Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas – ugh.

As suggested, we chose to change our Christmas tradition this year…we chose not to celebrate at all. 

First time in my entire life although there have been many times I have wanted to just let it slide – I never had the guts.  Fear of disappointing others has kept me from it.  This year everyone was kind of disappointed already so we just let it go. 
No tree.  No decorations.  No children.  No grandchildren.  No extended family.  No Christmas dinner.  No Christmas --period.

I just could not put up a Christmas tree and pull out all of the little handmade Christmas ornaments that the three kids have made over the years reminding me that there are now only two.  I could not pull out of the little wooden toy ornaments that I have been decorating our trees with for most of their lives.  I could not unpack the kids Christmas stockings with Brian’s baby nickname on it –B-B. (The name he called himself when he was little trying to say “Baby”)  The little handprints that Kara made for us with Paxton’s tiny baby hand or his stocking that said Baby’s First Christmas.  The red satin balls that we laugh about every time we pull them out because we are always reminded of the year Brian was five and he was helping decorate the tree and all we had were those red satin balls and he walked around and around the tree and finally in exasperation put it back in the box exclaiming loudly “I can’t find any place for this one!” and picked up another one identical to it and put it immediately on the branch right in front of him.  He was such a goof.

So instead Donald and I sat alone in the house.  Ate a crappy lunch at the Waffle House and came home to a marathon of nauseatingly syrupy Shirley Temple movies.

And 2014 could not just go quietly without hitting us yet again.  On Friday December 19th, my mother’s oldest sister and the aunt that I was always closest to --passed away at 92 years old. So on the 23rd of December - four months to the day after the kids died I’m sitting at a funeral.  Saturday December 20th, my sister’s 56-year old brother in law died unexpectedly – The actual cause of death is yet unknown.  Perfectly healthy 56 year old man woke up with unexplained stomach pain leading to the discovery of systemic sepsis from what they suspect was a perforated bowel and within 48 hours he was gone.

We have had a standing tradition to go and spend New Year’s Eve with my best friend Kathie and her husband.  We would eat dinner out and come back to her house to quietly ring in the New Year and go to bed and then we’d get up New Year’s Day and I would make homemade blueberry waffles for everyone for breakfast and then together we would cook a Traditional Southern New Year’s dinner. 

Her husband usually cooks pork tenderloin on the grill and she and I together do the rest. We enjoy a great dinner together clean up, pack up and head home.  This year, I had originally canceled our visit since I have not really been able to do social things. And I did not want to spoil anyone else’s holiday but she kept saying although she understood if I didn’t – if I felt like I could --even last minute – come on.  I do look forward to that all year long and though I did not want to promise since I didn’t know if I actually “could” I thought maybe if I knew she wasn’t going to a lot of trouble and expense planning it – I could leave it at “maybe” status.   

New Year’s was one holiday I actually wanted to celebrate and asked her if I could muster up what it took to come could we just make the two hour drive to the mountains and have New Year’s dinner at The Dillard House Restaurant.  She was on board and so that was the new plan…now after two more deaths in my family and still yet another week left in this stinking year – I’m terrified to leave home!

I did not really miss having Christmas but have had my usual relapse of the crying spells from being home.  Like I told Donald, it is not so much wondering how I will make it through Christmas but how we will make it through the rest of our lives…

I feel like I am sinking into a dark hole. Not a feeling I was expecting four months later.  I was expecting to have several really hard months each getting easier than the one before and then once I got past those and the first holidays and birthdays etc. I would be safely beyond the danger of depression.  That doesn’t appear to be the case.  Everyone seems to have moved on and begun to get on with their lives again as if nothing has happened and I am back to crying in the toy department.  Not only the toy department but baby clothes, children’s shoes, tools – even the word “tools” as it refers to computer tools on my job, I can’t even channel surf past carpentry or home improvement shows on TV or go by garlic bread sticks, eggnog or pumpkin pie in the grocery store.

I was in Walmart to pick up a few things including food for a pot of soup yesterday and could not see through the tears to get my shopping done.  I was crying down every single aisle; thinking to myself: “I cannot buy him those little shoes.  I can never again buy him these little cartoon pajamas.  I cannot buy him these cars or those trucks.  I cannot get him this new movie.  I can never read him this book or see him in that little hat.  I cannot buy him this cuddly teddy bear to sleep with…”

 I feel like I am losing my mind and I’m quite sure to the occasional shopper I look like it too.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Life lessons about love...

As I've said before, I had dreamed about Paxton before he was even conceived.  When we did not even think Kara could ever carry a baby, I dreamed of seeing and loving him.  Loving him so much it was like no love I’d ever known.  When I awoke I “knew” he was real.  He was not a child I’d just had a dream about – I knew he was going to "be"--in fact, already was.  My love for him was real and I knew absolutely that he was real.

I felt he’d been sent to me by God in that dream and he would be sent to me in real life too.  And because of that I had complete faith in that message and felt secure in loving him with complete abandon. 

Up to then, I was very guarded about how much I allowed myself to let go and love someone else’s child.  I’d been torn apart in the past loving children that had been snatched away from me leaving me devastated and broken.  Not once but three times.  I vowed I would never allow myself to completely fall in love with a child that belonged to someone else like that again.   But because of that dream and only because of that dream I felt safe to love him freely and give my heart over to him.  I felt he was sent to us and I felt that was my promise that he would be safe to love without fear that he would be taken away from me.  Then on August 23rd that promise was broken in the worst imaginable way as he was most certainly taken from me in the cruelest and most permanent way. 

I felt betrayed and devastated on so many levels. 

At first I was angry and confused railing at God that it would have been better to have never had him at all than to have loved that deeply and lost him so cruelly.

But I was wrong.

I would rather have had him and known that love for even that short amount of time than to have missed that love or to have missed one minute with him.

