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 ‘graduation’ Category

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

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Old Habits and New Routines

The 4th of July has come and gone and in the days that followed I was finally able to grasp the enormity of my grief. Subconsciously I’d put myself on a restricted grief program with regards to my Dad. The loss of Jordan is still so palpable, especially this summer as I wished for him to be at his brother’s graduation and I see Merrick wishing Jordan were here to provide instruction and advice on going off to college. Circling back to a place of pain that felt so remote for so many months still takes my breath. Grief moves in so many directions but for me there has never been a linear path.

In a way I decided that helping my mother through her own loss of her companion and love would assuage my grief in some way. We have a new routine of talking to each other every night before she goes to bed. She stays busy during the day, not able to be still too long. For my mom who has always been an active person knowing what she has planned for each day soothes her and helps her through. Nighttime is when the house she and my dad shared for 46 years seems too quiet. She has a list of family and friends whom she speaks to every night, all of us needing to hear her voice before we’re able to sleep.

Over the 4th of July weekend, I realized that putting levels on grief was a mistake. Yes I deal with the loss of Jordan everyday and I’m stronger now (most days) than I was in the months after he died. My logic that the unbearable grief of losing a child should make me strong enough to endure losing a father without too much emotional upheaval turned out to be a huge misstep. I miss my Daddy. I miss my son. The grief I feel for each is different but no less present. They both beg to be felt.

When Daddy was briefly in a rehab center and we thought he’d be able to go home for at least a few days he asked Julie and I to throw him a party. The first date he threw out was the 4th of July. Some of his nieces and nephews and his sisters and brother were also in the room and we all agreed that a party with Daddy, which we all knew would be his last was a great idea. Time was not on our side. As Daddy got sicker he didn’t forget his party idea, he just changed the date to Memorial Day. There was nothing Daddy loved more than grilling ribs, chicken, beef, you name it and having family and friends over to eat. Music always played in the background and you knew where the party was by the sound of laughter and jazz music wafting from the backyard.

On the 4th I told Mark I’d made a mistake. “I’ve been acting as though I have to be stronger and not fully give in to my feelings about losing Daddy.”

“Why would you do that?”

“Because longing for Jordan and missing Daddy at the same time hurt too much. I realize now that it’s going to hurt and I have to let it happen.”

“I know, I’ve been thinking about Pop a lot too. You know the 4th is when he wanted his party.”

“That’s what’s wrong with me. All day I’ve been imagining him at the helm of the grill, totally in his element. I’d forgotten we promised him a party. I just keep seeing him healthy and his old self, asking Julie and I to be his taste testers.”

“It’s okay. Everything happened so fast. Pop was too sick to have any kind of party. It doesn’t mean we can’t have one for him next 4th of July.”

“He would have liked that. All he wanted was for people to eat and have a good time.”

“So we’ll do it.”

I tearily shake my head yes. “But today I’m so sad. I miss him for me and I miss him for Mama. I know she feels so alone.”

“You’re doing everything you can to help your Mom. But you can’t keep denying how much you hurt.”

I sat on the porch a while longer with Mark and then came inside, went upstairs and lied down. Accepting the grief meant accepting the weariness and fatigue from all the sleepless nights. Next year we’ll have a party. This year I allowed myself all the tears to flow as they formed their own parallel river to the tears I’ve cried for Jordan.

Purple Ribbons Were Everywhere

My family started on Friday evening adorning the trees around our home with purple ribbons and the placards I’d ordered. It was a labor of love that encompassed all five of us as we all took part whether it was affixing the ribbons to the trees, tying bows or threading the ribboned placards through a portion of the bow. The weather forecast called for rain all weekend and Mark and I were up early on Saturday to continue our task. We tied a ribbon on a tree near a fast food hangout of all the high school kids. The day was sunny and as soon as we would tie a ribbon there would be someone walking by to read it. Kendall was with us and she watched beaming every time someone stopped to read the cards. “They’re reading about Jordan. It’s working.” Her pride engulfed me and we made a roundabout circle of our neighborhood placing ribbons on the trees by the park near our public library. One of our neighbors from our old block drove up and asked what we were doing. When we explained about honoring Jordan on that would have been his graduation her only response was, “Can I help?” Mark grabbed a spool of ribbon and handed it to her through the car window. As she drove off she said, “I’ll make sure Linden is covered with purple ribbons.” As we walked back home planning to put ribbons on Jordan’s tree, in front of his elementary, junior high and high school another friend found us on our path.

