Friday, October 30, 2015

When Your Youngest Child Outlives the Oldest

On October 24, Ariana outlived Brandon's days by one day.  He lived for 7000 days, she had lived for 7001 on that date.  I feel like that number, 7000 seems really weird, like it should mean something or be something special and, instead, it's just a sad number and now it's another number that will forever have new meaning to me.  Not that I go around thinking of the number 7000, but I guarantee you, that bad boy will be cropping up, I'll start noticing it places, like we do with the things that have great (good or bad) significance in our lives.

Her birthday was really hard for me this year.  It has been hard each year, honestly, because it's a reminder that Brandon won't get one.  I try hard to make it about her, but I see in past writings that it has really been a big deal.  I know that I should be so grateful to have another birthday with her, and I am.  I'm so very grateful that I get to still be the mama here and that I didn't lose two children, but there are definitely a ton of mixed emotions at play.  I try to focus on that, on the gifts, on her nearing adulthood and I crack.

I worry, of course, about losing her, too.  I know that's part of the reason this birthday was really difficult because I really had to work hard to keep shoving the fear back that I'd lose her, one day before she got to 19 years and two months old, like I did Brandon.  So, there's this ridiculous fear, fighting with the need to not suffocate the child with your worry, fighting the blackness from depression, fighting the plastered on smile.  And, something has to give.  The easiest to give for me is the facade of happy, don't pretend there's joy, just let everything suck the life out of me.

From shortly before her 19th birthday, until the day after (honestly, the day he died, I thought about the fact that she was going to outlive him), I did a lot of trying to reign in my thoughts, to not let them control me, to remind myself that fear does not come from God.  And, instead, I find myself wandering to the what-ifs because I know that losing one child, losing ten children, does not preclude you from losing another.  I wonder if I lost her, would I be ok, would I give up and die, would I still love God, would I still be able to trust his sovereignty.  Because I'm not always sure I understand things now.

I still wonder why he allowed me to be born, knowing that I was going to have to go through this, why he allowed three generations (just that I know of) to each lose a son and will I ever have any sort of peace, should my girl ever give birth to a boy?  What could we have all done differently and why didn't he direct us that way, why just allow our babies to die, the cruelest of hurts that exist?  What could I have done differently years ago to prevent my son ever dying?  God is still God and I trust him, but it doesn't mean I have all the answers and it doesn't mean that sometimes my faith gets frayed and I wonder if it won't just break.

So far, I am ok on the faith remaining intact, but I have Ariana.  I feel like I have lost everything my heart and soul ever wanted on this earth, except for her.  And, so I back away from her, sometimes, because the risk of loving, with reckless abandon, someone who could just be gone tomorrow is sickeningly frightening, at times. Yes, it's made me appreciate each day more and it's helped me to remember to let things go that I wouldn't have otherwise, but when you have one half of your heart left and it beats through that kid, it is so, so very hard to lay that heart out there, knowing in the blink of an eye, everything can change.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Face of Addiction

I actually wrote this post in July of 2013.  At the time, I was honoring Brandon's dad's wishes by not making this public because of family.  I knew I would eventually post this, though, so I saved it for the right time and that time is now.  I haven't changed it, except for the typos, even though I planned to add a lot to it, because I think it says exactly what I want to.  For now.  There is much, much more to this, but we'll save that for another day.  Please share this piece of my son's story proudly for International Overdose Awareness Day tomorrow, August 31, 2015.

Brandon was never embarrassed about his shortcomings, the demons he battled, the mistakes he made.  He hated to disappoint us and felt like he constantly came up short, his real potential felt out of reach, but he wasn't embarrassed to tell people, especially if it meant he might help them.  I was.  I was embarrassed and afraid.  In Brandon's struggles, I saw my own and I was afraid that admitting how real his struggles were, it would breathe life into them when, in fact, they'd been given more life in my denial.  I know that there's real power in keeping secrets in the dark.  Bringing them into the light takes their power right away and yet I still let very few people into our reality, doing what I do, trying to fix everything by my own determination.

