Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Happy 20th Birthday, Son




I was going through Brandon's baby book the other night and found a letter I'd written to him.

Brandon, God brought you to us at the exact moment you were needed. You were a life changing (and saving) present! Daddy and I have always been so much in love with you from the moment we laid eyes on you. I don't think there is a greater love than what a parent feels for a child and I hope one day you will experience the same kind of joy. No matter what kind of trials or struggles we go through in life, don't ever, ever forget how much I love and adore you. We are so much alike and I promise to do my best to steer you in the right direction in a loving manner. Believe me, I know what a challenge our personality type can be, but I also know that you can do absolutely anything you put your mind to, just put all that energy, determination and independent little nature to good use. God has been by you since before you were born and He will continue to guide you if you let him. Love always, Mommy

I'm so sad that he never got to see that letter, so sad that he didn't get the fullest life here that he could've had. It's heartbreaking to lose anyone, especially if they were living with you and it was unexpected. There are reminders EVERYWHERE, things that were left around the house and you find later, all the pieces that made up their life, a life that will no longer be lived here, a life that you're no longer sharing with them. Losing a child is infinitely more painful and difficult than anything experienced on this earth, I'm sure of it. The shock, regret, anger, immense grief I feel at him not being here to turn 20 and celebrate another year is something most people in my world cannot fathom or understand. I barely fathom or understand it myself. I'm still not sure I understand the permanence of him being gone. The thawing of the shock is definitely happening, but it's hard to grasp a lifetime of living without your child. I keep hearing that the second year is the worst and I keep praying that it isn't true. It's almost impossible to live with the current pain...worse is just unacceptable.

Anyway, I want to celebrate Brandon's life today. We got 19 years with the best boy EVER and we'll have an eternity with him, blessed gifts to be sure!

Brandon, we love you and miss you so very, very much. A huge light in our lives was dimmed when you left, but we are thrilled for you that you are surrounded by the brightest light and love from the Father, each and every day. Happy 20th birthday to one of the greatest gifts of our entire life! Love, Mom, Dad and Ariana!

I hope you'll watch the video that my daughter's sweet friend made for us. It's long, but I wanted to share as much of my boy with the world as possible. The picture at the very end has a hand shaped heart, using one of my daughter's hands and one of mine. When Brandon almost died in November of 2012, he was intubated and unable to speak, supposedly in a medically induced coma. I told him I loved him and his hand (strapped down to keep him from pulling out the vent tube) came out from under the sheet to make a half heart to tell me he loved me, too. It's a precious memory of mine. That boy loved his mama so much, a merciful gift.

Thank you for reading!


Friday, March 14, 2014

300 Days - Why Is My Faith On The Ground?


This is a combined post, I guess, some recent musings, along with another milestone, if you will, 300 days since Brandon died. One day, I'm sure these horrible anniversaries will stop being such a big part of my life, maybe once I'm past all the firsts, who knows. I still can't believe I ever got past the first week. I guess you do it because your body has involuntary actions that keep propelling you forward. I know science isn't all of it, but it has to be the majority of it, because those first hours and days still haunt me on a pretty regular basis. The wound is still gaping.

I walked into my room the other night and said, "Why is my faith on the ground?" I really think I spent way too much time as an only child speaking to my imaginary friends because I sure do a lot of talking when there is NO ONE around lol! I know...I just do a LOT of talking-period. So, even though I really was speaking to no one in particular and it was in reference to a piece of my sign gallery being on the ground, I immediately saw the relationship to my life and knew the obvious answer: Because I haven't picked it up. Heh. And, that's what I said, "Heh."

