Hey Lindsay Girl

Hey Lindsay Girl

Hey Lindsay Girl,

Here we go again, year number three of the day before tomorrow. The day before I watched you laugh like no one was watching, the day before you made laugh the same way. The day before we  spent some valuable father/daughter time together, which was a rarity, due to your busy social life. The day you made fun of my old man gang signs, even though I thought, they were somewhat awesome. The day you made my heart so happy when you said, “I am not going to date until I am thirty-five.” The day you lied about all the people at the pool and I didn’t even care. The day I could not believe I was so blessed to have you and Jarrett in my life. Tomorrow, the day I heard your laugh for the last time. The day we spent our last moments together as father and daughter. The day that smile would never be seen again, the day your hair flowed in the wind one last time. The day I heard you say, “Love you too dad” for the final time here on this earth. The day my world came crashing down.  The day I walked into an emergency room and felt like I was in a movie, because I could not believe this was happening. The day your mother and I stood in front of a surgeon and listened to him tell us the next 48 hours were crucial to your survival. The day I walked into STICU room number nine and saw all your dreams, all your plans, all your tomorrows fading away.

Tomorrow is a pretty tough day for me Lindsay Lou. I need to hear your laugh, I need to see your smile, I need you to finish teaching me how to “Nea Nea.” I still can’t believe you said I had no rhythm. I need you. So tomorrow, if I talk to you a little more than usual, please don’t roll your eyes, like I have seen so many times before. Cut the old man a break. Tomorrow, I will go to work and I will spend a little more time at that stop sign, I will drive a little slower as I pass that spot, and I will try to make it through the day. When I head home I will turn in to our neighborhood,  stop at the entrance and sit in the lanai for a while. I will sit there and go over all the scenario’s that would have prevented my tomorrow from happening. A tomorrow that started a week that crushed my soul. Tomorrow I will think about the next seven days that ended with the worst day of my life, the day you left me. I know not willingly, but so peacefully and a hero to so many.

You will always be my princess without a crown, my cheerleader without monograms, and my little girl sucking her thumb dragging that raggedy pink baby around. As much as I hate tomorrow, tomorrows are all I have to look forward to. Tomorrows gives me one more day with Kelli, one more day to be Jarrett’s dad, one more day to be a son, a brother, a stepdad, and a uncle. All the things that help heal the wound, but will never fill the hole in my heart. Tomorrow puts me one day closer to seeing you one again. Tomorrow, I hope you take a look down and wrap your arms around all of us to ease the heartache of our tomorrow.

Love you girl,

Dad

Faith in Faith

Faith in Faith

When you have lost a child you tend to be drawn to other parents sharing the same heartbreak, and they in return, are drawn to you. You learn quickly to lean on each other for support, guidance, and a understanding ear. Their heart is the only heart that can truly understand what you are going through and the pain of grief you live with everyday. The what if’s, the why’s, the thousands of questions that fill your brain and some days turn it into mush. There are days you begin to doubt your faith. You begin to wonder, “Is what we have here, on earth, all we will ever have?” Days that you think the last time you saw your child’s face will be the last time. I was asked this question today, through Kelli, from a parent that lost her son. “Does Brad ever waiver from his faith that he will see Lindsay again?” I was raised Baptist and to believe that there is a heaven, there is a loving and forgiving God, there is a home waiting for me when my soul leaves this temporary earthly vessel. Now, I am friends with people of many different religions. My wife was raised Catholic, I have friends that are Mormon, Lutheran, Presbyterian,  Holiness and nondenominational. We all go to different buildings, we all worship in different ways, we all sing different songs in so many different ways, we all travel a different path. We all have different opinions and different interpretations of what faith means. What I have learned over my many years here on this earth and through the vastly diverse group of people I am honored to call my friends, is that no matter what path of faith we travel, they all lead to the same God.

There is not one soul living on this earth today that can tell me anything different. No one that has died, left this world and came back to say, “It’s not true, don’t believe it, there is nothing after death.” There is only one man that ever walked this earth, that died, was placed in a sealed tomb and three days later arose to live again. The words he spoke are what keep my faith strong, even in the darkest days of grief.

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”

So to answer the question, no ma’am. Through belief and understanding grows a faith that exceeds all boundaries. Faith has been the only constant in this roller coaster ride of grief. The faith and belief that when I close my tired eyes for the last time, when the last breath of life leaves my body, the first thing I will see is that gleaming smile and the out stretched arms of my Lindsay Lou.

