Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Christmas...yet again.

As hard as it is to believe here we are back in December and chose again not to celebrate Christmas  and again this year two days from Christmas Day --sitting at a funeral.  Last year it was two days before Christmas - funeral. My aunt passed away.  This year - two days after Christmas - funeral.  Another aunt passed away.  Last year right after my aunt passed away my youngest sister lost her brother in law unexpectedly.  This year right before my aunt passed away my other sister lost a sister in law unexpectedly.  Both were in their mid 50's.  Last year we had Christmas dinner in the Waffle House and I thought that was bad.  This year we were in the middle of nowhere in South Georgia and there wasn't even a Waffle House.  We ate day-old fried chicken from a gas station! 

Seriously, this has got to stop.  That is about more weird than I can handle.

Tomorrow is New Year's eve.  And keeping with tradition, we are heading to my best friend's house to spend the night.  Again, glad to see the year come to a close but not nearly as glad as last year and I'm not sure why because it did not change a thing. 

Christmas came and went.  We ran away from home as usual.  We went down to South Georgia to see Brian's oldest son.  I didn't want him to be alone on Christmas and it brought me closer to his dad to be with him.  Then we left there and went straight to where the funeral would be held.  Maybe this is God's way of getting me to gather with family for Christmas?  Last year it was my mother's family.  This year it was my father's.  Scares me a little wondering what's coming next Christmas.

On a different subject - I've been thinking about something lately.  Since I remember very little about Brian's Memorial Service and everything about not being at Kara and Paxton's service seemed so wrong.  The three of them separated and even in separate states just seemed so terrible to me.  I've been considering having another private Memorial Service for the three of them - maybe on the second anniversary. 

I want both families to come together and have a service for them as a family.  It is asking and expecting a lot I know and it may not be received very well but I'm just considering it - for closure - for comfort - for having them and us together - for letting go?  It's still in the thinking stages.  And it may not work out any better than the birthday dinner we planned last year for Brian's birthday - who knows?  But that is just a thought that has been steeping lately. 

December was a rough month as bad as I hate to admit it - we kind of went backward a bit.  It was an entire setback month.  Today I talked to my cousin that I'm very close to.  She lost her youngest daughter at four years old. That was in 1977.  We've almost never spoken of it because it very nearly destroyed her.  But today we did.  And I asked her "How long? How long before you actually wanted to live again?"  I know everyone is different and I know everyone grieves at a different pace but no one will even give me an idea of what to expect and I really, really need to know.  "Three years."  She said, "Maybe three years or maybe a little longer."  That gave me a measure of hope ---for about two minutes right before she added: "But I'm better now."  Now!  Now? Dear God.  Did you get that part about it being thirty nine years ago? 

We are in serious trouble.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Two Moms

We first met over a dish of lasagna and I remember thinking as she told a funny story of something that happened to her in Home Depot that she was one of the funniest people I'd ever met and someone I could really enjoy spending time with.  She had me laughing until the tears rolled.  I have always enjoyed a good sense of humor and I imagined what good friends we would be.  Somehow though that never happened the way I had hoped. As our lives intertwined over the next few years things instead seemed formal, polite and well...even kind of weird.

We shared a lot in common but never did I dream that six years later we would again share a meal as well as one of the worst tragedies imaginable.

This past weekend I had dinner with Kara's mom.

This was actually our second such meeting in the past few months.  The first was five hours of an emotional roller coaster as we discussed the events of the past year. Unlike that, this meeting was a Christmas celebration with family.

Ours is a weird relationship that according to her, a lot of her friends and family do not understand. Quite honestly, I'm not real sure I do either. It has been a relationship that by all normal standards probably should never have happened, but I, for one, am so thankful that it did.

We had the worst imaginable common bond. One that would have driven most people to opposite ends of the spectrum.  My son.  Her daughter.  Our baby.  She had anger.  I had guilt.  Neither of us chose those emotions. Neither of us chose our roles in this odd family dynamic. But here we are --clinging to each other to get through this however possible.  And as hard as it is to believe, we seem to find comfort in each other.  And though we completely understand how hard this has been for our entire family we also know that no one else understands the devastation we live with like the only other mother and grandmother involved in this.

Still, the extraordinary graciousness she has shown towards my family has been unbelievable to me. It has gone a long way to provide me peace from the horrific guilt that I have suffered over this.  As I've mentioned before although "we" do not in any way believe Brian could have been capable of this - we are acutely aware that the rest of the world certainly does and just as it causes me discomfort with people in my neighborhood and my small town, it has also bombarded me in heaps of  guilt where Kara's family is concerned. I have enough empathy to walk in their shoes and in doing so I can't help but wonder how she is able to extend the grace towards us that she does.  Only one way that I can see.

What a true example of God's grace and His forgiving love.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Techno Grief

Grief, like everything has also changed with technology. Technology issues were things that were never considered just a few years ago and not something I have heard anything about in all my reading and research – how technology makes it difficult to accept a loss because your loved one keeps turning up in texts, emails, voice mails, phone contact lists, Instagram photos, Youtube videos and worse still --old news feeds.

We really don’t realize on a surface level how deeply ingrained we are in the technology that permeates our lives today.  So much so until it, at times, seems to override reality. It never occurred to me how much our subconscious minds automatically believe what they see through our daily  blasts of technology because we are so conditioned to it.  One instance was when Siri asked me if I want to call Brian.  Now on a logical level I knew that wasn’t possible but for just a split second my conscious mind wanted so badly to believe she/it could until I found myself desperately wanting to try.  And like sometimes I find myself just looking up their phone numbers on my contact list as if seeing it there makes this somehow less true or not real even if it is just for a moment.  Or looking up old texts where even seeing their words typed on a screen makes me hear their voices because I was so used to being able to actually “hear” through their typed words, their inflections and their tone – like finding the silly comments Brian had left on my Shutterfly page and as I read them I could actually “hear” the mood he was in; the lightness, humor and sarcasm in his voice --making it feel like they are actually there on the other end of my computer, email or phone.  And for just a minute – it feels so good, so right and so normal.  It is a break from the sadness and a moment of “before”.   I even find that I look on other emails I’ve sent and I note the date as being before the loss and I grasp for the lightness that was in my own voice and hang on to that free easy innocence that I will never know again.  The voice I had and the person I was “before” when the most asinine things took priority in my life and I spent my days worrying over the lifelong battle with my weight, getting my hair to behave or the fact that my phone wouldn’t hold a charge; when the little petty annoyances of an everyday life were the things that dominated my thoughts.  Or things like fretting over who was and who was not going to come to Christmas or being aggravated at the fact that I had changed the day and time four times to try and fit everyone else’s schedule.  I look at those emails and mentally take myself back to that life before I knew catastrophic multiple loss when I believed God watched over all of my children, when I thought things that horrific only happened to other people.  And I can remember and take myself back to feel the very atmosphere of the "before". 

It seems my entire world is divided into two parts.  There was me before August 23, 2014 and there is me after August 23, 2014.  August 22, 2014 – hair mattered.  August 24, 2014 - life did not matter. June 3, 2014 - I was emailing an editor to see if they had accepted a story I had written.  September 23, 2014 – I am trying to survive one day at a time by writing out my pain, my frustration, my love, my grief and Brian’s story on this blog unconcerned with whether anyone else will ever even read it or not.  March 31, 2014 I was setting up a closing with a real estate attorney to close out the sale and put Brian and Kara’s house in their name.  February 12, 2015 I am emailing a foreclosure attorney setting up a date for the sale of that same house on the courthouse steps.   

