And the Journey Through Grief Continues…

Since March 15, 2016, I’ve inadvertently explored a wide gamut of emotions, the strongest, of course, being sadness. I’ve been so deep, wallowing so desperately in it that I could almost understand what my son was going through, in his head, when the monsters won and convinced him leaving this life was better than living it.

And then I think, I’ve lost my son and my stepfather, my grandparents, a couple uncles. There are parents who have lost multiple children, kids who have lost their own parents—some have lost both of them. And I think, this is so hard, how could I possibly handle any more?

But someone else did. Someone else does, every single day. And eventually, I will too, because that’s the circle of life.

And we handle it.

It’s hard, so, so hard. There are days—still, two and a half years later—when I can get so caught up in my grief that I can’t focus on anything else.

But most days, now, the grief is secondary. It’s still part of who I am; my son still affects everything I do, but it isn’t the driving force anymore.

The first time I realized that, I took a few steps backward in this grieving process. I felt guilty for “moving on” as people tend to say. (Really, it should be phrased “moving forward.” You don’t move on from something like losing a child, but you do, eventually, move forward and start living your life—your new life.)

I struggled with trying to remember and wanting to forget, and determining where my “new” life fit into the whole mess. It was difficult interacting with my daughter, my husband, my family. I wanted to talk about him but it hurt to do so. Because I wanted him to be here, to experience everything we were going through. To still be alive.

(If ever there is a testament to the importance of grief therapy, you’re looking at her, folks.)

I think I’ve been going through this stage for a while now. At least since spring. The anniversary of his death was difficult, of course, but not as much as I anticipated. My husband, daughter, and I banded together, and while there was a cloak of sadness over the day, we managed a fair share of giggles and smiles as well.

Mother’s Day there were no tears. There were a few at the end of the school year, though. Then summer came, and I’ve been coasting, to be honest. I think about him regularly, daily, many times a day, but I haven’t had that gut-wrenching sadness for a while.

And then we’re at today, the first day of eight grade for my daughter. A first for all of us. She wasn’t supposed to be the first; I should have one starting tenth grade as well. But here we are.

I took the day off work, because I have every first day of school since my son started kindergarten. I took the obligatory first-day-of-school photo, because I have every first day of school since my son started kindergarten.

After dropping my daughter at school, I went to visit my son’s grave, a new tradition I started in 2016.

And I didn’t cry. I stood there for a moment, staring at the boulder with his name and date of birth and date of death and the little burst of fireworks carved into its face. And then I lifted my phone and pulled up the pictures I’d taken a short time earlier. His sister, pretending to be wholly focused on her phone because that’s such a running joke with today’s youth. Her attempts not to laugh, the smirks. The one that looks so much like him.

And I didn’t cry.

Because the life we have is pretty darn good, even though it’s without him. We’ve figured out how to move forward. And the guilt for doing that is finally mostly gone. I’m sure it will surface again periodically, and that’s okay. It’s part of the grieving process. It’s what shapes us as human beings.

I thought about pointing out to my daughter that one of her pics looks just like her brother. And then I decided against it. Because today is her day. She’s an eighth grader now. She’s carving her own path. She isn’t in his shadow anymore.

She’s moving forward.

And of course, now that I’m writing all this down, I’m crying over my keyboard. And that’s okay too, because sometimes, the tears need to flow. They’re cleansing, they allow me to look at the world through a fresh, new filter. Sort of like the landscape that’s covered by morning dew.

And so the grieving process continues… And life, it moves on.

As it should.

Flannel Sheets & Memories

I changed the sheets today. Not a particularly exciting task, except that as I dug around in the linen cupboard I realized both sets of flannel sheets that fit my bed were in the wash, and the temperature isn’t due to shift above 10 degrees Fahrenheit until some time next year. And yeah, I realize that’s less than a week away but that’s still another five days of frigid weather and me with plain old—cold—linen sheets. And no, I’m not going to change them again once I wash the flannels. Not until the requisite week is up.

I hate changing the sheets.

As if this discovery weren’t bad enough to ruin my evening, I also did something else whilst sifting through the over-stuffed linen cupboard. I pulled out all the twin bed sheet sets and packed them away. Which turned into an act of nostalgia I wasn’t quite prepared for.

