I began writing and shaping this by accident during a yoga class a year ago. It turns out that down dog is a fabulous place to notice legs, feet and chipped toenail polish. And tattoos. And that day I couldn't take my eyes off the long, thin, timeless leg next to me. There are words on Sharon's unwavering calf, written in a hip, raw and adventurous font. I still can't get enough of them.
After class I asked four women to tell me how they do it.
Mommy-blog-world meet Shannon, Katie, Karin and Sharon.
They are pillars of strength. I am simultaneously intrigued and terrified by them. And it teaches me. For months I have tried to put my finger on what they have in common that inspires me most, besides the obvious...each of these women are mothers who have had a child pass away.
The first question I tip-toedly messaged them was, “Are there things in your home that help you feel like you can best hold onto your child?” I thought that what these women had to teach me was how to hold on to every moment with my children, how to keep them as close as possible, how to keep them from being separated from me, how to prevent my biggest fear from becoming a reality. I wanted them to tell me how to hold on, to gather, to keep, to collect, to preserve very single breath. Even in the hardest moments, the moments where I hate the sound of my voice, the strength of my hand on their little arm, the tears on the kitchen floor, I still desperately want every cell to stay. Every blink. Every potty accident on my antique rug. This collection of stamps on the kitchen wall. The cough that wakes them all night long. This cold cup of coffee. This hamster set free from its cage, again. Every argument over screen time. Every birthday cake. Every medical bill. Every swim lesson. This new pair of shoes that is already too small. This tantrum in Target. This bubble bath all over the floor. Every hug cut short. This bedtime story. And this kiss goodnight. That is what I thought I wanted to understand so deeply from them. How do they taste each moment with the littles that still fill their arms? How do they keep their eyes from blinking so not a moment less is known? How do I hold my children so tightly that there's no possibility that I will ever have to let them go?
And there you have it. The words I couldn't find. The breath I can't take.
How do we let them go? Dear sisters, how do we ever let them go.
Not long after I started working on crafting these stories together my 4 year old insatiable artist, Shepard, whispered to me in the rare quiet while I snuggled him to sleep, “I'm making all these pictures for you to remember me by when I die.” He has a knack for stopping you in your tracks. I began keeping everything...every rainbow, every ninja, every attempt at writing his friends' names. There are now three laundry baskets filled with his work and I can't find a way to shape it. There's a sacred quality to it that feels wrong for me to tame. I feel the same way about these unbelievably beautiful and vulnerable stories from these deeply wise mothers that have cuddled together in my inbox for so many months now. I look through their stories for answers. How am I supposed to carefully peel back each of these drawings from the scrapbooks and out of the baskets and hand them back to him one at a time? How do I tell my children no matter how far apart we become I will always be their home, that I will love them in a crazy kind of way that logic can not decipher and that just when they think I will not accept or tolerate them for the way they are, I will grow an even larger heart and love them even crazier than before? I know that the answers are here when I am ready.
I hope these women, their families and their stories bring you all of the comfort, inspiration, insight, strength and awe that they bring to me. You'll see how I've danced with them over the year, and I look forward to hearing how they move you too. To all of you, thank you.
ThankYou for EveryThing.
If I were to ever get a tattoo, and I am very close to getting one, it would be of 3 little birds in flight. The song 3 little birds by Bob Marley has so much meaning in our life and at first it was Jack's song, but we never knew how much it would come into play with our sweet little Missy. We played that song during surgeries, during happy times, sad times and everything in between. Ultimately, that became our motto. I can't even, articulate, somedays how we get through, we just do without thinking. I remember vividly driving home from a party shortly after it happened and having this huge wave come over me and all I kept thinking was "I don't ever want, in Jack's history, for there to be a line drawn in the sand. A line for when she was with us and that same line for when she wasn't. I didn't ever want Jack to think "it all went downhill after Charlotte passed." And I did everything in my power to keep life as normal as possible for him and Steve/I.
When Charlotte was with us, our world was surrounded by hearts (because of her sweet, broken one), owls (because that was her nursery decor) and bows. Once she passed, we kept all of her bows and hung them in our bathroom. I see them every morning as I am getting ready and will sometimes attach one to my outfit to bring her with me for the day.
