Browsing Tag

child

Unimaginable

There I was, on an early Sunday morning, locked in and focused and riding my heart out on my relatively new Peloton bike. We had made the purchase in late February as an alternative to the treadmill. I LOVE my treadmill, but I was looking to mix things up and maybe add a little more rigor to my workouts. Thank you, Toni and Lauren, for the incredible sales pitch that led me to take the Peloton plunge. Now don’t get the wrong picture in your head. I wasn’t standing up and pedaling like the finish of the Tour de France was just ahead of me and victory was in sight. No, I was on the much better suited to me beginner ride, because goodness knows I believe in baby steps when it comes to starting a new routine, and my instructor Hannah was assuring me that no matter what my speed, I should give myself a high five because I had climbed on the bike today. Go, Patty!

So as my thirty-minute ride came to an end, and I was riding the high that comes from doing something good for yourself, the cool down song came streaming into my air pods and into my ears. It was the song “Unimaginable” from the musical Hamilton. For the instructor Hannah, and the majority of the riders on at this time, it was simply a song with a somber beat. Something to slow down the heartbeat. The lyric, “Can you imagine?” a harmless reference to the thought of living a life after you lose a child. But for me? I had watched the Hamilton musical and my soul had been ripped out by this poignant moment in the play. The loss of a child, the tearing apart of a family, it all rang true and gripped me in familiar feelings of heartache and despair.

There I was on the bike… one moment feeling the exhilaration of working out and the next, bent over the handlebars sobbing and missing my son with every molecule of my being. Because for me, it isn’t unimaginable… it IS a suffering too terrible to believe… It is my life…. every damn day….

So, here’s what I need you to know: My beautiful mommas, on this day dedicated to those of us who have lost children, I can’t sugarcoat it. We are every parent’s worst nightmare; we are burdened with the task of living each day without one of our kids and for this there must surely be a mighty reward on the other side of the stars. For now, go gently, give yourself grace, and know you are a goddamn warrior. You are living with the Unimaginable and for that… you are everything. You have my love, momma. Rivers and Roads Xxx

I need you to know

There’s No Place Like Home

I have just returned from a holiday back to Canada.  Yes, Canadians say holiday and not vacation. lol  It makes it seem ever so glamorous, doesn’t it? Logan had a wonderful time fishing and tossing bean bags and John loves an opportunity to reconnect with his family.  The weather was excellent and by all rights I should be raving about an incredible week.  And I could, but deep down you need to know that every day away from the house that built Luke Inwood is a tough day.

I’m not sure if this is just a “me” problem or if other bereaved parents share this woe.  Early on after losing Luke, friends and family were very kind and invited us to the Cape and to Canada and to Maine, all in the efforts, I know, to distract us and give us a weekend away to forget everything and just enjoy the days.  The problem is I couldn’t go.  The thought of leaving the house where in every corner there is a ghost and glimmer of Luke terrified me.  In this house I am flooded with thoughts of my boy and frankly, that is the way I need it.   I leave my bedroom in the morning and straight ahead are his room and the bed that hides his collection of football cards.  I walk down the stairs and stare out the front windows and see him running for the bus, coffee in one hand, holding up his jeans and his belt with the other.  I place my own coffee cup on the island where I made plate after plate after plate of nachos and listened to him chat on about his day.  I go outside to water the flowers and hear the laughter of all the neighborhood lads setting up their little green army men in the sand around the swing set.  Perched at the top of the stairs I will forever hear the sounds of adolescence – video games and beer pong.  I feel him with me when I pet the cats, when I play my music, when I win a question at Jeopardy.  He is everywhere.

I have a white cement heart that I leave where Luke rests easy when I go out of town.  It’s my way of telling Lukester that his momma is with him even when she isn’t.  It’s silly, I know, but this act brings me a wee bit of peace.  “My heart is with your heart, my sweet baby boy.”  And yes, as I mentioned earlier, I have been away.  A day.  Two days.  This week to Canada. Even ten days out to California.  But I can’t sleep.  And I am agitated and weepy the whole time.  I am tense with the effort it takes to push down the anxious feeling I have over being separated from one of my sons.  When we finally get in the car, regardless of how long we have been away, I finally start to breathe.  I anticipate the moment we will see that Rutland sign and can’t wait to get myself to the cemetery where, if Logan isn’t around, I practically jump out of the car and embrace that black granite headstone.  It’s not quite the same as holding the real deal, but the love is the same.