Brandon was such a good kid.  He broke many rules, but never defiantly, hurting so much at our hurt and anger.  He had this gigantic heart, especially for someone in pain.  When I yelled in frustration that if anything ever happened to him it would destroy us, we would never come back from it, never go on, he cried at my pain.  I wonder sometimes if I didn't speak it into happening by the mere mention.  If I believed in tempting the fates, this would be the ultimate proof, I guess.  Brandon told me he loved me every single day, several times a day, even if he was mad at me.  He put up with me telling him to pull his pants up and change his shirt and cut his hair, without saying much.   When he got tattoos he knew I didn't want for him, he made sure to get faith and family so he could show what things were important to him.  He was a REALLY great kid.

That was the Brandon I wanted everyone to know, not the Brandon who couldn't figure out how to like himself, who didn't know that he was so good he deserved the best this life had to offer and then some, who struggled with drugs to make the pain go away.   That kid would be judged and people would ask 'where is his mom' and I would say I was right here,  I'm not perfect,  but I love him more than my own life,  I'm trying so hard,  you have no idea how hard it is, but they'd already have their minds made up.  So, while I tried and tried to convince Brandon that other kids would not judge him, to just give them a chance, because teenagers all have the same fears and insecurities, I kept quiet.  I asked for prayer for him so often, from so many people, but most did not know our real issues.

Maybe I shamed him,  maybe I should've asked for more specific prayer, maybe I could've kept him alive if I'd just done something differently.   Maybe not, I'll never get the chance to know, but I know this... Brandon would never want one other life lost because of someone's silence.   I thought I was honoring him,  honoring our family by not airing dirty laundry, but Brandon needed more help than I could give him.   He didn't even get a chance to become a serious problem child because his life ended too soon.   If he'd had the chance, I bet he would've gone on to be a drug and alcohol counselor or something and so now I'm going to honor him by never being quiet, never being embarrassed and being proud of the identity I have in being Brandon's mom.... the kid who helped get other kids clean, the kid who had the huge heart, the boy with those beautiful eyes and old soul.

Yes, I am his mother and I am damn proud of the lives he saved, in his life and in his death.   Now, I want him to be proud of his mother for making sure his death was not in vain.  I already know that I will honor the boy by someday giving another grieving mom hope, but I hope I can help to ensure that no other mom has to feel ashamed or alone in her child's struggles, struggles that do not define our children, but are just one aspect of a beautiful gift to this earth.

God so graciously puts the right people in our path in our darkest hour and I know it is with the understanding that this will be paid forward.  I will never forget those other sweet mamas who were able to comfort me, some with their own grief still so raw, still crying themselves to sleep every night, hurting all over again with me.  One mama lost her beautiful daughter in a horrific manner many, many years ago and it was this mama who first gave me hope that there someday may be a light to see, smiles to come, a life to actually enjoy and it's to this precious mama and her sweet daughter that I dedicate this post.   Thank you for your courage and light and lack of judgment.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Happy 21st Birthday, Brando!

Here's to you, BK!

March 19, 2015

I went a little backwards here, I know.  If you read below today's entry, you'll see why I did it this way.  I tried to condense this post, but I just don't know how to use fewer words.  Be thankful I didn't blog every day for the last 10 days.

Today was hard.  I feel like it was harder than the first birthday without Brandon, but maybe my memory is protecting me.  I cried and cried and cried, until I fell asleep.  When I woke up, I saw the bunched up Kleenex next to my pillow and it reminded me of those early days, when I'd find Kleenex everywhere I'd been, even at the foot of my bed, though don't ask me how it got there.  I had it in my hands at all times, especially in bed, so it'd end up getting moved around, I guess.  Part of the problem today was that I started it off by reading some of my earlier blog posts.  BIG mistake and I know better, but I did it, anyway.  I miss him so much and I hurt for the person I was before my son died and for the person who wandered through those early months in shock and, again, for the person I've had to become because of the pain.  At one point, over the last several days, I actually found myself wondering 'what if I hadn't returned the medical examiner's phone call, what if I just didn't know he'd died'....I know, it sounds crazy, but mind's response to the type of pain that grief causes can be pretty far out there.

I ordered a balloon bouquet earlier this morning so I'd make sure to get out of the house.  Eventually, that's what I did.  We went and released the balloons, with a happy birthday wish and then released some lanterns that drove us crazy.  The first one sailed right into the power lines, which made us laugh and worry about the fire department being called to the site.  It was not the grand scene that I'd envisioned, but I've learned to lower my expectations of perfection and just let the moment be what it is.  I think that has been a gift from this tragedy, feeling free enough to release some things, some people, a lot of control, because we actually have very little control in this world.

