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.

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.”

 

Out of Order

Out of Order

I have thought about this topic many times over the past two years, and the sensitivity of discussing it. I briefly touched on this subject in my second blog “Take a Minute Before you Speak to a Grieving Parent.” I may lose a few readers over this, but I have to get it out of my brain.

How grief effects us all so differently and takes us down the many different paths of emotion. How to some, losing a parent is the same as losing a child. I know I may offend some people, I may step on some toes, but the one thing you have to remember is this blog is written by a father who has lost his daughter, not a man who has lost a parent. The pain of loss can never be taken away nor can it be compared to any other pain, but the level of pain and grief, in my opinion, when you lose a child is beyond comprehension by anyone that has not lived through it. 

There are so many levels of grief, so many stages of pain, and many ways it effects each person differently. There are as many ways to handle grief as there are days you have left to walk this earth. When you lose a loved one it hurts, no matter if the relationship was good, bad or indifferent they were once a part of your life, but to lose a child, I believe, puts you in a entire different category of grief. When you lose a parent you have lost your past. The person that laid the foundation for everything you are today. The person that taught you how to be a parent. Does that make it any easier, absolutely not. It still hurts. When you lose a child you have lost your future. You have lost all the dreams you had for that child, no matter the age. You have lost all the hope you had for their happiness, for their joy and for their future. The very foundation that your parents laid is now starting to crack. You have lost a part of yourself. It is almost like losing an arm or leg because in your mind you will never be whole again. I remember reading once that, “Losing a child is like putting a period at the beginning of a sentence.” In other words their life has come to an end before the story ever really began.

If you have lost a mother, father or grandparent, with all due respect you only know what its like to lose a mother, father or grandparent. You can only understand what another person that has lost the same feels. You only know the pain and grief that comes with the loss of an older loved one. Please understand in no way am I trying to disparage  the pain and grief that comes with the loss of a parent, or sibling. I can, as of now, say I do not know how you feel because I have never walked your path of grief, the grief you are feeling for your parent. That being said, no one can imagine what a person that has lost a child feels, what they are going through, or the depths of pain that ravage their heart, mind and soul without having lost a child of your own. 

I have lost all of my grandparents, Frank and Maylor Gore and Rockfellow and Ethel Benton, but I am still lucky enough to have both of my parents and my brother. My mom just turned seventy five. My dad is seventy eight, and can still out work me any day of the week. I don’t know the grief and pain of losing a parent, I don’t know how it feels to be without the people that raised me and taught me to be the man I am today. I don’t know what it is like to have your “go to” person gone from your life. There is one thing I do know for sure, and I pray it does not happen any time soon, but I hope one day I do know  what it is like to lose a parent. You see, I never want my parents to know what it is like to lose a child. I never want my parents to know the pain that almost cripples your body, paralyze’s your heart and empties your soul. I never want them to see their child laid to rest in a small plot of land with marble and bronze markers to remind people who now resides there. I don’t want my parents to live through the emotional nightmare of losing a child. I don’t want my parents to see what is left of my future vanish before their eyes. I don’t want my parents to wonder about what could have been. In this cycle we call life, our parents are suppose to bury our grandparents, we are suppose to bury our parents and our children are supposed to bury us. Your cycle of life is broken by the death of a child, the natural order of life has been disturbed by attending their funeral, and your world seems to end as you solemnly stand at their graveside. This is not supposed to happen, and that is why it’s different.

“At least they had a good life, they lived a long and full life, they are in a better place” are things, I would assume, someone who has lost a parent hates hearing as much as a parents that has lost a child hates hears hearing “I know how you feel” from someone who has never lost a child. There will always be loss, there will always be pain and there will always be grief in the lives of those left behind. But we should never compare one person’s grief to another. We should never claim to know how they feel unless we have been in their shoes and walked the same road of heartache. We should never, ever claim to know how they feel, because no matter the age of the loved one lost, no matter the relationship, no matter the cause of our grief, we all have our own journey of grief that can only be traveled alone. 

