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 ‘new traditions’

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

We’ll Miss Him and Celebrate Him Together

Numbness, longing, heartache, sadness, triumph (yes triumph), and even a bit of fear are coursing through me as I mark another year without Jordan. His death, so sudden, catapulted me into depths of despair that was never even fathomable until I found myself there. It is four years since Jordan died and as every October 12th nears, I hate that time must be marked and acknowledged by the death of my son. It is the day more than any other when I flip through all the events leading up to the police officers at the door telling us Jordan was dead and I like untangling a physics problem I wonder what event could have been injected to the day to make things turn out differently?

There are things I wish had happened. I wish that he’d stayed in New York hanging out with his childhood friends and celebrating his friend Luc’s birthday. I wish I’d called him while he was on the road, telling him to be mindful of the traffic and waking him from his slumber. As many times as I collect all my what ifs and wishes and lay them out before me the same conclusion is drawn every time. I’ll never know if there was anything I could have done to change the trajectory of the events that led to Jordan’s death.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I’m not dreading the anniversary of Jordan’s death as I have in the past and that is my triumph! The passage of time and how I’m using my time is helping me to make peace with that fact. (Thank you Tom)

Feeling less dread means that instead of turning my back to October 12th, I face it head on knowing there will be tears and sorrow but that I can also open myself up to grace and all the beauty that surrounded my wonderful boys’ life. As I’ve said to my children many times when the ache of missing Jordan seems unbearable, “We’ll miss him together.” The security of the companionship that is captured in those words also applies to our love for him. It is attainable, sustainable, and above all else eternal.

On the first anniversary of Jordan’s death Kendall suggested we commemorate it by going to Wendy’s and getting frosty’s because, as she said, “Jordan liked frosty’s.” Thinking back on the sweetness of her gesture I know that pockets of joy can be coaxed through even the most powerful grief. I’m learning that I can celebrate Jordan’s life any time I choose, even on the day he died. His last day on this earth was spent with friends and having fun, what a thing to proclaim. My son died at 9:32pm October 12th, 2008, but prior to that time he lived with a fullness that not many can match.

The hard work of living with loss is leaving me open to doing more than reliving the trauma of that day, but also capturing the precious gifts that day gave me. I heard my son’s voice for the last time and it held no regret. I told him I loved him and he replied, “I love you too.”

I’ve already asked Mark if he’ll go to the movies with me, something that Jordan loved. Maybe after the movie we’ll make our way to Wendy’s and order frosty’s, just because Jordan liked them.

Jordan Alexander Moore-Fields
August 9, 1989- October 12, 2008
A Life Well Lived

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

To Jordan On His 22nd Birthday

Dear Jordan,

This is my 3rd letter to you on your birthday. What I wouldn’t give to be able to hug you and hold you close while saying, “happy birthday.” That dream/wish is no different from years past. Life of course continues to move forward and I feel shifts inside of me that let me know that your absence in our everyday lives has taken nothing away from the fullness I feel of you in my heart. Relationships are eternal and loving you is a fact of my life.

Pop is with you now. Before he died he counseled me on the worry about you that lingers within me. His wisdom helps me be still and find a modicum of peace. “Jordan is okay, you have to believe that so you can move on. He’s alright,” were some of his last words to me. I am learning to accept that fact and find comfort in your grandfather being there to talk jazz with you and maybe even play a little poker.

Your sisters just turned 12 and no one can believe how tall they’re getting and what lovely young ladies they are becoming. They both got braces about a month ago. Every other question they had was about your experience when you got braces. “Did Jordan say it hurt when they put them on?” “Did he ever chew gum?” “How long did he have to wear them?”, and on and on. You remain the benchmark for so many experiences for your siblings.

Merrick will be off to college in a few weeks and has chosen a school in Amherst, MA. When he first approached your dad and I with his first choice we told him, “Merrick this might be hard for us, you going to school so close to where Jordan was.” His response would have made you proud.

“You’ll be alright Mom and Dad. This is the right place for me.”

When we visited I knew he was right. I think too that being close to where you chose to go to school brings him a bit of comfort. During the school year he wore his Amherst College sweatshirt whenever he studied or had a paper to write. He said wearing it made him feel more studious and serious the way you were when you did homework.

Of course I worry about him going away and wonder how I’ll keep myself from “popping into Massachusetts just to check on him. Whenever I have these thoughts I hear your voice in my head.