“I wanted to know if you needed help with the ribbons?”

“Yes, that would be great.”
“Oh good, Giancarlo (her son) told me he wants to help.”

“I love that boy he is so sweet. Please tell him thank you.”

Many people already knew of our ribbon project because of a short article that was in our community paper, The Wednesday Journal. I’d emailed the editor asking if there was a way he could inform community members about the significance of the ribbons. The article written exceeded all of my expectations:

Family honors late son, OPRF alum with purple ribbons
written by Terry Dean

Jordan Moore-Fields would’ve been among the graduates walking across the stage this June at Amherst College in Massachusetts.

This weekend, his family will honor his memory with a special tribute that many in Oak Park will get a chance to see. On Saturday, May 21 and Sunday, May 22, his family will place purple ribbons around town to mark what would have been his graduation from college. Moore-Fields, an Oak Park and River Forest High School alum, died in a car accident in fall 2008 while on his way back to Amherst. The three other passengers in the car, his college friends, survived with minor injuries. Moore-Fields, 19, was a passenger during the ride.

“As I proudly watch his friends take the next step in their journeys, my family needed to show our forever pride in Jordan,” his mother, Jackie Moore, said in an email to Wednesday Journal on Monday.

Moore-Fields, one of four children, was a sophomore at Amherst, studying political science. In 2007, Wednesday Journal named him one of its Student Citizen Award winners, an annual honor that recognized high school students in Oak Park and River Forest. He graduated from OPRF that year with 3.5 GPA, worked on the school’s student newspaper, the Trapeze, and also was a mentor to other students while serving on the Minority Achievement Committee (MAC), a group for black male students.

Neighbors and friends expressed themselves in so many ways. My former next door neighbor and forever friend had the following blogspot in one of our community papers:

I am remembering Jordan this weekend.

He would have graduated from Amherst College today had he not tragically been killed in a car crash his sophomore year. He would have graduated top in his class, no doubt, same as he did when he graduated from OPRF in 2007. Jordan was a shining star in all that he did. His death did not mythologize his achievements and character, as can sometimes happen. He earned his kudos while he was still with us.

Jordan was my next-door neighbor for much of his life.  Often he would help be out by baby sitting in a pinch. He was raised to be involved in his community. To pitch in. To make a difference. Sometimes I couldn’t even get him to take money for his service. He did, however, appreciate payment in homemade cookies.

I am thinking  too of his family.

A family that produced four children of extraordinary integrity. A family with the heavy burden of burying a son and brother. A family simultaneously celebrating the graduation of another son and mourning the loss of what Jordan might have become. I follow their journey via Jordan’s mom, Jackie’s blog (alwaysmomof4.wordpress.com). Maybe you do too?

I wrote back to Muriel on Sunday morning after reading the post telling her how wonderful it was on such a tricky day emotionally to see Jordan through someone else’s eyes and share their memory of him. Later that same day I received the following email and picture from a dear high school friend of Jordan’s:

Hi Mrs. Moore,

Jordan was on my mind all day yesterday. When my roommates saw me struggling to tie the ribbon around the front tree by myself, they came out to help.  I explained what I was doing and why, then Nick, Shanza and Eric helped me tie the ribbon and take a photo. My friends never met Jordan, but I talk about him enough that they know in what high esteem I hold him and how important he is to me. We stood in silence for a minute after Nick took the picture, and yesterday at around 7:00 last night four kids in Urbana, IL were thinking of both Jordan and your family. 
Thank you so much for organizing the ribbon program, this was a great way to honor and remember Jordan.
Only the best,
Erin

Erin's ribbon for Jordan

Pictures started to come in from different people both family and friends from around the country. My cyber friend Claire sent the following astonishing photo accompanied by this note:

Dear Jackie,
It poured most of today; I thought it appropriate.   Early this evening, the sun came out and I was able to take a purple ribbon to my front yard.  My plans for a big, elaborate display in the maple tree were thwarted by the weather and the soaking grass beneath my feet.  Instead, I took a smaller, shiny purple ribbon and placed it over the shoulders of the statue of the woman that feeds my birds, under the dogwood tree.  I called Jordan’s name into the sky and wished for peace for you, Mark, and your three earthbound children.

