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 February, 2010

Jordan’s Room

I came home from my exercise class a few Saturdays ago to find Mark sitting tensely while eating lunch. He chewed mechanically as my daughters flanked him at our kitchen table. Both of them were having lunch as well but were animatedly talking to each other. As I wearily sat down to take another drink from my water bottle both girls started talking to me at the same time, “Daddy said we can have our own rooms.” I looked at Mark not knowing how to take this latest development. He looked at me with a mixture of exasperation and battle fatigue. Before I could speak Kendall said, “I’m gonna move into Jordan’s room.” “Jordan’s room,” how could she move into his room and it still be Jordan’s room? I told them their Dad and I would talk and figure out the best time for them to have separate rooms. I added, “It will probably be this summer or after your first semester of middle school.” They were in agreement with this plan and left the table talking about paint colors and how they would arrange their new rooms.

I knew the day would come when my twin daughters would want and be ready for their own rooms. I had several friends with twins older than my own, and I looked to them for guidance as to what to expect with certain situations. I knew that my daughters wouldn’t always want to share a room. One day their individual needs for privacy would override having a comrade to face fear of darkness, or a partner for late night chats. Space for them to have their own rooms wasn’t the issue. I’d just imagined it and planned it so differently than how it has turned out.

Jordan often talked about what he wanted to do after graduating from college. He wanted adventures while travelling the world and then going to grad school. I often joked with him that I would vicariously accompany him because he was living his young adult life with such excitement and voracity; exactly what his father and I wanted for him. When Jordan was away at college he typically called us on Saturday afternoons, usually with a sleepy voice. His Saturday routine was to awaken in time to make it to the dining hall before it closed and then call us when he got back to his room. He was so excited about being a sophomore and having a single room, but more excited that his dorm also housed the dining hall. He figured he could add at least fifteen minutes to his sleep regimen. When he made his Saturday calls, I usually asked him what his plans were for the weekend.  He talked of campus parties, “chillin’ in a friend’s crib” or occasionally going away for a long weekend with friends from his school or to visit friends at other colleges. One outing I remember in particular. He and his friends were going on a day trip to a park with a lake that was a few hours from school. Jordan recounted the day to me telling me that they bought food, hung out, and swam in the lake. I remember asking him why they would want to swim, because it was only May and the water in New England was still cold. He replied to me, “It was cold, but it was fun.” He then told me he was the first to jump into the water from a group of rocks that bordered the lake. Jordan brushed off my concerns reminding me that he was a certified lifeguard. I said to him, “You’re not certified to jump off rocks. Please be careful.” Whenever I told Jordan to be careful his reply was always the same, “Yes Mom, I know.”

Living life to the fullest

Jordan wanted to spend the second semester of his junior year abroad. His college had a wonderful international program and he planned to take advantage of it’s offerings. He wanted to see the world before as he said he, “got married and had kids.” Jordan’s freshman year of college  had been so good for him. He studied hard, played hard and was making lasting friendships. Whenever people asked Mark or I how Jordan was doing in school, our reply was always the same,” he’s doing well and he picked the school that’s perfect for him.”

We didn’t get the scenario we planned or prayed for. College graduation, travel adventures, marriage, and family are not to be for Jordan. His room sits empty most of the time. I look into his room and my eyes always gravitate to a poster we had in the vestibule during the Memorial Service. It is the picture of Jordan with his acceptance packet from Amherst mounted on poster board. All around the picture are messages from family and friends. There are messages from his friends that I’ve read so much I feel I know them by heart:

  • Jordan, I love you and miss you. R.I.P.
  • You are always with me.
  • You were so much in so little time.
  • R.I.P. Jordan keep making moves.
  • Your spirit lives on through those who knew you.
  • Keep smiling up there, the world needs that.

The poster sits atop his dresser, but is becoming overshadowed by clothes from the dry cleaners hanging on the door knob and Mark’s suitcase from his latest business trip on the bed. Jordan’s desk holds remnants of worksheets when one of the girls used his room to study. The girls when asked about Jordan’s room respond, “It’s kind of a storage room.”

