A new hope

Ian,

I’ve started this post three times. I got into pretty good groove there and then something happened – text was deleted. I guess in some ways you are telling me that this space is no longer needed. You are everywhere floating on and above and through all my days. I get it. Still doesn’t mean I can’t sit down and talk to you from time to time.

I can’t believe it’s been 6 years since I saw your face or heard your voice – a voice that had changed from boy to young man. There is not a day that goes by where I don’t think of you. You continue to inspire me from the great beyond. By the way, how is the great beyond? Do you have spirit friends? Just kidding. I have no idea how it works where you are but do find comfort that you are somewhere that’s mysteriously peaceful. What’s that like?

Your sister misses you. Every once in a while, she’ll say something and give me a look and I see you. Just a glimmer. It’s good stuff. Please give her a big spirit-in-the-sky hug. Sometimes she needs her big brother.

I love you sweetheart. I laugh more these days. I live life unafraid because of you. What a gift. You continue to amaze me.

Love always,

Mom

Keep On Lovin’ You

Happy Birthday Ian!

So, I woke up last night and couldn’t sleep. Not really my fault, the neighbors decided that shooting fireworks AND firing off guns were a good way to ring in the new year.

Lord. That shit drives me nuts. The doggies go into some sort of crazed pacing mode accompanied by primal whines and some sort of stress shaking. The worst part is that there is a lull between fireworks/guns so we all have the chance to get settled in the silence and then BOOM, the process begins again.

So, my new year went something like this:

BOOM! Click, click, click, click. (Turns) Click, click, click, click. (High pitched moan) Jumps on bed and shivers. Bed vibrates with doggie fear. Repeat.

I swear, Santa is bringing thunder shirts next year.

Anyway, I always get to thinking about you on the first day of year, of course. First, I give myself a mental high-five that I’m not in labor like I was 23 years ago. Dude, nothing is romantic or awesome about birth. It’s work. It hurts. Period. End of story.

Side Note: Dear former birth coach, by the way, birth is NOT like a beautiful, blossoming flower. Something more like “Death Metal Bear Trap.” Please make note.

You know, Ian, you were the first baby born at the hospital that year. Everyone was so excited. Truth is, I could have cared less. It’s hard to focus when…well, refer to Side Note above. Even after the epidural, I was too tired to even think. I do have the faint recollection of gently touching the anesthesiologist’s arm in order to express my deep and profound thanks for his help. Otherwise, everything else is a blur.

After the emergency surgery, there you were – equally tired and scared like me. Possibly a little chilly. But in the world. We worked hard to make that happen, didn’t we? I think we can both agree that we never want to go through that again. Am I right?

Oh son, I will never tire of telling this story. Mom’s just like to do that so humor me, ok? And if you were still here in person, I’d tell it to your face and probably add more icky details in hopes that it would encourage you to use birth control. Ha!

I miss you. You continue to teach me how to endure. Your birth, raising you, you raising me, your death. So many lessons. I’m still learning. I’m still loving you.

Be good,

Mom

 

 

 

 

Break On Through

Ian,

Four years, dude. Four years since I’ve seen your face. But you know what, sweet man? I woke up happy today. To be honest, I wake up happy most days now. Ok, I’m not all, “the-hills-are-alive” happy when I first get up, that’s true. But I really took notice this morning. Just because today is THE DAY of your passing (Cue ominous music).

I am on the other side of grief. Thank God. I didn’t think I would make it. Don’t get me wrong. Your death still sucks the big one and sometimes, I am downright pissed that you are not here. The other day I was so angry that you missed your sister’s graduation. “Oh sure, he doesn’t have to attend any family gatherings now. Being dead is really no excuse.”

Hey, I didn’t say Grief is rational. But she no longer has the hold on me as she once did. She just likes to make an appearance every one in a while. And I allow her to do her little performance because really, if I don’t, she will not leave me alone. So, I give her some attention and then she drifts off into the shadow. I’ve accepted that she is a part of who I am now. And that’s alright as long as she doesn’t go into full-blown production mode. She can be such the stage mom. So much drama.

I am thrilled to be on this side of the process. I know it will not always be “it’s all downhill from here” but today, I can almost feel the wind in my hair. Wheeeeee!

So, of all days, I can say that I am happy. And that I miss you. And I can do both at the same time. TADA!

