Friday, May 18, 2018

What Five Years Without Brandon Looks Like

Until you've left the church that you raised your children in, with one of them in an urn, you can't fathom what life is like for those left behind.  Where most people have all these great expectations of what is yet to come, and hope for what they've yet to see, time for me has frozen in many ways and I feel a profound sense that I have already missed those things, that they're gone and I didn't realize they were happening.  That's not to say I have no hope or joy because I do, my true hope lies not in my current circumstances or what is on this earth, thank you Jesus, because in that I would truly be without hope, but all of the greatness on this earth is now tinged with some sadness for the one not here to share it with me.  Here in spirit only is simply not the same. 

People move on and expect you to do the same, "friends" don't want to keep rehashing your pain, or they're tempted to think you're playing a victim or it just plain makes them sad and, like me, they're fixers and they want to fix what you're going rhough and they think that not talking about it will fix it.  Ask the older generations how shoving things under the carpet worked out.  Please, if you're tempted to miniimalize another mama's loss of a child, stop yourself.  It is THE single most traumatic thing that can happen to her in her lifetime.  Her child is gone, she's trying to be the best mom she can to the child/ren she still has, other children make her cry, she doesn't even know how to answer the question of how many children she has and how old they are.  Forever.  That question will catch in her throat forever.  So, please just understand that this is a thicket that has burrs that scratch us up forever.  We will make it through, but the emotions ebb and flow.  

I'm currently having a tough time with babies.  I can't see them.  If they come on tv, I change the channel.  They represent the one thing I cannot forgive myself for right now-squandering time.  But, in a month, I may want to hold babies all the time.  It's something I'm working through.  We work through lots of things.  I went to the store today and stood in front of the avocados and stared until I had to wipe the tears from my eyes.  Then, I went to the pharmacy counter and listened to the pharmacist laughing with some grandpa about his grankids, which almost made me walk off.  These are things people do without thinking every single day, but for me they reminded me of when I went to the store right after Brandon died and had a complete breakdown.  Every single thing is different.  Not every moment, but life has those moments.  

I still dream about Brandon a lot.  Sometimes, like this morning, I wake up and realized, hey, I saw Brandon, and it was just kind of brief, just a fleeting thing, and I wasn't crying, it didn't linger.  That doesn't happen often, it's rare, but it does happen.  Three days ago, though, I woke myself up crying.  I don't remember the dream now, but I remember the pain and I remember knowing it was a dream as I was waking, but the pain was so intense I couldn't stop sobbing in my sleep-wake state.  I often have dreams where it begins one way, it might not involve Brandon, and then there he is, and I will end up sobbing, saying over and over, "I can't do this, I can't do this," talking about how I can't live without him, and I will wake myself up sobbing, saying that.  It sets the tone for the entire day to wake up to that kind of pain.  

But, I also wake up and realize that, yes, I have done this.  It has not been easy, but I have done it.  I have my girl, I have my faith, I have many people who've carried me, and, if you know me even a little, you know my sense of humor is intact.  I actually think death has made me funnier, somehow!  Maybe it's just age, do people get funnier with age?  I know, you're probably thinking it's just bitterness and I think bitterness can be funny, when it really isn't, but I'm pretty funny.  Well, I like to laugh, anyway, so there's that, regardless.  

I'll close with this.  I will never, EVER forget the phone call that forever changed my life.  I will never be who I was prior to a medical examiner calling me.  I don't know that I'll ever get over that whole tragic scene, it was so awful, the memory is still so, so SO horrific for me-and I had great people all around me, helping me!  You know when you have a headache and you throw your hands up to your head, fingers squeezed against your head, jaws clenched, thisclose to pulling your hair out, hands over your ears, maybe your eyes squeezed tightly shut against the world?  That's how it makes me feel, and inside my head I'm screaming, no, no, no, nonstop.  BUT.....every yeart I am reminded of this on Facbook..... This popped up on my wall on the wrong day for 'recent posts' and thought I'd pass it along...You don't know what beautiful and great things God can do with your broken heart, your broken pieces, your upside down world, your bad decisions, life's injustices until you give it all to Him

I am in awe every single year that this quote "happened" when it did.  I posted that a little over 12 hours before I was to find out that Brandon was gone and I have needed it on this day every single year since.  I know who God is, I have known him since I was very, very young, but magnificence is so beyond our imagination, the depth of his love so great, his strength so might, we need to be reminded that he is the one who holds all these broken pieces.  My life may be filled with great sadness, but were it not for him there would certainly be no joy.  

