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 ‘unpacking’

Christmas Lights and Music

Christmas 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jordan on our tree-2010

Daddy listening to his music-Christmas 2010

 

 

Advertisements

Waiting For The Repairman

Does anyone remember those, “Baby on Board,” signs that were prevalent in the late ‘80’s and ‘90’s? They seemed to be suction cupped to the window of every other car on the road. I thought about those signs this morning and how I never got one after Jordan was born because it seemed to me that people should drive safely regardless of whether there was a baby in the car or not.

*

We’re still waiting to see if the video camera we sent in for repair will come back to us with images of Jordan in the last months before he died. The repairman called again recently to say that they needed to repair the motherboard and wanted our approval because they couldn’t guarantee that our hard drive wouldn’t be lost. If the hard drive is lost in the process of repairing the machine we lose the footage that’s on the camera. When the repairman asked what I wanted to do, proceed, or not with the repairs, my response was silence, then a heavy sigh and then a plea.

“The hard drive holds footage of our son. He was killed in a car accident. We need it.”

“Ma’am, I can’t guarantee that the hard drive won’t be damaged. Can you have your husband call me back and tell me what you want to do?”

Another long silence as I try to keep the tears out of my voice.

“Um, I’m not sure what we should do. I’ll have my husband call you.”

“Thank you, Ma’am.”

Mark called the repair center and told them to go ahead with the repairs. This morning while I showered I thought about the camera and visualized the repairs being done, hoping that they’re being extra careful so we have more memories of Jordan. I finally shook my head and thought, “Whether you have the footage or not, Jordan’s still gone. Stop putting so much importance on the camera. It doesn’t bring Jordan back.”

I realized how ridiculous it was that I’d poured my heart out to the repairman as though with my camera he’d be extra careful and more professional and with everyone else’s repairs he did slipshod work. That’s how I got to the baby on board signs in my meandering way. I would hope that the repairman always does his best work, just like when I saw the, “Baby on Board,” signs I hoped that everyone drove responsibly. Now I wish I’d wrapped the car Jordan was riding in on October 12th, 2008 in, “MY BABY ON BOARD,”signs and that doing so would have kept him alive. There are no magic formulas of protection or safety. I’m sitting with that harsh reality and waiting again for a box in the mail.

Forever Valentines

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

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

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

Valentines-Transformation-2/13/2010

Jordan and Lindsay 12/07

This time last year, 2/12/09:

Jordan,

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

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

Lindsay asked “Why?”

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

Lindsay told me “I can get them.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

I said, “Let’s put them in a bag.”

She said, “Okay I’ll get it.”

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

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

For me, she already had.

Happy Valentines Day

With eternal love,

Mama

 

 

Poem on Back of Program

Mother to Son

 

Jordan is a poet

Merrick is poetry

Jordan has the words to captivate a nation

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

There is magic in words and movement

Together they reveal the essence of life,

both poet and poetry,

spoken word and dance and song.

I can listen to and watch them forever

My boys

 

Jackie Moore (2002)

Today, 2/13/10:

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

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

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

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

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

Rediscovered Valentine

Christmas Time Is Here

My sister Julie is one of the most creative people I know. She and her husband couldn’t be with us in Chicago to celebrate Christmas this year, but she sent her presents ahead with our parents.

A few days ago she said to me, “There’s one gift I want you to open before Christmas. It may make you a little emotional. I just wanted you to be prepared.”

“Okay, thanks for helping me get ready.”

I knew her gift would be something connected to Jordan. I wondered what it would be and figured it would be a picture she’d found and framed.

When I woke up this morning before I opened my eyes I said, “It’s Christmas Eve,” and I started to cry. Another Christmas Eve and Jordan isn’t here. I wondered, “How are we going to keep doing this without him?”

I moved closer to Mark and laid my head on his shoulder. In his sleep he made room for me and put his arm around my shoulder. He woke up as he felt my shoulders shake from sobs. No words were needed. He held me until I reached for a tissue.

“Where are you going,” he asked.

“I have to go out and get pastries for breakfast. Mama and Daddy want those carrot cake teacakes from Bleeding Heart Bakery.”

“Can I go with you?”

“Yeah, that would be good.”

“Let’s stick closer together today okay?”

Through tears I nodded and said, “Okay, that sounds good.”

When we came home with the pastries I asked my mom about the gift Julie wanted me to open early. Mom retrieved the gift from a shopping bag and handed it to me. I started to cry as soon as I saw Julie’s customized wrapping paper. Here is the paper:

Jordan and Lego Santa

Paper is emblazoned with a line from, "My Favorite Things."