We see her in owls, real or fake, but especially the ones that have the beautiful blue wide eyes. Those eyes remind me of her beautiful blue wide eyes. Shortly after she passed, Steve and I heard an owl around our house ... crazy and comforting all at the same time. Charlotte the name tends to be becoming more popular, especially since the Royals named their princess Charlotte. Hearing the name during a weather segment on TV (Charlotte, NC) hearing the name during a sports segment or hearing the name during a royals segment, it just stops me dead in my tracks, if only for a moment. Sometimes I smile, sometimes I cry, sometimes I just acknowledge. I LOVE and look forward to the reminders, it helps me. It reminds me she's close and I'm not alone. It's hard to question a higher power now that Charlotte has passed, I FEEL HER at times.
Friday, May 6, 2005 – Our first ultrasound. The tech had the probe on my goop-covered belly and after waiting long enough, I nervously asked, “Does everything look ok?” “Yes, everything looks great,” she said, “as long as you are expecting TWINS!” Danny and I looked at each other and giggled like we had just been told a joke. We shook our heads in disbelief. How did this happen? We were CHOSEN. We floated out of the ultrasound room.
Sunday, August 21, 2005 – An ordinary Sunday. Went to morning church service and then to Home Depot for paint to finish the nursery. Teal walls with multicolored circles of different sizes. A pleather rocker glider in the corner. A lighted paper star hung in the corner above the glider where I would rock and feed and snuggle my babies. Danny and I painted and dreamed about bringing our babies into this world and into this room. After what felt like hours of painting, my back was getting sore and I took a break to lay down on the couch. I got up to use the bathroom and felt pressure. And then … blood on the toilet paper. It was a quiet drive into Madison – 30 minutes. We checked into the hospital. The intern did an internal check. “You are 3-4 cm dilated and your bag of waters is bulging into your vagina. You will be very lucky if you don't deliver these babies tonight.” What did this mean? I was 23 and ½ weeks pregnant. These babies would be so small. An IV was started and drugs started immediately. My body was put into reverse trendelenburg. And then doctor after doctor entered the room. “If we can get contractions to stop, you can lay here for months until these babies are full-term.” “We need to keep these babies in utero until at least 25 weeks for them even to have a chance of survival.” “At 25 weeks, the babies have a 60-70% chance of survival.” “We are going to find out the sex of the babies – preemie girls have a better chance of survival.” And so, I layed. And we waited. And we prayed.
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
Day 3. Still laying. It was late. I needed to use the bedpan. I slowly started to shift my weight when I felt a “gush”. “Oh no, my water just broke. Hit the nurse button.” The nurse ran into our room. “Its ok,” she reassured, “you can continue to lay here as long as we can keep the contractions at bay and keep you from getting an infection. You can lay here for weeks/months yet.” The doctor reiterated her statement and started every known IV antibiotic. I was now at high risk for developing an infection. “If you spike a fever, we will need to deliver these babies. At that point, you are putting your own life at risk,” the doctor said. And so I laid. And we waited. And we prayed. And I felt willing to put my life at risk. I want these babies.
Monday, August 29, 2005
Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. I wasn't able to process the magnitude of this and my complete focus was on staying pregnant and keeping my babies alive. A hurricane was happening. And I continued to lay. And wait. And pray.
