Sharing my mourning journey as my family learns to live a new normal after the death of my 19 y.o. son in an auto accident on 10/12/08.

Archive for January, 2011

The Need To Know

The back of his skull was crushed, that’s why Edward put his shirt under Jordan’s head not on his forehead like I’ve assumed and imagined he did for two years. The email from Edward that he sent on 8/29/09 told me plain as day, “I put my shirt under Jordan’s head to stop the bleeding.” I came across the email yesterday when I was cleaning up my inbox. Instead of skipping over it as I have for over a year I read it and it was the first time that the events of that evening made their way through my grief.

Jordan was dying when Edward pulled him from the car. The coroner’s report said his brain stem was damaged and that he never had a chance to wake up. My version of the events of that night was tidier. Jordan was asleep during the accident. He hit his head and never regained consciousness. I held that version until I saw the 2009 Winter Olympics and the luge accident where the athlete was killed. There was so much blood around his head. It was the first time I connected a head injury with blood.

My sister commenting on my “Looking Too Soon” post about the luge accident, wrote that her husband cleaned the blood from Jordan’s shoes. Reading her comment brought to my knees, hyperventilating and getting my first true glimpse of how horrific the accident scene must have been. What she knew and how she told me were things I wasn’t prepared to accept so I rejected her comment never allowing it space with the other comments on my blog, as though that would change the truth.

Everything I’ve written about the accident has Edward putting his t-shirt on Jordan’s forehead, a far less serious injury than the one described in the accident report and the coroner’s report. I read both reports and missed the details that gave the accurate depiction. In my version, the fantasy of a mother with a son who died, I wanted Jordan to go to the hospital so I could sit by his bedside and lie next to him and tell him, “Mama and Daddy are here,” until he drew his last breath.

He died on the side of the road and the blood that had to be staved wasn’t from a cut on his forehead but from the base of his crushed skull. It took me a year to realize that the cleaned up body with the bandaged forehead that I viewed at the funeral home wasn’t the body at the accident scene. My heart and mind for some reason are now willing to acknowledge more of  the trauma I blocked out before.

Seeing Edwards’ email yesterday I felt like I was reading it for the first time. It reignited all the questions I had about that night that only he, Christian and Matt can answer. Needing to know has started to overwhelm me. I emailed Edward yesterday unable to wait any longer to ask the questions that keep haunting me:

Did Jordan cry out in pain?

Why didn’t he wake up with all the commotion of you guys screaming when the car went out of control?

Did he wake up?

What did you say to him when you stayed with him while Christian and Matt went up the hill to wait for the ambulance?

Was he unconscious the whole time?

Did he ever say anything?

I’m not sure what I’ll do with the answers or if they’ll ever come, but I couldn’t stop myself from asking. For a while I played a counting game. When Edward, Matt and Christian are 25, no 30, maybe when they’re married or fathers, maybe then they’ll tell me exactly what happened that night. I’ve prevented myself from asking too much so far because the trauma those boys experienced on the side of the road watching their friend die has not escaped me. But it hasn’t changed the fact that trauma happened at home too, when the police came to my door and took safety away from my heart.

Edward is 24 and in my email I tried to explain why I couldn’t wait any longer. I told him: You’re right, Jordan is on my heart and mind everyday. I struggle with the fact that I wasn’t there to hold him, care for him and say goodbye. You did those things for me. But I have all these questions that require your frankness and as much recall as you can muster.

I’m envious of all the parents who got to touch, hold or sing to their children when they knew they were dying. I wonder what kind of person envies another parent who has lost a child? I battle with my shame. Edward is a complex person in my life. He drove the car when the accident occurred but he also carried Jordan from the car, held him and talked to him until the paramedics came. Edward was the driver and Jordan’s last caretaker, facts that are so entangled in my mind I don’t always know if they can be separated. Right now I have so many questions. The trauma of that night retreats at times and then rears up revealing specks of truth that I can no longer ignore. As much as it hurts I have to know what happened to my boy.

Sharing Jordan’s Smile

There are certain days when reading and rereading the thoughts of those who knew Jordan gets me through the day, especially grey, gloomy days that seem endless. Below is an excerpt from an article from the The Amherst Student written after the memorial service they held on campus. It holds the questions, the spirit and the longing all that love Jordan share.

Remembering Jordan Moore-Fields ’11

As the program allowed anyone in attendance to share a few words of remembrance, Andre Gray ’10E told the audience, “To do [Jordan] justice, think of him and smile in his honor.” Professor of Political Science Pavel Machala, Moore-Fields’ teacher and advisor, spoke of Jordan’s “modesty,” his lack of pretension, that “same gentle smile” so characteristic of him, and how he was “so much ready to be here for three more years.” Miguel Gonzalez ’11 called Moore-Fields “everybody’s boy” and said, “You didn’t know what was missing in the room until [Jordan] walked in.”

