I Hear Your Voice

Every day, I hear him. I heard the last words he said to me and feel I am one of the few who was lucky enough to do so. ‘I love you, mom.’ Yes, those words I hear often. Mostly when I feel pretty down and sad, I hear Tim say those words exactly as he said them the night before he died. For a long time, I felt it was just me bringing those words up. Now I think he sends them to comfort me when I hurt too much for words in this world. So if you think you hear them, know this, you do. Pull the comfort they are offering you for they are for you and you alone. Feel their love, for they do send it continuously. This is what I have come to believe.

As I go through the Chemo, I feel Tim near by, rooting me on to continue this fight. I hear him telling me that everything is okay, that I have much to do yet before it is my time. I believe him, he should know, right? He has become one of the chosen, sent to carry me through in a way he could not have done here on earth. It does not make his loss any easier, yet still gives me the will to move forward. I miss him more than I will ever be able to express, but that is my burden to carry. Love never dies when your child has moved on, it only goes deeper, becomes painful for a long time, but still full of love.

This new crises in my life won’t overshadow the loss of my son, I don’t really see anything able to that except the loss of my living child and grandbabies and they would be right up there with him. I hope to not ever experience that. I finally have hope, joy, anticipation in my life again. It lives alongside the sorrow and maybe that is how it is suppose to happen. I have my down days, oh yeah, who doesn’t? That’s okay, he still will say ‘I love you, mom.’ It makes me cry and pulls me out of myself to look outward instead of staying inward.

I am half way through my chemo now and yes, it can be hard at times. Too many pills, too many bills, but I try not worry. I have a whole system of people who pick me up every day, sent me love prayers and blessing. I have prayer groups all over the U.S. and Canada and overseas. So many loving and caring people, how could I stay down for long, all I have to do is reach out and they are there. Thank you all, it’s be a rock road but you all try to remove the rocks that I may trip on. Thank you can never be enough, I love you. ‘Forever Mom.’

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The Wall

Grief, when it comes, is not gradual. It hits like a tsunami, unexpected and violent. Suddenly, we are in the deepest, darkest pit with no way out. What we may not realize is that we are on a slide, falling to the bottom. When that bottom comes, it is as sudden as the grief for there is a solid wall waiting at the end. Some of us have hit that wall. We cannot go any deeper and there is no ladder leading back up … loss of hope, joy, purpose.

A while back, I slammed into that wall. If not for the perception of family and friends, I would not be writing this right now, or ever. That last day is etched into my mind as permanent as granite. I won’t go into detail as to what happened but I will say this: We learn to hide our pain and in doing so, we also hide deeper troubles. It’s not a deliberate thing for we don’t see, from an outside view, just what is happening to us. We do not know when grief trips over into sever depression. To us, we are still grieving.

I believe that true hell is what we suffer here on earth. Maybe we will be one of the ones who come through that place and are able to look back from the other side. Some of us won’t. I can look back now and see what happened, see from many angles the path that was took. My feet were not set on that path with conscious thought, but still, it is where my sorrow lead me.

When one is tempered by the fires of grief, they come out different. They see the world and it’s people different. There is no going back though we will try to for a while. Part of our fight is against ourselves for we do not want to let go of who were were. Problem is, who we were is gone. We have to learn to accept who we are becoming. I will always be Tim’s mom, but now, I am his mom without him. That hurts and the anger I feel because of it is what I have to let go of. It will not change the fact that he is gone.

When I look back over the last 22 months, it is painful. I see so much more now then when I was living it. I thought I was handling it well, only to realize that I was not handling it at all. I went though each day wrapped in a cocoon of grief that was not easing but becoming a shroud. We think that we will do this alone, that we don’t need any help. I know I thought that. Turns out that, for me, this is not true. We are hard-wired to seek out others like ourselves, yet we fight it every step of the way.

One of the truest things about life is death. There is no natural order to it, no parent before child, it has no preferences. Of all the things we will deal with, death is the hardest. It leaves us helpless, hopeless and joyless. We can do nothing to change it, make it different or fix it. It stuns the mind, freezes the heart. It will destroy us if we let it. It is a time in your life when you are beyond exhaustion, unable to think about anything else, unable to function. All you can do for a while is cling to that buoy until you find the will to swim.

I am one of the lucky ones. Strange to think that way when I have lost my son, but it is true. I am lucky that there are those who care enough to see what was happening and act on it. I am lucky that I am loved beyond measure. I am lucky to have the family and friends that I do, for they were there when it mattered the most. I am lucky that I have come out to the other side of this. That does not mean I love my son any less or miss him less. It means that there was a ladder in that pit after all and I have started to climb. It means that I can tear down the wall that I hit so abruptly.

