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 ‘maternal acts’

To Jordan On His 23rd Birthday

August 9, 2012

Dear Jordan,

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.

Love,

Mama

Jordan on his way to his dorm his sophomore year of college.

 

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Please Keep In Touch: The Grief Does Not Stop Here

Everyday I miss Jordan. I wake up missing him, and I go to sleep missing him. Sure there are times when our spiritual connection is strong and I feel his presence, but those times have not served to negate that intense almost feral desire I have to see his life continue to unfold. I still need to talk about Jordan. I want to share both the great and the not so great memories of all the times we had together, times when we laughed together or shared our favorite scenes from movies, times when my voice went hoarse from screaming at him when he’d pushed me too far because my answer of, ”No” wasn’t enough and he had to have the last word.

I need to say his name and know that I’m being heard and that he isn’t being forgotten. And when despair sets in the thing I crave most is to be able to cry the same way I cried in the early days after he died. Crying hot tears of grief, anger, bewilderment and pure sadness without having to explain that even though it’s been 3 ½ years since he died, some days my hurt is like it happened yesterday. Grief surges and pulls at me in physical ways that make me want to scream.

Mark and I were at the car wash a week ago and as we sat in the car being herded through the line watching the sudsy cloths flow across the windshield I said to him, “this is the perfect place to scream. I could scream here and I wouldn’t have to worry about upsetting anyone.” Sometimes when I’m out in the world attending to mundane tasks of running errands or even when I’m engaged in a meeting or having lunch with friends I feel a surge of pain so powerful that I bow my head for a moment hoping that the scream I feel within won’t be released. At these moments I can tell you that all I’m thinking about is how do I keep going when my son is dead and I miss him so much? I want Jordan. I want the actual blood and tissue and heart pumping Jordan. I’m not content to sit knowing his spirit is with me. These are times that border on insanity and I wonder how long they’ll last.

I have to miss watching what so many of the parents of his friends are allowed to witness. I don’t get to see him get his first apartment, fall in love, find a career that thrills him, butt into his business and have him say, “Mom, I’ve got this, don’t worry.”  I don’t get to see him grow older. As a parent there are days when not being able to call him or touch him make me wail out in pain. Grief has not left the building.

My heart was shattered when I heard the words that Jordan was dead. Even now there are days when the improbability of me outliving my child makes me shake my head in disbelief. I know that part of my longing to see him and be with him is because March is here, the month of my birthday. I’ll grow another year older and have to accept that it is a gift my son will never know again. There’s always the whisper from inside me as my birthday approaches, “Jordan, you take my birthdays I want you here.” Even birthday wishes can’t bring my son back. As much as I know that life goes on and that I want mine to be meaningful, oh there are days when the hurt takes over. It is on these days that I wonder how to let the world know I’m not doing as well as you may think. My heart is mending but it carries a scar that feels like it may never heal. The calls and cards and all the communication I received in the first year have dwindled but not completely gone away. I guess the only way people know how you feel is if you tell them. The problem is I’m not always sure that the notion that I’m still mourning and have days where the tears won’t stop falling may be hard for others to understand. The trouble is I don’t always want to be alone as I mourn. I still need to cry and say out loud how much it hurts that Jordan is gone. I’m not looking for answers just the understanding that it doesn’t matter how long it’s been since the death of a loved one. I need to know that those that care about me can call, email, send a card, be here for me in whatever way feels right, without undue discomfort.

I’m pleading for understanding. I’m better than I was a year ago but my mourning journey still takes me to the depths of heartache and longing. Most of us seem to accept that there is no time limit on grief but be aware, that as the string of days grows longer and functioning in this world grows easier it takes a long time for a shattered soul to be fixed back into something that resembles a functioning heart. Please, think of me, pray for me and ask me how I’m doing if you can. Just be patient in my halted reply.

“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.

