14 Days of Joy 2018

14 Days of Joy 2018
14 Days of Joy 2018 – How will you bring joy?

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…….

How will you spread joy? 

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Youngest, Middle, Oldest….

Madison when she was 2 months old.
Madi when she was about 2 months old.

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.

Drew holding Madi the day she was born.
Drew holding Madi the day she was born.

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 View More: http://photos.pass.us/thekirkpatrickfamilychristmasjammiesminisession2016was 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

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Madi giving Drew some love when she 3.

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.

 

How long ago…..

August 5, 2015 was……

2 years 6 months

916 days
131 weeks
30 months
21,984 hours
1,319,040 minutes
79,142,400 seconds

Ago.

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.

One more year…..

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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……..

http://www.smilesfromdrew.org

Finding Grace…..

24312931_309917599509125_6616587982098666412_nIt’s the way every memorable event happens in your life it was just regular normal Monday. You get the kids to school, yourself to work and pat yourself on the back because you did it without too many tears. That is how my Monday started. Then it all changed.

I work in a law office where it is just me and the attorney. For the most part our days are pretty boring and routine. Mondays are usually a little busier for me because I am making sure everything is caught up with from the weekend. Our office is in a cute little complex in downtown Santa Fe. In the complex it’s us, the publication Local Flavor, a couple of therapists, and a couple of other attorneys that share an office.

That Monday morning we had someone come into our office looking for one of the other attorneys. He said that he had an appointment with him and he didn’t show up. My boss offered for him to come into the conference room and wait for him but he declined because he had already been waiting half an hour. We got busy with our routine and didn’t think about it again.

Later that afternoon the other attorney in the office next door came and asked if we had seen Paul today. I told him I hadn’t noticed that he came in and my boss said she didn’t think so. He then mentioned that Paul had an appointment that afternoon but didn’t show up for it. That triggered the memory for my attorney about the gentleman coming in that morning for Paul. My attorney and the neighboring attorney call me into the office and ask if I would run out to Paul’s house and check to see if he was there. They write down his address so that I can find the directions and be able find it. The neighboring attorney mentions he is going to try calling the hospital and see if he is there.

I grab my purse, the paper with the address on it and trek off to Eldorado to see if Paul is at home. This is where the day took a turn for the worst.  I pull up into his driveway and see his car. I also noticed that the garage door was open. I thought this was odd but then again I had no idea if this was normal for Paul or not. At this point I started getting a bad feeling about this. I go in the garage and start knocking on the door and calling his name. When no one answered I decided to start going around the house to look to see if there is another door or I can look through the windows.

I go from window to window not seeing much. I saw his beautiful calico cat sitting in the living room but at this point I didn’t see anything else. I get to the front door and I start knocking with no answer. I turned the handle but the door was locked. I decided to keep going around the house to see if I there was anything else, I get to bathroom window and noticed on the corner of the tub is Paul’s phone, watch, and e-reader. I had known people had been trying to call him all day so I think at this point I knew this was not going to be going well. I walk to the next window which is his bedroom. And this is where I found Paul Grace. He was laying crosswise on the bed not moving. I could tell immediately that he was no longer with us. I grab my phone and call 911. I knew that there was nothing I could do to help him at this point besides letting people know he was there.

I have to say I was little upset when I was calling 911. I was envisioning when Drew was laying there and how now some other family is going to get a horrible call that they are not expecting nor wanting. Thankfully, the medics and sheriffs arrived fairly quickly. The sheriff went in first to make sure there were no dangers and the medics were right behind them. The medics came out and just shook their heads just giving me the confirmation that what I knew was true. As when any emergency happens you have to hurry up and wait. The sheriff called the coroner and all their real work started.

I made contact with my boss and let her know what had happened.  She and the other attorney tried to get into contact with Paul’s family. I had to wait there at his house to identify the body.  The sheriff had a bunch of questions for me, which many I couldn’t answer. I didn’t know Paul well. I said Hi to him the morning and said Bye to him in the evening. I first met Paul when Drew was young and we had just moved to town and we played baseball with the Little League. I also had talked to him here and there. He was running for District Court Judge and I was helping him gather signatures so he could be on the ballot. They always say hindsight is 20/20 because I sure did wish I had known him better.

