Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Been Away

I have been away for so long, I am not sure that I will have any followers left at this point. I haven't even found the time to follow the blogs that I loved and inspired me so much. I think I got a little overwhelmed (which isn't hard to do) during a few "Friday Follows".

My life has not been my own. I have not been in control. I mentioned to someone the other day that I feel like I am on a merry-go-round, reaching for something solid to stop, and when I grab it, it just yanks on my arm, kind of pulling it out of the socket. It may slow me down a little, but I am still spinning. And the fact that the merry-go-round is going slower now, it allows for other things to pile on. I am feeling like I can't win.

I have set a goal to really write again. So I will mention what has been going on, then really take the time to "put it all out there"... maybe this weekend.

Besides missing my son... I am going through a divorce. We were separated when I started the blog, and didn't feel it was right to air dirty laundry, when it wasn't just my laundry to air. We were keeping things quiet until we knew what the outcome would be. Before we can get divorced, we are having to file for bankruptcy. Before we can file for bankruptcy, we are having to take care of some tax issues. My life is in a holding pattern. Then of course there is the crazy schedule of 4 teenage boys and the one woman taxi service.

Lately I have been dwelling on missing Andrew. Flipping through the pages of his scrapbook. Staring at his pictures. Wondering what he would be doing, if he were here. Wondering what he is doing in Heaven. What does he look like. Smiling with that lump in my throat. Rising above it, acting like that life doesn't exist. Swimming as fast as I can, against the current. Trying to do it ALL!

Blogging really helped me get in touch with my feelings and not feel so overwhelmed. Maybe that is why I feel like I can't get on top of things. So I will add blogging back to the crazy life in an attempt to make it a little less crazy.

It is good to be back. Talk to you soon.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Event Center

I had an experience last night that I expected to be strange, and it did not dissapoint. I was fortunate enought to be invited to a lovely wedding. The bride was beautiful. The event center was beautiful. Everything was beautiful.

So why was this strange?

The beautiful event center was formerly Heideman Mortuary. The mortuary that handled Andrew's funeral. I had not been back there since I paid the final bill. The center looked completely different...BUT as I wandered around I could still make out some of the vivid memories. Where Andrew's casket was for the viewing, now a beautiful dining room table. Where the people lined up to greet us, now a beautiful staicase. Where the chapel was, now a dance floor. The elevator that took us down stairs to see our son and dress him, still an elevator. The TV still had a video on it, but instead of the past life of a boy whose life on earth has ended, a video of two people's past lives that are starting a new one, together. And I even thought...the freezers. A walkin freezer that once contained my son's body, now holds food for a wedding.

The whole idea seemed so strange to me. I was preoccupied.

With errands and things to do, I did not get home for a few hours. I showered and got ready for bed, then looked at Andrew's scrapbook that I have started. I am so sad that he is gone. Sometimes it does not seem real. I look at the pictures of him in his casket and ask myself "Is he really gone?" "Did it really happen?" And the lump in my throat, that I fight, reminds me of how real it really is.

I think of the "events" in our life that Andrew will not be here for. His brother's and sister's weddings. Graduations. Missionary farewells. Births of neices and nephews. It makes me ache for him.

So, to not give in to the self pity, and tears. I quickly went to bed, to sleep the bad dream away. I love sleep. It is my best defense mechanism.

Andrew, today I miss all the past events in our life that we shared, and the future events that I will experience without you here, but with you in my heart. I love you.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Memorial Day

I have been thinking about posting this thought since...well ugh...Memorial Day.

I have a strong opinion about Memorial day. I think it is the perfect day to remember and recognize our soldiers who have lost their lives in the line of duty, as well as recognize those that have survived and are serving. I do not, however feel that we should feel obligated to grieve publicly for our own losses on that day.

Mothers who have lost children grieve for their lost children the other 364 days of the year, and should not feel obligated to go to the grave, etc., that day.

I have a good friend who lost her son 18 years ago. She has since moved away from where he is buried. She was feeling an overwhelming sense of guilt for not being able to visit him or decorate his grave on Memorial Day. But he is not there. He is with her, where ever she is. Her son loves her and knows that she loves him. I am sure he does not care if she is able to drive the several hours it would take for her to put flowers on his grave. We all put flowers and decorations on our childrens' graves everyday in our broken hearts.

On the flip side, I did not plan to go to Andrew's grave on Memorial Day this year. However, I was in the area of the cemetary, and had about an hour until I was supposed to meet my husband and son at the movie theater. I did not want to waste the gas to drive home and back, so I decided to visit Andrew's grave. When I got there, the cemetary must have conducted a cemetary clean up and his grave was void of any decorations. I do feel a sense of guilt, or dissapointmet, when his grave isn't decorated. I know Andrew doesn't care, but in a way, I don't want him to think I have forgotten him or put him on the back burner. And yet, I know he hears my every thought, and knows the grief in my heart.

Andrew knows I think of him all 365 days of the year, all 24 hours of every day, all 60 minutes of every hour, and all 60 seconds of every minute.

And if I don't decorate his grave on Memorial Day, because someone says that is what I am supposed to do, I should not feel guilty, and I do not love my son any less.

I don't usually rant, and I hope this doesn't sound like such.

So mothers, grieve when you want to greive, and how you wnt to grieve. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Greeting the Sun

Once upon a time I used to write poetry.

I thought I would like to try writing a song about losing my son. I even thought I would like to try to make a whole CD for othere grieving parents. I know that you are supposed to write the tune then the lyrics, but...since I don't know how to write music, lyrics is as far as I got. The CD may not happen unless I learn how to write music.

So I thought I would share.

Greeting the Sun

Making my shield to the world,
I’m pulling the sheets up tight,
Trying to forget you’re gone,
But I’m not winning the fight.
You’re all around in my room,
You are every where I look.
On the floor, your crumpled clothes,
the table, your fav’rite book.

Shades are holding back the sun,
While lying in this cold bed.
Didn’t really sleep last night,
With your mem’ry in my head.
With this aching in my heart,
Don’t think I can greet this day.
Feeling empty in my sole.
I’m sleeping the pain away.

