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 August, 2010

Tell Your Story

It’s been several days since I’ve written on my blog. I’ve been trapped in a warp of sadness since my children started school that has finally eased enough for me to write.

The first week of school for my kids was last week. Since Jordan’s death, transitions are harder and I’m more preoccupied with the coping mechanisms of my kids. They carry the burden of loss with them and stay on guard against thoughtless and/or cruel comments. As my husband and I have learned to prepare ourselves for the “How many kids do you have?” question, my children have also learned to prepare for the “How many siblings?” question. Depending on the situation their strategies as does mine, differs. My daughters have stammered and trailed off while speaking when someone has questioned their math when they say they have two brothers. They’ve heard responses like, “I thought you only had one brother. Where’s your other brother?”

As the girls are starting at a new school this year, I made sure that I informed the school administration of our family’s loss. Even though we live in a tight-knit community and they are attending the same middle school that both of their brothers attended, I didn’t want to assume that Jordan’s death was known to all. I just want to provide as much cushion and buffering that I can for my kids when they’re out in the world. The girls first day of school went well. The only anxiety and angst was the typical middle school variety, nothing out of the ordinary.

Merrick’s first day unfortunately was not the same. At the end of the school day as I drove to pick up my daughters, I saw Merrick walking home from school. I waved and slowed down to tell him where I was going. He surprised me when he said, “Can I come with?” I of course agreed but felt that something had to be wrong for him to be so close to home and want to run an errand with me.

He hopped into the car and started telling me about his first day. He told me about his teachers and that his first day went “okay.” He talked a little longer about which of his friends was in his lunch period and then the reason for his accompanying me came out. He told me that one of his teachers recognized his last name and asked him if he had an older brother. He responded by saying, “Jordan?” The teacher then asked, “How is Jordan doing?”

As Merrick talked, I shouted, “Oh No!” and pulled the car over to the curb.

“Oh Merrick, I’m so sorry. God, on your first day. What did you say?”

“I didn’t really say anything. I just kinda’ mumbled and looked down.”

“Well what did your teacher do?”

“Finally moved to the next person and started talking to them. I almost came home. I didn’t know what to do.”

“It would have been okay if you came home. Talk about  minefields. You could have come home if you wanted to.”

“I know. I still felt weird but I stayed. Can you tell my teacher about Jordan?”

“Of course I will.  I’ll make sure all of them know. I didn’t think I needed to notify the school this year. I guess I should have.“

“Thanks Mom. I just don’t want any big display in front of the class. I just want them to know.”

After I assured Merrick all of his teachers would be notified about Jordan’s loss, our talk turned to other parts of his school day. I asked him if he got a new lock for his locker, and what he had for lunch. I gripped the steering wheel trying to stay calm. Inside I was screaming. In the midst of our conversation Merrick suddenly changed the subject and asked, “Do other kids who’ve lost somebody go through stuff like this?” I took a breath and told him yes.  I then told him about a woman who is a member of the same online writers’ group as I. I’d received an email from her that same day commenting on one of my blog entries. I told Merrick that she lost her brother in a bus crash when she was 14. I hoped that Merrick would gain some solace and feel less alone hearing of someone else that lost a sibling.

Later that same evening I emailed my new friend to tell her about Merrick’s experience on his first day. She responded saying she knew the feeling and that unfortunately the same thing happened to her all the time when she was in school. She offered to talk with Merrick whenever he needed. Her offer got me thinking about the best way for my kids through the stories of others to feel less alone.

Please Help

I have a request of all of my readers that I hope you can honor. My children need something I can’t give them. They need to know from those of you who have lost a sibling or parent, what your experience was like and how you cope (d). We’ve been to family support groups and they have met other children who have lost a parent or a sibling. They’ve read books on kid’s grief and my husband and I have read to them.

I’ve done the things I know to do to ease their pain and to help them understand they’re not alone in their feelings. I know the upending grief of losing a child. As much as I offer comfort, I can’t give my children the perspective of someone who suffered a traumatic loss as a child. I feel helpless and heartbroken as I watch my children ache with sorrow. I know I can’t take away their pain anymore than my parents can take away mine. I’m hoping that their sorrow can be eased as they search for reassurance that the experiences and feelings they have are not unnatural or theirs alone.

