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 ‘maternal instinct’ 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

 

 

Thinking of You

“I’ll be thinking of you, thinking of you

Though we’re far apart, you’re in my heart

And there you’ll always stay

Till we meet again someday

I’ll be thinking of you”

Andrae Crouch

Jordan is always on my mind, always. Some days the comfort I get from feeling his presence in my heart and surroundings is like light and warmth all at the same time. I freely talk to him telling him about my days and asking him to watch over and encourage his siblings. I remember silly things he’s done and am able to laugh, feeling his laughter too.

On other days, thinking of him makes me wish that there were some way that he could come back, that a horrible mistake has been made and he’ll find a way to return. I’ve even gone so far as to chastise myself for having him cremated. “He doesn’t have a body to come back to, what were we thinking?”

Still more, are the days when I’m so angry not only at the accident that caused his death or at his friends who lived, but at Jordan. A litany of  “Why” outbursts cascade through my mind as I lash out at him for not surviving.

  • Why were you sitting in the rear passenger seat?
  • Why did you fall asleep?
  • Why didn’t you stay in NY instead of tagging along to Baltimore?
  • Why didn’t you stick with friends your own age?
  • Why didn’t you listen to your dad and I and stay vigilant when you’re riding in the car on long trips?
  • Why didn’t you tell me how tired everyone was on the day you were going back to school?

And then the anger fixed on Jordan turns to me.

  • Why didn’t I listen to my gut and call you to check-in while you were on the road?
  • Why didn’t I buy you a bus ticket for NY instead of allowing you to drive with your friends?
  • Why didn’t I get angry when you changed plans and off-handedly told me about it in a text message?
  • Why did I let you make your own choices and decisions?

The last why is the conundrum that threatens me most. I’m raising my surviving children to be just as independent and to live fully the way Mark and I taught their brother. Am I doing right by them? I pray they will live long, happy lives. I’m proud of them for their resilience and that they continue to embrace life with exuberance and hope. The love and pride I have for my children doesn’t change the nagging thoughts that undermine my beliefs in what being a good mother means.  It still stings when people tell me I’m a good mom. Sometimes all I can give in response is a nod as I lower my head. They’re saying, “Good mom.” I’m thinking, “Cautionary tale.”

My oldest boy is gone and as hard as I try I can’t completely shake the feeling that I should have been able to save him. Yes, it was an accident that took his life but there are so many intersections of time where things could have been different. A bus ticket, a phone call, saying, “No, you can’t go,” would have changed the trajectory of my family’s life. I know his death can’t be undone and facing that reality is a part of who I am now. Yes, I think about my son everyday and today happens to be a “Why” day.

Always Mom of 4

October Snow and Long Distance Parenting

My newly minted freshman in college is a part of the October snowstorm that hit the northeast this past weekend. The town where Merrick’s school is located lost power on Saturday and is still in the dark. Merrick called home Saturday night to update us and we advised him to conserve his phone’s battery even as we peppered him with questions.

“Do you have a flashlight?”

“Um, no.”

“Are you sure? How could we have bought half of Target and not bought a flashlight?”

“I don’t know but I don’t have one.”

“Look in the bottom drawer of your desk. Your dad put tools and things like that in there when we were helping you unpack.”

“Alright Mom, I’ll check but I don’t think I have one.”

Turning to my husband Mark I say, “How could we not buy him a flashlight. That should have been one of the main things on the list.”

“Mom, I’ve got a wrench, no flashlight.”

“Okay, okay. Well hopefully the power will be back on when you wake up tomorrow.”

“It’s okay right now. The generator is lighting the hallway and the bathroom so it’s not too bad.”

“Just be careful okay.”
“I am.”

