Sunday, August 10, 2014

While at church today, I noticed a bit of waxed paper sticking out of my prayer book. I knew what it was, and opened it to put it back in place. I was not prepared for the tears it evoked. My grand-niece (great-niece?), Samantha, gave this to me in 2005. I was in CT, and we (siblings and other family) were gathering at my sister's home there to caravan to Riverside Cemetery  in Wakefield, RI. Our maternal Grandparents are buried there, and we were going to spread our Mother's/grandmother's ashes there, per her wishes. When my nephew and his family arrived, Samantha had this beautiful fall leaf for me. And it has been in my prayer book ever since. It was a day of tears, and memories. I don't recall how much I cried. We had lunch afterward at the same restaurant where our parents had their wedding breakfast after getting married in 1952. I can say that the memory of this day made me cry. There were tears, laughter and memories shared. There was some heartache, for sure.
That night in the hospital, after our son's accident, the first call I wanted to make was to my Mom. But she had Alzheimer's, and just would not have been there as I needed her to be. So I called my oldest sister, and she spread the word and got the prayers going. It was 6 months before I finally told my Mom. I called (3,000 miles away). My sister was there with her when I called. She understood what I was telling her, and she cried, heartbroken. I can't say what was in her mind later that night, perhaps trying to remember the sad news she had received. She was a loving and prayerful mother and grandmother. And I don't hold it against her that she was "not there" when I needed her, but oh, I wanted her to hold me and be my Mother again. That was hard. And that it what I am remembering today. My loss of my mother.when I needed her most. I don't blame her, just sorrowful. And remembering what a sister said, (sic) "imagine how happy Mom must have been to find Tim there to welcome her!". I am grateful for the memory of my Mom, and my son, even in my sorrow and tears.
Thank you, Samantha, for the gift you gave me, in your beautiful innocence.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

I started this blog with the intent of writing a lot, but the reality is, I just won't. And I am not going to kick myself about it. I will write when I have something to say. Like now.

 I work as a campus supervisor at a middle school, so for 3.5 hours a day, I am outside. And except during lunches when I am watching the kids, I really get to appreciate whatever the day has to offer.Yesterday was a perfect day here in So Cal. About 66, blue sky with wispy clouds, a slight breeze. All the ingredients that make my daily job fantastic.

As I wandered the campus in the afternoon after lunches, enjoying the fine day, I stopped for awhile to watch a couple of hawks circling overhead, their screeches had alerted me to their presence. Then I watched a black phoebe flitting around and making it's chipping noise at it went after bugs. Then I wandered some more. I found myself stopping in a familiar place. It's all familiar there, as I walk the campus every day. But I rarely stop there anymore. It is on one side of the campus, and there is a slight hill with eucalyptus trees, and it is usually quiet there.

For at least a year, probably longer (calendar year, not school year) after Tim's death, I sought out quiet, out of the way places to hang out (hide) while at work. Sometimes it was behind an equipment shed at one of the softball fields. A lot of the time it was at the side of the school where the small hill is. I felt so lost, hopeless, alone. Even with others I felt alone. And yes, I sought that alone-ness at times, but the alone I felt was less about the presence of others and more about the emptiness inside me. I ached, so much. The future looked pretty bleak. Looking back I thought of the dementors from the Harry Potter books. They had come and sucked everything out of me. I didn't see, I couldn't see that there was anything but this awful, aching, painful grief. It was all encompassing. Prayer was hard, sometimes my mind was just blank. And I would lean back against the wall, staring up at the trees against the sky, listen to the rustle of the leaves, maybe the birds. And ached.

