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 the ‘celebrations’ Category

Family Reunion- Dreamscape

I rarely have dreams of Jordan. I wake up sometimes with the vague feeling that he’s visited me in my sleep but I can’t remember any details. A few mornings ago the “Jordan was here,” feeling was with me. It wasn’t until I was taking a shower that I remembered my dream.

We’re in our old house. Mark, Lindsay, Merrick, Kendall and I are standing at the base of the stairs in the basement of our old house.

“Where is he?” is the impatient question from Lindsay.

“I don’t know I’ll text him.”

Right as I’ve typed the words, “where are you” into my phone, the door to the basement opens. Standing in the doorway is Jordan with a white, diffused light framing him. I’m facing the door and see him first. I can see him so clearly. The coffee with extra cream complexion, the light brown eyes that everyone says he got from me, his black hair closely cropped, like he’d just come from the barbershop and the smile that is almost as bright as the light.

Just as I’m about to shout, “He’s here,” Jordan raises a finger to his lips to silence me. He wants his entrance to be a surprise. I nod and watch as he starts down the stairs.

All their heads turn at the sound of his feet on the stairs and in unison they cry out, “Jordan,” as I watch, beaming. Mark gets to him first and pulls him in with one arm and plants a kiss on his cheek. Even though I can’t make out what’s being said, their voices are an intermingling of energy and excitement.

Lindsay, Kendall and Merrick rush towards Jordan and he reaches out to them with his right arm never releasing the embrace of his dad. I stumble towards them, smiling so hard that my face hurts. I loop my arm around Mark’s waist and he squeezes me tight. With my left arm I encircle our children and my hand rests on Jordan’s shoulder. I take in the moment, feeling the weight and texture of our entanglement. I breathe in the scents of hair, breath, comfort, safety, and shared joy that infuse our embrace.

WE are here!

Changing Traditions And A Christmas Gift From Beyond

Our last Christmas with Jordan, 2007

Our last Christmas with Jordan, 2007

Dear Jordan,

It is Christmas day, 2012 and it has been 5 years since our family tradition of you shepherding your brother and sisters down the stairs so that your dad could get that first reaction picture of Christmas morning. Of course the holidays bring out the longing for you in a most poignant way. Time has eased some of the pain and I’m able to listen to your favorite Christmas songs this year for the first time, even though it isn’t without tears. Donny Hathaway’s, “This Christmas” and Coltrane’s, “Favorite Things,” transplant me back to the days of you crooning your way through the house decked out in your Santa hat, sipping eggnog. I’m able to smile through some of these tears and I pray that you hear me when I talk to you. We are changed, as of course we should be, and there has been growth and grace that has infused all of us. We speak your name everyday. You always live in our hearts and your name and a Jordan story is never far from our lips.

We are making our way through the holidays and learning to keep you with us as well as find new ways to learn to celebrate and feel joy, with the knowledge that we’ll be united again. We’ve changed some traditions because the weight of attempting them without you here to participate was too great. The Christmas tree is now adorned with lights and a few ornaments, although while I don’t push anyone else, I’ve taken over a good deal of the tree decorating. I even have a special “Jordan” section where I hang pictures of you, ornaments that Julie made, as well as all of the ornaments you always insisted on putting on the tree. Don’t worry the nutcracker is in your section.

Jordan's version of Santa

Jordan’s version of Santa

Your brother and sisters have the most trouble with the tree which just exemplifies how much you were/are their beacon for certain things. We no longer go as a family to pick out the tree. Merrick, Lindsay and Kendall politely respond, “No thank you,” when we ask them if they’d like to go with us to tree shop. Your dad and I have found a new lot to go to where we spend less than ten minutes, always finding the perfect tree in record time. I always feel like you’re steering us to just the right place. Gone too are the days of all of us decorating the tree together with Christmas music playing in the background. Merrick asked on the first Christmas we spent without you if we could just leave the ornaments out and when you felt like it, you could place one on the tree. That has turned into our new tradition. Your siblings make their way to the tree in solitude, I’m sure thinking of you. I’ll go into the living room periodically and see that they’ve hung their photo ornaments and maybe a jingle bell or two.

In the midst of the season I’ve had my moments of doubt as to whether I could make it through without falling apart. I said to a few friends that I wish I could just sleep until January 3rd and not have to feel the anxiety and angst of missing you that always creeps into my spirit no matter how hard I try to breathe through the pain. All of these thoughts occurred in the frenzy of the Christmas rush when I was shopping, thinking of the tree and wondering how I would muster cheer when the greatest gift I wanted was you ambling down the stairs with the rest of the kids. I took a moment to imagine such a plan and realized it would leave me missing out on so much of the life force that are our family, friends and even me. Plus, I’d never want to miss a glimpse of you and your spirit.

