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.

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 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 a 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 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


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 end to his teen 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' 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'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 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 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.