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 ‘siblings’ grief’

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

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.

 

Columbus Day

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

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

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

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

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

She shakes her head.

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

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

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

“Should I go to school that day?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

One Day At A Time

I realized this morning that my last post was on Jordan’s birthday. What a time it’s been. Writing hasn’t come easy as my tactic of, “One day at a time,” started to fall apart the closer I got to Merrick going away to school. I’m not sure if my anxiety would have lessened if he had chosen a school somewhere other than the same town his brother attended school. All I know is that as the weeks started to slip away and the day of departure was upon us I was a wreck. I didn’t want him to go. But I knew he couldn’t stay and I knew I would never stand in the way of his goals and dreams. There were a lot of late night tears shared with Mark as we both grappled with how to send a second child away to school when the first one didn’t come home.

The doubts and fears swirled through our home. My daughter came into my room to say goodnight and she brought her fears to light.

“Mama, can I talk to you.”

“Yes baby, what’s the matter.”

“I’m scared that what happened to Jordan is going to happen to Merrick.”

And then the tears flow, from both of our eyes. I stand holding her so tightly wanting to banish her fears but at the same time knowing that words like, “Don’t worry,” ring hollow because this isn’t the first brother or for me the first son that has gone off to college. Jordan didn’t come home. Accidents happen and this time they happened to our family.

“I know you’re worried about Merrick and I can’t tell you not to worry. But Merrick has picked the place that is right for him and it’s time for him to have his adventure. Just know that we wouldn’t let your brother go away if we didn’t think it was a good idea.”

After a few more moments of me holding her as we lie on my bed, she takes a deep breath and says, “Good night.”

I watch her walk down the hall and then collapse in tears. “Is it a good idea? Please don’t let anything happen to my boy. I can’t have two empty bedrooms. I need him to come home.”

The next morning when I come downstairs Lindsay is making her breakfast.

Looking down she says, “I had a hard time sleeping.”

“Were you thinking about Merrick?”

Tears pool in her eyes as she shakes her head yes.

“Oh honey, he’s going to be alright.”

“How do you know?”

That question hung in the air and all I could muster was a shrug. When words came to me I reminded her that Merrick would be home for his Fall break and that we would visit him for Family weekend.

“Let’s not look too far into the future. We’re going to live one day at a time and try not to worry too much.”

My words were for me as much as her.

Just Beneath the Surface- A Father’s Grief

My husband Mark is the guest blogger for today. So, instead of Always Mom of 4, you’ll be hearing from Always Dad of 4. I’m grateful that he agreed to give the perspective of a grieving father which is not frequently heard.

*

Jackie asked me to host blog today, looking to inject a different perspective into the journal of our journey since the loss of Jordan.  I am honored and a bit intimidated in opening up in a forum like this, but I told her I’d give it a shot.

Last night, as I reached up to rub part of my back that is aching but in one of those hard to reach areas, I wrenched my face in obvious discomfort.  Not knowing that I was being watched, I heard a careful whisper from the corner of the room, “Oh no, Dad, is there something wrong with you too?”  The, “too,” part of her question came because Merrick was already sick and her mom had been resting a lot lately dealing with a flare from lupus.

“No baby.  My back is just sore because of the way I was sitting over there on the couch.  Don’t worry, I’m fine.” Always the worrier, she just wanted reassurance that things wouldn’t take an unexpected turn for the worse.  After all, Jordan always called me “the healthy one.”  In the cold of late February and early March we got hit with a series of sniffling noses and achy bodies.  Recently, Merrick had been home for two days, as it turns out sick with strep throat.  Jackie’s lupus  has shown up this time as inflammation of her right Achilles tendon.  Hard for her to get around when that happens.  The girls just recovered from colds and a few days off from school.  I’m fighting off a cold as well, but as all parents do, I reassure the children that I’m ok and here to make sure that things will get back on track.   But sometimes I wonder, will they ever? I can’t give that assurance to our children anymore that “nothing bad will happen.”

I’ve tried to explain to my friends and family that the death of Jordan seems analogous to losing a leg and then being forced to learn in a short amount of time to walk again with a prosthetic. It makes it look to the outside world like I’m a perfectly intact human being, but that is far from the truth. I can stand up straight, but that limb, my Jordan, is still gone. While I can function, go to work everyday and have an outward appearance of being “ok,” the pain and sadness is right under the surface.  It sits quietly with my soul similar to the way Jordan as a young child would keep his hand on my arm when we were sitting close as if to always keep me near. He was my oldest and that hand on my arm was a physical reminder of my stature as a father and caregiver. I would look down at his hand reassuring him, I’m here, you have me.”