Jessica Saffold ’09 elaborated on the same evening by the Chicago lakefront Black described. What Black left out from her story was the appearance of a large raccoon “the size of a small dog” that scared almost the whole group. But not Jordan. He was just “chilling,” Saffold said, and told them, “There’s nothing to be afraid of.”

“[Jordan] was not about fear, not about worries,” she explained. “He looked life in the face and wasn’t afraid.” While Saffold regrets not getting to know Moore-Fields better, she acknowledged, “I am thankful I had that night, that raccoon, that lesson.”

While he did not speak at the service, Peter Stein ’09 says he considers Moore-Fields “possibly the nicest and most easy-going person [he has] ever met.”

“He was usually pretty quiet, but when he did talk he usually said something either very funny or meaningful,” Stein said.

“It becomes hard for me to think about a time when Jordan wasn’t at this school hanging out, cracking jokes at what always seemed to be the perfect time,” wrote M.J. Smith ’09 on the College’s online remembrance board. “[Jordan] was one of the coolest, most chill dudes on campus. He had a way about him that was quiet, but he never let you forget he was in the room. He just never said anything that didn’t need to be said. He was real at all times and he was an honorable person that was fair and loyal.”

As the memorial service on Sunday night drew to a close, President Tony Marx expressed how it’s “hard to see the fairness” in Moore-Fields’ death, the taking of a life full of “so much promise.” He continued to explore the “existential question” of “what kind of world, what kind of fate, what kind of god would choose to take innocence.” He posed, “How could we possibly make sense of a design that would take someone like Jordan… unthinkably, randomly, for some purpose that one cannot imagine?” Marx articulated the pain in the “feeling of the best being taken from us unfairly, prematurely and the terribleness of us not knowing” what Moore-Fields would have become.

In Marx’s first phone call to Moore-Fields’ parents, Mr. Fields and Mrs. Moore delivered the Amherst community what Marx called a “simple, powerful and breathtaking message” for parents to give at a moment of such pain: “The best way for us to honor Jordan is to keep strong and carry on.”

In the end, Marx came to a reasoning that might, in some sense, help “heal the pain.” Moore-Fields’ death, he said, “inspires us to live our lives in a way Jordan would have been proud of. He did not leave us instructions. We will have to figure it out ourselves. Perhaps that is the plan.”

And maybe smiling’s the answer.

Today I needed to share Jordan’s smile.

Circling, Orbiting and Making His Presence Known

For much of my day, Jordan stands in the distance. He is far off and a bit hazy but I know it’s him. His stubbornness shows even in death. He doesn’t come closer when I beckon him, only when he feels it is the right time.

I’m learning how to listen to the laughter of his siblings and embrace its authenticity without always thinking, and wishing Jordan should be here. My children are circling each other, finding ways to be together that has Jordan as their outer orbit with his arms stretched wide encircling them all. They’re laughing more, teasing each other and having private brother sister jokes that tickle them to no end. I watch them and see how they’re moving on, grateful but always a little afraid that their joy means Jordan has been relegated to the past.

I don’t want any of us crippled by grief. All of us must plan and enjoy life. Moving forward with joy must not feel like a sting against Jordan’s memory. We’re planning a trip for spring break, to feel sun and warmth.

Yet again the, “How many” question will be asked? I’m getting better at saying 5 without adding caveats of, “We’ll always be 6.” I feel all of us moving forward and I feel Jordan near even when I can’t make out his face.

Jordan's forever beach chair

Honor Roll Please

My children are amazing. I know most parents feel this way and rightfully so, but I am learning so much from my kids about perseverance, determination, grace under pressure, and just grace. Merrick is home today still asleep as he’s finished with final exams and gets today and Monday off. He worked so hard. Even when he was exhausted and started to doubt his abilities, he kept pushing wanting to do his best. The last two weeks for him have included, applying to colleges and taking finals. The stress of college applications and the weight of having to do well on finals made him falter and wonder if he could do it. He wanted Jordan to talk to, to tell him it was going to be okay. He cried out for his brother.

“He’s the only person I want to talk to.”

“I know honey. I know you’re hurting and you miss him so much. You’re doing so much right now. I know this sounds simplistic, but it is going to get better. You’re not always going to feel so sad.”

Merrick looked at me with a mixture of weariness and hope and said, “I believe it’s going to get better. I just don’t know how to get there.”

The only words I could find were, “You’re already getting there. Just keep going. Jordan’s here with you.”

And he did keep going. He came home  after his last final so proud of himself and how prepared he felt for every exam. He fought through loneliness, sorrow and longing to achieve his goals.

