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.”

 

Thanksgiving Reunion.

Thanksgiving Reunion.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. I hope your day was filled with family, friends and good food. As this long weekend winds down I have had time to reflect and remember the many Thanksgiving’s past. I have been so fortunate to have spent every Thanksgiving, as far back as I can remember, with family and friends. Although, throughout the many Thanksgivings I have been a part of, the faces have changed several times. As I do, most Thanksgiving mornings, I wake up thinking, “What do I have to be thankful for?” This year, for some reason, I thought about the recipients of Lindsay’s organs. I thought, “Do they ever wonder who the donor was that gave them the ultimate gift. Are they thankful for her sacrifice and generosity. Do they find, just a moment in all the chaos, to look up and say thank you to someone they never meet. Are they thankful for all the Thanksgiving’s yet to come. All the Thanksgivings they will get to spend with family and friends all because a seventeen year old girl, unbeknownst to her, was thinking about them.”

No matter how hard you try to put the grief and sadness on the back burner for just one day, it always creeps in. Every time you start counting how many chairs or plates you are going to need, it is always there. Whether it is a family picture taken before everyone starts to go their separate ways. A picture you look at later and smile but in the same moment think, “Lindsay would have been standing right there.” A family breakfast with everyone sitting around a table full of smiles and laughter and think, “Lindsay would have loved this.” I see all the family pictures on social media, I see all the smiles, I see all the love and I think, “Why me, why us, why Lindsay?” It happens every year around this time and it lasts for months. I want to be so happy, but a part of me is gray, is sad, is heavy and burdened. I feel selfish, and in my head I feel I have every right to be, but in my heart I know I shouldn’t be. Life after losing a child is never easy, but the holidays always seem to be the hardest. Below is a posting I placed on social media my first Thanksgiving without Lindsay. 

“As I woke up this morning my first thought was, “What do I have to be thankful for?” A very hard question for a father that has recently lost a child to answer. As I began to really think about it there are so many things I am thankful for. The 17 years, 10 months and 28 days I was the father of two of the most wonderful people I know, my children. Today is the second of many firsts to come. My first Thanksgiving without my daughter, Lindsay. I am thankful for the 17 Thanksgivings we did have together, and I am thankful for many Thanksgivings yet to come with Jarrett. I am thankful for all the memories, pictures and stories the past years have provided. As this day begins, I know it is not going to be easy, but with the love and support of family and friends I will make it.
My wife, Kelli, what can I say. She is the most supportive, loving, caring, giving person I know. She is my other half, my partner, my best friend, my everything and I love her with everything in me. Without her there is no me.
Jarrett, it makes me happy inside just to see his face. He is my dose of joy every time I see him. He is who he is and I love him for it. I am thankful for the man he is growing into. I love you son.
My grandparents who gave me my parents, without them me or my brother would not be here. I am thankful my parents raised us to be strong, caring and most importantly honest men. My brother, what a great friend, husband and father he has been to his family. My in laws, Kathy and Charlie, without them I would not be the happy man I am today, they gave me Kelli. Ron and Linda, without them I would have never had Jarrett and Lindsay. Jarrett and Lindsay’s mom, Kellie, for bringing them into this world and the job we did raising them. For Kellie’s husband Brett for being a good man and stepfather.
Lindsay’s cousins, friends, and teachers, I am so thankful for all of you. You were there for Lindsay and continue to be there for me and the rest of my family throughout this most difficult time. I am thankful for your love, support and caring.
I could go on forever for the many blessings I have had and continue to have in my life, but the fact remains my Lindsay Lou will not be here. She blessed my life in so many ways, she made me laugh, cry and be a better father. She knew what buttons to push and when she had met her match. She was my girl and I miss her dearly. I am thankful I was lucky enough to be her dad.
The one thing I am most thankful for is that one day I know I will see those steely eyes again, watch that long flowing hair move with the breeze again, hear that room shattering laugh again, and hold the hand of my daughter once again. I am a very thankful father, husband, son, brother, uncle, and friend.” 

Only a parent that has lost a child can understand the tug of war you deal with during the holidays. Grief pulling in one direction and happiness pulling in the other. I read this several times a year to remind myself how thankful I should be, how lucky I am to have such a loving and supportive family, and to remind myself of a very special Thanksgiving reunion yet to come.  

The Grip of Grief.

The Grip of Grief.

There are not many days like today, but when there is, I feel lost. I feel numb. I feel nothing. Most days start out the same and I make it through with no real problems. Then there are days I hear something, I see something, someone says something and then grief clamps down on my mind, my heart and my soul. It is as if I am driving on a long desolate highway at that time of day when dusk is surrendering its crowing moment of light to the darkness of an endless night. There are no exits, no side roads, no intersections, no escape from grief’s grip. The last road sign that had any direction just told me, “Buckle up, its going to be a long bumpy ride.”

Days when I see other people smile, that smile is like a dagger piercing the deepest recesses of my heart. I hear laughter and it is like an ice pick being shoved slowly into my ear. I see other people happy, and it hurts. I hear other people complain about the minuscule problems that plague their life and it makes me angry. I want to be alone, but tremble at the thought of solitude. When being alone is in the middle of a crowded room because I feel like an outsider, a mutant, I feel like I am the only one. I feel like I am the only one that has ever lost a child, the only one that knows the hurt, the pain, the gut wrenching grief of loss. I feel like there is no life line, no flotation device, no rescue team to pull me out of the clutches of grief. This can last an hour, or sometimes, a day or two. I just want to forget it ever happened, I want to forget the accident, I want to completely erase August 28, 2016 from my memory, but then the guilt sets in. How could I, how could I even entertain the thought of forgetting? What a horrible person, a horrible father for even having these thoughts. Now the other can of worms has been opened, guilt. The other side of the double edge sword of grief. Throw in a little regret and you have the true trifecta of this day. Grief, guilt and regret. Three strikes and you are out. That defeated feeling as you take that walk from home plate back to the dugout, a feeling of failure, a feeling of loneliness, the feeling of not contributing. In the midst of all these feelings I try to smile, I try to be happy, I try to be the guy I am every other day that grief does not have its claws wrapped around my every thought. I try to make a joke, or be sarcastic and the thought of how dare you enjoy life enters my brain. There is nothing that can snap me out of feeling like this, not a word, a gesture, the millions of quotes about grief. This feeling is like a virus that has to run its course and then it is gone. Gone until the next grief season. There is no grief shot, no Z-PAC, no antibiotic for these feelings. There is only time, and time is no real cure. There truly are no words to describe this feeling, no diagram to break down the emotions and no EKG to show the pain in my heart.

What I have come to realize, on these days, when grief has such a strong grip on my heart is I am not thinking about Lindsay. I am not thinking about who she was or what she accomplished. I am not thinking about her laugh, her eyes, or her hair. I am not thinking about that voice that had so many levels. I am not thinking about all the good we are doing through the foundation, all the lives that have been able to touch, all the lives that have been changed because of the legacy of a seventeen year old young woman.  I am thinking she is not upstairs, she is not at her mom’s and will not be home later, she is not at school or cheer practice. She is not at dinner with a friend, she is not at the pool or the gym. She is not, will not, and will never again be here.

What I have to start doing is remembering everyday she will always be in my heart, she will always be in my memories and she will always be there to help me release the grip of grief.