There are other things too like the notification not long ago that was on my phone when someone had hacked an old email account and I got an email in my inbox that said it was from Kara – for just one moment I was so happy and just because it sat there in real time saying that it was from her, I had a moment of relief even joy and excitement although on a conscious level I knew better.   And strangely enough, it doesn’t even feel crazy to me???  Sounds crazy.  But it doesn't feel crazy. Not because nothing is crazy now but instead because everything is, if that makes any sense.   My life, my actions, my thought processes, my logic and my reality –everything seems so skewed until even the craziest stuff seems…well… normal.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Home is where the heart is...or at least where it used to be.

We are coming up on Paxton’s fourth birthday and with Christmas but two weeks later I have decided to get an early start on the crying.  I’ve done a little better lately but am having a rough time getting through December.   I had hoped that after the first year of holidays that Christmas could return.  And maybe it will some time but clearly this is not the year.  This year, we are just going to let it slide again.  I don’t “think” I am being rebellious about it.  I hope I’m not.  But I am just not up to it.  Especially since the last Christmas we had together, was the one where Paxton cried out “Nana, I missed you!” when he saw me and brought both me and his Mama to a puddle of tears.  He had just turned two and I had hardly heard him say a single word you could understand and suddenly he throws out an entire sentence.  That is all I have been able to think about for a week.  So when and if Christmas comes back – it is going to have to look a whole lot different.

Thanksgiving however, was actually good --better than I could have hoped.  We had fourteen which is way above our normal Thanksgiving crowd.  I had a long-time friend and her daughter come that I had not seen in twelve years.  That was a pleasant surprise and she and I had a really nice catch up visit for the entire weekend.   

Brian’s only daughter and first grandchild came – a bitter sweet time for both of us.  This was the first time she had been back to our house since the Memorial Service the week after they all died.  It was difficult for her I know but I am hoping that now that that hurdle has been scaled, it will get easier for her and we will begin to see more of her and the baby.   All in all, it was an enjoyable family gathering.

Speaking of family gatherings, this house has always been the family gathering spot.  We have a lot of space and it has been great for entertaining.  Problem is that is what all of us see here now.  Every family thing we have ever had included Brian and for many years – just Brian.  We have had Sunday Dinners, cookouts and egg hunts, fishing and canoeing, swimming and hiking.  We have held every Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, Memorial Day,  July 4 and Labor Day celebration that was held --here. All of the grandchildren learned to swim here, caught their first fish here, climbed their first tree here.   This is where three little boys and me camped out in the back yard - for about two hours before they said, “Nana, camping was FUN!!  Now let’s go inside.” 

There are so many memories here both good and bad.  We’ve been snowed in together without power for a week here during the only blizzard I have ever experienced in over 60 years.  This is where Brian’s oldest son got snake bit on my birthday the year he was two.  The boys worked side by side with Donald and I as we built our very rustic barn from a hundred year old oak tree that fell on the property.  And the boys and Donald spent weeks building an apartment for my mother in the bonus room over a detached garage and that was where she moved into and spent the last four years of her life. 

We have taken 20 plus years of family milestone photographs here including prom pictures, graduation pictures, first car pictures, first fish pictures, wedding pictures and baby pictures. 

This has been the home that has always drawn a crowd and over the years we have hosted well over seven thousand people here for various functions.  Think about that just a minute....

For the last three years of my mother’s life I hosted a party for all of her retiree friends that she worked with for over thirty years.  I have had cookouts and picnics for forty plus friends and co-workers at the last three places I worked at.   We have held over 100 weddings here and at least half-dozen baptisms and of course every single family holiday was here.

For the past twenty three years this is where we have called home and it has truly been the first place that I ever really felt “at home” safe and like I belonged.  The roots we planted ran deep.  Since living here we have loved and then buried twenty years of family pets and here we have experienced every stage of our family’s life – watching as our family has grown exponentially from a family of five to a family of twenty one. 

But this is also where we were when the world came crashing down on us.  This is where I collapsed in a puddle in my bedroom floor surrounded by a steady flow of tears and prayers as together both immediate family and church family learned the details about the loss of my son, my daughter in law and the baby I adored.  

This is where I became intimately familiar with the fuzz in the dark corners of my closet floor as I reeled in shock and tried to absorb all that had happened.  This is where hundreds of friends and family flowed in and out for the following week bringing food, words of comfort, prayers, cards, and support however we needed it.  This is also where I was stared at everywhere we went for the months that followed.  This is where we felt deserted and disillusioned as most of the same friends that had been here that first week seemed to drop off the radar and have never set foot here again.  This is where total strangers and casual business acquaintance asked questions and pressed for details prying open the gaping gashes torn in my heart.  This is where the guy that was so enthusiastic about getting to cut our grass and do some landscaping for us asked around and found out we were “those people” and suddenly refused to show up or take my calls anymore.  This is where for fifteen months my granddaughter and my oldest son have refused to come back to because of the sad reminders that will always connect them to the worst day of their lives leaving me feeling lost and abandoned and not knowing what to do because though that is true for all of us --this was my home.

It once seemed like home to our entire family. 

It's sad that it doesn't feel like home here anymore.  

Monday, November 23, 2015

Girl's Night...

We are back from the concert.  One of the first songs MercyMe sang was The Hurt and The Healer – the song that started it all for me.  Thank you again R.B. That was an awesome concert and I wish I could have shared it with you!  We had a really great time. 
My best friend’s sister just lost her husband a few months ago and the day of the concert was his birthday; their first since losing him.  To keep from being alone on his birthday his daughter came up from Jacksonville, Florida and joined us at the last minute.  We all needed this and it did not disappoint. It was one of those little Divine Gifts that I ended up getting to see the very band that started my new love affair with Praise music.  I have not been to a concert since The Doobie Brothers!  This was a little different

It was a girl's night.  Turned out to be an overnighter for my daughter and I because the concert was 75 miles away and so we stayed the night in a hotel and met the other girls for breakfast before we headed home on Friday.  There were six of us altogether and we had a really great time of good friends, worship and fantastic music.
And as I listened to the lead singer in the band speak of his childhood of shame and abuse I realized I had a lot more in common with them than just the words to their songs speaking to my heart.  Maybe that was the deeper common bond that drew me to their music. His music is from his heart, a part of who he is. 

Only thing missing that kept it from being a perfect night - was my sister.  But on that subject, Praise God, she got some good news recently and we will certainly take it!  She deserves some good news for a change.

Today is the fifteen month anniversary.  I have been doing better but somehow my spirit always knows what day it is even when I do not consciously think about it.  I dreamed last night that I was in a store in front of a display of hand-crocheted baby things and I had a little matched sweater set with a hat in my hands touching the soft yellow yarn and remembering what it was like to be shopping for and buying precious little baby things for Paxton before and after he was born.  And right there in the store I had just decided to pull up a chair in front of the display and do exactly what I always fear I will do. I sat down in the middle of the store right out in public and just cried. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015


I keep trying to write but for some reason I am having a really hard time; me - the person that can sit down to write a thank you note and ramble on for ten pages.  I cannot think of anything useful or edifying to say.  I never had any plans when I started this blog for how it should go, what it was going to be about, where it was headed or when it would end.  I just needed an outlet so I jumped in and wrote whatever was on my heart that day.  I needed to be able to express the torrent of thoughts that bombarded me daily: the questions, the memories, the insecurities, the inconsistencies, the anger, sadness and confusion as well as the doubts, the lessons, the insights, the epiphanies and the other boggy, mud-covered steps I’ve taken through this process.  But eventually something would have to change.  Either there is growth and progress as I healed in which case it would eventually just ride off into the sunset or it would have to morph into something completely different but you cannot just keep going with a continuous rant about the same old stuff.  And I am certainly not healed and the journey has not ended. Not by any stretch of the imagination but instead it seems to be going in a circle and I really don’t know how much can you write about a journey where the scenery never changes?  