And the strangest thing is that it was my love flowing to him and not necessarily his to me that was so powerful and profound.  It was no secret he loved his Mama and his Daddy much more than he did me.  He loved me but he’d throw me over in a minute for either of them.  Unlike my first granddaughter – she preferred me over anyone.  She cried for me, clung to me and never wanted to go home when she was his age.  He was never like that.  When either of his parents were present he would not let me so much as hold him – so afraid, he was that they would slip off and leave him behind.  He enjoyed himself and had a great time once they were 10 minutes gone but he always cried for them and had the choice been his --he never would have stayed.

If I could know and love a child that had not even been conceived; then I can love that same child after he has left this world.  if he existed before he was ever born then it would also be true that he exists still today.  I loved him before he was born.  I loved him while he was here.  And I love him now.  I feel it when I see his pictures.  I feel it when I watch his videos.  I didn’t "used" to love him.  I still love him.  I will always love him. 

I think we tend to believe it is receiving love that makes us happy.  But what loving him taught me was that you can be deliriously happy in the love that you have for others because it truly never mattered to me whether he loved me or not.  My joy was in loving him. 

Like we are with our own children, you love them even when they are angry, belligerent, or in trouble and you love them whether they love you back or not. 

As I thought about that I realized the bigger picture as it relates to God’s love for us too.  He loves us unconditionally but like our own children we really don’t think about it or appreciate it in the beginning.  It is only when we choose to love Him back that we really experience the true meaning and magnitude of God’s love.  It is only when we give love that we truly begin to experience the true joy of love. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Words I could never have imagined saying…

Four months out, and there are some out of state friends and extended family members that still do not know about the loss of my children.  I thought I was finally going to be able to make those calls but when I try – I find that there are no words… no way to relay this news.  What do I say?  How do I tell this?  How do I explain that what the police say happened – could in no way have happened and yet still I do not know what, in fact, did happen?  How do you tell this to anyone?  The few people that I have told were so freaked out by it until they were speechless, they either bolted or hurried off the phone and I have never heard from them again. 

Talk about a truly humbling experience.

I recall meeting a pitiful couple the first night we attended the 13-week grief seminar.  Their young adult son had been murdered by a man in his apartment complex.  They were having a very difficult time with the grief, anger, confusion and disbelief that someone could just walk up for no apparent reason and kill their son.  They wanted answers.  They were angry at the system and the way things had been handled although apparently, thank God, they had caught the killer.  They were baffled at how someone could be so callous and cruel as to kill another human being that was just doing what young people do and "having a good time". 

They still yet had to go through the rigors of a long, drawn out, emotional trial as they hoped at least for some sort of justice for their son.  They were of course, in deep grief over the loss of their son as well.  The sadness and empathy in the room was palpable.  Everyone could relate to that terrible feeling of loss but while everyone else in the group was reeling in shock; appalled at the thought of him being a victim of “murder” – I sat there and realized what I was feeling was more like sadness mixed with --envy?

Can you imagine?

I felt awful!  I realize that was not a natural response to the situation and yet I promise you at that moment I wish I could have stood up and said that someone had murdered my children.  What a comfort it would have been to say,  ”This terrible person did this awful thing and I am angry, hurt and confused at the cruelty of this situation.  I want justice!”  At that moment I thought how much I would love to have been able to say those words??? How awful! But how true.
I could openly grieve my son.  I could have poured my heart out over the loss of my child to any extended family and all of my old friends and co-workers and everyone would have understood the great loss.  I could have talked about how much I loved and missed my child to anyone in any circles without the devastation of having them turn away in what appeared to be --disgust. I could have had my loss validated instead of feeling like I had no right to love and miss my son.  I could have taken comfort from friends and family instead of feeling like I needed to instead launch into defense mode as I tried in vain to explain who he really was in his heart and how much he loved his wife and child.  “But, you don’t know him. There is no way.  He adored them.  But you don't understand, he was absolutely not capable of...  He couldn’t have...  He would never…” and I see "the look" and I choke and turn away leaving my words dangling in mid-air. 

This is why this blog has been so vital to my survival because here I can pour out my heart.  I can openly acknowledge my devastating loss.  My grief can spill all over these pages mingled with my tears.  I can talk freely about whom I knew he was in his heart; how he was such a funny, goofy child, a fun-loving young adult, a loyal and responsible husband, how much he loved his children and what a good dad he was.  I can talk about him like he was my son - a victim and not my son, the cause of another family's loss.  I can rightfully grieve this horrific loss.  I can love him in spite of what the Sheriff’s office said because I am, after all --Still Brian's Mom.

Monday, December 15, 2014

On Faith...

Although I still have moments - much like I do when the meltdowns of grief and disbelief periodically pose a sneak attack – I have been able to find my faith again. Some days I have realizations and moments of clarity and truth about my doubts and anger.

And since I hope at some point, some of what I have been through can help someone else in pain I would like to record some of those moments of truth and the things that have been revealed to me about my feelings of being deserted by God.

I have realized in my disappointment and anger with God for allowing this to happen in spite of all the prayers for the safety of my children, that God cannot answer everyone’s prayers in a positive way because other people are also involved. 
People make bad choices, break promises to God, get involved with dangerous people, refuse to heed God's warnings,  ignore His second chances or simply have a different desired outcome.  And all of these are factors in your prayers too and most of the time – they are unknown to you.  Say for instance you have one person praying for rain on their crops while another has a very important function that rain will ruin now you have two people praying to the same God for opposite answers.  While an issue with the weather in no way compares to a triple tragedy such as this the principle behind it is the same:  God cannot work out His plan according to “our” desires since our desires may differ from each other or may involve someone else's sinful circumstances. And our desires are typically selfish, fluid and fickle. 

I know that I have even felt this was seriously unjust because I am a Christian.  I do what I can to live like I am supposed to, I've prayed and I had unwavering faith at the time of my prayer. Something just seemed really wrong about the fact that in spite of that - my children were taken in the cruelest of ways.  But the issue here lies with my expectations and not God’s promises because He never promised us a pain-free, trouble free life that was fair.  And if I got preferential treatment because I am a Christian human nature would have people waiting in line at the church doors vying for a chance to be Christians to take advantage of the fringe benefits membership would buy them and not for the worship and glory that God deserves.