I love you more and more each day which is amazing to me. I can keep loving you even though you are not here. This is what keeps me going. I’m still your mom.

All my love,

Mom

Missing Pieces

Sweetheart,

Hey you. I know, it has been awhile. Wow. Remember when I used to write to you everyday? Yea, me too.

And of course, you already know how I am doing. I know you know how I am. This is what makes this whole “writing to you” thing feel pointless. I mean, what can I possibly ramble on about that you don’t already know or sense or whatever you do wherever you are? Seems tedious to just share with you about my days, figuring out how to pass time in meaningful ways, getting comfortable in my new skin, trying to do more than just exist. Blah, blah, blah…

Some days, Ian, I just survive. That’s it. Nothing earth-shattering or momentous. I breathe in. I breathe out. Sometimes it’s great. Sometimes it sucks. So there. That’s my news. Whoopee.

Our conversations here are so one-sided. I am super tired of talking to myself for cryin’ out loud. Writing you used to be my sanctuary and now I don’t even want to do this anymore. Damn. This journey is so frustrating! Exhausting! Endless! Come back so I can both hug and punch you at the same time! Grrrr….Dude, even after 3 years, the realization that I will not see your freckled face cripples me. Sigh.

Oh, Ian, I am not the same. I mourn the loss of both of us. Where you are, I am there also. Part of me, at least. I probably should find comfort that where I am, you are too. We both exist with missing pieces. I try so hard on a daily basis to put myself back together. I’m going to have to work with your emptiness, I guess, and try to recreate your loss into something new and different. This is easier said than done but I do occasionally try. This is the hardest work.

You know, I grasp at anything that I think might be a message of encouragement from you. Just the other day, I caught the beginning of a program on NPR about death and dying. I did not have the stamina to listen to much of the show but there was this essay on how people actually die three times. Once, in body. Second, when interred. And third, when your name is spoken for the very last time. The author went on to say how everyone on the other side is just waiting until that final moment. I’ll have to find it and listen to the rest of it when I’m in one of my “I-can-do-this” modes. And of course, I thought of you. I repeated your name over and over until I got home from the grocery store. I felt like I saved you for at least another day. (Cue superhero music)

Or I just wake up with a song in my head. Today, it’s Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody and Under Pressure. Remember that early morning drive to school and Queen came on the radio? You were all, “Mom, have you ever heard Queen? They are awesome.” And I was all, “Of course, I’ve heard of Queen. I used to roller skate to We Are The Champions, thank you very much.” The best part is that we were both amazed with each other. I relished your new discoveries and maybe you thought I was just a bit cooler than previously imagined. We cranked up the radio and sang loudly and completely off-tune all the way to school.

I’m rocking it out right now. The music sounds so good. It’s like you are here.

Is this the real life?

Is this just fantasy?

Caught in a landslide

No escape from reality

Open your eyes

Look up to the skies and see

I’m just a poor boy

I need no sympathy

I smile knowing that we both are singing off-key but with plenty of enthusiasm. I’d like to think that you whispered that song in my ear while sleeping last night so I would wake up with tunes.

Today, I will say your name and continue to listen to music. I mean, “We will, we will, rock you.”

Your presence is missed.

I love you,

Mom

Happy Birthday, Ian!

Hi there, birthday boy! You know I used to say that having a baby on a holiday was a pain because you never got the share of the glory. Planning birthday parties were difficult – friends and family out of town, everyone recovering from Christmashanakwanzaanye. But on the plus side, we got you all to ourselves on your birthday. I know, completely lame. I know that if you were here, I would be lucky to speak to you on your birthday. Perhaps a birthday text or e-card? FaceTime? Skype? Oh well, can’t dwell on the “what if”. Who knows what it would be like if you were here.

I keep you to myself these days. I used to think that this blog would help me share you with the world but don’t know if that is really important now. I try to still deal with this world without you in it. Here we are. TADA. I really wanted everyone to know that they were missing out on knowing you. However, I now feel like “He’s mine, mine, all mine, I tell ya’.” I don’t know what that’s about but I hold you close, my grief closer, like a treasure. My precious.

Don’t worry, I haven’t gone all Gollum. Not a good look. He has a combover for goodness sakes. But I do struggle with wanting to share you while keeping you all to myself, I guess. (And yes, I did just make a LOTR reference and I know you are proud. High five.) I certainly can understand his struggle and know that the struggle changes who you are. I am different. And well, so are you. I did hear someone define grief as an expression of love. What makes grief difficult is that the living have to redefine their relationship with the ones who are no longer here.