Those of you who lost a parent or sibling as a child are needed as guides. My children need to hear from those who know the pain of losing such a loved one during your childhood or adolescence. Please share your stories in my comments section. On days that bring Lindsay, Kendall and Merrick confusion and pain, I know they will gain solace and reassurance from being able to read or have read to them the experiences and feelings of those of you who have coped and learned to live with loss. Please pass this post along to others who you think can help. I thank all of you willing to help ease the heartache of my kids.

Senior Moments

Jordan and Merrick walking to school on the first day. This was the last year they would be at the same school together.

Today is the first full day of school for my kids. My daughters are excited middle-schoolers, and my son Merrick is a senior in high school. As is our tradition Mark videotaped each of our children individually, asking them what they expected this school year to bring. He then took pictures of them as they headed out the door.

The typical back to school shopping has also of course occurred. We have notebooks in every color, new backpacks and new shoes. Mark took the girls to buy their school supplies guided by  the long list provided by the school. Merrick and I went yesterday to get the things he needed. He resisted getting things for school earlier and now we were doing last-minute shopping. Merrick has not exhibited the excitement I hoped being a senior would bring for him. His level of enthusiasm is tamped down by his longing for his brother to share the “senior moments.”

As we drove to the office supply store Merrick spoke often of Jordan. He remembered stories I had forgotten about their exploits from the days that they walked to school together as elementary school children. Merrick then voiced the anxiety that has weighed on his mind since his first day of Kindergarten. In elementary school the question was, “Will my teachers be nice.” Now as he sat beside me in the car he said, “I just don’t want any bad teachers.” Before I could respond he asked me, “Did Jordan have any bad teachers in high school?” I told him there were teachers that weren’t the best fit for Jordan. Jordan could be less than respectful of condescending teachers who didn’t challenge him. He would question  why they had to do certain assignments. I relayed to Merrick that there were a couple of times that I met with Jordan’s teachers to insure that their was an optimal learning environment. I also told Jordan that questioning authority was fine, but we expected him to be respectful of his teachers.

Merrick continued to pepper me with questions about Jordan’s experiences his senior year. I answered them as best I could. As we drove, the space between us held the longing and the need to have Jordan sitting with us. Merrick needs his brother so much right now. They were supposed to be seniors together, one in high school and one in college. They used to talk about this day teasing each other about whose school started first (“sucker!”) but then the comeback was always, “Yeah, but I’ll be home sleeping while you’re still in school.”

Every question Merrick asked me, I knew he wanted to ask his brother. The excitement and enthusiasm which we all expected senior year to hold for Merrick has been changed to a time of reflection and solitude. As we were about to get out of the car, I looked at Merrick and told him, “You have worried and wondered about your teachers since you started school. You’ve learned how to deal with all kind of teachers. Think back on all you’ve dealt with and adjusted to. You are amazing. Your dad and I are here for you.” Merrick in his typical style looked at me and quietly said, “Thanks Mom.”

We made our way through the store, splitting up at points as Merrick gathered school supplies he needed and I retrieved extra items for his sisters. I tried so hard not to cry. I have always been sentimental and this occasion was no less so. Every aisle was a reminder of how much I had looked forward to this pivotal year. My daughters entering middle school and my boys being seniors. I chastised myself as I walked through the aisles. “Stop being so emotional. You’re in Office Max, get a grip!” I tried not to think too much about what this year was supposed to bring. Every aisle I walked down put me closer not further away from my heartache and what I want. I want Jordan to be a senior in college. Most of his friends are already off to school. They are excited and stunned that they’re in their senior year of college. “Where did the time go?”

I composed myself, willing back any tears that threatened to fall when I rounded a corner and saw Merrick coming towards me. We finished our shopping and then were off to buy sneakers. Several times on our way to the car, I almost said to Merrick, “Can buying shoes wait?” I was so tired and so emotional. I finally decided to keep going. I didn’t know if breaking the errands up into smaller parts would make it easier. We’d put off this shopping trip long enough. Merrick needed shoes more than he needed school supplies so I found a reserve of strength and we went to Foot Locker.