I’m getting better, feeling the heaviness of sorrow less and accepting healing more. Healing comes in so many forms and this year it was allowing myself to weep openly in front of your dad instead of retreating to the bathroom before we came downstairs this Christmas morning, saying aloud what I think so many times, “How did we lose a son?” The tears are cleansing and every year finds me stronger and more resolute in the fact that I indeed am the mother of four with three surviving children.

One present I gave myself this year was the decision that I don’t have to think of you as forever 19. You would be 23 years old now and when I sit and close my eyes, I see your beautiful brown eyes, the way your jaw would have become more angled with age, the bass that has settled into your voice and of course your smile. You will grow older with me. It is a perfect solution to a problem that felt unsolvable.  Thank you for my Christmas gift.

Love,

Mama

To Jordan On His 23rd Birthday

August 9, 2012

Dear Jordan,

It’s cloudy today, which makes your birthday without you here to celebrate even harder to bear. You would be 23 today, a grown man! I have so many moments that I imagine what you would look like now and what direction life would haven taken you. I always imagine great things because you always dreamed big without reservation. I miss you. It’s been almost 4 years since you died and though time has mellowed the grief, the sorrow in my heart has a pulse and an ache to it that truly makes me know that as your mother I will always long for you.

For some reason writing to you this year is harder than in years past. I hope it’s not because time is blurring my memories of you. I keep you forefront in my heart and pray everyday to feel the nearness of your spirit. You continue to be an inspiration to me. I want to leave my mark on this world just as you were able to do in just 19 short years. Your name is never far from the lips of your family. Merrick I think will always talk about you the most.  He has so many stories that start with, “Hey Ma, remember the time Jordan…..”

Merrick just came into the office where I’m sitting by the window writing to you. I told him I was writing my annual birthday letter and he told me that he’d posted his happy birthday message to you on your Facebook page at 12:01am, wanting to be the first. I know you are proud of your brother and sisters. They are growing and each of them has some of your mannerisms that make me smile. When Merrick comes into the house he yells out, “Mom, where are ya?” sounding exactly like you used to. The first couple of times it happened I had to hold back tears because for the briefest of moments I thought you’d come home. Lindsay holds her mouth the same way you used to when given a compliment as she tries to hold back a smile. And Kendall’s quick wit has all of us laughing at the dinner table just as you did. I see you in all of them and know that as their big brother your arms of protection and love still guide them.

This year we will do as we have since you died. Your banner hangs in front of the house announcing to the world that today is your birthday and we celebrate you! And we’ll light your candle as a comforting reminder that your spirit lives within all of us.

Thank you for being my son and teaching me so much. You are always in my heart.

Love,

Mama

Jordan on his way to his dorm his sophomore year of college.

 

My First Easter

The last month has been challenging the closer it came to Easter. Daddy died on Easter Sunday and even though last year that date was April 24th, it didn’t matter that the date didn’t fall on the same day. Easter brought up all the memories of getting the call from hospice that Daddy was in his final moments and we should hurry if we wanted to see him before he died. We got there 10 minutes too late, which I think Daddy would have been relieved about. He didn’t want us to watch him die. We all filed in to his room to see him, all tubes removed and him lying in bed with no signs of pain on his face. I laid my head on his chest and called out, “Oh my daddy, my daddy, my daddy,” marveling all the while that his body was still warm and it didn’t feel like we got there too late.

This year, all the days leading up to Easter brought flashes of visiting him in the hospital, watching his fast deterioration, having a slideshow in my head of the MRI scans that showed picture after picture of all the places the cancer had invaded his body. I was dreading Easter and wanting to quicken its arrival at the same time. “Lord let me get through this day.”

I worried about Mama and was relieved when my sister told me she would be going down on Saturday to be with her on Sunday. But Mama, always the planner had already mapped out her day. She would observe her usual Easter rituals. There would be Sunrise service at 6am with her friend Mrs. Bradley, and then Sunday school before coming home and later having dinner at a friends. The last part was the different ending to the day. Dinner with Daddy was always how Easter Sunday wound its way down in years past. But she found a way to make it through the day on her own terms. I was flailing around, wanting to be with her, wanting to be with Merrick who loved his Pop so much and was showing his own signs of missing him and us.

“Mom, I wish I could come home and go to church with you for Easter.”