I still feel that hand on my arm.  Now the hand is a reminder that just as I’m a father and caregiver, I’m also a grieving dad. I’m learning how to move through life with this new moniker. The first two were expected and eagerly anticipated, the latter an intrusion and shock.  But I continue to push forward.  So to my babies, who know me well and walk with me on this journey, I do at times say, “I’m ok,” and assure them that if I can help, I’ll be here for them and I will do everything I can to make sure that they don’t have to face the unwelcomed shocks alone.  If they come, we’ll keep pushing forward.

Since Jordan died, we all move with a vigilance, trying to ward off unexpected bad news. I say that knowing that keeping the realities of life at bay is impossible, but right now it feels like reassuring my children about the little things, like my achy back is a concrete way to make them feel secure. As a parent, sometimes I feel like I’m desperately trying to keep things on an even keel so as not to give rise to the tsunami of emotions that come along with knowing that our lives can be changed in an instant.  Nothing is guaranteed.

A few weeks ago I was watching one of my favorite movies, “Dances with Wolves.” The girls walked into the room curious about what I was watching and joined me. While trying to enjoy the movie I also took the opportunity to share with them the beautiful filmmaking and historical relevance of the story. During an intense chase scene, when the US Marshalls were descending on the Native American tribe, one of my daughters turned to run upstairs.  I protested saying, “Hey don’t you want to see what happens?”

“No” was her immediate response but I paused the movie to urge her to stay and watch.  I told her that the man and woman wouldn’t be separated forever, but the tribe had to move on and they were splitting apart for a little while.  I made the mistake of saying, “It’s a movie, everything works out ok, but their lives are changed.”

She looked at me saying, “How can you say everything works out ok when my brother didn’t come home from school?  That didn’t work out ok, he’s gone.”  I turned off the movie, called her down to sit with me and just held her as she cried.

All I could say to her was, “You’re right. Things don’t always have a happy ending. But even when they don’t people still continue to move forward.” For all of my family, the fear of sudden loss is just under the surface.  My babies learned at an early age that life, while full of promises, could also offer bitter disappointment and sorrow. As parents Jackie and I choose to continue to move forward telling our children that time will help diminish the pain of sorrow and that Jordan will always be a part of our lives.

 

Mark and Jordan reading the paper

Always Dad of 4

An Open Letter To My Son’s College Choices

We are playing the waiting game at my house. Merrick has applied to the colleges of his choice and is now waiting to hear back from them. One of the schools he applied to asked for a letter of recommendation from the parents. They wanted the perspective of the person/people who would talk of the early years and personality of the applicant. When I read their request I cried. I was being asked to weigh in and support my son’s application and frankly there are days when I don’t know how I’ll let him go. Sometimes even the thought of Merrick going off to school makes me physically ill, but at the same time I want what’s best for my son. I will not be a hinderance to his dreams. I realized that the only way I would be able to write a letter of recommendation, is to ask a request of all the schools. Below is my open letter to all of them.

Dear College of my son’s choice,

My son Merrick has applied to your school and is hopeful that he will be accepted. You invited parents to write letters of recommendation for their child. Your request is based on the fact that most students when applying concentrate on the ages of 14-17 and parents can give a long-range look and perspective on the applicant. I’m quite willing to write a letter for my child. I appreciate the wisdom and sensitivity in your request. Before I do so however, I have a request of my own. Please watch over my child. He is eager to leave home and enter the world of academia and freedom that college allows. I watch his anticipation and enthusiasm and am confronted with my own mixture of excitement and apprehension.

When his older brother Jordan went off to Amherst College, his dad and I could not have been prouder. Jordan chose a school that was the perfect fit for him. We watched him attenuate to college life with vigor and ease. He entered his sophomore year excited to have a single room, ready to pursue a major in Political Science and looking forward to the future. I often joked with him that I was living vicariously through him as he talked of studying abroad either in Costa Rica or London. His future seemed boundless. Seemed. When we received the news that Jordan had been killed in a car accident just 20 miles from his college campus shock and sorrow took hold of us, the grip of which I still feel today.

Now it is time for another of my children to fulfill their dreams and goals. Merrick has worked so hard to be an attractive candidate for your college. A finer student, scholar, and most importantly compassionate human being you won’t find. As he readies himself to, “be on his own,” I try and ready my heart to give the world another one of my children. Merrick comes to you an eager vessel of learning. He also comes bearing the weight of sorrow that losing his big brother and best friend brings. So, I’m finding a way, no matter how hard it is, to continue trusting that the world is a giving, safe place for my children. As unwieldy and irrational my plea is I ask you to remember it. When you see my son walking through campus, treat him with care as he fulfills his dreams and honors the legacy of his brother.

Sincerely,

Always Mom of Four