Our open line of prayer is not the “Make a Wish” foundation.  We cannot just pray for whatever we want that sounds reasonable and does not go against scripture and expect that all prayers will be magically answered as ordered.  That would not be a God that anyone could really trust --would it?  Wouldn’t it be like the answer to prayers would go to the highest bidder/tither, the best prayer warrior or someone that had the most “good deeds” under his belt?  

That goes against the scriptures in that "God is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34) and salvation was bought and paid for by the blood of Jesus Christ and “Not of works, lest any man should boast.”  (Eph. 2:9)
If it worked that way then we would have the opposite of a fair and just God. We would have a God that was partial, could be swayed and one that took bribes.  Sounds kind of like how the world works doesn't it?  I'm pretty sure that role is already taken.  That would be Satan’s role – the ruler of this world. 

A God worthy of your love and devotion and respect would be a God that loves all equally; answers prayers, according to His divine plan; and would make “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”  (Romans 8: 28)
That would be the God we have.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Birthday and other gifts to hold onto...

Today is my baby boy’s third birthday… a difficult day to say the least. 
The last video that I took of him while I was babysitting him at his house was right before my birthday and he was singing “Haddy Dirday to you”.  I had never even heard him say Happy Birthday much less sing it and in tune.   But he did and then blew out pretend candles and applauded himself by yelling Yay! at the end.  What a birthday gift.
It was like the rare gift of hearing him run to me last Christmas yelling “I missed you!”  Everyone in the room stopped in their tracks.  He had hardly said an intelligible word let alone a sentence and obviously knew the meaning of what he said and yet he had just turned two.  "Haddy Dirday" came eight months later.  Clearly, he did not talk at two.  But it was a gift to me as it was to be our last Christmas with him. 

For Brian’s 40th birthday he gave me a gift.  He wrote me a beautiful letter telling me all of things I had done right and how much he appreciated all I had done raising him; a rare gift to any mother.  I cried for days.  It took him 40 years to write it – but it came just in time and now I have it to cling to forever. 
And like Brian writing that Journal to Paxton - he had never mentioned that he was doing that and we were all shocked but in view of the circumstances of how this was left for him to bear the blame - what a great gift that was for us to find.  My oldest son was upset that we wanted it read at the Memorial Service - he said that it was personal and written for Paxton and we had no right to share it publicly.  I told him "on the contrary son, that journal was written for us; all of us that knew him and loved him."

For Donald’s birthday this past year Brian did something he had always wanted to do.  He bought tickets and took Donald to the Nascar race at Talladega.  He’d never done anything like that before.  They had a great day and shared a common bond and made precious memories that are priceless now.

Last fall as a surprise for Donald – Brian and his oldest son came while we were gone and raked up all the leaves and sweet gum balls in our yard.  We have a large yard and believe me that was no small task. It was a good six hours work with two people working at it - and they did that unknown to us.  We came in late and did not see it until we woke up the next morning.  It was like Santa Clause had come to a 60 year old man! 

And for Kara’s last birthday we gave her the Michael Kors purse she had been saving for.  She was so surprised and delighted and squealed that it was the best thing anyone could have gotten her.  Comet could not scrub the smile from her face all day long.  It was the most I have ever enjoyed giving someone a gift.  We actually enjoyed it far more than she did! 

Our last Thanksgiving was at their house – the first time ever anyone had fixed Thanksgiving dinner for our family besides me and it was her first big holiday.  She was so proud and enjoyed it so much.  I wouldn't take anything now for that memory.

I think of so many strange things that happened over the past year or so.  Things that I look back on now and know were a gift.  Things we can hold and treasure forever. 

Haddy dirday little man – I will forever treasure the gift of your love and the short time we had with you changed my life.  I love you always.  Nana

Thursday, December 4, 2014


Everyone knows that your life can change in an instant with one phone call --two phone calls can leave your life unrecognizable. 

This past year has been a solid year of change and then I got the phone call that changed my life and then sixty days later what was left of my life was reduced to ashes.
I feel like I woke up one morning plopped square in the middle of someone else’s life. 

Almost every aspect of my life is so dramatically different I do not recognize any part of it.

December 2013 - I used to get up every morning at 5:30, get dressed and drive in yucky traffic to my job.  Monday thru Friday I put in eight hours and went home.  I lived for the weekend because on Saturday and Sunday I had Paxton.

We were looking forward to our big loud traditional family Christmas with a small grandchild again.  My floor was once again, after many years, littered with toys.  Diapers, booster seats and rocking chairs were scattered about and pacifiers and tiny little cartoon forks and spoons were in my silverware drawer.

Our biggest issue was that we did not know where we wanted to live in retirement and finding a suitable downsized retirement house consumed my every free moment.

I had three “best” friends – my first was my sister Joan; my best friend all of my life.  We talked on the phone almost every single day and made it a point to make time about every other month to see each other even though there was a 75 mile span of bad traffic between us. Then there was Kathie -- she’s always been like a sister to me.  And like with my sister, I’d had her almost all my life.  We are over 60 years old and have been best friends since we were five.  We started school, started dating, got married and raised children --together.  And then Sara, my newest best friend, “new” as in 37 years ago.  We met when my husband and I moved to his home town in South Georgia for a year and a half and she and I have been long-distance best friends ever since.  We talked on the phone weekly and sometimes depending on what was going on in our life - daily.  We visited several times a year.  And no decision was ever made in either of our lives that we did not run past the other.

I had two pets – (amazing that we were down to only two.)  I had inherited Brian’s 7-year old "pound puppy" when he and Kara married and I had a five year old rescue Siamese cat that I cuddled with every evening.  I went to bed around 9:00 after the cat and I read, prayed and had written in my prayer journal where I asked God repeatedly to watch over my children.
I took my breakfast on the go and packed a lunch to take to work.  When I got home I cooked dinner for two. 

The only thing I like brand new is a car so most of our furniture is antique or "antiques to be".  I lived with my husband of 38 years in an average ranch style house in a small farming town and worked in the city. 