Fear of Sleeping

For me, night intensifies even the most mundane of concerns. Sunday’s NY Times Style section had an article with a title that made me blanch: \”Sleep Medication: Mother\’s New Little Helper\”. I hesitated to read it wondering if I would find the article as condescending as the title. But, read it I did and was actually comforted to know that there are many women and it seems mothers in particular who battle insomnia. Apparently that golden time when as new parents we’re able to boast about our babies sleeping through the night coincides for many women with the last time they can remember being able to tout such an accomplishment.

I’ve never slept well and have always been one of those people that awaken repeatedly during the night. The night wakening didn’t bother me too much until it was accompanied by anxiety about going to sleep. The cycle of fatigue had me so worried about getting a good night’s sleep that I couldn’t fall asleep. I resisted sleep aids other than the occasional Benadryl; justifying it by telling myself I needed it for my allergies anyway. But there came a time after my daughters were born 12 years ago that nothing I tried was helping. Sticking to a bedtime routine, taking Melatonin, warm showers before bed, not working in my bedroom, darkening the room, etc. left me still wide awake repeatedly during the night.

The worrier part of me came out in full force at night. Should I have gone over Merrick’s math homework with him, why didn’t I quiz Jordan for his history test. I complimented Kendall but not Lindsay, did they notice? Nighttime started to feel like dread time and I felt powerless to change it.

When I finally went to my family physician and told her of my battle with sleep, after a long talk and many tears on my part she suggested I try Ambien. “But I don’t want to get addicted to sleeping pills.”

“You’ve got a real problem that other methods haven’t been able to address. Look at you, you’re exhausted and depressed and right now my major concern is that you get sleep.”

“I agree. But you know me, I hate taking medicine.” (Said I, the woman with the chronic illness already on numerous medications)

“That’s why I’m here. Don’t worry about addiction, let’s get you some sleep.”

So, I trusted my doctor who knew me and had never thrown medication at me. Ambien worked, for a little while. I slept and woke up feeling rested for the first week or so and then things changed. It didn’t work anymore. I’d take it on an empty stomach as prescribed and wake up at 2 0r 3 am ruminating on my old woes. Would I ever get a good night’s sleep?

In the midst of the ordinary was the phone call on October 12th, 2008 in the middle of the night, followed by the police officers at the door telling us about the car accident. Jordan was dead and sleep has never been the same. In the days and weeks after Jordan died Mark and I wondered if falling asleep let alone staying asleep would ever come naturally? We  began a new ritual of helping each other prepare for bed, both knowing that even though we’d been prescribed anti-anxiety medication in the face of our trauma, sleep would elude us. As I showered, he would sit in the bathroom talking to me when I was able, and listening to me weep when I wasn’t but he would stay and at the sound of the water being turned off, I would open the shower curtain knowing he’d be standing there to envelop me in my towel, wiping the soap from behind my left ear, a spot I always seemed to miss. He’d stand holding me for a moment and then the pattern would reverse. I’d sit waiting for him, sometimes talking, sometimes not but waiting with an outstretched towel to cover him and bring him in close as he’d done with me.

Three years later, Mark and my ritual is not daily but still occurs. I continue taking a small dose of a sleeping aid that allows me better sleep. That, coupled with the meditation exercises suggested by my counselor have made sleep much less frightening. I still have many nights where I awaken. Now the mundane mixes with the surreal. Things like- “Do the girls have food for their lunches tomorrow? Did I remind Merrick to reserve the shuttle to the airport for Thanksgiving? Share space with, “Jordan’s really gone. I have a dead son.” All of these thoughts running through my mind make me grateful for any amount of sleep. It is the elusive respite I craved during the baby phases of all 4 of my children. I keep going; reminding myself that time has brought progress. At least now I’m learning how to be less afraid to go to sleep.

October!

Having another child in college is turning out to be the roller coaster I imagined. Merrick was home for his Fall break two weekends ago. When I made his reservations to come home all I could do was cry when I finished. I thought of Jordan and how life would be so very different now if he had come home for his Fall break in 2008. He and I talked about it, given that he had 5 days off from school. A part of him wanted to come home but he was trying to budget his money and be responsible and told me, “Thanksgiving is soon. I’ll wait until then.”

