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…….
There is no better time than now to get that good camera. There will be a time when you want to look back at those pictures of your children, whether you are lucky enough to look back at them when they are grown or whether you look back at them because that is all you have left of your child.
You don’t want those pictures to be blurry, dark, and just bad quality. That is my problem now that I go back through pictures of Drew and Madison when they were little.
I didn’t realize the importance of it. When they were little we didn’t have digital cameras so you had to buy the camera, buy the film, and try to remember to develop it. You didn’t get to look at the pictures before you just rolled the dice and hoped your kids didn’t take too many pictures of the ceiling or up their nose. I have lots of pictures of Madison’s nose.
I don’t have many pictures of me with the kids. Either we were in places that we couldn’t get anyone to take our picture or they kept me too busy to even bother. It’s quite sad really when you think about it, I have 20 years with Drew and maybe a handful of pictures of him and I together.
Today, almost all of us have a camera on our phone. It makes it so much easier to get those moments that you wouldn’t have been able to get before. Those look at me Mom moments of them hanging upside down or doing something for the first time. The problem with having all these pictures on the phone is that we don’t do anything with them. I have hundreds of pictures just sitting in “the cloud”. My goal for this year is to make some photo-books with some of the pictures. Take all those pictures I’ve been taking and put them somewhere where we can look back at them in 10, 20, or even 30 years from now.
So buy that camera. It’s worth the money. Don’t worry that you take too many pictures. It’s OK. Get that selfie stick, ask someone to take pictures of you with the kids. You will miss it when you realize that you don’t have any pictures of you with them. As moms we are always doing for others but do these few things and it keeps the memories alive. Print them out. Savor them. Enjoy them so you can remember when.
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……..
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”.
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”.
There are so many things that suck about losing a child. You have so many regrets and wishes and dreams that won’t be fulfilled.
Each time they handed me my brand new babies for the first time I snuggled them close and smelled their wonderful new smell. I also whispered all my hopes and dreams for them. I hoped that they are happy and healthy. I hoped that they experience love. I hoped that they are kind and generous. And I hoped that they truly know how much I love them.
If you are an unlucky one like me you get to hold your child’s hand for the last time and you have no idea what to whisper. You whisper you don’t know how you can go on without them. You whisper how you hope they knew how much you loved them. You whisper that you will make sure people remember them.
Just like when you hold that new baby and you see the life before them and you with such promise and hope. When you lose your child and hold them for The very last time the unfinished life flashes before your eyes. You see all the things that won’t happen because they are now gone. He will never find his true love. I will never see his blue eyes staring from a child of his own. I will never see him find his purpose in life. I will never see that he found joy in the simple things.
This unfinished life shows you that you may have to go on longer than they were in your life. It shows you that you can have joy and deep sadness all at the same time. This unfinished life feels like a gnawing on your soul. It feels like you have forgotten something with such magnitude and may never remember again. It makes you realize that is now your biggest fear. You fear you will forget the little things as time passes.
This unfinished life takes you back over and over to moments that break your heart even more. The first time they smiled. The first time they said I love you. It takes you back to all this love for them that you now have floating.
There are so many horrible things about losing a child but the unfinished life is the worst.
I haven’t written a post in a long time. I think I have been trying to keep myself super busy that way I don’t have time to think of all I have lost this year. Wow….it’s almost been a year. This has been the longest year of my life and the shortest. I have been dreading the year anniversary. It is just one more step where I have to acknowledge the finality of Drew not being here. I still have a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that he is not just somewhere visiting or at school. There are some days I even imagine him in all these great places this past year. I sometimes imagine he got his dream job and he is travelling all around the world. Those moments make me happy till reality smacks me in the face and I remember how far from the truth that is.
In the beginning writing the blog helped me. It got all the swirling thoughts of mine out and not trapped in my head. Writing about him, about our before’s and writing about our after’s do take a toll on me. I’ve been trying to write this entry for well over a week. There are so many things that I need to say and so many things that I feel the only way to convey them is through writing them down. Grief is a long and lonely road. Even if you have people on the same path as you, the journey is never the same. No one ever loved Drew the way I did and do. I don’t mean that as I was the only one that loved him, I mean that my love for him is not the same as his grandmother’s, sisters, or anyone else. That is the great thing about love, it’s like a fingerprint, each love is unique and made just for that one person. It doesn’t mean one is better than the other it is just different. No one will know what it is like to feel his heartbeat inside them. No one will ever know the feel of him growing from the inside out.
Drew was so very special and lucky that so many people loved him and the great thing about him was that each person loved him for a different reason. He could be so many different things to each person. He adapted and somehow unconsciously knew what each person needed from him. Whether that was his soft fuzzy side or his funny goofy side. Looking back he was a chameleon of sorts. He was very intuitive as to what people needed from him and he was able to provide it. It’s a rare trait for someone to be able to know what you need and be able to give it. When I talk to people that have been touched by Drew in his short 20 years that is what I am most amazed about. I always knew he was a great kid. I knew he had a heart of gold and would give his shirt of his back, but it’s been so nice to hear the amount of love and joy he gave to people just because.