Simply stated, I love you. That will never change and I need as many constants in my life as I can get. I celebrate you today. Happy birthday.

Love,
Mom

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Spirit Child

Dear Ian,

You just have to prove me wrong, don’t you? Just as I’m wallowing in self-pity and sadness, you manage to do things that remind me that you are close. Oh, I’m not talking anything grand like parting waters à la Moses or secret messages that are mysteriously scrawled in the steamed bathroom mirror (how very Hollywood). But there are small reminders to let me know that you are not as far as I sometimes think.

  • A friend develops a roll of film that was crammed in a junk drawer to find pictures of you and our families’ trip together.
  • Another friend filters through 30 years of his belongings stored at his mom’s house to find letters from me with pictures of you when you were a baby.
  • One of your high school friends emails me a paper that she wrote for a college course about how she coped with your passing.
  • Me, surfing a photography website that has nothing whatsoever to do with death or grief only to find a really wonderful quote on losing a child.

I got it, ok? You are around. You are here in a different way. I’m trying to get all cool with that…it’s hard for me but thank you for the encouragement. Keep it up! I’m a slow learner.

And again, I am at that happy/sad state. While the discoveries are wonderful and hope inspiring, they also tug at the heartbreak that you are not here. I’ve read from other parents that there will always be this tension now between joy and sadness when thinking of you. And I cannot figure this tension out so I just go with it as best I can. Some days are better than others. There has to be a level of acceptance on my part to be happy with what I’ve got. I’m not quite there yet but closer.

So, here’s a portion of the quote that I will focus on for now.

Show your lost child what life is all about and carry them on your soul like someone giving a child a piggyback ride. Show her everything you can that you love about life and maybe even more, if that’s possible. They still live inside you, so let them see life through your eyes. The more involved in life you are, the more they will see. The more you retreat from life, you will be depriving them of a beautiful view. Maybe that means some big things need to be changed in your life. Things that scare you, things you don’t want to change. But you must if you are to move forward and allow your spirit child to enjoy the wonders of your life, now lived for two. Jonathan Carroll

Ok, Ian, my spirit child, let’s see what we can do together.

I love you,

Mom

Two Years – Two Worlds

Dear Ian,

Today marks two years since I’ve seen your smiling face. I thought I would have more to say but I am stuck. My world continues to live in contradiction – you are here/not here, time passes both slowly/quickly, and I am both sad/not sad. I constantly live in between these states. Very strange existence indeed.

Today, I am both hopeful/totally devastated. I feel like I need to do something momentous for the occasion yet also want to do nothing. I mean, what will change? Nothing really. I’m already jumbled up in all this grief (shaken not stirred) and feel like a shell of myself. I catch glimpses of the old me like a firefly that blinks across the lawn. There/not there. I just want to catch her, hold her and marvel at her light. I miss you/miss me.

All I can say, Ian, is that I love you. The path I now walk without you is not clearly defined and I struggle. Where the heck am I going for crying out loud? Can’t you send up a flare or something? I am lost. Help a mother out, will ya? You are the one with infinite time on your hands. I am the one who has to cope/not cope with all of this. Yeesh. Oh, sorry to complain but really, you are the only one who will understand.

Alright, alright. Today, son, I will think about you. I will embrace the two worlds I live in where I am both happy/sad and laughing/crying. Today will be a good/bad day for both of us.

Love,
Mom

Fairy Tales & Silver Linings

Dear Ian,

Hi there! I know, I know, it has been awhile. I miss you. But to be honest, sometimes I just do not want to write you. Oh, I love the snot out of you kid but when I sit down and my fingers start tap, tap, tapping away, sadness just stabs me like a fork. (For cryin’ out loud, stop testing me. I’m done already.) This is our space, I know, and a place where I come to share you but it gets to be too much at times. I am so tired of being sad. And if I’m not sad, I’m pissed. A cycle that just goes against the core of who I am.

Who I was.

Who am I?

Sometimes I like to pretend that you are still here but just living somewhere else doing whatever it is that 20-year-old men do. (And I don’t need to know the details, thanks.) Softens the burden so to speak. My bereavement counselor assures me that I’m not going all delusional. Just coping. And please, I’m reminded daily that you are not here. But pretending allows me to have a vacation from grief. Everyone needs a break now and then, right? So, I make up all sorts of fairy tales just so I can get through the day. And if that doesn’t work, I over commit so that every minute is busy. Busy, busy, busy. No one ever told me that grief would take some much work. I am so tired.

