Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
I have been blessed with a little on-line community of grieving mothers whose blogs I read day after day. They help me so much, because they often are able to put into words what I am feeling but cannot express. They also comfort me. Yesterday, one of the bloggers, Gannet Girl, asked us to tell her our stories, because she had questions in the aftermath of her own son's death one year ago. The following Question and Answer format is my response to her.
To Gannet Girl:
Yesterday, after I read your post, I gave you my quick comment. Your questions continued to echo through my day, so I sat down in the afternoon and wrote out my long answer-- a summary of my experience of the last year. It took me about two hours, amidst flowing tears and various interruptions, to get it all down. Then I accidentally hit some button on my new, capricious, over-sensitive computer, and it all disappeared. I closed my computer in total defeat with the thought, "I don't think I have the strength to do that again."
Tonight, however, after I read Karen G's Q & A format, I decided "I think I can do that"! And she's right, you do deserve answers. I, too, want those kinds of answers, so I simply appreciate the opportunity to share my experience on the very poignant issues you raise. I hope my answers aren't too depressing, and I hope it helps you in some way.
Gannet Girl's post:
"There is only one thing I want to know. I want to know your story, and yours, and yours. I want to know how you survived, or didn't. I want to know about those hours after 4:00 in the morning, when you wake up and stare at the ceiling, or read email, or try yet another Russian novel. I want to know what it was like when your child died, what it was like when the world broke apart. I want to know what it is like when you climb a mountain or drive to the coast and your child is not with you. I want to know whether your laughter feels different, whether your sight has changed. I want to know what you have to say about this part of the journey, this minute, knowing full well that in the next one your words might be completely different. I want to know about the moments when sheer, raw courage takes over ~ the moments when you put your feet on the floor next to the bed and stand up. I want to know how we are going to do this for years to come."
"I want to know how you survived, or didn't." I have physically survived, but emotionally, I am not so sure how much of me has survived. I feel I am a shell of my former self. It seems the area most impacted is my ability to relate to others, even my family. It's hard for me to socialize, difficult to make small talk, and tiring for me to extend myself. I do what I need to do, but it feels exhausting and I can only do these things for a short time. My husband and I have long silences between us now. It's as if we are tired of the same sad words. We try to help each other and take life very slowly now. We can't take much pressure.
I used to be a counselor on a church staff. Helping people was my life and a great joy, but I can't do it much now. I also used to be a big help to my daughters and my grandchildren, but now I find it exhausting and I am not able to connect with them as I would like. This makes me very sad because these are all of my favorite people, and I hate that I can't be more there for them. It's a cruel irony to me that the loss of one of my blessings makes it so hard for me to enjoy the rest of my blessings.
"I want to know about those hours after 4:00 in the morning, when you wake up and stare at the ceiling, or read email, or try yet another Russian novel. " Bedtime is my worst time of day. Like Karen G, I have flashbacks, which turn into obsessive thinking, replaying things over and over again in my mind, endlessly. I still occasionally experience shock and ask myself if all this really happened. I work very hard to not feel anything at night. I don't drink or take sleeping aids, but I have a rigid "no think" rule at bedtime. I also have a dvd player with headphones that sits on my bedside stand, and as soon as my sad thoughts start, which they do every night when the light goes out, I turn on the dvd and watch something funny like Seinfeld. This also works at 4 am. I have honestly felt like I wouldn't survive the night with the pain in my heart. Everything is easier in the light of day. As far as reading Russian novels, I haven't been able to read much of anything for a year and I have always been a voracious reader. It just requires more sustained attention than I can muster.
"I want to know what it was like when your child died, what it was like when the world broke apart." Joey's death was sudden and unexpected. We had been with him four days prior and had a truly wonderful time together celebrating his sister's college graduation. I hugged him goodbye at the airport and he flew back to L.A.-- and I never spoke with him again. It hurts me just to write those words. He died in his sleep from heart failure, ultimately a complication from epilepsy, though he had no seizure. We were never warned of this possibility and the shock of it still stuns us, as he was fit and healthy and vibrant.