Yesterday, 10 years and 65 days after his death, I found myself lingering there again. It was beautiful as always, but especially this day, with the gorgeous weather. And I found myself remembering those early days. And it was good. You can not, nor should you try, to convince any newly grieving person that things will get better, that life is still out there waiting for them. I couldn't even imagine it at that stage in my life, sometimes questioned how things continued on as if all was normal. But life is still there. Life was waiting for me, and it waited until I was ready. And a little at a time I stepped into it again. Sometimes (still) retreating, and always without being fully conscious of it. I could laugh, I could function, I could still love. I can still hurt too. I am forever changed, but I am not the shell I felt I was. My life since then has been full and beautiful, and sometimes surprising. Life is good.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Random stuff

Well, it's been awhile. I always think of things when I am not on the computer, things I would like to share, and of course, forget once I get here!

I recently had a dream with Tim in it, though I can't recall it now, and I almost think it was more of a thought of him in the dream than actually seeing him. But that reminds me of a song I want to share: I think of it as a sister song, I play it every time I get together with one or both of my sisters (we live 3000 miles apart). It's song by Chet Atkins and Mark Knopfler, called "The Next Time I'm in Town". Anytime Tim is in my dreams, I also think of this song. Sometimes when I sing it I change the words, to "the next time you're in town". As I have said before, when I dream of Tim, it is like a visit with him.

Now it's been something seeing you again
In this time we've had to spend 
You've been so good to be around
 I thank you for that special thrill 
Keep me going on untilThe next time I'm in town 
Though I won't be back here for a while 
Or hear your laughter, see you smile 
And I'll remember what went down 
I can't tell you how or when
 But I'll be seeing you again 
The next time I'm in town
 Now the places and the faces range
 'Cross the bridge of time and change
 Once again I'm homeward bound
 There's one thing I promise you 
And that's another rendezvous 
The next time I'm in town.

When I was recently out in CT to celebrate a milestone birthday of my oldest sister (oldest of 5), we played this song and we three sisters stood and hugged and cried. It makes me teary every time I hear it, but I will play it over and over again. I think it is a perfect sentiment. And when Vince Gill comes in with his sweet voice, it just makes it even better!
So, in a week and a half, Dennis will have his PIR (pass in review, or graduation) from Navy boot camp. He turned 21 last October. I am so proud of him, and so glad he has made this step to improve his life and opportunities. And yes, when he turned 21, of course I thought of Tim as well. I wondered what he might have been doing, where he might have been doing it, what he might look like, and of course, there was sorrow that he never reached that milestone.
Through the passing of time (it has been almost 10 years now), I have discovered things. Grief changes. It changes a person, it changes relationships to a smaller extent (in my case it has been nothing bad, all good), and it changes over time. The numbness gives way to feeling again, and this is not all good, the pain is immense. Grieving can open up your heart in ways you never knew. It can also close your heart off for its own protection. It eases, but it never goes away. If you allow yourself, you can think of the loved one you have lost with happy memories, and laugh and smile about them. Thoughts of them do not always have to be tearful and sorrowful. Yes, you will still miss them, every day in every way. There is not a day that goes by that I don't think of Tim in some way. And yes, you will still cry. And it is still unpredictable, what might set you off. I still try to just go with the flow.
I shared with Dennis in a recent letter that parents are not perfect. We try to be consistent and fair, but we certainly make mistakes. We can certainly have regrets, "things we have done and things we have left undone", sometimes all we as parents can do is love our children and hope for the best. But when one has died, it just doesn't seem like enough, sometimes.
Tim would be 25 now. Perhaps working, or still in school, or both. He maybe would have been married with kids already. He loved kids, he would have made an awesome Dad, I am sure. And perhaps thinking of these what-ifs is detrimental to our well-being. Just try and stop a parent who has lost a child from thinking these things! Even if they have other children to watch as they grow up and start leading their own lives! It is a normal thing to do, I am certain. I read somewhere that when a parent dies we lose our past, when a child dies, we lose our future. And it makes perfect sense. This is not the future I envisioned 10 years ago. But it is reality, and I am living with it.
I can say that after the death of one child, it makes letting go of other children a little harder at times. When Dennis started high school, from where I dropped him off he had to cross a busy street and walk a creek-side path to the school. I dropped him off, drove down the parallel road, then turned around to pass again, just to make sure all was ok. I balked at him riding his bike to high school, even though it gave me, my car and gas a break. He was so little, and I worried. Tim had had a bike accident just a few months before his death. It was serious enough for the hospital (a brake lever punctured his abdomen). But, I had to let go, and I did. Dennis joining the Navy was a big letting go, but I was ready. I recognized that it was time for him to make his own way, maybe even past time. He has been away for 6 weeks at a time, so this separation was not a big deal in that regard, though there was less communication this time around. And I accept the fact that when he comes home again, it will be to visit, not likely to live here. He is making his own way, as he should. I am anxious to see the changes in him, and I worry about him getting through all the tests and stuff, but he is determined, and he has to do it himself. All in all, in spite of our concerns and and mistakes, when I look at him, I think we must have done something right. He is a good person.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

