Different kind of grief, but grief nonetheless.

 I’m just a few weeks away from marking 14 years since my son died following a vehicle crash in which he was a passenger.  I am glad to say that I am back to living life and I feel certain that my Christopher would be proud.  I still miss him dearly and often am blindsided by that grief.  Lately, however, I have been dealing with a different grief.

A few years ago, a friend of mine lost her husband.  He died unexpectedly though he had been struggling for some time.  A few months later, she had a friend whose husband left and sought a divorce.  She and I talked many times about how those losses were different.  Specifically, we talked about the fact that she knew her husband didn’t want to die and leave her.  Unlike her friend who felt rejected as her husband chose to leave her and move on with another woman. So, while my friend was devastated by the death of her husband, there were many times when she acknowledged have her friend had it worse.

So that brings me to my new grief.  Let me be clear, there is no loss greater than what I experienced 14 years ago when my Christopher went to be with Jesus.  I take great joy, knowing that I’ll see him again.  Having said that, I had a falling out with a dear friend last year.  I brought it on myself by a serious lapse in judgement that resulted in her understandably feeling betrayed; I violated her trust.  Though it has been very painful to realize that she assumed the worst with regards to my intentions, I take full responsibility.  Unfortunately, she has been unwilling or unable to forgive me and as a result, that has been the end of a very dear friendship.

So, I’ve been trying to come to terms with this loss for well over a year.  I’ve noticed some big differences between grieving this loss and the loss of my son.  While it took a long time for me to process the huge hole that Christopher’s death left in my world, with the loss of this friendship, I find myself imaging ways to reconcile, erroneously thinking that there is something I could do that would restore what I’ve lost.  This kind of thinking is only possible because she is still alive, as compared to my Christopher.  So, while I had a very hard time accepting the loss of my only child, I never looked for ways to restore what I had lost.

When a person dies, we have all sorts of rituals to help us be able to mark the loss.  There are viewings, funerals, memorial services and often a gravesite where we can go to be reminded of the loss.  With a friend, there is no ritual prompting us to move forward without the lost friend. So, I’ve been encouraged to find a ritual that will help me let go and move forward.

Now, when I see something reminds me of her, i choose not to dwell on the inability to share it with her. Instead, I pray for her.  That way, I don’t dwell on what will never be and, instead, enlist the one who is always willing to forgive and has promised to never leave me.

It’s That Time of Year

In 2007, Thanksgiving came early, as early as the fourth Thursday in November can be. It was November 22. The only reason I know that is that I am amazed at the details I remember from the two or so weeks, from 2007. I know that this is because, as soon as Christopher died, all those recent events were frozen in my memory as I knew that they would be the last.