You see, my daughter got a new bed for Christmas. She’s been in her twin bed since she was three, and now she’s twelve—and almost five-and-a-half feet tall. She’s not a kid anymore, at least not in stature. And she shares that tiny bed with the dog, who sleeps a lot like I do—stretched from edge to edge with no concern for the other occupant of her sleeping space.

A bigger bed was long overdue.

Which means we no longer have a need for twin sheets. As soon as we haul hers off to Salvation Army, there will be no more twin beds in my household. One more piece of my children’s childhood, gone.

It’s been a while since I’ve had to pack away ‘baby’ stuff. A couple years ago, my daughter went through her room herself and donated all the dolls and various other kiddie stuff to charity. She kept her Legos, the stuffed animals, books, and only a few other playsets. And then last year, a few months after my son died, she and my husband went through the basement and piled all those toys into his truck and handed them over to charity.

So, like I said, this small, seemingly meaningless task hit me harder than expected. Somehow, over the course of my kids’ childhood, we’d managed to procure some pretty darn cute sheets. Flannel, ironically. (But I don’t sleep in a twin bed, so no, they wouldn’t have worked for my purposes.) And they remind me of happy times, when my babies were, well, babies, and flannel sheets with snowmen on them were fun. Back when they liked to snuggle, and I liked to sneak into their bedrooms and watch them sleep.

Back when we believed they both had their whole lives ahead of them.

Now, I only have one, and she’s outgrown these adorable flannel sheets. Hell, she doesn’t like flannel sheets at all, let alone those with cute characters dancing across them.

Tonight, I tucked away another piece of my life, my past, my memories.

~Tami

Not So Much Love For Fall

I used to love fall. But the riot of color in the trees no longer brings me the same pleasure it did just two years ago.

I have no desire to pull my sweaters out of hibernation; no excitement over wearing my multitude of boots (and I own some super cute boots). The cooler days only mean longer nights and less sunshine, and the darkness gives me far too much excuse to feel sorry for myself. It’s the perfect shroud for the tears I prefer to hide from the world.

You see, fall is a season full of memories, memories I haven’t yet figured out how to live with. My son didn’t die in the fall; he died in the spring, but everything about this time of year reminds me of him, of what I lost, of moments I’ll never get to experience again.

He should have started his freshman year this month. I should have a high schooler. Instead, I have one kid starting school, seventh grade, which happens to be the year my son let the demons win. It’s like living that year all over again, except accompanied by the nightmare of what happened and the constant fear that my daughter might do the same thing.

(For the record, she tells us all the time she won’t, which is both a relief and not remotely fair to the poor kid. She’ll never be able to have a ‘normal’ teen angst period, but I have no idea how not to stress over every little nuance in her personality, which occasionally resembles her brother’s.)

Sometimes I wonder what he would have been like. If he had not made such a permanent decision eighteen months ago, would he have gotten over his depression, his misery, conquered the demons who convinced him to take his own life? My husband doesn’t think so. He believes had our son lived, he would have been fighting those demons for the rest of his life.

But at least he’d have a life. And I’d have a son. And humans are fighters, usually. Maybe he would have found some semblance of peace, would have started high school with a fresh, positive outlook.

I’ll never know.

His birthday is next month. He should be turning fifteen. Ready to sign up for driver’s ed. It’s so odd; I spend an inordinate amount of time reflecting on what will never be, yet I can’t bring myself to relive memories of his life while he was still here. It hurts too much. Still.

I often wonder if it always will.

Part of me wants to get to that point where I can talk about him, reminisce, smile and laugh over moments that occurred during the precious little time we had with him. That’s thirteen years of my life that I currently can’t even think about, let alone talk about.

And the other part of me hates the pain, hates crying, hates feeling sorry for myself, hates admitting that I will never have another memory with my son.

After his birthday comes Thanksgiving. A family holiday. The start of the family holiday season. A time of reflection, of appreciation for what we have, of feeling grateful for our family. Which is hard to do when there’s one missing, there will always be one missing. Forever.