That sign gallery and the wall it hangs on is one of my favorite things to see in my house. I know that scripture, so a piece of wood missing from the wall hanging doesn't stop me from saying it daily, but for some reason I just won't super glue the hook, again, so it will stay put. Much like I've been doing with God. I know his words in my heart, in my head, in every part of my being and I know where I'll turn no matter the storm, when push comes to shove, but I'm not picking it up. I let it fall and I see it every single day, but I can't make myself fix it. Talking to God for other people is easy. People need prayer, I'm all over it. I've been pleading for a friend's brother, the heart of this mama broken for her mama and I know God is there, I feel him, but then I set it back down. I pound this scripture into my head because I know I have to remember all the traits of love...love is SO very many things...but then I see that faith is missing and I get it. Where is the faith? Faith is much more than just believing something to be true, it's KNOWING it to be true, sometimes in spite of mountains of supposed evidence that would have you believe otherwise.

I saw one of my favorite clients the other day. She has been with me the entire seven years that I've been preparing taxes. Gosh, did I get a lesson in research my first year, but she trusted me and we've had a special connection ever since. She noticed my tattoo and asked me about it. I told her what it said and that Brandon had died and she felt so bad for asking, but I don't mind people asking. Baze told me I was going to regret getting something in such a visible place and I told him that was the whole point and it is! He keeps his covered all the time, he can't bear the looks and questions and I can't bear to wear long sleeves which will cover my boy's name. I love my tattoo and I'm proud that I have such a beautiful memorial for my kid and more than happy to talk about it.

So, we had a nice chat and I think if there's one client I'd say has really made me re-think my decision to not go back, regardless of what I'm doing, it's her. She loves me and she hugged me several times and she said, "You're a Christian, aren't you?" I nodded and she said she knew it. And, it's not because I walk around in obvious perfection, never a doubt in anyone's mind who I worship, it's because of my faith in Brandon's new life. I trust that God was merciful in allowing him to go home and I trust that God didn't make that decision lightly, knowing the trail of heartbreak it'd leave behind, but the best decision for Brandon had to be made and that was to allow him to go home. She said to me the very same things, almost verbatim that I say to my daughter on a regular basis, "We don't know what he was spared from, what kind of suffering he may have had to endure." And, I said, "YES, yes that is exactly what I've been saying," and it made my heart leap just a little because I know it was confirmation, yet again, that Brandon was allowed to go for a reason. My heart is so broken and I've actually spent HUNDREDS of days crying...in a row...life doesn't seem possible without him, but I know that God knows his children and he knows I will go on. Somehow. My friend, Ernie, said the same thing to me at Thanksgiving, that he could tell by looking at me that I'd eventually be ok. I saw that look in my client's eyes. I knew that she knew I'd be ok. It hurts dreadfully, it's a pain you would never, ever wish on your worst enemy, it has taken people out, it's horrific, but I have faith. Faith in God and his love for me, my daughter, my husband and, most importantly right now, my beautiful son. Love never gives up and love never loses faith.

Faith may fall, but love never doubts that it'll get picked up again. And, it will. It's there when I shed the tears and second guess every single decision I have ever made in my life. Every one of them. Picking the faith up off the ground may not (probably will not) magically fix all of that, but maybe I can start to see something in my life a little clearer. We are strong, we will endure, God wants his best for our lives, for all of his children.

And so, this new person, whom I barely recognize, wonders at the hope of ever getting somewhere healthy and sane. You just have no idea what 300 days of solid grieving does to a person. I am always going to be a different Lisa. I think God has guarded my heart well and I still have a sense of humor, I'm gracious, I love to give, things like that, but I just feel so different, so lost, almost like I'm in shock, which I am not. Three hundred long days of trying to reconcile the old Lisa's life with the new Lisa's life and trying to convince myself that it's for the best. I will miss this boy, I will long for his presence for the rest of my days. It may not look pretty at all and I hope it doesn't scare anyone away...it is reality.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Dreams

I woke up crying, again. I was so sad and distraught in my sleep that it woke me up and then I was so sad when I woke up that I started sobbing, again. I had another dream where I don't think I saw Brandon, (I went back to look for him and swear he wasn't there) but I couldn't stop crying about him. I vividly remember that, in my dream, the anguish was consuming me on such a level that my body ached. My head hurt, not a headache, but my head actually hurt to touch it, from the pain of him being gone. Baze was there and we were in Brandon's room and I leaned against the wall sobbing and just fell down the wall into a heap. Then, I was in a classroom or something of the like, just sobbing and sobbing.

