One Awesome Boy!…..

I’m not sure what brought it on but Tuesday I felt like I had been covered in this heavy blanket of grief. I was sitting at my computer at work and realized I had tears running down my face. I really can’t pinpoint the “trigger” for this it was just the overwhelming feeling of missing my boy. I came home that night and my wonderful husband and Molly Moo Moo had made me a cake. I hadn’t even told them that I was feeling an emotional wreck.

So many of his friends are getting married, having kids, and starting their careers. They are adults now. Life goes on but Drew is forever 20. He will always be in that grey area of teenage-hood and adulthood. He never got to get his first apartment or his first “new” car. When I think of these things I really realize how much we lost with losing Drew.

Thursday I was just having a hard day, my lupus was flaring up and I just was in pain. I left work early so I could go home and take a warm bath and try to feel better. On my way home I had to stop at Tractor Supply so I could get some adhesive bandages to wrap my hands in. Madison had told me a few days before that we needed to get the cats a different cat food that doesn’t have grain in it. The food she wanted to get them was quite expensive and I thought to myself that I would just check the prices of the food at Tractor Supply. I go to the cat food aisle and sitting right there on the shelf with the cat food was this stuffed animal squirrel, and it just happen to be sitting on the cheapest bag of grain free food. I stood in the aisle what seemed like forever just staring at this squirrel. There weren’t any other stuffed animals around that area. Just this lone squirrel on top of the cat food. After my initial shock of seeing this squirrel, I broke out into the biggest smile. I realized this squirrel was not there by accident. This squirrel was put there as sign from my awesome boy. He knew I needed to feel him near me.

Of course I bought this squirrel and brought him home. I set him on the counter and laid down in bed. Randall and Molly came home and Molly “checked” in on my me. Then she went to the kitchen and noticed the squirrel. She was so happy to have her own “Bubba” squirrel. The “Bubba” squirrels name is Fuzzy Wuzzy. It’s funny after I would cut Drew’s hair, I would rub his head and call him my Fuzzy Wuzzy. So that 1 stuffed squirrel gave me the feeling of Drew near me but also gave Molly a connection to her brother.

I was walking into work on Friday and there were quite a few people walking in also. This lady was walking out and the gentleman asked her where she was going. She hollered over her shoulder that her kids school just called and they were closing because of the snow. I asked him “she said her kids school was closing”, as I had just dropped Molly off at school. He said yea but she lives up North. I told him Molly goes to Turquoise Trail and I will have to keep an eye on whether they will close early. He mentioned his kids go to Nina Otero and they don’t usually close early. He then tells me he coaches one of the basketball teams there. I then proceed to tell him about Smiles From Drew. I tell him what we do to help the kids participate in sports and activities. I look for a card for Smiles to give to him. I tell him that we want to help more of the kids that wouldn’t ever think of joining a sport because of the money. The gentleman tells me about a little boy on his team that is like that and that he doesn’t even have shoes but he is the hardest working player on his team. Without even I thought I tell him Smiles From Drew will buy him a pair of basketball shoes.

Before Drew died I would have tossed all these encounters as just chance and with no meaning. I know all the way to my marrow that my Awesome Boy wanted me to me this man and he wanted me to talk to him and he wanted me to help this boy. They are not chance encounters. They are moments my boy is engineering so that I know what I am doing has a purpose and that what Smiles does is important. It’s important to not only to my emotional well being but it’s important to the kid we help.

I always knew my boy was destined for greatness. I would tell him all the time from the moment I held him at birth that he was going to do something great in this world. How little did I know that he wouldn’t be here to see it but he sure still has his hand in the making of it. Since I never think at the time how we are going to do what we do for the kids, I need to figure out how to pay for basketball shoes. I know that it will happen and all work out the way it is supposed to.

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365 Days of Kindness….

Smiles From Drew was originally started with the intent to just spread kindness in Drew’s memory. As time went on I knew I needed to do more for him, me and the community around me. But the core of our creation is kindness. Drew was one of the most kind people I had ever met. I learned so much from his beautiful soul.

Because I feel that the essence of Smiles, Drew and my grief journey is kindness and giving back I thought it was appropriate to have a 365 Days of Kindness. I know there have been moments in my grief that the only way I have gotten through that moment was stepping outside of myself, my pain, and my discomfort to help someone else. I have found that by me extending kindness I am not only being selfless but I am being selfish. I by far receive so much more from it then the person I have been kind to. I’m not sure I could have survived this long without Drew without reaching out to others in my pain.