The sun can’t find me here
I’m alone in the dark.
Sun please don’t find me here,
I’m not ready to start,
Op’ning my heart, sharing with friends,
Taking on this new day.
Living my life, greeting the sun,
Pretending that I’m o.k.

People say get out of bed,
I can’t find the will to try.
Feeling like I just can’t live,
I am wishing I could die.
I won’t make it with you gone,
No way can I make it through.
Won’t you please come back to me?
Or just take me there with you?

The sun can’t find me here
I’m alone in the dark.
Sun please don’t find me here,
I’m not ready to start,
Op’ning my heart, sharing with friends,
Taking on this new day.
Living my life, greeting the sun,
Pretending that I’m o.k.

You break through the tears I cry
To say:
“My mem’ry can’t live when you choose to die.”

Revised Chorus:
I’ll let the sun find me here
To brighten up the dark.
Sun will you please find me here
I’m ready to start,
Op’ning my heart, sharing with friends,
Taking on this new day.
Living my life, greeting the sun,
Learning I’ll be o.k.

Op’ning my heart, sharing with friends,
Taking on this new day.
Living my life, greeting the sun,
Knowing I’ll be o.k….

Someday…..… I’ll be o.k.

Friday, May 7, 2010


Why is it that the minute we post that we are doing well, (or better) that the world seems to start crashing down upon us? It is as though somebody heard and said,"Oops, didn't realize she was doing so well. Time for some more character building."

I firmly believe that people who have lost children should be exempt from any more trials in their life. Grief is an ongoing trial, and there should not be room for more.

I don't post EVERYTHING in my life, to protect those that are a part of my blog not by choice, but because they are my family. Blogg subjects by association. My family tends to get upset with me because I say WAY too much to people.

But this time, I choose to put it out there. I know, to those of you who know me...big shocker!

1 week ago today, at 2:15 pm, my 15 year old son ran away. He has called a few times to let me know he is ok, but loves having the life of no rules or responisibilies. At first I was upset and pleading with him to come home. Now I have turned angry and have been letting him know that. I am frustrated. And my anger isn't winning him over. Go figure.

Yesterday my husband was able to talk him into meeting him for lunch to try to talk him into coming home. During that time the police called to check on Garrett's status. Since he agreed to eat lunch with Greg, he is no longer considered a runaway and was taken off of the missing list. Which I am not sure what difference that makes anyway. If he is found by the police he is just turned over to us, then he can run away again. So I guess until he wants to come home, it doesn't really matter if he is a "missing person" or not.

So mostly I am upset with the fact that I have yet another trial in my life. Sometimes I will list the crappy milestones of my life to a complete stanger and they will just look at me like I am crazy. How am I still standing? And with a smile and a chuckle I will either say "It wouldn't be my life if it wasn't crappy" or "What doesn't kill us makes us stronger."

Throught it all, my testimony stays in tact, and I smile most of the time. I just think, I have learned enough for a while, and I would like a summer vacation from this school of life.

Thanks for listening to my whyning.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


A few nights ago, I walked into Wal-Mart. I was alone. This is most unusual for me, as someone always wants to get out of the house, even if it just to go to Wal-Mart. However, I was alone.

I walked in, and I was overcome with grief, missing Andrew. It was not an anniversary of any kind. It was not Andrew's birthday. There was not a little boy that reminded me of him. I did not see any of Andrew's high school friends. There was no explanation for my grief. Well, no explanation, except for the fact, that in my chest, I carry a broken heart. But I still didn't understand why now? Why am I sad now?

I wandered aimlessly through the aisles. I already had the few items I had come for, and a few more (as is always the case at Wal-Mart). But I continued to wander as if I was searching for the one thing to cease the pain.

Floods of emotion continued to consume me, as if in waves. I would feel the tide roll in. I was quick though. A few deep breaths, and I could hold it back. I did not want to become a sobbing mess in the electronics department. So with deep breaths, and deep concentration, I was able to control the storm.

I found myself in front of the books. This is rediculous, because I do not like to read. I am a slow reader, and my mind wanders. In school I always tried to get by, reading just the cliff notes.

And yet, I have a compulsion to read. All of a sudden, I have 5 books on my list.

This may seem small and insignificant, but at this very moment I have the overwhelming desire to become actively engaged in my life. Standing there in Wal-Mart, I want to read, write, speak, serve, enjoy... LIVE! Goals and desires are flooding my mind. I can hardly wait to embark on my life.

Sunday morning no one wanted to go to church. Everyone had their own legitimate ailment. Normally I would have used this as an excuse to sleep in. But today, I looked forward to church. I arrived 20 minutes early and enjoyed the prelude music. I listened to the choir practice. I decided that it was time to start singing again. I remember when I loved to sing solos. I could always feel the spirit. Now, I struggle to sing, without crying. So for 3 years, I have not sung. I called the choir director, and will join the choir.

The lessons and speakers all had the perfect message. That night I chose to go to a fireside on the Atonement.

I am so grateful for Christ and his sacrifice. Through Andrew, I feel closer to Him. Andrew is passing on my hopes, fears, and dreams to Him, while reminding me that He is there for me, waiting for me to partake. With Him, I am becoming actively engaged in my life.

The flowers seem so bright today. I feel as though I can not take it all in. The beauty of the world is overwhelming.

I opened my window as I drift off to sleep. The crickets seem to be singing a lullaby just for me.

It is amazing to me that this world has been here for me, all of this time. Where have I been? Where I have been, has brought me to where I am now.

I am here, and I am ready.

Monday, April 5, 2010


I have been reading all the Easter blogs from all the other mothers today. I am staarting to feel really inadequate. All these amazing women who share how grateful they are for the resurrection and did all these beautiful easter traditions. And then I reflect on myself.

I was one of those people who loved holidays. I would sew themed halloween costumes for my kids and they would win contests. My poor kids didn't get to choose what they wanted to be. I would inform them, "This year we are doing the Wizard of OZ. Jessica, obviously you will be Dorothy. Andrew you will be the Tin man, Warner you will be the scarecrow. And Garrett, you will be the lion." The next year, "Poccahantis." The next year "Peanut's Gang." ETC.! My husband and boys think that all the silly decorations of holidays are useless and hide them from me. But I would always fight, and get my way, even if I have to hang the lights on the house myself. But not anymore. I seem to have lost my fight.