So here’s what I need you to know:  We all have special places and items that remind us of our children who have passed away and we all deal with it in different ways.  Some find refuge in traveling to take their mind off their loss.  Others have to move or empty their house of everything that might be associated with their child because it is too painful to look at all those reminders of memories.  No matter what you do, know that it is the right thing for you.  Be gentle on yourself and take your own time navigating what to do with the stuff and whether to move and how to separate from the four walls that raised your child.  As for me, turns out I am stuck in the 01543 forever.  Gladly.  Home is where your son’s heart is.  Xxx

 

I need you to know

Dearly Departed

You need to know writing this particular post is hard.  I have tried for several weeks to put down my feelings around Luke’s wake, but there is a lot of emotion still tied to that evening.  It dawned on me recently that by sharing out the events around Luke’s death, I am reliving it all over again.  Some days I am strong enough to do this; most days I am not.  I am motivated by the thought that maybe a newly bereaved mama will stumble across this blog and will use it to plan a wake worthy of the sweet child she is missing.  And so I begin.

A wake is not for the person who has passed away.  In truth, the wake or calling hours as some refer to it, is for the people who are left behind.  It’s a much needed chance to look another person in the eye and say “I’m sorry.  I loved him, too. ”  Luke’s wake might have been the most important night of my life.   John and I wanted it to be a true reflection of who Luke was and the things that were important to him.  We didn’t want it to be a traditional deal with hushed voices and crying and a long line of people you don’t know to say “I’m sorry” to.  So we were thoughtful about the decisions we made, and mindful of the fact that so many teenagers would be there.  The night was everything we needed it to be.  Here’s what helped my heart:

Miles Funeral Home.  Miles was recommended to us by a close friend.  They were compassionate, thoughtful, and professional.  From start to finish, Rick and his team made the experience as easy as possible for us so that we didn’t have to do a lot of thinking.  They were also understanding of our desire to keep the wake true to Luke and accommodated all our requests.  I still remember showing up for Luke’s burial and they had put a canopy over the grave site, blocking out  the sun.  It was gloomy and I hated it and with one comment they had it moved without a grumble.  Yes, I know they get paid to do this, but they still do it WELL and I am thankful for our experience there.

The personal touches.  There were so many small  things that made the night “Luke”.  When you walked through the door that night we had put up a sign.  It’s the image for this blog.  We really wanted to set the tone from the moment you came in.  It still makes me smile thinking about how many people commented on that sign and how it put them at ease.    There were photo posters everywhere that Jodi and Berkeley, Donna and Sue, and my Dad and TJ had made and they were just such a great way to remember Luke at his happiest.  We had two videos going that night, also.  The tribute video was one and Berkeley had made a more personal one of the Luke Inwood she knew.  Berkeley was also responsible for the memory jar.  I have mentioned this before and I will blog about it sometime soon.  I’m not sure the wake would have been as warm without the Berkeley touches.  She has my heart forever because of this.  All these little things created an atmosphere that made it feel more like you were coming to see us at our home and I am grateful for the feeling of warmth and love all these things created.

The basketball.  I can only giggle when I think about the basketball.  My sister came up with the great idea of having a basketball at the wake that the kids could sign as they came  through.  We put it on display with a silver sharpie and were all set.  Well, Luke’s closest friends were invited into the wake a bit earlier so they could have a private moment together.  They loved  the basketball idea, but it turns out they didn’t want anyone else to sign it so they kept taking it and hiding it. 🙂  Someone would see it and put it back where it belonged until we got wind of what they were up to.  SO the basketball was put away for good and now rests with Lukester forever.  Those lads.

Music.  If you are close to any of the Inwood family, you know we breathe music.  Miles offered up the usual canned classical stuff, but we wanted a soundtrack of Luke’s life.  This was an afternoon of picking just the right songs, but I know we nailed it because so many people commented on it.  Yep, there was some swearing, yep, there was some rap, and yep, it was perfect.   John and I also picked a few songs that reminded us of our relationship with our boy:  Old Man by Neil Young, but performed by Redlight King; Dearly Departed by Shakey Graves.  And thank goodness for Dearly Departed.  I will write a love letter to Shakey Graves soon, but every time that song came on I would look up and see the long line of people and it would fill me with the strength to keep going.