This has been on my heart for several weeks and I actually took the blog down from public view for a week or so.  I had a little feedback from people closest to me asking what happened or blaming themselves and so I put it back up but I suspected even as I did that – that it probably wasn’t for long.  I didn’t want to take it down again without at least letting everyone know what was going on.  I owe you that. 

It is beginning to sound like I am in a phone system loop.  Push one if you would like to hear about my unabated anger, Push two if you want to hear about my latest crying fit, push three if you would like to hear about about my faltering faith, push four if you’d like to repeat this menu…

Better instead of bitter - that's what I'm shooting for and in checking my inner feelings against those of others that have experienced profound loss I do see a few things that I feel that are different from a lot of them.  I am not now nor have I ever been angry at Brian.  I do not see other people that still have their sons or grandchildren and feel jealousy or anger at them and wonder “Why my son and not yours?” That has truly never crossed my mind.  I would not want any human being to suffer this loss. And I can look at it and say instead "Why not mine?" I'm nobody special.

I can see people enjoy their small children or grandchildren and it does not bother me or make me sad. What does bother me however is a child crying over something preventable; a parent that does not seem to appreciate the child they have or a parent doing exactly what I would have done prior to this – taking something away from their child because of rules or to make a point and making that child cry.  That will make me cry in a New York minute and I do have an almost uncontrollable urge to tell them to please just give the baby whatever it wants, just let it be happy and love it while you can.  You could be sitting where I’m sitting.

So here is a progress report – I am functioning. Better.  I laugh but I also still cry – randomly and without warning. I am able to shop and pass the toy department and baby department without the trip ending in a puddle of tears and me running out of the store.  They are still the first thing on my mind when I wake up and the last thing on my mind before I go to sleep when I can sleep but there are more times in between that I don’t dwell on them obsessively. Strangely enough, it is getting more difficult to look at their pictures and videos??? I don't get that.  I still have most of their stuff in my building.  "Most" being the key word here.  I still have Brian’s Pepsi in my fridge and Paxton’s booster seat is still attached to my dining room chair and I am still breaking my nails on child safety latches on my kitchen cabinets.

I am beginning to go out in social situations although still few and far between.  I still prefer to be with family or close friends on a one on one basis.  I still have problems with crowds or large social functions.  But I am pushing myself.  I have tickets to a Mercy Me concert next week with my daughter, one of my two best friends and her sister.  It will be a crowd.  It is a social situation and it is not one on one or just family so that’s a baby step. 

I am planning to have Thanksgiving Dinner this year on Thanksgiving Day and try slowly to stop “pretending” (sneaky denial.)  I am still not planning to celebrate Christmas – I’m just not ready for that and I don’t have a “new normal” version to work with yet.  But again, it’s a start. 

My faith – here, we are still on shaky ground.  I’ve done everything I know to do to hold it together. One corner falls down and I run get a book or two and put under it.  It holds it for a little while and then the other side begins to lean – I go grab some Christian music and a few podcasts from Charles Stanley and carefully prop it up on that side.  We’re good for a week or two and the other side starts crumbling again.  I borrow some faith from my sister to use to fill the cracks, nail another sermon from church to that side and grab a chapter or two from the bible and glue them along the sides.  And I’ve managed to hold it together long enough to go search for more material. It is not a plumb, square or sound structure. And it is just as shabby as it sounds and I hate that but I’m doing all I know to do.  Truthfully, some days I want to take a bulldozer and just mow down what’s left of it and push the whole mess off a cliff.  And actually that may be what it takes. Maybe I will have to let God rebuild it from the ground up because my shoddy patch job trying to put it back together with the scraps I’ve got is just not working all that well.

To me, that is still the scariest part; the saddest part and believe it or not, the worst part of all of this. 

And how much longer I will keep the blog going is still up in the air but for what it’s worth that is where we are today.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Denial? No way. Really?

As is my habit, I was listening to Charles Stanley at 5:30 this morning and he had some earth-shattering news for me.

The premise of his message was how you sometimes can’t know a real personal relationship with God because of baggage in your past that you have spent years denying.  He spoke of how children from abused or neglectful homes will build coping skills to survive hurtful things in their lives and those coping skills though useful to help them “survive” their immediate trauma do not always serve them well later in life.  He said that one of those coping mechanisms is denial; the ability to cover up, smooth over and stuff down the things that you feel so hurtful that you cannot face the pain.  So you just go about “pretending” it didn’t happen; thinking if you can just avoid it long enough that you will just eventually get over it.  “Pretending”?  Wait, did he just say pretending?

I thought I understood the word “denial” and it never would have occurred to me that my "pretending” was in any way related to “denial”.  I was not in denial.  After all how on earth could you deny this kind of loss?  You can’t.  It is in your face twenty-four/seven.  I face it.  I face it hundreds of times a week.  They are all gone.  There is no denying that even if I wanted to – I couldn’t.

Apparently though, I can sit in denial of certain aspects of this horror by avoiding all of the pain involved in participating in --let’s say, the Holidays...

Like sitting at the Thanksgiving table with three empty chairs – three!  And the traditional pumpkin pie that no one in my family ever really liked… but Brian, or the fact that our last family Thanksgiving Dinner was hosted by Kara at their house; the house that was sold on the courthouse steps; the house they completely remodeled themselves; the house they brought Paxton home from the hospital to; the house they lived in and loved and died in.  

And then there is Christmas.  My lame attempt to avoid dealing with what all of the pain of Christmas without all of my children will feel like, Christmas presents with no baby and all of the memories of all the Christmases past or having to make a decision about a Christmas stocking that has been hanging in our home at Christmas for the past forty years that will now either be orphaned standing alone untouched on Christmas morning or left abandoned in the attic from here on out.  And all of the Christmas ornaments that have graced our family tree for the past thirty years or so will now be like a dagger to my heart with every memory they provoke.  

And like my running away for Mother’s Day – the day set aside for mothers; a day when you always remember the birth of each and every one of the children that made you a mother.  Also the day that excavates memories of little hand-prints, homemade cards with stick pictures of me and lop-sided handmade ashtrays.  Mother’s Day a day to remind me how totally unnatural it is that I am living and my child and grandchild are not. 

And Birthdays – more days that I have avoided by pretending they were just another day.  Because of memories of favorite cartoon characters on a cake from birthdays past, of a favorite Teddy Bear named Fred that became a member of our family for several years or memories of milestone days; those that have been and those that will never be; reminders that they are all forever stuck in time in the “terrible two’s”; twenty-nine and holding and fabulous forty - plus one. 

And birthdays that are way overshadowed by another day now – a death day; the terrible anniversary of the worst day in my life. 

I have been using my avoidance as a coping skill never realizing it was anywhere akin to denial and I too, have been of the opinion that if I could do this long enough at some point I would be healed enough that I could live and have some semblance of normalcy – maybe- someday. 