 

A Beautiful Day

A Beautiful Day

As usual, I got up today before the dawn and my day started off with some very unusual sights and sounds. You see, it has been raining here for what I believe to be the last fifteen days. It may have been more, but I truly lost count. But on this morning the sun had no barrier, there was no impediment, no stumbling block to keep it from it’s daily routine of bringing light into our little corner the world. You could see the rays as they began to slowly creep their way over the horizon. The beams of light began to make their way through the cracks of the blinds and immediately filled the room with light, and with that, there was hope for a beautiful day. As the sun continued its climb up the eastern sky you could hear the sounds of life from the many birds chirping in the back yard, a sound only heard over the past couple of weeks when there was a break in the dark and gloomy clouds. When the sun made it’s final push to clear the grasp of dawn and show itself in all it’s full warming and illuminated glory, I knew today was going to be a good day. 

In the life of a grieving parent, there are many days like today. You may go through days, weeks, months even years where it seems to be metaphorically raining everyday. You can wake up every morning where life’s gray and gloomy clouds are all you see on the horizon. You feel the sun is never going to shine in your life again, you are never going to feel that healing warmth, or have those illuminating rays fill your life. You make it through, day by day, wishing yesterday was your tomorrow so maybe, just maybe, you can work your way back to that day. You forget what it’s like to just sit and listen to the birds, or watch a sunset. Your world is filled with “what if’s” and “why’s”. You spend most of your time trying to figure out how to make your life normal again, when there is no normal, and the normal you create is so abnormal. You make it through the bad days hoping for just one good day. You try to change the lives of others by sharing your tragedy, in hopes of one day smiling again. We, as parents of children taken way to soon, have many bad days, but it’s that one morning, that one ray of sunshine, that single act of kindness, that one email, that one text, a simple pat on the back that makes it seem okay for that moment. For me, its when I wake up and think of Lindsay and the time we had. I think of Kelli, Jarrett and all the other many blessings I have in my life. I think of the love that covers this family from so many hearts. The prayers that come from near and far, and the lives that have been saved because a seventeen year old young lady had a dream. It is mornings like these I know, in my heart, it’s going to be a beautiful day.

Reflection…

Reflection…

There are so many days I feel I have nothing more to write about, like I have said all I need to say. Days when I feel I have said too much, and days I feel like I have said nothing at all. This week has been filled with those days, until this morning. When I woke up at my usual early hour I stood in front of the bathroom mirror. I stood there and looked at me, I looked at this man, this son, this brother, this husband, this father in the mirror. I have told Kelli that when I look in the mirror I still see, or imagine, the guy I was in high school, I try so desperately to see myself at eighteen years old. This morning was different, this morning was the truth. You see, a mirror has no soul, no heart, it has no filter. The mirror was not brought into this world or born, with a sin nature to lie like all humans. The only lies a mirror tells are the ones we tell ourselves when we look into our own eyes. A mirror knows only one thing, and one thing only, the truth. It shows the exact reflection of what is staring into it. In most cases the mirror is used for grooming, shaving, makeup, or checking the clothes or outfit you have decided to wear for the day. How many times have you looked into a mirror and actually looked yourself in the eyes? How many times have you stood there and let the mirror tell you the truth? For me the answer was not many until Lindsay passed away. Now, today, it happens very often. I look into my own eyes and ask, “Could I have been a better father? Could I have been more supportive? Could I have been more understanding? and the hardest question of all “Why?” The answer to all of those questions, with the exception of why, is yes. With Lindsay’s passing, the student became the teacher. All the life lesson’s I tried to teach her during her short seventeen years are nothing compared to what she is teaching me each time I look into my own eyes. She is teaching me to be a better father, be a better husband, son, and brother. To be more giving and be more compassionate. She has taught me these things because we are never promised tomorrow, never promised the next hour, the next minute or even second. We never know when will be last time we see someone we dearly love. This simple accessory, this inanimate object that we hang on a wall is used mainly for our own vanity. This simple piece of silver coated glass cannot speak even the simplest of words, but more times than not it has the loudest voice of all, if you just listen with your eyes.

I look into my own eyes and I try so hard to see Lindsay, I look at my face and try to see her, but she is not there. There is nothing about my features that even remotely resemble her, or her me. For a moment that brings a sadness over my old and tired face. Then I look harder, I look deeper, I look in places most people are afraid to look, especially when they have lost a child, and that is where I find her. I look in my heart of hearts and the depths of my soul and I find her every time. For me that is where a part of her lives now, there is where I need to go to see her, to talk to her and to remember her smile. Now, every time I look into a mirror and look deep into my own eyes, the mirror goes past my face, past my features and straight to where Lindsay lives in me. It allows me to see her reflection in me.