I was a very active member of a small country Baptist church for the past 20 years.  Where I served on the building and grounds committee, the Lord’s Supper committee, the church bulletin committee.  I did all of the church invitations, newsletters and flyers.  I mailed out visitor cards and cards of encouragement, sympathy cards, get well cards and I worked in Bible School for many years. I cooked for every occasion; illness, surgery, death in the family.  I oversaw the complete renovation of the 100 year old sanctuary in 2008.

That was life last December…

December 2014 - I woke up at 3:00AM. Daylight savings time is over but my body, mind and spirit still know that it is 4:00 AM - the same time that I woke up and burst into tears on August 23.

My brother in law got up at 4:15 and left for work by 5:15AM.  My husband went downstairs to the kitchen to get coffee when he woke up as my brother in law left.  I got up at 6:30 and went down to get Joan’s medicine out and get her breakfast prepared and pack a lunch for both of us to take to the clinic.  We had an 8:45 appointment; not a time that anyone in their right mind would volunteer for in Atlanta traffic.  But we do not have the luxury of choosing.  Our days – week in and week out are dominated by the Bone Marrow Transplant Clinic.  We got to the clinic exactly on time 1 hour and 10 minutes to make the 12 mile trip. 

I dragged my computer, her notebook, her medicines and our lunch and two purses in and set up my computer on a TV tray and sat hunched over for four hours to work as she got three bags of I.V. meds, a skin biopsy, a pump refilled for another I.V. medicine, saw a nurse, P.A. and the doctor.  And that was our fifth appointment, third doctor in four days.

I come home to a four-bedroom two-story rental house in the city with all new leather furniture - so that unlike upholstered furniture, it can be wiped free of all germs and bacteria - and set my computer up and work in an upstairs bedroom set up as an office for the remainder of my eight hour workday.  Then I go down and cook dinner for four.  Clean up the kitchen, put on a load of laundry and feed the dog and the gray stray cat that lives outside.  At 7:00 my husband and I will go to the huge Church of God church down the street and attend a Grief-Share meeting with people that are becoming my friends through the common bond of loss.  We will come home about 8:30 or 9:00; take a quick shower and then go to bed as I will be up again at 3:00.
After 37 years one of my closest relationships did not survive this tragedy and the fallout from it.

Next Wednesday will be Paxtons third birthday. This year, no party is planned.  All that I have left of him are a few static photographs and the necklace given to me that holds a sprinkling of his ashes. The joy and laughter now gone from my home... and my life.
Our usual big loud Christmas will be missing my sister and her husband (she cannot be around crowds since her transplant), my youngest son, previously the life of the party, his young fun-loving wife and the baby that came running to me arms outstretched squealing "I missed you!" last Christmas.
I am not only uncharacteristically, unprepared for Christmas - but do not in fact, even want to celebrate Christmas at all. 

Saturday I will go to my real home in the country.  I will cry periodically from the minute I get there until I leave on Sunday to come back here.  I will have dinner with my daughter as I have become very clingy to the children I have left.  Unfortunately for her, she is the only one local. 
I will go to church on Sunday morning but have given up all of the duties that I had and I will sit there like a zombie unable to even pray.  I will listen until visions of Paxton running hot wheels cars up and down the pew come to mind and then I'll cry.  I’m not mad at God I’m justs not quite sure where we stand anymore.  I won’t go out to lunch with friends after church as we are seldom invited anymore and I don't really want to be in a social environment just yet.  And I won’t play hide and seek when I get back. 

And as for where will buy our retirement home…nobody cares.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Things grief has taught me...

I know it is difficult to know what to say especially to someone in our situation and although we have had so many friends, church members, neighbors and co-workers that have been so thoughtful and so kind – we have also been shocked and surprised that most of the time, the care and concern we have received has been from people we either barely knew or did not know at all and then equally surprised at so little care and concern from some of the people we would have thought of as those friends closest to us or those that have been a part of our lives for years.

I have had sweet and thoughtful cards, calls, texts and emails, gifts, meals and donations to the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society  -- from such surprise sources as: my retired mail carrier, a girl in a resource department on my job, my new boss, the real estate agent we purchased a house through several years ago, my ex-daughter in law (divorced over 20 years ago), a neighbor from 25 years ago, our receptionist at work, an ex-co-worker that left the company almost two years ago, a young man new to our company that I only worked with about two months, the lady that replaced me when I changed jobs, the receptionist from another company located on the same floor as ours, my daughter’s Sabbath School class (not the same church or denomination as me), my sister’s best friend, my sister’s pastors mother. 

But sometimes those that you thought were your closest friends seem kind of freaked out and just don’t know what to say or how to act and so they simply avoid you.  This is a time when your emotions are so raw and you are so overly sensitive that friendships can be forged through the simplest act of care and concern or forever broken for the lack of it.

You really need not say or do a lot – sometimes just showing up is more than enough.  A hug and a simple “I’m so sorry” is perfect.  I could never have imagined what a simple card in the mail could do to lift your spirits. There have literally been days when a simple card in the mail actually made the difference between life and death at that moment.  You really may never realize what such a small gesture can mean to someone that is hurting.  A quick phone call with “Hey I was thinking about you – is there anything you need?”  They will likely say “No”, but ask anyway.

Also please know that we need to talk about it.  We need to talk about or hear our loved one’s names.  Please don’t come and try and distract us with talk about football or current events to avoid bringing our loved one up in conversation because you think it may make us sad – we are sad – there is no avoiding that.  We have no desire to forget them or pretend it did not happen.  We need to talk about it and it helps if you listen.  And yes, we may cry.  Bring chocolate and cry with us or just get us a tissue and tough it out. 

The only difference between living through a profound loss and never having lived through one – is time.  If you live long enough – you will experience great loss at some point.  One thing I have learned is how important it is to be caring, compassionate and supportive to those experiencing great loss because it does matter.

