Tag Archives: inspiration

3 Years

3 yearsIt’s been 3 years. 156 weeks. 1,095 days. 26,280 hours. And yet, it’s still been only half a minute. You’d think by now I would be used to the idea – the fact – that my son died. We’ve gone through birthdays and holidays, milestones, events. You would think it wouldn’t be a surprise to me that Nolan is gone. You’d be wrong. I know it’s real. I even believe it’s real now. Denial has left the building. I can be in the middle of the most mundane task – running errands, folding laundry, even reading a good book, and it hits me out of the blue. My son died. My son died. Nolan DIED. It’s just as shocking as it was 3 years ago today. Time doesn’t heal this kind of trauma. Nothing does. Time allows for you to get used to the pain. It absorbs into your very being and becomes a part of you. Your shoulders learn to bear the weight, and your feet learn to take smaller steps. Your mind still clouds over to protect you from the horror, but every so often, it seeps in. This nightmare is your life. There are no more tomorrows with him. I will live more of my life without him than with him. The ache doesn’t lessen. It seems to deepen as the time between Before and Since grows longer.

Everything has changed in the last 3 years. I have a different job now. I live in a different house. I have some different friends. I look a little different too. Grief has etched lines in my skin and left bags under my eyes. I’ve grown softer. I’m aging faster now. I don’t have the energy for things I once did. I have no tolerance for people who are self-serving or dishonest. I can’t be around people who create drama or who blame others. Those who judge or talk about others unkindly, people who complain about the dissatisfaction in their life but do nothing to change it? Can’t deal with them. I have become adept at holding people in my heart and letting them go from my life. I’ve come to realize that my feelings Before were muted in comparison to how deeply I feel now. It’s a strange, twisted gift of Grief. Only after such a devastating loss do you realize how intensely you can love.

In the time Since, I’ve learned that I, too, have a brain aneurysm. I’ve also developed a heart condition. The doctors say it was caused by medication I was taking, but I secretly believe it’s because my heart broke the moment Nolan’s stopped beating. I feel my mortality. I fluctuate between just wanting to go to sleep and not wake up and wanting to suck every moment from this life that I can. In my stronger times, I know that Nolan is fine now. He’s not going anywhere and will meet me once my own fateful day arrives, so I should live out loud every moment until that happens. On my vulnerable days, it seems like forever and joy is so far outside my grasp that I don’t have the energy to try. It’s a strange dichotomy to exist in – both waiting to die and striving to truly live.

I don’t really have the words to describe what this feels like today. Another year has gone by without Nolan’s smile, without his laughter, without his voice. I wasn’t done parenting him. I’m still not. My arms feel empty, and I physically ache to hold him one more time. I still cry every single day. I think I always will. The first thought each morning is “I love you Nolan” The last thought each night is “I love you Nolan, and I miss you so terribly.”

In a few days, 4 other people will be celebrating their milestone of 3 years post-transplant. They will be filled with love and hope. I know they will shed a tear for Nolan, as they hold him in their hearts, wishing their life didn’t depend on his death. Knowing that parts of him are still alive brings me comfort, and I am so very thankful for each of those people carrying him within them.

I don’t have any words of wisdom. I can’t be anyone else’s guidepost in this dark. This, perhaps, isn’t a very eloquent post today. I struggle to find the words when they usually flow freely. All I can say is, we have today, this very moment. When you have a chance to do something to help someone else, do it. Share a smile, a kind word. Hold those you love closer and longer. Never miss a chance to laugh or to love. Try something new, and think of a boy who wanted nothing more than make the world a better place and follow his lead. We are all One Tribe.

For you, Nolan, I will keep going. I will love. I will laugh. For you, Nolan, I will live.

 

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Birthdays

Every day is hard. The very first thought in your mind each day is, “He’s not here. Another day without my son.” Each morning you have to re-orient yourself to this “New Normal” that everyone tells you about. It doesn’t matter how much time goes by. Day after day it’s the same thing. You wake up and that jolt of adrenaline hits you. This is your life now. It takes a minute. Eventually, the air makes its way back into your lungs and you put your feet on the floor. This weight is familiar, you remind yourself. You know what this feels like. It’s heavy, but you’ve been carrying it for some time now, and you know you will bear it just like you have been. A few more breaths, and you are able to put one foot in front of the other again. Keep moving, you just keep moving.