His message to me this morning that came through loud and clear was that it does not work.  You only heal by acknowledging and working through – dealing with the hard and hurtful stuff.  Learning to live with it; learning how to live in spite of it. 

What he didn’t tell me was: How?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015


I've gone a little backwards and I've been kind of running off the rails lately.

The other night I drifted off to sleep and about an hour into what might have been a good restful sleep I "suddenly" remembered that Brian was dead.  In my sleep I had actually "forgotten" it and for just a split second when I woke up "remembering" I thought I had dreamed it and that it was not really true and then when I realized it was it was like hearing it for the first time all over again.  It rattled me so badly until I could not go back to sleep for hours.

How in the hell does that still happen?!  How can I live in the midst of this horror with it never leaving my mind day or night and suddenly have it hit me like it is all new and I am hearing it for the first time??? How?  I mean it was absolutely just like it was brand new - almost 14 months later.  I don't understand that.  I really don't.  But it is unnerving.

And I have been a mess ever since.

And this entire week - I have done little else but hide and sob.  I have been thinking about all of them but most especially missing Paxton again.  I have just been remembering him and all that he was; how sweet he was; how much he loved really simple things - like his little hot wheels cars. How he didn't really care all that much about lots of toys or complicated toys with batteries or remote controls or things that made noise or had motion like most kids.  He was a very simple child.  He had every toy known to man but what he loved was his plain simple little cars that he pushed around himself. He even played with them in the bathtub.  He had robotic cars that made engine noises, honked their horns, had flashing lights and ran by themselves,  But in a minute he would sidestep those and opt for his hot wheels. He had racetracks, computerized games and toys, books, movies, tents, telephones, a motorized tractor, a swing set, a trampoline, musical instruments, a bicycle, a motorized car that he could drive himself - literally everything a child could dream of.  But what he loved were his cars. He watched cartoons but only loved the ones that had lots of songs.  He loved music and different sounds and he paid attention to voices, accents, inflections and tones and used them even when he didn't have words.  He loved all animals and had absolutely no fear when it came to animals.  He would have walked up to a grizzly bear with his hands outstretched. He loved to dance and sing and he understood things that were so far above what he should have known.  Brian brought him over fishing for the first time just weeks before they died and he thought Paxton was going to be so excited to catch his first fish.  Brian cast out and got a bite and handed the rod and reel to Paxton and helped him reel the fish in.  Paxton saw the fish struggling on the line and he knew he absolutely knew that it was hurting the fish and he started screaming: NO!NO!NO!NO! and turned away refusing to look.

A couple of years ago there was a huge community yard sale and a lady there must have had a half acre of toys for sale.  Brian and Kara came and brought Paxton and Brian set him down right in the middle of all those toys and told him to get whatever he wanted.  There must have been over 300 toys there and he picked up two little cars and a school bus and went back to his daddy for him to pick him up.  He was ready to go.  Out of 300 toys - two tiny cars and small school bus was all he wanted! He was always just satisfied with the smallest simplest things and happy with whatever he had.

I have typically had very little patience with children and have not wanted to babysit anyone's children in years.  Raised mine and half-raised a few of other people's and I was kind of over it. But it was definitely different with him.  Although he wore me out I wanted as much time with him as I could get.  Sometimes I was glad to see him go home simply because my body could not keep up with his energy level and I was exhausted but I wanted him with me - always. I never turned down time with him no matter what until my sister got sick.  I had a love for him that even I did not understand.  I could not hardly go two weeks without seeing him or I was in withdrawals.

I have never been so broken over anything in my entire life as I am over the loss of that little boy. Broken.  The joy has gone out of my life.  I miss him so bad every single day until I could scream and cry all day every day.  I don't give in to it because I am desperately afraid I will go past the point of no return.  I don't.  But I so could.  I stand strong fooling the rest of the world but the truth is I'm a mess.

It is good in a way that I am able to hold up and function – but in another way it is not so good because I am laughing when I want to cry and going to my job, cooking and doing laundry when I really just want to go to close all the blinds, stay in my pajamas, never comb my hair and pull the covers up over my head.

Sometimes I am proud that I am able to keep going and other times it feels like it is choking me to death and I want desperately to just actually do what I really want to do and stop pretending that I’m okay. I want to give in to it and just scream to the top of my lungs. “I want my children back- NOW! I can’t do this anymore!”

And I suppose that I am a pretty strong person – or I used to be. But what most people may not realize is that what makes one strong is a long history of surviving many difficult circumstances. And though it’s true you are made stronger or at least you are able to appear stronger – the down side is that there is also a “cumulative effect” from all of that hardship. And inside you live in fear that at some point there is going to come a time when your mind and your body just say: “No more.”

What very few understand about that appearance of “doing well” is that though I may not react like a lot of people might that does not mean that I don’t feel the same things. They just stay quietly inside like a cancer that hasn’t been diagnosed yet.  No visible trauma on the outside but all the while it is silently, methodically destroying me from the inside out. All of the sadness and devastation that anyone else would feel – is still there and I absolutely feel every ounce of it. Most days I literally feel like I'm choking as I stifle the urge to cry and scream because I will never see my son, my daughter in law or my baby again.

Brian was always such a delight to me. If you have children then you know they are all different.  He was the only child that I had that would come to me and openly talk about whatever was on his heart. When he was a preteen, he would come to me at night and ask me if we could talk and we would sit up way past our bedtimes while he poured out his heart to me. He used to talk to me openly sometimes in tears about his puppy-love heartbreaks. We talked about God and spiritual things and he shared with me his dreams and aspirations and he often confided to me his deepest fears in life. Nothing went on in his life that I did not know about because we talked. As a child and even a teen, he was mindful, respectful and kind. As a general rule, he went where he said he was going and came home when I told him to be home. He was kind and loving and conscientious. Then at seventeen he made some really bad choices that affected the rest of his entire life. And I watched as life beat him down and changed him from the happy, carefree and funny child he had always been to a nervous, worried, anxious young adult in a bad marriage that destroyed his trust and ruined his life for the next 18 years until Kara came along.

Kara – I am also so brokenhearted over her and so terribly sad for her family. she adored both her mom and dad. And I used to envy the type of close relationship she and her mom shared - more like best friends than parent and adult child. And she loved life so much! She was beautiful, young, talented and energetic. She had a beautiful voice and loved to sing Karaoke and used to dream of singing professionally. And she worshipped that baby and he was the light of her life. I have seldom ever seen anyone that enjoyed being a mother more than she did. She treasured every moment with him. She thought everything he ever did was adorable and she carefully observed and recorded almost every move he made. And she loved my son. What more could you ask for? Though she was younger than he was by eleven years, she thought he hung the moon. She was the wife I always hoped and prayed he would someday find. She was the one that I hoped would make up for all of the hurt and disillusionment that he had with his first marriage. She was proud of him and she thought he was way more brilliant than he actually was! I used to laugh at the fact that she absolutely thought he could do anything. If he’d told her he was planning to build a rocket to the moon and was going to start a shuttle service on weekends – she would have called me breathless with excitement at what he was going to do and ask me if I realized that he was going to be famous some day! I believe she loved him with all her heart and even though she was young and talented and absolutely beautiful – on her wedding day she confided in me that she never thought she would ever get married and still could not believe that he actually wanted to marry her