I 'm sure I have been guilty of the same, though I hope not often and one thing for sure that has come from this – is that I will never again be that person that doesn’t know what to say so I say nothing. 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The holiday season approaches…

Well Thanksgiving came and went and thank God, it wasn’t as bad as I had anticipated.  On the actual day of Thanksgiving – we did not do our traditional family dinner.  Donald and I sat alone in the house all day and ate a leftover hamburger!  Now for the die-hard traditionalist --that is a first.  But two of my grandsons had other plans and would not be able to come so as opposed to having any additional empty chairs – we opted to move our traditional Thanksgiving dinner to Saturday.  My daughter came to help on Friday and we spent the entire day together which was good I think for both of us.  Saturday – I had some free time before everyone arrived and I got the crying out of the way.  It served as a pressure release and I was able to do dinner without a melt-down as I was able to put the sadness on the back burner.  She and I had talked about the loss of the kids and the situation a lot on Friday while we were alone and it kind of got it behind us and although all of us thought about them, everyone seemed to do all right.  I am still very relieved it is over.  I had dreaded it for weeks.

I was home for the four day holiday weekend and it has not been easy but it was okay for the most part. I’ve had my moments but I am learning that that is to be expected as apparently ‘this’ is my new normal; periodically crying, uncontrollably –at random unexpected times and in random unexpected places--maybe forever?  But other than thinking I am losing it --I'm good.

This has truly been the worst year of my entire life.  And one of the things that I was “thankful” for during our Thanksgiving meal was that 2014 is nearly over! 

It has been one nightmare after the other.  January – we got caught up in the ice storm that paralyzed the city as the four million people that usually jam our roads every day during our 3:00 - 7:00 rush "hour" --all tried to leave the city at the same time --in ice.  They jammed the entire city with thousands of stranded cars --some stranded for days and most didn't get home that night.  My husband and I spent the night in our car in a grocery store parking lot in a scary section of town (with about 100 other cars and two school buses!) in 18 degree weather with no food, water or bathroom.
We came home to find our neighbors two 90 lb dogs attacked our little 30 lb 10 year old dog and she was bitten multiple times and in shock and terrific pain.

In February my 44 year old son in law had a heart attack.  He was all right thank God but required testing, treatment and several days in the hospital. (they had no insurance…)

My mother's best friend, Rachel a part of my life as long as I can remember, passed away fifteen years to the day at the exact same time as my mother.

In March I had a car wreck – my first in over 35 years a miracle in itself considering I typically drive about 100 miles a day in a city of 4,000,000 of some of the worst drivers in some of the worst traffic in the U.S. 

There was a shake up in my department at work and my boss was removed from his position and was no longer my boss after 6 years.   So I decided to take another position in a completely different department.  It was a good move for me but still a very emotional, sad and stressful transition.

April, we moved into a rental house that has had one issue right behind the next - the traffic is a nightmare, the roof was leaking, large dead trees falling in the yard and this was the third such move in 6 years. 

May, my unmarried, 18 year old granddaughter happily announced that she was pregnant.   

June, my sister was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia.  

July, she and her husband moved in with us, I became her full time caregiver requiring we spend four to six hours a day in the bone marrow transplant clinic for a yet undetermined amount of time on an emotional roller coaster during what promises to be a long and arduous recovery from a stem cell transplant.

Several of the neighborhood dogs attacked and killed my daughter’s little Pomeranian that had been a huge part of our family for many years.

August, during a really scary complication with my sister, my brother in law accidently let my timid little Siamese cat out and she has never been seen again. 

Then just weeks before my sister’s transplant the unimaginable happened that made the rest of the year seem like a day at the park.  I lost my son, my daughter in law and the baby boy I adored in a violent, and most devastating triple tragedy leaving us all the misery of never knowing the truth about what happened because of a  botched  investigation that left my son to forever bear the blame. 
September, as icing on the proverbial cake, one of my very best friends and I parted ways after 37 years of being almost as close as sisters.

October, Joan had the dreaded Bone Marrow/Stem Cell transplant and 100 straight days of almost daily clinic visits for 4 to 6 hours a day.  Attempting to keep her in a germ-free, bacteria-free, fungus-free environment because she has no immune system.

November, Graft vs. Host disease, two diabetic seizures, three potentially deadly viruses, four different medical offices  --and a partridge in a pear tree.

December, Paxton's third birthday and the first Christmas in my adult life that I will not have my children with me and I will not, in fact, celebrate Christmas at all.   

That hits every major stressor on the scale and the worst one -- three times. 
I will be so glad to see 2014 in the rear-view mirror.   
New Years Eve will be one holiday I am looking forward to celebrating!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

What I wouldn't give...

I had yet another emotional ambush over the weekend. 

We are living in a rental house during the week so my sister can stay close to the BMT clinic and going home on the weekends.  So this weekend being the three month anniversary we decided not to go home.  Didn't help.  I pretty much do all right during the week when I am occupied with “caregiver duties” but when I get home --it’s on because Paxton is everywhere. 
Home is where I held him and rocked him when he was newborn and where I propped him up in Papa’s arm during the Nascar race so I could prepare dinner on Sunday afternoon.  I swear that is what started his "thing" with cars.  If it didn't have wheels on it - he had no use for it.  He loved, loved, loved cars, trucks, tractors, school buses, heavy equipment and anything with wheels.  His daddy and Papa had a rivalry going over their Nascar drivers.  Brian liked Tony Stewart and Papa liked Jimmy Johnson.  Brian was livid when he picked Paxton up one Sunday and he threw his arms up and yelled at the top of his lungs "Go Jimmy!"
On Saturday night to avoid the "bedtime melt down" I would gather him up in the bed with me and turn the TV on anything that had music.  He loved Lawrence Welk, The Gaithers and the 50’s-60’s Oldies specials on PBS.   There he sat mesmerized until he fell asleep peacefully.  Then I would ease him into his bed and sit quietly in the rocking chair and just watch him as he slept.

How can a child I did not even know three years ago devastate me so with his absence?