“Mom, Merrick is gonna be fine. He’ll figure things out.”

I hope you’re right. I know that he misses you so much and all the questions he has about college and what the first year are like, are questions he only wants to ask of you. I ache for him when his longing for you overwhelms him. Please watch over him and find ways to whisper your guidance to your brother. He needs to feel your presence.

You’d be surprised how much you still make your brother and sisters laugh. Their latest thing is trying to imitate that crazy bark laugh that you used to make out of the blue. I watch them, smiling as they stand together loving you as only siblings can.

Missing you will always be a part of my life. Some things are getting easier though. Your dad and I have started spreading your ashes in different places wanting you to be everywhere. Your ashes are on the main campus of your college and when we spread Pop’s ashes in West Virginia, I threw a bit of your ashes into the waterfall watching them mix and flow with your grandfather’s. Before he died, he responded with gladness when I asked him if you could be with him in this way. If there were a way I could toss your ashes into the wind and watch them float high and wide like helium balloons to all corners of the earth I would.

Yesterday I rode my bike to your tree. I had a plastic bag filled with your ashes in my pocket, determined that you would grace the tree and land of the place where you spent so much of your early years. Today I will bury some of your ashes at the base of  the sumac tree we planted in our meditation garden to keep a part of you always at home with us. The garden is now filled with flowers and plants that promise color almost year round. When I sit on the bench in the garden looking at the cherub statue reading I imagine you lounging outside reading as you did so often.

“Jordan would love this garden,” crosses my mind every time I’m out there. I push away thoughts that we probably wouldn’t have the garden if you were still alive. It is enough that you would love it and that I feel close to you when I’m there.

We’ve hung our “Jordan banner” on the front porch again this year. Celebrating you will never grow tiresome. Today you would be 22 years old. I wonder what direction your interests would have taken you. Would you be in NY with Matt guiding the world of hip-hop into the future? Would you be on Capitol Hill continuing to strive for social justice? I’m left with imaginings. As difficult as this day is I know I’ll get through it. That’s something I couldn’t say with much assuredness in the months after you died. Time does bring about a change, as Nanny would say. We keep going and you my beautiful boy will always be in our hearts. You are forever my son and I am forever the mother of four.

Missing you and loving you,

Mama

Jordan with his Pop

Our meditation garden

Old Habits and New Routines

The 4th of July has come and gone and in the days that followed I was finally able to grasp the enormity of my grief. Subconsciously I’d put myself on a restricted grief program with regards to my Dad. The loss of Jordan is still so palpable, especially this summer as I wished for him to be at his brother’s graduation and I see Merrick wishing Jordan were here to provide instruction and advice on going off to college. Circling back to a place of pain that felt so remote for so many months still takes my breath. Grief moves in so many directions but for me there has never been a linear path.

In a way I decided that helping my mother through her own loss of her companion and love would assuage my grief in some way. We have a new routine of talking to each other every night before she goes to bed. She stays busy during the day, not able to be still too long. For my mom who has always been an active person knowing what she has planned for each day soothes her and helps her through. Nighttime is when the house she and my dad shared for 46 years seems too quiet. She has a list of family and friends whom she speaks to every night, all of us needing to hear her voice before we’re able to sleep.

Over the 4th of July weekend, I realized that putting levels on grief was a mistake. Yes I deal with the loss of Jordan everyday and I’m stronger now (most days) than I was in the months after he died. My logic that the unbearable grief of losing a child should make me strong enough to endure losing a father without too much emotional upheaval turned out to be a huge misstep. I miss my Daddy. I miss my son. The grief I feel for each is different but no less present. They both beg to be felt.

When Daddy was briefly in a rehab center and we thought he’d be able to go home for at least a few days he asked Julie and I to throw him a party. The first date he threw out was the 4th of July. Some of his nieces and nephews and his sisters and brother were also in the room and we all agreed that a party with Daddy, which we all knew would be his last was a great idea. Time was not on our side. As Daddy got sicker he didn’t forget his party idea, he just changed the date to Memorial Day. There was nothing Daddy loved more than grilling ribs, chicken, beef, you name it and having family and friends over to eat. Music always played in the background and you knew where the party was by the sound of laughter and jazz music wafting from the backyard.

On the 4th I told Mark I’d made a mistake. “I’ve been acting as though I have to be stronger and not fully give in to my feelings about losing Daddy.”