We said our goodbyes and as Merrick went off to make a snowman with friends and then play his saxophone in a band thrown together for the occasion, I tossed and turned waiting for morning. Who could imagine such a snowstorm in October? The month was so close to being over and for my family it is a month fraught with emotions. We marked the 3rd anniversary of our oldest son Jordan’s death on the 12th and made our way through the 18th the date of his memorial service and then celebrated and consoled Merrick on the 20th the day he turned 19, the same age Jordan was when he died. October already held enough upheaval and Merrick was just starting to find a rhythm again and not be so weighted down with grief. In the days right after his birthday he’d said things like, “Why did Jordan have to die a week before my birthday? And “Jordan died when he was 19, I’ve got to make it through this year.”

Struggling for comforting words I gave him what I could, “ I know your birthday is hard now. It may never feel the way it did before Jordan died. But that doesn’t mean that one day you won’t feel pockets of joy. My prayer for you is that as time goes on those pockets will grow deeper. We’re here for you and we will always celebrate the day you were born. That day gave us you. You’re not Jordan and what happened to him was an accident. Each day, every year is to be lived, not gotten through. Please try to take in what I’m saying.”

“I’ll try.”

Then the tears came and I sat cradling the phone making sure he knew I was there but allowing him to vet every emotion coursing through him as he sobbed for all he’s lost and all the longing he has for his brother. The week wore on and I’d talk to him every other day, “Just checking in,” were my words when I couldn’t keep myself from calling. I didn’t want him to feel like I was worrying too much about him but I was, and the only thing that made me able to cope was hearing his voice.

*

On Sunday morning after the storm, Mark and I were both awake by 7:30 and Mark immediately reached for his Ipad to check the outages on the East Coast. Merrick’s town still had no power. I was grateful he was still asleep and hoped that maybe by the time he woke up the power would be back. Later that morning we got a call from Merrick from the cellphone of one of his friend’s saying that the campus had run out of food and they were strongly encouraging students to evacuate the campus. The administration suggested they go to a neighboring school that did not lose power or home if they lived close enough. Merrick then went on a rant about AT&T and how he had no “bars” and the only people that did were those with Verizon and T-Mobile.

“Dad we’ve got to change cellphone carriers. This is crazy.”

He ranted about his phone but we heard the panic in his voice and his need for us to help him figure out what to do. He was weary from October. We had to decide what was the best option so that he could feel safe. Realizing that soon we wouldn’t have any connection with him if his friends all scattered because some were going to Boston to stay with friends and some were going to neighboring schools, we had to help our kid figure out the best place for him. Thankfully he knew us well enough that he didn’t impulsively just go someplace without letting us know.

Jordan’s trip during his Fall break from college took a detour from New York to Baltimore which he texted us about as he rode to Baltimore. I never got a chance to tell him, “That wasn’t the plan,” or “No, stay in NY.” I wonder if I could have kept him safe, kept him alive. On the drive back, just 20 minutes from campus is where the car accident occurred and he was pronounced dead at the scene. He was riding with 3 friends when the driver fell asleep and the car careened off the interstate falling 40 feet onto the service road below. As much as we want Merrick to have freedom as a college student and be responsible for making decisions, Jordan’s death has cast a veil of vigilance over the rest of our children. Merrick choosing the same small town as his brother to go to school has heightened our anxiety.

As we scrambled to figure out where Merrick should go until he could return to campus he uttered, “I could carpool with some friends to Boston.”

The word, “No,” was out of my mouth as Merrick finished his sentence. “I don’t want you carpooling. We’ll figure out how to get you someplace safe.”

Before I could speak further Merrick jumped in, “Okay Mom, I know. I won’t.”

This wasn’t the first time that riding with friends had come up with Merrick. As I reminded him to make his reservation early for the airport shuttle for Thanksgiving his response was, “My friend and I were thinking about grabbing a ride with some other people going to the airport.”

“Merrick, NO. I don’t want you carpooling. I’ll pay for the shuttle. I don’t want you riding in someone’s car. Do you understand?”

“Mom I got you.”

