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.

We are playing the waiting game at my house. Merrick has applied to the colleges of his choice and is now waiting to hear back from them. One of the schools he applied to asked for a letter of recommendation from the parents. They wanted the perspective of the person/people who would talk of the early years and personality of the applicant. When I read their request I cried. I was being asked to weigh in and support my son’s application and frankly there are days when I don’t know how I’ll let him go. Sometimes even the thought of Merrick going off to school makes me physically ill, but at the same time I want what’s best for my son. I will not be a hinderance to his dreams. I realized that the only way I would be able to write a letter of recommendation, is to ask a request of all the schools. Below is my open letter to all of them.

Dear College of my son’s choice,

My son Merrick has applied to your school and is hopeful that he will be accepted. You invited parents to write letters of recommendation for their child. Your request is based on the fact that most students when applying concentrate on the ages of 14-17 and parents can give a long-range look and perspective on the applicant. I’m quite willing to write a letter for my child. I appreciate the wisdom and sensitivity in your request. Before I do so however, I have a request of my own. Please watch over my child. He is eager to leave home and enter the world of academia and freedom that college allows. I watch his anticipation and enthusiasm and am confronted with my own mixture of excitement and apprehension.

When his older brother Jordan went off to Amherst College, his dad and I could not have been prouder. Jordan chose a school that was the perfect fit for him. We watched him attenuate to college life with vigor and ease. He entered his sophomore year excited to have a single room, ready to pursue a major in Political Science and looking forward to the future. I often joked with him that I was living vicariously through him as he talked of studying abroad either in Costa Rica or London. His future seemed boundless. Seemed. When we received the news that Jordan had been killed in a car accident just 20 miles from his college campus shock and sorrow took hold of us, the grip of which I still feel today.

Now it is time for another of my children to fulfill their dreams and goals. Merrick has worked so hard to be an attractive candidate for your college. A finer student, scholar, and most importantly compassionate human being you won’t find. As he readies himself to, “be on his own,” I try and ready my heart to give the world another one of my children. Merrick comes to you an eager vessel of learning. He also comes bearing the weight of sorrow that losing his big brother and best friend brings. So, I’m finding a way, no matter how hard it is, to continue trusting that the world is a giving, safe place for my children. As unwieldy and irrational my plea is I ask you to remember it. When you see my son walking through campus, treat him with care as he fulfills his dreams and honors the legacy of his brother.


Always Mom of Four


Comments on: "An Open Letter To My Son’s College Choices" (15)

  1. As a college student myself I find this post very touching. I am writing a blog,, about the value of college education and my next post will be the case for going to college. I’m sorry for your loss. With a brother myself, I can’t even imagine having to go through the pain you are going through. Best luck in your son’s college endeavors. I hope he gets into the college he wants. I know if I were the admission counselors, I would let him in.

  2. Love.

  3. As always, your eloquence astounds. You keep writing, I’ll keep reading.

  4. Jackie, your beautiful writing and searing pain bring me to my knees sometimes. This post has me weeping. How brave and generous you are! I hope that Merrick gets in wherever he wants, and I feel certain he will succeed regardless of his final choice.
    Big, huge, smiling, sobbing hugs to you.

  5. […] senior, and is waiting for word. His mother is waiting, too. She is chronicling it all on her blog, Alwaysmomof4, and she has agreed to allow me to reprint her posts on […]

  6. Kelli Taylor said:

    Beautiful and so very true! As usual, your writings are so very touching and painful at the same time. As one daughter is off at college and the other is preparing to part in another year, I so feel your pain of Merrick leaving the nest. But the loss of Jordan is just another layer that very few of us know. I love you and pray for you always…

  7. Chris Camp said:

    Love this post. So many unknowns out there for all of us – including my 16mo old daughter. You’re brave to keep going and to share this with all of us.

    I was just watching this video and it’s somewhat relevant:


  8. Beautiful post, Jackie.

  9. Your letter is *perfect*. I lost my best friend to a car accident 13 years ago, when he was 21 (I was 20). In many ways he was the love of my life. Now that I am a mother, I can appreciate in new ways your loss, and certainly admire your courage to wake up each morning an excellent mother to your three living children. Jordan applauds you.

  10. I came here via Lisa Belkin’s post on Motherlode. This is beautiful and heart-wrenching. I can only imagine the memories that going through the college process stirs up for all of you. Thank you for sharing this.

  11. Thanks as 15 year old high school sophomore my 18 year old HS senior sister died. Now at 47 and a mother of two sons I spend many moments trying to realize that the only real protection we can ever have for ourselves and our cherished children comes in the simple every day opportunites to look at them directly in their eyes and say clearly you are loved!

    Always one of four siblings! (soul sister ) Jane

  12. […] senior, and is waiting for word. His mother is waiting, too. She is chronicling it all on her blog, Alwaysmomof4, and she has agreed to allow me to reprint her posts on […]

  13. I just wanted to pop over here, learn more about your blog and offer some support. I have been following Lisa Belkin’s blog and was stunned to read the heartless and well…just plain ridiculous responses your letter was receiving. There seems to be some posters over there that are missing the empathy chip and the point!

    Lisa is about to write a blog about a recent loss my husband I experienced. I can only imagine how we will be blasted for our situation and our reaction to our loss.

    My deepest sympathies for the loss of your son. I cannot imagine your pain and I applaud you for the dignity you are bringing to his memory by chronicling your journey so eloquently. Blessings to you!

    • alwaysmomof4 said:

      I too was surprised by how many commenters missed the point or chose to ignore it in favor of writing about whatever was on their mind. There were many cruel and insensitive comments but there were also so many that were understanding and encouraging.

      I’m so sorry for your loss. It is inconceivable. Best of luck as you go forward and the world hears your story. While there may be those who can find something wrong with everything there are many others who truly will wish you well.

      • Angela Doody said:

        Hi Mom of 4. I’m (always) a mom of 3. My 19-year-old son, David, was killed in a car crash while he was in college. It was in 2007. He was a freshman and was SO excited to be in college and wanted EVERYTHING that entailed. Someone ran a stop sign and hit the car my son was riding in. My second child, Erin, went off to college in August. It was so bittersweet. In fact, the only reason I could send her there was because of the accident settlement. It was like his “gift” to his sister (and younger brother Ryan). I cried as I walked in to pay her bill as I was moving her into the dorm. I’m sorry for your loss. Please be as well as you can be. xo. Angie

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