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.

Posts tagged ‘friends’

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.

Columbus Day

“Mama do I have to go to school on Columbus Day?”

“No, honey your school is closed that day remember?”

“Oh yeah, but I thought that was the day, you know…”

And then my daughter trailed off not able to finish her thought and looking at me with pleading eyes hoping I’d rescue her from having to complete her words. Of course she was talking about the anniversary of Jordan’s death.

“Are you talking about October 12th, the day Jordan died?”

She shakes her head.

“It’s okay to say the day Jordan died.”

“I know, I thought it was Columbus Day.”

“That was the day we found out in 2008. It won’t be on that day every year. That’s just how you remember it. This year it’s on a Wednesday.”

“Should I go to school that day?”

“It might feel better to stick to your regular routine. But if you wake up that day and feel too sad to go then you can stay home. Let’s wait and see.”

“You’re right. Plus I won’t be at school on Friday because we’re going to see Merrick. I should go to school Wednesday.”

We found out Jordan had died the night before in the wee hours of Columbus day. Every year since, that day has been the bellwether for friends and family clanging its reminder that if the anniversary isn’t that day, it’s coming.

My family continues having the good fortune of compassionate, caring friends and family. We’ve received emails, cards, calls, invitations to meals, all to say, “We’re thinking of you all. We miss Jordan too.” The grace of others is a lifeline on what can be very dark days. Times of “what ifs,” and “if onlys” that serve no purpose beyond deepening the pain of loss. It will be 3 years tomorrow since Jordan’s death. My apprehension about the approach of the day fluctuates but isn’t as visceral as it was that first year when I wondered if I would remember to breathe as images of cars careening off of overpasses and my son being pulled lifeless from a car swirled in my head. Those images don’t appear as frequently. But the ache of loss is still as palpable. The days leading up to the 12th are fraught with thoughts of what used to be. Three years ago today my son was still living life fully and so was I. Thinkinking back on that time, I wish I could have the clarity to fully remember each moment of those early days of October when Jordan exuded energy and life. I miss him so much. I yearn to hear his voice, see what he would look like, just see him moving and being.

Three years later life is different. With each passing year there is a sadness that I’m being pulled further away from the time of Jordan’s life. I’ll always hate marking time by the death of my son, it is a cruelty that needs a name other than anniversary. Yet, I don’t dread the anniversary of Jordan’s death the way I did the first two years. I know the day will come and I will mourn and weep for what could have been and the reality that my son is dead will push forth through my soul in ways that are painful to imagine.

But I also know that after October 12th, the next day will follow and I’ll be on the path to continuing my journey of living and finding joy in my work, my family and connections with the spirit of my beautiful firstborn son.

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.

An Early Valentine To My Village

Picture taken at a local park Valentine's Day 2010

Today when I went to pick the mail up off the floor from underneath the drop slot, I saw a pouch with paw protectors. I smiled remembering that Lindsay and Kendall told me to expect them as one of our fellow neighbors /dog walkers, was going to leave them for Nessie. Apparently they were too small for her dog. She eyed the rubber booties Nessie wore and thought we might like the canvas rubber soled type better. Before owning our dog I didn’t even know some dogs wore booties. Our small pawed, cold hating dog wears them out of necessity. When I saw the pouch lying with the mail it reminded me of how kind and good hearted the people of my community are. Her random act of kindness reminded me of all I have to be thankful for because of the people in my community. Today, even though its 9 degrees and the wind is blowing, the sky is blue and the sun warms my seat on the couch by the window. It feels like a good day to express gratitude and to give a valentine to the village I love.

From the moment we moved in, Mark and I loved our new community. We felt after several job transfers, we’d found the place we wanted to stay. We chose this community over 16 years ago because we wanted a home and a neighborhood that would be the secure base from which our children would learn and make lasting ties. We liked the notion of living in a village, rich with history, which our town is. It has been ideal for us because it has great public schools, is close to downtown and has the nostalgic neighborhood feel, with kids safely playing outside reminiscent of Mark’s and my childhoods. In every way it felt right when we moved here and continues to do so. We moved here with our two young sons and all we saw was a bright future in a friendly environment. Our new neighbors welcomed us warmly with gifts of food and made themselves available to answer questions about the local school Jordan would attend for first grade.

Jordan walked to school with other kids from the block and when Merrick started school he and Jordan walked together. When it came time for middle school for the boys, the bus stop was less than a block away. Lindsay and Kendall hit the friend jackpot on our street. There were five children within a year of their ages that lived on the same side of the street as us. The kids played from yard- to -yard and house- to- house. There was no need for “play dates.” They made friends at school and on the block and their friends’ parents became the friends of Mark and me.