Then I recited this poem, by Robert Desnos, translated from the French by X.J. Kennedy.

LAST POEM

I have so fiercely dreamed of you
And walked so far and spoken of you so,
Loved a shade of you so hard
That now I’ve no more left of you.
I’m left to be a shade among shades
A hundred times more shade than shade
To be a shade cast time and time again into your sun-transfigured life.

I’m sorry, Jackie, so very sorry.  I hope the attached photo is a help.
Please feel free to use any of this on your blog, if you wish.
With love on this most difficult day,
Claire

In Claire's garden

I caught my breath with one of the pictures I received. It was from the mother of one of Jordan’s friends, Christian who was in the car with him the night of the accident. She wrote:

Dear Jackie and Mark,

Please know that we remember Jordan today and every day!
Attached is a picture of Christian placing an Amherst purple ribbon on our tree today to honor Jordan.
We are thinking about you and your family and we wish you peace!

Christian standing next to purple ribboned tree in his yard.

Mark’s cousin who lives in North Carolina also sent a picture of her beautiful tree:

And yet another picture emailed to me from a friend whose name is also Jackie, whom I met in a grief support group:

Jackie's garden

There were also so many words of encouragement and grace given to me by my Facebook friends and family. Many of them changed their profile picture to the Jordan Button for the day. 

 Our family and friends near and wide helped us to get through a tough day. I was glad the sun was shining and that there were many people out and about stopping to look at the ribbons and read about my boy. Thank you all for being so understanding of my need to pay tribute to Jordan in this way. I am blessed to be thought of and cared about by such wonderful people. If there are more pictures out there please feel free to email them to me or add them in the comments section and I’ll include them in my Purple Ribbon Album.

Here are some of the neighborhood pictures that we took and we only got to a portion of the ribbons that dotted our community:

Outside the high school

The ribbon on the giant Catalpa in our front yard

Kendall standing next to a tree outside of the elementary school that all my kids attended.

The most fancy and first ribbon that adorned our neighborhood. Thank you Cynthia and family.

A view down our old block ribbons were placed on every other tree. Mark made sure to put a placard on the tree in front of our old house.

Off To Measure Trees

It is a beautiful day in my town today. For the first time in a while the sky is blue and the weather is warm. I’m off to get some sun on my face and busy myself with measuring tree circumferences to see how much ribbon the trees we’ve picked will need. I ordered bookplates to serve as information cards for each ribbon:


It’s hard not to think about what I’d be doing right now if Jordan were alive. Suitcases would be lined up and we’d be off to the airport to ready ourselves for his graduation. I vacillate between feeling like such an obsessed oddball for choosing this task as my way of honoring Jordan and then in the next instant I’m proud that I found a way to remember what would have been a magnificent day. With each passing day the obsessed feeling recedes and the anticipation of keeping Jordan’s memory alive boosts my energy and spirit.

The weather this weekend is iffy here, with chances of rain both Saturday and Sunday. A bright spot for me at least will be purple ribbons dotted throughout my village, providing a little light on what might feel like a dark day.

I would really appreciate pictures of the purple ribbons from those of you who will be tying them on your trees. Thank you

In Lieu Of

I knew I’d be better off not looking but I couldn’t help myself. Facebook friends that posted a picture with their son or daughter celebrating their college graduation made me sink a little deeper. I looked at their beaming faces and smiled in spite of my pain. They had what I wanted and I am jealous. I’m also angry with myself that I’m jealous, and wake up every day hoping the feeling won’t be as strong. I’ve never wanted to be petty but the jealousy and flashes of resentment have brought on moments of, “Why me” as I watch what I can’t have. I can’t help it though. If I’m going to be honest about my feelings then I have to admit that they’re not all gracious.

