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 ‘separation’

Trial Run

“We’ll take him there. We’ll get him settled and he’ll have a good time.” I wake up in the middle of the night repeating what has become my new mantra. Merrick is off to a pre-college program for 6 weeks and I’m trying to figure out how I will allow my son to leave home for most of the summer without going mad. Jordan is gone, and can’t come back home. Everyday I live with the loss of my son. I’m stuck in a paradox of knowing that a lifetime ago, Jordan went away to college and didn’t come home. On this new journey the scars of loss cloud my judgment about what are the right experiences for my children to have. Merrick wants to go away and I don’t know if I can give the world another one of my children. I can’t lose another son and yet I know I have to let him go. I’m helping him prepare to go.

I’m filling out health forms, signing residence hall forms and buying supplies. I’ve done all of these things before. I helped Jordan prepare for college and for a summer program when he was in high school. Merrick in his excitement about his own pre-college program when he saw hesitation on my face countered with, “But Jordan went away when he was in high school.”  I watch Merrick’s face, seeing the excitement and anticipation. I remember back to Jordan’s summer away and how much it enriched him. I take in all of this information and know that it is Merrick’s turn to get the trial run at the college experience.

Merrick’s words are ringing in my ears as I try to ready myself to have him gone for 6 weeks this summer. He is so excited and rightfully so. It’s his turn to experience life as an almost college student. Jordan will forever be his role model and he looks forward to following in his footsteps by having his own adventure. I can’t tell him not to go without exposing the selfishness behind the act. “Stay home so I don’t worry every time the phone rings.”

“Stay home so I can hug you when I say goodnight to you.”

“Stay home because I can’t lose anymore children.”

“Stay home so I can feel like you’re safe.”

I could keep him home, find a program in Chicago that would suit his needs. But I know that if I start changing the trajectory of my children’s dreams I’m limiting their lives. I don’t want them to live afraid or to refuse opportunities for fear of worrying me. I have to adapt to my new reality. A reality that has an oldest child killed in a car accident and three younger children with full lives ahead of them learning how to be excited about life. I watch myself as I talk to Merrick about his time away. I encourage him to take advantage of the weekend getaways. I tell him, “You’re in a part of the country you’ve never been to before. Make sure you explore and see new things.” I caution him against spending too much time alone in his room. “Interact with your peers. Spending too much time alone will lead to feeling depressed. Take advantage of this opportunity.” I say all of these things to my son all the while wondering if I’m doing the right thing. A part of me wants to watch over him every moment. To tell him to come home at the first signs of homesickness, but I don’t. I tell him I’m excited for him, that he’ll need adjustment time but his experience will be good. I cheer him on even though my mind is screaming at me to make him stay home as though I can ward off danger if I keep him close.

In spite of my fears and because of faith we drive Merrick to his summer program. Mark, the girls and I help him get settled into his room and tour the campus with him. We meet his roommate and the Resident Assistants on his floor. We are in so many ways the typical family. As we prepare to leave to drive back to Chicago we all give Merrick one last hug and tell him we’ll call him when we’re home. Lindsay bursts into tears as soon as Merrick walks back to his dorm. I hold her close telling her I know she’ll miss him. I look back to see Merrick loping up the steps back into his dorm without a backward glance. His adventure begins.

My mind and heart continue to be in conflict. There are no quick fixes or instruction manuals on learning how to live, love and parent after losing a child. My mind nags me, making me question the wisdom of letting Merrick go away. It says “keep him home at all costs. Letting go is how you lost Jordan.” My heart even though it is bathed in sorrow still makes room for hope and pockets of joy. I won’t let my fears derail my children’s futures. I have to lead with my heart, summoning strength and courage to be the mother my children need. I’ll cheer them on and applaud all their accomplishments hoping for safe travels and always, always hoping that they come home.

Jordan’s Room

I came home from my exercise class a few Saturdays ago to find Mark sitting tensely while eating lunch. He chewed mechanically as my daughters flanked him at our kitchen table. Both of them were having lunch as well but were animatedly talking to each other. As I wearily sat down to take another drink from my water bottle both girls started talking to me at the same time, “Daddy said we can have our own rooms.” I looked at Mark not knowing how to take this latest development. He looked at me with a mixture of exasperation and battle fatigue. Before I could speak Kendall said, “I’m gonna move into Jordan’s room.” “Jordan’s room,” how could she move into his room and it still be Jordan’s room? I told them their Dad and I would talk and figure out the best time for them to have separate rooms. I added, “It will probably be this summer or after your first semester of middle school.” They were in agreement with this plan and left the table talking about paint colors and how they would arrange their new rooms.

I knew the day would come when my twin daughters would want and be ready for their own rooms. I had several friends with twins older than my own, and I looked to them for guidance as to what to expect with certain situations. I knew that my daughters wouldn’t always want to share a room. One day their individual needs for privacy would override having a comrade to face fear of darkness, or a partner for late night chats. Space for them to have their own rooms wasn’t the issue. I’d just imagined it and planned it so differently than how it has turned out.