“I know honey, but you’ve got a few more weeks and then you’ll be home for the summer.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“Can you find a church service there you can go to?”

“Probably, my friend Jeremy said he would go with me.”

“That’s a good friend. I’m glad he’s there for you.”

“Mom, I was feeling bad on Friday and I listened to “Sugar” by Stanley Turrentine.”

“Oh believe me I know the song. That was one of Pop’s favorites.”

“I just missed him and started listening to it and I love how it starts off kind of slow and then builds and then rolls between all these different rhythms. By the end of the song it was like Pop was talking to me, “Boy get on up and do what you need to do.”

“That sounds like Pop.”

“Well I felt better so I got up and went to my Spoken Word Club meeting like I was supposed to.”

“I’m glad he was there for you. I think I may need to take a listen to some Stanley Turrentine myself. It’s gonna be okay baby. I know it’s hard.”

And Easter was hard. My family went to a friend’s church with her family choosing not to go to our home church even though I’d bought a lily to sit at the base of the altar in memory of Daddy and Jordan. I couldn’t bear the part of the service where they ring a bell after saying the name of each person who died in the previous year. The sound of the bell they rang when they said Jordan’s name in 2008 still echoes in my heart.

The service at my friend’s church was beautiful and uplifting but mostly I felt numb, still so torn that I wasn’t with my mom or with Merrick. After church when we came home I did the only thing I could. I changed clothes and lied down on my bed curling up waiting for sleep to come. Mark came into the room telling me not to worry about dinner.

“Stay here as long as you need to. I understand.”

The most comforting part is that I knew he truly did understand. I talked to Daddy for a while telling him how much I loved and missed him and before I knew it I was asleep and I slept better than I had in weeks.

Birthday wishes from afar

As most of you know, I have an amazing husband who loves and cares for me unconditionally. What you may not know is that today is my birthday. I woke this morning thinking of Jordan and my Dad and how much I miss hearing their voices and that they won’t be here to wish me a happy birthday. This time last year Daddy was sick, and lay dying in the hospital. They found a way through Mark to reach out to me. Here is the first email I read (sent at 5:34 am) this morning as the house is still and quiet:

Hi my Love:
Our son came to me in my dreams tonight and asked if he could be the first one today to wish you a Happy Birthday.  When I told him he couldn’t he insisted he could through me as long as I didn’t utter the words before the time stamp on this email.  This way, technically of course he would be first.  Who can argue with Jordan?  So..

“Happy Birthday, Mom.  I’m your first, and will always be.  Today, hear my voice in your heart as I celebrate you and this day.  I miss you too.   

Love, Jordan”

Now, not to be undone, I heard noise downstairs and the aroma of coffee brewing filled my nose.  An older Presence was downstairs making coffee at an hour at only which He would be awake.  I came down the back stairs of our house, warily because it was dark outside,.  When I got downstairs, Pop was there, in the big chair in the corner with a piping hot cup of coffee, in his robe, his legs stretched out on the ottoman, white socks, slippers to one side.. The blinds had been pulled up, Nessie was under her covers, undisturbed by the hour or the Presence.  He was looking out the window.  I sat on the couch, looking at him.  When I started to speak he raised his hand and commanded my silence. “Do you hear the birds singing?”  he asked.  “Yes,”. “Did you do what the Boy asked?”. “Yes, Daddy.”  I replied. He looked at me and asked again, “Do you hear the birds singing?” “Yes, but…”. Once again, hand raised, he said, “Well, tell her I said it second.  She’s my first too, you know.”  I nodded.  I saw a piece of paper with small handwriting on it.

I woke up.  Composed and sent this email.

So, I’m third, and You are so loved.  

I hope you find peace today, and hear the birds singing in the morning. It’s quite a racket now.  In the quiet hours.

I love you now and obviously, forever. 

Mark

Birthday gifts come in so many forms. I have to say that already today I’m feeling blessed and so grateful for the love that surrounds me.

Dropping Jordan off at college

Wedding Vows and Compromise

From the moment one says, “I do,” and commits her life to another the whole notion of sacrifice and compromise become a part of her vocabulary. In our early days of dating Mark and I were both weary from energy depleting relationships and wanted nothing more than to find someone with whom we could truly be ourselves. During our first date we talked of hating the game playing that had defined previous relationships we each had. We went so far as to make a pact that we’d have truth and honesty as our foundation and then we shook on it. It seemed so simple. We were on the same page and looking for the same things, a committed relationship, a partner that shared our values, someone to make us laugh and listen when we needed to unburden and cry. We have found that in each other.

