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.