I can only imagine how difficult it must have been in Newtown this morning. Parents of surviving children put those children on buses, or drove them to their new school in Monroe, CT. I can imagine the uncertainty, and maybe even terror, of letting those children out of their sights for the day. Kids are pretty resilient, we parents have a harder time moving past some things, being all too aware of the horror out there. On Dennis' 1st day at high school, I hung around and did a drive by or 2, making sure he made it down the trail from the drop-off ok. He was a little guy, and his brother was dead. And I worried.
Though I was usually one for instilling them with independence, I fought Dennis riding his bike to HS. The year that Tim died, he was riding to school 1 day early in the school year, he hit a rock and went flying. His helmet was cracked, but the head was fine. His worst injury was the brake handle that punctured his abdomen. As I was pulling back into garage after moving the car so he could get his bike, I noticed he did not have his helmet on, so I honked and pointed, and he went into the house to retrieve it. 3 months later he was a pedestrian struck by a car and killed. Ironically, there was no damage from the car, but his head hitting the road was fatal. Had he had a helmet on, he might have survived. But a parent can't really make a child walk around wearing his helmet all day.

Letting go, in any way, shape or form, is hard.


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Some things on my mind.

For many years now (9), my favorite holiday season has been Easter. The long journey of Lent, which if you do it right, can be very arduous, is followed by the hope of resurrection. I am sure I don't even need to explain why that hope of resurrection was so exciting to me. But something changed during Advent of this Christmas. Christmas suddenly became my favorite season again. I can't explain why, what was different in this 9th year after Tim's death. But only that the joy and desire of all this Holy day has to offer maybe broke through the wall protecting my heart a little. And a week or 2 before Christmas I had the thought that without the birth of Christ, there can be no resurrection (I knew this, but had put it aside for many years). And the following Sunday our priest said that exact thing. And right now, our camels and wise men are trekking through our home, on their quest to find the Baby King. It is still Christmas here, and the wise guys will reach their destination on Epiphany, Jan. 6th. (or as we sometimes call it in our house, Epi-fanny)

Life is not easy. Life after a trauma in your life is even harder. I am guessing this is true for most people, but there is not a day that goes by that there is not some reminder of our trauma, and that brings a little low point in the day. Not that we go around moping all our days, or live our lives in a funk, we just  go down that roller coaster hill then climb back up again. And for the most part, nobody around us is even aware of our little dips. On the other hand, for me at least, I can also be raised higher by memories of Tim. The roller coaster ride never ends. But how we handle that ride is up to us. We can choose to live again, no matter how hard it might be. Or we can choose to wallow in the miry depths of our despair and never see the light of day again. Life is good if we let it be. It's just not always easy. And we all have our coping mechanisms, and they are not always healthy. It could be drink or drugs, or shutting yourself in. Or like me, eating. It might be healthy, like working through it with exercise, or art. But we can't condemn others for what they need to get through, just offer help and support if they are hurting themselves. But honestly, I am not sure if I chose to live again, or if life chose me.

