Browsing Tag

grief

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

It is Year 7

Last week was the anniversary of Luke’s death. Year 7. Like most things coming out of Covid, this year April 14th brought with it a rush of new emotions, and more angst and heaviness than we have felt in a while. Upon discussion with those who loved Luke, we all agreed that this year seemed harder. I don’t know if it is because everything feels more challenging right now or because the world feels like it is spinning out of control on every front. I do know that after getting through the actual day last week, I wanted to shine a little positive light on the life of John-Luke Inwood.

As parents we feel beholden to teach our children – to pass along the lessons we have learned from our own upbringing and our life experiences in an attempt to make their path a little smoother. I think we would all agree, however humbly, that in fact, our children teach us a great deal. Patience, unconditional love, the joy in a giggle – these are all brought to us through life with kids. I think if you were to ask Luke Inwood what he taught his Merm, Momma, Mom, Mummy, this is what he would say:

“Don’t try so hard”

Lord, have mercy! If I had a dollar for every time Luke said this to me, I would be rich, lol. I tried SO HARD to get Luke to like me, I am exhausted just thinking about it. In my mind I feel like I followed him around asking him questions all day long. “How was your day, son?” “Do you need me wash your jeans, son” “What do you want for dinner, son” all in an attempt to placate him and make him discover that I was Mother of the Year. The problem is Luke realized my agenda and had no problem calling me out on it. What Luke understood that I didn’t at the time, was Luke was going to feel however he felt about me, and no amount of pressure, cajoling, or over-compensating was going to create a dream relationship. I catch myself now and again, going above and beyond with compliments or gifts to someone, and try to remember that all relationships have to be organic, and most importantly, reciprocal in their efforts to make it work.

Chill

I know I am not the only one Luke used to say this to! Luke never liked any situation to get too heated as the young folk say and had no problem jumping in with this line. As defiant as the lad could be, he sincerely didn’t like seeing anyone else getting worked up and would always try to remind us to relax or simmer down as the case may be. No? Just me? lol Chill was a way of life for Lukester and one I definitely aspire to. I think about the amount of energy I have spent worrying or stressing over endlessly small problems and it is not worth it. So many of Luke’s friends have told stories about how hard he would try to get them to laugh and relax when they were having a tough moment. Using humor to deflate any scenario is an excellent strategy and one of Luke’s faves. Now I ask myself, is this situation worth getting your blood pressure up about? Not unless it’s life or death, truly. Or throw up. Nobody likes throw up.

“Fam is all you need”

Now when Luke said fam, he didn’t mean his family. Fam, to Luke, was his friend group. Luke had such an incredible group of young ladies and lads that he hung out with, and they were his everything. Luke didn’t want anything more in life than to be grabbing a bite, or hanging out at someone’s house, or sitting in the garage taking shit with the kids that he called friends. I actually think this was Luke’s best quality. Luke understood the value of friendship and how it fills your soul. The joy in camaraderie. The pleasure in creating shared memories. Luke loved each and every one of his fam and we have countless photos to prove it. Each one is like the next – Luke with his arms around somebody with the biggest grin on his face. I grew up mostly solitary and since Luke’s death have tried to live more like him in this regard. My fam also includes my actual fam, lol, and my circle of friends will never be the size of Luke’s (although some nights we party just as hard! lol) and I fiercely protect the time we spend together. Fam, by any definition, is really all you need.

So here’s what I need you to know: Luke Inwood has been gone seven years, but as my sweet girl Antonia said recently, “His mark will forever be on all of us”. Oh, what that boy has taught me. Luke lived chasing the joy in life: endless laughs with his friends, the bite of a slice of Ladd’s buffalo chicken pizza, uptown ball till dark. And is there anything else more important than chasing that which makes you most happy? As my boy would surely say, “Hell, no.