I sat in the car today at the grocery store for 15 minutes after I’d parked deciding if I had the strength to go in. What if I saw someone I knew? After sitting and crying I was not in a talkative mood. What if I saw a parent with a graduating child? Would I be able to even say hello? Small talk was out of the question and I didn’t think I even had it in me to say, “Congratulations.” I did will myself out of the car determined to be bigger than my fears and sorrow and I made my way through the aisles and back to the car before having to cry again.

I’m standing in the, “In lieu of,” space typically seen at times of loss. I just used the phrase 2 weeks ago in the obituary for my father. “In lieu of flowers please consider a donation to Jordan’s fund, a scholarship fund in memory of [My Dad’s] eldest grandson. Now in lieu of will be purple ribbons tied on trees around town and in places around the world to honor what would have been Jordan’s graduation. I’ve purchased my ribbon. I’ve even notified our local paper what all the purple ribbons tied around trees will represent so that they can lessen the wonder of our community.

I’m busying myself with these tasks because there is no ceremony to attend. No new outfit to buy and suitcase to pack. There are hopes and wishes floating around that were Jordan’s dreams, that I pray will land someplace viable. The preparations I’m making to recognize Jordan’s graduation are far from anything I imagined. But doing nothing on the day of his commencement filled me with too much sorrow. My pride in him has not diminished and my need to express my love for him will never go away. So I find myself in this awkward, “In lieu of,” place, helpless but for purple ribbons, trees and family and friends who love my family enough to help us celebrate Jordan. Through it all even as I wonder how much I can stand, I’m learning my heart won’t break and that I’ll keep going, finding ways to honor life and the memory of my son.

**

A new friend made this button for my blog so that even as I mourn not being able to see Jordan graduate from college I can proudly honor him and show how proud I am of my son. I invite all of you to help me commemorate Jordan’s graduation by tying a purple ribbon on a tree in your yard on May 22nd(graduation day) and/or place this “button” on your blog or Facebook page. Thank you all for the support, kindness and love you continue to give me.

Finding Different Ways To Mother My Children

A new friend made this button for my blog so that even as I mourn not being able to see Jordan graduate from college I can proudly honor him and show how proud I am of my son. I invite all of you to help me commemorate Jordan’s graduation by tying a purple ribbon on a tree in your yard on May 22nd(graduation day) and/or place this “button” on your blog or Facebook page. Thank you all for the support, kindness and love you continue to give me.

One of the things my father said to me before he died was, “Jordan is alright. You have to believe that, so you can move on with your life. I know you hurt, and the hurt doesn’t just go away, but he was a good boy and he’s alright.” Daddy’s words tug at the part of me that now holds the, “shoulds.” Jordan should still be alive like the other boys in the car. Jordan should be graduating from college. Jordan should be sharing in Merrick’s excitement about going off to school.

As much as I feel the weight of the “shoulds,” there is a gradual lessening of the heartache that paralyzed me for so long. Acceptance sidles up next to me like a timid but persistent bird looking for a perch. There are times when it stays for a little while but then scampers off when I turn suddenly, feeling something foreign sitting too close. The trick I think is to not be afraid of being still and letting all the hurt and longing that need to flow do so at will. Then my heart which is the perch for acceptance can receive it without fear that even though my son is gone from this earth, I can always keep him with me. It is a mighty, exhausting task and some days I wonder if my perch will ever be ready.

Steps are being taken that make me feel able to bring forth the pride I have in Jordan without so much of the regret that he’s not here. The weekend of April 15th  a week after visiting my dad in the hospital, Mark, Merrick and I traveled to Amherst, MA. It was our first time back since Jordan died. Our trip was for Merrick who has decided upon a college that is in the same town where his brother went to school. Merrick deliberated and made his choice with wisdom and much thought. Merrick’s story will be told at another time.

While Merrick had his Accepted Students overnight at his new school, Mark faced many of the memories he had when he dropped Jordan off for his sophomore year.

