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 ‘grief’ Category

What I Want For Mother’s Day

Dear Jordan,

It is Mother’s Day again. I look at your brother and sisters and am reassured that my capacity for love didn’t wither when you died. Your death drilled down to my core and I wondered if I’d ever trust the Universe with another of my children. I didn’t have to wonder long, my love for you and your siblings fueled my maternal heart. My resolve to be present and let anyone who asked know that I will always be the mom of 4 crystallized my path of healing. I see you in Merrick, Lindsay and Kendall. Your humor, smile, stubbornness, quick wit and sense of fairness plays out in glimpses that let me know you are never too far from any of our thoughts.

This morning there was a soft knock on the bedroom door and Kendall stepped in with a mug of coffee and a hug for me. Merrick sprang from his room when he heard me in the hallway and enveloped me in a hug brightened by his smile and his deep voice, “Happy Mother’s Day Mama.” Lindsay was downstairs making breakfast and smiled and hugged me when she saw me. When we sat down to breakfast your dad said grace as we all held hands. Looking around the table I felt a mixture of gratitude, nostalgia and melancholy. Where has the time gone? No matter how much time has passed, you are with us, a part of our family circle. “Amen,” rang out around the table, and softly, just for me, I said, “Jordan, Merrick, Lindsay, Kendall.” As we released each other’s hands, my hand was still reaching for yours. I imagined bringing your hand to my face and feeling your knuckles graze my cheek before I planted a quick kiss. I’ve had 8 mother’s days since you died. The dread of the early years has softened. The day as are the days leading up to it bittersweet and I’m learning to embrace and not be surprised that joy, sadness and longing can reside in my heart compatibly, if I let them.

I’m still learning how to comfort the maternal part of me that surfaces at times and is primal in its insistence that the only way it will be quieted is by your physical presence. The need to hear your voice, hug you and find some forgotten sign of life from you are overpowering. In the early days and months after you died I would hold your pillow, inhaling any remnants of your smell until my heartache subsided. The pillow lost your scent years ago and I’m okay. I’ve memorized your essence, it’s decoded and stored with my own DNA. I carry you with me and find ways to sit with you hold you and hear your voice. I dream of you, sitting with us at the table, listening intently as your voice dances with excitement at seeing old friends at your 10- year high school reunion. Sometimes, there’s a baby, your child, my grandchild, perched on my lap as we laugh and talk, regaling your wife with Jordan stories. I imagine the rhythm of our table talk injected with the energy of new life and new memories.

For this Mother’s Day, I’ll sit under your tree, knowing that the shade is my hug from you. When the leaves rustle I’ll know it’s your voice. I’ll look up through the maze of branches, and the kaleidoscope made by sunlight shining through the leaves will be the brightness of your smile. Your tree stands tall just as you did. It towers over me and I marvel at how it’s grown. I’ll bend down at the base and pick up a hand full of soil. My thoughts as always will drift back to the day I rode my bike to the young tree when it was first dedicated to the park and pulled the Ziploc bag that held some of your ashes from my pocket. I mixed them with the soil determined to have you represented in every branch. Your tree is one of the places I find you, our sacred space. I will always be your mother; you will always be my son. And this Mother’s day like the past 7, your tree is my reminder of how the seasons change and life continues. Spring always comes and we keep going.

Love,

Mama

 

 

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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!

Honoring Last Wishes- Another Look 2013

To give more insight into the idea of honoring requests and giving my new readers a fuller picture of my dad who was/is so instrumental on my mourning journey I offer again the post below.

The last few months I feel like I’ve been in a whirlwind. Traveling back and forth to Ohio when my Dad was ill, preparing for his memorial service after his death, honoring what would have been Jordan’s commencement with purple ribbons, and then Memorial Day weekend honoring Daddy’s final wish of spreading his ashes in his hometown in West Virginia. The part of West Virginia where my parents and their parents lived is fit for any postcard. The summer mountains are filled with lush green trees and roll on and on for as far as the eye can see. The area where Daddy lived was a mining town and everyone called it “#9” because that was the number of the mine that the men worked in and they lived in company owned housing and shopped at the company store.

It took us an hour to get there from our hotel and as we drove winding on too small roads that seemed to at any bend curve right into a mountain, Mark the kids and I all wondered, “Are we there yet?” Finally my brother-in-law who was leading the way pulled over on a patch of gravel off the side of the road.

“There’s the creek with the waterfall, exactly like Daddy said. It’s right here.”