Milestones

The House That Built Me

Growing up I moved a lot. Like, about twelve times before the age of eighteen, a lot. Prior to moving to Rutland, I had never stayed in the same house for more than four years, and when John and I started our family, I knew the one thing I wanted to give my children was roots. I wanted them to have a house full of memories and a town where everyone knew their name. You might be surprised to know that our little ole house here on Haven Hill Road is the first and only home John and I have ever owned. Twenty years later I tell him now that wild horses couldn’t drag me out of here. This house, well, this is the house that built me. Cue the music.

I know most people create themselves when they are young and in their twenties, but I feel like I didn’t truly become me until I settled into this home. I raised my children, and made the best friends, and found my calling as a librarian, and then a teacher, all while I lived in this home. It was in this house that I learned all my important lessons – I am stronger than I thought; John Inwood is truly the other half of my heart; the love for my children is forever; I am nothing without the love and support of my friends and family. I don’t know if this is just a *Patty, you are just a little bit weird* thing, but I feel like the walls in our house rise and fall like the lungs in my chest. Taking in every moment and memory and inhaling it; holding them behind the drywall and storing them like honey in the comb. Can you see it? Every squeal of Christmas day captured in the four walls of the great room? Countless laughs around the island in the kitchen locked between the studs of those walls? And the basement? Oh, that basement…

In the six years since Luke passed away, we have made a few changes to the house, but not anything significant. Our basement has been unfinished all this time and we recently decided to not do anything too fancy but wanted to add the drywall and ceiling tiles and flooring to make it more comfortable. I know, I know, this doesn’t sound like a life-altering event, but let me tell you… I am not sure any home reno completed up to this point has caused me so much agony.

That damn basement. Luke lived in that space as soon as we would let him. He was down there hanging out with his friends; he had his gaming system set up and ran all his COD matches from the basement; eventually he slept down there and there were countless mornings I would tromp down the steps to rouse his tired ass for school. There isn’t an inch of that space that doesn’t have Luke’s fingerprint all over it.

So, the renovation began. John enlisted Billy Oser to be the other half of BillyBarry Construction, and starting in January, the two of them spent countless nights and weekends transforming the basement. Every time they would finish something, like the when they finally got the framing completed, they would call me down to admire their work. The two of them would gush about their accomplishment and how fantastic it looked, and I would nod my head and try to say something kind. After a few moments I would take myself upstairs, pour a glass of wine, and cry.

“They are erasing my boy’s existence!” my heart lamented.

“They are burying him behind the walls!” my heart cried.

And therein was my problem. It felt like the basement and Luke were so closely tied together that to change it was to lose him all over again. With this renovation, we were moving forward, and Luke would be forever trapped behind the studs, his cussing and crying and cheering, muffled by new walls and a coat of paint. It has been heartbreaking.

So here’s what I need you to know: The finished project is incredible. John and Billy poured a lot of love into the space and I know Luke is looking down wondering why the hell we didn’t do it earlier. As for me, one night when John was out running errands, I slipped a picture of Luke through a space I could find in the wall. Some day when I am dead and gone, I imagine a new owner will want to make the basement their own…. and in tearing down the walls will find a picture of my boy and his friends. King Luke was here. Xxx

I need you to know

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

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

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

You Don’t Know

Last night I was standing on my back deck watching the sun make its slow descent over the tops of the evergreens surrounding the house across the road. And I thought to myself, Did Luke know it was his last weekend on the planet Earth? Did he make his way through those last four days stopping every now and again and think – this is my last time partying at Thad’s.. this is my last hangover… this is my last dinner with my mom and dad… this is my last belly laugh with the boys. I don’t know. Part of me takes comfort in the fact that maybe he was living with intention and cherishing all of those moments. Most of me feels that he didn’t. Most of me feels that suicide swallowed him up in an instant that Tuesday morning and caught even him by surprise with its finality.