Let’s not forget Christmas. ‘Tis the season of opening boxes filled with decorations and ornaments that all have some significance, some emotional purpose. So many that were handmade by my children or personalized with their names or purchased with some aspect of their personalities in mind. Then there’s the stocking with his name on it. The pictures with Santa.

Christmas used to be my favorite holiday. Now I can barely muster excitement; I almost want it to hurry up and go away, move on. Which I hate because that isn’t fair to the one child I have left, or the rest of my family for that matter.

So, like I did my first year trying to figure out the way down this fork in the road created by my son’s decision to leave us forever, I will try to find bits of happiness and joy, hopefully new experiences, new traditions that won’t hurt quite so much.

That’s all any of us can do: Try.

Tami Lund Headshot 2014

Tami Lund sometimes writes reflective, depressing blogs, but the books she writes are anything but. You should sign up for her newsletter, so you get first dibs on the cool new stuff she puts out: http://www.subscribepage.com/Tami_Lund

Back to School Blues…Not This Time

My daughter has started seventh grade. For those who haven’t been reading my blog posts for the past year and a half, that’s the grade my son was in when he ended his life.

He was also thirteen; an October baby, so we didn’t start him in kindergarten until he was five turning six. My daughter, on the other end of the spectrum, is a summer baby, so she’s twelve, won’t be thirteen until a couple weeks after she’s finished seventh grade.

Which means I get to stress out and worry she’ll do the same thing for two years, not one.

I mean, I know I shouldn’t be worried. I’ve said it before and it bears repeating: She is not him. Whereas his glass was perpetually half empty and steadily leaking, hers is overflowing. Whereas he was almost constantly miserable with life, she embraces life, loves to be happy.

She’s not him.

Of course, as I’m the mother of a deceased child; forced to figure out how to raise the other one despite the dredges of grief that permeate our lives, I can tell myself that all day long (and I do), but it doesn’t really matter. I will still worry. I mean, it’s a mother’s nature to worry even without such a tragedy smacking me upside the head.

So far I’m good today, though. I dropped her off a short while ago, and I’m sitting on my back porch, drinking my coffee, feeling that eternal guilt because I didn’t stop by to visit my son’s grave after leaving the school. But the thing is, I wasn’t crying. I didn’t feel sad. In fact, I was excited for my daughter to go back to school. Yesterday she was chatting on the phone with one of her school chums and I could hear the excitement in her voice. She couldn’t wait to hang out with her buds again.

And I didn’t want to ruin my own tentative happiness by deliberately seeking out the reminder of my devastating loss.

So I came home. And now I’m hanging out with the dog, going to add some words to my latest work-in-progress. And later this afternoon, I’ll go pick up the kid, listen to her stories about school, about her friends, about the plans and goals for this upcoming year. I’m going to focus on the living, on the child who’s still here.

And breathe a very large sigh of relief that her glass is still far more than half full.

Tami Lund Headshot 2014

 

Tami Lund is an author, an award winner, a wine drinker, and a grieving mother. Blogging helps with the grieving process, so thanks for reading.

Suicide is Not the Coolest Way to Die

I get it; you’re depressed.

Okay, no I don’t. I admit, I’ve never felt that way. I’ve never been in that deep, dark pit, so far down you can’t even see the light, let alone convince yourself it still exists … somewhere. I’ve never felt like everyone in the entire world was against me, that it will never, ever get better, and the absolute best choice of the myriad around me is to end it all. To leave this world. Because I’ll be better off; everyone will be better off.

I don’t know how that feels. But I know how it feels to be the one you left behind.

I know what it feels like to receive a phone call that cannot possibly, by any remote stretch of the imagination be true. I know what it feels like to stare at your dead child’s body, dressed in his nicest shirt and tie, lying in a ridiculously overpriced casket we bought two days prior and that’s about to head to the fiery oven at the local cremation company.

I know what it’s like to get a call only a few hours after your child killed himself, asking if you’d be willing to donate his organs to someone who is still alive, who gets to keep on living, whose parents still get to hug their son or daughter. Joke with them. Talk with them. Love them.

And I know what it’s like to tell that person that I cannot possibly make this decision right now because I haven’t even accepted that he’s actually dead. And then they tell you how sorry they are but the organs are only viable for a certain length of time and as difficult as it is, this gets to be the very first in a long list of extremely hard and far too real decisions you have to make over the course of an incredibly short timeframe.