“Why would you do that?”

“Because longing for Jordan and missing Daddy at the same time hurt too much. I realize now that it’s going to hurt and I have to let it happen.”

“I know, I’ve been thinking about Pop a lot too. You know the 4th is when he wanted his party.”

“That’s what’s wrong with me. All day I’ve been imagining him at the helm of the grill, totally in his element. I’d forgotten we promised him a party. I just keep seeing him healthy and his old self, asking Julie and I to be his taste testers.”

“It’s okay. Everything happened so fast. Pop was too sick to have any kind of party. It doesn’t mean we can’t have one for him next 4th of July.”

“He would have liked that. All he wanted was for people to eat and have a good time.”

“So we’ll do it.”

I tearily shake my head yes. “But today I’m so sad. I miss him for me and I miss him for Mama. I know she feels so alone.”

“You’re doing everything you can to help your Mom. But you can’t keep denying how much you hurt.”

I sat on the porch a while longer with Mark and then came inside, went upstairs and lied down. Accepting the grief meant accepting the weariness and fatigue from all the sleepless nights. Next year we’ll have a party. This year I allowed myself all the tears to flow as they formed their own parallel river to the tears I’ve cried for Jordan.

Purple Ribbons Were Everywhere

My family started on Friday evening adorning the trees around our home with purple ribbons and the placards I’d ordered. It was a labor of love that encompassed all five of us as we all took part whether it was affixing the ribbons to the trees, tying bows or threading the ribboned placards through a portion of the bow. The weather forecast called for rain all weekend and Mark and I were up early on Saturday to continue our task. We tied a ribbon on a tree near a fast food hangout of all the high school kids. The day was sunny and as soon as we would tie a ribbon there would be someone walking by to read it. Kendall was with us and she watched beaming every time someone stopped to read the cards. “They’re reading about Jordan. It’s working.” Her pride engulfed me and we made a roundabout circle of our neighborhood placing ribbons on the trees by the park near our public library. One of our neighbors from our old block drove up and asked what we were doing. When we explained about honoring Jordan on that would have been his graduation her only response was, “Can I help?” Mark grabbed a spool of ribbon and handed it to her through the car window. As she drove off she said, “I’ll make sure Linden is covered with purple ribbons.” As we walked back home planning to put ribbons on Jordan’s tree, in front of his elementary, junior high and high school another friend found us on our path.

“I wanted to know if you needed help with the ribbons?”

“Yes, that would be great.”
“Oh good, Giancarlo (her son) told me he wants to help.”

“I love that boy he is so sweet. Please tell him thank you.”

Many people already knew of our ribbon project because of a short article that was in our community paper, The Wednesday Journal. I’d emailed the editor asking if there was a way he could inform community members about the significance of the ribbons. The article written exceeded all of my expectations:

Family honors late son, OPRF alum with purple ribbons
written by Terry Dean

Jordan Moore-Fields would’ve been among the graduates walking across the stage this June at Amherst College in Massachusetts.

This weekend, his family will honor his memory with a special tribute that many in Oak Park will get a chance to see. On Saturday, May 21 and Sunday, May 22, his family will place purple ribbons around town to mark what would have been his graduation from college. Moore-Fields, an Oak Park and River Forest High School alum, died in a car accident in fall 2008 while on his way back to Amherst. The three other passengers in the car, his college friends, survived with minor injuries. Moore-Fields, 19, was a passenger during the ride.

“As I proudly watch his friends take the next step in their journeys, my family needed to show our forever pride in Jordan,” his mother, Jackie Moore, said in an email to Wednesday Journal on Monday.

Moore-Fields, one of four children, was a sophomore at Amherst, studying political science. In 2007, Wednesday Journal named him one of its Student Citizen Award winners, an annual honor that recognized high school students in Oak Park and River Forest. He graduated from OPRF that year with 3.5 GPA, worked on the school’s student newspaper, the Trapeze, and also was a mentor to other students while serving on the Minority Achievement Committee (MAC), a group for black male students.

Neighbors and friends expressed themselves in so many ways. My former next door neighbor and forever friend had the following blogspot in one of our community papers:

I am remembering Jordan this weekend.

He would have graduated from Amherst College today had he not tragically been killed in a car crash his sophomore year. He would have graduated top in his class, no doubt, same as he did when he graduated from OPRF in 2007. Jordan was a shining star in all that he did. His death did not mythologize his achievements and character, as can sometimes happen. He earned his kudos while he was still with us.