The worst of it was that he lived alone and laid in his bed for two days. That one still torments me. When he didn't appear for a social event, one of his friends went and checked his house and found him. We were at the movies when his friends called us, and my husband grabbed my hand and pulled me out of my seat and took me to the lobby, and told me the words, and I collapsed.
We had to fly to L.A. and when we got there, he was already at the morgue and we couldn't see him till the next day, which was horrendous to us. The mercy was that so many friends were there waiting with sheltering arms for us. After that, it was just a series of painful, unspeakable decisions about his remains and his belongings, and planning a memorial services. All of it still very, very traumatic for me and difficult to ponder.
"I want to know what it is like when you climb a mountain or drive to the coast and your child is not with you. I want to know whether your laughter feels different, whether your sight has changed." This is the worst part for me. You get through the rest of it only to have to face the crushing reality that your child is gone and you will never speak with them again in this life. Your dreams for them are over, your future as a family is totally changed. It's empty and unnatural and overwhelming to suddenly face life without them. I hated that I couldn't reach him by phone or email, or ever see him again. Now I talk with him anyway, and I send messages via Jesus and that's an improvement over the unbreachable brick wall I initially felt separated us. I was crazy with the void of his absence, like I wanted to jump out of my skin. Every one of us hates doing life without Joey, and our hearts are in heaven, though we are still on earth. Every single thing that made up our life has changed. Nothing was left unscathed.
"I want to know what you have to say about this part of the journey, this minute, knowing full well that in the next one your words might be completely different." I don't feel like my life is in my control anymore. It's uncomfortable to me that my feelings change so much and that I have difficulty putting it into words so much of the time. But that's just the way it is. That's why I blog so many pictures of events and the grandkids. I just can't put all the feelings and changes into words. It falls into my catch-all basket broadly labeled "grief behavior".
"I want to know about the moments when sheer, raw courage takes over ~ the moments when you put your feet on the floor next to the bed and stand up. " Packing up my son's belongings was the hardest single thing I have ever done in my life; next to that, doing his memorial services, which I can't even think about, and then packing up our own things and moving cross-country to be with our daughters. I wish I didn't have to do any of it and these things took all my strength and raw courage. I haven't recovered from them. There is so much loss and sheer will power in these actions that I can't even bear to think about them.
"I want to know about the moments right before that, the moments of sadness so deep that you cannot push your feet out from under the covers." All the time-- longing, missing, yearning, aching. Crying so many tears, and still I can't cry hard enough to empty them. There is always a new supply. I don't even bother wiping them away anymore. They just dry on my cheeks and down my neck and on to my chest. The monotonous soundtrack that runs behind our life now: Joey's gone, Joey's gone, Joey's gone. I'm accepting that I have a broken heart that will never heal, and life will never be really good again, but I also feel so deeply, sadly, dismally disappointed by it.
"I want to know how we are going to do this for years to come." For me, truly one day at a time. My faith in God and Heaven has grown, and I am counting on His promises to wipe every tear. I am trusting in God to make this okay one day and that somehow gives me hope for the future. I know now that Jesus came for one reason and that was to destroy Death. I long for that.
For the every day, I keep it as simple as I can. I find it soothing to immerse myself in beautiful things: nature, sky, sea, mountains, trees and flowers, beautiful music and lovely little moments, and in the sweet hugs of my children and grandchildren. Those are the things that help me face the future.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Friday, September 25, 2009
Tom, Melissa, Jeremy, Ryan.
Joey's second family--also in the header up above.
Melissa, the comforter of comforters.
We all jumped at the same moment...I like this spontaneous moment a lot.
Feet on the ground, arm in arm. The only way to get through life.
Thanks, friends, for everything.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
In our defense, we had tried to call but our message got garbled, and we were leaving town and baby Marek Joseph was already 10 days old and we needed to see that little boy before he was all grown up! You see, they named him after our son.
Isn't he a handsome little guy?!
Okay! Back to mama!
We love you Adam and Stephanie, and little Marek Joseph. Thanks so much for loving and comforting our family, and for being there for us this year.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
In this shot, she and Jaime are goofing around at the botanical gardens. These two like to goof around!