I always had this Christmas clock that would chime every hour with a different carol. I found out after christmas that it broke and was thrown away. I didn't even notice it was missing until January. I hung the lights on the house, but they didn't work and never bothered to figure out why. I've started just giving the kids the cash for Christmas, where I used to love shopping for the perfect gift. I have become lazy about it.

Saturday night about 10:00 I decided that I had better get a few pieces of candy for the kids for Easter in the morning. At least go through the motions. So I got the few things that were left at Wal-Mart. Only spent about $10, and they each got about 10 pieces of candy. Then they had to get 3 bingo's in conference bingo on Sunday before they could have their candy. It is as though holidays don't exhist in our house any more.

I just feel bad that I am not the same bubbly holiday person that I once was. Are my kids suffering, or do they even care? I dread holidays now. It feels like work and pressure. And the sad thing is, I thought I was in a different place. I thought I was doing so well. I guess how I handle holidays isn't the grand measure of how I am doing, but I want to be like all those other amazing angel moms.

Please don't get me wrong about Easter though. I am so grateful for Christ and His atoning sacrifice. I am so grateful that I will see my son again. I believe it is all true. I just don't feel like I have the energy to display it even though it is swelling in my heart.

So to any of you Angel moms out there that read this, You are my hero today! Thank you for being such a great example.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Andrew's Angel Day

I have determined that the expectations that I put on Andrew’s Angel day are way too high. I go out of my way trying to make it such a special day, that of course it will fall short.

In the past the boys have gone on a “ride” on both Andrew’s birthday and his Angel Day. But this year we had no working machines so that was not a possibility. So instead, I tried to do things that I knew deep down the boys would not appreciate, or even enjoy, and somehow, because I wanted them to enjoy it, miraculously they would. I must remember that they are still teenage boys, and hanging out with their friends ranks much higher on their list than going to the grave with the family.

So in my clouded wisdom, the first stop was to get CTR rings. I saw some great rings that you can’t even tell that they are CTR rings, which is good, because my boys wouldn’t be caught dead in CTR rings. Lately my boys haven’t been making the best choices, so I thought, if they got CTR rings to remember Andrew, this would help them want to make better choices so we all can return with Andrew someday. They appeased me, because are they really going to tell me “no” on Andrew’s Angel Day? I don’t know why I thought they would be excited about the idea. So I kept asking them over and over, “Do you like your ring?” Duh! Have I not lived with these boys their entire life? They kept saying yes, and are still wearing them, but I am waiting for the day they just lose them.

Next stop was the grave. I have always known the kids opinion about the grave, and yet, I am sure they are going to love decorating it for Easter. We did, and it was fine, but not the “moment” I was hoping for.

They all goofed around blowing the air horns and shooting each other with the dart guns that they conned us into buying at the Dollar Store. Which truthfully, what do I want? Do I want them to stand around and cry? No. Then how can my expectations be met, if I don’t really know what I want? I am sure they are acting exactly how Andrew would like them to act. It isn’t like we need to stand around and “reflect” because we reflect all of the time. So, ultimately I should be happy with how the grave went. I also picked one of each color of the plastic Easter eggs and set them on Wyatt’s grave. As I set them down, I thought they seemed more fitting on Wyatt’s grave, since he would only be 2 ½, where Andrew would now be 18 ½, and would probably have nothing to do with silly colored eggs.

Then Garrett went to hang out with some friends, and the rest of us went to the gym. It began to feel like “just any other day” at this point.

On Saturday, I just felt uneasy, as if I didn’t really experience Andrew’s angel day. So I decided to go to the grave by myself. I took a folding chair and my iPod and just enjoyed my surroundings. I listened to my favorite song, “Heaven Was Needing a Hero”. I cried, and that made me feel better. I walked around a little.

I noticed another family with several members at a grave. I felt somehow connected to them. I wondered if it was an angel day or a birthday. I wondered if it was a parent, a spouse, or another child. It’s not like you can just walk up and say “hello. What brings you here?” I am sure there is a rule about that somewhere. They were still there when I left so I didn’t go by to look at the headstone, but decided that I would the next time I went out there.

Some guy rode up on his bike, walked all around, and talked, nonsense, loudly on his cell phone. I started to get irritated. Doesn’t he know I am grieving for my son? I did feel he was being rude. But I didn’t say anything, and left.

On Sunday, my mom called and said that they went to Andrew’s grave. They asked if I had ever noticed this one or that one. Then they asked about the very grave that I was noticing on Saturday. It was the grave of a 15-year-old girl that died the day after my 15-year-old Andrew. I thought, how could I not have heard about this? I understand the thought that it was the day after Andrew died, and I am not sure I would have noticed if the earth stopped turning. Which, for me, it did quit turning. But I really think I would have heard about another 15-year-old dying the day after my 15-year-old. I googled her name, trying to learn what I could about this girl. I came up empty handed. It is crazy what drives bereaved mothers? I have to go up to the grave tonight to make sure I have the spelling right and see what I can find out. I worry that people reading this will think that I am this crazy stalker. But I mean, it is another teenager, the day after mine, in the same cemetery, in a town as small as St. George. I have to know! I can’t help that I feel connected? Are we connected? Or am I just crazy. I am hoping it is a little of both.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Food for thought

This post is more about food than it is for thought. I have come to the realization that I have absolutely no control over food.

There are times that I have become completely dedicated to a weight loss program and lost the appropriate amount of weight. The very next day I am gorging myself with all of the items that I have been deprived of. Although I think I have always had this tendency, since Andrew died, I have spun out of control. It started when I would bury my grief in a tub of ice cream. I would roboticaly shovel the ice cream straight from the carton into my mouth. I would bake and eat a chocolate sheath cake every day for months.

Then disgusted with myself, and trying to prove that I was above this, I would deprive myself and lose the weight....and then gain the weight all over again.