Baby Steps

Baby Steps

It has been more than two years and I am still taking baby steps. Small actions that mean so little to others are still life shattering to me. I have yet to begin the daunting task of cleaning out Lindsay’s room. The clothes, the cheer medals, the shoes, the small treasures that sit on her dresser and nightstand. The pictures that hang on every wall, and God only knows what might be under her bed. The contents of her desk, her books, her back pack, her laptop. The Tail and Mane shampoo that still sits on the shelf in her shower. It is so hard to even fathom that thought of donating, giving away, or throwing out even one piece of paper much less a single article of clothing. All that being said Lindsay was an organ donor and she gave the ultimate sacrifice to save and extend the lives of total strangers. She had a plan for her life, she had a direction, a goal and it was to help others. So, after a conversation with Kellie, Lindsay’s mom, we agreed to donate a specific item to a very good cause, “I Support the Girls.” This is a non profit organization that that takes donated bras and distributes them to homeless women and women who are less fortunate. I feel Lindsay would not mind and she would be proud of us for this donation. I feel now that a stranger has a part of what once was Lindsay’s she will watch over them and make sure they are doing okay.

I had another situation over the weekend that threw me back a step or two. One of those situations that takes your breath away, and only you know why.  My wife Kelli and I, along with another couple, were in the lobby of a restaurant waiting to be seated when around the corner came Heather, who was Lindsay’s best friend. With her was Logan, Amanda and Brianna, three more very good friends of Lindsay’s from high school. After seeing the last one come around the corner I took a glance back, because in that split second I thought maybe, just maybe. It is times like this that makes my heart drop. I don’t know why I looked for her, but I did. I know in my mind, she is never going to come around the corner of a restaurant with her friends ever again, but my heart still looks, and probably always will. It was so nice to see those young ladies, but what made it even more special was they were happy to see us. We hugged all of their necks and quickly caught up on what was going on in their busy lives. As they were leaving we told them to have fun, behave themselves and what I always told Lindsay, “Make wise choices.” Heather was walking toward the door and she turned to us to said, “Love Ya’ll.” I don’t know if she knows how much that truly means to me. Just the fact that she thought to turn and say it. I try to keep in touch with some of Lindsay’s friends. I enjoy seeing them prosper and grow. It’s as if I am looking to them for some kind of clarity, some sort of identity, a small glimpse of what Lindsay would be doing, where she would be. Heather is a special young woman and is very special to everyone in our family.

A weekend of donations to help strangers, a night of seeing what could have been and a lifetime of baby steps.

Until We Meet Again

Until We Meet Again

I wake up everyday with the realization Lindsay is gone, but there are days when it hits me like a ton of bricks, she is not here, she is gone forever. Not many people will understand that statement, but I am sure those that have lost a child will. It is that split millisecond you forget, or the moment when you think, “Today was a pretty good day, but I will never know what it could have been because you were not here.” I have noticed those days are starting to become more common. Grief is not really defined as an emotion, but all the baggage that comes with it covers every emotion imaginable. It has been almost two and a half years since Lindsay left us way to soon. The weight of grief I feel today is much heavier then a year ago, with no explanation as to why. I don’t know if it is the guilt of trying to be happy again, trying to laugh with out hesitation, trying to live my life without the vision of a white Toyota Corolla sitting crippled on the highway, the same highway, the same spot, I travel every time I leave my home. I can’t explain the change, I can’t voice the feelings, and there is nothing I can do to stop it.

With that being said I have decided to stop posting a blog every week. I am not going to stop writing or blogging, I will post when I feel I have something from my heart to share. Writing has been my outlet for all the pain, grief and heartache that comes when your soul is empty and your heart aches daily from the loss of a child. I just feel I need some time to process whatever is going on in my head and heart.

I have some public speaking coming up and I will continue to write, both of which have been the best outlet for me to handle my grief. Just like I told Lindsay the day she passed away, this is not good-bye, it is just until we meet again.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

I want to take the time to wish each and everyone of you a very Merry Christmas. I hope the same joy, love and hope that filled a small manger in the city of Jerusalem many years ago also fills your home this Christmas. My wish is that each of you will spend time with your family and loved ones. That you will reach out to the family and friends that you have not reached out to in many years. That you will put aside any problems, animosity, and anger if only for one day. Remember that Christmas is not about what is under the tree, but about who is gathered around the tree. Put God and family above any and all gifts that will be put to the side in a weeks time. Your relationship with God and family will be the only gifts that last a life time. My family is my gift from God. My family has been with me through the darkest days of my life and I know in my heart, will be there until the end. Lindsay will be celebrating Christmas with the Holy host of the day. I truly believe with everything in me she will be celebrating with all the children of all the parents that have also lost a son or daughter. I have believed this since she passed away. I believe when I meet a parent of a lost child, Lindsay and that child meet as well. Sometimes I think Lindsay and another child meet in heaven and because of that I meet their parents.

In the middle of all the festivities over the next two days please take just a moment to remember all the empty chair’s. It does not matter if the chair has been empty for years, months,weeks or days it will never be filled again, and that hurts. Don’t ignore the chair, don’t ignore the flowers in the chair. They are there for a reason, so we never forget the one that used to sit there. Talk about the person, whether is was a grandmother, a dad, a mom or a child. Tell a story, voice a memory, say their name. They may be gone, but they will never be forgotten.

