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.