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 sad...it'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 life...living...doesn'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.
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.