So, the night ended with a drink in Brandon's honor, at a restaurant he loved.  I hope he was there with us.  I sure do miss him, with every ounce of my being.  Thanks for reading.

March 9, 2015

I don't write often, so I decided to start his birthday post a little early, just to let people see exactly why I don't write often....b/c what goes around in my head (and ultimately penned here) is a whole lot of THIS....

Life is just really sucky, without you, Brandon.  I miss you so much and it's hard to even want to try to find peace because I hate this earth without you sharing it with me.  I can't even find the words to ask God for the peace because I end up so upset, crying so much, that's it's just to difficult to want to go there voluntarily.

It's hard to put into words how incomprehensible it is to think about all the rest of your days on this earth not having your child in it, especially when it could've been prevented.  I'm sure some people think it shouldn't be dwelled upon, but it's impossible to escape the reality.  Trust me, I've tried, gone to great lengths to escape it and...I've failed.

There are a lot of things that I don't understand why God allowed, but that one definitely takes the cake.  I know that much of what has happened in my life has been a direct result of either my choices or those before me.  We live in a fallen world and bad shit just happens in a fallen world.  Ultimately, God had to allow it and I still wrestle with why this had to happen, why this had to be our story.  It's my life, I know I have to own it, but, really, I just do not want it.....

March 12, 2015

I was thinking that part of the reason for the wrestling with God is that, while I may not always be a good or honest or just person, and I may backslide here and there, deep down I thought God knew me well enough to know that I didn't deserve to lose a child.  I know that God doesn't make bargains and there's no earning good things, but you still (well, I still) think that trying to live life right and praying for your children kinda protects you from the really big things, the bad things that you're afraid to say aloud for fear it may bring them to fruition.  When I screamed at Brandon (when we almost lost him) we won't make it if something happens to you, it would destroy our lives, we would never, EVER recover, I meant it and, though I was afraid that by saying it out loud it was tempting death, I hoped that by screaming to the universe that I'd die without my son it would ensure that I'd never have to live without my son.

I've had no more loss in my life, really, than anyone else.  Loss is relative to each of us and, yeah, losing a child is the worst loss to ever have to live with, but it doesn't diminish anyone else's loss.  We all have our burdens to carry and they hurt.  And, yet, I feel betrayed.  By life, by God, my family.  IDK...I hate bitter people because they're miserable to be around, but I'm not sure how to endure all I've lost and just be happy about it.  I've trusted that I'll see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13) and I've trusted that hope will never put me to shame (Romans 5:5) and that weeping only endures for a night, but that joy cometh in the morning (Psalm 30:5).  Oh, how I've repeated to myself joy cometh.   But, the weeping has lasted for, literally, hundreds of nights and the joy, well, it has surely runneth away!!  Nothing that I've prayed for seems to have been answered, no matter how faithful I've been (or think I've been) and I feel like the family curse has fallen square on my shoulders and maybe I could've turned the curse away from us, but instead I failed miserably and there's just no salvaging anything from the mess.  And, this is all crazy drivel that I try to keep people away from, but maybe if I see my lunacy in print it'll wake me up or maybe it'll show someone else how sane they actually are. 

I had a dream a while back, just a brief one, where I was looking almost through a tunnel and, for some reason, it made me realize that I was never going to see Brandon in this lifetime.  In my dream, I was awestruck by the word forever and I kept saying it until I woke up saying," forever....I have to live without Brandon forever," which, of course, made me cry as I woke up and realized, yet again, the reality of my situation.  It colors everything in my world.  In a way, I am too numb to everything and in ways I am too affected by everything, as evidenced by the fact that almost any word, at any given time, could make me start crying. 

Another dream I had, just the other day, had me running.  Not from something, just running.  I love running.  I am not built for it, not even when I was thin because my legs are about 5" long, but I love feeling like I'm breaking free from something and running into something wonderful.  In my dream, though, no matter how long my stride was, I couldn't go forward any faster.  It was almost like stepping into quicksand, but without sinking.  Maybe it's an improvement, honestly, because I've certainly felt like I've been in quicksand, but it's so frustrating to keep running without moving.  Heh, the story of my life, I suppose...always running from something and not going anywhere.  Not sure the point of this paragraph, drivel from the world in my head, but maybe I'll read this in five years and be fascinated at my growth.  MMMHHMM.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Walking Into Another Year Without Brandon

It's been a long time since I've written.  Much longer than I meant it to be, but as soon as I opened the first page, I remembered breaks my heart to see the blog, to read what has happened, to look at yet another reminder that my son is not here.  As a friend said, I like some fluff with my bad news, but there's no fluff to be found here, it's just straight up grief.