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Day 10. The nurse came in to check my vitals. “Your temp is slightly elevated. Lets wait another 30 minutes and recheck.” I felt it. I felt the ache of a fever coming on. It was time. Today was going to be delivery day. It seemed in that instant, contractions started again. My body knew. I was brought into a cold OR room to deliver. I pushed. I thought I was pushing. I didn't know how to push. This was my first time. Laying there in a cold, sterile OR room. This is not how I imagined giving birth. The room was full of obstetricians, and interns, and neonatologist, and nurses. And I felt alone. And scared. And I desperately wanted to hear my babies cry. I pushed and baby A was born. Silence. And they took her away. The room had cleared of some people who were now with baby A. “Whats her name?” the nurse asked. “Nora Lucille,” I said while trying to smile. Lucille. My grandmother's name. It was time for baby B. The doctor examined and she was breech. I didn't want a cesarean. I want to deliver her naturally. He tried to move her. He stuck his hand inside me and tried to reach for her. She was too high and he couldn't get her. Prep was started for a c-section. I looked at Danny in disbelief that this was all really happening. He reassured me even though he felt no reassurance. And then, baby B was born. “Its another girl!” Silence. No cry. And then another team of doctors and nurses left the room with our second baby girl. Brynley Charlene. Charlene. My mom's name. My best friend in the world. I wanted my girl to have her name. And they started to sew me back together. But somehow I knew that they would never put me back together how I was before. I was changed. I was broken. As they were closing, we got report that Nora had been successfully intubated and she was stable. It felt like forever that I laid on that cold, hard OR table as they stitched the layers of my abdomen back together. We were moved to a recovery room and it was there we got report that Brynley was also successfully intubated and both girls were stable. I ached to see them. After an eternity, I was wheeled into the NICU. The first time seeing our babies. So small. So fragile. Foam glasses covering their eyes, tubes and wires sticking out everywhere, laying so fragile upon folded blankets and towels, their skin deep red/purple. I reach my hand into the incubator to touch their skin. So thin. So soft. I stared and I touched and I marveled at their size and their perfect features. And we did like all new parents do when they look at their children for the first time, we decided which features came from mom and which ones came from dad. And now it was our babies that lay. And we wait for them to grow and get stronger. And we pray.
Thursday, September 1st
It felt like we had just fallen asleep when the nurse came in to say, “You need to go to the NICU immediately. Nora is not doing well.” I felt numb. When we finally got to the NICU and I saw the doctor's face, I knew. He shook his head and told us that “Nora has gone septic – she has wide spread infection throughout her little body – in her blood, in her lungs, everywhere. The infection is too much for her tiny little body to fight. She is dying.” We needed to hold her and comfort her until she took her last breath. Was this really happening? Somebody wake me up from this nightmare! I couldn't speak. I couldn't breathe. They moved us into a “family room” and it was there that I got to hold my baby for the first time. They placed her in my arms and the weight of the pillow/blanket that came along felt heavier than she. We held her and cried and touched her and marveled at her for hours. The nurses removed all the tubes from her body. She was free. We dressed her in a beautiful dress and looked at her sweet body and felt her sweet soul. She breathed. Her heart was beating. But she was dying. Her breaths shallow and sporadic. And her body struggled. And we comforted her. It was our chance to be her mom and dad. To comfort her and soothe her. And tell her over and over how much we love her. In that moment, the NICU doctor entered the room to say, “I'm so sorry to do this to you, but I feel very strongly that these girls are identical twins. We see this often with identical twins, when one is dying, the other one declines as well.” We couldn't take on any more pain than we were already experiencing, and this news just felt empty. I was excited to hear that they are identical twins. Part of the joy that comes with twins, is seeing the bond between them. And this bond couldn't get any stronger. Nora was dying in our arms and Brynley felt the pain. And she layed in our arms. And we waited for her last breath. And we prayed that God would hold her and hold us.
Saturday, September 3rd
I was discharged from the hospital. How would I walk away from the hospital without a baby to carry? I imagined this moment in my life and how amazing it would feel to take our first ride home together as a family. Instead, Danny and I left the hospital alone. Carrying the heaviest load I've ever held – grief. How could we leave Brynley behind. And we waited for time to pass. And we prayed.
Sunday, September 4th
Each day was spent by Brynley's side. Stroking her hand, touching her cheek, reading her stories, and just staring at her for hours. And when we weren't at the hospital, I was on the phone with the NICU nurses getting an update on her condition. Brynley continued to fight as she lay in the incubator. And we waited for her to grow. And we prayed.
Monday, September 5th
Today we celebrated the life of our Nora during a beautiful ceremony. We were surrounded by family and friends that grieved with us. It felt good to share grief. We cried, we held one another, and we prayed. This girl that we longed to know.
