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.  

Precious Time

Precious Time

With every dawn that breaks the eastern sky, a grieving parent somewhere in this world starts “their day.”  They wake up knowing today is the day, today is the day I lost my child. There is not a day that begins nor a day that ends that a parent who has lost a child is not grieving their child. Whether it be one year, five years, twenty years or fifty years a parent never forgets that day. The day their world crumbled, the day their soul emptied, the day their heart was, in every sense of the word, broken. Broken to a point that you never think it will work again. This day, no matter where you are, is the most difficult day of the year for a grieving parent. Whether you stay curled up in bed to try and sleep the day away or go to work to try and keep your mind occupied. Every moment you check the time thinking has it passed. Has the hour, the minute, the second your child slipped from this world passed. Is it behind me for another year, is this one moment in time gone for now. Because in your mind you think if you can make it passed that moment in time you will be okay, but your heart knows different. Two days from today will be my “day,” August 28. For me it has been two years, a sliver of time in the large, expansive realm of life, but feels like an eternity. An anniversary that no one wants to celebrate. This day becomes part of a grieving parents life just as birthday’s and holiday’s. A day no one truly wants to remember, but a day that will never be forgotten.  For those of you that did not know about Lindsay and what happened I what to give you a brief synopsis before I go on to my next thought. On August 21, 2016 Lindsay was in a horrible traffic accident that caused a traumatic brain injury. After emergency surgery she was still in very critical condition and remained unconscious for the remainder of the week, we lost her August 28, 2016. After a week of hoping, praying and spending every moment we could with Lindsay, she in her own way told us it was time, as her broken body began to let go. You see, Lindsay had a dream to be a surgeon, a saver of lives. By being an organ donor she was about to do just that, save lives. She knew her mother and I could never make the devastating decision’s we had to make so she made them for us.

So now, not only do I have the day of August 21, and the day of August 28,  I also have the night of August 27. Imagine knowing tomorrow would be the last time you would ever see your son or daughter. The last day to hold their hand, the last day to kiss their forehead, the last day to just sit and look at them. Imagine the thoughts that would go through your mind. Imagine the love, the anger, the sadness, the memories, the what if’s, the why’s, the guilt, the remorse, imagine the pain that would almost cripple your body. Imagine being so exhausted but fighting to stay awake because you do not want tomorrow to come. Imagine already knowing, without a miracle from God, what tomorrow will bring. 

I have heard it my entire life and I have said the very words myself when it comes to someone passing away that has been sick or on life support, “At least the family had time to say goodbye.” Not even close to being true. There is never enough time, there are never enough minutes in the day, hours in a week or days in a year for a parent to say goodbye to a child, forever. To stand beside a young woman only seventeen years old lying in a hospital bed, holding her hand and feeling her last heartbeat. I never thought as I stood in the very same hospital seventeen years earlier, and watched Lindsay come into this world, that I would be holding her hand as I watched her leave this world.  Believe me there is never enough time.

On the other hand was I thankful for the time, the week we had with Lindsay, yes, more than anyone will ever know, more than I have the vocabulary to express. Thankful for every second I stood in that room holding her hand, talking to her, praying that she would wake up and answer me. Thankful for the doctors, the nurses, the chaplain, the janitor, everyone that walked that long hall with me, shook my hand, hugged my neck, and said a prayer for Lindsay. Time with your children is a very precious thing, and no matter if they are leaving for kindergarten, leaving for college, leaving for love and marriage, or leaving you forever, take the time, make the time, embrace the time. Time with your children will start to flee very fast as they grow older, but time for a grieving parent now stands still.

When you lay down Monday night August 27th, don’t think of my family or Lindsay, think of your son, your daughter. Think about the love you have for them, think about the last time you told them you love them, think about the last time you gave them a hug. Think about what life would be like without them, it will make your life and time with them more precious. Realize the time you have is never enough, it can be stolen from you like a thief in the night.  Be thankful for the time and memories you have because when the memory makers are gone, memories are all you have.

On my day, August 28th, if you think of my family or say a prayer for us, please also remember Lindsay’s extended family and her countless friends. Remember somewhere in this world there are probably other parents who share this day with us, and say a prayer for them as well. My day will be long and it will be difficult, but what will keep me going is remembering all the precious time.