Much has happened, but I'll try not to write a book.  We moved into a new home. It's a much smaller home, perfect for us, and we like it here.  It was hard to move out of Brandon's house, to know I'd never get to go in his room, again, but God gave me much peace about all of that and I was able to have some people help pack up his stuff and the rest I took care of...and I survived.  I'm still so very sad that he never got the chance to live in this new place with us, sad that there are no memories of him in this house, but I know it's what needed to happen.  I don't think living in the other house was helping me move forward.  Not that I'm necessarily moving forward, but it definitely wasn't going to happen there.

Here, I don't immediately see the scene play out in my mind, every time I get in the shower, of me sobbing through that first shower.  I don't open the door the of the bathroom and imagine all the people in my living room, all the eyes on me, while I have no idea what to do with myself other than sob and stop every once in a while to wonder aloud if Brandon is all right.  When I stand in front of the living room window, I don't imagine Ariana in my peripheral vision asking me what happened, while I choked out in between sobs that he'd died.  I think those are pretty heavy burdens to carry around in a house and not being forced to relive them every single day has to be a good thing, right?

My baby girl, my only other child, graduated from high school.  I imagined the entire day being a meltdown of epic proportions, but it actually wasn't, and I held it together pretty good, for the most part. We were packing to move at the same time, so it was sort of a crazy time, but my husband was home and I guess we managed ok as a family of three.  My kids were never supposed to be only children, it was one of my rules of life, after being one myself, and yet here we are.  The girl walking this path, while maneuvering adulthood, and accepting how things are much better than her parents.  The girl and her friends, a breath of fresh air in our lives, really.  I'm sad that she has to grow up.  I want all the time back that I wasted, all of it.

People told me, and I'd read in many books, that the second year was the hardest. I told my mama that
I just could not handle having a year worse than the year my son died.  Honestly, how in the hell do you survive worse than that?  She told me that that didn't have to be my story, to not take on someone else's walk and I agreed, partly because there's some of that fluff that I like and partly because I agree.  I always told Brandon not to let labels or someone else's walk dictate his, he did not have to accept that that's just how it goes.

And, so, I set about avoiding more, probably living less, trying to feel less, I suppose, to make sure that I didn't spend every moment of the second year crying that awful, primal wail that still haunts me.  I've found that almost everything makes me cry.  It catches me off guard fairly often because I really work at avoiding things that could potentially make me cry.  There was still the 18th of every month to contend with, but one day I realized that I'd gotten through an 18th without crying, without even realizing it was the 18th.  I wondered how in the world that could've happened, though asking it now seems silly....duh, I was avoiding.  Then, one of the 18th's, one of God's special scriptures to me popped up on my phone.  "Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord." Psalm 27:14.  Our history with this verse goes back over a decade and I know when it pops up out of the blue, God is reminding me that He is ever present and comforting me, even when I am trying to not need to be comforted.

Then, on November 18th, the 18 month mark since Brando went to be with God, a friend posted something on her FB wall that was HUGE for me.  I'd planned on doing a blog post that day, since it was during my annual 30 days of thanks, being thankful for the time I did get with the boy, thankful that I know where he is, even though I desperately want him here with me...just thankful, even if I wasn't feeling particularly joyous and thankful.  What ended up happening was that just thinking of blogging threw me for such a loop that I fell apart inside and ran from being thankful for anything, because what mom has the nerve to leave her son out of her thankfulness just because it hurts?  I'm not really embracing a ton of logic here, as you can see, but it's the way my thoughts go, at times.

Anyway, the friend posted a scripture also from the Psalms and it happens to be the very first scripture I was ever given, directly from God, after asking him for a word.  At the time, the scripture was exactly what I needed to hear from God, it was an enormous moment for me.  I was 20 years old, the second worst year of my life, and though I'd known God since a young age, I had a fairly new relationship with him, at that time.  I've had to go back to that scripture too many times in this life, but I'm so thankful that I have it to lean on.  I'm going to post some of the devotional that goes along with the scripture, so bear with me.