No community is perfect, but ours has proven to be a good fit. The people here have shown themselves to be kind, creative and trustworthy. Block parties are common during the summer, and every Fourth of July our village has a fireworks display at the local high school. People come with lawn chairs or blankets and together we sit and “ooh” and “aah” at the pyrotechnics. Volunteers come around and gather monetary donations to help defray the cost of the event.

One Fourth of July about 5 years ago we got a personal sense of the spirit of the people who make up our village.  During the Webkinz stuffed animal craze (Is it still a craze?) I accidentally dropped Lindsay’s webkinz as we walked back to our car after the fireworks. I didn’t realize until we got home that Zach the beagle wasn’t with us. Lindsay slept with this stuffed animal every night so she was very distraught. I promised her if we didn’t find it in the next few days I’d get her a new one. Until then she found comfort with one of her other stuffed animals. A couple of days later as we drove home from running errands I waited at a stop sign and happened to look up at the brick fence of the home on the corner near the high school. There sat Lindsay’s stuffed animal waiting for its rightful owner. I got out of the car, handed it to Lindsay and after finding his telltale rip she assured me this was her webkinz. I thought then, “This is the only place I know where a kid’s toy would still be here to be claimed.”

When our world was upended On October 12th 2008 with the unimaginable loss of Jordan, our friends and neighbors took action. As we sat numb with grief and in shock, we appreciated that our village is also a place where news spreads quickly and people want to know how to help. It is a place where the then superintendent of the elementary schools, who I know through school board committee work came to my home and said the words few can say at such a devastating time, “I know how you feel.” She sat with me holding my hand telling me the tragic loss of her daughter in a car accident. She did all this on what would have been her daughters 35th birthday. I will always be awed by her compassion and grace.

My family has been enveloped in a quilt of caring, with threads of care that have touched us so profoundly. We experienced firsthand how friends and neighbors gather together and figure out what you need when you’re in the haze of grief and can’t find words. They give without being asked. They pray for you, they hug you; they drop off brownies, books, and flowers on your porch-just in case you’re resting- but all the while wanting you to know that they’re thinking of you.

We have been fed physically and spiritually. In the months after Jordan’s death, meals were dropped off at our home and an account was set up at a local restaurant that provided delivery of meals for 6 months. In the first year, cards arrived almost daily with notes of prayer inside. Cards came from Jordan’s piano teacher, many of his former teachers and the librarian at the high school, and so many from the parents of his friends. All of them expressed their condolences but also shared their special memories of Jordan, which I cherish to this day.

I’ve learned a lot about friendship since Jordan died. Even as my friends experienced their own personal ordeals and worked through grief and losses they found time for my family and me. Friends like Terrie, Lori, Lisa and Michele made a pact with each other to check-in with me just to, “hear my voice,” or “lay eyes on me” if they hadn’t heard from me in more than a few days. And my friends Amy and Jeanne who call me every Saturday morning to ask without judgment or pressure if I’m attending our exercise class. If my answer is “yes” they pick me up and have provided a buffer as I try to gently reenter the world outside of grief.

The neighbors and friends in my village showed the heights of  compassion and loyalty on the day of Jordan’s memorial service. The memorial service was the same day as my daughters’ soccer game. The game was rescheduled because it conflicted with the time of the memorial service and so many families were attending the service that there wouldn’t have been enough girls to field either team.  At the memorial service we walked in to see a church that seats over 700 people filled to capacity. That day we met the parents of some of Jordan’s friends who were there as proxy for their children. Even though they didn’t know Jordan personally their children told them how special Jordan was and is to them.

My village has taught me so much about grace in action. The lessons have come through the many kindnesses of my friends and neighbors. No one ever expects to experience a devastating loss like the death of a child. On many days when grief brings me to my knees, what sees me through, is the compassion and generosity of my family, neighbors and friends. Today I offer this post as my valentine to my village. Thank you for shouldering some of our burden and finding ways to ease our pain.

Our family at Jordan's tree dedication ceremony. The tree was dedicated by Lindsay's and Kendall's Girl Scout Troop.

The Snowy Day and a Friendly Intervention

 

I was outside with the kids on their snow day as they attempted to turn a 5 ft snowdrift located right in front of the garage into a sledding hill, while Mark used the snow blower to clear our driveway and sidewalks. Merrick’s first comment when he came outside was, “Hey Mom, this is the kind of day Jordan and I dreamed about. A snow day like this where we could build tunnels and snow forts, a day just like this.”