He says he understands but how long can my fear of young people and road trips determine my son’s actions? He is 19 and I want him to be 20,21 and on and on. There will come a day when he does take a trip with friends and I’ll have to grit my way through it. My feeling now is that I won’t breathe until he’s safely at his destination and then safely back. It’s not how I want to live. I hope I’ll regain some calm and faith, but I’ve become a maven of safety statistics of buses, planes and trains vs. cars. Cars lose every time.

*

For anyone observing Mark and I as we tried to figure out the best and yes, safest place for Merrick to be until he could return to campus, you would have thought we were planning a reconnaissance mission. Mark paced the family room as I sat with my laptop googling hotels, looking up friends on Facebook trying to remember who lived in Boston.

Mark throws out, “Could you call your friend Doreen in Boston?”

“I’m not even sure she’s in town. Besides how’s he going to get there?”

“Well we told him we’d call him back and we need to before his friend leaves. That was the only way we had to stay in contact with him.”

“I know that,” I snapped. Then the obvious became the plan. “Let’s call Jordan’s dean. He said if we ever needed anything to call him.”

With that Mark picked up the phone and both of us started to feel we were doing something to help Merrick. Jordan’s dean was more than happy to help us and would pick Merrick up from campus then take him to his house. We texted Merrick the dean’s telephone number so he could arrange to get picked up. I felt foolish for talking to him like a 10 year old but I repeatedly reminded him to call me when he was with Jordan’s dean. When he finally called a mere 20 minutes later sounding relieved I felt the weight of the night and the panic of the day leave. After our call was complete, I continued to hold the phone, my forehead on my knees. Mark came over and sat on the ottoman across from me and held my legs. “He’s okay.”

Tears were all I could muster as a reply as the words, “Merrick is not Jordan,” were the mantra on my mind.

Mind Over Matter

I’m downstairs, listening to my daughters who are upstairs simultaneously practicing flute and clarinet. They’re in separate rooms but I have no idea how they can practice without messing up the other’s timing. Tomorrow is a snow day! It is the first my daughters have ever had since being in school. They are beyond excited. Merrick found out his high school is closed tomorrow as well, the first time since the mid 1970’s. Before he could fully relax he asked me, “Mom, they really said school is closed. You’re sure?” So we’re all hunkered down for the storm. Mark is home and aside from the howling winds our house feels safe.

I’m working to bring safety back to my spirit. When I emailed Edward to ask about the accident I did so without letting anyone know. Mark wishes I’d stop, not wanting me to hurt anymore than I do now. He thinks we know enough and that any additional details will only hurt me more. He may be right. The mother in me, Jordan’s mother, can’t rest without understanding the whole of the truth of that night. Mark’s afraid I’ll be haunted by what I find out. I’m afraid I’ll be haunted if I don’t. I check my email as usual everyday, not expecting to see a response from Edward but bracing myself just in case there is one. So far he has not responded or acknowledged my query of him. There may never be a response.

I did fantasize when I saw the mailman across the street today that perhaps Edward was writing a real letter and that was why I hadn’t heard from him yet. I know I’ve asked a lot of him. What I’m learning from my own experience about trauma and PTSD are that the things the mind does to protect the heart are astounding. Edward may be in full protection mode and unable to even go back to that night.

Mark reminded me when I told him about finally realizing that Edward put his t-shirt to the back of Jordan’s head not to his forehead, that I’d know that all along. So gently he said to me, “Remember, the coroner and James (a family friend who is an ER doc) told us that he couldn’t survive an impact like that to the back of the head.”

I remember that Mark talked to the coroner in MA by phone and James was also on the line. He told me afterwards what they said. What I remember from that conversation is him saying, “Jordan was asleep. He didn’t feel any pain.” That’s what my mind took in and that’s what my heart could handle. Almost 2 1/2 years later the shock and blur of Jordan’s accident are not as constant and I can’t explain to anyone why I crave details now.