If you look closely there is a picture of Jordan taken by one of his friends next to a Lego Santa. The paper also has the words, “Brown paper packages tied up in string,” a line from, “My Favorite Things.” Jordan loved listening to Coltrane’s version of this song, especially at Christmas time.

I gazed at the paper taking in every detail and carefully opened it truly feeling that old adage, “It’s too pretty to open,” but I’m so glad I did. Over an orange cranberry teacake and a cup of coffee, I felt Jordan next to me as I opened the beautiful package. Inside the box was an ornament that Julie made for our Jordan section of the tree. She took a small canvas and made a beach scene complete with sand and shells. It has a beach chair beckoning Jordan to come and sit awhile. On the edge of the chair is a miniature version of the book, “Holler If You Hear Me, “ by one of Jordan’s favorite authors Michael Eric Dyson. Every time I look at the ornament I imagine Jordan approaching the beach chair ready to resume his reading and soak up the sun. Thank you Julie for helping me feel Jordan on Christmas Eve.

Jordan's Ornament

Reading Jordan’s Gratitude List

I am participating in an online workshop given by my dear friend Tom Zuba called, “Living With the Holidays.” The workshop started on November 1st and the exercise yesterday was to:

Consider gathering a few items that connect you to the person (people) you love that have died.  Find a space for them.  In your bedroom.  In your home office.  Somewhere in your house.  It can be a place you pass often…or it can be an out-of-the way place in your house.  A destination, if you will.  A place you consciously have to decide to go to.

I thought a great deal about what items connected me to Jordan. I have pictures of him that I love and chose a few of them. I knew I wanted one of his shirts that still faintly holds his scent. His Ipod is something that I love scrolling through reading the titles of  and listening to the vast and varied  music, so that is in my “Connectedness” collection. I wanted a book because of Jordan’s love of reading, but couldn’t figure out which one to choose. Last night I sat down in the chair on our 2nd floor landing, something I rarely do, looked down and saw a book with an encircled half-moon and stars on the cover. It is one of Jordan’s journals from his youth. I flipped through it seeing his early attempts at rap, the beginnings of short stories and a gratitude list.

I sat reading and rereading  Jordan’s gratitude list, touching the page and smiling at his undeniable penmanship.  I remember when he wrote the list. I owned a copy of “Simple Abundance,”  by Sarah Ban Breathnach that I’d purchased right after it came out in 1996. I hadn’t followed it prescriptively but I liked the notion of focusing on gratitude.

One night when Jordan was in junior high and Merrick was in 3rd or 4th grade, the three of us  sat at our kitchen table and talked about gratitude. I don’t recall what prompted the conversation but we talked about the aspects of your life, not just things, that you are grateful for. I told them about gratitude journals and getting into the practice of writing down what you are grateful for before you go to sleep. I was going to make my gratitude list, before I went to sleep and challenged them to do the same. They were both reluctant, “Why do we have to write it down? Can’t we just think about it?”  I assured them that it was their list and they didn’t have to read it aloud or share it with anyone. The power was in taking time to reflect and to commit to writing those things you may take for granted but that bring peace and joy to your life.

I felt an instant connection to Jordan when I read his gratitude list. Even as I wonder how I can live in a world that took Jordan away, reading his list made me realize he is still bringing me peace and joy. In moments when I am so battered from the aches, tears, and sleeplessness that come from missing him, he reminds me about gratitude.

Here is Jordan’s List:

The List (Things I am grateful for)

  1. My friends and family
  2. My health
  3. The good neighborhood I live in
  4. My being able to eat every night
  5. My knowledge
  6. My good school
  7. My home
  8. Being able to concentrate at school
  9. People who care about me
  10. The luxuries I have that others don’t

Jordan drew a line after number 10 and then added the following:

11. My sisters

12. No homework

13. My bed

14. Sleep

I found Jordan’s journal as I faced another sleepless night wondering how long I would hurt so much. Having to accept, not just know, but come to full agreement with my heart and soul that my child is dead is the hardest thing I’ve ever faced. It is a journey of recalculating what truth means, of acknowledging how much pain I hold inside me and it is about wanting to feel better even when it means saying goodbye to my boy again and again.

I read Jordan’s words last night and added my own to the list.

I am so grateful to be Jordan’s mother and still have the opportunity to learn from him.

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.

Opening the Boxes

Jordan on his way to check out his new dorm room sophomore year.