I know what it’s like to be a control freak planner who hands over every possible decision to the funeral director and the priest because there are some choices that are impossible to make when you’re the mother of a dead child and it’s bad enough you actually have to be there, to participate in the ritual of burying your own son. No, I do not care what song you play at the funeral. I’m not even supposed to be here.

I know what it’s like to walk through a room full of rows upon rows of coffins, and have to select the one your son will be laid out in, will be cremated in. I know what’s it’s like to choose one of them, to have that surreal conversation with your husband, in which you actually say the words, “It’s a beautiful casket. It suits him.”

I know what it’s like to greet people for eight straight hours—except for those few minutes you sneak out to the parking lot to drink wine straight from the bottle—greeting people you don’t know, people you haven’t seen in forever, people you love to see and wish you could actually hang out with without this shroud of sadness hovering right behind you.

I know what it’s like to have someone you don’t know sidle up to you and say, “So, tell me how it happened.”

I know what it’s like to watch helplessly while your husband, your father, your brother, your best friend break down in tears because goddamn it, it’s real and how the hell did something like this happen to us, our family?

I know what it’s like to ask why a thousand times a day, every day. I know what it’s like to ask what if just as frequently. Possibly more. What it’s like to relive that day, that week, over and over and over until you almost crave that moment when you get to die so you can see him again.

I know what it’s like to wish and wish and wish and then lose faith because wishes don’t come true. I know what it’s like to live your life without a piece of your heart. It used to walk around on the outside; now it walks around in heaven. At least I hope that’s where it is.

I know what it’s like to experience happiness, only to have the tainted memory of the son I lost slap that happiness out of the way. I know now that I will never again experience pure, unadulterated joy. Every significant event, moment, situation, every single aspect of my life will be clouded with the memory of what I had, what I lost, what I can never ever get back.

My son.

So yes, you’re depressed, and it sucks. And I don’t know how to help you, other than to tell you there are a ton of professionals who have spent a fair portion of their lives studying how to make you better, who might possibly be able to shed some light—literally. Give you some light, some hope, a reason to keep plugging along, to try to find that sweet spot, that place where it isn’t quite as bad as the demons make it out to be.

And if nothing else, think about the people you will leave behind. The ones you think will be better off. And read this post again, and tell me how much better off they will be.

Tami Lund Headshot 2014

 

Tami Lund. Author. Wine drinker. Award winner. Depressing blogger. But that’s how she gets through life. How she brings you the fabulous happily ever afters she provides as often as life allows.

 

 

Grief Gone Public

I recently read a blog post about a family who wrote an obituary calling out bullies. The obituary was for a teenager who had committed suicide.

Here’s the post (which includes the obit) from a blog called For Every Mom: http://foreverymom.com/family-parenting/sadie-riggs-obituary-is-going-viral-and-we-all-need-to-read-it-to-our-kids/

I spotted it in my Facebook feed and I hovered, considered whether I wanted to delve into this world I try on a daily—minutely—basis to avoid/forget/ignore.

I scrolled past. I came back. I hovered some more. And finally, I took a deep breath and clicked the link. And afterward, I closed it, shut down my phone, and went about my day, pretending I wasn’t thinking about what I just read.

About making sure your kids are aware of, understand the consequences of bullying, of suicide. The article cried out for all parents to talk to their kids about such important, life-altering matters.

Let’s be honest: My daughter has been slapped in the face with suicide. She understands better than the vast majority of kids her age what it feels like when someone close to you chooses that path in life—rather, to end their far-too-short life in such a way. She watches her parents, her grandparents, our friends, aunts, uncles, everyone around us struggle with managing the fall out created by suicide. It’s been fifteen months, and we still deal with it, some of us still haven’t fully accepted it, and all of us wish on a daily basis our lives—his life—had not taken that sharp curve that occurred when my son decided ending his life was the most optimal answer at that moment in time.

I feel reasonably certain this will not be my daughter’s first choice—or even on the list of options—in the eventual likelihood of her life becoming seemingly too tough to handle at some point down the line.

But that’s just her. What about other kids, the ones who were my son’s friends, or any child who has ever experienced something so difficult they are seriously contemplating a choice that has consequences that can never, ever be undone?