I read a short story a while ago entitled, “The Girlfriend.” It is in a book by Maile Meloy called,Both Ways Is The Only Way I Want It. In the story a father seeks out the girlfriend of the man who murdered his daughter after the trial where the man is found guilty. He wants to know every detail of that night that he can find. What the father ultimately finds out makes him feel worse, almost a party to the crime instead of somehow more settled. I’ve thought about that story  a lot wondering if I’ll end up like the father having too much information that will have to somehow keep house with my pain not ease it. I just don’t know.

I found an entry in one of my journals from 11/10. The entry is entitled, “Why Do This.” Meaning why write a blog, why am I writing a book? I had a long list of reasons some of which are:

  1. To feel closer to Jordan
  2. To stop being afraid of being happy
  3. To accept that my boy is gone
  4. To figure out how to diffuse some of this pain

The last item on my list was:

5.To ask all the questions that I want answers to, even if there aren’t any answers.

The Need To Know

The back of his skull was crushed, that’s why Edward put his shirt under Jordan’s head not on his forehead like I’ve assumed and imagined he did for two years. The email from Edward that he sent on 8/29/09 told me plain as day, “I put my shirt under Jordan’s head to stop the bleeding.” I came across the email yesterday when I was cleaning up my inbox. Instead of skipping over it as I have for over a year I read it and it was the first time that the events of that evening made their way through my grief.

Jordan was dying when Edward pulled him from the car. The coroner’s report said his brain stem was damaged and that he never had a chance to wake up. My version of the events of that night was tidier. Jordan was asleep during the accident. He hit his head and never regained consciousness. I held that version until I saw the 2009 Winter Olympics and the luge accident where the athlete was killed. There was so much blood around his head. It was the first time I connected a head injury with blood.

My sister commenting on my “Looking Too Soon” post about the luge accident, wrote that her husband cleaned the blood from Jordan’s shoes. Reading her comment brought to my knees, hyperventilating and getting my first true glimpse of how horrific the accident scene must have been. What she knew and how she told me were things I wasn’t prepared to accept so I rejected her comment never allowing it space with the other comments on my blog, as though that would change the truth.

Everything I’ve written about the accident has Edward putting his t-shirt on Jordan’s forehead, a far less serious injury than the one described in the accident report and the coroner’s report. I read both reports and missed the details that gave the accurate depiction. In my version, the fantasy of a mother with a son who died, I wanted Jordan to go to the hospital so I could sit by his bedside and lie next to him and tell him, “Mama and Daddy are here,” until he drew his last breath.

He died on the side of the road and the blood that had to be staved wasn’t from a cut on his forehead but from the base of his crushed skull. It took me a year to realize that the cleaned up body with the bandaged forehead that I viewed at the funeral home wasn’t the body at the accident scene. My heart and mind for some reason are now willing to acknowledge more of  the trauma I blocked out before.

Seeing Edwards’ email yesterday I felt like I was reading it for the first time. It reignited all the questions I had about that night that only he, Christian and Matt can answer. Needing to know has started to overwhelm me. I emailed Edward yesterday unable to wait any longer to ask the questions that keep haunting me:

Did Jordan cry out in pain?

Why didn’t he wake up with all the commotion of you guys screaming when the car went out of control?

Did he wake up?

What did you say to him when you stayed with him while Christian and Matt went up the hill to wait for the ambulance?

Was he unconscious the whole time?

Did he ever say anything?

I’m not sure what I’ll do with the answers or if they’ll ever come, but I couldn’t stop myself from asking. For a while I played a counting game. When Edward, Matt and Christian are 25, no 30, maybe when they’re married or fathers, maybe then they’ll tell me exactly what happened that night. I’ve prevented myself from asking too much so far because the trauma those boys experienced on the side of the road watching their friend die has not escaped me. But it hasn’t changed the fact that trauma happened at home too, when the police came to my door and took safety away from my heart.

