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 ‘holidays’

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

Learning to look forward-2012

Happy New Year and thank you to all who visit and comment on my blog.

I’m still getting used to the notion of a new year making its entrance without Jordan here to experience it with me. Tears have flowed already this morning as I learn to live in a world where I don’t get to see my oldest son grow and prosper. Even as I wiped the tears away my heart was grateful to have family and friends that I can share my deepest feelings with and not feel misunderstood. With every year I feel a part of my grief being transformed into a powerful love that comes from being able to mother such a wonderful son as Jordan. For that gift I always say, “Thank you.”

To all of you I wish peace, time for quiet reflection and experiences of real joy in 2012.

My family on Christmas Eve

My Christmas Letter

Dear Jordan,

I sat down many times in the last month trying to write a holiday letter to send out to friends and family. This year like last, I wasn’t up to sending out Christmas cards and felt so guilty about it. Every time I tried to write, the words wouldn’t come. I finally realized why. The person I most want to write to is you. I miss you. It is Christmas again and I’d give anything to hear you singing your way through the holidays. I’m finally able to listen to “This Christmas.” For the past 2 years if I heard it on the radio or my Ipod I immediately switched it off. It hurt too much to think of that song as timeless and you’re not here to share Christmas with us.

Merrick is home from his first semester of college. I know you are so proud of him. He loves his school and is making genuine friends who care about him. You know Merrick. He was so worried that he wouldn’t fit in. I know you are part of the reason that he stayed true to himself and let friendships evolve naturally. You always told him to, “Keep it real,” and that’s what he is doing. His spoken word poetry is a big love and you are a mainstay in his poems. He misses you so much and talks about you all the time. The other day he reminded me of how you used to act out the “Little Drummer Boy,” song. You loved Christmas so much!

Your sisters are flourishing. As they get older their memories of you seem to get stronger, not fade away as I had feared. I know you reside in their hearts and I thank you for holding them close. They both just tried out for the volleyball team and are waiting to hear the results. They’ve also followed in your acting footsteps and have been in a couple of plays.

Your dad is as busy as ever with work. He’s traveling a lot but he’s so good at finding a balance between work and home. You know your dad, family man all the way. You’ll be happy to know that all your encouraging and cajoling paid off. Your dad works out regularly and always says he wants to make you proud of him.

As for me, well like the rest of us I have good days and bad days. But the good days are starting to stretch out in frequency as I make peace in my heart that you are safe. I continue to write and hope one day soon to have my book finished. Your words, “Mom, when are you going to write your book?” echo in my head and fuel me to forge ahead writing about my precious son who left too soon.

The Christmas tree is up and all the stockings are on the mantel. Like every year past, yours is hung between Merrick’s and mine. I’ll write my little note to you on Christmas Eve as I have since you died and place it in your stocking. I imagine that one day, when my time to join you is drawing near I’ll sit and read all the notes knowing they’re filled with the love, pride and longing I have for you.

Thank you for being my son and for continuing to help me know what is good and honorable in this world. You are such a bright light.

Love,

Mama

(P.S. Hug Pop for me and tell him we’re taking care of Oma, doing the best we can to muddle through this first Christmas without him.)

Jordan on our tree-2010

Christmas Lights and Music

Christmas 2010

Every Christmas carol you can name, my father had a jazz version of it. By far though, the saxophonist Dexter Gordon’s version of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” was always Daddy’s favorite Christmas tune. He would play it repeatedly, interspersed with Dave Brubeck, Gene Ammons, the Drifters, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, and others. But Dexter Gordon popped up in the rotation more often.  Every time I’d hear it I always sang the words in my head and felt the melancholy of the line, “Through the years we all will be together if the fates allow.”

Last year as Christmas music filled our house for the first time since Jordan died, the “fates” felt closer than ever. Daddy had already told Mark and I that 2010 would probably be the last year he’d be able to make the trip to our house for Christmas. “These old legs can’t take too much traveling anymore.”

Mark assured him, “It doesn’t matter where we have Christmas as long as we’re together. We’ll come to you. The kids are older now. We can make it work.”

And that was the plan. I’ve been steeling myself for the holidays since Daddy died in April. Christmas was by far his favorite holiday. He always stood at the bottom of the stairs so that he could see his grandchildren race down to see what was under the tree. As the kids got older and slept later he’d complain, “What’s wrong with these kids? I’m giving them 15 more minutes and then I’m waking them up. It’s Christmas!” His child like exuberance filled our house and is a tradition that will be so missed. I must now put that tradition in my heart alongside listening to Jordan sing, “This Christmas,” over and over.

