I’ve been trying to write this blog for weeks now. My head has been in a bad place for a little while, to say that I am struggling is an understatement. I have not felt like myself since Drew’s birthday. Then it seemed right after that it was the anniversary of his death. This year feels so different. So final. I’m not sure why it feels so different. I feel more scattered, more lost, more broken, and oh so alone. To add to the self doubt in my head I was fired from my job a few weeks after Drew’s anniversary. When your heart is in so many pieces it’s hard not to take these things to “heart”.
My normal coping skills have just not been cutting it. Usually when I start feeling that dark veil creep in on me I get busier with Smiles or some other project. I just have no motivation to do any of that right now. I am so tired. I am tired of my heart hurting. I am tired of pretending I am okay. I am tired of not seeing my son. Yea, it’s a bit of a pity train I’m on but I’m not quite sure how to make the thoughts quit swirling in my head.
Drew has now been gone from Molly’s life as long as he was in it. She was so young when he died it just seems like that is my measuring point. The other day we were doing a project for her kindergarten class and it was all about “her”. We were supposed to write things about her so her classmates could get to know her better. I’m going through the list of her many likes: science, bugs, worms, unicorns. Then I say ” You have 1 older brother and 1 older sister”, she looks at me and says “no, I only have a sister, my brother died and that doesn’t count”. It was like my heart was breaking all over again. In her mind does he not count? Does she really remember him? If she doesn’t remember him and just the pictures on the wall I can see why she would think that he doesn’t count. Who does Drew count to anymore? Is he now just a past memory that people say “Oh yea I think I knew him”? These are the thoughts that get stuck in my head.
My house is covered in my kids pictures. To me there is no better art than to see my kids smiles over the years. Awkward school pictures with missing teeth, baby pictures when they were just too cute and squishy and moments we have had together that have always made me smile. The first few weeks following Drew’s death I would wake up several times a night with this overwhelming thought that I needed to take his pictures off the wall. His beautiful blue eyes and radiant smile was everywhere. I would get up when I got these thoughts and go out to the living room and look at the pictures. Some nights I would take his pictures off the wall and then immediately put them back up. I would have that panic filled thought of “what did you just do”. The past few months I would look at Drew’s pictures and I wouldn’t get that flood of comfort from them. I would see a look of blame, disapproval, and disappointment. I took his pictures down and I boxed his ashes up.
I don’t think I will leave them down forever but that is how I realized I’m not okay. I called my primary doctor and of course they can’t get me in for months. I ended up calling nine (9) doctors in town and the soonest appointment I could get was the middle of November. I know I called more therapists offices than that and was not able to secure one appointment. We tell people to reach out…there’s always help available. But there isn’t. If I was in a much darker place I would worry. I will do what I need to for my girls. I will keep getting up day after day.
So if you’ve been wondering why I’ve been so quite lately that’s why. I’m not okay……
14 Days of Joy came about like everything else I have thought of since Drew died, in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep. It was about a month before his 1st anniversary (which is a really bad word for that day) and I felt like I was drowning. I was drowning in my pain, my what if’s, and what should be’s . I felt this frantic feeling in my chest and had no idea if I was going to survive the tolling of the calendar. I feel like I may know what someone on Death Row may feel like.
When you lose a child the passing of everyday is like one more step farther away from your child. You have all those moments that have happened between on August to the other. My mind was racing, my heart was not in my control and I knew that if I didn’t do something it was not going to end well with me. I looked back on the things we had done the past year in Drew’s memory and all the people I was able to tell about my sweet boy and I smiled. Then it came to me….if I purposefully got out of my own head for awhile I may just may be able to handle that dreaded 1 year mark. As with anything (at least for me) the leading up to a day is much worse than the actual day. That’s when I came up with the idea to spread joy to at least 1 person. It was a goal…it was something my brain could fixate on instead of not having Drew. That was the start of 14 Days of Joy.
Here it is that time again and we are doing our 3rd 14 Days of Joy. This project is so much more personal for me than Smiles and Smiles is pretty darn personal. 14 Days of Joy is my lifeline, it helps me give myself to others so that I am not so broken inside. It really doesn’t take much to do this project with me. You would be surprised as to how the joys come about without you even realizing. Helping someone with putting their groceries in the car, holding a door open for someone, letting someone go in front of you at the store. Do these things purposefully, with joy in your heart and you will feel a lifting in your own spirit.
