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 November, 2010

Gratitude and Envy

Our last Thanksgiving with Jordan. Mark is the photographer.

It is such a hard time of year. From the beginning of August with my daughters’ birthdays and Jordan’s birthday until the close of New Year’s Day my family and I swing between apprehension, anticipation, joy, dread, and enough longing and sadness to fill a room.  The holidays make the feelings of wanting to have my son back even more overpowering. Even though I’ve tried to limit my awareness about college kids coming home for Thanksgiving, it doesn’t matter too much because my internal clock still chimes, “Jordan would be home now.” These feelings surge and then ultimately quiet and I work hard to remember a quote my sister emailed me recently,

“Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, but only empties today of its strength.”

–        Charles Spurgeon

I pull at my reserves of strength even as I envy my friends whose kids are travelling home in the next days. I’m ashamed sometimes at how much I want what they have. I hunger for errands and tasks associated with, “my kids home from college.” Things like driving to the airport, waiting for a glimpse of my overworked, too tired student to fall into the car so happy to be home. Or wandering the aisles of the grocery store buying cereals and foods I don’t normally buy because they are Jordan’s favorites.

Strength for me means reminding myself to do just this day without burdening my heart with too many, “what ifs.”

Gratitude is mixed with heartache because even in the midst of sadness and longing I feel the acceptance of change no matter how miniscule happening within me. This Thanksgiving as in the last two I know Mark will end his prayer before dinner with the words, “and let there always be a seat at the table for Jordan. Amen”

To all of you missing a loved one this Thanksgiving I extend my family’s prayer to yours. Let there always be a seat at the table. Wishing you hope and light.

 

 

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Glimpses of Senior year and wondering, “What if?”

Jordan’s friends are seniors in college. They are at the points in their lives when it is decision-making time, job hunting or grad school applications? One of Jordan’s best friends came out to support Merrick last night as he performed in his high school’s Spoken Word showcase. Merrick told Q about his performance and invited him to come.

After the showcase, I watched Q interacting with Merrick, congratulating him on his performance and reminding Merrick, “Let me know when you’re performing and I’ll be here.” Q is a man now. I hope I didn’t stare but I intently watched him, his maturity exuding from his easy banter with Mark and I and his comfort in his own skin. Where was the shy boy who used to play video games in my basement? Time does not stand still. Even though Jordan only got  to spend 6 heartbreakingly sweet weeks as a sophomore in college, his friends are now making plans for the next stages of their lives.

When I got home later that night I checked my email and saw that another of Jordan’s friends had sent me a message. K excitedly told me that she had been accepted in the Teach for America program and had been assigned to the city she’d requested. I’m so honored that she shared her news with me and that finally she is comfortable enough to call me Jackie although I love when she introduces me as, “Jordan’s mom.”

Reading her email it is clear that I’m on the sidelines. I’ve been left wondering about Jordan and what his next steps would be. What would he look like now? Would the mustache he was earnestly trying to grow be a part of his look now? Would he have shifted from jeans and a hoody to a different style of dress? Would he be applying to law school? Would he be following his love of music and seeking out an internship in the music industry? Would the pull of politics have him travelling back to DC to further his social justice and policy reform interests or would this be the year that he travelled abroad? Jordan what would you be doing now?

Jordan’s amazing friends pull me to the present and future that I otherwise could only imagine my son occupying. At the same time they are a haunting reminder of what Jordan is missing, of what my family is missing. Flashes of pride, envy, anger, and joy strobe inside of me as I wonder, “what if,” and “why,” about my son and stay connected with these children who are now young adults. They give me glimpses, a small enticing taste of what Jordan’s senior year in college may have been like. It is a beautiful, delicate, sometimes burdensome gift, but I would never reject it.

Jordan is forever 19. His friends have futures that are promising and bright. Their love for Jordan and care of my family is a glimpse of God’s grace that I’m embracing. Gratitude, sorrow, tears and respect commingle as I willingly witness the passage of time in the form of Jordan’s friends. As our pastor friend who eulogized Jordan said, “It is living with the roses and the thorns.”

Reading Jordan’s Gratitude List

I am participating in an online workshop given by my dear friend Tom Zuba called, “Living With the Holidays.” The workshop started on November 1st and the exercise yesterday was to:

Consider gathering a few items that connect you to the person (people) you love that have died.  Find a space for them.  In your bedroom.  In your home office.  Somewhere in your house.  It can be a place you pass often…or it can be an out-of-the way place in your house.  A destination, if you will.  A place you consciously have to decide to go to.

I thought a great deal about what items connected me to Jordan. I have pictures of him that I love and chose a few of them. I knew I wanted one of his shirts that still faintly holds his scent. His Ipod is something that I love scrolling through reading the titles of  and listening to the vast and varied  music, so that is in my “Connectedness” collection. I wanted a book because of Jordan’s love of reading, but couldn’t figure out which one to choose. Last night I sat down in the chair on our 2nd floor landing, something I rarely do, looked down and saw a book with an encircled half-moon and stars on the cover. It is one of Jordan’s journals from his youth. I flipped through it seeing his early attempts at rap, the beginnings of short stories and a gratitude list.

I sat reading and rereading  Jordan’s gratitude list, touching the page and smiling at his undeniable penmanship.  I remember when he wrote the list. I owned a copy of “Simple Abundance,”  by Sarah Ban Breathnach that I’d purchased right after it came out in 1996. I hadn’t followed it prescriptively but I liked the notion of focusing on gratitude.

One night when Jordan was in junior high and Merrick was in 3rd or 4th grade, the three of us  sat at our kitchen table and talked about gratitude. I don’t recall what prompted the conversation but we talked about the aspects of your life, not just things, that you are grateful for. I told them about gratitude journals and getting into the practice of writing down what you are grateful for before you go to sleep. I was going to make my gratitude list, before I went to sleep and challenged them to do the same. They were both reluctant, “Why do we have to write it down? Can’t we just think about it?”  I assured them that it was their list and they didn’t have to read it aloud or share it with anyone. The power was in taking time to reflect and to commit to writing those things you may take for granted but that bring peace and joy to your life.

I felt an instant connection to Jordan when I read his gratitude list. Even as I wonder how I can live in a world that took Jordan away, reading his list made me realize he is still bringing me peace and joy. In moments when I am so battered from the aches, tears, and sleeplessness that come from missing him, he reminds me about gratitude.

Here is Jordan’s List:

The List (Things I am grateful for)

  1. My friends and family
  2. My health
  3. The good neighborhood I live in
  4. My being able to eat every night
  5. My knowledge
  6. My good school
  7. My home
  8. Being able to concentrate at school
  9. People who care about me
  10. The luxuries I have that others don’t

Jordan drew a line after number 10 and then added the following:

11. My sisters

12. No homework

13. My bed

14. Sleep

I found Jordan’s journal as I faced another sleepless night wondering how long I would hurt so much. Having to accept, not just know, but come to full agreement with my heart and soul that my child is dead is the hardest thing I’ve ever faced. It is a journey of recalculating what truth means, of acknowledging how much pain I hold inside me and it is about wanting to feel better even when it means saying goodbye to my boy again and again.

I read Jordan’s words last night and added my own to the list.

I am so grateful to be Jordan’s mother and still have the opportunity to learn from him.