I waited there at his house while they conducted their investigation and so that Paul’s son Zach wouldn’t have to face this tragedy alone. Zach has 2 small girls and needed to find a babysitter so that he and his wife could get over to his fathers house. To be honest I was doing ok until this moment. That is when the coroner showed up. My breath was taken away, it was the same coroner that came for Drew. That is when I started seeing the day I found out about my boy all over again and again and again. I have the thoughts of Drew and the loneliness I feel without him and I have thoughts of Paul’s kids and the new life they are going to have to begin. It starts off as just a regular, normal day and then it all changes and you don’t know if you can even recognize your life anymore. This is what is going to happen for his boys.

I stayed there at the house for several hours being asked questions I didn’t have the answer. Zach and his wife come to the house and are hurrying up the driveway and I go out and give him a big hug. I have only seen Zach in passing when he would come to the office to visit his dad but at the moment we were connected. Our lives, the Grace children and me are forever entwined. I will always be the one who Found Grace. I wish I had found him sooner, I wish we didn’t have to find him because he was just at work like a normal Monday. However, I am glad it was not Zach or his beautiful granddaughters that found him. There was so much about this situation that brought back memories of the time with losing Drew. It was the same coroner, and the same funeral home people.

Paul Grace was wonderful man. He volunteered in so many activities in the community. He was the President of Little League, he was long time volunteer of Warehouse 21, and he volunteered his time to his church. Paul’s funeral was Thursday and all the people he impacted and moved by him just being him truly made me sad that I did not know this wonderful man better. He will be missed but always remembered. The whole service was beautiful but there was one portion of it that I could not stop thinking this is how I want my life to be remembered. I believe it’s a Jewish prayer (forgive me if I’m wrong). It stirred my heart.

On Kaddish

When I die, if you need to weep, cry for someone walking in the street beside you.

And when you need me, put your arms around others and give them what you need to give me.

I want to leave you something, something better than words or sounds.
Look for me in the people I’ve known or loved, and if you cannot give me away,
at least let me live in your eyes and not in your mind.

You can love me most by letting hands touch hands, and souls touch souls.

You can love me most by sharing your simchas and multiplying your mitzvot.

And when you say Kaddish for me remember what our Torah teaches, love doesn’t die, people do. So when all that’s left of me is love

Give me away……..

 

Aroma or scents…

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Recently I was told I need to meditate. That if I could clear my mind from all the clutter of my everyday stuff I would be able to connect with Drew more. I’m not a meditating kind of girl. I’ve tried before and I end up just think of several hundred more things that I should be doing. I don’t do well when I have to reflect too long. But….I do want to feel closer to Drew so I have been practicing.

I read an article that said that when you meditate you want to use the same scent every time or listen to the same music.  If you are trying to connect with someone, in particular, you will want to use a scent that reminds you of them or smells like them. That made me laugh trying to think of a scent that captures “Drew”.

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What smells remind me of Drew?

  • There is a time in a boys life when they turn from “toddler” to “boy” and they have this sweet sweaty smell. You cuddle close to them and you can smell that soon they will no longer be “little” but will get bigger and stinkier.
  • Fried Chicken. It wouldn’t matter where he was, he would either walk in the door or call me when I was making fried chicken. I haven’t been able to make fried chicken since he died. It’s just too hard. Even just the smell of fried chicken brings tears to my eyes.
  • Axe body spray. I don’t think you can have a pre-teen boy and not be exposed to the dreaded Axe body spray. I do believe they think it is a suitable substitute for a shower.
  • After football funk….I have no other way to describe it. He would get in the car after playing hard at a game or practice and it would just darn near knock you over. I would roll down the windows and wish for that phase to be over. I wouldn’t even mind smelling that now.
  • Juicy Fruit Gum. He loved Juicy Fruit gum. When he got his braces he was most disappointed that he couldn’t have his gum any longer. He would get recurring ear infections so chewing gum helped with the pressure in his ears.
  • Little tree car freshener. When he started driving he loved to have one of those little tree car fresheners in his car. Now I know it’s because he wanted to mask the smell of things he shouldn’t have been doing but I can’t see or smell one without thinking of him.