Jordan was my next-door neighbor for much of his life.  Often he would help be out by baby sitting in a pinch. He was raised to be involved in his community. To pitch in. To make a difference. Sometimes I couldn’t even get him to take money for his service. He did, however, appreciate payment in homemade cookies.

I am thinking  too of his family.

A family that produced four children of extraordinary integrity. A family with the heavy burden of burying a son and brother. A family simultaneously celebrating the graduation of another son and mourning the loss of what Jordan might have become. I follow their journey via Jordan’s mom, Jackie’s blog (alwaysmomof4.wordpress.com). Maybe you do too?

I wrote back to Muriel on Sunday morning after reading the post telling her how wonderful it was on such a tricky day emotionally to see Jordan through someone else’s eyes and share their memory of him. Later that same day I received the following email and picture from a dear high school friend of Jordan’s:

Hi Mrs. Moore,

Jordan was on my mind all day yesterday. When my roommates saw me struggling to tie the ribbon around the front tree by myself, they came out to help.  I explained what I was doing and why, then Nick, Shanza and Eric helped me tie the ribbon and take a photo. My friends never met Jordan, but I talk about him enough that they know in what high esteem I hold him and how important he is to me. We stood in silence for a minute after Nick took the picture, and yesterday at around 7:00 last night four kids in Urbana, IL were thinking of both Jordan and your family. 
Thank you so much for organizing the ribbon program, this was a great way to honor and remember Jordan.
Only the best,
Erin

Erin's ribbon for Jordan

Pictures started to come in from different people both family and friends from around the country. My cyber friend Claire sent the following astonishing photo accompanied by this note:

Dear Jackie,
It poured most of today; I thought it appropriate.   Early this evening, the sun came out and I was able to take a purple ribbon to my front yard.  My plans for a big, elaborate display in the maple tree were thwarted by the weather and the soaking grass beneath my feet.  Instead, I took a smaller, shiny purple ribbon and placed it over the shoulders of the statue of the woman that feeds my birds, under the dogwood tree.  I called Jordan’s name into the sky and wished for peace for you, Mark, and your three earthbound children.

Then I recited this poem, by Robert Desnos, translated from the French by X.J. Kennedy.

LAST POEM

I have so fiercely dreamed of you
And walked so far and spoken of you so,
Loved a shade of you so hard
That now I’ve no more left of you.
I’m left to be a shade among shades
A hundred times more shade than shade
To be a shade cast time and time again into your sun-transfigured life.

I’m sorry, Jackie, so very sorry.  I hope the attached photo is a help.
Please feel free to use any of this on your blog, if you wish.
With love on this most difficult day,
Claire

In Claire's garden

I caught my breath with one of the pictures I received. It was from the mother of one of Jordan’s friends, Christian who was in the car with him the night of the accident. She wrote:

Dear Jackie and Mark,

Please know that we remember Jordan today and every day!
Attached is a picture of Christian placing an Amherst purple ribbon on our tree today to honor Jordan.
We are thinking about you and your family and we wish you peace!

Christian standing next to purple ribboned tree in his yard.

Mark’s cousin who lives in North Carolina also sent a picture of her beautiful tree:

And yet another picture emailed to me from a friend whose name is also Jackie, whom I met in a grief support group:

Jackie's garden

There were also so many words of encouragement and grace given to me by my Facebook friends and family. Many of them changed their profile picture to the Jordan Button for the day. 

 Our family and friends near and wide helped us to get through a tough day. I was glad the sun was shining and that there were many people out and about stopping to look at the ribbons and read about my boy. Thank you all for being so understanding of my need to pay tribute to Jordan in this way. I am blessed to be thought of and cared about by such wonderful people. If there are more pictures out there please feel free to email them to me or add them in the comments section and I’ll include them in my Purple Ribbon Album.

Here are some of the neighborhood pictures that we took and we only got to a portion of the ribbons that dotted our community:

Outside the high school

The ribbon on the giant Catalpa in our front yard

Kendall standing next to a tree outside of the elementary school that all my kids attended.

The most fancy and first ribbon that adorned our neighborhood. Thank you Cynthia and family.

A view down our old block ribbons were placed on every other tree. Mark made sure to put a placard on the tree in front of our old house.