"The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."  Psalm 34:18.  The word broken in Hebrew is the word shabar and means "to rend violently or crush; to maim, cripple or break."  Shabar was used to describe ships that had been splintered and torn due to ferocious and wild winds.  It was also used to describe the tearing and ripping that wild, ravenous beasts performed upon their prey.  When the Psalmist declares that the Lord is near to the brokenhearted, he is reminding us that the Lord is lovingly attentive to those who are enduring unimaginable pain.  If you are emotionally torn apart and wonder how you will make it through one more today, be comforted with the surety that He is with you.

There is more, but you get the gist of what it is saying and oh my gosh, how huge to open facebook and see that on that day.  God.  God is so involved in the details of our lives, all of the details, and he made sure I got a word that I would know was right from him, right when I needed it.  The detail of that crushing, that breaking, is something I so understand.  I hate that I get it, but I'm so thankful that it's not only all right to feel it, but God is right here in the trenches with me and he reminds us of these things in a real, tangible way.

I still have many dreams about Brandon.  I can recall exactly one where I woke up and went,, it's ok.  Because, I still wake up crying.  It's not the sobbing, choking in my sleep wailing of the first year, but rather a soft sobbing, the gentle sound of my crying and the wetness of my tears rousing me from sleep.  And, then there's the moment the other day when I woke up and forgot, for just a moment, that he'd died.  I was panicking about his meds and then it hit me...we haven't gotten them refilled because he died...remember?  Oh.  Yeah, I remember now. That is brutal.  The shock just made everything stop for a moment.  The next day, I dreamt about Brandon and, while I knew he'd died, it was like he was there, anyway.  I've had similar dreams a few times, where he's shown up and I'm totally confused because I know he died.  Well, in this dream he wanted to go somewhere and I said no and grounded him or sent him to his room or something.  I went to his room and he was lying in bed and when I called his name, he lifted his head up and said, "Yeah?"  And, I started crying and told him it was for his own good that he had to stay home, that I just loved him so much and I kept saying that over and over, I love you so, so much, until eventually I woke myself up because I was crying and saying that out loud.

It is so hard.  I don't embrace living a whole lot right now.  Going into yet another year that has no Brandon, well it's unimaginable and it's sad.  And lonely.  It hurts just to do this post, but I somehow guilted myself into believing that if I left the year without talking about Brandon here, again, I'd be a bad mom.  I don't do guilt, but I think you find you actually do a lot of things that you didn't think you did, after your chid dies.  I cried through all of this and then someone set off fireworks and the dog started barking and that struck me as funny, so I stood in the bathroom with my Kleenex, trying to stop the tears, blow my nose and laugh at the dog.  It was a funny moment.  I'm thankful for the funny moments.  Brandon had a great sense of humor, which he got from his mother (the girl has it, too, of course) and I know he'd never want me to forget how to laugh, even if I have to do it while I'm crying.

There's so much I wish I'd written sooner, but I know it's not a stretch to understand how I cannot make myself get here.  I've said this so often and I'll probably never stop...this wasn't supposed to be my life.  My child wasn't supposed to be the one that others had to grieve that others had to learn from.  Not my child.  I don't guess I've reached the acceptance part of the grieving process yet?  I don't know. I'm trying.  And, I'll close with a text from a friend that I absolutely needed today. What a treasure she is and I can't wait for Brandon to meet her, someday.  Oh, how he'll love her sense of humor and her beautiful spirit.

"I'm not going to just wish you Happy New Year.  I want to wish you something else I just can't find the damn word for it.  I want you to know that in your dark moments however wrong it seems, you and your boy help each other.  It seems awful and I can only imagine slightly cruel.  But nonetheless, your transparency and strength, even sadness have helped people.  I could so do the whole "he's still here" thing but I hate that.  Still a beautiful spirit is touching others.  No longer just him or just you.  But in a way a work you are doing together.  Get pissed about the injustice of that, and then harness it and use it to bolster you for another year.  I love you and the boy I didn't know.  I pray for you and miss you."

And, so, I'm going to work at doing exactly what she said, harnessing it and working WITH my boy for another year.  Until we meet, again........

Happy New Year, friends!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

One Year Later

May 17, 2014

A year ago on this date, I was blissfully unaware that I was about to embark on the most painful journey that one can ever go on.  May 18th fell on a Saturday last year, so although tomorrow marks the official day, it was this Saturday a year ago that I received the worst phone call of my life, from the Snohomish County Medical Examiner, telling me that my 19 year old son had been found dead.  Every parents worst nightmare that, instead of counting birthdays here you begin counting the years since you had to give them back, had come true for me. 