Merrick has never been an enthusiastic shopper. I typically buy his “uniform” of jeans, t-shirts and hoodies with no complaint from him. Shoes are the only things he has to be present for me to buy. As we entered the shoe store I did my best not to look too long at the polo shirts that hung on racks in the middle of the store. Polo shirts and jeans were Jordan’s uniform; so much so that his friend Billy asked me if it was okay to wear a polo shirt to Jordan’s memorial service because that’s how he wanted to honor him.

As I stood trying to stay focused on Merrick’s shoes, telling him to select a couple of pairs to try on, he reached for the ones he said he wanted. He picked up black “Air Force One’s.” I nodded my head, knowing who he was thinking about and said, “Whatever you want to try is fine.” The salesman returned with the box and Merrick tried on the shoes. Merrick stood up and said, “I see why Jordan liked these. They are really comfortable.” Merrick continued talking about memories of his brother but I had to stop listening even though I continued to nod my head and say, “uh huh.” My thoughts rebounded to the place they go when my heart grows too heavy,

“How can Jordan be gone when we need him so much?”

“ I want him to be a phone call away.”

“ I want him advising his brother about applying to colleges and getting the most out of his last year of high school. “ I want, I want, I want.

I paid for Merrick’s shoes and we made our way to the car. I sat, put my seatbelt and sunglasses on and started to put the key in the ignition. Then I stopped and said to Merrick in a trembling voice, “seeing all those polo shirts made me sad. I miss Jordan.” Merrick quietly responded, “I know, me too.” I couldn’t hold my sorrow in any longer. I sat, sighed a few times and then quietly wept as Merrick sat beside me staring out the window. I wept for all we’ve lost and for all we’re trying so hard to do. After a few moments, I took a breath, wiped my eyes underneath my sunglasses and started the car. I told Merrick we had one more stop, to get a few groceries and then we’d go home. We rode silently. When we pulled into the parking lot I touched his arm and said, “You okay?”

“Yeah, I’m okay.”

We got out of the car and made our way inside, looking to all the world like a mother and son having a typical day.

SCHOOL DAYS

Jordan on 1st day of Kindergarten

Excited high school freshman

High school senior

Back to school- L & K in elementary school, M in middle school and Jordan in high school

Amherst College Freshman

Jordan walking to his dorm sophomore year

Road Trip Home

We visited my family in Ohio this past weekend. As we have done many times before, we loaded our bags into the trunk in that haphazard way you can do when you’re driving. We put the cooler with bottles of water and the bag with snacks within my reach and we were ready for our road trip. We’ve had the same basic routine since we started making the drive from Chicago to Ohio in 1995. We’re done with portable cribs, strollers and bags of baby toys, but we follow the same pattern.  We drove the same route we always take to my parents’ home and as much as I was excited to see my parents especially my father who I hadn’t seen since Christmas, being in the car as a family without Jordan is hard for us all.

Mark, the kids and I go to Ohio for Thanksgiving and usually visit another time during the summer. I used to revel in those car trips. As the side doors to our van closed, we would pull out of our garage and be on our way. I would always look back at my kids, sigh and then smile. I knew that for the next five hours we were all together and it just felt so safe and so good. Mark would always touch my hand as he drove watching me with my private smile, “You love this don’t you?” I always said the same thing, “I love when I have my little family together and I can look back and everyone’s within my reach. This is perfect.”

Mark, the kids and I have taken car trips since Jordan’s death. On many of them I can assuage myself by saying, “Jordan probably wouldn’t be going with us anyway.” I can’t play that same trick when we go to see my parents. There was never a time when he was alive that we went to Ohio without all of us going together. No tricks work. When I look back from the front seat at my kids, the change in my little family is glaring. There is an empty seat. We all work to make Jordan’s absence not hurt so much, but we all feel it.