Time if you let it can be a teacher. I’m learning that no matter how much my heart feels broken, it is not beyond repair. I put Christmas music on today as I begin to pull out the decorations that always grace our home. The olive wood nativity scene, the angel with the capiz shell wings and many others will be displayed throughout the house making me smile and wistful all at the same time. I put the music on shuffle and was doing fine until Dexter Gordon’s horn started to play. I could see Daddy sitting whistling along in his perfect pitch. A part of me couldn’t help but cry out, “Why couldn’t the fates allow us one more Christmas together?” Three years ago I didn’t think I’d ever be able to listen to Christmas music especially Jordan’s favorites, “This Christmas,” by Donny Hathaway and Luther Vandross’ version of “My Favorite Things.” Each year has brought a little more comfort, sprinkles of peace even as heartache so clearly still resides within me.

Mark is outside taking advantage of an unseasonably warm day to put up the Christmas lights. This year I asked him to decorate the trees outside the window of the seat I occupy most, especially when I’m sad. I asked for light and it will glow through the many nights as Christmas approaches.  I’ll never stop missing Jordan and the thought of my first Christmas without my father can only be felt in small bits. But there is light, and it is finding its way into my heart.

Jordan on our tree-2010

Daddy listening to his music-Christmas 2010

 

 

Thanksgiving 2011-Remember the Time

Sometimes it isn’t until you give yourself a chance to breathe a deep cleansing breath, that the impact of what you’ve witnessed and been through can be fully experienced. I took my first real breath the Monday after Thanksgiving. After taking the girls to school I came home and found myself so profoundly sad and unable to shake it. I did the only thing I could. As had happened so many times before, I sat with my grief thinking of it as a guest that would leave when it was time. I wouldn’t wallow but I would feel the sadness, longing and anguish that the busy days of Thanksgiving had allowed me to quell. This year marked another beginning. Learning to live and celebrate without Daddy’s boisterous presence. My father more than anything loved having his family together. Loved cooking for us and was happiest watching us relish the food he and Mama prepared.

In many ways the familiar outweighed the feelings of loss as I navigated my way through the holiday. I still made cranberry sauce and candied sweet potatoes as I always do. Julie helped Mama prepare the turkey and was the taste tester on the dressing and potato salad. I moved in and out of the kitchen comforted by our routines and overwhelmed at the same time. When Jordan discovered he liked potato salad he became the jr. tester. Watching Julie made me miss him so much. “Jordan should be here,” crossed my mind and heart more than once. Daddy would usually be sitting at the kitchen table offering his sometimes, unwanted suggestions and comments to my mom as she readied the turkey. “Ann, check the wing it looks like you missed a pin feather.”

Mama would sigh, say, “Yep,” and check, even though she hadn’t finished cleaning the bird and would have found the feather on her own. These scenes frustrated me to no end. This woman had been cooking turkeys for at least 30 years and every year the ritual was the same. Except for this year, when the kitchen was quieter than usual and I wondered if I should fill the silence or let Mama be, not knowing if she too was thinking of Daddy and his armchair quarterbacking.

The turkey was always put into the oven at around 6 am. As the years went by the responsibility of bringing it up from the basement refrigerator and putting it into the oven fell to my sister and her husband who slept on the pullout couch in the family room. In my youth, Daddy and Mama had always “put the bird in” together. Both coming downstairs and reminding each other all day of what time they’d put it in the oven. But as rheumatoid arthritis took more of Daddy’s strength, he was no longer able to navigate the steps while carrying the 23lb. turkey.

When I got up Thanksgiving morning I came downstairs to find Julie already awake and eating breakfast. “Girl, I’ve been waiting on you. Get to making that coffee. You know that’s your job.”

“I didn’t realize how late I’d slept.”

Julie followed me into the kitchen and as I looked down into the oven I asked her if she went back to sleep after putting the turkey in the oven.

“I tried but I couldn’t really sleep.”

“What time did you put it in?”

She looked at me for a moment and then said, “I put it in the oven and then went back downstairs and looked at the clock. It was 6:07.”

Tears welled in my eyes, “Daddy’s birthday!”