Identical twins. After we had laid our sweet Nora to rest and we shared a meal, we got the call. “You need to come to the NICU immediately, Brynley has taken a turn for the worse.” Our family rushed to the hospital. The Neonatologist told Danny and I that Brynley had suffered a brain hemorrhage and they weren't sure yet how extensive the damage. I screamed out, “I can't take anymore” and I fell to my knees. No more!
We stood by her side as she layed. And we waited to get more test and answers. And we prayed.
Wednesday, September 7th
Brynley continued to fight. Each day brought more bad news. The damage to her brain worsened. At best, she would be severly handicapped and dependent on machines to keep her alive. I wanted to give her life. I wanted her to live. I think I am ready to care for a handicapped child. I just want her alive. And she continued to lay. And we waited for God to take her. And we prayed.
Thursday, September 8th
The NICU doctors said that it was time. It was time to make a decision. To keep her alive or set her free? And we were back to that bittersweet moment of holding our child for the first and the last time. All hope was gone. Our world stopped. And she layed lifeless in our arms. And we wait for the nurses to take her from us. And I pray that God takes me too.
Friday, September 9th
The sun came up. How could the sun come up? I am mad at the universe. I want to die. The sun was not supposed to rise today. I look out my window and see people going about their day, and cars are moving, and the clock keeps ticking, but my world has STOPPED. I am immobilized by gut-wrenching grief. It takes all I have to continue breathing when all I want is to hold my breath until it ceases. I lay down. And I wait for my heart to stop. And I pray that God takes me in my sleep.
Saturday, September 10th
The sun came up. Again. Another unanswered prayer.
My arms hurt. The pain shoots down my arms and into my hands. My arms are empty and ache to hold my babies. God, please take me.
Sunday, September 11th
Brynley's memorial service. Our family and friends gather again. Another good-bye to a child we barely knew. The grief is shared among us. Phone calls and cards and letters and gifts of sympathy are sent in abundance. We feel loved. We feel empty.
The days and the weeks run together. I feel like a zombie. I don't sleep. I cry until there are no more tears. I am physically ill with grief. I feel nauseated most days. My body is weak and struggles to get out of bed. I hide. I'll come out and face the world when I am ready. I don't think I'll ever be ready. My body is recovering from giving birth. I am sore from two deliveries and my breasts are full. I pump and I pump. I can feel the babies move in my belly. Phantom pains – like an amputee experiences. I am exhausted. I want to die.
The weeks turned into months and the months into years. And each day, the sun rose. And very slowly, the ache in my arms subsided, the nausea went away, my body healed from birth, my breastmilk donated to other NICU babies, and I no longer felt them move in my belly. I came out of hiding. Still hesitant to smile or laugh in public because I didn't want people to think “I was over it”.
10 years have passed since we said “hello and goodbye”. 10 years! I can still smell the hand soap in the NICU. The memories are vivid and mostly painful. But they are mine and they are all I have. So I hang on to them. I live with grief because I have no other option. I have the choice to let my grief turn me into a bitter, angry person, or I can use it as a catalyst and a driving force to keep moving forward. I can live my life angry that they were taken, or I can live my life grateful that they are mine. I am a mother to twin girls in heaven. Mothering children that I can't see or touch or hold.
I'm picking up this piece again while traveling away from my little crew. As a 17 year old I traveled solo across Europe with zero sense of fear. Today I am on a flight, solo, and no matter how cute my new bag is, no matter how many pieces of expensive chocolate I have hidden in its corners, I am in fact in tears in my own little two foot wide space on this plane. I've taken the pretty little pill that promises mothers in our country that we can endure any situation we encounter in our $100 yoga pants. There are tears on my face. I call my partner, again. I look around to see if anyone else knows a mother's anxiety too. And I remember the lesson...my job is not to live life grasping on to my children, my job is to teach them how to go out into the air and fly. Into the traffic with out a hand to hold. Into the water. Into love. Into illness. Into fear. And into life. And death too. If I stay, I give them only constant. There would be no space for them to do all the things they love to do when I'm away.