{The Journey}
As a grieving parent, I have met either in person or online, a lot of other grieving parents. And we are friends exactly because of our shared journey. It is unfortunate, but there it is. I would rather not know these people, but they help me, and I hope I help them. Even if we don't grieve the same, or share the same relationship with our dead children, we know what they are going through, even if the cause of death is vastly different. It doesn't matter, you see, because the end result is still the same, our child has died. We can have more empathy, and a touch of understanding, because we have been there, done that. I have reached out more than once to others who have lost their children, just as others have reached out to me. We don't necessarily offer advice, just knowledge borne of experience. We share what helped us, and we listen. I guess maybe it's kind of like war vets having reunions, because they are the only ones who truly know and understand what the others have been through. And we hate that anyone else has to go through this, but we are so glad not to be alone.

I have other things to share, some issues I have, but am not finding the words to write it here right now, so will save that for another day. And so I leave you with this wish, as always, for


And a Blessed New Year.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Holy Innocents Day

Today is December 28, Feast Day of the Holy Innocents. On this day we remember all the young babies killed by King Herod, in his effort to destroy our King of Kings, Jesus Christ.

9 years ago on this day, we held the memorial service for our own innocent child, Tim. Yes, he was older than 2, but he was still our innocent child, and taken from us much too soon. I think of him on this day as much as any other, maybe more. I am sorrowful for all innocent lives lost at any time for any reason. This day, I have especially been mindful of the 20 six and seven year olds in Newtown, CT. What a tragic loss of young, hopeful lives. Jesus said to "suffer the little children to come unto me", and "the kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these". What a beautiful place heaven must be. But it makes me sad to think of all those dear little ones there.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Thin Veil

Way back in May, on Tim's birthday, as Hugh and I wandered back down the trail, a butterfly like the one above was flitting around a small clearing, then fluttered around us on the trail. Now, anytime a butterfly flits around me, or a hummingbird, I feel that it is a small hello from Tim. It gives me a thrill I can not explain. The following week, another Mourning Cloak Butterfly flitted around me at school, and within a few days it happened here at home, out on the sidewalk. 3 encounters within a week's span! I never shared it with anyone until I told my sister about it on her recent visit, and I finally looked up the butterfly with a description on the internet. Imagine my surprise and pleasure when I saw the name of this butterfly! It made perfect sense!

People talk about the "thin veil" between worlds. There are many sites on the internet if you are interested in reading more. I have read a little, and have mixed feelings about what some people have to say about it, and "thin spots", etc. But I have had several dreams of Tim, and I believe each one is a visit from Tim. I can't give scientific proof, or spiritual proof, but that is what I feel. And there are certainly dreams that have had significance in the waking world. For instance, the 2nd dream I had he was in the hospital, and his room-mate was my maternal grandfather. Grandpa died in 1979, and he is a very significant person in my life. To wake from that dream, knowing Tim was with Grandpa (even though it was very early in my grief), gave me a sense of peace. And at one point I was rubbing Baby Magic lotion on Grandpa's arms because they were so dry, and I could smell the Baby Magic (don't recall ever experiencing smell in a dream). It was the lotion both my grandparents used. This was real. 

In another dream, Tim was camping with us, and my Mom and her parents were sleeping in the car. I knew Tim was with them, and at one point I asked him if, since (?) was graduated (not sure if it was supposed to be him or Dennis or what), would he like to move back home? As I asked this, I was picturing in my head the small, real bedroom Dennis sleeps in, and wondering how we would make that work. Tim made it clear to me that he was going to stay, that he was where he belonged. With his Grandma and great-grandparents. 

How can I not see the message here? How can I not, in the waking world, know where he is, who is with him?. How can I not believe that these were real visits with them? In another dream, I hugged him, and felt his bony, skinny frame under my arms. I know I was holding my son. Too brief, and more infrequent as each year passes, I treasure each visit.