For the record, we have no idea why my son made such a monumental, earth-shattering, and incredibly wrong decision that day a little over a year ago. We have no proof bullying was involved. During the week after it happened, other parents from his school went online, screamed bullying, called the local media, and attempted to pull together a rally or picket line at the school to protest … what, I’m not sure.

Can schools do more to be on the look out for bullying? Yes. Can parents? Yes. Can everyone? Yes.

We can also conserve more water, eat better, spend more time at home and less at work … the list goes on. No one is perfect, and everyone can do something better.

Do I believe my son was bullied to death? No.

Am I being naïve or living in denial? Possibly.

What we do believe, in retrospect, which really sucks, because damn, if only we’d acknowledged these things a year, a month, an hour earlier…what we do believe is that he suffered from mental illness. Depression, maybe. Probably. Likely. There definitely were demons in his head. Loud, obnoxious, insistent monsters who convinced him they were right over all the people around him, people who loved him, who only wanted the best for him. Who wanted him to hang out on this earth for far more than thirteen pitifully short years.

Once upon a time, he was an easy-going baby. Took to breast-feeding with ease. Slept through the night before I went back to work. Smiled a lot. Was incredibly smart, super happy. I remember someone—no idea who—warned me that if he was an easy baby, he’d be a difficult teen.

Oh, were they ever right.

I’m pretty sure it started in fourth grade, but was definitely in full swing by fifth. And controlled his life by seventh, which is when the demons finally won.

Those bastards.

The anger. The misery. The refusal to be talked down once he’d worked himself up over something incredibly small or petty or insignificant. In November, 2015, four months before he’d make true on his words, during a heated argument with his dad and me, he screamed, “I wish I could kill myself.” Furious at such a horrible proclamation, we sent him to his room, told him he couldn’t come out again until he was reasonable. We didn’t know that to the demons whispering in his head, that was reasonable.

We thought he was being an angsty teenager, and we event said we couldn’t wait for him to outgrow this phase, so he’d be fun to be around again.

But he never outgrew it, and those asshole demons won. Somehow, some way, they convinced him he’d be better off—we’d be better off—without him.

They were wrong. And now it’s too late to convince my son, to somehow figure out how to prove it to him.

But it’s not too late for you, if you’re reading this. I have no idea how to shut up those demons—whether external or internal—but I do know what this world will be like if you let them talk you into leaving it.

It will suck. So much more than it does right now.

So talk to someone. Anyone. While I don’t know how to fix it, I know there are experts who can. Talk. To. Someone. And most importantly: Keep living. You’ll be glad you did.

I promise.

If you need them, here are a few options. I do not condone any over the other. I’m just giving you choices, because the demons aren’t right.

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org

https://afsp.org

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/suicide-prevention/index.shtml

http://www.sprc.org

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/suicide-prevention/suicide-prevention.htm

 

 

 

It’s Been A Pretty Decent Week…So Far

Yes, this is a bit preemptive, given it’s, well, Monday, but I’ve had a pretty decent week so far. Considering the anniversary that’s happening in a couple days, I figure I should take what I can get.

Granted, it didn’t start out fabulously, what with the one-and-a-half hour commute to the day job, slipping and sliding along unsalted and unplowed roads due to early morning snow showers (that lasted all day, by the way – WTF, Mother Nature? Don’t you know it’s almost spring??). But after that, things got better.

Not the weather, though. Actually, it’s still snowing. And while it’s pretty, IT’S MARCH, FOR GOD’S SAKE, MOTHER NATURE! (Also, it sucks to drive in snow. Even if you’ve done it for most of your driving life.)

Let me count the positives, in hopes they hold up against that big, fat negative. Or at least help me get through it…

A sweet text from the bestie. “Going to check up on you over the next couple of days. Fair warning.” No, she’s not a stalker. She just loves me, and knows this is going to be one rough week.

A royalty check in the mail. (A small one, but hey, we’re counting every little positive here.)

A card full of tiny paper hearts from my husband’s bestie (Is it cool to call guys ‘besties’? Or does that make it weird?), with a note that said, “Sometimes life is just bullshit.” So, so true. But friends who send you cards like that are the silver lining.