The sights and the sounds of the day greet you, and in those mundane moments, you feel stronger. You know there are blessings to be had this day, you need only notice them. So you look. You hear the sounds of your youngest child getting ready for school and feel so blessed that he is still here, healthy enough to be giving his Dad some sass. You hear your husband responding and feel so thankful that this man is steadfast in his commitment to your family. Your blankets are warm, and you feel lucky that they have wrapped you in comfort as your body struggled to find rest. It’s the little things you no longer take for granted. The sink full of dishes, knowing your family had food to start their day. The piles of laundry, for it shows your family has clothes to wear. Warm water in the shower, a clean towel, fuzzy slippers – these are your blessings, and you count them one by one. You wrap these blessings around you like armour to protect against the onslaught of Grief that can grab you unaware and rip the very fabric of your Soul to shreds.

Every day is hard. There are some days that are harder. Holidays, milestones, anniversaries are some of the hardest. Then again, any random Tuesday that the sun is shining brightly and birds chirp merrily in the air is enough to break open the tenderly covered wound of your heart and cause you to go crashing to your knees, begging for the sweet relief of death, the only thing that will ever free you of this pain.dsc00518

Then there are birthdays. Yours, your other childrens’, and his. Another year has passed and there is no escaping the iron clad fist of Grief as it steals your breath, your strength, your mind, and your heart. You are forced to face the fact that he will never be any olderdsc01475 than the sweet 14 year old boy he was. Past tense. Nobody ever warned you that a simple verb would destroy you. You are faced to wonder – what would he look like now? Would he have the creepy pedo-stash he always talked about growing? Would he be as tall as his Dad? Taller? What size would he wear? What would you be buying him for his birthday? A car? A new phone? He should be here still arguing with you. He should be here still asking for your advice. You should be going to visit colleges and plan for his future. You should be frustrated because he leaves his shoes out all the time. You should be annoyed that he stole your comb – again! Your grocery bill should be double SAMSUNGwhat it is. You should be talking about girls and cars and life.

You’re not. You’re crying. What used to be one of the happiest days has become the epitome of despair. You desperately want to focus on his life – he was HERE! He grew inside your body and took his first breath in your arms. You heard his first words! Try as you might, you can’t quiet the knowledge that he “was,” but is no longer. He took his last breath in your arms as well. You hear his last words to you echo throughout your body, “Mommy it hurts.” You see only your child lying on the floor and watch as the last breath escapes his lips. You are frozen, panic setting in as you realize he isn’t breathing. You still feel his warm skin under your hand as you notice his heart isn’t beating, merely fluttering. That same heartbeat that was as quick as a baby bird’s. Your world turns inside out. You remember hearing that heartbeat for the very first time and the excitement in your heart, in your husband’s eyes. Then you remember hearing that heartbeat for the last time inside his precious body.

It doesn’t make any sense. How can you be there at the start of his life, at the end, and still exist more than 2 years later? All you have are memories. Past tense verb. History. His future is gone. Your family’s future is forever changed. The sun continues to rise each day and set each night. Breath after agonizing breath continues to fill your lungs. The moments come – in between those breaths – a crack in the darkness, a whisper in your heart. “I’m still here.” There is a nanosecond between the inhale and the exhale where possibilities still exist. You can feel him as lightly as a feather passing by in the breeze. You can almost see him next to you and feel his heart holding you. Then the breath leaves your lungs and the weight returns. It’s inevitable. You search for those moments. You would do anything for him. You would die with gratitude if only it meant he would come back. You cry to the Heavens for something to do for him. There is no present you can buy him for his birthday. In that moment, between one breath and the next, you hear it. The whisper so softly you think you imagined it. “I know you would die for me, but will you live for me too?” It’s too hard. It’s too much. Yet, nothing is ever too much for our children. You have to. You know it. You strive to live in those moments between breaths, where he still is. There is no past tense or future tense in the moment. There simply is. Love, peace, and stillness. That is where you find him, where you find courage, where you find purpose.