Edward is 24 and in my email I tried to explain why I couldn’t wait any longer. I told him: You’re right, Jordan is on my heart and mind everyday. I struggle with the fact that I wasn’t there to hold him, care for him and say goodbye. You did those things for me. But I have all these questions that require your frankness and as much recall as you can muster.

I’m envious of all the parents who got to touch, hold or sing to their children when they knew they were dying. I wonder what kind of person envies another parent who has lost a child? I battle with my shame. Edward is a complex person in my life. He drove the car when the accident occurred but he also carried Jordan from the car, held him and talked to him until the paramedics came. Edward was the driver and Jordan’s last caretaker, facts that are so entangled in my mind I don’t always know if they can be separated. Right now I have so many questions. The trauma of that night retreats at times and then rears up revealing specks of truth that I can no longer ignore. As much as it hurts I have to know what happened to my boy.

Honor Roll Please

My children are amazing. I know most parents feel this way and rightfully so, but I am learning so much from my kids about perseverance, determination, grace under pressure, and just grace. Merrick is home today still asleep as he’s finished with final exams and gets today and Monday off. He worked so hard. Even when he was exhausted and started to doubt his abilities, he kept pushing wanting to do his best. The last two weeks for him have included, applying to colleges and taking finals. The stress of college applications and the weight of having to do well on finals made him falter and wonder if he could do it. He wanted Jordan to talk to, to tell him it was going to be okay. He cried out for his brother.

“He’s the only person I want to talk to.”

“I know honey. I know you’re hurting and you miss him so much. You’re doing so much right now. I know this sounds simplistic, but it is going to get better. You’re not always going to feel so sad.”

Merrick looked at me with a mixture of weariness and hope and said, “I believe it’s going to get better. I just don’t know how to get there.”

The only words I could find were, “You’re already getting there. Just keep going. Jordan’s here with you.”

And he did keep going. He came home  after his last final so proud of himself and how prepared he felt for every exam. He fought through loneliness, sorrow and longing to achieve his goals.

*

Today Mark and I got the girls off to school early today so that we could attend the 6th grade honor roll breakfast. As we entered the building I thought about all the prayers I prayed that they would have an easy transition to middle school. I needed for this transition to be without too great an emotional cost.

I am so proud of them not only because of their accomplishments, but because they made the transition from elementary school to middle school with nervousness and a bit of angst but no trepidation. They looked forward to a new challenge and they are handling themselves so well.

They’re learning a lot in middle school. They’re realizing that grown-ups don’t always know what to say and sometimes say the wrong thing about grief and loss. Lindsay had to do an in class writing assignment  on a person she admired. She picked Jordan and wrote about his preparation for the lifeguard test. In the midst of the writing assignment her teacher called out, “Your assignment will be something you can read to the person you admire.” Lindsay kept working, head down knowing for her that wasn’t true. A few minutes later a boy in her class went up to the teacher and said, “I can’t read mine to the person I admire, he died.” The teacher’s response was, “Well read it to someone else who’ll appreciate it.”

Lindsay came home that day fuming, so angry that her teacher wasn’t sensitive to the kids who may be writing about someone who wasn’t here for them to read to.

“Mom the worse part was she didn’t even get it until someone reminded her that not everybody’s person was still alive.”

All I could do was agree with her and ask how she wanted to handle the situation. She told me that at the next parent-teacher conference she’d like to talk to her teacher about remembering everybody has different circumstances and no one likes to be made to feel left out or different. I told her, “Daddy and I will be right there with you. I think it’s great you’re letting your teacher know how you feel.”

Today  In the mass of 6th graders piling their plates with bagels, pastries and fruit I searched out and found my daughters. They explained that they were going to sit with their friends, “If that’s alright.” Mark and I made our way to another cafeteria table and sat with the some of the other parents who’d been ditched by their kids in favor of hanging out with friends. I stole glances at my girls watching as they giggled and chatted with their friends. I watched them, my heart bursting with pride at their resilience, energy, laughter and love of life.  Mark with the ever-present camera captured the joy on their faces as they stood to be recognized.