*

Today Mark and I got the girls off to school early today so that we could attend the 6th grade honor roll breakfast. As we entered the building I thought about all the prayers I prayed that they would have an easy transition to middle school. I needed for this transition to be without too great an emotional cost.

I am so proud of them not only because of their accomplishments, but because they made the transition from elementary school to middle school with nervousness and a bit of angst but no trepidation. They looked forward to a new challenge and they are handling themselves so well.

They’re learning a lot in middle school. They’re realizing that grown-ups don’t always know what to say and sometimes say the wrong thing about grief and loss. Lindsay had to do an in class writing assignment  on a person she admired. She picked Jordan and wrote about his preparation for the lifeguard test. In the midst of the writing assignment her teacher called out, “Your assignment will be something you can read to the person you admire.” Lindsay kept working, head down knowing for her that wasn’t true. A few minutes later a boy in her class went up to the teacher and said, “I can’t read mine to the person I admire, he died.” The teacher’s response was, “Well read it to someone else who’ll appreciate it.”

Lindsay came home that day fuming, so angry that her teacher wasn’t sensitive to the kids who may be writing about someone who wasn’t here for them to read to.

“Mom the worse part was she didn’t even get it until someone reminded her that not everybody’s person was still alive.”

All I could do was agree with her and ask how she wanted to handle the situation. She told me that at the next parent-teacher conference she’d like to talk to her teacher about remembering everybody has different circumstances and no one likes to be made to feel left out or different. I told her, “Daddy and I will be right there with you. I think it’s great you’re letting your teacher know how you feel.”

Today  In the mass of 6th graders piling their plates with bagels, pastries and fruit I searched out and found my daughters. They explained that they were going to sit with their friends, “If that’s alright.” Mark and I made our way to another cafeteria table and sat with the some of the other parents who’d been ditched by their kids in favor of hanging out with friends. I stole glances at my girls watching as they giggled and chatted with their friends. I watched them, my heart bursting with pride at their resilience, energy, laughter and love of life.  Mark with the ever-present camera captured the joy on their faces as they stood to be recognized.

I hope and pray everyday that I’m doing right by my children. That my instincts lead me to give them the balance of firmness, understanding, love and needed relief when grief’s hold is too tight. As my auntie told me after Jordan died, “Jackie, just do the best you can.” I’m watching my children do their best and am so inspired.

No Such Thing As An Ordinary Day

I’m sitting near a space heater wearing two pairs of socks, fleece pants, an undershirt, thermal shirt, sweater and gloves. Oh yeah, and the dog is thankfully nuzzled next to my legs. To be honest, this is one day when I’d give anything for a hot flash.The furnace quit last night and according to the repairman it, “should,” be fixed tomorrow when the replacement part for the motor comes in. It’s 25 degrees outside with a mix of snow and freezing rain and everyone’s home because of the MLK holiday. I seem to be the only one in a funk about the day’s events, probably because I’ll be the one waiting tomorrow for the repairman with his 8 hour window. I’m cold. I’m bored and finding it hard to get motivated about anything.

I forgot to mention that Merrick has final exams starting tomorrow so he’s home studying because the libraries are closed and won’t go to a friends because, in his words, “I don’t like to study with other people.” I’m worried about Merrick’s finals hoping, praying that he does well but at the same time not wanting to put too much pressure on him. Providing a balance of guidance and freedom with a teenager when grief is in the mix is a powerful potion I don’t always handle well.

He knows how important his schoolwork is. He doesn’t need me telling him how much these grades matter for college. I worry all the same. As soon as I think college I get anxious. What if he doesn’t get into college, what will we do? What if he does get into college, what will we do?

Freezing rain and a broken furnace have turned this day into a different one altogether than I imagined. There’ll be no trips to museums or movies yet the girls are perfectly content to read and play Just Dance on the Wii. I have had a cynical laugh or two at how bent out of shape I am over today’s events.

I’m sitting quietly for now trying to ease my racing mind and not get too far ahead of myself. Soon I’ll quiz Merrick for his history final and I’ll need the patience of Job to help me when he answers every suggestion I have with, “I know.” I think I’ll take a turn on, “Just Dance,” before the quizzing begins.

Thanks for listening to my rant.

Unexpected Gifts, Good Sleep and Exercise

Today I went back to my exercise class for the first time since early fall. A foot injury prevented me from going before and it felt so good to exercise and dance and see familiar faces happy I’d returned. The last few days have given me renewed energy and I’m so grateful.

Every 4 weeks I receive one of the drugs for my lupus by IV infusion.  The appointment is something that I’ve worked into my routine knowing that when I arrive I’ll be weighed, have my vital signs taken and then have an IV inserted. While the medication drips I’ll read, sleep or talk to my nurse until it’s time for the 15 minute vital signs check. This past week’s appointment had an added bonus. As I rose to leave my nurse stopped me, handing me a box. “I’m sorry I missed you last month but here’s a gift for you. I like my patients to know how special they are to me.”