I have not been able yet to remove his presence from my house.  I have moved his tent and his toys to an empty bedroom so that they are not all over the house anymore.  I didn't mind them there but they seemed to make everyone else uncomfortable.  His little booster chair is still sitting in my dining room chair and his swing still hangs in the backyard an ever present heartache every time I glance out the window.  The big wheel that he had not yet grown into, sandbox and sit and spin are still out under the porch where I pass by them every time we come home.  His clothes and diapers still in the bedroom drawer and even his Thomas the Train toothbrush still sits next to ours in the holder.  Baby steps.

Though I still fuss every time I snap a nail because of the child-proof latches on the cabinets – I won’t let Donald remove them.  They are evidence that he graced our lives – proof that he was here although for such a short span.  I don’t want to forget one minute of him I don’t want him out of my life, out of my mind or out of my house.

I really don’t want to be weird about it but right now I’m just not ready. 

What I wouldn’t give to just hold him and smell that sweet baby smell and touch his soft unruly hair, kiss the tips of his sweet little toes and just languish in all that was him.

But instead I will take his binky, and his blanket and sit in the rocking chair that I rocked his daddy in when he was a baby hold them both in my dreams one more time.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Three months...

Today marks three months since the tragic death of my son, my daughter in law and my 2.5 year old grandson.

I recall after losing my mother it had been a while and I thought I was over the worst of the grieving then I hit the three month mark – and I had a complete emotional breakdown and thought I was losing my mind.  I could not stop crying and I realize looking back on it that I had been so busy with the “business” of her death; planning the funeral, picking out a headstone, getting the will probated, paying the bills, clearing out her apartment, going through her things with my siblings and the multitude of other duties, that it kept me in a semi-state of shock.  What I thought was “dealing with the grief” prior to that was just scratching the surface.

At the three month mark – most of the “business” is done and as you begin to return to what is left of your life – the shock or should we call it the “aftershocks” begin to subside. 

You have cried, screamed, lashed out in anger and confusion and experienced all of the emotions that you could imagine and just when you think you have gone through the worst of it and are on your way out of the darkness; you look up and suddenly realize that the light at the end of the long dark tunnel is, in fact, --a train.

Our three month mark just happens to also coincide with the first holiday that we are “celebrating” together as a now-broken family --with three empty chairs. 
Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday as it comes at my favorite season of the year.  It is also the holiday that we typically celebrate with only the two children that are closest geographically and their families; unlike Christmas where we typically have 30 or more.  It is a smaller and more intimate gathering.  For many years it has only been my husband and me, my daughter, her family and Brian.  He seldom ever had his children on Thanksgiving and for twelve years it was just us.  Then when he married Kara she joined us and we had just the two families.  So this year the gaping holes in our life will not escape us as we go from Donald and I and two families to Donald and I and one family. 

It is not the best situation that it falls in the same week as the three month anniversary; which will multiply the sadness and renew the grief.   But if there is a common theme through all of this it is that everything about it has been “multiplied”.  And it seems to me like the “train” analogy is a very appropriate one.

I have said this has been like being hit by a 100-car freight train.  The first single car fully capable of killing you on its own and there are yet 99 more to completely crush what is left. 

The multiple losses, and all that came with them:  the loss of my youngest son; the loss of my daughter in law; the loss of my 2 1/2 year old grandson; the horror of how it happened; the burning questions of what happened; the fact that we could not see them and have any closure (not that I think I could have stood that and stayed sane); the anger at the lack of investigative police work and the fact that they jumped to this conclusion within minutes; the frustration over the lies we have been told and the missing information that could have given us at least a small measure of relief; the multitude of unanswered questions and the mystery surrounding all of it; the guilt we have all felt that was logically unjustified but ever-present just the same; the way that my child has been portrayed to the entire free world; the horrifying and undeserved legacy that was left for him;  the legacy it has left to his surviving children; the way that we as his family have been treated because of a judgment call that was five whole minutes in the making; the way that “friends” have turned their backs on us during the worst most devastating time a person can live through; the complicated mess that this has left us to deal with; the loss of faith in the God that I have always had to lean on and much, much more.  As the cars to the freight train just seem to go on and on.

So I supposed it should not surprise me that the three month mark would fall on our first holiday without them and that our first holiday without them would be typically my favorite – marred forever now because I will always connect it with this first holiday.  Or that, that holiday would be the holiday for being Thankful.  I pray for the strength and ability to be thankful for all that I still have.

And I do still have a lot to be thankful for… I have finally found my way through the darkness and the devastation --back to some measure of faith.   I have a God that loves me and I know that I can trust Him and know that He has my children with Him.  I am thankful for the time that I had Brian and the joy that he gave all of us.  I am thankful for having Kara for the time that I had her as she was a delightful breath of fresh air and brought the gift of her love to Brian and I am thankful that we had Paxton and thankful for what he taught me about God's unconditional love in the short time that we had him. 
I know that they were never really mine – they were always His and He cares for them now and forever. 

I am thankful for a new more vivid appreciation for those that I have left in my life.  I have my other children and grandchildren that are also a great joy to my life and I have my husband that has comforted and stood by me through this worst of times.  I have my siblings that have been there with me through so many things in my life.  I have my home, my neighbors and my church family.  And most important of all, I have the knowledge that God sent His son to pay the penalty for my sin. And it has never been driven home to me quite so succinctly - the depth of the sacrifice that God gave for me - until I lost my own son.  

I have a lot to be thankful for.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Things I wish I could say...

To the Sheriff’s Department --

If these were your children my guess is that you’d have done a more thorough job of investigating all of the possibilities and you would not have jumped to this conclusion in the first fifteen minutes.

I’m betting you would have thought a motive was important if either of the three of them had been your child.

This was not an exercise in curiosity.  We really needed to know what happened to our children.  That is not an unreasonable request.

Making up stories did not give me closure.  It negated everything that you had ever told me. I believe what you said about the investigation even less than I already did.

To Kara’s Mom –

We have more in common than you might think.

Our children loved each other and we shared a grandchild.  We share the most profound grief a mother can ever know.

We are family.  I care about what happens to you and what you think and how you feel.  I wish desperately that we could sit down and just talk.

I loved your daughter and more importantly so did Brian – with all his heart.