Pretending just delays the inevitable. My emotions just cannot stay all organized in their pretty boxes tied up with string, these are few of my favorite things. (I can hear you say in your best Monty Python, “Stop that…stop that. No singing.”) So, here I am. Writing to you. Letters that you will never read. It sucks ass. I just had this thought that if I did my work, cleaned the house, organize everything, that if I was a good productive girl that there would be an ending to this (waves hands around dramatically).  You know like a video game. “Congratulations! You have passed Level 1.” There are no levels. This grief process is all circular. Think square dance with a caller you can’t understand. Horrible.

Yes, Ian. I do think of the positives. I do count my blessings. I do try to find that silver lining even in your passing. Your heart stopped at home. Not every parent that loses a child gets to say good-bye. Of course, I do blame myself for not forcing you to go your physical but that “woulda, coulda, shoulda” stuff does not help at all. And teenagers are wildebeests. But I do at times wonder what I could have done differently to change the outcome. (Don’t pay attention to the girl behind the curtain…I am the all-powerful Oz).

You are so missed and so loved. There is not a moment that goes by where you are not present. I do try to find comfort in those moments where you are here/not here.

I love you always,

Mom

Grief Comes to Dinner

Ian, Grief didn’t even bother to dress up before coming over. But why am I surprised? Really, what was I thinking? He was going to show up in a tailored suit with flowers and a good bottle of wine, all apologetic for his present behavior? Please.

Nice in theory but Grief does not change. And when I say, he’s doesn’t change, I mean, he doesn’t change anything…clothes, socks, underwear. Nasty.

Dude, I’d forgotten his smell. Took me back a minute but I finally was able to transition (and breathe in mostly through my mouth. Ha!) The good news is that he didn’t come right in and sit on me. Of course, as a preemptive, the door was locked so he had to knock and after I let him in, I did remain standing for the first 10 minutes of his arrival. Hey, you try pulling that off in an intimate social situation. Just the two of us, standing in the living room looking at each other in silence with me trying to breathe through my mouth. Awkward.

Again, no social graces. It’s not like Grief’s going to ask me about my day or how work is going. Thinking about it, do I really want to have idle chit-chat with Grief? Nah, to be honest, I just invited him to dinner to get him out of my driveway. Oh, what the neighbors must think. He did finally sit in the chair right by the front window. Just so the neighbors could get a full view in case they drove by? Grief, it’s all about him, isn’t it?

Just FYI – the dogs refuse to go anywhere near that chair now. How do I remove Grief from upholstery?

But the night progressed and we had dinner which was ok. Grief eats with his mouth open (he has zero manners) and constantly complained about happiness. Go figure.

Things learned: Grief does not like spicy food, prefers drinking his wine from a plastic cup and loves sweets. I barely got dessert out of the fridge before he grabbed it out of my hands. He acts like he’s starving for cryin’ out loud. Yeesh.

So, I sat and watched and listened (mostly to his belching…he eats way too fast. How does he taste anything?) Grief is not a conversationalist. I understand his routine…he likes to unload so being the gracious host, I let him do his thing for a while.

But after dinner and another quick glass of wine, I did speak up.

Grief, first, you have chocolate on your chin. Can you please….not your sleeve. Napkin!! Oh my God, you are making me crazy! Please sit up for just a second.

Humor me, ok? At least, pretend to sit up straight.

I’ll give you a cookie if you will just SIT. UP. PLEASE.

Thanks.

Ok, look, we both know that I am not you and you are not me. Sure, it’s nice when you show up sometimes and we hang out with all your friends (Worry and Self-doubt) but I’m getting a bit tired of you just showing up and hovering.

No, you cannot stand in the driveway and you cannot pop up in my rear view mirror any time you feel like it. Do you know how many times I’ve almost run off the road? It’s dangerous. I know you are all reckless and stuff but I’m not. Some days I just feel like I’m looking over my shoulder. No fun.

Perhaps if you were a bit more refined. Scratch that. Dental work would go a long way and some please’s and thank you’s would take you far. I don’t expect you to be perfect. Just some home training. Who raised you?