“That’s the movie theatre we went to after we got Jordan’s stuff out of storage. I had to run to Best Buy while he was setting up his room because he needed another cable for his computer.”

With each remark I’d nod or give an, “uh huh,’ as I kept my hand on his arm while we drove back to the hotel after the parent reception. The drive we took from the airport led us into town a different route than when we dropped Jordan off at school. We didn’t have to pass Amherst College that first day and I was so relieved. That first day, just being in the town was enough to make me tremble. I wanted my attention to be on being Merrick’s parent as he visited his new school.

I knew we’d see the school the next day because we brought some of Jordan’s ashes with us to spread on campus. It was a last minute decision which meant that I searched frantically online for an appropriate travel urn and then paid dearly for it to be shipped overnight so we would have it before our trip. This trip was our first time spreading any of Jordan’s ashes and as Amherst’s commencement draws near I wanted a part of Jordan to be on campus. I asked Mark to look up where the ceremony would be held and he found out it would be on the Main Quad. The other urgency I felt in taking Jordan’s ashes with us on this trip is because I knew the next time we would be in Amherst would be to settle Merrick into his new dorm. The two events could not coincide, not if I want Merrick to feel and know that soon this little town that our oldest boy loved will be our youngest son’s place too. He will have our full attention as we go through the ritual so many parents do as they take their child to college.

We told Merrick ahead of time that we were bringing Jordan’s ashes with us. The Saturday of our visit there were sessions for students and parents at Merrick’s new school. We met him there that morning and sat in on a Q & A for parents while Merrick attended one of the student panels. I sat there partially amazed and partially dumbfounded that not only was I sending my second child off to school but that he was just a few miles from where his brother used to go. Looking around the room I saw the anxiety and pride that all of the parents shared. I then marveled that I was able to sit and listen without having to flee the room in tears. As much as I couldn’t imagine the moment of fully accepting Merrick being a college student, there I sat becoming informed about the journey and adventure that lay ahead for him. Mark and I sat in the front row, even though we got there a bit late. We squeezed each other’s hands as we sat down. Having that deja vu feeling, both of us remembering sitting in a similar room a lifetime ago when Jordan started school. Mark in typical fashion pulled out a notepad and pen, took notes and asked a few questions. I sat watching and listening as the other parents asked questions about meal plan, first year courses and dorm selection. With every answer given by the faculty and administration I felt more and more comfortable that Merrick was right, this was the school for him.

When he first told us that it was his first choice his dad said to him, “Merrick, I don’t know about this. You going to school in the same town that Jordan went to would be hard on your mom and I. I don’t know if we can do it.”

Merrick thought for a moment and then explained to his dad all the wonderful opportunities the school held for him and that he’d found it not because of its location but because of what it had to offer. He ended by saying, “Dad, you and Mom will be all right.” Somehow we are, because we made our way back for the first time to Amherst and are starting to see it through Merrick’s eyes.

After the panel discussion we met Merrick in the lobby of the building and told him we were going over to Amherst to spread Jordan’s ashes. I asked him, “It’s totally up to you. I know there’s another seminar on music you want to go to, but you can come with us if you like. Whatever you decide is okay.”

“No, I didn’t get to see Jordan’s body after he died. I want to go with you.”

We walked to the car with Merrick animatedly recounting his evening and the students he’d met. We all piled into the car and silence overtook us. We made the quick drive to, “Jordan’s school” and got out of the car with Mark holding the travel urn which is shaped like a book with images of Copernicus’ drawings on it. I looked up as we walked and realized we’d parked right by the library. I reached for the urn,

“I want to spread some ashes here. Jordan always called me when he was on his way to the library. I want a part of him to always be here. I took the plastic bag out of the urn and spread ashes in the bushes by the library saying,

“Jordan, I love you and I miss you.”

When I finished, tears already falling, we walked up the steps and made our way to the main quad. Mark looked at me and asked, “Where do you want to spread them?”

“Let’s put them around the trees right here.”

Mark took the bag first, “Jordan, we will always be proud of you,” and shook some of the ashes around one of the trees. The wind blew slightly and the ashes mingled with the air.