I tried to remember every detail, but it was a two part dream and when I went back to sleep and woke up, I must have forgotten some of it. I just know that when I woke up I couldn't shake the sadness. I thought to myself, what day is it, is it the 18th, why today? To wake up and know that there is no cure for that feeling, that you will have that hole for the rest of your life, is a wretched pain, heartbreak that is just devoid of an apt description. I wish I had one. I don't feel like I can convey the pain that is losing a child, an entire part of you, and longing for him, every single day.

Outside of my bedroom door, the floor was creaking and I thought it might be my daughter, so I tried to cry softly, but she heard me and asked me about it later. It scared her. Maybe it scared me, too. It does scare me. I don't think I can handle a lifetime of heartbreaking dreams, waking up feeling totally helpless and so very sad.

I don't know how to help my daughter when, evidently, I cannot help myself. I don't know what it's like to have a mother so distraught that she wakes herself up crying. I don't know what it feels like to lose your only brother...something that I have actually had happen, but I was too young to remember. My girl, unfortunately, will be profoundly affected by such a loss. It's already been 9 1/2 months. Is that a long time or a short time? My girl is strong, I see it, I know it. I thought I was strong, but I cry in my sleep. How do you keep the grief from killing you? Is it any wonder that I have sleep issues? Who wants to sleep when they face waking up like that and if you do wake up like that, who would want to wake up? It's a real problem that is my reality...all of these questions and many more.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

BK


I've mentioned my tendency to just avoid and it's amazing the ways life just will not let you get away with certain things. A few days ago, as I was minding my own business, this came in the mail. It's just a little jewelry package and there's the BK sticker. My boy was well known all around this area as BK. Initially, my breath caught and then, naturally, I burst into tears. I looked all over the place to try to figure out why in the world this sticker was affixed to the package and never solved the mystery. I don't think it was a sign, necessarily, sometimes a sticker is just a sticker, and I'm sorry, but I don't want signs to make me cry. At least I don't think I do. Anyway, it's just these sorts of things that get you, when a year ago, it would've been amusing, something I might have called Brandon down to look at.

Later that day, I was watching a show and they were talking about a character, Brandon, or BDog as some of the team called him. OMG, that was one of Brandon's nicknames. I end up thinking that it was BS because I was trying to go through some avoidance, couldn't the world just knock it off and let me be. I went to sleep and promptly had two days of dreams about Brandon. Not my normal dreams, either, very different, odd dreams, dreams that I know were because I couldn't stop thinking about Brandon and running from thinking about him at the same time. I woke up on that second day because I was talking and crying in my sleep, again. When I woke up and realized what I was saying and why I was crying, it made me start crying, again, until I fell back to sleep. Clearly, avoidance isn't working. UGH! **Edited 3/12/14** I just want to add what it was that I was saying so I won't forget. People will sometimes make the remark, "I hate this day," something that is ALL me because if you know me, you know I'm all or nothing and I either love something or I hate it. So, if the day is crap, I'm all about, "I hate this day." I've taken it to the next level, though, with what's happened to Brandon and over the course of the last eight horrible years..."I HATE THIS LIFE." I don't say it often, I'm trying to not get all caught up in the pity, but sometimes, I just blurt it out. When I'm sitting there crying and knowing that the tears over my son's life aren't going to stop, wondering how we all got here, it seems to fit. That day I woke up talking, that's what I said...I woke up to the sound of my own voice saying, "I hate this life." Beauty, huh?!

I actually think all of these things were around the 18th. I missed that exact date, again, which always amazes me because it has to mean that life is moving forward, like it or not, but I feel stuck in May 2013. When I thought about it later, I remembered that I was very upset on that date, seemingly out of the blue, but I was sick and I remember telling myself that I had to find something to distract myself because my lungs couldn't take me sobbing all night. Evidently, I did, for a few days, anyway.