Listen, all I’m saying is that I have to figure some things out and I can’t do it living in fear that you are just lurking around the next corner or in the mirror (you really need to stop watching horror movies…you are picking up some cliched habits.)

I know this is sad. You don’t have to tell me twice. I know. I live it every day but I can’t have you turning every situation into something bittersweet. C’mon now. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

I’d just like to have a day where I can just be thankful. Thankful for what I have. You mess that all up.

Again, I know you are doing your job and I wish I could write your employer a letter telling him what an excellent job you are doing. In the meantime, I have a little gift for you. First, a cup of coffee in a to-go cup. I know how much you like to-go cups and here is Ian’s winter jacket. Even if you don’t want to clean up a little, I thought I would just help you spruce up a bit. I’m sure you have somewhere else to be. I know I’m not the only mom out there that has lost a child. But be a little gentle, ok? And I guess if you can’t be gentle (you are nowhere near subtle), you’ll at least appear cleaner. Perhaps smell a bit better.

Call me the next time you are around. Can’t promise anything. If you don’t call and just show up, that shit will just piss me off. No cake for you, buddy. I know you like cake.

Then, make sure to call first.

Ian, Grief doesn’t really listen. He only perked up when I mentioned cake and the coffee. Grief just takes and takes and takes. But knowing he can be bribed with cake…that helps. I’ll remember that for next time. And he left with your coat. Not quite his fit but nothing ever seems to fit with Grief. And I know he cannot be tidied up but it just felt good to put your coat to use.

I’m pretty proud, I have to say. I feel like a grown-up.

As always, love to you and thanks for the good mojo. You continue to inspire me.

Mom

So, I Invited Grief to Dinner

Ian,

I know you are thinking, “What the hell did you do that for?” I know, I know. It seems counterintuitive to invite Grief back in when I just got him packed up and out of the house. Remember, I even did his laundry and packed his bag. God, he had a ton of crap. I still find traces of his stuff in the house. Who knew that his small suitcase could hold so much? Boy, I was really ready for him to be on his way.

But he’s back.

Granted, I will say this. He’s not as forceful as he was in the first months of your passing. That day, Grief just walked right into the house and sat right on my chest without even a formal greeting. No chit-chat. No getting-to-know-you time. In fact, now that I think about it, he was just rude. Who comes to one’s house uninvited with a packed suitcase?  And he was right up in my face. There is no sense of personal space with Grief. He was just RIGHT THERE all the time. And Grief is not known for keeping up personal hygiene so you can imagine the smell. Ugh.

But, remember when I finally got him to sit in his own chair? Oh, the relief of being able to breathe again. I will never take breathing for granted ever again. I really felt like I had accomplished something on that day. A real milestone. Woo!

Interesting tidbit: he’s not as aggressive this time but his behavior is a bit creepy. You know, it’s kind of like the scary movies where the character looks out the window and there is no one there and then turns away for a mere second to do something (usually to pick up the ringing phone) only to look back to see someone standing in the yard. Just standing there and staring. Eek.

You know, I’m constantly “on guard” and a bit distracted. Where will he show up next? While having lunch with friends? In the dressing room? At work? While driving? I’m constantly looking over my shoulder. I feel a bit paralyzed. Some days it is easier for me to stay at home and read a book than to go out and try to appear as if everything is ok. Oh gosh, Grief is my stalker. Great.

So, Grief has been spotted in the backyard, the driveway and I think I saw him lingering behind the bushes near the front door. I catch him in my periphery quite a bit. Sometimes I think he’s listening in to my conversations. Perhaps I’m just a bit paranoid. But what can I do?

Well, I got this bright idea the other night while not sleeping that I should just invite him to dinner. Go ahead and acknowledge him, feed him a good meal, and then send him on his way. Maybe he’ll stop lurking around the house. I’ll set some boundaries this time. No sitting on my chest. No baggage. No moving into the guest room. Just a quick dinner to let him know that I know he’s there. No sneaking around needed. No popping up in the rear view mirror. (That crap drives me nuts.)

I can’t blame Grief for wanting to do his job and do it well. He does serve a purpose. Mourning is important and Grief is all about some mourning. It’s his specialty. And everyone grieves differently so Grief is pretty adaptable. He’s got job security, I’ll give him that.

Ian, I will not know what Grief wants until I ask him. Maybe this will allow all of us to move on. Wish me luck.

I love and miss you,

Mom