We've taken to a family bedtime ritual. We all climb into our king sized bed, laughing about the details of our day, chatting through the logistics of tomorrow, read a chapter from our family fiction novel of choice, then lights out. Shepard has prepared the space just so...the lighting, the diffuser, the pillows from every bed in the house, and their favorite cuddlies. Ezra brings his eye mask and his hospital surgical head cover from his tubal surgery years ago. He also brings an energy that reminds us that even in our sleep every moment has the potential to be a very big theme party that we all should enjoy, that every moment is a moment to remember. And Sterling brings the movement. The protest. The plea that perhaps the day is too precious to let go of quite yet. He sings Twinkle Twinkle to himself and to all of us until he is sleeping. It was in that rare quiet moment last night that Shepard said, “Do you know who is the cutest person in our family? It's Sterling. And Ezra is the strongest. And Dad is the smartest. And I am the one that loves.” He reminded me that they have all the pieces that they need. We've taught them how to live, how to persevere, how to be themselves, how to celebrate authenticity and agency on their own or in community. They are my boxcar children and somehow the honoring of attachment to self has come from my attachment to our big little crew, and up and up we go.
On October 24th my husband and I will celebrate our son’s 9th birthday. Birthdays have become bittersweet in our household. While a birthday for many is an achievement, for us it is also a painful reminder of the vastness of our loss. Three weeks after our daughter Ellen passed away in her sleep at the age of 11months, we realized we were already pregnant. Shocked (this may have been in God’s plan, but it wasn’t in ours) and in the midst of our grief; we decided to continue the pregnancy and do everything in our power to ensure our son would have a healthy, happy “normal” childhood. This difficult decision was compounded by the fact that like Ellen; her older sister Claire died in her sleep at the age of three. With no answers; no place to put my anger and with growing bitterness at God; I had to find a way to nourish the life that was growing inside me both physically and spiritually. Just like Ellen and Claire; Elias was conceived out of love. And I was determined that our burdens did not become his. This journey of accepting God’s Will continues to be difficult; some days more than others.
This new normal forced upon us has changed the way we go about our daily life. One thing that has not changed, is how we continue to talk about our children; both dead and living. While I am more than “just a mom;” my children were and are my Magnum Opus. By sharing stories about all our children, I strongly feel we are honoring them. At first it is difficult, but with time, you look forward to chatting over a cup of coffee with other moms who share stories about their children. I rarely start the conversation with insight that the child I am speaking of has been gone from this earth for 17 or 9 years. It is the story, the heartfelt memory that is important. My biggest fear after they passed away was that I would forget them; what they sounded like, felt like, or smelled like.
I still equate sunflowers with Claire and chocolate chip cookies with Ellen. Many of us who have had the good fortune to spend time with our children before death may have items that bring forth a happy memory. On those sad days (and they still do occur), my husband and I take turns holding their spirit up for one another. We do our best to remind each other what remarkable children they were and how special we are to have been their parents.
Truth be told, there have been many years of sudden bursts of tears, yelling, rocking alone with their special blanket. Taking a drive by myself and crying / yelling at no one about how sad and angry I am. The only thing I can offer as advice is simply to be good to yourself. When those feelings of anger and sadness confront you, don’t fight it. Simply be in the moment, or move to a safe place and allow yourself the time.
There are no rules when it comes to grieving. My husband and I occasionally eat certain things, listen to special songs, or hang on to trivial items because they make us feel better. While cleaning out our basement earlier this fall, Andy held up a small yellow child’s toy watering can. I simply stated I was not ready to let that item go. He did not argue, or make me feel silly or sad. He smiled and said, “fair enough.” Back on the shelf it went. We don’t have shrines to our children, but have chosen to hang onto a few mementos that we hope someday to see grandchildren play with and enjoy like Claire and Ellen did. It is not hoarding, it is healing. Many people do this with their living children’s items, so why not us?
We do not celebrate their death anniversary, but do have a special Birthday meal; complete with the child’s favorite food item. Currently, our son has one living grandparent, so finding ways to honor and celebrate those we have lost has become an important part of our lives. We embrace the opportunity to share stories and inform our son about his family tree.
