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.
August 9, 2012
It’s cloudy today, which makes your birthday without you here to celebrate even harder to bear. You would be 23 today, a grown man! I have so many moments that I imagine what you would look like now and what direction life would haven taken you. I always imagine great things because you always dreamed big without reservation. I miss you. It’s been almost 4 years since you died and though time has mellowed the grief, the sorrow in my heart has a pulse and an ache to it that truly makes me know that as your mother I will always long for you.
For some reason writing to you this year is harder than in years past. I hope it’s not because time is blurring my memories of you. I keep you forefront in my heart and pray everyday to feel the nearness of your spirit. You continue to be an inspiration to me. I want to leave my mark on this world just as you were able to do in just 19 short years. Your name is never far from the lips of your family. Merrick I think will always talk about you the most. He has so many stories that start with, “Hey Ma, remember the time Jordan…..”
Merrick just came into the office where I’m sitting by the window writing to you. I told him I was writing my annual birthday letter and he told me that he’d posted his happy birthday message to you on your Facebook page at 12:01am, wanting to be the first. I know you are proud of your brother and sisters. They are growing and each of them has some of your mannerisms that make me smile. When Merrick comes into the house he yells out, “Mom, where are ya?” sounding exactly like you used to. The first couple of times it happened I had to hold back tears because for the briefest of moments I thought you’d come home. Lindsay holds her mouth the same way you used to when given a compliment as she tries to hold back a smile. And Kendall’s quick wit has all of us laughing at the dinner table just as you did. I see you in all of them and know that as their big brother your arms of protection and love still guide them.
This year we will do as we have since you died. Your banner hangs in front of the house announcing to the world that today is your birthday and we celebrate you! And we’ll light your candle as a comforting reminder that your spirit lives within all of us.
Thank you for being my son and teaching me so much. You are always in my heart.
Jordan, who I’ve been asking to visit me in my dreams or give me some sense of his presence made himself known in such a Jordan way last week. I rarely dream of Jordan and it still makes me so sad. The times I have dreamed of him even if he’s in the background and doesn’t speak, but I get a glimpse of him I wake up feeling rested and smiling inside. “I got to see my boy.”
I’ve been revisiting an incident that happened last week that gave me such joy and I’m trying with all my might to hold onto it, to make it the broom that sweeps away some of the sorrow that has taken hold of my heart and mind.
Mark and I were driving back from a night out at dinner, listening to my IPod, which was on shuffle. We talked with the music in the background when suddenly one of Jordan’s favorite songs, “My Favorite Things,” by John Coltrane came on. Mark glanced at me, “Do you want to hear this right now?” I shook my head no and he advanced to the next song. Suddenly we were listening to, “My Favorite Things,” by Luther VanDross, once again Mark hit forward pushing us to the next song. Well, there was Julie Andrews brightly singing, “Rain drops on roses…” Mark and I looked at each other in disbelief and he once again advanced to the next song. Then, there he was filling the car with his voice. Jordan’s Rap filled the car. Jordan loved making beats and rapping over them, and this particular song, which is my favorite of his, he made his senior year in high school. Mark motioned to change the song and I grabbed his hand.
“No, he’s been trying to talk to us this whole time and we didn’t listen. “My Favorite Things” was Jordan’s Christmas song that he listened to even in July. You know how stubborn Jordan was he’s going to make sure we hear him. Let’s just listen.”
And we sat in the garage hearing the booming voice of my gone too soon son loving his lyricism, wit and talent. What would he have become? He had so many gifts.
When the song ended we left the car, walking towards the house hand in hand. I smiled thinking of how strongly I felt Jordan’s presence and thanking him for another visit.
Every time since listening to his song in the car, on the “random” play of songs, I smile and think of how happy my boy made me. I don’t want to lose that feeling. I’m keeping it in a corner of my heart, making a big space for it so that some of the gloom and darkness that has kept me from smiling can be overtaken by the joy, pure joy that I felt that night when Jordan so clearly let us know, I am here. Look for me, listen for me, I’m still here.
The last month has been challenging the closer it came to Easter. Daddy died on Easter Sunday and even though last year that date was April 24th, it didn’t matter that the date didn’t fall on the same day. Easter brought up all the memories of getting the call from hospice that Daddy was in his final moments and we should hurry if we wanted to see him before he died. We got there 10 minutes too late, which I think Daddy would have been relieved about. He didn’t want us to watch him die. We all filed in to his room to see him, all tubes removed and him lying in bed with no signs of pain on his face. I laid my head on his chest and called out, “Oh my daddy, my daddy, my daddy,” marveling all the while that his body was still warm and it didn’t feel like we got there too late.