And the best news of all: My daughter has been invited to apply to become a member of the National Junior Honor Society! I couldn’t be more proud, and the timing couldn’t be better. As sad as this week will inevitably become, I’m celebrating the moment. My wonderful tribe. And my beautiful daughter and her accomplishments. Honestly, I would have been pleased as punch if her brother were still around to share in this joy (he was NJHS too), but I confess, this little thrill is even more impactful now.

I’m sure I’ll be drowning in the sadness in the next couple days, but for now … It’s been a pretty damn decent week.

Tami Lund Headshot 2014

 

Tami Lund is an author who drinks wine, wins awards, and writes happily ever afters. She also sends cool newsletters. You should signup: http://www.subscribepage.com/Tami_Lund

March Is Madness, But I’ll Be Okay…Eventually

It’s March. The worst month of the year. Which isn’t a fair assessment, generally speaking. March means spring, warm weather is coming. My dad’s birthday is in March; so is my husband’s and several other friends. St. Patrick’s Day. March Madness. Daylight Savings Time.

And my son died on March 15th, last year.

It’s weird. I cannot tell you what I did day by day, in these two weeks leading up to The Worst Day of My Life, but right now, every single day, I relive those few moments when it happened, over and over, a video stuck on repeat and I can’t figure out how to shut it off.

The exact moment when the call came through, as I was driving home from work. My daughter’s breathless voice blaring out of the speaker in the car. “Mom, Brady tried to kill himself!”

Me, instantly annoyed. “That’s not funny. Not even remotely. Don’t ever tell jokes like that again.”

Her, insisting she wasn’t kidding, then telling me to hurry up and get home, and then hanging up on me. My heart, starting to pound uncomfortably fast, even as I immediately began to tell myself it wasn’t true, it was a sick joke, and oh boy, was she going to be in trouble when I got home.

But I started calling anyway. Called the house phone, my husband’s cell, the neighbor whose kids were at my house at the time. No one answered. My heart rate increased, I almost felt like I couldn’t breathe. And I still kept telling myself it wasn’t true. It was a joke. A horrible, horrible joke.

My husband finally called back, and my greeting was, “What’s going on? Reagan called and said Brady tried to commit suicide. What the hell is she talking about?”

“She’s right,” he said. “Hurry up and get here.”

“What?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know why. Just get home.”

“Is he…”

“I don’t know. The ambulance just left, took him to the hospital. I’m waiting on you, so we can go together. The neighbors have Reagan. Just get here.”

And then the line went dead. Just like my son. My entire life, altered forever, in a way that can never be fixed. Death is rather permanent; the one aspect of life we can’t fix or change or get back.

So if I seem a little out of sorts these next couple weeks, I hope you’ll forgive me. Like every other aspect of grieving so far, I don’t really know how to handle this, as it’s my first time going through it. His birthday was, thus far, the hardest day since his death, but I have a feeling March 15 will be even worse, at least this year. As it turns out, the pain of losing your child is substantially worse than the pain of bringing them into this world. This pain never goes away, because everything went away that day.

So be patient, bear with me. I’ll be back to normal in a few weeks. At least, this new version of normal.

 

Tami Lund Headshot 2014

Tami Lund is an author of books with happy endings, and a blogger of depressing real-life subjects. She also drinks a lot of wine, but I’m sure you’ll agree that can be forgiven. After her blog post makes you cry, I recommend trying one of her books, to lift your spirits again. Because that’s why she writes: To make you smile, and help us all escape reality for a while.

 

“Oh My God, The Tree Just Fell Over”

It wasn’t the dog.

When our Christmas tree crashed to the floor in the living room only minutes after we’d finished decorating it, for a brief moment in time, it felt like my entire world was crashing down around me.

Again.

The day had been hard enough. First, there were the tears when my daughter asked, “Why does church make you said, Mom?” To which I replied, “Because when I’m there, all I hear is, ‘sacrifice your only begotten son.’”

Then we headed out to the tree farm, a different one from where we usually went, and this time, we tagged along with my brother and his family. It was just different enough to be fun, tainted by only a shadow of sadness.