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Mayday SOS

(a funny pic of Brando when he was in NOLA with my dad, visiting his Aunt, a couple of months before he died)

*disclaimer:  The post is a little angry, not funny like the pic...I put the pic in to remember to smile through the sorrow of this month
     A precious friend of mine commented about her own sadness linked to May, using the SOS Mayday reference and it really struck a chord with me.  Help is exactly what I need.  In the rhetorical sense, not like I need someone to come over and help me...I'm far past that being possible, believe me.  But, May drowns me.  In fact, I dreamt last night that I was driving and the freeway ran into the ocean, the second time in as many weeks that I've had that same dream and it's a recurring theme.  I don't know if it's because I'm suffocating from the sleep apnea and it's carrying over into my dreams or if it has some other meaning, like my fear (and, somehow, fascination) of bridges and massive bodies of water, but it freaks me the frick out.  It's probably some sign that I'm drowning in avoidance or some crap.  At any rate, SOS, this ship is going down.

     I HATE May.  Not like I hate Brussels' sprouts (I'm begining to come around to them, again) or I hate lasagna (duh, the international dish of death, served at memorial services the world over) or tuna helper or hate being overweight (which I loathe), but I HATE May with all the anger and words for the deepest, most ugliest hatred in the world.  I hate May more than the evil drug that stole Brandon's life or the jerk who gave or sold it to him.

The entire month robbed me of who I was, stole from my daughter, not only her only sibling, but an entire life that she knew, along with many friends, because NO ONE in her inner circle has ever experienced such a trauma, and they are too young and carefree to be bogged down with such misery.  It made my poor girl think she now has to fill the role of two kids and do it perfectly, all the while mourning the loss of her brother.  What little joy (and there wasn't a ton) that Brandon's dad had left was completely obliterated.  That damn month took a person I nurtured in my belly for over nine months, the only Brandon Hadi Kashef in this world, my boy wonder.

     I open Facebook and absolutely dread seeing the reminders that I have memories to look back on.  I start dreading those at the end of April because I know what is coming.  I know the pain that I'll see and devastation, the grief that has no words, and I know I'll feel it like it was yesterday, but even in my avoidance, I can't help it....I look.  And cry.  There are no new pictures of Brandon, just recycled ones, no new memories.  Llife goes on, but ours is parked in 2013.  And, so I choose to focus on hating this month.

     I can't be mad at God or Brandon or Baze or myself  because the anger would spiral out of control and I'd be too hideous to look at...because I can hate all I want if the object of my hatred isn't a person...because I have to have one thing one time of year that I can blame for cheating me out of the life I was supposed to have, the boy that was supposed to long outlive me and for making me a person who understands grief on a visceral level and making me live with it every single day until I die.  I hate being so vulnerable that I can be completely crushed under something.  May did that.  It wounded me like nothing else on this earth and I can retaliate no other way except to ball up every tear, every nightmare, every devastating moment, along with every single emotion in my body, and hurl it right at May's face and tell it to eff off.

And, then I'll get over and move on because I never stay mad at anyone for long...not even May.  The sun will shine and piss me off for doing it, but I'll beg it to stay and I'll wish it were Brandon that I see walking on Bothell-Everett Highway in that beautiful sunshine...I'll leave the hatred behind and go back to wishing for all that will never be.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Third Deathiversary

It has now been 1096 days since Brandon died.  Please understand it is NOWHERE near enough time to simply be over it or "be ok now," as someone suggested to Ariana.  This was an adult with children of her own who should've known better than to make such a cavalier suggestion, but it wasn't meant maliciously, so there isn't much to be done and Ariana is far too tactful to correct this person.  That time doesn't exist.  Yes, you learn to live with it because you must, there is no choice, but the quality of living varies greatly from one person to the next and from one day to the next.  There will forever be days that we dread.  For us, this is the biggie.  The day that rude, new normal, intruded upon our lives.