In many respect Jordan’s room will always be at our old house. That bedroom at “1116” was the one Jordan claimed and made his own. It is the room that took him from elementary school, all the way through high school and his first semester of college. It is the room I remember when I close my eyes and think of Jordan “at home.” I remember when Jordan was packing his things as he prepared for his freshman year at Amherst. He sat at his desk gathering items he planned to take with him. When Jordan was home he usually had music playing. Mark and I would joke that, Jordan came with a soundtrack. On this particular day, “This Christmas” by Donny Hathaway played as he looked over the dorm checklist he’d downloaded from the Internet. I remember peering into his room with a puzzled look and saying, “Dude Christmas carols in August? What’s going on?” His reply to me was straightforward, “Christmas songs remind me of home, and I just want to feel home right now.” I left his room that day aware of how much I was going to miss him but also feeling assured that he was ready to go.

When we moved into our new house, our old house hadn’t yet sold. After Jordan died, as “1116” languished on the market I couldn’t bear to go inside. It was Jordan’s house and he was gone. Any minor repairs or checks of the house were left to Mark. There were times that I sat in the car while he went in to turn off lights left on by a realtor, or to check the thermostat. I would wait in the car barely able to look at the house. The day came however, when I had to go into our old house. My journal entry about that experience is below:

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Our old house is on the market. It looks like we will close soon and it will belong to another family. Our old address was 1116. I went inside 1116 today. It was the first time I had been inside since Jordan died. 1116 was Jordan’s house. We moved there when he was six. Most of his childhood years were there. All of his teenage years were there. This house was the one he remembered, the one he called home. We didn’t move into our current house until January of 2007 when he was a freshman in college. He always said our old house was “his house”.

I hadn’t been back to the house since Jordan died because I wasn’t sure I could walk in without having an ache for him bigger than the one I already am trying to bear. I didn’t know if I could. I didn’t know if I wanted to.

Necessity finally trumped fear and emotion. I had to let the handyman in to ready the house for the final walk-through. My first thought was to open the door as I stood on the porch and point him upstairs. But, I opened the door walked in and felt-no pain, no fear. I showed him up the stairs and what needed to be done. When it was time to go downstairs he went ahead of me to get supplies from his truck and I told him I would be down in a moment. I turned down the hall and went into Jordan’s room. I walked directly to the far wall, kneeled down and read what he had written as a pre-teen. “Jordan was here”.

I touched the wall because it was a place Jordan had touched. I wasn’t afraid. I was so grateful for what truth was written on that wall- JORDAN was here! 1116 has been demystified. There is no place that Jordan isn’t. He’s with me always.

Picture I took of wall in Jordan's room-"Jordan was here"

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Looking Too Soon

Jordan's candle

I didn’t mean to see the images of the Georgian luger crashing, but I did. Earlier in the day, I’d heard the reports on the radio about 21-year-old, Nodar Kumaritashvili as I went to pick up my daughters from school. The reporter in detailing the luge accident, said the word “crash” repeatedly, and with such force, that I was driven back to my 8th grade English class with Mrs. Hughes explaining “onomatopoeia.” Crash was one of the examples she used to illustrate the meaning of onomatopoeia – a word when spoken implies or suggests it’s meaning. “Crash”, I wondered how I was going to find a way to live with that word. As I pulled up to the school, I changed the station, not wanting my daughters to hear about the tragedy that now was the face of the Winter Olympics. The young luger was the hope of his small village. I felt more in common with his family than I did anyone surrounding me in the carpool lane in my own village.

Later that evening I sat in my living room checking emails as Mark sat next to me and turned on the television. He turned to the national news and there sat Brian Williams, the NBC anchor, cautioning that the video of the Georgian luger was graphic and, “may be difficult for some of our viewers to watch.” I was one of those viewers. I already knew the details of the tragedy from the earlier radio report, I didn’t need to add any visual images. Mark offered to change the channel but I didn’t want him to have to be inconvenienced because of me. I sat with my index fingers in my ears and the rest of my fingers covering my eyes. I have used this same pose since childhood to block out any scary scenes or gory images. Mark knows the routine and at movies always nudges me when it is safe to uncover my face. I sat, waiting for the news piece to be over, repeating the phrase my counselor had given me when I told her I needed to learn how to quiet my mind. I silently repeated my modified version of a Buddhist chant, “May you be at rest, may you be at peace, may you be filled with loving kindness.”  I planned to keep repeating the phrase until the news story was done but I looked too soon.

I opened my eyes just as the luge flipped over the railing and landed on the other side of the track. I saw the crash. I quickly closed my eyes again (why didn’t I leave the room?) and resumed my “blockout” pose. Trying to quiet my mind wasn’t working. I kept asking Mark, “Is it over?” “Is it over?” He hadn’t nudged me but I opened my eyes anyway, only to see the paramedics at the scene giving the luger CPR. There was blood on his face and on the snow. I had forgotten about blood. My eyes stayed open as the news program went to his village. There, sitting at the table head in hands wailing, was his mother. I had no idea what she was saying as she wept and held her head but I knew her sorrow.