Tomorrow, Christmas Eve, my house will be filled with family, and that is the only way I can smile, the only way I can make it through another Christmas. We will eat, we will open gifts, we will laugh and a few may shed a tear but, we will be together. I have learned to cherish every time I see my family. When they leave you can believe I will hug their neck, and I will them thank you. You never know when another chair will be sitting there, empty.

And So It Begins

And So It Begins

And so it begins. The countdown. With only days to prepare and rearrange the emotions that have taken up residence in whatever lobe the brain uses to process grief. The internal tug of war that has sadness pulling with all its infinite strength at one end of the rope and at the other end, happiness. This happiness that has been dormant,  hibernating, that is weak and timid, almost afraid to come out of its shell. The happiness that reluctantly places its metaphorical uncalloused hands on what seems to be a rope that is sure to pull it straight into a pit of despair. This is an everyday torment, every time you lean toward being happy the guilty feeling that you need to be sad, creeps in. I know in the deepest part of my heart that Lindsay wants me to be happy, but it is so hard when my heart wants her here.

Kelli and I  have finished with our minimal decor for Christmas. I don’t know if its because the joy is no where near what it used to be or if I am just getting older and really hate taking it all back down. Either way it takes all I have to just put up a tree. Every year we add an angel to our decorations or a butterfly to our tree. It is just the little things that help you get through each day. There will never come a day, week, month or year that I will not think of Lindsay. There will never be a holiday that I will not wish she were here. I hope and pray there never comes a holiday that her name is not mentioned, or a story is told. I never want the memories to die. My son, Jarrett, and wife, Kelli, are the people that keep me going during these holiday seasons. The remainder of my family are like B12 shots, they give me the energy to smile, they give me hope for the future, and they give me the desire to be happy. 

This is quote from the blog, An Unexpected Family Outing. In this blog the author is discussing grief and fathers. “There’s a lot we, as women, can do. We can listen to their stories and to their silence. We can encourage them to share. We can recognize and honor their fatherhood in its many iterations. But, there is something we can’t do for them.  We can’t be fathers.” We cant be father’s. What a powerful statement. As parents that have lost a child we all hurt, we all suffer, we all live with grief. But as a father you lose, you lose as a protector, provider, and proactive leader of this young life that once was your child.

I truly hope that everyone has a very Merry Christmas. If you know someone that has lost a child and you are in their presence this Christmas, please mention their child’s name. Parents remember everyday that their child passed away, so mentioning their name does not remind them of that, it reminds them that their child lived. I could never explain the emotions that stir inside my heart and head during this time of year. So if you see me or any parent sitting quietly, just taking it all in this Christmas, it may not be because we are sad. I believe we have learned a very hard lesson in life. Never take even one second for granted, enjoy the smiles, enjoy the laughs, enjoy the treasured time with family and friends. I know where Lindsay is spending Christmas this year and who she is spending it with. I know there will come a day when we will all be together again. I know she is looking down at our half wall hugging tree again this year, and in the sophisticated southern draw I can hear her telling every one in heaven,” That’s pathetic ya’ll.”

Question

Question

A few times, over the past weeks, I have had people approach me and ask the same question. “I want to buy your book for someone that has recently lost a child, I was wondering do you think it will make them sad?” This really made me stop and think for a moment before I answered them. To the best of my fifty four year old memory this was my response. “There is nothing in this entire world that can bring more sadness into your life than the loss of a child. Will my book make them sadder, probably, but it will also let them know they are not alone. It may help them understand there is no right or wrong way to grieve. It will hopefully show them that you can take the worst tragedy that could happen to a parent and somehow, someway turn it into a triumph. Turn their nightmare into hope for someone else.” My book is a year of blogs that tell about Lindsay’s accident, the week we spent in the hospital and how I have dealt with the grief that still enters my life everyday. I honestly do not know if it will make another parent that has lost a child sadder than they already are, I can only hope it will help.

Switching gears a little. It’s coming soon, the most loved, hated, bittersweet day of the year for a parent that has lost a child. The day that spreads joy to the world and decks the halls with boughs of holly. The day we celebrate the birth of Christ, the day we join together as a family and reminisce over the past year. This day that brings back smiles and tears. I thank God that I have the family I have, a family that gathers at my home and mentions Lindsay’s name. The worst thing for a parent is for a holiday, a birthday or any special day to pass and no one mention their child’s name. No parent ever wants to think their child has been forgotten. I see all the posts on social media of Christmas trees being put up and decorated so beautifully and I begin to dread putting ours up. It was Lindsay’s favorite thing to do this time of year. I ride down the street in our neighborhood and see all the yard decorations and it reminds me of a time when I loved doing the same. Now I have no desire to put out any yard decorations, it is an internal emotional tug of war that has happened for the past two years on what to do and what not to do. It all boils down to the fact I just cant do it, yet. I hope there comes a day when I am excited about decorating again because I know Lindsay is shaking the heavens stomping her feet screaming down, “Get that tree put up.”