I love when Mark tells the story of asking my dad for my hand in marriage. We’d met my parents in Vegas and Mark’s parents were there as well so that we could introduce everyone. Mark found himself in a difficult position. His dad was insisting he do the traditional thing and speak with my father about our impending engagement. Mark knew from talking to me that if he asked my dad for my hand, the response would be, “I don’t have anything to give away.”

Sandwiched between two strong-willed fathers, I wished Mark the best as he went off to talk to my dad. True to form as soon as he began to ask for my hand my dad interrupted him saying, “Boy, I don’t want to hear that kind of talk. It’s not for me.”

Mark nervously replied, “You’ve got to understand. My dad is pressuring me to do what men in our family have done for generations. I’m stuck so please let me finish.”

With those words Daddy softened and told Mark to take a look at me standing across the room. “What did Jackie have to say about this?”

“Well she warned me you would react this way.”

Daddy grabbed him by the shoulder and said, “Do you see that smile on her face? As long as you can help keep that smile there you’ll never have any problems with me.”

Mark and I have been married now for close to 24 years. We still watch our wedding video from time to time and my favorite part is after we’ve been announced to the congregation and our making our way back down the aisle, Daddy briefly stands with this huge smile on his face and pats Mark on the back. He knew I’d found my life partner.

Life has caused Mark and I to face and stand by every vow that we said those many years ago. We’ve faced sickness and health, richer and poorer and during our wedding ceremony said in strong voices, “Til death do us part.” Death has come to visit, not leaving either of us widowed but taking our oldest child and testing all the promises we made to each other. Would we still be honest and open with each other? Would grief drive a wedge between us or allow us to grow closer even as we mourned in different ways. We’ve held each other in sorrow, weeping until no more tears would fall. We’ve flipped through pictures of before Jordan died reminiscing and breathing the blessing that was his life. But there are times when our expressions of grief and love for our son take divergent paths. I regularly watch the video of Jordan from the memorial service. I cry every time and they are sweet cleansing tears. Mark hasn’t watched it since the memorial service. Mark occasionally wears some of Jordan’s shirts and sweatshirts and I can barely breathe thinking, “Those clothes aren’t for you.” But I stay silent because I know they bring him comfort and a connection to Jordan.

Now we’ve come to another crossroad and it has to do with the picture of Jordan we used for the memorial service. It was a poster-sized version of Jordan’s high school senior portrait. My extended family each has copies and they are proudly displayed in their homes. I never got around to framing Jordan’s portrait and after he died for me it was no longer his senior portrait but the memorial service picture. I couldn’t look at it anymore. But Mark wanted to put it up next to Merrick’s senior portrait. “Merrick looks so lonely. His brother should be next to him.”

“I’m not ready to do that. Can you take it to work and have the picture there?”

“If it’s too much for you, I’ll take it to work.”

That was the plan and even though it still felt unresolved I felt less anxious about having to look at the picture everyday. I didn’t want to let Mark down and I hated that the portrait no longer represented the sweet memory of watching Jordan hurriedly tuck in his shirt as he rushed out the door to get his picture taken. I wanted to reclaim that feeling but I didn’t know how. Thursday evening I was walking upstairs and glanced in the living room to see Jordan’s senior picture displayed on the coffee table. Shock and betrayal filled me. “He promised he wouldn’t put it up but he did.”

It was like the picture had some force field around it. I couldn’t even go into the living room and remove it from the table. I ran upstairs and confronted Mark.

“You said you were taking the picture to work. Why is it on the table in the living room?”

“What are you talking about, oh wait a minute I had the picture face down by my briefcase. Irena (our cleaning lady) must have put it up. I wouldn’t do that to you. I’ll go get it right now.”

“Thank you.”

It wasn’t sitting well with me that I was thanking Mark for removing a picture of Jordan. I needed that picture to be transformed and I didn’t know what it would take for it to be his senior portrait again. I walked by it face down on the dining room table for a couple of days. Then on a day that I needed a reminder that there were those out there who remembered that grieving lasted longer than a season, I received a card from my friend Sue who I haven’t spoken to in ages. The front of the card read, “Those whom we love and lose are no longer where they were before. They are now wherever we are.” St John Chrysostom Sue wrote an inspiring message inside to me and signed the card writing, “Shine on sweet sister.”