He knew Kara was worried about you and he had just told her to call you and tell you to pack your things and just come live with them – He told her you would always have a home with them as long as you wanted.

To Kara –

You were a great wife and a great little mom.  I was so proud of you and you were a perfect addition to our family and we all loved you so much.

I appreciate the time that you let me have with your baby.  You were never selfish with him and I was so blessed to have you.  It was because of you that I had the joy of him.  You will never know what the videos you made for me mean to me.  They are my lifeline; especially the last one where you are coaxing Paxton to say: “Hey Nana, I love you.”  I watch it over and over.  It is priceless.  Thank you so much for thinking of me and giving me that to hold onto.

You made Brian happy.  For that I will always be eternally grateful.

He wanted you to have the business you had always wanted because he said that you had always supported his dreams and he wanted to help you realize yours.  He planned to sell off some of his tools so that he could build you a nail/make up salon downstairs so that you could see your dream of a business of your own where you could use your talents and still never have to leave Paxton.

To Brian –

I wish I had hugged you goodbye the last time I saw you but I didn’t and I will always regret that.  Hugging always made you a little uncomfortable and I opted not to for your sake – I wish I had followed my heart.

I love you and miss you so much it hurts.  You can never know what the letter you sent me last year meant to me and you can never know what finding your journal to Paxton has meant to all of us.

No matter what they say, I know and have always known that you did not do this. I knew you and I knew who you were in your heart.

Oh my God, what on earth happened?

To Paxton –

You were the light of my life and truly a gift from God.  I don’t know how I am going to go on without you.

I wish I could just hold you one more time but then I know that would not be enough either.

I will remember always the gift you gave me last Christmas when you spoke the first complete sentence I’d ever heard you say when you saw me come in and yelled across the room at the top of your lungs: “Nana, I missed you!”  It melted my heart and made me cry right on the spot.  They were the sweetest words I’d ever heard.  I miss you too baby boy – so much until it physically hurts.

I love you so much and I think about you every single day and truly, do not know how I will live without you.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Coping skills...

I just read a post on a blog that I follow about social drinking.  And while she was, neither for or against it she was observing the message that it sends to our children. 

I thought to myself how I could write her a book on that because no one knows what social drinking and alcoholism can do to children any more than I do. 

I grew up in an alcoholic home.  All Holidays as well as vacations and most weekends centered around drinking.  Both my parents were alcoholics and neither were what you’d call “fun drunks”.  (I used to wonder "what kind of person even coined that phrase anyway?") 
My mother was a "sleepy drunk".  Two sips and she fell over right where she sat.  If she happened to be at the table she did a "gravy plant" right into her Thanksgiving dinner. This makes for some interesting dinner conversation when you have friends over...

My father, on the other end of the spectrum, was a “mean drunk” that never slept.  Alcohol had the exact opposite effect on him.  It had a kind of amphetamine effect on him and two sips would have him bouncing off the walls and when daddy didn’t sleep – nobody slept.  One - he wouldn’t let you and two - you were afraid to close your eyes around him.   He liked to entertain himself by threatening us with loaded guns when he drank. 

My father was killed in a car accident at 46.  And my mother thankfully quit drinking at 50 years old. After she quit  I asked her once why she became an alcoholic.  She told me that she didn’t set out to become an alcoholic - no one did.  She just started having a social drink with friends; then progressed to having a drink because she had had a bad day; then on to drinking on the weekend because she’d had a hard week and then just one to help her relax and then to medicate herself because of troubles that the drinking caused and then she just woke up one day and…there she was.

Because of that candid conversation I have always been very cautious of social drinking.  So I just don’t.  Not because I believe it is a horrible sin or that you will go to Hell for drinking a mixed drink or having a beer with the guys but because I am now aware that no one sets out to become an alcoholic – you just wake up one day –and there you are.  I am also keenly aware of the fact that alcoholism, drug abuse and addictive behavior runs in families.  

I also remember what my life was like as a child and was determined never to give my children the kind of life I prayed every day to get out of. 

I think today along with alcoholism we have a far worse problem with an entire generation of people that medicate their lives away with prescription drugs.   The problem with that is that because it was prescribed by a doctor – that somehow makes it ok and they do not even see it as a problem.  Antidepressants, Sleep Aids, Pain Killers, Muscle Relaxants, Anti-anxiety drugs are all handed out like M&Ms.  And they are wrecking lives; innocent lives because like alcohol – it is ruining the lives of everyone around them not just the ones taking the drug.  And the pharmaceutical companies and unethical doctors are no better than the drug dealers on the streets because like the drug dealers they are in it for the money.

I cannot name five people that I know that are not on something. 

What happens to our future generations when no one learns how to deal with the normal problems of life, or a little minor physical discomfort or the normal stresses of illness, grief or sadness – but instead rush to the doctor because "there's a pill for that"? 

My sister is dealing with Leukemia, chemo therapy, bone marrow transplant and the many issues that causes.  She is afraid to cry and exhibit emotions because the nurses  keep asking her if she is depressed?  “Let us know if you are because we can prescribe something for you.”  Of course she is depressed!  Anyone in her shoes would be depressed.  That is not a chemical imbalance – that is a normal reaction to what she is going through. 

Everyone I talk to asks me if I have been to the doctor to get “something to help me sleep; something for my nerves; something to help me cope; something for depression?” 

Please don’t misunderstand me.  I am not against medication when you need it.  But I lost three members of my family; my youngest child; my daughter in law and the baby that I absolutely adored.  Many days I wonder if I will be able to go on. Many days – I don’t even want to. The loss is so great and the pain so deep until I wonder how I will survive it. But the loss was real – not imagined.  I’m grieving. This is a normal reaction to such a loss.  Covering it over with pills will not make it magically go away.  It will not bring them back or lessen my pain more than temporarily.  For my life to go on I need to face this and I need to learn to cope with the reality that I now have – I’m kind of thinking medicating it will only add to my problems.  They will still be gone and I will have a drug dependency to go along with the loss.  Just saying…

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

So many whys...