This is one of Rachel's gifts. She's an excellent photographer and took most of the pictures of my son that I put up here on the blog. She spent more time with him than anyone else the last few years, and she loved to photograph him in all the interesting places they visited. So that is just another great treasure she has given us.
She's become a sister and an auntie and a daughter to our family. When Joey went to Heaven, she lost her future and her dreams. We pray that she will be blessed with the love of a good man again, and that in every way, her future will be bright and full of joy and blessing. Of course, he's going to have to be a man with a brave heart who can pass the gauntlet of all of us, and also not be intimidated by the memory of my son. A tall order for sure, but I believe that he's out there somewhere and we will celebrate when it happens.
And then there's this. Her tattoo of the nickname she called Joey-"Cuy".
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
This was our grand finale night.
We lingered under the big trees by the lake in JoAnne's beautiful backyard.
Drew scoops the steaming corn and potatoes from the pot.
These Chesapeake Bay Blue Crabs were a gorgeous sky blue just a moment before being steamed into this color.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
On our first day with our special visitors, after the children were off to school, we adults were able to gather together for brunch. I can't describe the deep comfort that came from being around Kevin. I felt peace like I haven't felt for a year. He carries so much of Joey's spirit with him, since they've been best friends since the diaper stage, it was almost as if Joey were with us, too. When all these young adults get together, their humor and laughter brings back the best memories, and it was a joyous reunion.
We got to sit for a couple of hours-- eating, talking and remembering. I missed Joey profoundly, so obviously absent from this gathering of some of his closest companions. It was an unusual mixture of emotions--deep comfort and intense longing at the same time.
I don't think I could have done this without the 16 intervening months we've had to do some healing. I think we all felt some trepidation, not certain whether the reunion would send us back to our original grief. But it didn't and we were comforted in being together, much more than we ever expected. I knew there would be emptiness when they left, but I decided to focus on the gift of this present moment.
Of course, baby Josephine also did her part to keep us in the Present. She stole the spotlight whenever she was awake! She's a bundle of squirmy delight and funny faces. Best of all, she holds so much promise for the future.
Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do.
Tom and Melissa arrived a few hours before the others, so we picked them up and took them out to dinner...just the four of us. We talked about Joey and the kids and how everyone was doing now.
Then Rachel arrived (sans suitcase, Delta gave her an overnight kit), and finally Molly, Kevin and baby Josephine.
And here they are! Yay!!! What a joyful reunion this was.
The days went quickly, but the time was tender and comforting. These people have had the same kind of year we have had, and they understand so much without us having to speak the words. Having them in our home was a balm for our souls.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Kit was a real-life hero and the greatest man we have ever known. He had a huge heart and a huge intellect. He just emanated love. He was warm, kind, generous, funny, and spiritually inspiring. He lived his words, and to the very end, he trusted the Lord with UNWAVERING faith. How very blessed we were to know such a good man.
He walked with us through the loss of Joey, and in fact, we had our greatest comfort in Kit's presence after Joey's passing. He was a man living between two worlds in the last few months of his life. It is reassuring for us that he is with Joey, and I am sure Joey celebrated his arrival. Joey loved Kit and we remember how sad he was when he learned that Kit had cancer. Now we can visualize them together, along with Lindsay, Kit's niece.
We send love and comfort to Shelley, Maisha and Mikey, Buddy, and all the wonderful, incredible Lauers.
2 Timothy 4:7
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Friday, September 11, 2009
This painting perfectly describes how I feel about losing Joey.
I have learned to be stoic when people don't understand, don't care or don't even pause to acknowledge my grief.
May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry.
For my soul is full of trouble and my life draws near the grave.
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
Papa Wampa took all five grands to Busch Gardens as a final farewell to summer. He's known as Mr. Spontaneity. He raised our kids that way too--fun on a moments notice. No regrets on that--life is short.
Grandchildren are the crown of the aged...
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
(I give that zeal one week!)
To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven...
Monday, September 07, 2009
Now Aidan emerges.