Grace looks different each month, each day, I guess, depending on what I need and it looks like I still need a ton. March is coming up, which means his 20th birthday is coming up and, already, I'm borrowing trouble for that day. I'm torn between wanting to do something big and significant and giving in to an all day in bed thing because how in the world am I going to get through a day that will never come...an end to his teen years...how do you face the unfairness that your child never got a chance to see how great his life was going to be?! I hope that someday it will be with a smile and I will take the BK stickers as a reminder of one of the greatest loves of my life and tell myself that maybe, just maybe, God is reminding me that Brando is thinking of me, too.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A Life Unrecognizable

I found out the hard way that I am not ready to be around babies. Toddlers are ok in a limited amount and girls seem to be the safest bet. Babies are another story. We had a young couple in my office with a wee baby who was covered. I walked by and mentioned him being covered and the sweet daddy immediately uncovered him to show him to me. All I saw was Brandon. That baby's deep blue eyes and thick head of hair just got me. I managed to comment about how adorable he was before I made it back to my desk and started crying. It still makes me cry just thinking about it. You see a baby and you see all the hopes and dreams of the world, all of YOUR hopes and dreams and I saw all the lost hopes and dreams, minutes wasted, time I can't ever get back on this earth.

And, damnit, I want him back. I'm tired of randomly crying my eyes out and speaking of my sweet boy in the past tense. It's still hard to say I have A teenager. I have teenagerS. People ask me what I do in the off season. My reply is I have teenagers. I know they don't necessarily need the details, but it grabs my heart so hard, every single time. Thank God for my girl, but she is not supposed to be an only. This is all wrong.

Yesterday I saw two clients who'd remembered that Brandon almost died right before the last tax season. Of course, they both asked me how Brandon was doing. Time stops. Sometimes, his death will come up because people will ask me what I'm going to be doing next year and hearing me say I want to be a funeral director is just not something that goes over well like, say, a wedding planner. Ninety-nine percent of the people pause, put on a fake smile and say wow that's great (or interesting or what have you) and we can move on and close up. Some people, though, ask me what led me to that decision. I tell them and, again, move the conversation along and close-up. But, people who've been coming to see me for years have a different conversation with me and it's always a struggle to not cry. The first client that I told yesterday had a noticeably stricken look on his face, utter shock. The second client cried. Her boyfriend was handing her my box of Kleenex and I'm just sitting there, like, "Yeah, so the year sucked....and is this phone number correct?" UGH! I know that part of it is that they have kids that are Brandon's age and close to the girl's...it hits home. I remember being the parent who cried when I heard something like I told them and being so thankful that my kids were alive and I remember thinking that I would never make it if something happened to one of my kids. I'm still not sure I can, but I am still here saying that almost nine months later.

So, to recap my life these days...some adults aren't safe, babies aren't safe, the bed isn't safe because it wants to suck me into the darkness, my husband isn't safe because hearing him reminds me of Brandon being gone, pictures aren't safe-they make me cry, music isn't safe, my thoughts aren't safe because they may take me to resentment that isn't deserved, the phone isn't safe because it could be the damn funeral home calling, AGAIN....gawd...I could go on, but this turned into a rant and it's not...it's just another weird assessment of how things change. My life is so totally unrecognizable.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The iPod


Yesterday I made a new note to myself: do NOT put the iPod on shuffle. I was driving and that stupid device was determined to put on every song from Brandon's viewing and funeral or songs that ended up on my pod because he bought songs through my iTunes account. I'm always surprised when Jimi Hendrix or some crazy dubstep or Janis Joplin ends up playing through my speakers. Today, it just made me cry. I'm sure the people in the cars near me wondered what the heck was wrong with me, as I kept mopping the tears from my face with my shirt and my hands, an act that was, ultimately, futile, but I sure tried. I got my errands done, made it to work early and went about the business of wearing my public face. It's not always a bad thing, it forces me to push through, but it's not all that easy.

