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 June, 2010

Graduation Day


Jordan's graduation

It is graduation day. I’m keenly aware of the preparations and ceremony associated with “our” high school’s commencement ceremony because I live a block away. Each year the high school stadium is transformed into a place of honor for the graduating seniors. As is the tradition of the public high school, all of the male graduates dress in black suits with white shirts and red ties. The young women dress in white dresses or pantsuits and carry bouquets of red roses. The school has used this tradition of dress since the early 1900’s and the pageantry is breathtaking.

This time yesterday my plan was to be away from home during graduation. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to hear the sounds of the school administrators announcing the names of the over 300 graduates with the requisite cheers from the crowd. I didn’t know how I would handle the strains of “Pomp and Circumstances” drifting from the stadium and settling in the air around my home. It felt too soon to absorb graduation season knowing that what seems like no time at all but in reality was 3 years ago, my family and I were the excited and proud people walking to the stadium to claim our seats and watch my son Jordan transform from high school Senior into incoming college Freshman.

In the weeks leading up to today, I’ve been preoccupied by angst and sadness as graduation season arrived. I’ve been unable to stop the angry feelings of unfairness in losing Jordan so suddenly and without warning. These thoughts have as a backdrop all the regalia associated with graduation season. The regalia serve as a taunting reminder of the joy I had when Jordan graduated high school and all the promise and energy he took with him to college.  I think back to Jordan’s last semester of high school and how it was filled with accolades and awards that seemed to portend a long, bright future. In the weeks before graduation one of the local papers gave Jordan one of their “Citizen Awards”after being nominated by his guidance counselor. The headline for the accompanying article read:

Moore-Fields was mentor, newspaper editor at OPRF

Aspiring political strategist headed to Amherst in fallmain.asp?SectionID=1&SubSectionID=1&ArticleID=8056

Jordan’s high school graduation was a further marker of his success and I couldn’t wait to celebrate him. Now it is hard sometimes to separate the anticipation and pride I felt in all of his accomplishments and goals from the cruel way we lost him. I struggle trying to reframe momentous occasions so that they will be less difficult to bear. I don’t want to live always feeling uneasy with celebrations and joyous affairs.

I have friends who have children graduating high school this year. I need them to know even in my absence from their celebrations that I stand proud of their children as they do of mine. Mark and I weren’t ready to attend the parties in their children’s honor even though in each instance we were so grateful and honored to be invited. It has been 1 ½ years since Jordan died and three years since Jordan’s graduation and it’s still too painfully soon to be in fellowship with friends on occasions that used to give us only joy. I struggled so much in deciding whether or not to attend my friends’ parties. In deciding, grief overwhelmed me as I thought back to Jordan’s graduation party and the anticipation we held for his future. I didn’t want my sadness to in any way be a damper on the festivities. I also wrestled with feeling self-conscious about attending a graduation party and being a reminder to others of how the happy lives we all want for our children can go so tragically wrong. I was so angry with death for stealing the joy and excitement I once carried. I wondered as I pondered each invitation, “Will it ever feel okay to truly celebrate?” To each invitation I replied with a “maybe” knowing that even if we decided at the last minute to attend we would be welcome. For Mark and me even at the last minute our hearts were heavy and we knew that dropping off cards of congratulations to the graduates was all we could handle.

Upon awakening this morning my mood and sentiment about being in the vicinity of the graduation ceremony had shifted. Before I got out of bed, I took time to remember how happy I’d been the day of Jordan’s graduation. I closed my eyes and held still. I remembered finding him amongst the graduates as they filed in to take their seats at the ceremony. “There he is, there he is,” I yelled. I cheered so loudly when his name was called, “Yea Jordan, way to go.” As I lay there, I could hear his voice in my ear saying “thank you” as we all gathered around to congratulate him. It was a lifetime ago and 3 years ago all at the same time. How is that possible? I held these images and sounds in my heart and decided they would be my guides for the day. The memories I have of my son serve so many functions. Today the memories of Jordan’s graduation will be buoys lifting me beyond my sadness to a place of gratitude and pride.  I got out of bed knowing that I wouldn’t need to escape the sights and sounds of graduation. They would be welcome in my day.