I made it through dinner that night, talking with Mark and the kids about their days of school and work. I listened more than talked because I wasn’t sure how much longer I would be able to bear the images swirling in my head. As the girls started to clear the table I went upstairs to my bathroom. I turned on the lights and the exhaust fan while closing the door. I sat on the closed toilet seat and wept. I sobbed with my hand over my mouth to insure that no screams could force their way out. I couldn’t have my children worried about me and have the images and sounds of my grief intrude on their sleep that night.

My mind raced with the image of the luge going over the railing, and then the car Jordan rode in going over the railing and dropping 30 ft. All I kept thinking was, “If the luger died going over that railing, Jordan didn’t have a chance.” I tried to calm myself and realized that the only way calmness was going to happen was if I gave in to the images and thoughts my grief had placed in my head, no matter how frightening. It was as though my counselor was whispering in my ear, reminding me that grief was like a wave. She had instructed me before saying, “If you imagine the thoughts and images of grief coursing through your body, as starting at the top of your head and exiting through your toes, you’ll feel more control than trying to suppress them.” She always told me that there are times when grief is too powerful to be ignored and will find a way to be expressed.

I exhaled and allowed myself to fully envision the accidents, both luge and car. Both were devastating and so graphic in my mind. I wept, I held my head and then I heard sirens coming from the fire station 2 blocks away. “Why sirens, now?” I thought knowing that I couldn’t incorporate the sirens into the devastating images already swirling in my head. For the first few months after Jordan died I wondered if we would have to move because the sound of sirens was unbearable. Every time I heard them I thought, “That’s what it sounded like the night Jordan died.” I held my ears and covered my eyes as I’d done earlier that evening and waited out the sirens.  Over and over I said, “May you be at rest, may you be at peace, may you be filled with loving kindness.” I tentatively dropped my hands from my face and opened my eyes hearing only the fan again.

Grateful that the sirens had stopped, I thought I could get up and wash my face. As I started to stand, the image of the luger with blood on his face and on the snow came into focus for me and I sat back down. I had forgotten about blood. There was blood when Jordan died too. The accident scene wasn’t just the wreckage of the car, crashing from 30 feet, landing on the right side (Jordan’s side) before returning to all four tires; there was blood. I started recalling more details from the accident report. Jordan had a cut on his forehead. The accident report stated that after Jordan’s friend, who was driving, dragged Jordan from the car, he held his t-shirt on the cut. Meanwhile Jordan’s other two friends went up to the road to flag down the police and ambulance. Jordan was lying on the ground unconscious and there was blood. The road was closed for 3 hours that night.

There had to be blood because there was a bandage on the right side of Jordan’s head when we saw his body at the funeral home. I saw him laying there in the coffin, remembering what his face looked like with the bandage on his head. I wept for my boy and felt as though I was standing at the accident site and then the funeral home. My boy is gone. There was blood. I sobbed and wailed with my hand over my mouth until I felt no more tears could come. I sat for a few more minutes and then exhaled and calmed myself while wiping my face and blowing my nose. I tentatively looked in the mirror at parts of my face at a time. I finally connected eyes to eyes with my mirror image, sighed and shed more tears. “How did this happen?” and “Why just Jordan?” were said to my mirror self.

I went to the door of my bedroom and called for Mark, adopting as normal a voice as I could. He came upstairs with a worried look as I lay on my side of the bed. I tried to tell him about the news and my reaction. I was unable to talk without crying and he held me as I repeated, “If the luger died over that railing, Jordan didn’t have a chance. I can’t watch the Olympics anymore, too many crashes. They keep saying crash.” He held me and let me cry and talk. Then the question I’ve only said a few times out loud came out forcefully and repeatedly, “They should have all died, or all lived, why just Jordan? Why just our boy. I miss him. I want him back.”

Mark sat next to me and shared in the injustice of losing our boy. He told me he had the same thoughts about the accident and was trying so hard to deal with his anger. We sat together as I wiped my face and tried to get my breathing back to normal. As we sat, there was a knock and Lindsay came in to tell us she was done with her homework. She looked at me and said, “Mama are you okay?” I told her, “I’m sad right now baby, but I’ll be okay.” She gave me a second look, smiled softly and then told me she was getting her shower. Mark got up, kissed me on the forehead and went back downstairs. I laid back on my pillow able to close my eyes and let the familiar household sounds of Mark’s footsteps creaking down the front staircase, music coming from my daughters’ room and Merrick loading the dishwasher fill my head.