I posted something on facebook, one day before Brandon died, and I saw it in my memories today.  It has stuck with me, since I saw it yesterday morning, and it simply said, 'I wonder at what point a small crisis of faith is deemed big.'  I had forgotten I'd posted that, I don't remember doing it, actually, and I have sat and marveled over my naivete many times throughout the day.  It seems so weird that I was completely unaware of the devastation that was about befall me and how I'd come to really understand what a crisis of faith looked like.  I had no idea.  God knew.  That my only son, my precious firstborn, would be dead and in almost exactly 24 hours, I'd receive a phone call that would, literally, take me to my knees.  

And, I think that's where the rubber meets the road.  You can stay on your knees, at the Almighty's feet, the only place there is true healing (for me) or you can get up and hightail it out of there and keep running, not daring to look back at the one who took your child.  That my son can be spoken of in past tense devastates me.  I'm still like a deer in headlights when someone asks me how many kids I have.  I'll never forget sobbing out the words to Ariana that her brother was dead.  I have no idea what it even looked like her from her side because I haven't been in her shoes and I was too consumed by my own grief to think about how to be the mom in that moment.  I'm so thankful she didn't react the way I did because I don't think I could've handled it.

I know I'm pretty much a variation on the same theme, as I try to get through this.  My faith is intact, but certainly not without a lot of scars.  I've questioned God and gotten no answers and I know that is ok, I trust.  But then...I ache....I cry...I sob quietly...and then I furiously wipe away the tears and will myself to think of anything else except the thing that still causes my body to recoil from the pain.  I can run mentally.  My mind is a size 0 from the running.  Then I think of the inevitable in having to eventually face this pain that I just cannot bear and I want to get through it not around it and I'm stopped again.   

I can pray, again, without completely falling apart every single time, but I cannot stay there, I cannot linger or my mind drifts to the questions with no answers.  How can he be dead?  Why can't I see him just one more time?  Why didn't you warn me?  Why did you take one half of my very existence and leave me here to grieve for the rest of my life?  I'm not mad.  I've yet to really ever get seriously angry that Brandon is gone, you know the movie style of anger, shaking my fist at God and hating the universe.  I am not without questions or real struggles, ugly, deep, wounds, but I am nothing without God.  

Every year I marvel that I had no clue what was coming.  I'm still just in shock that my life seemed so normal.  I made plans like they were going to happen, plans that included Brandon and it still feels a little like the universe laughed at my silliness.  In reality, a loving father cried with me and didn't want that for me and it's because of him that my blog says what it does 'death does not have the final word.'  One day, we shall meet again.  Three very long years without my boy wonder puts me three years closer to eternity with him.  The faith in that drives me to at least try to keep my eyes upward and remember who is control.  It's hard, but I'm here.

Incidentally, the day of the boy's death, just a little over 12 hours before I found out he was gone, I posted this on my Facebook wall:  You don't know what beautiful and great things God can do with your broken heart, your broken pieces, your upside down world, your bad decision, life's injustices until give it all to him.  That post popped up on the "wrong day," somehow and I posted it because it struck a chord with me.  That post popped up right where it belonged.

My daughter has the first five words of this tattooed on her arm.  Brando loved this, I'm trying very hard to practice it.

Friday, October 30, 2015

When Your Youngest Child Outlives the Oldest

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Face of Addiction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 20, 2015

Happy 21st Birthday, Brando!

Here's to you, BK!

March 19, 2015

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

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

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

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

March 9, 2015

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

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

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

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

March 12, 2015

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Walking Into Another Year Without Brandon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy New Year, friends!