I guess that what I am trying to say is … don’t go it alone. You do not have to be alone. Seek out grief groups where you can actually see the people you are talking to and they can see you. Find a place where people will look you in the eyes with understanding because they have been where you are in some form or another. No one will ever know your pain, but they will know your grief. Step outside of your comfort zone before it becomes your prison cell without a key. Not all of us will hit that wall, but many of us will. It is scary and can be fatal. “Forever Mom.”

 

 

 

The Lean Years

If you have never been homeless, gone to sleep on an empty stomach, used the stars as your sheep to help you find sleep, than no amount of schooling will help you understand what homeless is. How it affects the mental as well as the physical. For most, it is not a choice. Sure, flipping burgers will bring in money, but never enough to rent you a place to live, gas, electric and all the basics. It will feed you while you wrap in an old blanket, under the midnight sky. Being homeless is not shame, the shame is how others make you feel because your circumstances are not as elevated as their own. If you were born into it, the memory will forever be your way of measuring the world.

My earliest memories are working the fields on blazing hot summer days, hoping that we would break for water soon. We were not migrant workers in the since that we followed the seasons, we were homeless, dirt poor, and all worked if we wanted to eat that one precious meal at night. Sometimes that meal only consisted of potatoes, fried over an out-door fire. If it was peach season, we got to eat peaches as we harvested the trees. Our bathtub was the river, summer or winter. You can guess where the bathroom was. I’ll never forget those fields, the blisters, the bugs the heat, the empty stomach. I’ll never forget how the people who lived in the big houses looked down on us with distaste but were more than willing to have small children camp out in their meadows, far from their homes. Dad called them the ‘lean years.’

Schooling was another story. The one thing my dad made sure of is that we went to school. We moved alot so we never started school until it was in session for a few months, and we were gone before the school year ended. Somehow, we managed to move on up to the next grade even though we weren’t there long. One did not make friends for we knew that we would be leaving them behind. We did not settle down in one place for any amount of time until I hit the eighth grade. Lucky for us, my dad found work that would last him for many years, he was a carpenter. All over Colorado you see homes, custom homes, that he built. They are old now, not in fashion with the throw together homes that are built now. My dad was good at what he did and I still see his hand in the beauty he created.

I don’t remember my dad ever not working. There were times he would find us a roof to live under and then he would be gone for months at time, working in other states in areas he wouldn’t make his family live. He would send money for us or show up one day with a trunk full of groceries. He worked farms and land, construction and road work. No job was too low in the chain for him to work. He instilled that in me. The desire to make sure my family was fed. The grace to never look down on anyone who may have been less fortunate. We had hand-me-down clothes and was barefoot all summer so the money for shoes could go toward food. We would get one set of new clothes to start the school year, along with shoes that lasted till the next summer.

I don’t necessary see those as bad times. Yes, there were some nights my stomach growled with hunger, but mostly, dad provided. We slept under the stars, bathed in streams, ate over a camp fire and we were the lucky ones. I knew kids who had homes, had always had homes, and black eyes, broken bones. I would go home from school grateful. Grateful that we were not abused, that I would not go to school with evidence of an abusive family out there for all to see. The clothes we wore were used, but they were clean. So many look down on the homeless without ever knowing why they are homeless. Some choose to be that way, others don’t. How do you know which are which? You don’t. To treat anyone as though they are less than you doesn’t not say much for you. Even a smile could change a persons life as they struggle to find footing in this world. Kind words to a child could change how they see a cruel world.

We all grow up differently in some way. We are the same, just different circumstances. We have experiences that others have not. They have ones we do not know and unless we have lived them, we will not know, not really. One of the reasons my husband and grandson are like two peas in a pod is because they both lost their dads at 4 years old. Keith understands Sky on a level others don’t get. They wouldn’t would they? The difference is that Keith knew very little about his dad, he is making sure Sky knows who his dad was. Don’t judge what you don’t know, we all have lean years of some type be it physical, emotional, hidden. What I’ve written here is only a small tip of growing up, there was so much more and yeah, there are scars. Everyone, well most everyone has those, don’t they?

I miss my dad, his kindness, understanding, his stories of his life growing up. I miss the man who made sure his family was taken care of. I am grateful that he was my dad and I had him though the lean years.

Suicide, Our Children and Grief

It’s been over 4 months now that Tim decided to leave this world. The moment I saw him, I changed. I changed so drastically, I don’t remember who I once was. I will never walk in that person’s skin again. They no longer exist. Not that there isn’t some basic personality left, only that preconceived Ideas, thoughts, what I believed, changed the night I found Tim dead.

A number of years ago, a friends son hung himself. At the time, I thought that it was the most devastating thing a parent could ever go through. What could have possibly been on the young mans mind to hurt his dad that way? Was he so self-centered and uncaring that it did not matter to him what it would do to his parents? I was like most people who had not lost a child, ignorant. I looked at it all through the eyes of others. Even had I not, I still would not have come close to understanding what the loss of a child through suicide really was. One cannot understand unless they have been there and even then, they only know what they themselves are going through. It’s a lonely, one person journey.