  • We had a great Thanksgiving dinner at my friend, Julie’s, house. Two of her three daughters were there (one had to stay at college because she was an RA). The two that were home, were several years older than Christopher, but I remember him being so at ease as he talked with them.
  • The following Sunday, we had our last big argument, one for which I will forever be thankful. I said some things to him that day that I believe, but had I not said them out loud, to him, I might have doubted after he died. I told him that, while I made my share of mistakes, nobody tried harder to be a good mom and that, again, while I made mistakes, I had no regrets. I believe that today, but having said it to him helps me know that I am not just saying it because he is gone.
  • This argument was also special because I had to leave to run and errand. While I was out Christopher called me and started with the fact that after what just happened he knew this would sound odd. He asked that I pick up a pizza so he and I could eat together and watch a movie. This was the first time I remember that he moved towards me after a disagreement. What a sign of maturity. After we had a wonderful time together, he thanked me. I told him that I was unsure what to think because of the things that he had said earlier, in anger. He acknowledged that he could see how I would think as I did, but that he really did have a good time. Again, a great sign of maturity blossoming!
  • The following weekend, he went to Tallahassee’s winter festival with his girlfriend and her parents. While he was out, he texted me to see if “the guys” could come over later. Of course they could, but what delighted me was the maturity he had in this relationship that he didn’t have in his previous long-term relationship. He was able to keep this in perspective and still maintain friendships. He hadn’t done this last time.
  • That Sunday, we went to see a movie. Because I am not a movie-goer (primarily because it costs so much, I have to admit), I said that I would pay for the tickets, but not the concessions! He was fine with that. He did however, go to get himself something and surprised me with what he knew to be my favorite.
  • The next day, we went to order a suit. He had been invited to a friend’s holiday party for which the invitation stated “cocktail attire”. I had no idea what I would wear, but I knew he needed a suit. Christopher always liked flashy clothes and that is what he wanted in a suit. I tried to gently remind him that his grandfather was 84 and we really needed to get an “all purpose” suit. He could pick out whatever shirt and tie he wanted to make it snazzy and he did. He wore a 44 regular!
  • That was a crazy week for me in school, being the last before finals. I had a huge (or it seemed so at the time) paper due on Friday. Thursday, his suit was in and he went after school to pick it up. He called me to see if he could stop at Boston Market to pick up dinner and that he would get me “the usual.” Well, he got my usual wrong, but we had a wonderful dinner, actually eating at the table together. This was a rarity, that we even talked about that eventing.
  • We talked later about a difficult situation a friend was having with her parents. He told me how wrong he thought the parents were and the risks they were taking with her. He listened, however, when I told him that he only knows part of the story.
  • After that conversation, he tried to explain to me the work that he would be doing the next day with his friend, John. Something about a part that was broken that was cheaper to replace the whole thing than to just replace the broken piece. We laughed together as I had to acknowledge that I had no idea what he was talking about. He took great delight in that.
  • I was exhausted on Friday, but we had talked and exchanged text messages about his plans for the day. When I got home and discovered he had not cleaned up the dishes he had left in the family room, I set a rather curt text about “what was the one thing that I asked you to do before you left.” He called back and acknowledged that he didn’t do it and was sorry. It would be the first thing he would do when he got home, which should be within an hour. That call was at 6:22 pm.
The crash that resulted in his death was right around 7:00 that night. I am thankful to have been able to see him before he died, but we never talked after that call about something as silly as dirty dishes.
I have no idea who cleaned up those dishes and now I know it doesn’t matter. Never really did.

It’s not over

It has been a long time since I posted anything – as a matter of fact, the last post I see was written right after the sentencing related to the legal proceedings that related to the car crash that resulted in Christopher’s death. Even this sentence is a good example of how much everything is connected. And that’s why I am writing today.

I think that after the trial, I thought that it was over. After all, that was the last step in the process . . . the formal and official process. What I have been learning, especially lately, that it probably will never really be over. A couple of things drew me to this conclusion, but I’ll just share one.
Last night, I was in a class (Parent and Child Relations, of all things) and we were talking about if our final would be in class or a take home. I asked if it were in class, when it would be and was told that it would be at the same time as our class, but during finals week. Seems obvious as I write this, but it has been a long time since I’ve had a final during finals week. Anyways, I looked at the calendar and realized that this meant that I might have a final from 5:00 to 7:30 pm, on the 3rd anniversary of the car crash that took Christopher’s life. There is no way, I can take a final that night. I approached the professor after class and with misty eyes explained that if we have it in class, I can’t take it that night, with a brief explanation. He was kind, but I hated it.
I don’t want everything to be about Christopher’s death. I don’t want it to define me. I don’t want it to be a big deal.
I was talking to a professor at FSU a month or so ago and told her the story of my losing my only son. Her response was that she was surprised that I was sitting there with matching shoes on. Today, I saw a former pastor who confessed that he wanted so much to find words to speak to my soul, but the fact that I was up and functioning was amazing to him.
I don’t want Christopher’s death to be a big deal, but it is and I think that it will be as long as I am on this side of eternity.

I’ll take your “pains” of parenting any day!

Okay, I admit it, I am an avid Facebooker. For the most part this is a good thing, but I have to say that some status’ that people post hit me differently than they would have had I not had to let my son go before I was ready. Please don’t understand, I know that nobody but me thinks of thinks this way (except perhaps others who have lost a child too soon) and I hope I don’t offend anyone.