My hand covered my mouth as I wept thinking back to our very last conversation when I asked him if he was sure the creek was still there and he replied, “Shoot girl, of course it’s still there.” The creek was there and he was right, Mama knew how to get there. My great-uncle who had driven with my cousin said as he got out of the car, “I thought I’d seen all of West Virginia, but I’ve never been out here.”

The area was overgrown and I looked up from the creek to all the trees and tall grass, trying to imagine what it looked like when it was dotted with small houses. What dotted the area now were yellow and black butterflies everywhere.Their presence was as if to say, “You’re in the right place. We’re here to make sure it’s special for you.” None of us had every seen so many butterflies in one place. I joked, “Daddy wanted to make sure we didn’t miss the place.” After we’d all had a chance to look around and take pictures of the waterfall and creek and the mountains as the backdrop it was time to do the task that had brought us to the spot. Mark carefully pulled the metal container from the back of the car.

I asked, “Do you have something to cut the plastic bag?” Remembering our struggle when we tried to spread Jordan’s ashes and didn’t have anything to cut the zip tie that held the bag closed.

Mark nodded and continued over to the creek just under the waterfall. Mama asked for a word of prayer and we all gathered, holding hands and my Uncle prayed for us and for the task we were undertaking. As we dropped hands I looked over to see Lindsay and Kendall crying and put an arm around each one of them holding them close. The bag was opened and Mark began to pour the ashes and we all watched as the ashes mingled and churned with the water cascading from the waterfall before drifting downstream.

I called out, “Daddy thank you for being so wise and letting us know what your final wishes were. We are so proud to honor them.”

Mark poured a bit more in and then I reached into my pocket and removed the small container that held some of Jordan’s ashes. With a high arc I flung them into the water. “Thank you Daddy for letting Jordan be with you.”

The only sounds were weeping. My mother wailed as she watched the remains of the man she’d loved since high school drift down the creek he’d played in as a boy. Suddenly we were all together hugging and crying as the sunshine warmed our backs. Mama began to quiet down and we all stepped back a little to give her space. I went back to the waterfall and just watched the water no longer clear but muddied with the ashes. As I walked back to the car, I searched the ground for rocks that weren’t broken pieces of gravel and found a coral colored rock and one stone with specks of glittering green. I put them in my pocket thinking of all the rock Daddy had skipped in that same creek.

Our day wasn’t done, Mama wanted to spread some of Daddy’s ashes around the graves of her parents and that of his oldest sister. We loaded back into the car for the next sojourn. As we pulled away from the creek Mark suddenly stopped the car.

“Look at that sign. Take a picture of it.”

I hurriedly got the camera and snapped the picture.After I read the sign I whispered, “and Daddy too.”

While Sam Cooke Sang

Many of you have found my blog through my piece on the Huffington Post and to you all I say thank you and welcome. I feel the need to repost a few posts about my dad so that those new to my blog can have a true sense of who he was. I say was because Daddy died on Easter Sunday, 2011 after a brief battle with metastasized lung cancer. Below is the piece I wrote about saying goodbye.

I have been away from my blog for a while as I’ve been in Ohio with my family during my father’s illness. Sadly, I have to tell you that my father passed away on April 24th, 2011. I was able to be in Ohio with him before he died. We sat and talked and he told me what he wanted for his memorial service, who he wanted to speak and of course a saxophone playing. Daddy loved jazz and the saxophone was his favorite instrument. He had 10’s of thousands of songs that he catalogued on his computer. His jazz library could rival any formal library in the world.

As we talked I had one question for my dad.

“Daddy I know you want your ashes spread in West Virginia.”

“Yeah, your mama knows what I want. There’s a creek where I used to play when I was a little boy and that’s where I want the ashes.”

“Is the creek still there?”

With his typical eye roll, “Oh shoot girl, yes it’s still there.”

“Well I was just wondering if it would be okay to have some of Jordan’s ashes mixed with yours when we spread them.”

“Of course you can, even if it’s just a teaspoonful. You know Jordan is my boy. Now you notice I said is, not was.”

“I know Daddy.”

Daddy handing Jordan(age 2) a rock when they both got restless at church and went outside.

“Shoot, that boy and I threw rocks together when he was little down in West Virginia. Of course he can be with me.”

“Thank you Daddy.”

We sat quietly for a while after talking and I looked over and Daddy had fallen asleep.