In the last few years there have been lots and lots of studies done about the benefits of kindness. Performing acts of kindness can help relieve depression, pain, anxiety and it can actually change the way your brain processes stress for the better. You really can’t lose by doing acts of kindness. Kindness is actually a trifecta of blessings. You’re probably wondering how one simple act of kindness can help at the very least 3 people. Well, you have the person performing the act of kindness, they stepped out of themselves and saw something that they could help with, then you have the person the kindness was performed for. We have no clue as to what that one action could do to change their day, perspective, or worth for that day. Then lastly we have the people that are witnessing the acts of kindness. These are the people that are just walking past you as it’s happening or just seem to be in the right place at the right time. They carry that act in their subconscious and are more likely to perform their own act of kindness because of what they witnessed. You may not think that holding that door open for someone that had their hands full was a big deal but that’s the wonderful thing about kindness it has a ripple effect. You may never know how far your ripples go or where they travel.

According to a study at the Stanford University found that kindness can be as contagious as a virus. That when people witness the acts of compassion, giving, and kindness they will be more likely to exhibit the same behavior, even if it is much later.


“We find that people imitate not only the particulars of positive actions, but also the spirit underlying them. This implies is that kindness itself is contagious, and that that it can cascade across people, taking on new forms along the way. To be a potent social force, positive conformity requires such flexibility. Not everyone can afford to donate to charity or spend weeks on a service trip to Haiti. Witnessing largesse in others, then, could inhibit would-be do-gooders who feel that they can’t measure up. Our work suggests that an individual’s kindness can nonetheless trigger people to spread positivity in other ways. “

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/kindness-contagion/

Doing random acts of kindness can connect you to a bigger picture and instill a sense of gratitude in the heart of the giver. You become more connected to the people around you and it can heighten your own sense of good fortune even when the giver is going through hard times themselves. Doing intentional acts of kindness releases dopamine, serotonin, and other natural opioids. That is why some researchers call the feeling you get when you are doing acts of good as a “Helper’s High” or “Giver’s Glow”. That is why giving or being intentionally kind can help with your physical well being. Studies show that not only giving but the anticipation of giving can help lower blood pressure, less pain and better sleep.

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared by scars.” Khalil Gibran

To download the your own 2019 kindness calendar go to the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation. Click here for a link to their website.

You can also follow the Smiles from Drew’s 365 Days of Kindness on our Facebook page. To like the Smiles From Drew Facebook page click here.

2019 here we come……

Happy New Year!

It’s that time of the year again. We are finishing up a year and looking back at our highs and lows. We are also gearing up for a new year. The idea of a new year takes on a different meaning when you have lost a child. You have that sense of dread knowing that it is once again another year your child is not a part of. It’s one more year you have to work, struggle, and climb that mountain so that their memory is staying strong. 

It is also another year of opportunities. I will have 365 new chances to tell people about Drew. 365 more days to show people that his memory matters. Drew Alexander Lighthall mattered and will always matter while I have breath in my body. I plan on finding “joy” in telling people about Drew. I will find “joy” in growing Smiles. I will find “joy” in the everyday moments in my life. 

Joy will be my word for 2019. I will embrace the joy that being Drew’s mother gave me and still gives me. When the idea of the word joy coming into my life I felt like it was a paradox with the idea of grief. What I have found out that for me  to survive this journey I need to be able to find that joy deep inside me, the joy I buried deep when I lost Drew.  I will feel the pain of losing Drew to my core but he would want nothing more than to know that I can still feel his love and know that I will have Joy once again. The pain will not go away but I am hoping that I can remember Drew with more smiles to my face than tears in my eyes. I am sure that there will be many time that I will have both at the same time.  

Grief and Joy are like the ultimate Yin/Yang. To have the chasm of grief that you have with losing a child there will always be the joy that they were and are yours. They will always be with you.

“The more unfelt grief we carry, the less we are able to feel joy.  And because we often turn away from our grief in the pursuit of more joy, it follows that trying to always feel joy has the exact opposite result.” https://theunlockedheart.com/blog/2018/2/12/the-yinyang-dance-of-grief-and-joy

I challenge you to choose a word for the coming year. Choose a word that maybe you need to keep reminding yourself to do more, be better. To all those that are grieving remember it’s ok to have the joy with the grief. Celebrate the wonderful people that were in your lives, celebrate that you were honored to have them and experience the joy. 

Tick Tock…..

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.