  • In response to a family from church moving away, “Saying Goodbye is Hard to Do!”
  • After her daughter recently married, a friend, “realized one of the difficulties in her life is walking into her girl’s empty bedroom and, with the help of a friend, is re-decorating it so it feels homey again. 🙂 New phases of life can be wonderful and difficult all at the same time.”
  • “tommorrow, [my son] will start his senior year at [college] and [my daughter] is driving and is a sophomore.. I can’t take that and seeing toy story all in one week..”
  • As a friend’s children were moving out of the family home, they posted “

    My heart is in anguish!!” and “someone should have warned me about letting go……”

I know I am being critical or hyper-sensitive, but just reading this, I interpret their situation so very differently. I simply have a different perspective. While I know that these are difficult transitions, and I’d probably be feeling the same way, if my circumstances were different, but I would just like to scream, “Can we talk?”

I would give anything to have these pains of parenthood.

No winners . . .

Sometimes there is just not a win position. Today was such a day as the young man driving the car when it was involved in a collision that resulted in my son’s death was sentenced. I spent a considerable amount of time writing my Victim’s Impact Statement, but did not have a chance to read it due to time constraints in the hearing. I don’t feel that it would be appropriate to post it all here, but there are some things that I needed to say in court today, but didn’t get the opportunity.

I don’t want this tragedy to ruin this young man’s life; I never have. I don’t think that the outcome today will, necessarily, have that effect and for that I am very grateful. I reached out to him after the accident, sending a couple of notes of assurances that I am not angry at him.
I have forgiven him. I just have never had a chance to communicate that to him as, I am sure that on the advice of counsel, we have not communicated in over two years. My forgiveness will only be meaningful to him, however, if he accepts his role in the death of my son. I truly believe that this would be the in his best interest.
I pray for him on a regular basis. It was important to me that he communicated some remorse/regret. He did that today. For me it was start. A good start.
I will always be available to he or his family should there be any way that I can help in their healing process. That has always been my desire. I am hoping that might be a possibility now that the legal process is behind us.

On Wednesday, It will be a wrap!

“It’s a wrap.” Isn’t that the expression that they use at the end of the making of a movie? Just today, I discovered that is a pretty good analogy of this legal process. In my case, it has been nearly two and a half years in the making.

So, now as the “production” is coming to an end with the sentencing hearing schedule for Wednesday, it dawned on me today that there is a strange feeling that when this is done, things will go back to normal. Except that normal, for me, should include Christopher and it won’t.
This process may be done and it may be time for my life to become normal, but it won’t go back to normal. It will be time to find a new normal.
I don’t want a new normal.

Good and Right?

This month, there was a trial related to the accident that took the life of my only son, Christopher. This has been a tragedy for so many people, but the legal process has been personally very difficult for me.

Let me start off by saying that there was no win in this trial for me. Nothing was going to change the reality that I lost my entire family that night, the hope of a growing family to enjoy in my retirement. There was nothing that could bring Christopher back to me. It was, however, a necessary process, one that I can only hope has some greater purpose than I am currently able to appreciate.
For better or worse, there has been a significant amount of local media coverage of the trial and the verdict. The question that I am most often asked is if I am happy (or some similar word) with the outcome of the trial. My response is honest; I chose not to get invested in the outcome of the trial. As I e-mailed to a team of prayer-warriors who have been interceding on my behalf, on December 7 I was faced with the reality that I don’t know what is good and right. If my idea of good and right was accurate, Christopher would not have died that night. So to ask me what is good and right for this legal process . . . I have no idea. Only God knows and I have no choice but to trust it to Him.

Little by Little

It has been a while since I have posted and nothing has, in fact, changed. At the same time, it all seems to be changing. I’ve come to realize that, for me, the loss of a child didn’t happen in one night, it continues to happen, as if piece by piece.