This year, all the days leading up to Easter brought flashes of visiting him in the hospital, watching his fast deterioration, having a slideshow in my head of the MRI scans that showed picture after picture of all the places the cancer had invaded his body. I was dreading Easter and wanting to quicken its arrival at the same time. “Lord let me get through this day.”
I worried about Mama and was relieved when my sister told me she would be going down on Saturday to be with her on Sunday. But Mama, always the planner had already mapped out her day. She would observe her usual Easter rituals. There would be Sunrise service at 6am with her friend Mrs. Bradley, and then Sunday school before coming home and later having dinner at a friends. The last part was the different ending to the day. Dinner with Daddy was always how Easter Sunday wound its way down in years past. But she found a way to make it through the day on her own terms. I was flailing around, wanting to be with her, wanting to be with Merrick who loved his Pop so much and was showing his own signs of missing him and us.
“Mom, I wish I could come home and go to church with you for Easter.”
“I know honey, but you’ve got a few more weeks and then you’ll be home for the summer.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“Can you find a church service there you can go to?”
“Probably, my friend Jeremy said he would go with me.”
“That’s a good friend. I’m glad he’s there for you.”
“Mom, I was feeling bad on Friday and I listened to “Sugar” by Stanley Turrentine.”
“Oh believe me I know the song. That was one of Pop’s favorites.”
“I just missed him and started listening to it and I love how it starts off kind of slow and then builds and then rolls between all these different rhythms. By the end of the song it was like Pop was talking to me, “Boy get on up and do what you need to do.”
“That sounds like Pop.”
“Well I felt better so I got up and went to my Spoken Word Club meeting like I was supposed to.”
“I’m glad he was there for you. I think I may need to take a listen to some Stanley Turrentine myself. It’s gonna be okay baby. I know it’s hard.”
And Easter was hard. My family went to a friend’s church with her family choosing not to go to our home church even though I’d bought a lily to sit at the base of the altar in memory of Daddy and Jordan. I couldn’t bear the part of the service where they ring a bell after saying the name of each person who died in the previous year. The sound of the bell they rang when they said Jordan’s name in 2008 still echoes in my heart.
The service at my friend’s church was beautiful and uplifting but mostly I felt numb, still so torn that I wasn’t with my mom or with Merrick. After church when we came home I did the only thing I could. I changed clothes and lied down on my bed curling up waiting for sleep to come. Mark came into the room telling me not to worry about dinner.
“Stay here as long as you need to. I understand.”
The most comforting part is that I knew he truly did understand. I talked to Daddy for a while telling him how much I loved and missed him and before I knew it I was asleep and I slept better than I had in weeks.
As most of you know, I have an amazing husband who loves and cares for me unconditionally. What you may not know is that today is my birthday. I woke this morning thinking of Jordan and my Dad and how much I miss hearing their voices and that they won’t be here to wish me a happy birthday. This time last year Daddy was sick, and lay dying in the hospital. They found a way through Mark to reach out to me. Here is the first email I read (sent at 5:34 am) this morning as the house is still and quiet:
Hi my Love:
Our son came to me in my dreams tonight and asked if he could be the first one today to wish you a Happy Birthday. When I told him he couldn’t he insisted he could through me as long as I didn’t utter the words before the time stamp on this email. This way, technically of course he would be first. Who can argue with Jordan? So..
“Happy Birthday, Mom. I’m your first, and will always be. Today, hear my voice in your heart as I celebrate you and this day. I miss you too.
Now, not to be undone, I heard noise downstairs and the aroma of coffee brewing filled my nose. An older Presence was downstairs making coffee at an hour at only which He would be awake. I came down the back stairs of our house, warily because it was dark outside,. When I got downstairs, Pop was there, in the big chair in the corner with a piping hot cup of coffee, in his robe, his legs stretched out on the ottoman, white socks, slippers to one side.. The blinds had been pulled up, Nessie was under her covers, undisturbed by the hour or the Presence. He was looking out the window. I sat on the couch, looking at him. When I started to speak he raised his hand and commanded my silence. “Do you hear the birds singing?” he asked. “Yes,”. “Did you do what the Boy asked?”. “Yes, Daddy.” I replied. He looked at me and asked again, “Do you hear the birds singing?” “Yes, but…”. Once again, hand raised, he said, “Well, tell her I said it second. She’s my first too, you know.” I nodded. I saw a piece of paper with small handwriting on it.
I woke up. Composed and sent this email.
So, I’m third, and You are so loved.
I hope you find peace today, and hear the birds singing in the morning. It’s quite a racket now. In the quiet hours.
I love you now and obviously, forever.
Birthday gifts come in so many forms. I have to say that already today I’m feeling blessed and so grateful for the love that surrounds me.