And that baby – number ten counting my step-daughter’s two sons –was the absolute light of my life. I was so young when most of the others came along and I had not really gotten over the trauma of three teenagers yet. So I could never fully enjoy them like I should have which makes me very sad. So when Brian told me they were expecting a baby – I admit I was less than thrilled. I had five grandchildren before I was forty and all were born to very young parents. I loved them. Oh my, how I loved them but I worried. Non-stop. So much so that it stole much of the joy out of having them. I worried about what, up to that point, irresponsible kids would do with a baby. I worried how they would take care of them. I worried how on earth they would afford milk and diapers and clothes and medicine and the bazillion other things that a baby needs. I worried how on earth I could help them when I was at my financial breaking point and they just kept coming. I had done nothing but worry about them and I was just about “babied out” by this time and the last thing on earth I expected was for a baby to come along and wedge his way into my heart like he did. As a matter of fact a few years back when I was without a cat and begging my husband to let me get another one I laughed one day and asked him “Well what would you rather have a cat, or a puppy or a baby?” thinking of course, that I had him on that one. His answer that stopped me dead in my tracks was --a baby! I almost fell out of my seat. “And why on earth would you say that?” I asked baffled. And his smart answer? “Because I figured that would be the one thing you absolutely would not want!” I just cracked up. He had me. So no, I did not expect for him to melt my heart like he did.

When I think of him --I want to sit in the middle of the floor with a lap full of hot wheels cars and a pacifier and sob till my heart bursts. I want to scream and rage at the unfairness of it all and the waste of such beautiful lives. In some ways I want to be okay again and in other ways I don’t want to live another day because so much of the joy has gone out of my life. I cannot imagine that I will never see him run or play or hear him laugh or sing again. Though I had managed to live fifty eight years without knowing him and only had him for such a short time, he made such an impact on my life until I cannot imagine now having to live another day without him. The sadness and devastation is at times, almost too much to bear. Most of the time, I just feel like I am dead inside. I’m functioning but I don’t know how or why. So I may look like I’m doing quite well on the surface and I’m glad that I do – but the honest truth is I know I will never even be okay again.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

I've been thinking...

And I'd like to know what you think.

And I've been reading again and for anyone going through a faith crisis this is the best resource I have found that addresses grief, loss, tragedy - as they relate to your faith. Lifelines for Tough Times by Mike Fabarez.

In the book it says that good comes from these tragedies although not always like you might expect; that sometimes other people's lives are positively affected or changed in some way.

So with that in mind, what I am wondering is could this tragedy have brought some to know God; or brought someone closer to God? Could it have given some a clearer appreciation of the life they have; or a deeper appreciation for the loved ones they have?   Could it have made some aware of issues in their own family that need addressing?  Could it have lead some to pay attention to what could be warning signs?  Could it have made someone change the way they relate to others; comfort others in their grief or judge others? Has this made anyone aware that everything they see on the news might not be true and that every story has another side?  Has it made anyone question their complete trust and faith in local law enforcement?  Has it made anyone in hearing a tragic story on the news now think about the alleged guilty party's family?  Has it made anyone think that this could happen to you?

Has my story, Brian's story or this blog in any way affected you?  If so, I would like to hear your story. Would you please let me know?

Friday, October 2, 2015

A Little Hope... goes a long way

I have prayed for help.  I have prayed for faith to fully return, for trust, for a renewed relationship.  I have hung on hoping for answers, relief, "beauty from the ashes" –something good to be made from this misery; some lessons, some divine revelation –something.   


Two weeks ago I had an incident that hit me really hard and actually made things worse.  It won't make sense to some, heck, it didn't make sense to me but after a lot of thought I've come to understand it a little better.  And since it was a part of this insanity, I'm going to write about it here. 
At dinner one night on our screened porch a little bird had landed on our feeder.  It is just maybe two feet from the table that we eat most meals at.  As I was watching him he literally flew at us and hit the screen and then began to struggle to fly at all.  I knew something was wrong with the little bird but he managed to fly onto a lower limb in a tree close by so we finished up with dinner and went inside.  The next morning I went out and began to look around for him.  In a few minutes I saw the still struggling little bird had managed to get down the hill from the house into some low-growing juniper and had apparently found refuge in the thick greenery there on the ground.  He caught my eye as he hopped upward fluttering around trying to fly up from the ground and get airborne.  No more than three minutes after I walked out to try and find him he fluttered up and then right back down and right into our lake!  I panicked.  Screaming for my husband to go get a dip net or the little Jon boat and come and get him out.  It hopped up and down in the water but the little wings that already weren’t working too well were now wet and he could only manage a few inches before he fell back into the water.  I stood on the side of the bank calling to him trying to give him some bearings as to where land was; hoping he could limp his way to the bank or that my husband could get the dip net there in time.  The little bird continued to struggle and I found myself praying out loud for God to please not let the little bird die.  Let me be able to save him and not watch him struggle and then die right in front of me.  I just did not think I could take anymore death.  The little bird sat there struggling about five minutes and then he just got still, and quietly rolled under the water. 
I just lost it.
Sobbing hysterically and literally railing at God and my husband and life in general.  I cried on and off for a solid week - over a dead bird.   Later when I’d calmed down while trying to make sense of my crazed reaction to an obviously sick or injured bird, I realized in some ways the little bird represented so much more to me.  The whole episode made me think of what I’d said about the survivor from a shipwreck I described in an earlier post (Shipwrecked).  The little bird did just like I said the survivor would do when all hope was lost – it struggled until it’s will to live depleted and it then just gave up and quietly slipped under the water.  At the time, I wrote that, I completely understood the fight to live as long as you had hope but when you saw your hopes of living through your crisis dashed over and over and though you prayed --help never came.  And death loomed large on the horizon.  At some point, just for the relief you would just quit fighting and quietly let go.  To me, in some crazy way the little bird represented my struggle to make it through this though I continue to hope and pray for relief nothing gets better and I think I loosely equated his fate with mine.
The following week – one week to the day exactly after the little bird drowned, I was driving home from work and a mile from home in the middle of the road sat a little bird.  I assumed it would fly away to safety when I got closer but as I passed I realized I had not seen him move.  When I looked back in the rear view mirror, the little bird though only a foot away as my car went past at about 30 MPH  - just sat there. 
He was almost on the yellow line right in the middle of the road.  I stopped the car and put it in reverse, backed up expecting to find the little bird actually dead or broken but there it sat --huddled down and looking terrified but alive.  I got out of the car and reached for the little bird.  It sat there still while I picked it up but as soon as I did he lowered his head and closed his eyes.  I drove the rest of the way home holding the tiny injured bird in one hand figuring he wouldn’t live fifteen minutes but after the prior week --I just had to try.  I came home and fixed him a little box with some tree limbs and leaves in it; warmed a hand towel in the dryer and made a little “nest” and sat the little bird in the center surrounded by the warmth of the towel.  Immediately he opened his eyes and started looking around.  I put him on my screened porch where all the birds outside were feeding, chirping, flying around just on the other side of the screen and left him while I went to change clothes and start dinner.  About twenty minutes later I went out to check on the little bird half expecting him to have died but instead I couldn’t find him.  He wasn’t in the box anywhere.  I looked around and there he sat on the ledge of the porch three feet above the box!  I went to pick him up and he flew to the other side of the porch where his feet got stuck in the screen.  I walked over and carefully unhung his nails from the screen and set him outside on the deck rail and to my delight he promptly flew away!

What does it all mean?  I'm not completely sure but I do feel that he was another gift. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Four Weeks and One Year...