Every time I pass a candle display I smell the candles and close my eyes and see if I can capture the essence of Drew. It hasn’t happened yet. I haven’t smelled one that is quite right. I may end up having to make my own candle. Who wouldn’t want a candle that smells like “Fried Chicken Boy Funk”.

Doubt and more doubt…..

think of you

There are so many times on this journey I second guess what I think I should be doing. Whether I should even go on with Smiles. Whether this is the path I am supposed to be taking or its just the path I want to force myself on. Is Smiles From Drew really helping anyone but me and is it really helping me?

It’s no joke when they say running a non-profit isn’t easy. All the fundraising and planning. There is just so much to do. It practically has to be a full time job. Then you throw in the process of grief and man, oh man is it hard.

The past few months have been particularly trying. My doubt is in full force. There are so many horrible things happening in the world and here I am asking people to buy coffee to help kids play sports. I get it. I get that there are so many more pressing matters happening that needs everyone’s attention right now. I get that to some kids playing sports isn’t something they feel is important.

That is the problem when you work with a cause that is so close to your heart. Smiles From Drew is so close to my heart. You can almost say it is part of my heart. I put all my pent up love for Drew in it. And boy do I have some love for that boy. Two years have passed but it feels like its been an eternity and then it feels like its just been a moment. My love for him did not just disappear like he did. My arms ache, my heart is shattered, and I don’t know what else to do. hurts arms

I’m not sure that I’m doing the right thing but there are more times than not that I feel like this is what I am supposed to do. And I guess the only time that is getting wasted is mine.

Birthday weekend….

 

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Once again this time of year came around. Tomorrow would/is Drew’s 22nd birthday. This year it fell on Monday which means had he been here we would have been partying all weekend. It also means life will go on tomorrow whether I want it to or not. I have work to go to, baseball games to play, and school for Madi.  He loved his birthdays and I loved celebrating one of my greatest joys. I loved looking at him year after year in awe and wonder with the fact I was chosen to be this wonderful person’s mother.

Now I am sitting at home crying till I can’t breathe wondering what on earth did I do to deserve this pain. How did my life get so far off track that I am having to go through this. All week I kept telling myself I should be lucky that I had him for 20 whole years. There are parent’s out there that didn’t get that much time. I kept telling myself I need to remember how much I love him and how much he loved me. I tried…..but I am just not there yet.

I feel cheated. I should have had more time with him. I feel like the life I envisioned and the life he deserved was cruelly taken away. I feel shattered. I see his friends getting married and having kids and I know he will never get to experience that. I feel anger because he KNEW better and the people around should have too. I feel lonely because he gave the best hugs and truly loved to hear how I was doing. I feel ashamed because I should have stopped it. I feel tired for having to be strong all the time if not for me for the girls so they can have “normal’ childhood. I feel all this love for him that has no where to go.

I know this sounds like a pity post and I’m sorry but right now at this moment I am having a hard time seeing my silver lining. I am just a mother that is missing her son and all that he was to me, to his sisters, his family and friends.

If I knew how this story would end and I was giving the choice to still be his mother I would. I would love him more. I guess that is one of the reasons we don’t know when our loves will leave. But I would choose to be his mother because in his 20 years he taught me more than I ever could have without him. I just hope that he would choose me.

Unexpected winter…

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Molly on the crest of Mt. Kirkpatrick

Like most of of us in Santa Fe we  woke up this morning with quite a snow storm going on. We had several emotions going around our house. The teenager was bummed out that this epic storm was wasted on a Saturday. A day she already had off of school. The 4 year old was excited to be able to make a snow man.

Yes, it is the last Saturday of April but it is not uncommon for us to get Spring snows. I don’t remember the last time we had that much snow in April. We were supposed to have opening ceremonies for baseball today but thankfully they were cancelled. Although I do remember having baseball games in the snow. I guess that’s New Mexico weather for you.

I was happy for the storm cause it gave me the excuse to not have to run errands or go to town. I was able to spend the whole day home. The bad part is I am nursing a head cold so I wasn’t able to enjoy it quite as much as I would have liked.

I was able to see the secret snow cave Dada and Molly made (mostly Dada). I was also able to make a big pot of homemade chicken noodle soup and that always helps warm the soul. I hope everyone was able to stay warm and enjoy the people you had around you today.

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