Everyone could use some joy in their lives, we never know what people are facing alone. Let them know at least for a moment they are not alone. My hope is one day that more and more people know about 14 Days of Joy. They know that it was started because of my beautiful blue eyed son and when they see the momentum they smile. They smile because nothing would make my heart so happy as to see others do this with me and they smile because they brought joy to someone else and the circle is unbroken.
So I ask you from July 21- August 4, 2018 go out and do something to bring joy to others. It’s ok if you get strange looks, it’s ok if others don’t understand your why. Do something for someone else. When you do use the hashtag #14daysofjoy2018 and #smilesfromdrew https://www.facebook.com/smilesfromdrew Follow the hashtag and see how others are bringing joy. So my question to you is…….
I have been trying to write this post for several months. I wanted to write about my wonderful Madison. I try not to write too much about Madi and Molly because I’m not sure how much they want out there. Molly is too young to really tell me and Madi is pretty private. We have had a year of some many milestones and it makes me realize how much Madi’s life has changed in the last 5 1/2 years.
Madi had always been the youngest child. I am pretty sure it wasn’t easy being a little sister to the rough brother love of Drew. When he was younger his idea of affection towards her was wrestling or putting her in a headlock till she gave in. Drew also heard quite often “don’t make your sister cry”. I’m pretty sure she milked that factor a time or 2 to see if she could just get him in trouble. Madi was 4 years younger than Drew so he had been in sports practically her whole life. We would have to bundle her up and take her to one ball field or another. She usually didn’t mind because most practices and games there was a park near by. She was happiest when she could run free and play like the wind. And if you weren’t careful she would wander off and the cops would have to be called. Madi was my Houdini. It’s always a balance with being a mother to more than one child. You have to make sure each child gets the attention and love they need. Drew was the one who was always busy doing something whether that was sports, friends, or fishing but Madi was the baby. She was my curly haired princess and she basked in that space.
Then she started school and was in the same school as he was in. She was kindergarten and he was a “big” kid in the 4th grade. Before school started she loved the idea of being in the same school as Drew. She really did idolize her big brother. As school went on she was always categorized as “Drew’s sister”. She would tell people “you know I have a name and it’s not Drew’s sister”. Drew and Madi are and were completely different people. If you have more than 1 child you understand how different each child could be. It’s one of the great things about having more than 1 child is how each of their personalities is exactly what your family needs. Madi wasn’t a fan of participating in sports. She didn’t care for being surrounded by lots of people but she did love pestering her brother just so he would pay more attention to her. And she loved getting him in trouble because he was “mean” to her. I would tell him to quit picking on her and ever once in awhile I would catch her little smirk.
For 14 years Madi was the youngest of our family. All that changed when we were surprised with Molly coming. Poor thing, not only did she lose her place as “baby” she was starting middle school too. Oh Madi was so good with Molly. When Molly was super little and she would cry Madi would sing to her the song Soft Kitty and Molly would just look up to her big sister with wonder and quiet down. Even though Madi was no longer the baby in the family I think she was happy to be a big sister. We saw a softer side of Madi and I think in some ways she surprised herself. That is the point Madi became a “middle” child. She had her big brother who was trying to find his way in the world and had a new sister that she had to be patient with.
On August 5, 2015, her life had another major change. We found out her brother had had died and everything that we knew was different. The family was grieving and she was thrust into the role of being the “oldest” child. She helped with Molly and tried her best not to “make it harder” on me. Sibling loss is something all on its own. Drew was the only other person who knew her since the day she was born. The only other person who
would know what it was like in your childhood. She lost that connection when he died. Sibling loss is usually an overshadowed grief. People wanting to show their support to the family in a time of loss usually focus that attention on the parent that lost the child and not the sibling that lost a best friend and worst enemy all in one. I think in some ways Madi felt like it was her job not to be sad so I wouldn’t be more sad. She still doesn’t really like talking about her feelings of losing Drew but I hope one day she will feel comfortable to talk to someone about it. My hope for Madi is that one day she will be able to come to terms with her feeling of losing Drew and how it has impacted her life. I hope one day she can look back and remember that he loved her dearly, even if at time it didn’t seem like it. I hope one day she can reminiscence and smile with all her memories.