I know the exact spot I was standing in when the ME told me the news and I hung up on her.  I think that, in that moment, I thought I could make the news go away if I hung up the phone.  I'm not even sure that lasted a full moment, but I know my own coping mechanisms and that had to be what I was thinking.  I've relived that horrible moment and the ones immediately following, over and over and over.  I know the exact spot and the words I used to tell Ariana her brother had died.  I'm still grateful to her little dog, who was so confused by my sobbing that I tried to comfort him.  My church still brings pangs of sadness.  I still sit in different seats, mostly alone, trying to block out the pictures of my son on the screen, his urn on the stage.  The phone reminds me of the hundreds of texts I had the next morning, a sad reminder that I wasn't just waking from a nightmare.  There are many triggers that haven't been replaced with happy memories yet, so I keep seeing the same trauma.  It's hard to watch yourself sobbing, devastated from the depths of your soul, and know that there is no fix.  That first day, and probably many afterwards, I would stop crying for a second and worry about how worried Brandon would be, how sorry he'd be that we were in this pain, and then start crying, again, non-stop.  I cried through an entire shower, a blow dry and a flat iron without stopping.  Crying that I swear traumatizes me to this day to think about because it was so primal, so horrific.  Watching someone suffer like that is horrible and I see the scene often when I walk into my bathroom.  I'm telling the truth when I say that you are not aware you even have that kind of grief, that kind of agony, inside of you, until your child has gone to wait for you in Heaven. 

I found myself thinking then, as I do now, that God knew this was coming and wondering the things He'd been thinking about.  He knew that Brandon was going to die and that our worlds were about to fall completely apart and yet he allowed it to happen.  I know that, as a parent, his heart must have been grieving with ours, it still does, but what was he actually thinking, what was he seeing, why couldn't he just change something, even a little something, ANYTHING, to save his life?  I don't blame God, though.  I know that he intervenes in our lives repeatedly or we'd probably never make it to age five.  I know for a fact he intervened just five and a half months earlier and saved Brandon's life, snatched him right from death's hands.  We are humans with free will, but God is sovereign and could've intervened, again.  Instead, He chose not to. 

Perhaps God allowed Brandon the final say.  That, too, haunted me because I'd told Brandon that should anything ever happen to him, it'd wreck us, we'd never recover, never be able to go on without him.  That wasn't just for dramatic purposes, I'd tasted what it would be like to lose him and it shook me to my core, I thought I might die.  It became a very real concern of mine that Brandon would hurt from our hurt and regret going with God.  In the end, I had to trust what I know to be true of Heaven and of the character of God and trust that he is happier than he could ever be here and that God wouldn't allow him to be's just not possible in Heaven, walking with the Lord every day.  For the happiness and glory that Brandon is now living in, I am thankful, but it doesn't make me miss him less, it doesn't stop me from saying aloud, WHY...I just want him back?!

I think that mortality is never as frightening as when you have children.  Just the thought of them dying is horrifying, in and of itself.  I've had many, many nightmares over the years about my children dying and, sadly, I actually saw this entire scene with Brandon before it happened, but, ultimately, I was powerless to stop it.  Now, my nightmares are my reality and vice versa.  I walk through the days crying, I am awakened from sleep crying.  I dream of Brandon so, so often and 99% of the time I am painfully aware that he is no longer here.  I wrote about the first several days and how I didn't dream, something very rare for me, but I knew it was the grace of God, forcing sleep on my exhausted mind and body.  The first dream I had of him upset me so much it still makes me cry to talk about it.  I woke from a sound sleep sobbing to the point that I was choking.  After a few dreams that woke me the same way, I begged God to please make them stop for a while, until I could handle it, because they were wrecking me.  And, they did stop.  For a while.  I guess that now I am strong enough to handle them.  I beg to differ.

And, so, here we are a year later and we are all still alive.  Somehow, some way, we have survived.  In spite of ourselves, I'm sure, but we are here.  We are not thriving, I suppose, but getting through something that you are sure you will not survive the first week of, is big.  I've slept my way through many days and it's been a challenge to care about this life now.  When the worst has happened, it's easy to weigh everything by the same standard and then rule it unimportant.  Eating, bills, money, church who cares, those things don't matter compared to losing your child.  It could be a good thing, in the right context, but it could so easily make one very bitter.  Because you see things like homes lost, bullying, a sick pet, whatever, and the pain cannot compare.  "Really, they lost their home?  I lost my child."  It's selfish and self-centered and hateful, but when you care about nothing because't seem possible, it seems like a natural progression. 