Jordan on his way to check out his new dorm room sophomore year.

We knew they were coming. Jordan’s college dean had given us almost to the hour the time when FedEx would deliver the boxes that held all of Jordan’s belongings. His dean has told us that at some point between 10am and 12pm the boxes would arrive. The clothing, books, school supplies, all the things a 19-year-old needs to live away from home, were winding their way back to us separate from him. To ease the arrival of the boxes, the dean had told us how the Amherst staff that packed the boxes had labeled them. We had already made special arrangements to donate certain items. His refrigerator, rug, lamp, etc. would go to the A Better Chance (ABC) program. Jordan volunteered there his freshman year, mentoring and tutoring high school boys and had planned to do the same his sophomore year. We knew Jordan would want ABC to have things that would benefit the boys in that program.

Out of denial, bravado or plain shock, Mark and I decided we needed to be alone when the boxes came. We had gone back and forth as to whether we should have someone with us when the boxes were delivered. We knew it was going to rip our hearts out to stand and watch as the possessions of our 19-year-old son came home without him. Mark insisted that placing these boxes in our basement was something he needed to do. He cleared a space in the basement to make room for the boxes and then we waited. We had helped Jordan buy, pack and unpack all of his college things for the last two years.  In our grieving parental logic it made sense to us that we should bear the responsibility and the honor of putting them away.

Mark had taken Jordan back to school for his sophomore year. It had been just the two of them. The first time they had extended time together in such a long while without Jordan having the distractions of competing for his father’s attention from siblings or another parent. Once they got to Amherst, Mark took Jordan to Target to buy toiletries, school supplies, snacks for his refrigerator and anything else they could think of, or whatever I called to remind them to get.

Father and Son together.

Father and Son together.

The two of them also had time to just be together, hanging out as father and son. Mark let Jordan choose where they ate every night and came home gulping down Tums after all the junk food he forced down. They went to the movies together and as Mark said, “Talked for the first time man to man about anything and everything without reservation or embarrassment.” Mark glimpsed the adult friendship he would have with his son.

Jordan indulging his dad's need to capture every moment. Here he is about to open the door to his dorm room.

Jordan indulging his dad's need to capture every moment. Here he is about to open the door to his dorm room.

Mark was there with Jordan as he got to his new single room and unpacked the boxes that had been in storage. Jordan unpacked, Mark forever the photographer catalogued every moment, much to Jordan’s annoyance. When most of the boxes were unpacked they took a break and had lunch together before Mark made his way to the airport and back home. They hugged goodbye knowing Jordan would be home for Thanksgiving. We would all see him then.

At the beginning of October as Jordan’s sisters missed their brother more and more, I suggested they write him letters to help tide them over until they saw him in November. One sister wrote about how she couldn’t wait until Thanksgiving because she missed him so much and added a drawing of our family, complete with sunshine, flowers and a rainbow. Jordan’s other sister wrote him a song entitled, “Miss You”, called him and sang it to him before we mailed the letters. We all eagerly awaited Thanksgiving when our whole family would be together again. Thanksgiving held out a promise that would not be fulfilled. October 12th, 2008 forever changed our trust in events happening as we assume they will. Jordan wouldn’t be coming home for Thanksgiving. We wouldn’t sit at a table as family of 6 again.

Even though Mark and I decided that only the two of us would be home when the boxes came, I decided I couldn’t watch them being unloaded and stored. I didn’t want to see them. They represented remnants of a life, my child’s life that shouldn’t be packed away but should still be flourishing. I told Mark, I wasn’t ready to see the boxes and would busy myself in another part of the house until they were stacked in the basement. Fate had other plans. The doorbell rang with that double/triple ring of deliverymen as I was downstairs and Mark was finishing a call. I was willing to wait for Mark to open the door until I heard the thud of the first box on the front porch. I had to tell the FedEx deliveryman that we needed the boxes unloaded around back at our basement entrance not on our front porch. He looked at me with annoyance and I had to let him know this wasn’t an ordinary delivery and we needed gentleness. I explained, “Our son was killed in a car accident while he was away at school. These are all of his possessions. I know it’s extra work for you to take them around back, but if you wouldn’t mind we’d appreciate it. My husband is waiting for you back there.” Tears caught in my throat and compassion covered his face. He apologized, told me he was sorry for my loss and quickly started taking the boxes to the basement entrance. I looked out the kitchen window to make sure Mark was back there and I saw one of the boxes. There it was, labeled, “Jordan Moore-Fields ’11” on the first line and “Shoes” on the second line. Class of 2011 was how he was still known at Amherst, even though that dream was gone. The box marked shoes contained the shoes Jordan and I had bought at the beginning of the summer before he set off for DC for his internship. Once again glimpses of the man he would be as he chose styles appropriate for the workplace and extended his fashion beyond sneakers.  That memory flooded back by reading the word shoes on a box. I never made it upstairs. I sat at our kitchen table and wept as I heard box after box being loaded into the basement. Finally tears turned to screams as I called out Jordan’s name and just kept saying, “No!” Soon Mark was beside me and we wept together for all we had lost and the irony that these boxes labeled with Jordan’s name could never contain all that he had or was. The deliveryman finally called out to us and told us everything was unloaded. He left a note on the receipt again expressing his condolences.