It’s 8 days till Drew’s 23rd birthday. I won’t get to sing happy birthday, I won’t be able to make a cake, I won’t be able to hear him making fun of me for having a “kid” that is so old. Oh and how would he have made fun of me. He would have been 23….wow. That is full on adult-hood.
It’s the 3rd birthday without Drew. It’s hard to believe that it’s been that long without him. I am sure I have mentioned this before but when Drew moved in with his other parent his freshman year, I thought my life was ending. I thought the few months without seeing him would break my heart. At the time it did break my heart. I felt like he was choosing the other parent over me. I got to talk to him all the time and he would call me, as he would say “just to hear my voice and say I love ya Mama”. I would send him care packages and make my list of things I would cook for him when he came home. He stayed with that parent for a year but it didn’t go well and my heart was happy once again. I had my baby back.
I will admit I was one of those moms that cried and lamented on Facebook when Drew was going to college. How was I going to last when I would only see him on holidays and breaks. I was so proud that he was taking this huge step and going out-of-town for school and I was also nervous for the change. I knew that once he left for school my boy would leave the nest and life as we knew it would be different. Life did change but I got to talk to him once a week. I would talk to him more when he wanted money or for me to send him his Amazon supplies. I still missed him terribly but it was bearable and I even got used to not having him around all the time. My heart was happy because I knew he was happy, healthy, and doing what he needed to do grow up and become his own person. I had that sense of peace in my mind because I knew deep down that everything would be OK.
Then one day it wasn’t OK and life changed completely. Drew was really gone and I couldn’t just pick up the phone to text him (he never answered his phone). I couldn’t just swing by and check on him. I was blindsided by the pain that I once thought I knew. I didn’t. I didn’t have a clue and unless the unimaginable has happened you won’t know. We worry about our children but there is always that part in the back of your brain that tells you all will be well. It was my safe place. Now I know that losing a child can happen and it is real and it is painful.
These are the thoughts that go through my mind as the calendar inches closer to his birthday. The thought that I can’t just pick up the phone and call him just breaks my heart all over again. I can’t listen to his stories of his day and all the adventures that went with that. People change so much in 3 years and I start to wonder what he would be doing now. I look at the kids (young adults) that are around his age now and see all the wonderful things that are happening. They are graduating from college, getting married, starting a family, and finding their way in this world. All their parents hopes and dreams helping them navigate this world. Unfortunately, for Drew all I have is the ticktock of the clock as time keeps going on without him.
For me it feels like that Alan Jackson song “Where were you when the world stopped turning”. This is the date my world stopped turning. The date is etched deeply on my soul. I remember exactly what I was doing when my Mom’s neighbor called me. I knew from the tone of his voice something was wrong. I never once thought it would be Drew.
I think back to the few days before he died often. They go over and over in my head. I have people tell me “it’s not your fault. How could you have known?” Well I was his mother, I should have known. I carried him in my womb for 9 months and parented him for 20 years. I should have known. I should have known I only had a few more I love yous. I should have known we only had a limited supply of his hugs. I should have known that the last time was the last time. I would have slowed down. I would have really looked. I would have memorized the look in his eye. I would have held on and not let him go. Did I say good things to him before or did I do the nagging mother thing? Did I tell him how much he meant to me? Or did I just assume he knew.
Life takes hold of you and there are days that the only thing you can do is get through it. I hope I am better at doing those things more now with Madison and Molly. I hope they know how much they mean to me because I have told them and showed them. I stare at them trying to memorize their face in case anything happens to them.
I just can’t believe it’s been 2 1/2 years since I saw Drew for the last time. I miss him so badly that there are times I cannot breath. I feel as if one of my limbs has been removed and I don’t know why. The path of child loss is a hard one. It is unpredictable, it is painful, and it is lonely. Working with Smiles From Drew helps but there are days that not much helps it just is…..2 years 6 months ago.
I sit down at the computer to write and my mind wanders. It wanders to all corners that are buffered. I hide from the edges, the edges hurt. The edges of my thoughts cut right to my core. We started another year, which to a parent that has lost a child it is one more year that your child is not a part of. It’s more family moments they aren’t a part of. I dread the start of the year.