Now that we have hit a huge landmark in this “after” I worry that I will forget the little things. I worry I will forget what his laugh sounds like and how his dimple in his cheek would be more pronounced when he was fibbing. I worry that I will forget what his hugs felt like and just the amount of loved that oozed off that boy. I tried telling someone my fears a few weeks ago and they scoffed at the idea. They told me that I wouldn’t forget that I am just worrying myself over nothing. What they don’t understand is that my memory sucks. I have such a hard time remembering things that happened last week much less several years ago. My mind just shoves all the stuff it feels like I’m done with and dumps it. I am then left with the Cliff Notes of my life and memories. I don’t want the Cliff Notes of Drew I want the whole novel. I want to remember ever detail. I want to remember every smell. I don’t want to forget it. I know I will remember quite a bit but that’s just not enough. I want to selfish, I want it all. That is why I like to hear other people tell me about Drew. I like to hear things about him that maybe I didn’t know. I’m hope I am tricking my brain into not dumping those.
As I finish writing this post it has hit midnight…it’s been one year since my Drew died. It’s been one year of tears, struggles, and heartache. My hope is that people can remember Drew and all the great things that he was. I hope that I can be a strong enough memory keeper for him. I hope that my lose of my beautiful boy will turn into great things for others. Keep telling me and others your stories of Drew. As long as his name is on out lips he will never be truly gone.
I just need one more moment with Drew. I don’t have nearly enough pictures. I don’t have nearly enough moments with him. I need more. I want more. I wasn’t done making our moments. If I had known that my time was so short I would have done more. I would have said more. I would have savored the moments I had left. I know they say hindsight is 20/20 and all that but I truly feel it now. I feel to my bones the moments I missed because I didn’t understand that I wouldn’t have more. I had already started feeling that the time with your children was short from them growing up on you. I just never thought it would be cut so short.
Today had me really missing my boy. It was beautiful weather and I could hear him asking me if I had any food he could take fishing. He would have called me asking me if I had any money. I would be OK with another phone call of him asking for money. Never in a million years would I have thought that I would have no more moments with Drew. I would have never thought that I had all I was ever going to get. Drew was getting to the point in his life where he was doing more and more on his own. I tried not to be an overbearing mother and call him all the time. I thought that if he needed or wanted me he would reach out. I thought I was trying to give him wings. If I had known he wasn’t going to be here I would have called so I could just hear his voice. It’s a strange thing as a parent when your children start growing up and becoming adults. You want them to know that you are there for them but you want them to be able to do things on their own.
We would tease Drew that he was going to build us a basement just so he could live in our basement. He came home from college because he got homesick. I wondered how that poor boy was going to make it as an adult. I prayed that he would find his way and that he learned the things he needed to be a great adult. I was just starting to get glimpses of the man he was going to be. He would have made a great husband. He really wanted kids. He would have been a fantastic father. Seeing how he was with Molly I had no doubt of how great of a Dad he would have been. He just really loved seeing all the milestones she would hit. I think he got more excited about some of them than I did. If he had one more moment we would get to see the gleam in his eyes when he played with his own children. If he had one more moment he would have found his path and started his great big journey of life.
Madison and Drew are 4 years apart. Drew was rough with Madison. We would say that there were times when love from Drew hurt. They would fight, they both wanted what the other had. Last June, the kids went on a road trip to Oklahoma. I noticed that when they came back that their relationship was changing. They were maturing and being able to see each other as friends and not competitors. As a mother it was a great thing to see it warmed my heart so much. If we had one more moment they would have time to nurture their new found friendship. If we had a one more moment they would have time to realize that they are on the same team and working for the same goals and be able to enjoy each other. Madison deserves more moments with her brother. She needs more moments of him making sure the people she dates is treating her well. She deserves more moments of him taking her driving because it’s nicer for him to do it than when Mom does it.
I can think of so many reasons why we need one more moment. The biggest reason is I miss him. I miss his face, his voice, his being a pain in the butt. I miss all of it and I need one more moment.
You don’t realize how precious your memories are till one of the pieces of you heart dies. When they die all you have left is memories of the past because there is no future. There is not going to be another birthday or Christmas.
I really wish I wasn’t the one in charge of the memories. My memory is pretty finicky normally, when going through stress it is even worse. I have always been that way. Once something was over and done with my mind just lets it go. I vaguely remember things from when I was a kid but for the most part I only remember when someone tells a story and reminds me. It is a little easier to remember the kids when they were little but I feel the fog coming and that scares me. I don’t want to forget him. I NEED to remember him because if I don’t know one will either, why should they if his own mother can’t remember.
I found an old VHS tape of when Drew was in kindergarten. He was so small but I did not remember this performance at all. Then I started crying cause of all the other memories I have forgotten. I had a computer crash when he was in about the 5th grade and I lost so many photo’s of when they were little. I wish I knew then how to backup and save the files other places. Needless to say I have a big gap in my pictures of their childhood.
When someone dies people don’t know if they should keep talking about the person that died. The memories hurt, the feelings are too raw. If we don’t speak of them and tell the stories then the end is so final. Drew was never a person that hid in the corner, he was never one to blend in. If you met him you remembered him. He was memorable. He was funny. Most times he felt like he was funnier than he really was. He did not want to let a joke die. He would go on and on about something. That is how I feel we need to do with him. We need to keep talking, telling the stories, keep his memory alive. The thought of him not being around is hard enough, but the thought of me being the only one that remembers him is torture. I know in my mind that I am not the only person that will remember him but my heart talks for me quite a bit lately.
So I ask all of you that read this if you know someone that has lost someone don’t stop speaking of them. Yes it may hurt but it hurts worse to know that they aren’t remembered of thought of. There are so many little moments that make like grand and when you are in the darkness being reminded of the love they had for everyone makes it easier to get through it. Drew loved hearing stories about himself, especially when he was little.