Today was the day that I was going to eat right. I even talked to my sister, and she was going to be my support. But then, I saw the menu at work and decided I couldn't pass up the meatball sandwich. Yesterday I couldn't pass up the chili cheese dog. And now I feel SICK! And somewhere in the back of my head I am justifying that it is ok because it is Andrew's Angel day is tomorrow. It has been 3 years. No one expects me to eat well when I am anxious about "that day".

How could making myself feel sick possibly make me feel better about losing my son? What is the parallel here? Because I just don't get it. And yet, every time I feel bad, or like I have no control over my life, I eat CRAP.

So the "thought" in the "food for thought" that I have come up with, is that if I feel worse about my food choices, and the pain in my stomach is strong enough, maybe there won't be any room left for the actual grief, therefore I won't have to feel it. That is my uneducated guess.

So tomorrow, on Andrew's Angel day, I will make a conscious effort to have a wonderful day so that I have something wonderful to post. But I don't think I will post what I eat.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Hidden Treasures

It is bitter sweet when I come across something that belonged to Andrew. I like to think of them as hidden treasures. Last week I was cleaning out my closet. Even though I knew it was there, it still caught me by surprise when I pulled out Andrew's backpack. I didn't remember that it was his until I opened it and saw his binders and papers. I looked inside, let the memories flood for a moment, then I zipped it back up and tucked it back to its resting spot in the back of the closet, next to the bag of clothes that Andrew was wearing when he had his accident.

Two nights ago I found another hidden treasure. In my drawer was Andrew's seminary journal. I had to chuckle because every so often there was an entry from the teacher telling Andrew to write more and have better recall. He also told him to stay alert at all times. This made me laugh because I can see him talking to his neighbors, goofing around, or just sleeping. Even with his lack of attention, on August 23, 2006, he wrote this:

"The Spirit world is here. Spirits of dead people hang around the earth. The kingdom of the Lord will protect you. If you never get married in the temple you will be a ministering angel to someone in your family that is righteous."

This was definitely a hidden treasure.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Back to Work

I remember a week after Andrew died, sitting at the little table at the gas station, eating Subway, with Greg. My cell phone rang and it was the manager from Cracker Barrel. He wanted to know when I was coming back to work. He insisted that he was not pressuring me, but I still felt guilt and pressure. He suggested that I just come back to work, and if I need to just sit in my office and cry that would be fine. I remember thinking what possible good could this do? What is the allowed grieving time for a working mother? I guess the textbook says two weeks, because that is what I did.

Andrew died on Monday March 26th and I was back to work on Monday April 9. One day after Greg’s and my 19th wedding anniversary and 2 days before Jessica’s 17th birthday. I don’t think we celebrated either of them.

I remember feeling scared to walk into the front doors of work. I didn’t know how I was going to face everyone. I wanted to go straight to my office and hide. I walked through the kitchen and everyone had the same look on their faces that said everything with out saying anything. I could feel the avoidance. No one knew what to say to me, so they said nothing. A few said, “I’m sorry.” While others said, “How are you?” with their tilted head and “that look.” They were praying that I would just say, “fine” or “good” so they could feel like they had done their part in being concerned, without really having to deal with me. “Fine” or “Good” is pretty much that standard answer that I offered. I would have loved to talk about Andrew, but knew that this was more than anyone could handle.

I am not sure how I didn’t lose my job over the course of the next few months. I was never on time. No one knew whether I was showing up for work or not, or at what time. When I was there I am sure I didn’t do a very good job. I hated every moment I was there. I just wanted to be with my family, in my little bubble.

In May, my sister decided to participate in the triathlon. She, along with several others, was participating in memory of Chris, who died while participating in the swimming portion of the triathlon the year before. I took a few hours off of work to go support her. I watched as she swam out into the lake. The people that swam out with her started coming up out of the water. The people from the next heat were coming up out of the water. She was not coming out of the water. Panic started to set in. It felt as though someone had set a cinderblock on my chest. I was staring to lose it. Had she drown? Had I lost my sister too? Was this even about her? Or was it about Andrew? Or was it about, how I would have to deal with losing them both? Eventually, the boat brought her in. She had been struggling in the water, and after getting kicked in the face one too many times, she was done. The pulled her into the boat. Unfortunately, we had no way of knowing that she was relaxing, out on the boat, while everyone waiting on the shore was having a “come-a-part.”

I left the lake and went back to work. I was a wreck. I was bawling. I called my boss and said that I need to give my notice. I was no longer a functioning, rational person, who could run a retail store. I hadn’t been thinking straight for a long time, and this was my breaking point. When I tried to quit, my boss talked me into taking a medical leave, in hopes that I would want to return. I must have been doing something right, or maybe they hoped that after a leave of absence I would start doing something right again. So I went to a therapist who determined that I qualified for the medical leave because I was depressed. For 13 weeks I was on medical leave. When the medical leave ended, I couldn’t go back. I couldn’t make myself be that functioning person again. At least not yet. I also needed to be with my family and couldn’t bear the thought of 60 – 80 hour weeks. I couldn’t bear the thought of all the time I had lost with Andrew, due to work, and refused for the same thing to happen again with any of my remaining children. So I quit.

Like I said, I have limited memories of life after the funeral. For the next year, most of my memories consist of sleeping, sitting in the recliner, watching TV, and eating ice cream straight from the carton. I ate a lot of ice cream.

Thank you

My memories after the funeral are so limited. I am struggling to recall any given moment. I remember the “hustle and bustle” being over and having the feeling of “now what?” I remember moving to the basement at Greg’s mom’s house and staying in the dark, sleeping. I didn’t know what to do with the rest of my life. Would someone please tell me what I am supposed to do in this situation, so I can please move on to the next phase of my life?

I remember sitting at my mom’s house, on the couch, while my sister wrote the thank you notes for everyone on “my side.” She was more than happy to do them for everyone on “both sides” but Greg felt this was impersonal and thankfully declined. He said that he would do them himself. I knew that I didn’t have the mental capacity to do the thank you notes in the appropriate time frame, if ever at all. I remember wondering if people would be upset if they found out that I didn’t write the notes. I was so grateful for everyone’s generosity. I wanted them to be sure to know how grateful I was. If not for my sister, they would never know. So at the risk of someone thinking I was a slacker, I let my sister write the notes. I know we talked and shared memories of Andrew, but truthfully, I remember mostly nothing from this time.