You would be 17 now, my dear Nolan. Hardly a boy and not yet a man, although I know you would argue that with me! In my mind I see you a little bit older, in my heart you are still my baby boy, as you will always be. I work hard each day to focus on your life and not just your death. It’s not ever easy, but it’s worth it. I see colors brighter now because of you. I hear more clearly now because of you. I taste more sweetness now because of you. I touch more tenderly now because of you. I feel love deeper now because of you. My life will never be what I wanted it to be. It will never be as I planned. That doesn’t mean it won’t be filled with joy and laughter. It will be filled with even more – because of you.

birthday

 

 

Blank Pages

blank pagesRock Bottom is a scary place to be. It’s a dark abyss with seemingly nothing but pain and hopelessness surrounding you. Funny thing about Rock Bottom is that if you search way deep into the darkest depths, you can find a tiny spark hidden in the shadows. This spark is so very small and fragile, and if you’re not vigilant, you might miss it. I’m convinced it’s always there – for everybody.

I’ve been extremely vigilant these last few weeks. I’ve searched high and low in the dark and in the shadows. I’ve found that infant spark. I’m standing careful watch over that spark and encouraging it into a flame. Make no mistake, this is not an easy task. The winds blow hard and fast here in the dark. I need to be watchful; protective.

When I wrote last about 16-yr old Me, I focused on my downfalls. What I forgot – or couldn’t see – was how strong that version of Me is. Yes, she nearly destroyed me, but she also saved me. She saved me all those years ago, and I believe she saved me now too. I am working to acclimate her into my current Self. She’s chaos, but she’s also a lot of fun! More than anything, she is strong. I’m working to take those qualities and hold them close while I navigate these stormy seas. It’s working. I think.

I’ve been at my new job for a couple weeks now, spending a solid 8 hours a day outside my comfort zone. I’m learning about things I never thought I would ever need to know. Geek Speak – it’s a real language, and I’m learning it! (slowly, but still.) Someday I might even understand half of what Ray says! I really enjoy the people I’m spending my day with. It’s an eclectic group which makes for some really interesting discussions and banter. We laugh a lot. Being away from Nason is difficult. It’s an adjustment for both of us, and I think he’s handling it better than I am. The Grief I battle daily is still present, but I don’t have time to face it during the day. My hope of being distracted and busy to get through the hours has turned out well. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that Grief compounds itself. What I push down all day rears it’s ugly head even harder on the drive home at night. I cry most of the way – all those tears I bottled up during the day. Sometimes a discussion during the day hits me hard, and I feel like I’ve been kicked in the stomach. I can’t run away like I could at school. I have to suck it up and keep trucking. Surprisingly, I’m able to do that.

Night time is harder than ever. The panic attacks are really bad. One night this past week, Ray came home again to find me on the floor, not breathing. He didn’t know how long I’d been there before he walked in. He was able to rouse me, but then I did it again, and again, and again, and again. Five times I stopped breathing that night, and he was getting ready to call 9-1-1 when I finally started to come around. Thankfully, Nason wasn’t home. He suffered through one with me the night before and was still raw from that. The nature of the panic has changed slightly. Twice I’ve had the cessation of breath without the hysterical crying beforehand. I’m not sure if this means things are getting better or worse. It’s a horrible feeling – almost like having the hiccups but instead of that little gasp, my lungs or diaphragm seize up. I’m literally physically unable to draw the air into my lungs. If I can fight past that to catch a breath, my lungs seize again and don’t allow the air out. It’s a terrible feeling, knowing that I’m going to pass out and unable to stop myself. This morning I was able to stop the process on my own, but it wasn’t easy. I should probably do some research about how panic attacks can manifest, but honestly, I’m afraid to find out. What if this means it’s getting worse?

Getting up and going to work after these nights is difficult. But I’m able to do it. I’m starting to feel the ground under my feet again. I’m starting to feel like I can walk again. I’ve taken ownership of my faults, actions, and choices. I am working to not take on the faults of others. I’m working to allow myself to be vulnerable instead of angry. I hate that part the most! I’m working on voicing my feelings and taking care of them myself. God love him, Ray is challenging me greatly in this area. We truly are a Yin-Yang. For years I’ve been his catalyst for growth, and now he is mine. Damn it.

I have come to see that there are nothing but blank pages in front of me. My life is a story in progress, and it’s not over yet. It’s tumultuous. It’s scary. It’s painful. It’s also humorous and filled with love. I get to choose the story I write. I choose to paint these blank pages with color. Every moment of every day is a choice, and I am choosing better. In the words of one of my favorite people,

This is the story of my life
And I write it everyday
I know it isn’t black and white
And it’s anything but gray
I know that no, I’m not alright
But I’ll be OK ’cause
Anything can, everything can happen
That’s the story of my life
Yes, I did just quote Jon Bon Jovi. Deal with it.