When Merrick’s fall break came up, in my mind there were two choices, stay at school or come home. Neither he nor his dad and I could imagine any other possibilities. We’re all skittish about travel, remembering what happened to Jordan. Merrick was home until October 11th and my heart ached having to send him back to school knowing he wouldn’t be with family on the anniversary of Jordan’s death. I told him he could stay another day if he needed to, but he didn’t want to miss his classes. He left worried but steady and my words to him were, “Please confide in your friends. Let them know about your brother and what October 12th means to you. You don’t have to be alone on that day. If they are the friends you say they are then take a leap and trust at least one of them.”

“Maybe you’re right Mom. I’ll think about it.”

Later on the night of the 12th he told me that he’d talked with one of his friends and they were able to console each other. Her grandfather had died in the days that Merrick was away and she hadn’t told anyone either.

“We talked for a long time and I was glad I told her about Jordan. It made me feel better.”

Long distance parenting is tricky stuff. I worry so much about Merrick, knowing all the mixed feelings October brings for him. His birthday is coming up and he’d forgotten until a call from his grandmother asking him what he wanted. His 19th birthday is on Thursday and the memory of losing Jordan clouds and threatens to cover a day of celebrating life. Merrick has had to grow up and rectify in his heart the loss, longing and need for his big brother with the reality that he has a life to live and he wants it to be long and filled with goodness and prosperity. I watch him struggle with these emotions knowing there are days when all he wants is Jordan, only Jordan to be his sounding board as he navigates college. Gratefully he shares his concerns and anguish with me even though most of the time all I can do is listen and tell him his feelings are perfectly normal. I wish I could do more.

I have another son about to be 19 and I’m praying that it won’t be a year to simply get through so that we can usher in age 20 and feel some superstitious relief. It is Merrick’s time and my greatest prayer and hope is that he continues to thrive and that he learns to trust that Jordan hasn’t left him completely, but is so close, still ready to be a big brother to him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jordan lighting the candle's on Merrick's 13th birthday

August-Taking A Day At A Time

It is the first day of August and I’m reminding myself to breathe. It is a month filled with birthdays, back to school activities, joys, sorrows and goodbyes. August 2nd is my daughters’ 12th birthday and starting the month celebrating them is quickly followed by the reality of Jordan’s birthday being 7 days later.

Controlling my urge to scream and desire to sleep the month away are taking far too much of my focus and energy. Facing another August without Jordan brings pain as fresh as in the days after he died. He should be here, I want him here, singing happy birthday to his sisters and then having them reciprocate along with the rest of our family a week later.

This year is harder than last. Days have become intertwined as my mind ticks off my daughters’ birthday, Jordan’s birthday, preparing Merrick for college and then taking him to school at the end of August. The time and energy it takes for me to untangle all these so that each day can be felt and honored feels like it is slipping away. My daughters’ birthday is tomorrow and I want so much to feel nothing but joy in my heart, concentrating on the miracles that they are.

I went into preterm labor with them at 24 weeks. After spending 30 days in the hospital and 30 days at home on bed rest, they made their entrance into the world 2 months early, small but healthy, only needing to stay in the hospital until they reached the 5 pound mark. While I incubated with them growing inside me, I talked to them everyday, “Keep growing. We’re waiting for you, but don’t come too soon. Keep growing. Mama loves you.”

I look at them now and I see these two beautiful young ladies on the cusp of their teenage years and they make me so proud. They are kind, generous, funny and so loving. The care and love they show each other is something I’m learning is unique to twins. I’m spending today, buying their presents, planning surprises and praying that my heart and mind will breathe with me and take just one day at a time. August 9th will come and it will be a very different day, where stringing the words, “happy” and “birthday” together will feel impossible.

Tomorrow is my two favorite girls’ birthday. I want them to have a mother who is present for them and able to share in all their joy and excitement. This is my prayer.