“I know I couldn’t believe it either. He was telling me, I’m right here.”

Shaking my head I replied, “He is here and he found the perfect way to show us.”

daddy carving turkey

“To Grandmother’s House We Go”

Thanksgiving has come and gone and with it all of the anxiety that built up inside me. For weeks before I wondered how it would be possible to step inside my parents’ home and not have daddy sitting in his chair waiting to welcome us. Mama was determined that would stick to our usual routines and traditions. She would make fried fish and potatoes on Wednesday, the meal we always savored after our journey from Chicago. Daddy usually cooked his famous home fried potatoes but this year Mama would handle the duties.

My sister had asked me repeatedly what time we’d be arriving in Ohio. With each ask my response was the same, “I don’t know.” Up until a week before I wasn’t even sure if we were coming. It felt too hard not just for me but for my children as well. For the first time in their lives they didn’t know if they wanted to make the trip. “It won’t be the same without Pop. Can’t Oma come here and we’ll do all the cooking and take care of her?” It was a lovely thought. One I presented to my mother who balked at the idea.

“No, I want to do Thanksgiving. I’m alright, I can do it.”

When she said these words I wanted to cry out, “But I’m not sure I can do it.”

Trying to make things as they always were in the face of another empty seat at the table felt like too much pain to take in. I wanted to support Mama and be there because I knew she needed me but I also had to think of what was best for my family and what felt selfish, what was best for me. Mark said he would abide by and understand any decision I came to, but he added the words, “Thanksgiving is going to be different and hard no matter where we are.” And he was right. In the end I needed to be with my mom and the rest of my family for Thanksgiving. I told Mama of my misgivings and warned her that I felt so sad and wasn’t sure I’d be able to feel much of anything else.

“Don’t worry about being sad. We’ll all cry when we need to and we’ll get through this Thanksgiving together.”

We made the familiar trip to Ohio and Lindsay, Kendall and Merrick shouted out, “Welcome to Ohio,” as we passed the sign. I sighed knowing that soon I’d be at my childhood home with my mother waiting to greet us at the door. “Who’d carve the turkey?” “Who’d sit at the head of the table?” Were questions that wouldn’t leave my head.

As we drove up to my parents’ house I saw my sister Julie and her husband Brian’s car in the driveway. Brian opened the door for us and Mama was right behind him ready to receive us. The smells of our delicious dinner wafted from the kitchen. As Mark and Merrick brought the bags in I walked through the family room and glanced at the chair Daddy would have been sitting in, waiting for our arrival. A short glance at the chair was all I could muster as I made my way upstairs to the kitchen to hug hello to Julie. The table was set and all that was left was for us to do was eat.

Mama shouted out, “Alright now come and eat while everything is hot.”

We all made our way to the table and I sat in my usual seat to the right of Daddy’s chair at the head of the table. The chair sat empty but only for a moment. Mama came into the room and with decisiveness took the seat at the head of the table. We grabbed hands to pray and I gripped her shaking hand as she thanked God for our being together, “One more time.” Her voice faltered but her spirit is so strong. As we said, “amen” I gave her hand an extra squeeze and opened my eyes to my wonderful family. Even in the midst of longing for Jordan and Daddy I felt their presence and was warmed by the grace of their company mingled so beautifully with all of us at the table.

Forever Valentines

Mark surprised  me this weekend with dinner and a concert. He was able to keep the surprise from me although he did slip on the name of the restaurant. I teased him on the way to dinner telling him about my prowess as a detective. We had a great dinner where he gave me a lovely necklace with a typewriter letter, “J” as the charm. As I opened it he said to me, “I liked that it was a typewriter key, especially for you as a writer.” I nodded and told him, “I love that idea, but right now I’m glad the “J” stands for Jackie and Jordan as I clutched the charm. Mark nodded at me, already knowing I would love this fact about my gift.

We went to the Anita Baker concert and sang along enjoying the show even though it started an hour late! Anita Baker ended the show with the song, “You Bring Me Joy.” I listened swaying in my seat with the line, “If I can’t see your face, I will remember your smile,” staying with me and traveling home with me.