Since Jordan died, we have been to Ohio a handful of times. It is getting easier to go as five instead of six but there are still parts of the trip that are traumatic for me. During the car ride, I silently pray that we don’t come across any accidents or see any ambulances racing by with sirens blaring. Those images are visceral and make me feel as though I’m at the scene of Jordan’s accident even though the only information I have about that night is from the accident report. I’m trying to learn how to look out the window without letting my gaze fall onto the guardrails. If I look at them too long, I’m mesmerized. I start to think about Jordan’s accident. I imagine the car he was in breaking through the guardrail and careening off the overpass dropping 20 feet.  I watch each guardrail as we pass it and I say silently to it, “Why didn’t you hold, why didn’t you hold, why didn’t you hold,” until I have to close my eyes to shut out the thoughts. I can’t stay with my eyes closed too long though, even if I need to rest.  I immediately start to think of Jordan’s last time in a car. I wonder as I lean my head onto my hand, how his head was resting when he died. I try to figure out a way to save him. I think if I could only change the way he was sitting, or wake him up before the impact (Why didn’t I call him?), I could make him come back. These thoughts are a part of my, “Magical Thinking.” There always comes the point in my desperate attempt to revise the truth, when I force myself to open my eyes and come back to my new reality. I’ll reach over and grab Mark’s hand. He’ll squeeze mine, glance at me and tell me it’s going to be okay. He fights his own demons as we make this drive.

In spite of my invasive thoughts, I manage to hand out snacks, change DVD’s and talk to the kids about the upcoming school year. There are still family jokes and “remember when” stories. We still maintain our travel ritual of all pointing to the sign that signals our cross into Ohio. As we’ve always done we say together, “Ohio welcomes you.” One of the kids will inadvertently say, “Yay we’re almost at Oma and Pop’s house.”

Going to visit my parents provides comfort food, no scheduled activities and more love than we can hold. Mama and Daddy have always made coming home mean being nurtured, especially since I’ve had my little family. When we visit and Mark and I are worn down and so tired we can barely stand, they express their love for us in the way they know how. They cook our favorite foods and they let Mark and I sleep in without guilt or worry as they watch over our children. They still live in my childhood home. The home I was raised in from the age of 2. Even with the changes to the neighborhood, there are still more houses on the street where I can name the families that live there than not. There are no perfect people or situations. My visits home are not always idyllic. My childhood home base however remains a secure place for me.

We continue our drive and finally come to my parents’ street. Lindsay or Kendall will say, “Mama there’s your elementary school,” which is at the top of the block. We make our way down the street and pull into the driveway. The girls race to the door to be the first to ring the doorbell as Mark and Merrick grab bags to bring inside. I partake in my new ritual of sitting for a moment and taking a few deep breaths. I’m glad to be home. I have to make time for the disbelief that clings to me as I reckon with the fact that our new mode of travel to Ohio is without Jordan.

Mama stands holding the door open hugging each of us as we come in. She briefly looks into my eyes as she hugs me trying to gauge how much heartache I’m carrying. I hug her and see my father standing in the family room. I go to him, accepting his big embrace and lay my head on his shoulder like I did when I was young. I tell him, “I’m glad I’m home.” He simply says, “It’s good to see you baby.” I then tell him I’m tired and want to lie down. In his signature joke that he’s always used he replies, “This ain’t no rest home now. You can’t just come here and eat and sleep.” And so with another typical ritual my visit begins. There are the sounds of my family all around me, interwoven with memories of Jordan in pictures throughout the house and the stories we all tell. It’s good to be home.

Picture taken at Mama and Daddy's house on Daddy's 70th birthday.Mark and I are standing behind my parents. My sister and her husband are to the left of my father.

Oma and Pop with Jordan and Merrick

Quick pic taken before trip back to Chicago

Last picture of Jordan taken at my parents' house. Image of Jordan's dad is reflected in Jordan's sunglasses.

Messages

When the doorbell rang this afternoon, my first thought was, “solicitors” and I was right. Through the door I saw the telltale id tag on the lanyard. I sighed as I opened the door. As the volunteer introduced himself, I looked down at his clipboard and saw, “PIRG” stamped on the front. Tears welled in my eyes as he started his well-rehearsed speech. He of course had no idea that PIRG was the organization where Jordan interned the summer before he died; or that I would start to cry when he mentioned the credit card reform legislation recently passed by Congress. Jordan worked on that legislation. The group he was assigned at PIRG drafted key wording and lobbied Congress for passage of the bill that affected the marketing of credit cards to college students (Think about all of those banks readily handing out credit cards to eager college students.)