While out walking the dog today, I thought about the graduation that would happen in a few hours. I decided to walk to the corner that overlooks the field and stadium where graduation is held. I stood for a moment watching the workmen ready the grounds. I felt the shift in me as I thought of my youngest son who will be a high school graduate this time next year. There are days when I wonder if I can bear to have another of my children going off to college. I have to prepare my heart to once again be the excited and proud parent in the stands. Even in my sorrow despair never stays too long. This time next year I hope to sit in the stands and point out my son, “There he is, there he is.” And when they call his name I’ll cheer loudly once again and pray as I have before for a bright future.

What Jordan Gave Us

A card my sister made in honor of Jordan's 20th birthday

Precious memories can be made in the most unexpected places. The summer of 2008 was our last summer with Jordan. It was filled with moments that are crystallized in my memory. Even at the time, they were beautiful “Jordan” moments where I held my breath not wanting them to end. Even then I knew the memories Jordan was leaving us were special. I chalked it up at the time to my sentimentality and nostalgic nature. I had no idea it would be our last summer with him. Even though I didn’t know this fact at the time, an inner voice told me, “remember these feelings, you’re in the middle of something special.”

Gift 1

Every time I pull my car into the garage I look around the walls, smile and then sigh. I’m looking at Jordan’s handiwork. To the outside world it’s a typical garage; for me it’s an improbable shrine to Jordan. The summer before his sophomore year of college, Jordan did odd jobs around the house to earn extra money to take with him to Washington, D.C. He was spending most of the summer in DC as an intern working for PIRG (Public Interest Research Group). When I offered the garage-cleaning job, Jordan leapt at the opportunity. Our garage was filled on one side with moving boxes, old toys, and gardening tools. Jordan’s task was to make our two-car garage ready to house two cars. As he worked, I would occasionally watch from the kitchen window to see him methodically emptying the garage of all of its contents so that he could sort through items and then replace only those things we really needed. I remember watching him thinking how mature and responsible he was becoming. I didn’t have to stand over him to make sure he did a good job. He asked questions of me when he needed to and took the job seriously. I saw glimpses of the man he would become and felt so blessed. Now whenever I enter our garage, I look up at the snow shovels and rakes hanging on hooks, the hula hoops leaning against the far wall and I think, Jordan’s hands touched these things and put them in order.

Gift 2

At another time during the same summer of 2008, Jordan and I went shopping to buy him shoes for his summer internship. After we were done shopping, we’d stopped for lunch when I got a return call from my doctor. I had called her earlier in the day to tell her of pain I was experiencing in my ankle. I assumed she would tell me to increase one of the medications that I took for Lupus. Instead she said that she wanted to examine me and asked how soon I could get there. After I hung up the phone I told Jordan of her comments and asked if he would mind driving me to the appointment since I hadn’t driven during our errand because of my ankle. He agreed in his nonchalant way with a, “No problem” and off we went.

I remember coming back into the waiting room after seeing my doctor to find Jordan asleep in a chair. When I went over and touched his arm, he looked up at me and as he stretched said, “Are you okay?” My reply to my son who at that instant with his sleepy look was my little boy again was, “Yes honey I’ll be okay.” Even as I allayed his fears I was so glad I hadn’t gone to the doctor alone. Now, every four weeks when I go to my doctor’s appointments I look at the seat where Jordan sat that day and think about how well he took care of me.

Gift 3

As is inevitable with twins, there are times when one is invited to an event and the other is not. In our last summer with Jordan, Kendall was invited to the beach with a friend and Lindsay was not. Lindsay was inconsolable, begging me to please call and see if she could also go to the beach as well. I told her I couldn’t do that and that there would be times where she was invited places and Kendall wouldn’t be. I reminded her that she had been invited to a friend’s house and Kendall wasn’t. Her unconvinced reply was, “but this is the beach.”