Late in the evening, I stood in front of the washer and folded towels, proud of myself for getting a load of laundry washed *and* folded. Marveling over such a small accomplishment is just how things are now. And, I stood there wondering if I was ever going to have a good day, again, because I truly cannot see it. I have good moments and eight months ago I couldn't have been convinced that I'd ever have one good moment until I died, so there's forward movement that gives me hope, but I cannot see how it's possible to long for all I won't have without Brandon and still have a good day. Those things don't belong together. Every single day is a reminder or 100's of them, because they're everywhere. The iPod is just one of many. I know someone whose very life assures me that one day I'll be able to smile with the memories instead of crying with them, but I don't see that strength in me. She is so strong and triumphant, with so much grace and joy, I am fighting to breathe. I miss him so much and it still hurts to think about him because there are so many things I wish I could change. Today, I will have to settle for the towels and the tears of remembrance...at least I have the memories.

In closing, I want to include a post from Brandon that was about the picture at the beginning of this post. Such a wise soul, my boy, and I wish I had told him more often how proud I was of him. He'd just gotten two gigantic tattoos and he was commenting about them. BrandonHadi Kashef Thank you! That and Faith on the other wrist mean quite a bit to me, I don't think there's much more in life you need besides the two.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Hope and Fight


I had an entirely different blog post planned, but I've been derailed because I didn't want to forget this and the post would be too long if I kept them together. I saved the other one and it'll get it up as soon as I can.

I keep landing on this scripture. God brought it to life for me in a very different way the other night. I had the TV on in the background, as I was trying to sleep, and felt like I was just supposed to turn it off. I rarely do that unless I am sure that I am about to fall right to sleep because I don't want to spend any extra time with my thoughts than I absolutely have to. I began talking to God, something that, sadly, I don't do very often, because I end up crying...sobbing, really. This time was no different, but I kept at it. I was telling Him how I see myself floating alone out in the middle of a very dark ocean and that I can't even gather the energy to want a life preserver. I'm just bobbing around, up and down. Somehow I must be treading water because I'm not drowning, but I so desperately want to let go and just go under, just drift away. And, then, this scripture became so clear to me. Instead of fighting, like a drowning victim who takes everyone under the water with them, all I had to do was just put my head back, as if I had a life jacket on, so I could just rest my head on the part that floats up behind the head. Only I had no life jacket on, but all around me in the water I was surrounded...my head resting in His very arms, those big arms holding up my entire body and I got it...stop fighting! Lean back and I will hold you up. I wish I could describe it better, I should've grabbed my phone, but I had such peace, I didn't want to break it. Trust me, though, it was an awesome vision and an awesome feeling with it...very reassuring.

Maybe someone needed this right now or maybe I just needed to remind myself. Sometimes, it's so very dark, I'm afraid the light won't come back. I'm not trying to be morose or dramatic and I'm not trying to be a victim or get attention, I'm telling you like it is. It's damn dark. When it persists and you can't breathe, but you're trying to breathe and you think you're going to give in to what is calling you, it's damn scary. The more you let go, the easier it gets to let go. Letting the darkness have me was getting a lot easier than fighting it, but I know it's because I was fighting by avoiding and the fact of the matter is that I did not need to fight.

Today, I don't need to fight, I don't have to avoid. I have some resolve and some fresh hope, after being inundated with scriptures on hope and God renewing my spirit. It's not easy being hopeful right now. Pain this bad doesn't bring the good hope because I swear all you can do is hope to die to avoid it, but our spirits were made to want more and I'm sincerely trying. I still have no idea how I will do this life without Brandon, how there will be anything that feels like OK, again, but not chasing the darkness is a vast improvement and I'll take it. I know that light snuffs out the darkness and I know that light is there, even if I cannot physically see it and for now that is enough.