I stood watching him for a second imagining what he was imagining and found that my only reply was, “uh huh.” I thought about saying, well your sisters would love to build a fort with you, but I’m so glad I didn’t. When I thought about how saying that would sound, it reminded me of one of those well-meaning comments like, “At least you have the other children to keep you busy.” Merrick had a specific image in mind and the people in it were he and Jordan.

The kids and Mark ended up staying outside much longer than I did. After shoveling part of the deck and snapping pictures of the blizzard aftermath, I was ready to come inside. The cold was making it’s way to my fingertips always a sign that lupus was at work. After pulling off my boots and hanging up my coat, I assigned myself to chuck wagon duty.  I found a container of turkey hash in the freezer that my parents made when they were here for Christmas. It would be the perfect warm-up meal and give me something to do so I didn’t feel like I was wimping out by not being outside.

The hash was going to take a while to warm so I found some leftover spaghetti in the fridge and heated that up for myself even though I was tempted to wait by the aroma of the turkey, potatoes and onions. I could hear Lindsay and Kendall playing and the steady sound of the snow blower so I knew it would be awhile before everyone came in. Everyone. Kendall said earlier in the day when she realized her dad was staying home too, “We’re all here together.” Her words wandered through my head as I ate and then I just laid my fork down and put my head in my hands. I sat at the table and tears filled my voice as I said aloud, “I miss you Jordan. I want to call you and talk to you today.” I invited all the lurking sadness to sit with me awhile without fear of being shooed away.

Sitting and crying I knew I couldn’t have what I wanted. I wanted to send Jordan pictures of his siblings trying to sled down the 5 ft snowdrift in front of the garage and of his dad snow blowing the driveway so bundled, that all you could see was his nose. Jordan knew how much his dad hated the cold. I wanted to call him and make sure he was prepared for the storm coming his way and that he was safe and warm and dry.

While I sat, I allowed myself to imagine what Jordan would be doing, something I haven’t been able to do very often anymore. With eyes closed, I saw him studying and hanging out in the hallway of his dorm talking to friends. The images came so readily and then just as quickly they dissipated.  I got up and cleared my lunch dishes and resigned myself to a wistful day.

I wandered over to the couch and sat down with my laptop.  I looked at my emails to find that Jordan’s friend Kathryn had emailed me with, “just checking in,” as the subject line. She told me about her classes and how she’d been thinking of the family and me. I wrote her back immediately telling her she was the warmth and sunshine I needed at just the right time. My melancholy was getting mixed with a little joy. After I emailed Kathryn I decided to email Jordan’s friend Matt. Kathryn told me that she’d spoken with him a few days before. In my email to her I closed by saying, “I’m so glad two of Jordan’s favorite people are becoming such good friends.”

I didn’t get to see Matt over the holidays and it felt like the right time to reach out to him, so I extended the check-in started by Kathryn. After asking about his classes and after graduation plans, on an impulse I sent him hometown pictures of all the snow and one of Merrick in an, “American Gothic,” pose, shovel in hand.

When I closed my laptop after writing the emails I noticed the difference in how I felt. I said a silent thank you to Jordan for sending his friends to me, so that missing him hurt a little less.

Jordan’s Snow Days

Christmas in Ohio 1990 Jordan's first snow. Mark is shovelling in the background.

Still loving playing in the snow as a teenager

 

Sharing Jordan’s Smile

There are certain days when reading and rereading the thoughts of those who knew Jordan gets me through the day, especially grey, gloomy days that seem endless. Below is an excerpt from an article from the The Amherst Student written after the memorial service they held on campus. It holds the questions, the spirit and the longing all that love Jordan share.

Remembering Jordan Moore-Fields ’11

As the program allowed anyone in attendance to share a few words of remembrance, Andre Gray ’10E told the audience, “To do [Jordan] justice, think of him and smile in his honor.” Professor of Political Science Pavel Machala, Moore-Fields’ teacher and advisor, spoke of Jordan’s “modesty,” his lack of pretension, that “same gentle smile” so characteristic of him, and how he was “so much ready to be here for three more years.” Miguel Gonzalez ’11 called Moore-Fields “everybody’s boy” and said, “You didn’t know what was missing in the room until [Jordan] walked in.”

Jessica Saffold ’09 elaborated on the same evening by the Chicago lakefront Black described. What Black left out from her story was the appearance of a large raccoon “the size of a small dog” that scared almost the whole group. But not Jordan. He was just “chilling,” Saffold said, and told them, “There’s nothing to be afraid of.”