Jordan loved working in Washington DC, in particular on Capitol Hill. He would call me during the week to tell me about the “drops” he did of information packets to key lawmakers. He was also very fond of the cafeteria on Capitol Hill. Seeing the PIRG volunteer today brought back some wonderful memories and compelled me to reread emails Jordan sent me that summer. When I have encounters like the one today with the unsuspecting volunteer, I feel Jordan’s presence and get a reminder that he’s not too far away.

Another Reminder

Jordan typically wrote his first name and then instead of writing his hyphenated last name, he would write his initials: M.-F. He always complained about having a hyphenated last name and said that when he got married he would probably take the surname of his wife. I would tease him saying, “No, don’t do that. Be sexist, keep our name(s) going.”

Recently through one of Jordan’s friends, Jordan’s use of his initials took on more meaning. Jordan remained connected until his death to a group of friends that he met the summer before his junior year of high school at a program called Telluride Association of Sophomore Seminars (TASS). Even after that summer, the TASS kids maintained their friendships through texting and FaceBook. They also saw each other at a reunion hosted by TASS before they were off to college.  The program had such an impact on Jordan that he planned to apply to be a counselor. This summer might have been the one where he fulfilled that goal. Jordan’s TASS friends continue to keep in touch with each other and got together in NY this past summer for a reunion. Several of them remain close to my family and check-in with us, always reminding us how Jordan always spoke of his family especially his siblings.

DeAntwann, a friend of Jordan’s from TASS, wasn’t able to attend the “Express Yourself” event. He wanted to be a part of the evening though, and emailed me a poem expressing his memories of Jordan. Through his poem my world of Jordan expanded. I am so gratified to keep learning new things about my son. His friends are a gift.  I am so happy to share what DeAntwann wrote about Jordan:

Monday-Friday…

You were supposed to be the next Black President,

When I met you winds howling outside calmed down to a stand still,

Your demeanor so calm, so collective, so smooth,

I instantly thought to myself “man this guy is cool”,

And cool you were,

Delicately touching our hearts with your words,

You were wise beyond your years,

I picked up pounds of knowledge from you and I thank you,

I knew you for six weeks but it felt like eternity,

It was like we grew up together,

Childhood friends,

That knew everything about each other,

Favorite color,

Favorite song,

Things friends should know about each other,

I remember distinctively you coming to TASS with a knowledge of Hip Hop,

Pure Hip Hop,

Common, Lupe, Talib, and others I haven’t heard of until our encounter,

Easing that Chi-Town State of Mind on us,

You enlightened me without even trying,

You were the mediator,

Counseling any dispute that we had,

We went to you for our problems,

We went to you for answers,

When you passed away, my world started moving in slow motion,

I began to see it unfold,

Life was moving so fast and losing a friend held it to a stand still like rush hour traffic,

I still have a hard time knowing that you are gone,

But I know you are in a better place,

With every breath I know you watch over us,

We use to call you Jordan Monday-Friday,

Because everyday of the week we can count on you for anything,

Monday-Friday your heart was open to us,

Monday-Friday your friendship spoke volumes to us,

We miss Jordan Monday-Friday,

Even on the weekends…

A New System

Since Jordan’s celebration on Saturday, I’ve had the eerie, awkward feeling of “now what?” Now what do I do to keep  Jordan close to me? Planning the event and being able to talk so freely with others about Jordan without feeling self-conscious was a relief. A fear that I’ve had since Jordan died is that he would be forgotten. Being with family and friends, receiving cards or calls around Jordan’s birthday was comforting and reassuring.

Intellectually I know that I’m not the only one that misses my son. Still, on days when I sit quietly and others are rightfully back to their daily lives, my mama heart surges and wants the world to know “Jordan was here!” I’ve been having surreal Mama moments over the last few days. I’m feeling myself winding down from the emotional intensity I felt during the beginning of August with the girls’ birthdays and Jordan’s 21st birthday and celebration. I’m also aware that I always feel a wistfulness. I’m starting to realize this wistfulness is a new part of me. I will always miss my son. The intensity of the longing ebbs and flows but it is living inside of me. I’m not going to fight this new system coursing through my body. It is making its place next to my veins, arteries and major life organs. It is a major life system. My knowledge of anatomy didn’t prepare me for the physical changes that grief would bring. I can’t fully describe the physicality of longing but I feel the change within me. I feel it the same way I feel my breath, my heartbeat, and every ache and pain.