My sister asked me if I remembered my dad telling me that he didn’t think that it was appropriate for us to use the left-over money that was donated to us to go out to nice dinners. I don’t recall this conversation, but I am sure that my thinking was I feel terrible and if a nice dinner makes me feel better then I am sure it is ok. I wonder, now, if someone may have donated to us, then saw us out eating, and thought, “Well, I guess that is how they are squandering my generous donation.” So I would like to publicly apologize to anyone that may have been offended. The money lifted so many burdens at that time. Between insurance and donations we were able to pay for the entire funeral, pay past due bills, and have some money to live on while I took a leave from work. We were and are eternally grateful.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Funeral

We entered the chapel. Overwhelmed has never been such an inadequate word as it is in this instance. Hundreds, and hundreds, and hundreds, of people overflowed out of the church. More than 500 (June 25th update...I read in my journal that about 1000 people attended)people sat in rows, chairs, on the stage, stood on the sides, stood in the foyer, and waited on the lawn. The sight was incredible. I felt so much love for Andrew and our family. It wasn’t until I stood in front of the congregation to speak that I felt the magnitude of it all. I stood there, and looked out. I looked to the back and sitting in chairs, up on the stage, a sea of football jerseys. Dixie Pride was there for my boy that day. I could barely take it in. I cannot describe the pride and love I felt at that very moment.

Others spoke, I spoke, I am not sure what any of us said. We have an actual video that I keep thinking that I will get out to see if the words that came out of my mouth were even English. Again, one of those “not present” moments.

But what I do remember most…the song. A friend of the family sang a solo, “I Stand All Amazed.” It was a beautiful song…to most. I must explain. She has a very trained, opera-like, voice. And what may be beautiful to some, is just down right funny to three 10 – 14 year old teenage boys. So here we are, in the front row, on display, and it starts. First, the quiet shaking of stifled laughter. Then the snickering. Then the uncontrollable laughter. I am sure Andrew is laughing it up, as well. I am thinking, this is wrong…on so many levels. The boys are actually ducking behind the casket to be out of the eyeshot of the vocalist. I lean over to try to stop the madness. There is no use. So what do I do? I tell them, “Well, at least make it look like you are crying.” Why do I even care at this point what others think? And with that, Dallin (10) puts his arm on the casket, bows his head, and puts on quite the crying (laughing) show. I have to admit, I too was laughing, along with the first few rows that have caught on, by now. I wonder when I tell people this story if they too will think it is funny, or just terrible. But I just find it terribly funny.

The funeral was over. It was 2 hours long but it seemed to end as soon as it started. We followed the casket outside.

The football team was lined up along the sidewalk by the hearse.

Groups of teenagers and adults were huddled and sobbing. It was all so very surreal.

Andrew was loaded into the back of the hearse and we climbed into the limo.

In movies you see the families quiet or crying in the limo. Not our boys. They were so excited, rolling down the windows, waving at people, feeling so important. And rightfully so. We are important, especially on that day.

The graveside was nice. I felt awkward and didn’t know what I should be doing. Should I be the grateful host and be running around greeting everyone, thanking them for coming? Should I sit quietly in my seat, under the tent? Why is it so ingrained in me, to try to do what is expected or normal? This is not normal, so therefore they have not made the “How to act at you child’s graveside” manual.

It was time to release the dove, to meet up with the doves that have gone before. We were symbolically releasing Andrew to join his relatives in heaven. When we opened the box, the dove didn’t want to go. I don’t believe this was a parallel to Andrew, because I believe he was ready, and truthfully, already gone and working. As I said before, I think he hit the clouds running. But for whatever reason the dove wasn’t cooperating. So Dallin was grabbing the dove, and about squeezing it to death, trying to get it out of the box. We all started to panic thinking Dallin was going to kill this bird. So before we knew it, all of our hands were on this bird. Some of us were trying to save it, while others tried to release it. Finally, I am sure out of self-preservation, the dove took off. The others circled with him. And it was beautiful.

We said the prayer, and the ceremony was over. I felt awkward again. So I walked to the limo. I thought this part is over, on to the next thing. I was sure everyone wanted to get back to the church to eat, and I didn’t want to hold anyone up. Looking back, I wish we had lingered. I would have liked to stay with Andrew just a little longer. Watching Andrew get lowed into the ground probably would have had the same effect as the closing of the casket. So maybe it was the right thing to do. What is the right thing to do? My family followed me to the limo, and off we went. Leaving everyone there at the graveside. I don’t know why I keep thinking about weddings, but it reminds me of when the bride and groom drive away with everyone watching, wondering what their new life is going to be. This did feel like us leaving our old life at the cemetery, and a new unknown life was beginning.

The Viewing

Andrew waited in his beautiful silver casket for his friends to come see him. We stood close to the casket. From time to time I would go closer to him so that I could rest my hand on him. I wanted to touch him. It comforted me. When I was touching him I felt closer to him, even though I knew he wasn’t in there. So many friends came to see him. So many teenagers with that lost look in their eyes. I wondered if they were going to be able to, survive this grief. I watched as they dropped sentimental trinkets in his casket in hopes that this somehow would connect them to him throughout the eternities, or the beyond and for some the unknown. I think there was some reassurance that maybe if they were connected there that he would remain here with them also. I tried to give them comfort. I am not sure if I did any good.

We stood there greeting hundreds of people. It felt like a wedding line, without the joy. They were all so sad. I felt the compulsion to comfort them. Greg and I both did. Person after sad person stopped in front of each of us, with their head tilted and eyes lowered. We would reach out and hug them and let them know “It’ll be ok.” By the end of the night, I was exhausted. We both were.