When you lose someone suddenly, you spend a lot of time reliving those final weeks and days before the death. You want to will that time back and declare a *do over* so that you CAN hang on or change what will come to be final memories. John and I talk about the words we would say – more I love you, less Get up for school. We talk about the things we would do differently – confront the high school, insist Luke go to a therapist, hug him even when he said it was weird. We spend a lot of time wishing for another try at loving our son.

Unfortunately, none of us is born with the ability to know when that “last time” might be. A medium John and I went to visit, Ruthie Larkin, told us the story of a terrible automobile accident she was in while visiting Texas. A transport crossed into oncoming traffic and hit her, shearing the roof right off her car. Ruthie said her only thought in that moment was – “I didn’t know today was going to be the day!” Thankfully she survived, but my point is that as someone who communicates with the great beyond, even SHE doesn’t know when her end is coming. So what are we mere humans to do?

True story. I decided to spend one day imagining it was my last. I was going to relish every single thing I ate or saw or touched and I was going to be present and really live in the moment. Best laid plans. I woke up and did my usual “five things I am grateful for” routine. What if this is the last time I will ever do this? I asked my self. I gave an extra shout out to the Universe – to be safe, lol – and got up. I went downstairs into the kitchen and poured myself a cup of coffee. What if this is the last time I do this? I asked myself. I put the cup up to my nose, inhaled deeply, and vowed to really enjoy this cup. I sat down in the living room in my favorite chair, turned on my WCVB news and as Cindy FItzgibbon started highlighting the weather, I asked…. Actually, I didn’t ask. I decided this whole activity was maybe the dorkiest thing I had ever done, lol, curled up in my chair, and went on with my day. And that is what we humans do.

So here’s what I need you to know: We don’t know when our last moment on the planet Earth might be. And we don’t know when that time might come for any of our loved ones, either. Might I suggest that we live like we do? Remind ourselves every day that each one is a gift? And then, in knowing our time together is precious, that we tell the people we love ,that we love them, OFTEN and LOUDLY. That we don’t go to bed angry or use unkind words against one another. If you knew your child was going to be gone at 17, would it change the way you treated them today? Wouldn’t a whole bunch of those daily battles suddenly become unimportant? Do you really want to argue about how long his hair is? lol Would you say “yes” more? especially to ice cream and sleeping in late? As I sit here on that same back deck watching the sun go down on Year 6, I can tell you… I didn’t know. I didn’t know 17 years was all I was going to get. I didn’t know it was going to be his final weekend. I didn’t know it was the last time I was ever going to hear his voice or hug his big ass or make him freaking nachos. I didn’t know. I didn’t know. I didn’t know. And now there is a lifetime of missing and regret in those three words. I really want things to be different for all of you. Xxx

I love you, John-Luke Inwood. From here to the other side of the stars. Xxx

I need you to know

Lean In

It was a cold blustery night on Tuesday when we gathered on the hill to mourn the loss of a sweet boy. Eighth grade. Too young. I was literally shaking in my boots as I stood listening to the boy’s uncle speak about his love for his nephew. I was anxiously waiting for my own turn to speak. I had been asked to share words of hope, advice, comfort, and as difficult as I knew it would be, I could never say no to a grieving family or say no to anything involving the 01505. Boylston is my second home. I love their children and their families, and in turn they have shown me such compassion and support, especially after Luke died. We are forever tied.

Ace Thompson was next in line. He was doing a beautiful job speaking to the boy’s joyful spirit and his incredible smile, and it was at just that moment that I looked over to the other side of the pavilion and saw the most amazing sight. It was three ladies – the grieving momma and two of her friends. The three of them were quite literally leaning together and holding each other up. The tallest supported the momma, who had her head on her friend’s shoulder and her arms wrapped around her friend’s waist. She looked so serene and at peace just then. The third friend, leaned in a similar fashion on the momma, her petite arms winding around both other ladies. It was if, entwined this way, together they could withstand anything the Universe threw at them. And hadn’t it just given them the worst? For me at that moment, they represented the power of friendship, of womankind, of strength. “We have got you!” It was a moment I will never forget.

