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.