Saturday was one year ago since I started the blog with my post Four Weeks.  It has been one heck of a ride since that first post.

When it was mentioned to me that maybe I should start a blog, I had no idea why, since I had never even read a blog.  I had no idea what I would do with it, what I would write or how it could possibly help.  But as I’ve said before I latched onto anything and everything that anyone suggested. I: read everything I could get my hands on, attended Grief Share, called a counselor, contacted Stephen Ministries, tried to pray, took whatever time off from work that was appropriate, went back to work to get back engaged in life, clung to family, wrote in my journal (which I have always done.) Read the bible, listened to preaching and teaching and Christian music.  Anything and everything that I even heard of that might help me survive this with my sanity intact –I tried.  So when starting a blog was suggested and writing had always been my natural outlet and my way to cope –I started a blog.  And while I can’t say that any one thing was most instrumental in my survival the blog has certainly played a huge part.  And yes, there are still days when it is still up in the air whether I will make it all the way through it, but I have managed to survive it one day at a time, one step at a time, one “post” at a time for thirteen months today -- a feat I never believed possible thirteen months ago.

Here I have found peace, faith, friends, comfort and release.  I have been able to write out my feelings, my love, my hurts, my memories, my devastation, my disappointments, my insecurities, my life-lessons and my grief.

I have been able through this to express some of the isolating loneliness of this horror and find solace in the friends and family that I have here because I can say the things on my heart here that I would likely never say in person.   It has helped me to be able to recognize blessings and miracles and gifts as I have written through my day to day survival.  I have found friends that have been my support and I hope and pray that it has been some comfort for others; that perhaps something I may have said or acknowledged may have helped someone else along this grief road or if nothing else – let someone know they were not alone and give them hope in the fact that if I can survive “this” freight train – they too can survive theirs. 

Through writing here I have been able to lay things out in black and white, sort through them and organize them in my mind helping me at times to see things I would have otherwise missed.  I have rediscovered my love for music and found a new love in the hope and healing words of Praise and Worship because of a reader here that had actually been through a similar experience. I have been able to post sweet memories of my baby boy, funny pictures and honor all that he was as I relived my short time with him.  I have been able to honor the memory of my daughter-in-law and express some of what she meant to me and our entire family and I have been free to acknowledge my love for my son, relive the joy that he was to us and recount some of the reasons that I can never believe this horrific conclusion about what happened and I have been free to express my disappointment, my anger and resulting insecurities with the way the Sheriff’s Department handled the "investigation". 

A year ago there was no way I could have imagined all this blog would mean to me.  It has been all of the above and much more.  Thank you for being there with me as I struggled to survive this.

Many, many days, this has been my only safe place to fall.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Storms of Life

I have been bombarded lately with a common message coming at me from a variety of areas.  I listen to Charles Stanley’s radio message at 5:30 every morning on my ride to work.  I also listen to a local Christian radio station that does a Daily Devotion every morning.  I also have a Bible app that has a Bible verse of the day.  These three different forms of media have all come together with a common message this week. The Storms of Life – their cause and meaning.   There are three types of storms that God allows in your life. 

There are Protecting storms – as in you did not get that job that you were hoping and praying for – you feel at the time that it was a storm or an unanswered prayer but perhaps instead it was because the company was going to close and you would have been left jobless.  Or perhaps you prayed for things to work out in a relationship with a certain person but that did not happen and you are disappointed but you later meet the love of your life.  Your seemingly unanswered prayer was actually a form of God’s protection.  I’m sure if you think back you can recall a time when you have asked God for something only to find out later that you were thankful He did not allow you to have whatever you had asked for.

Then there are Correcting storms – storms that hit your life as a direct result of some sin or some wrong choice that you have made.  God is not trying to destroy you with these storms of correction but instead guide you to the best choices for your life for your own benefit. - Proverbs 3:11 My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord, neither be weary of his correction for who the Lord loveth, he correcteth even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.  Ask yourself this about whatever you are going through – Is this a storm of correction?  Is there something in my life that needs correcting.  Is this a disciplinary storm that God has allowed in my life to open my eyes to something I am doing that is out of His will or is pushing me farther away from my walk with Him?  His purpose is to move us constantly in the direction of a closer walk with Him. Our goal should be to be more Christ-like.  Is there something in your life; gossip, lust, envy, an addiction or an error in thinking that may be blocking that goal?  If so, He will do whatever it takes to get your attention and get you back on the right track.  That is a correcting storm.

And then there are Perfecting storms – A storm that has come into your life as a test to refine you like gold in a fire to remove the impurities in your life or like in Luke 22:31-32 where Jesus tells the Apostle Peter “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon that your faith may not fail.  And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”  This was an Apostle of Jesus Christ who had listened to his teachings and left his personal life to walk with Jesus for three years.  But Simon Peter had such a love and loyalty to Jesus he began to be arrogant about it.  In the next verse 33: Peter says, “Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death.”  In Matthew 26: 33:  “Though all men shall be offended because of thee yet will I never be offended.”  And in verse 35 he goes on to say “I should die with thee yet will I not deny thee.”  But when Jesus asked him to come to the garden with Him and watch and pray – he fell asleep.  And when the guards came and arrested Jesus Peter in fear for his own life, denied even knowing Jesus three different times.  So though Peter loved the Lord, he was arrogant and prideful about that love and his faith.  He was not nearly as strong as he had thought.  So Jesus agreed to let Satan “sift” him as wheat – to test and try his faith not so Jesus would know the depth of that faith for He already knew but so that Peter could see his own shortcomings.  So he could no longer hide from his failures as a loyal friend and follower of Jesus.  I’m sure this was an eye opening experience for Peter.  I’m sure he was filled with confusion, remorse and shame.  But it gave him an honest assessment of how his strength, bravery, loyalty and faith was tested and found lacking. God knew that Peter’s pride was going to have to be destroyed if he were ever going to be of any real use.  Peter suffered a Perfecting storm.

And yet again this morning still another confirmation as Charles Stanley spoke of “works” making you feel justified when in fact nothing but what Jesus did on the cross could ever justify you.  There is nothing you, personally, can ever do to make Him love you more or make you right in His eyes.  Nothing.  He was saying that just because you go to church three times a week, tithe 10%, teach Sunday School or sing in the choir --that does not justify you to Jesus.  He was making the point that you were made “free” from the bondage of the law but it hit home with a different message to my heart entirely.

I have spent nearly thirteen months assessing the Tsunami that decimated our lives August 2014; initially just trying to survive the storm - dodge flying debris, tread the rising flood waters, cling desperately to whatever small pieces of solid ground I could find and then after I survived the first waves of destruction I began trying to make sense of it. 

Prior to that storm I, like Peter, would have sworn nothing could shake my faith. I pretty much felt like I too, would have gone to prison or faced death in a minute.  I was “secure” in my faith and my relationship with God was, I thought, unshakable.  I was in church almost every week for the past 22 years, I tithed, and did all of the other things that I thought was expected of me as a Christian. I cared about people, I gave to charities and tried to help people in need.  I was proud to be able to do what little I did in the church and while I never consciously thought I could “work” my way into Heaven or gain brownie points with God or even work to make restitution for any sins in my life, I apparently did think it would somehow keep disasters of this magnitude away from my life because the first thing that hit me was the unfairness and the devastating feeling that I had been betrayed by the God I loved and trusted. 