Jordan often talked about what he wanted to do after graduating from college. He wanted adventures while travelling the world and then going to grad school. I often joked with him that I would vicariously accompany him because he was living his young adult life with such excitement and voracity; exactly what his father and I wanted for him. When Jordan was away at college he typically called us on Saturday afternoons, usually with a sleepy voice. His Saturday routine was to awaken in time to make it to the dining hall before it closed and then call us when he got back to his room. He was so excited about being a sophomore and having a single room, but more excited that his dorm also housed the dining hall. He figured he could add at least fifteen minutes to his sleep regimen. When he made his Saturday calls, I usually asked him what his plans were for the weekend.  He talked of campus parties, “chillin’ in a friend’s crib” or occasionally going away for a long weekend with friends from his school or to visit friends at other colleges. One outing I remember in particular. He and his friends were going on a day trip to a park with a lake that was a few hours from school. Jordan recounted the day to me telling me that they bought food, hung out, and swam in the lake. I remember asking him why they would want to swim, because it was only May and the water in New England was still cold. He replied to me, “It was cold, but it was fun.” He then told me he was the first to jump into the water from a group of rocks that bordered the lake. Jordan brushed off my concerns reminding me that he was a certified lifeguard. I said to him, “You’re not certified to jump off rocks. Please be careful.” Whenever I told Jordan to be careful his reply was always the same, “Yes Mom, I know.”

Living life to the fullest

Jordan wanted to spend the second semester of his junior year abroad. His college had a wonderful international program and he planned to take advantage of it’s offerings. He wanted to see the world before as he said he, “got married and had kids.” Jordan’s freshman year of college  had been so good for him. He studied hard, played hard and was making lasting friendships. Whenever people asked Mark or I how Jordan was doing in school, our reply was always the same,” he’s doing well and he picked the school that’s perfect for him.”

We didn’t get the scenario we planned or prayed for. College graduation, travel adventures, marriage, and family are not to be for Jordan. His room sits empty most of the time. I look into his room and my eyes always gravitate to a poster we had in the vestibule during the Memorial Service. It is the picture of Jordan with his acceptance packet from Amherst mounted on poster board. All around the picture are messages from family and friends. There are messages from his friends that I’ve read so much I feel I know them by heart:

  • Jordan, I love you and miss you. R.I.P.
  • You are always with me.
  • You were so much in so little time.
  • R.I.P. Jordan keep making moves.
  • Your spirit lives on through those who knew you.
  • Keep smiling up there, the world needs that.

The poster sits atop his dresser, but is becoming overshadowed by clothes from the dry cleaners hanging on the door knob and Mark’s suitcase from his latest business trip on the bed. Jordan’s desk holds remnants of worksheets when one of the girls used his room to study. The girls when asked about Jordan’s room respond, “It’s kind of a storage room.”

In many respect Jordan’s room will always be at our old house. That bedroom at “1116” was the one Jordan claimed and made his own. It is the room that took him from elementary school, all the way through high school and his first semester of college. It is the room I remember when I close my eyes and think of Jordan “at home.” I remember when Jordan was packing his things as he prepared for his freshman year at Amherst. He sat at his desk gathering items he planned to take with him. When Jordan was home he usually had music playing. Mark and I would joke that, Jordan came with a soundtrack. On this particular day, “This Christmas” by Donny Hathaway played as he looked over the dorm checklist he’d downloaded from the Internet. I remember peering into his room with a puzzled look and saying, “Dude Christmas carols in August? What’s going on?” His reply to me was straightforward, “Christmas songs remind me of home, and I just want to feel home right now.” I left his room that day aware of how much I was going to miss him but also feeling assured that he was ready to go.

When we moved into our new house, our old house hadn’t yet sold. After Jordan died, as “1116” languished on the market I couldn’t bear to go inside. It was Jordan’s house and he was gone. Any minor repairs or checks of the house were left to Mark. There were times that I sat in the car while he went in to turn off lights left on by a realtor, or to check the thermostat. I would wait in the car barely able to look at the house. The day came however, when I had to go into our old house. My journal entry about that experience is below:

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Our old house is on the market. It looks like we will close soon and it will belong to another family. Our old address was 1116. I went inside 1116 today. It was the first time I had been inside since Jordan died. 1116 was Jordan’s house. We moved there when he was six. Most of his childhood years were there. All of his teenage years were there. This house was the one he remembered, the one he called home. We didn’t move into our current house until January of 2007 when he was a freshman in college. He always said our old house was “his house”.

I hadn’t been back to the house since Jordan died because I wasn’t sure I could walk in without having an ache for him bigger than the one I already am trying to bear. I didn’t know if I could. I didn’t know if I wanted to.

Necessity finally trumped fear and emotion. I had to let the handyman in to ready the house for the final walk-through. My first thought was to open the door as I stood on the porch and point him upstairs. But, I opened the door walked in and felt-no pain, no fear. I showed him up the stairs and what needed to be done. When it was time to go downstairs he went ahead of me to get supplies from his truck and I told him I would be down in a moment. I turned down the hall and went into Jordan’s room. I walked directly to the far wall, kneeled down and read what he had written as a pre-teen. “Jordan was here”.

I touched the wall because it was a place Jordan had touched. I wasn’t afraid. I was so grateful for what truth was written on that wall- JORDAN was here! 1116 has been demystified. There is no place that Jordan isn’t. He’s with me always.

Picture I took of wall in Jordan's room-"Jordan was here"