I sat feeling surprised and special saying, “thank you,” before I even opened the box. “Can I open it now?”

“Of course you can. I hope you like it.”

I opened the box to find a beautiful scarf woven with all the colors I love. “It’s beautiful. I’m going to put it on right now.”

“You really like it? I’m so glad.”

I hugged her goodbye and walked out into the cold, loving my new scarf and grateful that on that day, I left my appointment so much better than when I came.

My beautiful new scarf

*

For the first time in months I’ve been able to rest, really rest where I fall asleep and wake up refreshed. I even took a nap on Thursday and Friday. I’m stunned that restlessness and a worried mind have quieted enough for me to fall asleep without having to work too hard. But last evening when I woke up I was cold and feeling sadness seeping in. Jordan, I miss you. I don’t know how to not to miss you so much.

I went downstairs joining Mark and the kids who’d already started eating dinner. After dinner I got out my laptop and checked email. I honed in on an email from one of Jordan’s friends. She told me that she’d been dreaming of Jordan all week, waking up to a tear soaked pillow. She went on to say that she finally had a dream last night where they were off on an adventure as though they were amateur spies. It was the first time she didn’t wake crying. She ended her note saying, “Whenever I’m having a hard time with classes or friends I find myself asking how Jordan would handle it. He was a great student and an even better friend.

I miss him a lot.”

I took a breath then reread her note. Not an hour before I opened her email, I’d asked Jordan how it was possible to keep going while missing him so much. Then, there was this note from one of his friends who’d never written me before to tell me how much Jordan is still a part of her life. The reverberations of loss don’t stop with my family or me. I wrote her back acknowledging how hard tough dreams about Jordan can be, but how wonderful the special dreams are. I ended my note to her telling her to please keep in touch and letting her know, “We can miss him together.” I showed Mark the email and my response and then showed him a line from one of my blog posts:

Jordan’s spirit is in the coincidences of his name appearing or being overheard when I miss him most. He is in the emails and notes from his friends reaching out to me when I ache for him.

I think Jordan was again reminding me of his presence. His friend reached out to me and I can reach out to her and to others. All of us who love and miss Jordan can ease our pain and sorrow, even if it’s just a little bit by knowing that we can miss him together.

A New Year Day By Day

Well, I’m not quite sure where to begin except to say thank you to all of you who continue to visit and comment on my blog. My last post was before Christmas and the days since then have been filled with longing, bursts of  energy, sorrow, and glimpses of  hope. My parents came for Christmas as they have almost every year since Merrick was a baby. Their time here was brief, but anchored the holidays for Mark, the kids and I. They were a constant that we needed as we navigated our way through shopping, gift opening and Christmas dinner without Jordan.

The days after Christmas were spent watching, helping and encouraging Merrick as he plowed through college applications. Watching his focus and determination as he wrote about his goals and dreams, and the influence Jordan was and continues to be made me proud and weary at the same time. Merrick will be ready to go to college next year if he chooses. I wonder if I’ll ever feel right about giving the world another one of my children?  At the end of each day after reading drafts of his essay and offering comments I went to bed early needing the day to be over and wept. Jordan where are you, crossed my mind every night.

Mark and I took down the Christmas tree on January 2nd. As he stood by the tree handing me ornaments to put back in storage he said, “We did it.” I nodded knowing immediately what he meant. We made it through another holiday season, watching another year pass and trying to figure how to welcome in a new year. But he was right, we did it. We continue to live a day at a time. We toasted with champagne and sparkling cider at midnight and I said as I have every year starting in 2008, “Jordan we love you, stay with us.” And he has made his presence known. One morning during the kids’ break I woke up smiling realizing I’d dreamed of hugging Jordan. Merrick told me just yesterday that he dreamed of Jordan the night before. He said in his dream he walked downstairs and Jordan was sitting on the couch reading a book. When Jordan saw Merrick he looked up at him and gave him his, “What’s up,” nod. Lindsay  came home from school yesterday  excitedly telling me,”I got Jordan’s book in Language Arts.” A boy sitting at her table had the book Jordan used when he was in 6th grade. When Lindsay saw it she asked if they could trade. He asked, “Why?” Her reply, “It was my brother’s book,” and with a shrug he handed it to her. She was so happy to write her name on the same page as her brother.  It doesn’t feel like coincidence that of the 100’s of 6th graders, Jordan’s book would be at his sister’s table.

Relief mixed with longing are the emotions I feel as January continues. During the holidays Jordan’s absence was glaring. Being able to catch my breath and not feel so guarded against pain has been a struggle but I’m learning it is a part of the meandering path of  grief. My days are starting to regain a rhythm that isn’t measured by so many tears. We keep going.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 435 other followers