Obviously, I had a huge issue with pride as well.  Let me tell you there is absolutely nothing that can humble you right down to the dirt like the devastation of losing three members of your family at once and the shame and horror and yes, even guilt of having the whole world believe the son you love with all your heart --took the life of his wife and child. 

While I recall thinking I would gladly give my life for God – I can confess here and now that I absolutely never entertained the illusion that I would be willing to give the life of my child or grandchild.  Giving one’s life sounds like the maximum sacrifice but let me assure you it is not.  I know first-hand what a maximum sacrifice looks like and it is certainly not my life.  My life has not meant two cents to me this entire year.  Sacrificing my life would seem like a cheesy consolation prize.

Like Peter, when three times he denied even knowing Jesus, I have come to the humbling conclusion – that my faith, love and loyalty has been “sifted as wheat" and found seriously lacking.   

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Seven Dwarves of Despair

Today I received an email from another grieving mom that I have come to know through the common bond of loss; whose son died five days after Brian, Kara and Paxton.  She has just come through not only her first year anniversary but her son's twenty-second birthday four days before.  She is in deep despair yet again.  She sent me this little excerpt from a book: The Art of Support: Reaching Out to Others in Times of Loss by Lee Franklin (Chapter Two)

The excerpt was called the Seven Dwarves of Despair.  I found it spot on and decided to include it here for obvious reasons.

Spacey - This dwarf moves in almost immediately, he causes difficulty in concentrating, emotional and mental numbness.  He is forever losing things, forgetting things - but his presence is protection from being overwhelmed with the reality of our loss.  The world is still moving rapidly, while the world of a griever is s-l-o-w and out of sync.

Empty - Focuses on the pain within - loss of purpose.  Why bother (with just about anything)? He usually shows up with his best friend, Lonely.
Lonely - Constant reminder that the world is missing a very important person and telling you that life will NEVER be the same - or even good again.  Anytime you go out, all you see is other families with the equivalent of who you lost.  A huge void is there and our task is to learn to re-engage in life with that huge, missing piece.
Guilty - You should have... Why didn't you...? This dwarf looks for someone to blame - and often results in self-blame (and reasons don't have to be and often are NOT rational).  We often blame ourselves for contributing to the loss; for not handling the grief "well" and for the effect our grief has on others - why should they want to be around us when we don't like our own company?  Oh, there is no shortage of guilt!
Worry - Loss triggers fear and anxiety.  Worry is an outward manifestation of fear.  Fretting, dreading, doubting and our minds playing "worst case scenario" of any and every situation is common.  It is a natural response to fear the unfamiliar - and the world has become extremely unfamiliar.  A feeling of abandonment is also common with this dwarf.
Angry - Often misunderstood and difficult to express, one may deny that anger exists.  Whether acknowledged or suppressed, anger is a powerful emotion - it needs to be expressed responsibly and respectfully.
and Gloomy - Very unpredictable - this dwarf is the first to come and the very last to leave.  We expect a certain amount of sadness with a loss; but the "trigger' that come at unexpected times can suddenly intensify the feelings to an overwhelming level.  Seeing an item in the grocery store, hearing a song, seeing an old email, or finding a piece of paper with their handwriting on it, can put us in an embarrassing predicament quickly.
These are just a small sampling of the crazy emotions that rule the life of a griever.  Trust me, there are hundreds more. 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

You've Got Mail...

Today I got an email --- from Kara.  Someone of course had hacked her old Email from six years ago and there in my inbox blaring at me like it is perfectly normal, is an unnerving email that says it is from "Kara".

This morning while trying to clear up some memory on my new almost full phone, thanks to the fact that I saved every text from my old phone and six hundred pictures and all the spur of the moment videos Kara would send daily,  I was surprised to find a string of texts from Brian that have managed to elude me for a solid year. They were sent from his new work phone and a different number so they had not come up under his name when I had searched for any emails or texts from them. In it he had sent me a picture of, as he put it, "your little monkey" as he was eating breakfast in the Waffle House.  It was taken the weekend before they all died.

So today I sort of heard from all three of them and that made for a very hard day.

We are back home from my "run away" vacation - the distraction that was supposed to keep me from remembering the first anniversary of their death. It did it's job, but I had to come home sometime and our first day home is Sunday --the day Paxton and I always played hide and seek with the couch cushions after we got home from church and Sunday School together.  Then afterwards Brian would call and say: "Hey, how long are you going to be home..." and he and Kara would come by to pick the baby up. So it was typically a day that I usually had play time with Paxton and saw both Brian and Kara and today, in one day, I get an email from her, a new string of texts from him and a picture of Paxton...Meltdown.

These were likely another "gift" but it has been a hard couple of weeks and it just seemed like taunting at the time.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The View From the Caboose...

I have mentioned in several posts as well as in personal conversation how I relate the events of this past year to being hit by a hundred-car freight train.  We have passed the First Year anniversary and here is a look back at the freight train that plowed through my life in 2014. 

The Engine – My sister and best friend was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia and there were at least 25 cars attached to that alone as I watched my sister and my best friend my whole life go through the most devastating all-consuming "vacuum" that sucked what used to be her life into a dark and spiraling black hole.  Fatal disease, 21-day hospital stay, having to move out of her home and completely away from her pets, her church and her grandchildren and in with a 24 hour a day caregiver, 100-days in the bone marrow transplant unit every single day for 6 to 12 hours a day while she is poked and prodded and little pieces of her literally sliced away, four types of high-dose chemotherapy; hair loss; mouth sores; nausea; diarrhea; high dose total body irradiation, multiple painful bone marrow biopsies, bone marrow transplant, my niece being the donor and having to go through all that entailed, graft vs. host disease of the skin, lungs and eyes,  dangerous/life-threatening treatments including high doses of steroids, at least eighteen other scary medications, UVA light treatments, three different dangerous viruses, complications of diabetes and liver disease.  I am committed to be her caregiver for at least the next six months and six weeks into her treatment and a mind-numbing schedule…the rest of the cars begin to hit.