Valentines-Transformation

Jordan and Lindsay 12/07

This time last year, 2/12/09:

Jordan,

The boxes with the programs were emptied today. They have been under the bench in the entry since October when the programs were printed for your Memorial service. I glimpse at the boxes everyday when I walk past, always planning to move them or get rid of them. Until today something always stopped me, I didn’t feel ready.

Today your sisters needed boxes for the Valentines they would receive at their Valentine’s Day parties. Impulsively I said, “There are boxes under the bench but let me get them.”

Lindsay asked “Why?”

She didn’t understand why I insisted on getting the boxes. I told her the boxes held extra programs from the Memorial Service. I explained that we didn’t use them because the front picture was too dark.

Lindsay told me “I can get them.”

She quickly went to the entry and brought the box into the family room, trying so hard to impress me with her industriousness. She opened the box, looked at one of the programs and said, “You’re right the picture is too dark it doesn’t look like Jordan.”

She flipped through the program, reading it and asked, “What are ushers?”

I explained the function of ushers at funerals and memorial services. She then said, “That’s nice, his best friends were ushers.”

She then read the poem I wrote about “My boys” on the back of the program. The next question of course was, “Why aren’t Kendall and I in the poem?”

I said, “Oh honey, I wrote that one day when I was watching your brothers together.”

She said, “It’s a good poem, I like it. What should I do with all these programs?”

I said, “Let’s put them in a bag.”

She said, “Okay I’ll get it.”

She quickly got up and grabbed a black trash bag from under the sink. She was determined to do the job alone and resisted my attempts to help her.  Her only comment during her task was, “Mom, I can do it.”

After she emptied out the programs, Lindsay looked at the empty box and said, “This box is perfect for Valentines. I’m going to decorate it and make it beautiful.”

For me, she already had.

Happy Valentines Day

With eternal love,

Mama

Poem on Back of Program

Mother to Son

Jordan is a poet

Merrick is poetry

Jordan has the words to captivate a nation

Merrick has the movement, the smile, the soul of honesty and love

There is magic in words and movement

Together they reveal the essence of life,

both poet and poetry,

spoken word and dance and song.

I can listen to and watch them forever

My boys

Jackie Moore (2002)

Today, 2/13/10:

A few days ago I posted a query on Facebook asking, “What was your most memorable Valentine’s Day?” I kicked off the discussion by relaying the memory of a Valentine’s Day from my grad school days when my roommates and I went to a Bingo Hall with the mother of one of my roommates. It turned out to be an evening filled with laughter, girl talk and the hopes of winning the jackpot (not to be).

For the last few months I have been in search of a Mother’s Day card, that Jordan gave me when he was a junior or senior in high school. It holds special significance because it was handmade of construction paper with Jordan’s handprints on it. Jordan wrote the following on the card,

When I was in preschool, teachers seemed to think that putting handprints on a piece of paper or a paper plate and using it as a gift for any holiday was a great idea. Although I’m no longer in preschool and my handprints barely fit on the paper, I decided for Valentine’s Day I’d give you a gift that hearkened(sp) back to my younger days. Happy Mother’s Day Mom!

Jordan then signed the card, “Love, Your oldest little boy, JORDAN” with the J backwards in the same way he used to write his name as a kindergartner.

All the places I thought I’d stored the card turned up empty. I finally decided that the best way to find it was to stop worrying over and looking for it. If and when it was meant to be found, I would find it. Tonight as I polished the writing piece above, I searched for one of the programs from Jordan’s memorial service. I reached into the top drawer of our file cabinet and there on the side of the hanging files amongst other papers, was the card from Jordan. I’m sure I’ve checked this spot before but clearly not well enough. Tonight I pulled it out of the drawer, sat and looked at it, held my hand against Jordan’s handprint and cried. I found it just when I needed to find it. Now my most memorable Valentine’s Day, albeit a little early is the Valentine’s Day of 2010.

Rediscovered Valentine

Scrabble J

I see the letter J

I don’t think of Jackie or Julie

I think of Jordan

Joy and Jordan

Jubilation and Jordan

Sippy cups full of Juice and Jordan

Jeans and Jordan

Justice and Jordan

Jazz and Jordan

Hat at a Jaunty angle and Jordan

J-man, Jordan

Just Jordan