One thing I am always mindful of; is that each loss is its own unique hell. Each loss takes its own unique time and toll on you and those who share in your loss. Just as each child is unique. Losing two children by no means makes me an expert on loss. We all need different amounts of time, hugs, and patience with ourselves and those around us.
I wish you all nothing but peace, patience and hopefully soon; the joy of remembrance and celebration.
The Doorbell. The doorbell rings again. With dread (my new companion) I pull myself up from the solitude of my office chair. It’s September 16, 2007. My twenty-one year old son Trevor died on September 8th of an apparent heroin overdose. During the past eight days, my front door has seemed like a cave entrance for a myriad of callers to my—to our—disrupted home. The visits are mostly welcome, as a respite from the constant unfamiliarity of our days.
Of those who come, and frequently, is my dear friend who brought over a real coffee pot, one that runs laps around my fancy French press. It can handle the demands of heavy consumption. We drink our coffee in silence in the screened-in porch, freshly painted in deep eggplant and squash hues with overstuffed pillows to soften the heavy wooden furniture. Gauze drapes soften the room, floating slightly with an occasional cool breeze. Coffee with such a friend helps staunch the bleeding of my soul.
Outside is the stone patio, completed only days before Trevor’s death—a poignant stage for his memorial, but damn it, not what I had in mind when I had the work done. She hands me a smooth, warm stone; I think and feel it is perfect as I hold it in the palm of my hand and then bank it in the pocket of my jeans. She says, “I got this worry-stone from a friend of mine years ago, when I was going through some heavy personal shit, and now I want you to have it.” God, a gesture so plain gave me power for months to come — the ordinary becomes extraordinary with the thoughtfulness of a friend. Who would have thought that a rock would lighten my load? Whenever I feel a tidal wave of emotion, or find myself entrapped, uncomfortable, or sensing flames of grief, or becoming consumed by memories of Trevor, I slip my hand into my pocket, retrieve the stone, rub my fingers over the rock’s warm surface until I find my way to the other side of the moment, like finding a way across an empty space.
My son Trevor died September 8th, 2007 of an apparent heroin overdose in his apartment in Chicago. The previous Sunday, Trevor had moved back to Chicago from his home in Decorah, Iowa — from his father Marty, and his sister Maddie, and his brother Colin, after having invested his summer here, withdrawing from the drug, in counseling, trying to regroup and regain his health and his identity. He rejoined his younger brother Jase at the apartment they shared in Chicago, and had begun classes at Columbia on that Thursday — two days before he died. Also left behind was his new and precious love. Also left behind was me.
Last June, Trevor confessed to his father and I his heroin addiction. He was emaciated, having lost some 25 pounds since the beginning of the year, down from 145 pounds. “Mom,” he said “we need to talk.” I can’t imagine the courage it took for Trevor to confess,“Mom, I have a heroin addiction.” I was frozen, speechless. Sometimes still I find myself in that empty space that sometimes gets so big I can’t see or feel anything. He claimed he hadn't used since the end of May. Heroin is a drug of lies. You want to believe your own child. I believed him. He told me when he had collapsed earlier in March it was in fact a heroin overdose, not exhaustion and dehydration, as he had told us.
A week later, my other son phoned to say he believed Trevor was using again. I left the next day and drove to Chicago. In that week his father and I had several conversations about Trevor, did lots of research on possibilities, and had discussed with Trevor what to do next. There was a clinic in Chicago that we spoke to and Trevor actually met with the clinic's owner, but was discouraged by what they had to say about the detoxification and follow-up treatment program they offered. It was a 28-day residential treatment program. Trevor, with dread in his voice, made clear, “Mom, I don’t think I can do that – I don’t think I would survive.” He was convinced, and we concurred, that by coming home he could beat this drug addiction. We believed in him and believed that with counseling and observation we could do it together.
His first day home, he seemed to be under the influence again. He was not himself, shuffling his feet and nodding at dinner. He was out of character and looked tough.
I believe that was the last time he used during the course of the summer. In the next several weeks he regained his appetite, his gait was his own. He recaptured his smile and his wit.
