday night, my angels and I. This is an incredible group of women – each dedicated to helping the lost souls who come to Hope Lives Here – all the while nursing hurting hearts of their own. They carry the sorrow of others and I am grateful to be in their company. Taryn, Kathy, Anne, Lori, Robyn, Nikki, Alison, Jen, Donna, Sheri, Bev, and Robin – I love you!

So there we sat. It had been a productive night and as we got ready to leave, Anne announced she had a gift for me. I immediately started to get a little anxious. My feelings have been out of whack since January and my instincts told me to brace myself.

“We know that an important anniversary is coming in a few weeks for you and we wanted to let you know we are thinking about you, ” Anne spoke as she reached across the table and handed me the present. With my head down, I carefully unwrapped the package. There was a cardboard box inside and it took me a minute to figure out how to open it. I slid through the tape on one end and reached inside to pull out what looked like a frame. Turning it over, I quickly read the words on the image in front of me.

Luke’s star is in Cepheus – also know as The King constellation.
Cause you can’t make this shit up.
#NoCoincidences

I couldn’t contain the sob in my throat. They had named a star after Luke. A STAR. I had never heard of anything like this and it was so perfect and so painful at the same time. Sigh. But isn’t that the way with grief?

Unless you have experienced loss you may not understand that sometimes it is the small acts of kindness that get to you the most. I can give and give and give… to my family, my students, my clients at HLH, and feel so strong, so together, but the moment that someone does something for me, I crumble. I continue to be shocked and overwhelmed to think that someone is taking the time to help me; to reach out to me; to hug me. Each one of these kindnesses makes me feel loved and held and this one was no different. What a beautiful gesture. Xxx

In that same brief moment when Luke’s star was revealed, I died a little inside. My angels will cringe to read this, but I know they will understand. Somehow as I looked at Luke’s name, a star in the vast beyond, his absence here and presence there – up near the Little Dipper – was slammed home. He is gone! My head and heart seemed to say in unison. He is really gone. And so I cried. My angels cried with me.

But what a perfect gift! Luke Inwood, my light, a damn fiery force on the planet Earth, now forever glimmering in the night sky. Haven’t I always said I will see you on the other side of the stars, son? And now, thanks to my beautiful friends, I know exactly where to go. Shine on, my sweet boy, shine on. Xxx

Milestones, Things that help

Mother Mary

This has been a hard week. It is not unusual in grief, to have a bad that day that is then followed by a series of bad days. After this past Sunday I did my darndest to pretend I was okay, but time and time again I found myself tearing up. Or outright crying. It was official. I was in “I miss my boy” mode.

Now it is not easy to say there is a benefit to being almost five years in my grief journey, but there IS comfort in the knowing. Knowing that when you are in the depths of sadness that it doesn’t last forever. Knowing that the pain, although fierce, is less than before. But getting yourself in a better frame of mind takes work. And faith. Doesn’t have to be in God or the Universe. It only has to be in yourself. In your ability to open your eyes every day, to fill your lungs with oxygen, to put one foot in front of the other.

Since losing Luke I have been inspired by Mother Mary. Whether you are religious or prefer to think of the Mary as a historical figure, her story is pretty incredible. Although I could construct an entire blog around the Immaculate Conception, it is her journey as a mother when Jesus begins his ministry that draws my admiration. Imagine how hard it would be to hear people speaking words of hate against your child. Imagine fearing for your child’s life. Her own family attempted to kill her son because they thought he had lost his mind. Did Mary beg Jesus to stop? Nope. By all recollections in both Christian and Jewish recounts, Mary stood by her son, supported him, followed his ministry. And as Jesus died on the cross, it was his mother who stayed by his side till his last breath. Sigh. What we won’t do for our children.

And then Mother Mary lived on. Day after day, year after year, without her boy. Missing a piece of her heart. It is thought she lived another twenty years before passing away. For those of you fortunate enough to not understand the magnitude of this, I can tell you living one day feels hard. 7,300 is a feat beyond comprehension.

And so I am inspired. On my hardest days I remember that I am not the only momma that has lost a child. There is a community of women that wake up every morning and do the difficult work of carrying on. I often go to my alter and look at my beautiful Madonna and ask her to fill me with the grace and strength to go on. I imagine her whispering in my ear… that I can do it, just as she did it, just as countless other mommas have done it.