Thankfully, God hasn't allowed me to stay there.  I have a greater compassion for people, most of the time (not always, I have my moments).  I am thankful, too, that this didn't run me from God.  I never thought it would, though I wondered if I would be so dead inside that my faith would be of no significance.  I was reminded several times in those first weeks, not to lose myself because my daughter still needed me.  Gosh, it was hard.  It still is.  The pull to run and hide is strong.  I thought I was being pulled under for a while, but there was God's hand and there was my girl's face and, somehow, I allowed myself to be pulled back up.  In the hardest year of her life, she has asked questions and read my blogs, so she's seen my struggles, but God has been faithful and patient.  I haven't gotten answers to all of my questions, neither has she, but she knows it's ok to ask and she has seen that I do not blame God.  I know he hurts with us, but Brandon is in the best place in the world and for that I have to be thankful.  For that, I do not have to worry. 

One of my grief emails said that this is something that should be worked out before you have to walk this road and I agree.  It doesn't always happen that way, but without that faith to fall back on, you're left groping around in the dark for something, anything to hold onto and, sometimes, what you take hold of is the wrong thing.  I shudder to think of the darkness that would've overtaken me had I not had God to lean on, even if I didn't feel like leaning on him.  What we're capable of when we hurt like that can be really scary!  So, while we are not always jumping for joy that we are alive, we are also not spiraling out of control.  The girl is ready to see a counselor now and I think I may follow her lead.  I want her to have the best mom she can have, a better mom than she's had, she deserves it, and I'm not sure I can do it on my own.  We will see.

For now, it's enough to have made it.  Until we meet, again, Brandon...missing you every single minute of every single day.

This is a poem written by Brandon's friend, Ruby, last June.  She was so sweet..she messaged me and told me she didn't want to worsen my heartache, but she wanted to share the poem she wrote for Brandon.

Three much

I haven’t been eating much just so I can stomach this.
this ‘this’ sounds a lot like loneliness.
see, there’s been too much on my plate for far three long.
things have been happening on a scale that ‘too’ can’t satisfy anymore.
for example, I miss you three much.
I missed you ever since you stopped
being here even when you
were right next to me.

you’re so going going gone
it hurts four much.
I am a biological model
for fetal position.

sometimes, I find myself
(though that in itself is rare) I find myself shaking like
a broken carousel horse in
the corner of my own mind.

I can’t stomach this.
so I’ve been hearting it instead.
this heart of mine isn’t so strong.
and if home is where the heart is
I’ve been broken hearted for far too long.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The First Mother's Day

I thought I'd gotten through all of the firsts, leading up to the date that Brandon died.  As it turns out, I'd forgotten all about Mother's Day, which happened to fall exactly one week to the day before the "anniversary" of Brandon's death.  Deathiversay?  I don't know what to call it.  It's not something you celebrate, that's for damn sure, but it's also not something you'll ever forget and you'll be watching the calendar for weeks ahead of time.  I guess it's like Memorial Day is supposed to be...a time of solemn remembrance.  I've never done this before, I guess I'll probably do it wrong. 

I think I've been pretty well covered in prayer because the days that I dread with all of my being end up being sorta ok, it's the days leading up to it that really get me.  You have all this expectation of pain, so you're flinching way ahead of time, trying to brace yourself for what's to come.  Of course, this doesn't help the pain any, but I suppose it's part of that fight or flight instinct. 

Brandon died right after Mother's Day last year.  I mean, who has to lose their child right after Mother's Day?  It's completely unfair.  Truly, though, I can't think of a good day to lose a child, but he died right after Mother's Day and right before Father's Day.  It's hard.  Really, really hard.  We still have a daughter and we still have to be parents and she needs to know that she's enough and she really is, but the hole is still so deep, the wound still so fresh. 