He fell in love. His polite demeanor came back. He strolled the streets of Decorah, ukulele in hand, smile on his face, curly sideburns, charming everyone he met.
I’m realizing I am going to be ok, and so is my family.
A friend tried to assure me of this only one week after Trevor’s death, as we all gathered in my brother and sister-in-laws' home. We were watching, and enjoying, as Trevor would, Monty Python's “Holy Grail.” My friend told me later that in that moment she observed us and thought, “You know, they are going to be fine.”
Why are we going to be ok? Well, because we are strong and determined and beautiful. We will no doubt grieve for the rest of our lives. Each day, we put one foot in front of the other and march forward with our heads held high. We take it moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day, and on and on. That's all we can do. There are good days and bad days, and it comes in crashing waves. Some days are so tough that getting out of bed seems impossible. Some days going to bed seems as labored. Some days such elation and joy of his gifts and talents come rushing back to consciousness that it is hard to keep a sober face.
We rely on friends, family, neighbors, and even casual acquaintances to shore us up. We need their support, and reject any judgement. We ignore those who say stupid things, who gossip, who tell us to move on, and we allow them to be imperfect and forgive them. This is our grief, our pain, we continue to say: let us own this odyssey of grief and let us go through our processes at our own pace. Listen to our stories; let us say Trevor's name over and over. We have so much to remember, to share, please: allow us to do so! We will change, our lives have changed. Allow us to do so. We may seem to become angry, hardened. Allow us to do so. It will pass. Love us.
We are so fortunate. Trevor left us so much. Not just our memories of him, but his art, his music, his drawings, his writings, his sly smile and wit. Trevor gave us so much, and in doing so lost himself along the way. Trevor was so very genuine and gentle — a spirit in a physical world. We feel his light and presence and I invite you to do the same. He will always be with us. He created this vast and diverse community. We are forever cemented together. Care and love each other. Be good to yourselves. We miss Trevor with great intensity. And we love Trevor.
If you ring my doorbell, you will enter his world.
Trevor stopped by to say our goodbyes — I was uneasy, heart beating like a hammer,
beneath my weak attempt of a peaceful exterior. I need to be strong, after all, I’m the
Mom. But I couldn’t help but ask “Are you scared?” He looked straight in my eyes and said,
“Of course Mom. I love you.” After he left, I found a note he had written in his unmatched printed handwriting. “Mom, Thank you for everything. I love you so much. Have some fun and I’ll see you soon.” – Trev.
What happened when he returned to Chicago? Was it his neighborhood, his apartment, his room, his triggers, his appetite, his addiction? We will never know. We remember with detail his brother's phone call that night he died, the screams of pain, the tears, his beloved roommates' recanting of what she found, his personal belongings from the medical examiners office in my mailbox, the police records, the apartment to pack and clean, the memories of our dear son.
Now we are left to sort through twenty-one years: this of your son's life, package it up, and move forward — what do you bring with you and what do you leave behind? The doorbells in our hearts will always open up to Trevor’s world — the miracle, the beauty, the milestones, the truths, the sorrow, especially: the pure love.
I love you, Trevor. Someday I will ring your doorbell again.
I sat down this week, determined to finish this piece. Organizing Shepard's work is next. As I committed to pushing publish I marveled how each of these women wove their way back into my heart, one by one. First a child's birthday, then another. Then the three little birds tattoo that I had just finished typing about came flashing across my homepage. She did it! Another good-bye anniversary almost here and as I typed the date I realized this is also the week that I experienced a miscarriage years ago. Then a new face, with a new story of loss and letting go sought me out at an event. She whispered that today was her due date and told me about saying goodbye to her little one. And now today, the cleaning out of a storage unit and little girl's clothes, brand new with tags still on. These women keep marching forward and they are determined that even in our hardest moments that we keep doing the same. They are relentless in their teaching and showing us how. It's time for me to set sail to this post. It's time for me to set sail to my children. I look forward to the guidance that these stories have to share with me as I let go of my grasp just a little bit more. More wonder, less worry. More breath, less tight. More sound, less quiet. More taking up space, less quiet. More trust, less anger. More me, more them. Ladies, thank you for everything.
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