I hope and pray everyday that I’m doing right by my children. That my instincts lead me to give them the balance of firmness, understanding, love and needed relief when grief’s hold is too tight. As my auntie told me after Jordan died, “Jackie, just do the best you can.” I’m watching my children do their best and am so inspired.

Picture Day

My son Merrick was supposed to schedule the appointment for his high school senior portrait during the last weeks of school but repeatedly forgot. As I called to schedule his appointment last week, I remembered that I had gone through this same routine with Jordan. As I sat on the phone with the photography studio waiting to be transferred to the appropriate department to make Merrick’s appointment, I struggled not to let superstition and foreboding overcome me. I thought back to when I made the call to schedule Jordan’s appointment. I’d been annoyed that he forgot to handle it, but I was more excited about him entering his last year of high school. The senior portrait was the first milestone of that last year and marked the burgeoning college student to come.

Not only did Jordan forget to schedule his appointment, he almost forgot to go to the appointment. The day of his portrait sitting he raced into the house from playing basketball to quickly shower and change clothes. He called out to me, “Ma what should I wear? Matt is wearing a tie. Should I wear a suit?”

I yelled up the stairs, “Only if you want to. I don’t think you have to be that formal. Senior pictures always look a little unnatural to me. Wear something you like, that you feel comfortable in.”

Jordan came downstairs 30 minutes later wearing dark slacks and his goldenrod dress shirt. “Is this okay?”

“Yes, you look great. Now hurry up so you don’t miss your appointment.” I watched him out the back door and to the garage to the car.

I carried Jordan’s senior picture in my wallet and proudly showed it off. The last time I pulled it from my wallet was the day after his accident. I gave it to my friend Jeanne so she could scan it and email it to the Boston Globe for the article they were doing about the accident(Amherst Sophomore Dies in Crash). The picture ran with the article in the Boston Globe and then was the picture blown up and placed at the front of the church for the memorial service. Jordan’s senior portrait with his smiling, hope-filled face was the first thing I saw as my family and I made our way to the front row of the church.

I can’t lose another child. I contemplated not scheduling Merrick’s senior portrait as a way of safeguarding him against harm. Irrational thoughts filled my head. I reasoned, “I could take a picture of Merrick, he doesn’t need anything so formal. He doesn’t like formal portraits anyway, he probably won’t care if he doesn’t have one.” I calmed my fears enough to let my love for Merrick prevail. I don’t want Merrick to miss out on the high school rites of passage that he’ll cherish and remember. He’ll want to flip through his yearbook and see the faces of his friends and him. I’ll want to keep his picture in my wallet, just as I did Jordan’s.

I can only allow small bursts of thoughts on Merrick entering his final year of high school. I know that beyond this year lies his time away at college. This summer he’s been away for six weeks in New England at a pre-college arts program. When we talk he tells me, “I like college. I like the independence. I’m ready.” I listen to his words and give all the appropriate affirmations. “I’m so glad you’re having a good summer. It’s good to stretch yourself to see what your interests are. I’m glad you’re excited about college.”

I say all the right things and inside I struggle with my fears. I must let another son go away to college. He’s ready and excited to do his best this last year of high school to further his dreams. Part of me hoped and admittedly still hopes that he’ll feel the need to slow his pace. Maybe he’ll take a year off and work or do an internship close to home. He knows these are options but I can tell by the passionate way he speaks of his summer experience that he can’t wait for college. I won’t stand in his way. My husband always says, “You put all your hopes and dreams in your children.” He is right. My breath catches in my throat every time I fully think about another child of mine going away to college and the possibility that Merrick might not come home. I won’t let my fear be an impediment to any of his hopes and dreams. Breath by breath we keep going.

Merrick and I on his 17th birthday