Greg’s irreverent brother, Jeff, and his family, took us to Olive Garden after the viewing. Jeff is one of those people that if you saw in a dark alley you would be torn between praying to him because he looks like Jesus or running because he looks like Charles Manson. Should it worry me that 1 person can look like 2 such completely different people? However, this is something Jeff is well aware of, and jokes relentlessly about it. It felt so good to laugh. Mourning people aren’t allowed to laugh. Even better it felt good to forget, for just a few moments, who we were. Forget that we were the ones burying our son in the morning.

The morning came. We woke up late. How is this possible when we weren’t really sleeping? We scrambled to get dressed and get to the church. I hadn’t even prepared my talk for the funeral yet. I was also wondering why I thought I had to speak at the funeral anyway. No one would expect that from me. Again, I think speaking at the funeral was a way for me to prove to the world that I am stronger than this. I had control of this. I was dreading another viewing. I didn’t know if I had the mental capacity to comfort any more people.

We arrive at the church and assume our positions in the viewing line. People were already there to see us. The small room was filled to capacity. It was so hot that I could hardly breathe. It was time for the family prayer. Isn’t there an occupancy limit on this room? I wanted the doors to open and move on to the funeral. I wasn’t prepared for what had to happen next.

It was time to close the casket for the last time. I would never again see the boy, that wasn’t really there, but really in heaven. I was really saying goodbye. I couldn’t lay my hand on his chest to feel closer to him. As they closed the lid I remained silent, but inside I was screaming, “STOP!” I wanted to claw at the casket and not let anyone near it. I wanted to stay in this moment forever. I wanted to stay standing there with the casket open, my hand resting on Andrew’s chest, able to look at him whenever I wanted. I felt my very sole rip out of my body as the lid closed for the last time. I was definitely not prepared for this, and I sobbed as we left the small room to enter the chapel for the funeral.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Dressing Andrew

I feel bad for the poor people at the Funeral Home. Did we think that they had nothing better to do than bring my son out of the cooler every time we wanted to see him? Why did we want to keep seeing him? Was it to reassure us that this was indeed a reality? Was it to see how bad (or good) he looked from the accident? Did I think he needed me there? Or did I need him? Whatever the reason we went to visit him every day that week. He was so puffy, but I could still see my beautiful boy. That slight smile, rested on his face. I was sure that at any given moment, his eyes were going to pop open, and he was going to laugh that deep belly laugh, as he did every time he played a practical joke. It was a bad joke, but I would have forgiven him. I touched his face and hands so softly. I kissed his forehead. I don’t think I had touched him that way since he was a baby. It felt so similar and so different, all in the same moment.

The day came to dress Andrew for the viewing. Church clothes were a given. But I knew that Andrew would want his football jersey. Most people would expect that for the star quarterback, or the MVP. But what was so humorous is that Andrew was probably the worst player on the team. Andrew probably played 20 seconds the entire season, and that was only when there was no chance of him affecting the outcome of the game. And yet, he was an important member of the team. I am not sure if it was more important to him, or his teammates. He was Snowball. He was the short, stocky, uncoordinated kid, with bleach white hair that cheered for everyone. When he would go on the field the teammates would chant “Snowball” Snowball”. I knew that this would be the most fitting attire for Andrew. I think this is when he felt most “alive.”

I had never dressed anyone that didn’t help by putting his or her arms and legs in. I didn’t really know what to expect. I had been told that it could be a spiritual experience. Others said that it is horrible and let the Funeral workers do it. We decided to dress Andrew anyway. Greg and I asked Isaac & Chris to come help because we thought we might need their physical strength. Jessica also wanted to come. We started to dress him timidly, as if we were afraid that he would break. Chris and Isaac were carefully lifting and moving Andrew while we slid on his underwear and pants. Then we had to use a little more strength as we struggled. The fight to get his clothes on seemed to get harder & harder. We started to laugh. Is this wrong? We couldn’t help it. We were struggling so much and we realized that Andrew was having a last laugh at our expense. It was as if he was purposely fighting us while we dressed him. We could feel his laughter fill the room. He was there, and as usual he was laughing. Then the dress shirt, the tie, the socks, and no shoes because they wouldn’t fit. Lastly, the football jersey. One would think that a shirt that is made to cover huge pads would slip right on. We fought and fought. Finally, we asked for some scissors and sliced the back of the jersey all the way up to the neck. We pulled it up one arm, over his head, and forced it on the other arm. We tucked the flaps under his torso. It looked great from the front. I took the gel and hairspray and spiked his hair, as he always did. He was ready.

Once again I leaned down and kissed him on the forehead. Greg asked Jessica if she wanted to give her brother a kiss. I guess Andrew’s joking spirit got the best of Greg, because just as she leaned down to kiss Andrew, Greg poked his fingers into her ribs and yelled. Jessica came unglued. She screamed, cried, and pounded he fists on Greg’s chest. “That wasn’t funny!” she screamed. Greg laughed and said, “Andrew thought it was.” I do not think Jessica has forgiven Greg or Andrew for that one.

I looked back as we left Andrew. He looked so proud, as he did every game day, as he went to school in that Blue & White Dixie jersey. Dixie Pride!

Day one

There are moments in time that seem like they stood still just before and after Andrew died. It is as if I am watching the movie of my life. I can see myself picking out the casket, standing in line consoling people at the viewing, being at the funeral, in the limo with my hilarious boys, having conversations with certain people, and so on. It’s as if someone else was there in my place, and now I am watching it to know what happened. I am thinking that I should write these movie excerpts down before I forget them and I can no longer rent the movie. They may be random memories, but I don’t want these memories to be gone forever.