Sister talk

Good Mourning Commencement

“Dear Ms. Moore,

The Class of 2011 recently had an election to elect Honorary Members of the Class of 2011.

Jordan is fondly remembered by the class and received an overwhelming number of nominations. He has been chosen to be an Honorary Member of the class.

Each honoree receives a cane and a certificate and we would like to send these onto you. Please let us know the appropriate mailing address.

We will be announcing the honorary class members on the campus Intranet and at the Senior Dinner in early May.”

Tears came as I read the email from Jordan’s classmates. They are making sure that he will always be a member of the class of 2011. They haven’t forgotten him and are honoring him at a time when everyday I wish that he is still among them, readying himself for graduation. It has been so hard to come to this time of year and know that 4 years ago at his high school graduation party we all talked about how fast time goes. Merrick was entering high school and Jordan was entering college. My mom said to me, “Just think before you know it, we’ll be having another party sending Merrick off to college and congratulating Jordan on his college graduation. It’ll be here before you know it.”

Four years later we’re still here. Merrick contemplates having a graduation party. He tells me, “All I wanted to be able to do was call Jordan and tell him where I’m going to college. I know exactly what he would have said. I miss him.”

Every morning I wake up with my first thought being of my father sick with lung cancer. “Daddy please live until Merrick graduates. Don’t die before his graduation.”

Dates are looming for Merrick’s graduation but also Amherst’s graduation. I’ve decided that for my own sense of peace I need to mourn not being able to see my son graduate from college on May 22nd. Trying to suppress my disappointment and sadness and throw all of my energy into Merrick’s upcoming graduation is not providing the distraction I thought it would to ease the burden on my heart. I am the mother of four and I need to give all of my children my attention. I must grieve the specific loss of the Amherst College commencement ceremony, which will not include my son in the way I dreamed.

It wasn’t until last week that I knew the official date. The end of May was all I knew. I thought if I didn’t know the official date it would be easier to get through the month, especially as many of Jordan’s friends prepare to graduate. It took courage but I wanted to face my fear and open my heart to the hurt that was orbiting it. I stopped the wondering and  went online to see the date of graduation. There are so many hopes and dreams that May 22nd, 2011 was supposed to capture. All the weeks I’ve tried to ignore it’s coming only brought me anxiety and pain. It is a day to be recognized and for me that means tears not of joy but of sorrow for what doesn’t get to be. I don’t get to see my son throw his cap into the air. There’ll be no pictures of him receiving his diploma. The smile that would have graced his face can only be imagined now. We’ve been kindly and graciously asked by the Amherst administration if we would like to attend the ceremony. I know if we did they would do their best to take good care of us. I can’t go. Hearing the names called and waiting, hoping that somehow Jordan’s name will ring out and he’ll appear ready to take on the world is more heartache than I can bear.

When I was driving home today after taking the girls to school, I didn’t take my usual route and ended up on a street where I passed a series of trees with white ribbons tied around them. “Huh, wonder what the ribbons are for? Are they in memory of someone, solidarity for a sick neighbor….?”
I wasn’t sure but those ribbons helped me with an idea of one of the things I need to do as May 22nd approaches. I’ve decided and I’ve told those around me who I love and I know that love me, that the only way I’ll get through what should have been Jordan’s college graduation is to mourn what can’t be. The huge catalpa tree in front of our house will be wrapped in a purple ribbon as will Jordan’s tree. Purple is Amherst’s school color and it will be our recognition of the day. I would be so honored by any of you that choose to put a purple ribbon on a tree near your home. Please send pictures if you can and I’ll post them here on my blog.

I’m not sure how I’ll spend May 22nd. I’ve given myself permission to cry all day if I need to, to stay in bed or sit amongst Jordan’s things and just remember. Mourning the loss of what would have been is my right as Jordan’s mother. I’m unselfishly loving my child in the only way I know how, by honoring him and grieving my loss. For my family May 22nd will be a commencement, a moving forward, just not in the way we had imagined.

purple ribbon "J"