Jordan came downstairs to see a very disappointed Lindsay sitting on the couch as Kendall left with her friend. He went over to her and told her they could do something together. Trying to be helpful I suggested he take Lindsay swimming. Jordan vetoed this idea, mainly because the summer before he’d spent as a lifeguard at our community pool. Swimming, rather overseeing swimming, wasn’t one of his favorite pastimes. I decided to let he and Lindsay figure out what they would do together. Jordan thought for a moment and then asked Lindsay if she wanted to cook something. Lindsay’s face lit up and she went to the cabinet where we store our cookbooks. She pulled out the Williams Sonoma “Kid’s Cookbook” that Jordan and Merrick had received as a Christmas gift when they were younger.

Lindsay and Jordan stood side-by-side at the island in the kitchen flipping through the cookbook. They came to a recipe for “Buttery Pecan Cookies” and both decided that’s what they wanted to make. I went upstairs to give them time together. Jordan yelled to me that they were going to the store to get chopped pecans. I came downstairs to give them money for the store. I watched Lindsay excitedly put her shoes on and they were out the door. Lindsay’s regrets about going to the beach were long gone because she had one-on-one time with her big brother. I ran errands while they baked and came home to the smell of fresh baked cookies. Lindsay proudly showed me the plate of cookies she and Jordan made. I tasted one and told Lindsay and Jordan that we would definitely have to make the cookies at Christmas time and give them out as Christmas gifts. Lindsay was so excited about the cookies and wanted to make sure we saved some for her dad who was travelling on business. I told her we could freeze the cookies she wanted her dad to taste. She picked out two cookies and put them in a freezer bag. When her dad got home two days later there were still a few cookies left so he sampled from the ones left out of the freezer.

After Jordan died, I found the cookies Lindsay and Jordan baked together in the freezer. I held the bag up peering at it, trying in some way to conjure up Jordan. Just looking at the bag brought back so clearly the day they were made. The cookies remain in our freezer. Lindsay takes the bag out occasionally to look at them. Since Jordan’s death, she has started a new tradition. She decided in honor of Jordan, she would bake the “Buttery Pecan Cookies” on his birthday every year- all by herself.

Gift 4

Jordan made dinner for us one night when Mark was away on business. It was a night where I was not feeling well and he, unsolicited offered to make dinner. He made a dish he had perfected while in D.C., pasta with chicken that he sautéed with garlic and onions. While away and on a budget, Jordan quickly learned that the only way to make his money last was to eat out less, and cook more. I’d taught him the basics of cooking and sent him a care package of kitchen supplies during the first week of his internship. I sat at our kitchen table impressed as I watched Jordan prepare dinner. He talked as he cooked. I sat listening as he talked about the new friends he’d made while in D.C. and his internship duties at PIRG which were highlighted for him by frequent trips to Capitol Hill.

When we sat down to dinner that night, I was so proud of Jordan and the example he was setting for his brother and sisters. In yet another way he was displaying his ability to take care of himself and care for others. He was so proud as he served his siblings and I. We sat down to dinner that night and laughed and talked over a meal prepared by my son. That night watching Jordan, I was reassured that if anything were to happen to Mark or I, Jordan would be able to care for his siblings with love and a generous spirit.

The summer of 2008 was filled with bountiful offerings bestowed on my little family by a kind and grace-filled son. We had Jordan for nineteen years, two months and three days. During his time on this earth, Jordan didn’t amass any monetary fortunes or have time to realize all the dreams he so eloquently spoke of pursuing. His legacy however is made. Among the things he left us are improbable treasures in the form of: a garage with items neatly stored, a trip to the doctor, homemade cookies and a shared dinner. Who knew such simple things could pull at my heart with such force. I’m grateful everyday for the inner voice that so aptly told me to remember.