·        There is a death in my immediate family – Huge.  But not just a death but the death of my child. And not just the death of my child which would have been horrific alone but my youngest son, my 29-year old daughter in law and my 2 ½ year-old grandbaby – the child I have cared for and helped raise since his birth --are all gone. 
·        It is a tragic, horrific death – all three found shot in their home and not found for more than thirty-six hours.
·        I now have a grueling schedule trying to care for my sister – without a brain and a body that doesn't work.  I am so devastated I cannot function.  I cannot grieve or cry or curl up in the bottom of the closet like I want to.  Yet I am incapable of doing the job I have committed to and my sister's life depends on it. Guilt. Fear. Devastation.
·        The captive audience and brunt of my raging anger is my very sick sister that I love desperately and fear losing.  Guilt.
·        We were never allowed to see any of them and because of the condition of the bodies they could not have a traditional funeral and burial.
·       They say it was a murder/suicide committed by my son!  Impossible.  They don’t know him.  This cannot be true.  But they will not listen or investigate for any other possibilities.  They have made up their minds and they are done.
·        Because of the situation and the belief that Brian did this –
o   There is instant breakdown between the families - understandably.
o   They will be separated forever.  Kara and the baby in one state and Brian in another.
o   We do not even get to attend the memorial service for the daughter in law I loved nor the baby I adored. 
o   “We” actually feel guilt, remorse and shame even though we did nothing and do not even believe for one minute that Brian did this.
·        There is strong evidence that suggests it was a staged suicide and a possible hit on their lives:
o   Weeks later we hear from Kara's mom that Kara told friends and family over a year ago about an incident that happened where an acquaintance of Brian’s young adult son came to their door high on something and looking for trouble when Brian refused to let his son go out and called the police to the boy he left screaming threats: “This is not over. I will come back and kill you and your whole ^&^%*$ family!” 
o   Fear was the reason Kara asked for a gun.
o   The only ground-floor window was unlocked and partially open, hidden from the street view behind tall, thick shrubbery while all of the doors in the house were locked and dead-bolted.
o   Only two spent bullet casings were ever found. 
o   The missing bullet casing was from the shot that killed Brian - the last one alive; so how exactly does that happen? And why was this not a red-flag?
o   Though Brian is an avid writer – no suicide note is ever found.
o   Nothing was wrong in his life; we talked to both he and Kara just hours before and everything was fine.  They had plans to take the baby to a birthday party the next day and he called me asking what time we would be home so he could come over and bring the baby for a visit afterward.
o   According to the investigators, they had “all” put on pajamas and gone to bed. And no one found this even a tiny bit odd?
o   There was no reference to any domestic issues on their phones, I-Pad or computer – just sweet bantering back and forth between Brian and Kara the same afternoon this happened.  Why were these items not taken as evidence for the investigation?
·       We begged the county sheriff’s department for ten months to give us all of the information about the investigation that led them to this determination.  We were told the GBI would be heading up the investigation and there would be a ballistics test, a toxicology screen, an autopsy and a report of the findings would be sent to them upon completion.  Somewhere around four weeks later in a call to the GBI we find out that none of that is true. Four weeks after the bodies have all been cremated and after Serve-Pro has cleaned and decontaminated the house – destroying any evidence.  I demanded a meeting with all of the investigators --twice and all we got was “cover your ass” answers and even blatant lies.
·       They did not take finger-prints or physical evidence from around the open window, ballistics tests or test for blood evidence that proved Brian was the shooter.
·        They offered no explanation for why the other shell casing was never found.  Small room, wood floors and Serve Pro completely emptied it and went through every inch of it and no bullet casing was ever found. The Sergeant actually said and I quote. “Giving you closure is not our responsibility.  All we need is cause and manner of death and we have that.”
·        WSB TV showed up on the scene, then stole from Kara's Facebook account, my copyrighted photographs of the family taken in my yard the fall before and blasted this horror all over National Television – before we could even notify family.
·        Brian’s children had to be told by phone for fear they would see it on the news.
·        One of the best dads that I ever knew was now left with the most horrible legacy imaginable.
·        The entire free world now saw him as a monster.
·        That legacy spilled over onto what was left of my family as friends and even some relatives turned away from all of us in hatred and disgust and said horrible things about Brian on Facebook hurting his children as if this horrific tragedy was not bad enough.
·        I am devastated and in disbelief that people actually do not think that I should love or mourn the loss of my son.
·        We have to hold a private Memorial service and hire security to keep the news crews out.
·        We live in a small town.  Everywhere we go strangers ask us about it, stare at us and even point.  I no longer feel comfortable in the town that I have made my home for 23 years.
·        A formal company-wide announcement was made on my job.  That was comfortable.  I have nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.
·        Guilty by association - “We” are treated as if we are guilty by the Coroner’s office, the Sheriff’s Department, the GBI.  We are given no information, no consideration, no respect and certainly no sympathy.  There is the family of the victims of this God-awful tragedy…and then there is us.
·        I actually feel guilt with regards to Kara’s family because they believe my son caused their loss.
·        We quickly realize there is no justice for Brian – no matter how we fight.  No one is going to do anything to try and prove his innocence because their minds are made up.  A judgment call made on a gruesome crime scene in about fifteen minutes will leave a tragic legacy for him and the rest of us completely destroyed.  They have been his accuser, witness, judge and jury with a very biased point of view.  Sentence is passed – guilty.  He is guilty.  We are guilty by association.  They half do their jobs, piss away evidence, release the scene and allow any evidence of a crime to be destroyed. They lie to us about what has been done that proves this. Without knowing him, without giving him the benefit of the doubt, because of the horror of the scene they let their opinions of him get in way of them doing their jobs.
·        The house is contaminated with hazardous bacteria and all of their personal belongings have to be thrown out.  There are no clothes, no shoes - absolutely nothing “personal” left to us.  All of the baby’s clothes and shoes, his beloved blanket, his binkies and the handmade heirloom memories – made and given by both grandmothers - gone.  The house looks as if he never even existed.  There is no evidence anywhere of the beautiful little boy that graced our lives for 2 ½ years.  As if he had just been erased.
·        There is no will so his two older children are left not knowing who the next of kin is. They have no idea how to file an estate and since no one actually now owns it, no one can legally sell the house. 
·        There is no insurance.  The children cannot pay for his service or cremation.
·         My heart breaks for his other two children.  They are lost in a sea of grief and confusion.
·         My heart breaks for my daughter who has to oversee the decontamination and clean-up of her beloved family’s home.  Meeting with Serve-Pro discussing gut-wrenching details of things no one should ever have to see or hear.
·         We have the sad job of having to find homes for their two dogs.
·         My daughter and I are left with a huge physical and financial mess trying to intervene and sort out everything, deal with the personal property, the bills, calling the creditors, the house, the stray belongings left unclaimed in the house.
·         We have to start foreclosure proceedings on the house in order to be able to do anything with it and get out from under the bills that keep piling up and the yard maintenance. 
·         In the wake of the worst tragedy one can imagine we hire a lawyer for help and he decides like everyone else that we are in a vulnerable position and he decides to capitalize on our tragic circumstances so he bills us 2 ½ times the price he originally told me it would cost to handle the standard foreclosure - and it was, regardless of the circumstances, just a standard foreclosure to him.
·        Since there was no will the home that he and Kara worked so hard on has to be sold on the courthouse steps for a fraction of what it is worth; leaving very little to his children and it was split four ways with Kara's parents.
·        All of the things the children or Kara’s sister did not take is still sitting in my building.  Six truckloads.  I now have the gut-wrenching job of going through it and then trying to “dispose” of what is left of my children’s lives.
·        From the fallout of this – I have lost the friend that I have shared the most intimate parts of my life with for the past 37 years.
·        I have lost many friends and relatives through this.
·        It has changed my perspective on EVERYTHING until I don’t even recognize who I am anymore.
·        It has aged me by ten years at least.
·        I have had a huge faith crisis through this and consequently have little security still as to who God really is in light of this horrific tragedy.  I have a difficult time knowing what to pray for and why.  I have a difficult time believing all I read and hear about God’s protection.  Though I am better, I am still left feeling very vulnerable and empty at times.
·        It has threatened my other son’s marriage.
·        It has left me with a huge insecurity as far as how I feel about law enforcement.
·        It has left me feeling as if I do not belong in my home town and I am living in limbo not knowing where to go now.  This was my home.
·        There are actually family members that now avoid us and refuse to come to our home because it, and we, remind them of this loss and horrific tragedy.
·        I have had my feelings hurt over the people that I thought were friends that have completely deserted me through all of this. 
·        I myself am avoiding people that I care about that used to be in my life because I do not know how to tell them this.
·        And it is our belief that there is a killer walking free.

      So this is why I say it is like being hit by a train.  The hurts, the tragedies, the devastation, the insults, the guilt, the changes, the horrors like the separate cars of a freight train just kept on plowing over us one right behind the next for the whole entire year.