There are so many milestones happening this year. Madison will graduate high school. She has fought hard to get to that point. Not only with the loss of her brother but with her learning disabilities. Drew would have been in those stands cheering as loud as he could for her. He would have surprised her with something sweet like flowers or a Manga book. Even though they fought like brother and sister they sure did love each other.
I imagine he would want to give her advice on what not to do in college. Lord knows he learned those lessons the hard way. He would tell her to pick classes in the afternoon so she didn’t have to get up early for classes. I imagine all the other life lessons he would tell her, and I am pretty sure it wouldn’t be the advice I would give her. Madi would listen and laugh, knowing the stories of Drew in college. She would look up to her big brother and give him a big hug. She would know that when the going got tough she would be able to call him. These are the moments that won’t happen. They just happen in my mind.
Molly will start kindergarten this year. She was 2 when her brother died. He so would have loved to walk her to her class on the first day of school. I imagine he would hold her pink backpack with pride and bend down and whisper something in her ear so she isn’t scared. She would give him that shy smile of hers knowing her big brother has her back. I am sure he whispered that if anyone messed with her to tell them that she has the best big brother and they wouldn’t want to mess with him. I imagine that at her first performance he would be there and clap so loud after she finished singing. She would never doubt how much her big brother loved her.
But sadly, these moments are all made up in my mind. They are my “happy” place. They won’t happen and when the moment hits me and I realize they won’t, I cry. I will be there for all those moments. So happy for all the achievements of my girls but in my mind I am thinking of how much Drew is missing. How much the girls are missing without him here. So you see, it’s not just a new year starting that makes it so hard for us with children that have gone ahead of us to the gates of Heaven, it’s all those moments we know they would have been there for that they aren’t. It’s all the memories that you hold on to for dear life because you don’t want to forget a single thing. One more year……..
You find that when you have lost a child you grab all the life preservers you can. Whether at that time a life preserver is just going into you daughters’ rooms at night to stare at them to make sure they aren’t going anywhere. It doesn’t matter how old my children get I love to watch them sleep and see that peaceful look on their faces. You look at them and you realize why you are working so hard to stay afloat.
You grab a book for a moment as a life preserver so you can get lost in the story and try not to relive the story that keeps replaying in your head. I have always loved to read but there are times now that I have to read so that I can get the visions of my last moments with Drew out of the repeat cycle.
You keep yourself really busy…..you find more projects, more work, more things to keep your hands and mind off where it really wants to go. I work full time. I go to school for media arts. I run a non-profit and I sell LipSense to help fund it. There are some days I am not even sure what day of the week it is.
These are my life preservers for the moment. It may not be forever. Eventually I will have to look at all this head on but for the moment I am going to stay afloat with my life preservers.
The few things you learn in child loss is there is no normal path. Everyone grieves different and each situation makes you feel different. I never know how something it going to affect me until it affects me.
Yesterday was just one of those days that I should have just stayed in bed. I ended up being 15 minutes late to work. You can’t be late with my boss. There are no excuses she feels is valid. I knew when I walked in she was going to be upset so I was hoping to just duck and cover. Nope that wasn’t going to happen. She was already upset that I was late and then she started looking for other reasons to be mad at me all day. Every time I would leave my desk I would find these passive aggressive notes on my desk, “where was your head when you were typing this” “do we need to teach you the alphabet again so you can get the files in the right place”, it just went on and on. Most of the mistakes she found were things that she was working on and not me but at that point there was no way I was going to point that out.
Finally the end of the day came I had decided I was going to drown my frustration in a cup of coffee and a donut. I walked into Dunkin Donuts and the just the smell was already making me feel better. I got my coffee and just 1 chocolate frosted donut (with sprinkles) and found me a seat near the window so I could just sit for a bit and people watch. That was my first mistake.
I’m sitting there and 3 teenagers walk in. Two boys and a girl, they look like they are about 16 or 17 and are enjoying that they have the freedom to go to Dunkin at 5 in the evening without a parent. You could just feel the excitement flowing off of them. There were a few people ahead of them so they were bantering back and forth, the boys being more vocal than the girl. One of the boys starting telling his friends that he wanted 2 of everything, then he said no he wants 6 of everything and started laughing. The girl told him that it wouldn’t surprise her if he ate that much cause he was a bottomless pit. They finally get to the counter to order and they sit down at the table next to me. I look over and the girl had 1 single donut and a frozen coffee drink. The boys sit down with this box and a couple of carton of milk. I turn my head to look at them when I notice the “bottomless pit boy” is super excited that he is practically drooling. I look and the boys have the biggest donut I have ever seen in my life. they are laughing and trying to figure out how to eat it. That is when all of sudden this wave of sadness overcame me and I realized I was crying. Not just a few tiny tears but big fat crocodile tears.