So here’s what I need you to know: Just like in the Beatle’s song, “When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me. Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.” My model of strength might be spiritual, but yours doesn’t have to be. If you are a momma missing your baby, find a woman who has walked this journey and let her story lift you up. I think about Judy O. missing her daughter, but greeting each day with strength and humor. I think of Rutland Momma, CherylAnn Gengel, impacting countless lives with Be Like Brit, all the while missing her daughter. Trust in yourself and believe that if they can do it, so can you. We grieving mommas are lost and found and continue on. We are a “woven net of broken hearts and we keep each other safe.” Together we get through. Xxx

I need you to know, Things that help

The Legend of Two Dollars

This blog is for YOU. You know who you are, but I do not, and actually, I prefer it that way. You are the person who for the past few years has surprised me time and time again when I visit the cemetery with your gifts. Tucked neatly under a grey rock are 2 one dollar bills folded in thirds. They show up when I least expect it and never fail to put a smile on my face.

That very first time I saw the money, I giggled. What in tarnation is the meaning of this? I spent a few minutes generating ideas of why the money had been left there. I thought to myself that perhaps it was over a bet – two bucks says I can make this next basket – for example and it was your connection or best memory of Luke. Or maybe, I speculated, it was money owed – Do you have two bucks, Luke? I need a snack from the caf. Or maybe Luke had done the borrowing – Pass me two bucks, I need my Dunks. All plausible/possible situations. I even unfolded the money wondering if perhaps you had written some words that might lend a clue to your identity. Nothing. So, after a few more moments of contemplation, I let it go and sat in the comfort of knowing that someone had visited where Luke rests easy.

I don’t know how long after that the next set of two dollars showed up. They were folded with the same level of care and placed perfectly on top of the first pair. My curiosity was peaked. I mentally tried to calculate if the deposit of money corresponded with college breaks and was being left there by someone home to see family. I was tempted to put something on Facebook or Twitter, but I decided that whatever the money was about was between Luke and you. I heard Luke in my head saying Mind your own business, Momma! lol

By the time Winter hit, there was a good collection of money. I didn’t want it to get wrecked from the weather, so I took the cash and a number of other trinkets people had left, and brought them home to the chest of memories we have for Luke in our basement. These mementoes, now to include the dollar bills, all have a special place in my heart. They each mark an important part of our healing process and this invisible connection between myself and the money and you was one I had enjoyed that year. As I closed the lid on the chest, I imagined closing a chapter and with it, anything to do with the money. I don’t think I could have been more shocked when fairly soon after the first thaw of Spring, two new dollars showed up to resume stewardship of Luke’s spot. What?! WHO ARE YOU DOLLAR DROPPER?!!! My heart swelled. The Legend of the Two Dollars was to continue…

Over the years the money has had quite the adventure. I have buried it before bad weather, it has blown away in a windstorm and been retrieved in the woods, and once, we believe kids stole a good chunk. 🙂 When a five dollar bill showed up on the empty marble mantel one day I thought someone was trying to copy the Two Dollar Dropper. lol. John and I were worried this would annoy you and we discussed removing the five bucks. But we don’t always carry cash and so I decided you were short on small bills the day of your visit and left the smallest you could. I breathed a sigh of relief when a mountain of single bills started to pile on top of that five. It was still YOU!

So here’s what I need you to know: I take a guess, every time the money shows up, as to who the Dollar Dropper might be. I guess, but I honestly don’t know. What I do know is that when you lose someone you love, your child, your greatest fear is that they will be forgotten – that a time will come when no one says his or her name. There is a quote that goes something like this:

“They say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.” Banksy

And I don’t want that for my Luke, for my boy the Legend, for the King. I can’t bear to think of the day when the words- “Remember that kid who died from suicide Senior Year? What was his name?” – becomes a real thing. And so YOU have given me the most amazing gift of hope and of faith: That someone besides Luke’s momma, that YOU continue to hold him in your heart, and will maybe say his name for a long time yet to come. Sometimes, two dollars are worth a million. I love YOU, Dollar Dropper. Forever Grateful. Xxx

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