1,326.  That’s how many people came through.  Well, that’s how many signed the book.  John and I were blown away by the outpouring of love from the community.  So many people from Rutland, from Wachusett, from Pop Warner, from Boylston –  all there to give us a hug.  Or maybe I should say, all there so I could hug them.  I knew in my bones that the wake was my opportunity, maybe my only opportunity, to let people know how important they were to Luke and how much he loved them. So as each one came up, we would hug and then I would talk about their connection to Luke and how much it meant to us.  They shared their stories and their tears.  It was personal and beautiful and perfect.  We were hours, HOURS, getting to everyone, but it was well worth the long night.

So what I need you to know is this:  If today is your Day One,  you need a wake.  You need it, your family needs it, anyone who loved your child needs it.  There are moments from that night that I will remember for the rest of my life and in a very good way.  So, please do this. Really plan it and make it a true representation of who your child really was, swear words and all.  Yes, it’s like saying goodbye 1,326 times, but your heart will be glad you did.

 

 

The FIrst Days

Where are you Christmas?

The Holiday Season.  I’m not sure there could be more angst packed into three simple words.  This is such a tough thing to navigate after the loss of a child.  Here before you is a world full of song and cheer and snowflakes and Santa.  Radio and television are constant reminders of how everyone is focused on love and family and children.  But the fact is,  you are missing one.  You are broken.  And you are not quite sure how you are going to get through this most sacred of childhood traditions.

One woman I met said she refused to put up a tree or decorations or any reminder of the holiday so she wouldn’t ever have to experience it without her son.  For seven years she did this.  Another woman I know booked a trip to the Caribbean and told me she was going to pretend it was just like any other time of the year and that Christmas never happened.  My story isn’t much different.  That first year felt surreal.  I was six months into my grieving, and I was determined to keep things normal for my son, Logan.  We had spent the afternoon carting crate upon crate of Christmas decorations down from the attic and per usual, it was my job to get everything out and looking festive.  I was standing at the island, sorting through I don’t even remember what, when the next song ‘Alexa’ put on was “Where are you Christmas” from How The Grinch Stole Christmas movie.  That little girl’s voice singing those heartfelt lyrics “Why can’t I find you?  Why have you gone away? ” hit me like a smack in the face and I dropped to my knees and sobbed.   I knew right then, I couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t be in our house, in front of a tree filled with his little boy decorations, and all those memories.  My God, the memories were EVERYWHERE.

So, I called my mom, or my sister, somebody, and I told them we were coming to Canada.  It was fine.  We all went through the motions and before you knew it my first Christmas without Luke was behind me.

The moral of the story is this: what a grieving parent does every day is a hard.  What a grieving parent does to get through the holidays is an act of strength like no other.  No matter how you choose to get from December 1st to December 31st know that it is right for your journey.  No one is judging.  Travel, escape, pretend everything is okay, cry all 31 days.  Whatever works.  Just know you can do this.  Take one day at a time.  And I am here if you need me.

Where are you Christmas?

Milestones

For Melissa

It all started about a month ago.  A co-worker had contacted me over the weekend because the son of one of her very best friends had passed away.  Tara was devastated –  caught up in her own grief and desperately wanting to support Melissa and her family.  So why me, you ask?  Because I, too, had lost a child, and sometimes a common experience makes you an expert for others.  So I tried to make suggestions and help out as best I could, but something else happened in the process.  In those moments of helping Tara I was thrown back into those first few days after losing my own son.  All the pain, the heartache, the questions, the missing came rushing back. All the steps I had taken to get me to where I am today.  On day 1003.   And I realized, as I tried not to drown again in those feelings of grief, that perhaps I had something to offer to those who also wake every day without part of their heart.  Maybe some words or actions that might make THEIR missing a little less.  So for Melissa, and Hannah, and Lisa, and all the other Momma Bears out there trying to just get through the day… this blog is for you.

The FIrst Days