I was crying because I could totally see Drew and his friends being this excited over a donut. I could see them betting each other who would eat the most before they got sick. I’m not entirely sure Drew would have wanted to share that donut with anyone but I could see he and his friends having their own and seeing who could eat it the fastest. That thought brought me to a memory of the time Drew decided to join a pie eating contest.
It was around Halloween time and we had gone out to the Horse Park to their annual Harvest Festival and he decided he wanted to do the pumpkin pie eating contest. The lady that was doing the introduction said that the most pies ever eaten were 6 and if anyone beat that they would win a grand prize. That was all Drew needed to hear. Game was on. He just knew he could eat 6 pies no problem! He loved pumpkin pie. He sits at the table with the other pie eaters, Madison being one also, and starts in on his first one. He gobbles that pie up so fast, they give him another one. He starts devouring that one. I’m thinking to myself he better pace himself or he’s going to make himself sick. I do believe pie eating contests are a time slow and steady is the course to take. They put the third one in front of him and I see the color to start changing in his face. He looks like he is getting a little paler..his bites aren’t quite as voracious…his movements get a little slower. He finishes and they put number 4 in front of him. At this point there is only 2 people left in this contest an older gentlemen that looks like he has done this a time or two and Drew. By this time, Drew is starting to look green, I think the announcer started to see that too because I see that she had gone to go get the trashcan and bring it closer to Drew. He is probably not quite halfway into the fourth pie when it was almost like that scene in Stand by Me……thankfully the whole crowd didn’t start throwing up with him too.
After it was all over and he didn’t win the big prize I asked him if he would ever eat pumpkin pie again. He said of course it’s my favorite, you don’t get rid of your favorite just cause it made you sick once.
This is why life is so strange that memory came as clear as day because I saw two teenage boys excited over a donut. Life is strange because I will never have another memory to add to this one. Life is strange because I will never be able to tell his children all his crazy stories.
Today is Easter and it was just one more holiday that we had to get through without Drew. When we were discussing what we wanted to do the only consensus was that we didn’t want to do what we always do. We knew we needed to do eggs and baskets for the girls but that is as far as I thought. Randall and I were talking about what we wanted to have for Easter dinner. I knew I didn’t have it in me to do a big meal. We bounced around a few ideas a roast or bbq. Then fried chicken was mentioned. The thought of even making fried chicken makes me lose my breath.
If anyone knew Drew you knew he loved food. There weren’t many things that I could make that he didn’t like. There were days he would eat like he had never eaten before in his life. There are a few things that make me think of Drew and fried chicken is one of them. There was a running joke in our house that if we wanted Drew to come around just make fried chicken. He had this sixth sense and almost no fail I would be making fried chicken he would either walk in or call me and ask what was for dinner. I have not made fried chicken since he died. I’m not entirely sure I can do it all now. The thought of knowing he will never be able to walk through that door just breaks my heart. It makes it hard to breath and makes my heart and body so heavy I can’t do anything else for awhile. There was so much laughter in the house when he would once again walk through the door and say “hey mama, I thought I smelled chicken”. Madison would yell at him “stray cat go home”. Oh how I wish I can hear them argue again.
There were so many things that Drew had a sixth sense about. My Grandmother and Uncle used to live in Sapello, NM, which is north of Las Vegas. We would make this trip practically every weekend and every break they would have for school. I am sure I made this drive hundreds of times. The kids would load up their stuff and buckle up and we would be on the road. The drive was just a little over an hour from here to there. It was almost a given that Drew would look up from his game, or whatever he was doing, and ask us where we were at. Every single time he would do this we would be passing the sign to Villanueva. I’m not sure he even did it on purpose. I would laugh and shake my head and tell him we are at Villanueva. I told him that when he was grown he should look for land in Villanueva because he obviously had a connection to the place. We stopped a few times so we could see what was drawing him to the place. I never saw it but he said that a cabin out there would be perfect. He wanted a cabin in the woods so he could go fishing whenever he wanted and “not be bothered”. I think Drew would have lasted a few days but he enjoyed peoples company too much.
