“Mama on the day Jordan died can we go to Wendy’s?”
(What I’m thinking-No honey I’ll be curled up in a ball under the covers willing the day to go away).
What I say instead, “Why do you want to go to Wendy’s?”
“Because it was one of Jordan’s favorite places and they have good Frosties.”
“We’ll see baby, we’ll see.”
I realize that my daughter is remembering one of the last times she spent with her brother, where she was together with all of her siblings for an outing. Jordan had taken them to Target to buy the Mario Cart game for Wii and then they went to Wendy’s. She wants to honor her brother by replaying a good memory on the day of his death. I want the day to vanish, to never arrive; if it has to come can’t I be sedated throughout?
There are no rules about grief and mourning. The last year has taught me that lesson repeatedly. My daughter and I are the perfect example. She wants Wendy’s and I want the fetal position. We both have a vision of that day and neither one of us is wrong in our choice or being disrespectful, it’s just how we feel. I realize as time goes on how much my family is learning from each other as we make our way through each day without Jordan.
There have been days when my husband or I have held one of our daughters as they wept because a movie or book at school reminded them of their loss. I’ve lain in bed with one of my daughters until she fell asleep or she’s climbed into my bed because she misses Jordan and can’t sleep. I’ve ached for my son feeling helpless as his grief overtakes him and he’s too overcome to go to school. A day when he’s facing a new experience and the only person he wants to talk to is his brother who was his mentor and guide. He says out loud, “Jordan would know.” Or the time I held him as he wept because what used to be a typical experience of babysitting for his sisters was extraordinary and overwhelming because what he and Jordan used to do as a team he now does alone. Through his tears he kept saying, “If Jordan was here, If Jordan was here….” I’ve held and rocked all three of them.
I’ve acted as secretary to my daughters on days when their pain is so great that my only suggestion to them is to talk to their brother directly. I say to them, “Do you want to write Jordan a letter? I’ll be your secretary and write for you, you can just say whatever you need to say.” Their letters so poignant speak the thoughts of Jordan constantly on all of our minds-
- Why did your friend fall asleep while he was driving?
- Were you scared?
- I miss you.
- Why did it have to be you?
Questions without answers and the universal statement for all that loved Jordan-“I miss you.” I tell my kids I write to Jordan too. Whenever they need me to help them write I’ll do it. My statement to them always is, “We’ll miss him together.” They walk away feeling a little better. I sit exhausted and distraught. Is there a way to not worry about your children? I see their suffering and I absorb their pain.
Just as I’ve taken care of them they have soothed and comforted me. I’ve learned grace, patience and strength from my children. My son exemplifies all of the traits he admired in his brother. He insisted on speaking at the Memorial service for Jordan and spoke of all the things his brother had taught him, about being an individual, following your own dreams not those of others, and extending yourself in uncomfortable situations to make room for adventures. He told the audience gathered that he would live his life not doing the things Jordan did, but would live the way Jordan did. Before he sat down he did a rap he composed the night before which was an homage to his brother, then said simply, “I’m going to miss him.” As he sat down I looked over at him, touched his face and said to myself, “my son just spoke for our family.” At other times Merrick has helped me to temper my anger at our situation. I struggle with the fact that Jordan’s friends walked away from a car that was totaled without even having to be hospitalized and my son died without waking up. Merrick has said to me, “Mom, it was an accident. They were his friends.” On most days I remember these facts but it is good to have such caring reminders.
My daughters have also each been my teacher. About 6 months after Jordan died, they came to the car one day after school, hopped in and before I could pull from the curb said, “Mom we have some bad news.” I braced myself. In times past, bad news could be someone roofed all the playground balls during recess or someone got sick and had to go home, but now they, like the rest of our family’s definition of bad news is not taken lightly. I asked what happened and one of my daughters told me her first grade Book Buddy’s mother died the day before. I sat there trying to drive without crying thinking, “Why did it have to be my child’s little friend? Hasn’t she been through enough?” The next words were from her sister who said, “ I think it’s good that your Book Buddy has you. You know what it’s like to lose someone you love, you’ll be able to help her.” Of course she was right and so matter of fact in her generosity and grace towards another family.
The generosity our community showed us after Jordan’s death was immense. It was now time for us to pay our respects to another grieving family. My daughter made a beautiful card for her friend telling her you can talk to me at recess whenever you need to. We made plans that weekend to drop a card off to the family and flowers for my daughter’s little friend. The family of one of my daughters’ friends had specially given flowers to my girls and they were so proud to be thought of in such a distinct way. I remembered how they had cherished those flowers and wanted my daughter’s friend to feel the same. My husband, daughter and I made our way to this family’s home and paid our respects. My daughter walked in and made a beeline for her friend so that she could personally give her the card and flowers. As we handed the father a card we’d written to him, we explained to the father, and other family members present the connection between our respective daughters. We then briefly told them of our own loss and we all shared a knowing look about the pain grief brings that words have yet been invented to describe. We were there for maybe five minutes and we saw reflected back in their faces what we knew we must have looked like in the days following Jordan’s death. There was shock, numbness, sadness and a haunted disbelief embedded in each face. As hard as it was to go there we did. Generosity and compassion mean nothing if you don’t give some of what you’ve been given to others in their time of need.
Every day is different. My children have days when they are focused on the present and talk about the mundane things in their worlds. Their talk of getting together with friends, homework, soccer practice, Spoken Word Club help keep me in the present. There are those other days when missing Jordan is a force unto itself. One day my son and I were in the car and he started asking questions about Jordan and what types of classes he took when he was a sophomore in high school. We talked about that for a few minutes and then I gently asked him, “Are you okay? I know you miss your brother.” His reply, “I’m okay but it’s hard. It’s like everything that happened with Jordan and me, the good stuff and the fights; I’m trying to remember it all. It’s all good stuff now.” I sat and listened to him understanding exactly what he meant and missing Jordan too. As I drove I exhaled and said, “What are we going to do?” My son, still facing forward simply said, “We keep going.” I patted his arm and with a catch in my throat replied, “That’s what we’ll do.”