A few weeks ago, my car battery needed to be replaced. After it was all done, I realized that I lost the radio stations that were save by Christopher as his stations in my car. I never listened to any of them, they were saved under FM2, mine were FM1 (after all, it was my car!). I cried when I realized that they were gone. Even though I never gave them a thought, they represented another piece of Christopher that is now lost, almost a new loss.
Then last week, a co-worker, Nancy, suffered from a brain aneurism. On Thursday, the told the family that there was no hope of recovery. I realized, that Nancy had a special place in my heart. She was a wonderful, caring, hardworking, salt-of-the-earth kind of woman. She had also been Christopher’s supervisor when he worked in our office back in 2004-2005. She loved Christopher, but more importantly to me, he knew that Nancy loved him. A few months before his death, Christopher had visited our office and commented to me that he had to be sure to stop in an see Nancy because, she would be upset if she knew he had been there and didn’t see her.
Since his death, Nancy has been one of the few people at work to whom I could speak of Christopher and feel that she understood why I needed to talk of him. The first adoption day after his death, I had a gathering to celebrate this significance in my life and asked that people bring their favorite Christopher story. The Saturday before the gathering, I see this car pull up in front of the house and Nancy got out. I met her in the yard, only to discover that she had the date wrong and had brought her story to me a week early. What a precious story it was and her taking the time to write it down and bring it to me was so very special.
Nancy loved Christopher and he knew it. She has loved me through, saying very little, as well. She passed away Friday night, but I had grieved Thursday, not only for Nancy, but a little more for Christopher because in losing Nancy, I was losing another part of him as well.
I think that the same will be true when I decide to sell the houses we lived in, or the car that I have or finally clean out the garage. It will force me to let go and lose a little more of him. And it will hurt all over again.
A couple of months ago, I wrote about the stuff. That is what the stuff is, it is a part of Christopher and it is a part of me that exists because he was here. So, every time I let some of it go, it tears open the wound of losing him. Maybe that is why it was so easy to deal with the stuff right after his death; the wound hadn’t begun to heal so it didn’t cause new pain to let the stuff go. Now that there is some degree of healing, it is as if I am re-wounded with each little piece of him that I lose.
I have to remember, that I will never completely lose him, because he is a part of who I am. Nobody can take that away. Also, today is Easter. Today I, as I put flowers at his grave, I was reminded of the hope (assurance) that I have. I will see Christopher again. I didn’t lose him, he just went on ahead.

Nothing to Fear

There is a legal process ongoing related to the accident that resulted in Christopher’s death. There are a lot of issues tied into this that make this a very difficult, very anxiety producing situation. When I find myself being fearful, I remind myself that there is nothing in front of me that is worse than what I’ve already been through. It is odd to me that I find so much comfort in that.

This new found perspective has had quite an impact on my life.

“I’m not who I was”

“I’m not who I was” is a song by Brandon Heath, but it is my reality as well. Yesterday, my mom declared that I’m not as fun as I used to be. I don’t doubt that is true. I don’t think that it really should be much of a surprise. There is no way to go unaffected when you lose a child. “I’m not who I was” and that needs to be okay.

I struggle with it sometimes because in some way, I think that to have allowed this to change me is to have failed to believe God through it all. God defines me and has since I received Jesus as my Savior many years ago. If I am defined by God, then how can a circumstance change me to the core.
Christopher’s death hasn’t ultimately changed me; it hasn’t redefined me, but it has changed how who I am is manifested to others. What you see is closer to who I am than what may have been true before Christopher’s death. I struggle a lot. I have a hard time believing that a perfect God could/would choose to love me perfectly, no matter what I do. I have a hard time imagining that there is nothing that will change the fact that I am precious to Him and that this relationship is guaranteed. I’ve always struggled with that, but perhaps not so openly.
I confess that it is hard to reconcile all those realities to what I know that same loving God allowed that night in December 2007. It doesn’t make sense to me in the context of this perfect loving that He has for me. It makes sense in terms of Christopher, but not for me.
I’ve never had patience with people who made the faith sound easy, but now I am more likely to tell them that it doesn’t work that way for me. I’ve never appreciated it when people simply say that all it takes to make all of life (in Christ) work for them is to “let go and let God.” They don’t realize what it really means to “let God.” Sometimes “letting God” means that you are required to really let go. That hurts and I suspect that these people have no idea.
Truthfully, at the same time, I am glad for them. I’d rather not know how much letting go that God sometimes requires . . . and He doesn’t always ask. I don’t think too often about if I was holding on to Christopher too tightly, because it doesn’t really matter. We can hold things in our open hand, not really thinking that God would, in fact, take it from us, but I’m here to say that sometimes He does.
And because He did, “I’m not who I was” and that is apparently okay, because it isn’t a surprise to God, now is it?