I never thought I’d say this, but I’m grateful that I have lupus. It has given me a guide to chronic conditions, and allowed me to accept the chronic nature of certain aspects of grief. I spent the first 15 years of having lupus in denial. Every time I went for long periods without a flare, I deemed myself cured. Then when debilitating fatigue, swollen joints and fevers would return I was always shocked and angry. I spent so much energy fighting my illness which only made it worse. It wasn’t until I decided that I would take care of myself as best I could and live with lupus instead of fighting against it, that I start to live a healthier, whole life.

Grief feels a bit like lupus to me. I can’t pretend that because I’ve had several days (sometimes longer) of feeling functional and hopeful that I’m done with the soul shaking, debilitating parts of grief. My experience to date lets me know otherwise. Grief does not follow a linear path. There are minefields that bring me to my knees no matter how functional and at peace I felt before. If I try to deny that sorrow will return with varying degrees of force, I hurt more than if I allow myself to feel what I’m feeling and know that just like flares from lupus, I’ll get through my flares of grief. I’m wistfully learning to accept my new normal.

Express Yourself

My daughters Lindsay and Kendall were amazing to watch as they switched back and forth between planning their 11th birthday party and planning the, “Express Yourself ” celebration to honor Jordan for what would be his 21st birthday. They talked one moment of the elaborate sparkly cake they wanted for their sleepover and then the next asked if we could have mint chocolate chip ice cream and Oma’s pound cake at Jordan’s celebration. They wanted all of his favorite foods, songs, and people to be represented. Their energy and enthusiasm was awe-inspiring. I tried to keep up but sometimes as they reminisced about Jordan and the things he loved I looked away. I started to wonder why I decided to have with this event. Getting through Jordan’s birthday on 8.9.10 had been filled with laments. The “Express Yourself” event was five days after his birthday. How was I going to make it to that day without being engulfed in sorrow? The only purpose reminiscing about Jordan seemed to serve for me was that it made me want what I couldn’t have. I wanted Jordan back, so he could tell us too much fuss was being made about his birthday. I wanted to watch him turn 21 and go out with his dad for a beer. “How did we get here?” was ringing in my head.

Two weeks before Jordan’s celebration, I called my sister and told her I was going to cancel it. I felt more sad and apprehensive than any desire to be festive. I felt more like I was planning a memorial service. I couldn’t put my family or myself through that pain again. My sister Julie was the only one I let know of my plan to cancel the event. After I spoke with Julie, I wondered why this year it seemed harder than last to have a celebration of Jordan’s life. As I went to shower I realized the difference between this year and last, my friends. Last year my friends sat around my kitchen table asking me what I wanted the celebration to include, and then they handled the details. They told me I was doing enough by being there.

I realized why planning “Express Yourself” seemed so hard. Unlike last year’s celebration of Jordan on his birthday, this year I hadn’t let any of my friends in on the planning or the ambivalent feelings I was having. I’d put my own measure on time and decided that I should be able to plan this year on my own. Because it has been almost 2 years since Jordan died I decided that I should be able to handle planning the event. I knew my friends were busy with their own lives and I didn’t want them to feel burdened by my grief. I didn’t even ask my sister for help until late in the planning stages. The word “should,” I’d broken my own rule about grieving. There are no “shoulds.” There are no rules. Grief and mourning don’t follow any linear path to some final point of acceptance and healing. Every day is different.

Just as I was finishing my shower, clear now that it was not the celebration that was causing my sadness, but the isolation I had imposed on myself, Mark told me that my friend Jeanne called and wanted to know if I was free for lunch. Twenty minutes later I met Jeanne and Amy at a nearby Indian restaurant. We hadn’t talked, really talked to each other in months. As we sat and caught up over Indian food I finally told them how my summer has been fraught with sadness and anxiety, something I’ve managed to simply endure. It has been drenched with sadness and anxiety with “good days” being few and far between. Then the questions came:

“Why didn’t you call us?”

“I didn’t know what to say? I was just trying to make it through each day.”

“You can’t suffer in silence. We’re here for you.”

“I know you are. I didn’t know what I needed. I didn’t know what to ask for.”