Until we got home. Until I began carrying boxes upstairs from the basement. Until I opened that first one, and staring up at me was a homemade decoration, naturally, from my son. And so I cried as I sifted through the ornaments and decorations and prepared to dress the tree.

I tucked away the stocking, the Christmas memories booklet he’d made for me when he was five, and the mat for Santa’s cookies, which says, “To Santa, from Brady.” But we added the personalized ornaments to the tree, and I cried some more as I thought about each memory, the reason behind each purchase. A yellow school bus for the year he went to kindergarten. The steam engine for the train phase. “Bah humbug” from last year, when he was cranky more than he wasn’t.

I cried and drank wine and pushed through because my daughter was having such a fun time making the tree look pretty. She and I even added the lights this year, a job usually reserved for my husband. But he was outside putting lights up on the house for the first time in a few years, so we certainly weren’t about to complain.

The tree was full and there were only a few ornaments left, and we joked that we had no more room. And then the phone rang, my mother calling. I don’t even remember why she called or what we talked about. All I know is my daughter and husband were in the kitchen, the dog was curled in her bed, and I was standing in the hallway, staring at the brightly lit tree as it crashed to the floor.

“What was that?” my mother asked.

“Oh my God, the tree just fell over.”

“Bye,” she said, and I dropped the phone. The dog ran into her crate, her safe place. My daughter rushed into the room and dropped to her knees amongst the shattered remains of seventeen years’ worth of Christmas memories, lamenting most especially the loss of the Bronner’s ornaments, the big, fat ones with our names scrawled across the front. Every one except my husband’s (his name is Chris) had to be special ordered because we don’t have typical names.

The train didn’t make it, along with a dozen others. The one with an eight-point buck we’d bought my husband the year he’d shot his first deer. The dog-loving one we’d purchased not two weeks prior for my daughter. I’m honestly not even sure which others didn’t survive. Many were little more than dust when we pulled the tree upright and discovered it had a twisted trunk, and by setting it straight in the stand, we’d actually made it top-heavy. The only way we were able to get it to stay upright was by shoving a pile of newspapers under one side of the stand.

I admit, I lost it that evening. Once the tree was no longer in danger of falling over, I sank to the floor and sobbed. Admittedly, this isn’t unusual, not since March, although I usually go off and hide so no one has to experience the rather un-pretty sight. My daughter hates to see me cry, and tends to hide her own sadness as a result, and I don’t want her to bottle things up the way so many of us do. And my husband isn’t a fan of feeling helpless, and that’s exactly how he feels whenever I cry, a phenomenon he’d rarely experienced prior to this year.

And then my husband walked over, offered me a hand, and pulled me up and into his arms. He let me soak his shirt for a few minutes, and then he said, “We’ll replace the name ornaments. All four.” And I cried harder. So he said, “Hey, you’re the one who said you wanted to do something different this year.”

And we laughed. All three of us.

The cleanup was still hard. There were more tears. I’m still heartbroken over the loss of the physical reminders of those memories. And I’m also admittedly relieved that I don’t have to open those boxes next year and see quite so many of those reminders of what I’ve lost.

When it was finally done, the cleanup and the redecorating of the tree, after we tucked our daughter into bed and my husband wandered off to do who knows what, I stood in the dark in the living room and stared at the tree. There were still plenty of ornaments; it didn’t look sparse at all. A cursory examination of the remaining ornaments told me many of those that broke were representations of my son’s life.

2016-xmas-tree

It wasn’t the dog, but I kept wondering … Was it something else?

I’m sure it won’t surprise you that I’ve been in therapy since this past spring. I’ve discussed signs with my therapist. “Everyone talks about receiving a sign that their loved one is happy and well up in heaven,” I’ve told her. “I want a sign. Why haven’t I had a sign?”

I think this was my sign. I admit, I was expecting a shooting star or something equally as profound and benign. But this … this was exactly the sort of sign my son would send.

“I’m trying to make you less sad, Mom,” was what I think he’s trying to tell me, in his typically convoluted way.

I’ll take it.

So no, it wasn’t the dog. And yes, we’re pulling together, finding the joy in this holiday season. Wherever we can. However we can.

Oh, and by the way, ‘Bah Humbug’ survived the crash.

ba-humbug

 

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