I realized as I read the card that I do want to shine on and part of that for me is taking away any negative aspects connected to looking at my son. His memorial service was beautiful and as I’ve said before I wish that we’d recorded it. During the service my thoughts were far from wanting any visual reminders of the event. The first moments of walking into the church were traumatic and I gasped when I saw the picture of Jordan haunted by the too big image of him on the dais. I tried to make it through the service by not gazing directly at his picture, thinking that I could somehow preserve it as what it was before if I didn’t look at it. But I did look at it as he looked out on the congregation with a perpetual smile. That beautiful smile that everyone who knew him commented on and all I could see at the time was a picture spoiled, totally ruined by death. How dare death make us choose a picture for a memorial service when all everyone wanted was for Jordan’s death to be a horrible mistake? So I chose instead to listen, keeping my eyes closed for most of the service and letting the sounds fill me with a peaceful connection to all that had gathered to pay tribute to Jordan.

The card from Sue reminded me of two things. One no matter how alone I feel sometimes, there are so many family and friends sending, prayers, love and light to my family and me. Two, Jordan is with me always and I choose to embrace him by watching videos, listening to his voicemail message, rereading old cards and letters from him, writing to him, talking to him and yes erecting his senior portrait where it should have been all along. I took the picture of Jordan examined it closely, looking deeply into his eyes and planted a kiss on his cheek before placing it on the table next to Merrick’s picture. Mark saw it a little later and asked what made me change my mind? I responded, “I don’t want to be afraid of anything connected with Jordan and I love you and think you should be able to see your boys side by side in our home.”

I have two boys that graduated high school and their pictures will always hold a place of honor.

Senior Portraits

Hearts and Flowers 2/14/12

To all who visit here I say thank you. I never imagined I’d be away from my blog this long after having foot surgery. Who knew that my entire body and mind would feel compelled to participate so fully in my recovery. I imagined myself alternating between writing furiously, reading a stack of books and catching up on movies with my leg propped on a pillow. One appendage was repaired and healing, and the parts of me I need for writing were unscathed or so I thought. Recuperation in the first weeks took all of my energy. I’m back to writing now and so glad you’re hear to share my journey.

Valentine’s Day 2012

“I hate Valentine’s Day.”

I’ve been hearing these words from my 7th grade daughters for the last week. When I push for a reason why, I’m met with,

“Because it’s a made-up holiday.”

“In middle school it’s dumb. We don’t have parties anymore like when we were little. It’s just another day.”

My reply has been, “Well it may feel dumb now but I hope you know that it can be about whatever kind of love you want to express.”

I was met with begrudged mumbles of agreement. I’m not sure if they really agreed with me or just wanted me to be quiet. It’s hard to tell with adolescents exactly what’s going through their minds. I know my girls are romantics at heart and love sappy movies as much as they love watching football with their dad and playing soccer. I was the same way growing up, minus the football, so I know that their expectations for Valentine’s day are liable to exceed the reality. I think they both would love to find that they each have a secret admirer or a boy that’s gutsy enough to express his feelings. The travails of middle school.

I remember the valentines of elementary school. Picking a special one for the boy I had a crush on and hoping he’d notice me. By junior high my anticipation of the day waned. I still looked forward to one part though. Every year there would be  small heart-shaped boxes of chocolates on my sister’s and my pillows, with a huge heart-shaped box given to my mom. Daddy never forgot. He made sure we felt special every year. Daddy even surprised me one year when I was in grad school in Los Angeles and feeling lonely. He had my roommate place a  box of candy on my pillow. Daddy was never the overtly emotional or affectionate type but he taught me how much gestures made out of love mean.

Today despite their misgivings both girls came downstairs wearing necklaces with heart charms, revealing their true feelings and showing that they’d give the day a chance. In spite of themselves they anticipated the flower deliveries that would happen at school. Every year the student council sold flowers for friends on Valentine’s Day. L and K had both bought flowers for their buddies and each other. I knew they were eager to see the reactions of their friends but also secretly hoped for flowers of their own. How perfect that they remembered each other. I’ve watched them grow so close since Jordan died. They take care of each other in a way that channels a lifelong friendship beyond their sisterhood. Love is in the air and it is the sustainable, grounded kind that sees you through tough times and rejoices with you in celebration.

When they come home today they’ll also find a surprise. As I was writing this piece the doorbell rang and there was a delivery for me. Inside was a large box of chocolates and two small heart-shaped boxes sent by my wonderful husband. I cried as I saw the boxes remembering my Dad and how special he made me feel. L and K will find hearts on their pillows just like I did growing up. My daughters are learning about love. There are many love lessons to come but one thing is certain, their foundation is one of kindness, generosity and respect.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

Tag Cloud