I remember standing in the front yard. It seems as though the earth was rotating right around me. Neighbors seeing and hearing the commotion, coming to see what is going on. As they walked up with questioning eyes, I utter the words…”Andrew is dead.” The looks of horror on their faces, when they hear the unbelievable news. None of this seems real. Jessica and Dallin are inside. I walk in the front door. They are sitting huddled together on the edge of the white couch facing the front door. Jessica’s arm is actually around Dallin’s shoulders. I can see in their eyes that they know something is terribly wrong, but their thoughts never go to something so unthinkable. I am looking at them. How do you tell them their brother is dead? It can’t be the same way you tell the neighbors. I just tell them to come outside and that we need to talk to them. We don’t even get down the walk and Greg tells them. They fall into Greg’s arms. Jessica is inconsolable. I put my arms around her. Hugging her tight, I tell her, “It will be ok.” She says, “It’s not ok.” She and Andrew argued yesterday and she told him to never come into her room. I said it again.” It’s ok.” The bishop goes to get Warner and Garrett from the skate park. When they arrive, it is as if they are looking for confirmation. As if the words the bishop told them on the way home weren’t true. But they look, and they know. Somewhere in the middle of all of this, my dearest friend Chrystal shows up. I tell her about Andrew, and in the same breath tell her that I want her to make the “Funeral Potatoes.” She makes the best funeral potatoes. I am not sure if this is an attempt at humor, or to show my strength, or to be taking care of the details. I mean what could possibly be more fitting at a funeral than funeral potatoes? For whatever reason, I think that this is absolutely ridiculous. Requesting funeral potatoes? Seriously?

I don’t know how long we have all been in the front yard, but it has been a long time. It is as if we were out there opening our lives to show the entire world our suffering. Why did we stay outside? At some point, we went into the house. There are so many people that we don’t all fit on the 4 couches that surround the room. We kneel and say a family prayer. Family members say that Andrew was there. Other family members shouldn’t be able to feel him if I can’t. That just isn’t fair. But then again is any of this fair?

As the news spreads, as it does in a tight knit LDS community, more and more people show up to pay their respects. The room is getting smaller and smaller. The walls are caving in. People are sobbing. I am hugging them and telling them “It’ll be ok.” If I could really rewind the movie and count how many times I said that phrase over the course of a week, I am sure it would be in the thousands.

I can’t handle the display any more. I feel like we are on stage and everyone is watching the show. So I start pushing to get out of there. We start to get ready to go, and then something derails the train. So I steer us back in, and then derailed. I am sure this happened 10 times over the course of a few hours. But finally, we land at Greg’s mom’s house.

Our family, now smaller by one, climbs the stairs to a bedroom. There are other places we could sleep throughout the house, but we can’t stand to be broken up. We lay down blankets and the 4 children sleep on the floor. They are all tucked in the nest. When I know they are asleep, that is when it all becomes real, just for a little while. I cried and thrashed. It was as you see in the movies; when a person is in the hospital bed and people have to hold them down to give them a sedative. I rolled from side to side, as if I was in immense physical pain. I was in pain. I couldn’t catch my breath. Greg held me. I was no longer a spectator to what was happening. I was directly in the middle of it, and needed to figure out how to get out. Exhausted, I fell asleep.

Monday, March 15, 2010

New to the Blogging World

I have been considering writing this blog for quite a while, with thoughts and phrases running through my head. Now that I am actually moving forward with this venture, the thoughts escape me. My fingers are resting on the home row…not moving…I sigh…not sure what to say. And with a deep breath, I pray that the right thoughts will come to mind. I hope these thoughts find some comfort, either to me, or someone who may stumble across them. I am not sure my words will be profound, or even make sense, but I feel compelled to do this anyway.

The reason I have called my blog “Heroes in Heaven” is because that is the only way I can explain the need for all of these young, valiant children to be called home. I believe that Heavenly Father needs these young ones because of their energy and strength. When older people go, it is sad, but they have already done so much work here, they must be a little bit tired, by the time they get there. I think these young ones are eager, and hit the clouds running. I am sure they have an unbridled spirit that needs to be reeled in from time to time. I am sure that all of our young angels are the Heroes in Heaven.

I also worry that this blog is one more thing that I am doing because of Andrew, and not my living children. So to be clear, Andrew is not my favorite, and I love you Jessica, Warner, Garrett, & Dallin more & more every day. I know if Andrew was still alive, he too would not be rinsing his dishes before putting them in dishwasher, not cleaning his room, talking back, crashing the car, and smiling until my heart melts.

Lately I have found myself drawn, or better yet obsessed, with the blogs of other mothers who have lost children. I wonder if the grief I feel for them is real, or unhealthy. I wonder silently if their grief is deeper than mine. Because I have become so good at masking my grief, I don’t feel its intensity anymore. Therefore, I am sure their grief is deeper, because it is more apparent.

All of the angels in these blogs have been so young. And I can’t help but wonder, who suffers more? Who is more blessed? Is the mom who only got to know their little angel for a year or two shortchanged? Am I blessed because I got to have Andrew in my life for 15 ½ years? Or is it harder because I have 15 ½ years of memories that are now only memories? Or is grief simply that, just grief. Short or long, our angels are gone, and now we must figure out what to do with what is left. And why do I even try to compare?

I feel like a passenger in my own life. It has been almost 3 years and I still feel like my life is taking place with or without me, whether I am invested in it or not. Even the simplest task of taking a shower, I stop and think, ”Am I really here?” It is an unreal feeling. I am not sure that I am making any difference in my own life, let alone others.

I fill my life with things that seem like they should make a difference, but I don’t really feel present. I help run a support group for parents who have lost children. Am I doing any good? Am I doing this because I want Andrew to be proud of me? Is it so others will be impressed with how well I am dealing with my lot in life? Is this just one more way to distract me from my own feelings? Am I really trying to help people? Why do I go through the motions and do what I do? I guess it doesn’t really matter why, as long as I am doing good and productive things.

So, since I am new to this blogging thing, I am guessing this is where I tell my story of “that day”. The day that my 15 ½ year old son, Andrew, was killed in a go-cart accident on March 26, 2007. I will also share the days, months, and years leading up to his passing, because my Heavenly Father was steering the ship, preparing all of us for “that day”. The day my whole world changed.