That’s the worst part about when you have a child die. All their dreams are gone. All your dreams for them are gone. You never know what moment will stick in your head and remind you of them. You don’t know what will trigger a memory that will make you weak in the knees. I’ve been told that if I just do it (whatever it is) then it will take the power out the memory and I will be ok. Here’s the deal….my son died. I don’t want to take those memories. They are all I have left. I can never make him fried chicken again. I can never gripe at him for leaving his one sock in the living room floor. I will never be ok. I will be able to live and I will be able to other things for my family but no, I will never be ok. I carried him in my body for nine months and I made sure he was safe as he was growing up. Then there was a moment that I could no longer do that and now he is gone. I don’t want to be told “just do this” and life will go on…..if it makes me sad to make fried chicken respect that. Respect that there are things that are harder than others and you may not understand and I am glad you don’t but respect that we are doing the best we can.
Thankfully we were asked to come over to a friends house for lunch and egg hunt. I didn’t have to worry about cooking but I still felt my ever present hole in my heart. Drew should have been there today. He should have been helping Molly find eggs, and helping hide the eggs for the older kids. He would have had fun. Today I felt the hole in my heart a little more than usual.
I have a love/hate relationship with Batman. To be quite honest it is mostly hate. I was very girly growing up and there were not whole lot of girl superheros for us to admire to be so as a kid my knowledge of superheros was very limited. Although Evil Knivel was the bomb. That all changed when Drew came around. He loved anything action related. If it could fight or could be turned into a weapon that was his kind of thing. I was even one of those mothers that said I would never let me son do that…oh how I didn’t realize they are going to do it anyways.
Drew loved Batman. He loved that Batman was just a “regular” guy with gadgets. I think that idea gave him hope that he could one day be Batman and he sure did come up with some wild stunts practicing his “Batman”. Batman antics took us to the emergency room more times than I can count. Numerous sets of stitches and a realization that a 9 year old can not jump off the garage and come unscathed like Batman does.
Drew was about 2 when he was running around the living room with a towel wrapped around his neck like a cape when I hear this clunk and then the blood curdling scream. He had been jumping from the coffee table to the couch and back to the table when he missed his mark and hit the side of the coffee table just right. This adventure gave Drew 9 stitches and a story that seemed to get bigger and bigger every time he told it. Mind you he was little so he probably did not remember that actual incident but they way he told it you would think the Joker was actually in our living room at the time. As he got older and he would be telling people the story of his scar I would just smile. Batman gave Drew many more ideas especially when it came to tormenting his sister Madison. One day they were playing in the dining room and Drew asked me where the saran wrap was. I asked him what he wanted it for and he told me that it was top secret and he couldn’t tell me. That was my first clue it probably would not end well for either him or Madison. He loved to pretend that Madison was Poison Ivy and he had to defeat her. Poor Madison has been tied up, locked in closets and left in a tree all for the sake of Batman.
There is a new Batman movie coming out in a few weeks and I am dreading it. Drew was so looking forward to seeing it. Originally the movie was supposed to come out around the time of his birthday but I noticed on Facebook that it is coming out at the end of this month. I have even seen a countdown for the premier. Drew would have had the countdown set to his phone, he would have bought his ticket as soon as they went on sale for pre-sale and he would have been bugging me as to what shirt I would be making him to wear that night. I see the previews for the movie and I can’t take a deep breath. It is just one more nail in my reality that he his gone and will no longer be able to do the things that he so loved to do.
I’ve thought of going to the movie just so I can feel a little closer to him but I don’t think I am strong enough for that. I will wait to see it when it comes out on video so that if I start crying in the middle I don’t have to explain to anyone. Oh man do I miss him and I wish I could say that it is getting easier. I miss the vigor he lived his life with and I miss the antics he would pull. It’s not fair that he is not here to be able to do these things. It’s not fair I have to live this life without him. I was told once (or several times) that life’s not fair.
If you go see the new Superman vs. Batman movie think of Drew. Think of him with his smile and coming up with ways to save the world….or torment his sisters.