So here’s what I need you to know: It was Day One this week in Boylston. A family we all love has lost their boy and now begin the long journey of living each day without him. So as I said that night – take a giant step forward. Lean in. We will lift them up and we will get them through. They need our stories about their boy, our notes of encouragement, our love. Lean in. Xxx

I need you to know

Triggers

It has been almost six years since Luke passed away. Six years. Most days I feel in control of my emotions. The sadness and missing don’t sneak up on me quite the way they did after Luke first died. We call them *triggers* in the grief world – those things that set you off and remind you of your loved one. The songs, or places, or items, that have such deep meaning associated with the person you are missing that it makes you catch your breath or stops you in your tracks or brings you to your knees when you see it or hear it. Time lessens the impact of these triggers, but it doesn’t eliminate the response altogether. I only need to hear the opening notes to “See You Again” and my eyes start to well up and the ache in my chest is amplified. I am fairly certain that is never going to change.

The gift of time is that you have been exposed to every possible trigger, and more than once, at that. Six years in after losing my boy and there aren’t too many things that make me think of Luke and his death in a new way, and for that, I am grateful. Each new trigger brings with it its own set of emotions and memories. I think the best way to describe encountering a trigger is like a scab on your heart that someone picks off, leaving you exposed and bleeding once more. Early on, these emotional landmines are everywhere – on the radio, in the card store, watching a television show, or picking up an article of clothing. For example, I returned to work two weeks after Luke died. Not long after, I remember sitting at a school assembly with my class. One of the younger grades was performing and they had made a slide show talking about… well, I honestly don’t remember at this time what the subject was. I only know my eyes are filling up as I type right now, sigh, reliving how hard it was to see those sweet faces and hear their high little hopeful voices knowing I had buried my own son a few weeks earlier. I had to get up and get out of there before I went into full on sobbing. UGH… grief sucks.

So here I am this past weekend watching a favorite series on Netflix, The Sinner. It stars Bill Pullman as a police officer investigating the most unusual crimes in the most unusual of ways. John and I would both highly recommend it. This past season was focused on someone who died in a car accident and the circumstances surrounding the death. I didn’t really make any connection to my own life till the last episode. As they are wrapping up the story it showed the character from the car who died. He had been thrown through the windshield and his face and chest were bloody and covered in glass and metal from the car. When I saw him, it came to me, that Luke probably looked just like this when he died. I know, I know, you are thinking what was I thinking? It was a horrific car crash – of course he was injured. But you see, the woman who was with Luke at the accident scene told us he looked like he was asleep laying on the ground that day, so I always pictured him just like that – my Luke, unscathed, but somehow in this endless slumber. It wasn’t until this show, some six years later, that the image of Luke injured crossed my mind. I had a gut-wrenching cry over that one, I can tell you. It didn’t help that at the end of the episode there is a scene where Bill Pullman’s character is with someone who is taking their last breaths. He is consoling him and whispering words like, “You’re not alone. I am right here. Don’t be afraid.” John and I both thought of Luke and this same woman, our angel, who we know did that for Luke. It was like we were watching the last breaths of our own son for the first time. Sigh. It was a rough night at the Inwood house. Lightening may not strike the same place twice, but grief and its triggers strike every. damn. day.

So here’s what I need you to know: If today is your Day One or your Day 100, you are in the throws of grief and every day is full of reminders of your loved one. It is hard, and the sadness is raw and agonizing, I know. If I could carry this for you, I would, but grief is a path we have to walk ourselves- we can’t sidestep it or ask someone else to do it for us. Sigh. Don’t we wish! But hold on. Each day becomes a little easier and those triggers become a little less terrifying. And even though the more experienced grievers in the group can still be surprised once in a while, most sunrises have more promise; most sunsets hold more peace. Wishing the same for you. Xxx

I need you to know