I took the bag next, “Even though we don’t get to see you graduate I’m so glad a part of you will always be here.”

Turning towards Merrick, I asked, “Do you want to spread some of his ashes?”

Merrick shook his head, “yes,” and took the bag from my hands.

As he bent over carefully shaking ashes at the base of one of the trees he quietly said, “Thanks for always believing in me.”

Mark and I openly cried with Merrick standing between us, putting his hands on our shoulders. We continued walking to the place where we’d taken the first picture of Jordan as an Amherst freshman. Students walked by in groups laughing and talking and some of them stealing looks at this threesome with such solemn expressions. We reached the memorial honoring veterans who’d attended Amherst with the beautiful mountain range in the background. As we reached the spot Mark openly sobbed. I guided him to a bench by the memorial and sat next to him rubbing his back as we both cried. I looked at him and realized that there were splotches of ashes visible on his black trench coat. I started to brush them off but Mark leaned into me and I wrapped my arms around him telling him, “It’s okay we can take as long as we need.”

Merrick stood a few feet away from us then came over and said, “Dad, I can do it for you. Just tell me where you want me to spread them.”

Mark wiped his eyes. “No son, thank you, I need to do this.”

Merrick and I sat together on the bench as Mark went to the shrubs by the memorial whispering something we couldn’t hear and spreading the remainder of the bag of ashes. After he was done he came and sat with us, the three of us looking out at the horizon. I stole a look at my watch and realized we needed to get going back to the airport. Mark stood, pulled out his camera and took one last picture of the memorial where Jordan proudly stood as an incoming freshman. The space where Jordan once stood was now empty.  Jordan wasn’t there to frame the view in the distance. But he was there. We made sure of it. He’ll always have a place at, “his school.”

Picture of memorial taken after we spread Jordan's ashes 4/2011

Jordan standing atop a memorial during his first day at Amherst College. 8/07

Tying Ribbons, Making Buttons, Remembering Jordan

On the program at Jordan’s memorial service, the poem I chose for the front was one by Henry Dumas:

The universe shrank

            When you went away

            Everytime I thought your name,

            Stars fell upon me.

For me, the universe did shrink when Jordan died. I felt it every time I had to remind myself to breathe when I didn’t realize I was holding my breath. I felt it every time I looked outside and wondered how people still knew how to walk and converse and laugh. I felt it every morning when I opened my eyes, looked around my bedroom and then closed my eyes again, because having a dead son makes it hard to imagine how you’ll fill your day.

In my last post I talked about consciously mourning the fact that my family doesn’t get to see Jordan graduate from college and that to honor the Amherst commencement we will tie purple ribbons around the trees in our yard and on Jordan’s tree and I asked others to do the same. Since that post, a very kind and generous woman named Dafeenah who found my blog through She Writes has given me a way that others can honor Jordan and help him to be remembered. She wrote saying she didn’t have a tree to which she could tie a ribbon, but she could make a button that she could place on her blog. She asked my permission to design the button. I cry every time I come to the part of her asking permission. It reminds me of Jordan’s friend Sean asking permission to wear Jordan’s birthday as his football jersey number.  The respect and grace people have shown me in the face of my sorrow as they help me honor my son is so humbling and helps tilt the earth just a little bit back to the axis of beauty that I knew before Jordan died. I am forever grateful.

2 ½ years have passed since Jordan’s death. It is a short amount of time and a lifetime all at once. The passage of time and the constancy of love are teaching me important lessons about keeping my heart open to the present and the future. The fear I had that my son would be forgotten is unfounded. Family, friends, and strangers who quickly become friends because of their compassion, are showing me that a shrinking universe can expand again and that I can be a part of it.

The button is displayed below and will be on my blog through May 22nd the date of Amherst College’s commencement. Any of you that would like to display it on your blogs; Facebook pages or wherever you feel is appropriate I would be honored. The button says a “life of consequence” which aptly describes Jordan’s life, and are also the commemorative words associated with the Jordan Moore-Fields’ Amherst Scholarship fund.