As we sat and talked I told them how I’d considered cancelling the “Express Yourself” event. Amy gently reminded me of why I wanted to have the celebration. She said, “It is a lovely idea to honor Jordan’s memory by being with friends who love your family and who loved Jordan. Don’t over think it. It will be what it will be.” She and Jeanne went on to tell me that if at any point I got overwhelmed then I could go home, even if I only stayed for 5 minutes.

Once I accepted help and expressed my apprehension and confusion, I was met with such generous spirits. I watched as my apprehension turned to excitement. Amy and Jeanne deemed themselves the food committee and told me they’d have everything ready the night of the celebration. Julie kept in touch with Jordan’s friends and they planned the performances that would occur. I put myself in charge of tablecloths, candles, and of reminding myself when I felt down that celebrating and honoring Jordan was a source of energy and light. I held on to those feelings and looked forward to an evening spent with friends, many of whom I hadn’t congregated with since the memorial service.

On August 14th, friends and family gathered at the “Express Yourself” event. We looked at pictures of Jordan where we couldn’t help but smile. The spread of food was enough to feed an army and included cupcakes lovingly made by Lindsay and Kendall. The music playing in the background was from Jordan’s IPod. Throughout the evening people signed the “Express Yourself” guestbook and made donations to “Jordan’s Fund.” The evening of performances started with listening to “Jordan’s Rap” which I cry every time I hear. Hearing his deep, beautiful voice I imagine what wonderful things he would have done in this world. Julie read a poem written by Lindsay, which talked about the shade in her heart since Jordan’s smile is gone. Merrick and Jordan’s friends performed hip-hop and jazz music. I listened to the words of Jordan’s sister and watched Jordan’s brother captivate the room and I knew Jordan was proud.

Julie sang accompanied on saxophone by Jordan’s friend Lucas, “Look to the Mountain,” a beautiful song she and her husband wrote over 20 years ago upon hearing of the death of one of our dear high school friends David Saidel. She talked of the irony in singing again a song about a wondrous life that ended too soon. Later in the evening, Lucas with his brother Nick on clarinet and friend Jack on bass played, \”All Blue\”“a selection from Miles Davis’s, “Kind of Blue” album. Lucas introduced the piece by saying that it always reminded him of Jordan and him driving around together. He said that Jordan was his only friend that he could listen to jazz with, and they both loved Miles Davis. I took a turn as well, reading in a shaky voice “To Jordan on His 21st Birthday.” It was a good and necessary thing to socialize, laugh and cry with those who love my family and I. All those in attendance had their own sweet, memories of Jordan, which they so eloquently conveyed. I left that evening feeling grateful to be a proud, humbled, still hopeful mother of four.

Collage I made of pictures of Jordan that make me smile. The center picture of Jordan holding the sparkler and singing is my favorite.

Merrick and Jordan's friend Billy preparing to perform. Mark is acting as DJ

Preparing to read my letter to Jordan

The World Keeps Turning

“Interesting how these days come and go regardless… you are still here and the questions remain.” (Facebook message from my friend Tom who knows loss too well)

I spent time on Jordan’s birthday sitting on the edge of my bed looking through the leather-handled box that holds mementos of him. Through sobs, I looked at some of my favorite pictures of him that I like to keep close so that I can hold them to my heart and then kiss his face. I re-read letters he had written to me as a boy, most of them of the “I’m Sorry” variety. I opened the bag that held his hairbrush, held it to my nose and inhaled trying to have him close by his scent. This was my private time with Jordan. Time to reflect on how big and wide my love and longing for him is. It is so hard to believe that the universe stays in motion when my world is upended.

On Jordan’s birthday my daughter Kendall suddenly asked if the mail would be delivered that day. I quickly answered, “Yes” and returned to loading the dishwasher. A few moments later after listening to her talk with her sister, I figured out why she’d asked the question. It was Jordan’s birthday and she assumed that it was a holiday and mail service would be stopped. The innocence of her question illustrated how all of us that love and miss Jordan were feeling. Why wasn’t there a pause in the Universe? The world should have stopped moving at least for a moment on August 9th because Jordan’s not here and his birthday is, again. As outrageous and illogical as it is, it is still hard to believe that the world keeps going when unbelievable heartache surrounds my family and I and keeps us tethered to sorrow.