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.