My younger son came home the day the boxes arrived asking if he could go through them. I kept saying, “No your dad and I aren’t ready to go through them yet. Give us a little time.” He would let a day or so pass and then ask again. It took me days before I could look in the direction of the basement where the boxes were stored. I finally asked my son, “Is there something specific that you’re looking for?” All he said was, “I want his clothes. I want to wear them.” I realized that we were all grieving Jordan’s loss differently. What I wasn’t ready to face, my son need to have close to him as a symbol of comfort from his brother. The next day I went downstairs and opened one of the boxes marked clothes knowing that giving Merrick a few items until we went through all of the boxes was necessary. I found what I was looking for and took them up to his room and placed them on his bed. When he came home from school I told him as he ambled up the stairs, “I put a couple of Jordan’s shirts on your bed.” He looked at me and asked, “Is it the Malcolm X t-shirt?” I said, “Yes, and the Run DMC.” He gave me a grateful, relieved look and said, “Thanks mom.”

The weekend after I gave my son the t-shirts, Mark decided he would unpack some of the boxes. He wanted to make sure Jordan’s laptop, mpc and other electronic equipment were in working order. These items held the links to Jordan’s thoughts and creativity. Mark unpacked these things and then decided to keep going and open the box marked desk items. He was stopped short as he opened the desk items box and there on top laid the letters from Jordan’s sisters. The letters that talked about seeing him for Thanksgiving had been sitting on Jordan’s desk. Mark came upstairs weeping, needing to be held as we both sat, grateful that we’d raised a son who was not ashamed to display the letters of his younger sisters for all his friends to see.  Jordan loved his family, it is a truth that will always bring us comfort.

Weeks passed and one day I decided it was time to demystify the box corner and go through my son’s things. I went through box after box. Making piles of things I knew Merrick would want, books that we would keep because we knew they were special to Jordan, and a box of toiletries and cleaning supplies that brought me to tears. That box beyond all others showed just how little time Jordan got to be a sophomore in college. Most of the items were still unopened. An entire box filled with unopened bottles of lotion, deodorant, laundry detergent, tissues, soap, etc. We didn’t want him to run out of anything. He never got to use them.

Then I came to the box that made me laugh and talk out loud to my son. I opened a box labeled clothes that contained his dirty laundry.  That box brought back the running discussion Jordan and I had on a weekly basis, and all the wonderful talks we had. Jordan would typically call me during the day a few times a week as he walked back to his room after class. He would call me with his trademark deep-voiced, “what’s up”, telling me about his classes, his assignments and how nasty the lunch selections were in the cafeteria. I would listen and laugh then ask my trademark question of when he last did laundry. He always evaded the question or spoke of the amazing powers of Febreze. Now, here I sat in our basement with a box of his dirty laundry. I said out loud, “Boy I told you to do this before you went away for the weekend. I knew you weren’t going to finish it even when you said you would.”

I dragged the box into our laundry room, and started sorting it so I could wash his clothes. Mark called while I was starting this task to check in and see how I was doing. I told him I was going through Jordan’s boxes and was washing his clothes. He immediately became alarmed begging me to wait until he got home. I told him I was okay and I needed to go through the boxes, for me it was time. He still worried about me doing the laundry wanting to spare me any undue pain. He suggested that we get someone to do the laundry because it seemed like it would be too much for me. I took a breath and told Mark, “I have to do this. Don’t you realize this is the last time I’ll ever be able to do his laundry, to do something maternal like this for him? I can’t cook for him, or send him care packages or shop for him anymore. Doing these loads of laundry is the last thing I can do for Jordan.” I knew I would probably cry as I folded every piece, but I couldn’t imagine anyone else doing this job. It was my last maternal act of caring for my son.