“[Jordan] was not about fear, not about worries,” she explained. “He looked life in the face and wasn’t afraid.” While Saffold regrets not getting to know Moore-Fields better, she acknowledged, “I am thankful I had that night, that raccoon, that lesson.”

While he did not speak at the service, Peter Stein ’09 says he considers Moore-Fields “possibly the nicest and most easy-going person [he has] ever met.”

“He was usually pretty quiet, but when he did talk he usually said something either very funny or meaningful,” Stein said.

“It becomes hard for me to think about a time when Jordan wasn’t at this school hanging out, cracking jokes at what always seemed to be the perfect time,” wrote M.J. Smith ’09 on the College’s online remembrance board. “[Jordan] was one of the coolest, most chill dudes on campus. He had a way about him that was quiet, but he never let you forget he was in the room. He just never said anything that didn’t need to be said. He was real at all times and he was an honorable person that was fair and loyal.”

As the memorial service on Sunday night drew to a close, President Tony Marx expressed how it’s “hard to see the fairness” in Moore-Fields’ death, the taking of a life full of “so much promise.” He continued to explore the “existential question” of “what kind of world, what kind of fate, what kind of god would choose to take innocence.” He posed, “How could we possibly make sense of a design that would take someone like Jordan… unthinkably, randomly, for some purpose that one cannot imagine?” Marx articulated the pain in the “feeling of the best being taken from us unfairly, prematurely and the terribleness of us not knowing” what Moore-Fields would have become.

In Marx’s first phone call to Moore-Fields’ parents, Mr. Fields and Mrs. Moore delivered the Amherst community what Marx called a “simple, powerful and breathtaking message” for parents to give at a moment of such pain: “The best way for us to honor Jordan is to keep strong and carry on.”

In the end, Marx came to a reasoning that might, in some sense, help “heal the pain.” Moore-Fields’ death, he said, “inspires us to live our lives in a way Jordan would have been proud of. He did not leave us instructions. We will have to figure it out ourselves. Perhaps that is the plan.”

And maybe smiling’s the answer.

Today I needed to share Jordan’s smile.

Glimpses of Senior year and wondering, “What if?”

Jordan’s friends are seniors in college. They are at the points in their lives when it is decision-making time, job hunting or grad school applications? One of Jordan’s best friends came out to support Merrick last night as he performed in his high school’s Spoken Word showcase. Merrick told Q about his performance and invited him to come.

After the showcase, I watched Q interacting with Merrick, congratulating him on his performance and reminding Merrick, “Let me know when you’re performing and I’ll be here.” Q is a man now. I hope I didn’t stare but I intently watched him, his maturity exuding from his easy banter with Mark and I and his comfort in his own skin. Where was the shy boy who used to play video games in my basement? Time does not stand still. Even though Jordan only got  to spend 6 heartbreakingly sweet weeks as a sophomore in college, his friends are now making plans for the next stages of their lives.

When I got home later that night I checked my email and saw that another of Jordan’s friends had sent me a message. K excitedly told me that she had been accepted in the Teach for America program and had been assigned to the city she’d requested. I’m so honored that she shared her news with me and that finally she is comfortable enough to call me Jackie although I love when she introduces me as, “Jordan’s mom.”

Reading her email it is clear that I’m on the sidelines. I’ve been left wondering about Jordan and what his next steps would be. What would he look like now? Would the mustache he was earnestly trying to grow be a part of his look now? Would he have shifted from jeans and a hoody to a different style of dress? Would he be applying to law school? Would he be following his love of music and seeking out an internship in the music industry? Would the pull of politics have him travelling back to DC to further his social justice and policy reform interests or would this be the year that he travelled abroad? Jordan what would you be doing now?

Jordan’s amazing friends pull me to the present and future that I otherwise could only imagine my son occupying. At the same time they are a haunting reminder of what Jordan is missing, of what my family is missing. Flashes of pride, envy, anger, and joy strobe inside of me as I wonder, “what if,” and “why,” about my son and stay connected with these children who are now young adults. They give me glimpses, a small enticing taste of what Jordan’s senior year in college may have been like. It is a beautiful, delicate, sometimes burdensome gift, but I would never reject it.

Jordan is forever 19. His friends have futures that are promising and bright. Their love for Jordan and care of my family is a glimpse of God’s grace that I’m embracing. Gratitude, sorrow, tears and respect commingle as I willingly witness the passage of time in the form of Jordan’s friends. As our pastor friend who eulogized Jordan said, “It is living with the roses and the thorns.”