I still catch myself in total disbelief that this is MY life.  I was talking to my sweet friend, K, who is a few years ahead of me on this agonizing journey, and I asked her if she ever still feels that way, like it can't be true, like it's all just surreal.  She said that, even after all this time, she still feels that way.  I wonder if that will go away.  Maybe that's some part of acceptance and maybe I'm not there yet.  I don't want to accept that this is my life.  I really could not have given birth to my first child 20 years ago and not have him now.  Never in my wildest dreams could I have pictured that it'd end up just being me and my daughter. 

So, I am still avoiding.  I'm starting to count calories and you know I'm looking for some serious distraction when *I* start counting calories.  Lately, I don't even feel like I'm part of the world.  The sun has been shining, it's been absolutely beautiful here and I don't want any part of it.  I've spent way too much time with the covers pulled up to my chin, staring off into space. Today, I noticed that I was smiling during a conversation that I felt like I was watching, rather than being a part of it.  It's a strange fog that I didn't expect to have to feel, again, but it's back.  I drive down the street listening to a song that isn't remotely sad and I realize I can't stop crying.  My body, I guess, has decided it knows what is really going on, in spite of my trying to pretend otherwise. 

On Mother's Day, the hardest thing was looking at the door that connected our bathroom/bedrooms.  I miss hearing the sound of his door sliding open and the knob turning on the door to my bedroom and Brandon coming in to say hi or sit and talk or show me something funny.  The crappy thing is that, while I lie in my bed throwing my pity party, I'm staring right at that door, a constant reminder of who is not coming through that door.  And, still I stay there, asking and yet not really asking, could you have let this happen?  There are no answers, not that I want, anyway.  I know it's grace, mercy in action, but still there are so many what-ifs, so many tortuous thoughts.

Thank God for my daughter, my saving grace.  She worries about me and cares for me in a way that I wish she did not have to.  Her life should be carefree and filled with girlie drama, not loss, sadness, death.  I am so grateful for her, though, and her attention to the details of my life.  What a strong girl she is, I can't wait to watch the story of her life unfold. 

The picture is the last card I received from my son, for last Mother's Day.  What a precious boy I had.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Land of Bittersweet

Lately, I've noticed that I use that word a lot, mostly in my own head, but it describes where I live and what every single thing that could be joy now feels like.  On a day that I should be happy for many reasons, I am profoundly sad.  It started good and I expect it'll end just fine, but I guess it's not enough.  I've spent way too much time crying and hating this day.  And this state...Washington.  I feel like it stole my son.  I know it's just displaced anger and that's ok, I hate this state, anyway...oh, but how much more I loathe it without my son in it. 

I did what I needed to do and got my gorgeous daughter ready for her prom and the second she was out the door, the sadness wrapped itself around and around and around me, until I felt so suffocated I all but ran out the front door.  I want to revel in my daughter's happiness at going to her senior prom (bittersweet for her b/c she does not want high school to end) and commit to memory how pretty she is, inside and out, and thank God for providing all that he has, so we can provide for her, but all I can think about is that Brandon should be here. 

He's missing everything now and every moment, no matter how grand, is missing Brandon and I don't know how any moment will ever be, at its very best, better than bittersweet.  How can anything ever be truly right, again, with half of your heart gone?  There's no pill, no drink, no food, no shopping, no nothing that you can drown yourself in, that does not come with the realization that it will never be enough to cover all the pain.  When you're hit, yet again, with the facts of life as you now know it, it can be pretty brutal.  Sometimes, I know when the emptiness will come because it usually follows the dreams.  I still wake up crying from my dreams and it always puts me in a bad mood.  I know this will happen and yet I end up watching myself lash out at some innocent victim because if I let the sadness do what it wants, I'll be even less than I am, so I go with the anger.  Neither healthy, both probably normal...a laughable word right there, as if I've ever known what normal was in the first place. 

In truth, I know Brandon is missing nothing.  It is we who are missing out, not just on being with him, but also experiencing what he is now.  I know that he wants for nothing, there is no bittersweet there and he will never feel pain, again.  I do not hurt less.  I still can't think of anything bringing me happiness that doesn't bring with it its companions, heartache and longing...and the ruthless knowledge that Brandon will never experience another moment with me on this earth.  I hate that knowledge.  God, I want to just be ignorant and unaware, sometimes. 

I guess this is why you do the one day at a time thing because thinking of all the tomorrows without your child is really too much.  In borrowing trouble for the rest of your life, you rob today of the moments of grace and joy that are ok to have.  I know they're ok.  In my head I know they're ok and necessary.  And, yet, they are so, so bittersweet.