Later that day he was moved from the hospital to an inpatient hospice facility. Our hope was that he would be able to come home in a few days after they  transferred him to oral medications. Unfortunately, his condition deteriorated rapidly and by Friday he wasn’t talking anymore but didn’t seem to be in much pain. When my mom and I walked into his room on Friday as part of our new routine I asked him what music he wanted to hear.I rolled out the usuals, Stanley Turrentine, Gene Ammons, Jimmy Smith. He shook his head “no” until I came to Sam Cooke.He wasn’t in the mood for jazz, but for gospel.
I stood rubbing his shoulder as he seemed a bit restless and then he reached out for my hand. I took his hand and told my mother to hold his other. All the while Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers played, “Nearer To Thee,” in the background. After a few minutes of standing at his bedside holding his hands he gently pulled his hands away. Mama and I went to sit down. I looked over at my exhausted mother and saw that she had drifted off to sleep. Daddy would close his eyes for a few minutes and then open them again, putting his hands behind his head and then trying to turn in bed. He was too weak to turn and shook his head “no” when I asked if he wanted help. I looked over at him as he lay with his eyes closed and suddenly he opened his eyes and with perfect clarity winked at me which brought me to the edge of my seat. I smiled back, so familiar with that wink and knowing this time all the words that it conveyed, “I’m alright”, “Take care of yourself” ,”Take care of your Mama”, “Goodbye.”

That was the last time Daddy opened his eyes and his gift of a wink was the perfect goodbye. He was an amazing man who taught me so much about life and not fearing death. Sleep well my wonderful father. You have earned your rest.

June 7, 1936-April 24, 2011

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

We’ll Miss Him and Celebrate Him Together

Numbness, longing, heartache, sadness, triumph (yes triumph), and even a bit of fear are coursing through me as I mark another year without Jordan. His death, so sudden, catapulted me into depths of despair that was never even fathomable until I found myself there. It is four years since Jordan died and as every October 12th nears, I hate that time must be marked and acknowledged by the death of my son. It is the day more than any other when I flip through all the events leading up to the police officers at the door telling us Jordan was dead and I like untangling a physics problem I wonder what event could have been injected to the day to make things turn out differently?

There are things I wish had happened. I wish that he’d stayed in New York hanging out with his childhood friends and celebrating his friend Luc’s birthday. I wish I’d called him while he was on the road, telling him to be mindful of the traffic and waking him from his slumber. As many times as I collect all my what ifs and wishes and lay them out before me the same conclusion is drawn every time. I’ll never know if there was anything I could have done to change the trajectory of the events that led to Jordan’s death.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I’m not dreading the anniversary of Jordan’s death as I have in the past and that is my triumph! The passage of time and how I’m using my time is helping me to make peace with that fact. (Thank you Tom)

Feeling less dread means that instead of turning my back to October 12th, I face it head on knowing there will be tears and sorrow but that I can also open myself up to grace and all the beauty that surrounded my wonderful boys’ life. As I’ve said to my children many times when the ache of missing Jordan seems unbearable, “We’ll miss him together.” The security of the companionship that is captured in those words also applies to our love for him. It is attainable, sustainable, and above all else eternal.

On the first anniversary of Jordan’s death Kendall suggested we commemorate it by going to Wendy’s and getting frosty’s because, as she said, “Jordan liked frosty’s.” Thinking back on the sweetness of her gesture I know that pockets of joy can be coaxed through even the most powerful grief. I’m learning that I can celebrate Jordan’s life any time I choose, even on the day he died. His last day on this earth was spent with friends and having fun, what a thing to proclaim. My son died at 9:32pm October 12th, 2008, but prior to that time he lived with a fullness that not many can match.

The hard work of living with loss is leaving me open to doing more than reliving the trauma of that day, but also capturing the precious gifts that day gave me. I heard my son’s voice for the last time and it held no regret. I told him I loved him and he replied, “I love you too.”

I’ve already asked Mark if he’ll go to the movies with me, something that Jordan loved. Maybe after the movie we’ll make our way to Wendy’s and order frosty’s, just because Jordan liked them.

Jordan Alexander Moore-Fields
August 9, 1989- October 12, 2008
A Life Well Lived

October is Here

I don’t know where to start except to say that it is October again and the 12th, the day Jordan died is approaching. I don’t have the same dread as I’ve had in years past but my heart is heavy. The 12th will never be an ordinary day and why should it be? Heartache is encroaching and I’m allowing it in, welcoming it almost. I know that to push away the sadness or pretend like it’s just any day will not serve me well. I will acknowledge, express and care for my feelings as steps on the path to healing. For now it is a hard week, it has been a hard month and through my grief and pain I know that my family and I will remember what it was like to receive the news of Jordan’s death and the after effects. But, I’m blessed to have family and friends who I can count on to listen, even if all they hear are the sounds of weeping. The day will and come and then it will be the next day. We keep going always with Jordan in our hearts.