Well, we had the second and last interview with the Sergeant at the Sheriff's Department.  I came away feeling "defeated".

We have spent the last two months asking for only two things:  A list of the prescription medications (there was a total of 5, we only knew about two) taken from the house; and a toxicology report.

The Sergeant assured me he had the list of medicines for me finally.  And that he had the autopsy results back and he would meet with us to discuss his findings.  He agreed to this because I emailed him and asked him why no one cared to find out “why” this happened as they say because there was no cause. I told him I wanted a toxicology report as we were told would be done – we suspected if things happened like he said that Ambien was involved; I wanted the list of drugs taken from the scene.  And I had tried on three different occasions to get the drug list from the Coroner, to no avail.

I drove the 35 miles to the Sheriff’s office.  My daughter also drove about 25 and we met him a second time.  The big breakthrough information he had for us was that the autopsy showed Brian died of a gunshot wound to the head.  The list of medications he had for us were the same two we had had all along he had just changed the names to the generic name.  And the “why” that he told us was a story he apparently made up on the spot to give us some false sense of closure.

Our basis for not believing that this happened out of some vengeful act of malice caused by an argument or as they suggested, he had just found out that his wife was cheating on him and snapped or that she had threatened to leave him and take the baby - was the fact that nothing was wrong and none of that was true.  And that they needed to find out what the prescription drugs were that were in the house because something had to explain this - what they were saying happened was absolutely impossible.  Brian would never have intentionally hurt his wife or his child under any circumstances; Kara had done nothing wrong; and they were not getting a divorce.  Brian and Kara were not arguing, there was no other man, no depression, no problems that would have even caused him to kill himself much less hurt the ones he loved.

So to make me have a quasi valid reason that might explain this.  He sat there and told us that Kara's mom told him during her "interview" that Kara had in fact called her and confided to her that she "wanted to leave Brian and come back home and live with her."  My daughter and I both sat in stunned silence unable to dispute it because we could not of course prove it had not happened.  He assumed because of the circumstances that we were not in touch with Kara’s mom to know the difference I guess. We asked when this conversation took place?  He said, "I do not have timeline on that."  Well if this, in fact, was an interview to try and determine probable cause - why not?  Wouldn't that have been important?  It upset my daughter and I and we just gave up and left.  It left us both speechless.  But my daughter would not rest until she heard that straight from Kara's mom - who adamantly denied ever saying that.  As a matter of fact she only said, "If Kara had had any indication that they were either one in danger - she would have taken that baby and left. But apparently she never did.  My baby was determined to make that marriage work no matter what."

So he had tried to pull off a deception regarding the medication names.  And then turned right around and made up a complete lie to get us to go away and stop asking him for information as to how the investigation was carried out and why they just came to this conclusion.

And as for me requesting that they order the toxicology report like they told us they were doing – He says he spoke with his Major and that they will absolutely NOT order the test because they do not need it to prove cause and manner of death.  But that I can hire an attorney, get a court order and have the blood released to a private lab of my choice and pay for it and do it myself.

We thanked him and left.

I will leave him alone. But not because of his ridiculous scenario about Kara leaving has given me closure but because asking him anything is a waste of my time and gasoline.  He told me a lie and in my eyes that makes him a liar.  I have no interest in hearing anything more he has to say because I cannot trust him.

I called the GBI myself yet again regarding getting the blood sample.  They told me they could do the toxicology test if I would call the Coroner and get her to order it.  I told them she would not.  The Sheriff’s Department would not and I just needed to know the proper channels to get it myself.  They told me I needed a court order to get it.  I asked her why I needed a court order to get what belonged rightfully to his next of kin and not them?  She told me she would transfer me to open records and I could discuss it with them.  I did.  They told me all I needed was to request it in writing and gave me an email address.  No lawyer.  No judge.  But I did need a lab for them to send it to.  I then hung up to call private labs.  Where I was told that they could not test the blood because it was over 7 days old!  It was three weeks before I found out no tests were even being done and because of the lies we were told about that – we now had no recourse.  

How can I ever believe what I have been told about their death when not one single piece of information we have received has been the truth?

These were my children.  They deserve better than what they have gotten.  Brian's may have been a suicide but to accept this without an explanation, a motive and a believable truth is to diminish Kara and Paxton's lives entirely like they just weren't worth the trouble.

We owe it to all of them to get the truth.  They do not deserve to die and have nobody care "why" enough to even investigate it.  All of the reasons that someone walks in and does this; all of the scenarios that he gave me are absolutely NOT the case here.  According to what the Sergeant himself stated: There was no alcohol in the house.  There was no evidence of a single thing disturbed in the home.  They had bathed, put on pajamas, put the baby to bed, cut off lights, closed the blinds and "all" gone to bed.  According to their investigator "all" of them had gone to bed and it appeared everyone had gone to sleep. How did this not raise a red flag?

No answer.

Why if everything appeared normal was this just accepted at face value as being a domestic murder/suicide?  How if nothing fit the normal expected scenario and you walk in and there are five prescription drugs in the house did someone not assume drug interaction or drug side effects could have contributed to this and do a simple toxicology screen to find out?  Why when the  police on the scene said they had never had a “domestic call” to that house ever and they walk in and see a custom-made baby gate to keep the baby safe on the stairs, toys and a  child's room lovingly decorated, hundreds of children's books and movies, hot wheels cars, a clean and organized home, fifteen different translations of the bible, various bible study guides and books on religion on the book case, family portraits lining the walls and by all accounts no evidence of anything but a loving and happy little family.  Why was this not a red flag that something about this scene was amiss?  Why if they could explain away a suicide did “murder” not require a full investigation?  Why did Kara and Paxton's life not mean more to them than that?  They didn’t even bother to check their phones for texts or emails indicating a spat, infidelity, threats?  No one even cared enough to give us the correct date of death.  No one cared.  Period.

We care.  It is important to us.  The truth, a motive, something that makes sense - matters to us --because they mattered to us.  They always will. 

I love and miss them every one every single day.  And I believe with all my heart they deserve better than this - all of them.