That first night, as I looked at Tim and begged my husband to save him, I entered a parents worse nightmare. His lips were already blue, but still, in my shock, I thought he could be saved. Denial is the first emotion and would continue for weeks and months to come. There are still moments, not hours, but moments when I realize he is gone all over again. The pain is quick, sharp and devastating, but now it moves on instead of sitting tight on my chest. It comes back at odd times and I have learned to breath deep and wait for it to pass, for pass it will. I was saved from the soul searing question of why this had happened. I was there through it and and knew why. Knowing does not change the fact that your child is gone. It does not ease the pain of loss. But it does relieve you of having that on your heart along with the rest of what you will go through.

We are taught from a young age that suicide is a sin punishable by hell. I do not believe this and never have even before I lost my son. The bible was written by men who had their own agenda. It is not that I don’t believe in God, it is that I feel he has been misrepresented. The bible, in its own way is just a learning tool, the same as history books. If you look at it that way, history is misrepresented also. It is usually the victor who writes history and are notorious for spinning their tales to put themselves in a good light. Every time something in the bible is questioned, the answer is usually that you should not question but have faith that it is so. My response is that God gave me a mind, free will to choose. He did not make me to blindly follow the sheep over the cliff and not question why they were going over the cliff in the first place. I am not putting down others faith, that is their choice and what they need. I do not question one’s beliefs, I ask that they don’t question mine.

That night, after finding Tim, brought out the first of many phobias to come. I could not sleep of course, but I also could not abide the dark. I still can’t so a light stays on at all times. When the shock wore off a little, other small things started coming to light. I was cleaning out the dishwasher and ran across the coffee mug he always used. It brought me to my knees. I almost broke it. It sits up in the cupboard, away from my eyes for now. His clothes, his hand writing, his voice on my phone mail. It is an endless list of things to run across that will leave me breathless, tearful and sad. I won’t go through all the phobias, it is enough to know that there are many. I hope one day that most will recede back to where they came from. I know some won’t.

I have searched the suicide sites and bereavement sites looking and begging for relief from an agony I never knew existed until I lost Tim. That is where I learned that each one of us suffer differently, and the same. It is when I realized that the agony would never cease, that it was mine till the end of my time. I lost hope then. I understood why some parents suicided out after they lost their child. I knew that I could not go, year after year with this kind of sorrow and pain. I did not understand those that said they have lived with it for 10 years, 20 years, 30 years. How was that possible? Some were as deep in the pain as they had been from the first day they lost their child. I told myself, in the early days, that I could not do this. Yet, I have. It is not from being strong. There is no strong when it comes to the death of a child. Strength has nothing to do with it and when people tell you how strong you are, all you can do is look at them sadly. It is not something you can explain to them. They have to experience it to know.

There are many faces to suicide and it is as individual as the grieving process is. Yes, there are those who chose that way to teach others a lesson, or get even. There are the ones who thought someone would save them before it was too late. There are those who were just plain done. We do not know the depth of their pain, physical or mental. We do not know the thoughts or lack of them that goes through their heads. We do not know the circumstances, usually, that lead them to their path. Yet we would stand judgement on them and call them selfish, self-centered, uncaring. I asked an attempted suicide once why he tried it. Did he not think of those that loved him and would be so terribly hurt? He looked at me blankly for a little while and I could see he was remembering. Finally he told me that love had nothing to do with it. That the mental pain, the physical pain, the sorrow is so great that it crowds out everything in your mind. You do not think of those who love you. You do not think of what it will cause. All you can think about is stopping the pain once and for all. All hope is lost, all reason gone. There is no future if that is what they have to look forward to.

I grieve my son. My pain is greater than anything I have ever experienced, yet I see a light. The sharpest edges have dulled. I know that I will carry my loss, but it becomes manageable. It is up to the individual person on how they will carry that sorrow. You can keep it in front of you as a shield against the world or you can hold it in your heart as a memory and tribute to the one who is gone. You can let the pain rule you insane or you can rule the pain. It is nothing to feel guilty about to carry on after they are gone, it is wrong to not do so. I don’t cry all the time now, but yes, I do cry. I do not talk about him all the time, but he is in my thoughts if only as a shadow sometimes, stronger than that at others. I do not forget nor will I ever. He is my only son, my second born. 33 years with him. Even if had only been a day, I would not forget.

I feared that I would carry this for years to come. I know now that yes, I will always hurt for my lost son, but the horrible, paralyzing pain will not be a part of that. There is life after loss, but accept that you will be different. I see the little boy who took my hand in trust.

I see the young man who’s last spoken words to me were, “I love you mom.” Yes he did, he loved me as I love him.

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