I loved spending such a special evening with Mark and the kids were so excited to see us going out having a good time. Lindsay and Kendall who knew about Mark’s surprise told him, “Daddy all my friends think you are so romantic.” I agree with Lindsay’s and Kendall’s friends. Mark is very romantic and my children are very loving. I know I’ll cherish the cards they’ll make and give to me tomorrow. Every year I pull out and look at the valentine given to me by Jordan when he was a teenager. I will always cherish this homemade valentine given to me by Jordan when he was in high school. The card from him was such a surprise. I’m rerunning that post today as well. Valentine’s Day is reminding me that love endures and I’m so grateful that it does.

Valentines-Transformation-2/13/2010

Jordan and Lindsay 12/07

This time last year, 2/12/09:

Jordan,

The boxes with the programs were emptied today. They have been under the bench in the entry since October when the programs were printed for your Memorial service. I glimpse at the boxes everyday when I walk past, always planning to move them or get rid of them. Until today something always stopped me, I didn’t feel ready.

Today your sisters needed boxes for the Valentines they would receive at their Valentine’s Day parties. Impulsively I said, “There are boxes under the bench but let me get them.”

Lindsay asked “Why?”

She didn’t understand why I insisted on getting the boxes. I told her the boxes held extra programs from the Memorial Service. I explained that we didn’t use them because the front picture was too dark.

Lindsay told me “I can get them.”

She quickly went to the entry and brought the box into the family room, trying so hard to impress me with her industriousness. She opened the box, looked at one of the programs and said, “You’re right the picture is too dark it doesn’t look like Jordan.”

She flipped through the program, reading it and asked, “What are ushers?”

I explained the function of ushers at funerals and memorial services. She then said, “That’s nice, his best friends were ushers.”

She then read the poem I wrote about “My boys” on the back of the program. The next question of course was, “Why aren’t Kendall and I in the poem?”

I said, “Oh honey, I wrote that one day when I was watching your brothers together.”

She said, “It’s a good poem, I like it. What should I do with all these programs?”

I said, “Let’s put them in a bag.”

She said, “Okay I’ll get it.”

She quickly got up and grabbed a black trash bag from under the sink. She was determined to do the job alone and resisted my attempts to help her.  Her only comment during her task was, “Mom, I can do it.”

After she emptied out the programs, Lindsay looked at the empty box and said, “This box is perfect for Valentines. I’m going to decorate it and make it beautiful.”

For me, she already had.

Happy Valentines Day

With eternal love,

Mama

 

 

Poem on Back of Program

Mother to Son

 

Jordan is a poet

Merrick is poetry

Jordan has the words to captivate a nation

Merrick has the movement, the smile, the soul of honesty and love

There is magic in words and movement

Together they reveal the essence of life,

both poet and poetry,

spoken word and dance and song.

I can listen to and watch them forever

My boys

 

Jackie Moore (2002)

Today, 2/13/10:

A few days ago I posted a query on Facebook asking, “What was your most memorable Valentine’s Day?” I kicked off the discussion by relaying the memory of a Valentine’s Day from my grad school days when my roommates and I went to a Bingo Hall with the mother of one of my roommates. It turned out to be an evening filled with laughter, girl talk and the hopes of winning the jackpot (not to be).

For the last few months I have been in search of a Valentine’s Day card, that Jordan gave me when he was a junior or senior in high school. It holds special significance because it was handmade of construction paper with Jordan’s handprints on it. Jordan wrote the following on the card,

When I was in preschool, teachers seemed to think that putting handprints on a piece of paper or a paper plate and using it as a gift for any holiday was a great idea. Although I’m no longer in preschool and my handprints barely fit on the paper, I decided for Valentine’s Day I’d give you a gift that hearkened(sp) back to my younger days. Happy Valentine’s Day Mom!

Jordan then signed the card, “Love, Your oldest little boy, JORDAN” with the J backwards in the same way he used to write his name as a kindergartner.

All the places I thought I’d stored the card turned up empty. I finally decided that the best way to find it was to stop worrying over and looking for it. If and when it was meant to be found, I would find it. Tonight as I polished the writing piece above, I searched for one of the programs from Jordan’s memorial service. I reached into the top drawer of our file cabinet and there on the side of the hanging files amongst other papers, was the card from Jordan. I’m sure I’ve checked this spot before but clearly not well enough. Tonight I pulled it out of the drawer, sat and looked at it, held my hand against Jordan’s handprint and cried. I found it just when I needed to find it. Now my most memorable Valentine’s Day, albeit a little early is the Valentine’s Day of 2010.

Rediscovered Valentine