I had 5 kids in six years. I worked hard to raise them without going crazy. When my youngest was 4 my husband had a complete mental breakdown. I had to go to work to support my family of 7. For the next 6 years I worked crazy hours in retail as a manager at Old Navy, then Polo Factory store, then finally at the Cracker Barrel as the retail manager of the gift shop. I was working 60 - 80 hour weeks. An absent parent to say the least. I grew angrier and more bitter as the years rolled on with no end in sight. I grew angry with God, feeling I had done my part being very active in the LDS church and raising my kids. I felt like "hey, where is my reward?" Well, about 8 months before Andrew died, my husband suggested that we start reading the scriptures every night as a family. I didn't want to. I mean how could this possibly do any good...right? Where had God been for me all this time? Well we didn't miss a night. Not one for the next 8 months. During that time my anger lessened and I developed a great relationship with my Heavenly Father.

Well, for spring break, March 8th through 18th , 2007 I insisted we go on a family vacation. We had never been on one and could not afford one now, but I was determined. I had received a bonus at work and this was how I wanted to use it. My husband argued that we needed to use it for bills. I dug my heels in and we took a 10 day vacation. We didn’t do anything lavish. We stayed in my parent’s summer home north of Salt Lake City. We had a wonderful time. Every one got along great (which NEVER happens). The kids skated at the skate park all day while we took lots of pictures. It was just a great time to be together.We didn’t spend a lot of money. We just made a lot of wonderful memories. A trip designed by God.

Andrew was one of those funny kids who didn’t really understand bounderies and would land himself in the principle’s office on a quite regular basis. Something changed in him that week back from spring break. The teachers were confused. They said that Andrew was the role model student that week. He would pass Mr. Six in the halls and say, “See, I haven’t been in your office today.” He knew. He knew.

On Sunday, March 25th, I woke up and didn’t feel well. I wasn’t really sick, I just felt off, or maybe just lazy. So, we didn’t go to church and I called into work. Which looking back, I am surprised that I called in sick, since I had only been back to work from vacation for a week. I remember having a pleasnatly, relaxing day as a family. I remember Andrew taking an old broken big screen TV, that we got at a yard sale for $75, getting it out of the garage and pushing it into the boys room, and making it work. I remember him in a big white T-shirt and pajama pants all day. I have no idea what I was wearing, or who else was in the room, but I can rememeber him. A tender mercy. Heavenly Father knew these would be my last memories of my son.

On Monday, March 26th, Andrew came home from school, and quickly got his chores done so he could go play. He woke my husband up from a nap and infromed him that his chores were done. He wanted to know if he could go to Matt’s and ride the go-cart. He had already left it over there, the other day when he didn’t have permission, and had to come home early that day. Greg drove him over. Andrew bounced out of the car and said “Thanks Dad. Bye, I love you.” Greg said, “I love you too.” And off he went.

Andrew helped Matt’s sister staighten her room and played with her bunny while he waited for Matt to be ready. The home teachers were coming over and Matt wouldn’t be able to ride right away. So Andrew decided to ride, by himself, close to the house while he waited. Matt’s family said that they heard the engine for a few minutes and then it faded off into the hills.

An off duty EMT was out walking his dogs. He took a different route that day. He came across Andrew’s accident and called the police. When the home teachers left, Matt’s family went outside to find emergency vehicles and yellow caution tape down the street, at the church. Matt’s family went to invesitgate. The police said that a boy had crashed his go-cart. Matt’s family said they thought that it was Andrew and described what he was wearing. The description matched and they believed it to be Andrew.

A call went out over the radio. A boy had crashed in the BLM and they thought it to be Andrew Terrill. Our friend, a volunteer fire fighter, heard the call, as he was driving down his street. He saw our bishop in his front yard. He stopped, told him the situation, and took him out to the BLM.

At that time, Greg was picking me up from work. They say that people know when something is wrong with their children. Nope, not a twinge. Just as we were pulling out of the parking lot, Greg’s cell phone rang. It was our bishop, “just checking to see how we were doing.” We learned later that this call was to see if we knew about Andrew’s accident yet. He didn’t tell us anything because he wasn’t even sure yet if it was Andrew, out there, crashed in the hills. When the bishop arrived to the BLM, he identified Andrew for us.

About 30 minutes later, Greg and I were out running errands on our way home. My daughter called and said the bishop and a police officer were at the house and to come home immediately. We spoke to the bishop and he would not tell us the problem over the phone. We were sure one of our boys had vandalized the church or something terrible like that. For the next 10 minutes, while we drove home, we kept coming up with all the different reasons the bishop and the police needed us. I can honestly say we weren’t even close. Then we got home and the bishop informed us that Andrew had been riding on his go-cart out in the hills behind the church and had been in an accident. “He had severe head trauma…” My thoughts interrupted the sentence, “OK let’s get to the hospital.” Then…the rest of the sentence… “and passed away.”

That is when I officially became “not present”. My husband fell to the ground in anguish. He wanted to know if Andrew suffered. I asked no questions. I really didn’t cry. I kept telling people over and over “It’ll be ok.” Did I believe this? Or was it just mechanicle? People say I was so strong. I wasn’t strong. I wasn’t there! My thoughts surrounded around where will we bury him? How will we afford this? Thinking everything, verbalizing nothing. Greg called my parents. I called my boss. I needed to make sure they knew I wouldn’t be at work for a few days. Who does that? I guess someone who wasn’t present.

As horrible as it all was, I never once got angry with God. Due to the scripture reading and that 10 days, plus Sunday, I got to enjoy Andrew, I was in pain but had peace. A sort of numb peace. Knowing he had been called home to his real Father to do a great work on the other side.

We had no idea that my son had so many friends. He would always say "Oh, there is one of my best friends" and we would say "Son, no one has that many best friends." We thought it was all in his head. When he died we got a huge 3 ring binder with hundreds of letters from students saying "Andrew was my best friend." "When everyone else was mean to me, Andrew was there for me." When I was new at this school, Andrew was the 1st one to befriend me." And so on. They actually made an award in his name called the "Andrew Terrill Frienship award" because Andrew loved everyone regardless if they were a jock, a nerd, a goth, or a prom queen. It amazing to learn how amazing he was. He got the award the first year, and now the student body votes every year on who posseses the quality of frienship that knows no bounds. I think Andrew was a Hero on Earth, but we didn’t realize it until he became a Hero in Heaven.

I hope it doesn’t take death, to realize what heroes my living children are.