I was 20 years old…you were 26 and then suddenly, I was 30 and you were 36; and that would be the end of our story. 10 years.
I haven’t slowed down one bit since you died. I continue to struggle to sit still for too long because we all know where my mind will wander and what that will mean. I can’t face it yet, not yet. Soon though. I had to book myself some time off to face it all and be surrounded by the people I love the most. I can hardly hold it all on until I make my escape and I’m constantly walking around telling myself not to cry…...just, not yet.
I kept putting this down and walking away, it’s even getting more difficult to write it out because as time goes on it just gets more and more confusing. Last night I heard your final words that night and I was more angry than I have been throughout this whole ordeal, I was angry at you, angry at myself, angry with everyone who was there that night and I screamed, cried, and cursed you on the way home…then I sat in my car apologizing to you. You were broken, you were injured, and I have to accept that in that moment that’s all you could see, that’s all you could feel. Thirty minutes before that sob fest in my car I was looking down at a long table and could feel the intensity building up in me and I looked over to a familiar face..…eyes red, welled up, and clenching tight. I knew I had to be strong, someone needed me to be strong….so many people need me to be strong – at least that’s the way it feels. Seeing that familiar clench and pain was too much to handle and I couldn’t hold it back anymore….the tears just fell and I couldn’t stop no matter how much I tried to hold it in. I can cry with most people I feel safe with and be ok…but then there’s your brother, Josh I can’t stand to see that pain it kills me, it fires me, it sends me into a chaotic firestorm of wanting to protect him the way you did. I know there isn’t much I can do, so I just sit there and watch it happen. What I don’t think many can understand is that before Johnathan your little brother was your pride and joy and continued to be so right along with Johnathan. When you spoke of Jonah your face lit up and you were the proudest big brother!
Again….I have to put this away, take a step away and not face this. But beyond me and the kids needing you, your brother wasn’t done needing you either. Only days older than me, I feel like Jonah is my little brother too, the way you would talk about him, want to protect him, get fired up with him, made me see him in a different way. I loved watching you guys play soccer together. Some of my best memories are sitting on that field with Johnathan and cheering you both on. You both were ruthless on the field, no one could break your wall and it was like you could read each other’s mind in those plays. Johnathan even remembers some of those nights sitting under the stars watching you guys play while he ran around the field yelling and screaming too. I know you wanted nothing more than the chance to finally play with your brother and I’m so happy you got that wish. I’ll never forget the final Gus Macker tournament either, I couldn’t even bare to watch you guys play. I remember that final year you guys played together; I even skipped out on your games because it was the most crazy, fun, energetic, and wild experience seeing you two on that team and it made me sick to my stomach watching the fearlessness you guys had! Always up for adventure together, it just doesn’t feel right not having your presence around us when Jonah and I are together….there is a huge piece missing here. There have been many times where we just sit in silence….like this is the part where Josh would chime into our conversation…..and it’s just empty.
Every now and then I scrimmage through a picture, or walk by him and there’s a facial expression, a smile, a laugh, an angry face…..or those red eyes and clenched jaw that reminds me of you and my heart just stops. I know you told your brother to take care of me and the kids, but I just want you to know Josh I will do the same for him, just as you did. All this hard work that I am pouring into this organization, scholarship, and other things isn’t just for me and the kids, our family…but your brother, that’s one of my main inspirations, my motivator that I CANNOT fail, I cannot let him down, I can’t let any one of us down….one of the BEST people I know (and that’s not an exaggeration)…and he did not deserve to lose you!
Dreams of you are suddenly becoming more common, they are starting to become good memories. But last night I dreamt something awful….of sitting at that long table, looking over, seeing Jonah’s face and I tried to say something to him but words wouldn’t come out of my mouth. I tried screaming at him “what’s wrong with you!? Stop making that face! What is happening!? Jonah stop!” His expression just became more stunned and fearful…I was afraid to turn around and see what he was looking at….I finally got the courage and slowly turned around to see what he was seeing ……and there you were……laying on a cold metal table, face up and I clearly saw a bullet hole in your chest. I felt the shock come over my body and I looked up as the medical examiner began to explain to us what killed you….I woke up in a panic and couldn’t catch my breath. It was the worst nightmare I have ever had. I struggled to fall back asleep and when I did it was the same scene over and over again....but a different wound each time…the entire night my dreams analyzed your entire body. I finally woke up at 4 a.m. from my final dream of being taken into a mental hospital; I’m surprised this hasn’t actually happened yet.
Above all I continue to look for you everywhere, I look for signs of you, sometimes I see a hawk and think of you (your favorite bird), other times, when it’s almost unbearable you send rain and clouds to comfort me….that’s my favorite.
Our song for the night, is for Jonah....and all our siblings.
I love you, I miss you, I want you home.
Another holiday is here without you. The last couple days I have been really sad, that sadness that comes when I want to be happy. I smile, laugh, and play but the sadness deep down is never gone…I see you everywhere. About three weeks ago we started thinking about Easter and what we would do. I remembered all the Easter’s before you left us. By now we would have the kids Easter baskets picked out and had filled them with toys and a new outfit. We would plan a cookout with our family and I would make your favorite deviled eggs, we would make confetti eggs with Johnathan and you would stock up on your favorite Cadbury cream eggs – gross! At least we both hated peeps. I was running into Walgreens the other morning before work, I needed to grab a snack for one of my kiddos who always comes in hungry; as I was checking out I saw the Cadbury cream eggs….I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes and I quickly made it to my car just in time before I lost it. All the memories have been flooding back to me since then. I can’t imagine another holiday without you. I can’t make Easter baskets for the kids. I can’t make deviled eggs. I can’t do a family outing. I just can’t. I told Johnathan, I just can’t, I’m sorry. He understands of course, I told him instead we would just have dinner at home with grandma and popo. He asked for spring decorations rather than Easter decorations…as much as I hesitated, I told him we could get some flowers for the table. I told him I can’t do baskets this year, it’s too painful. Instead we’ll make a trip to Toys R Us and he can pick out a little toy that has to be played with outside. He agreed. We went shopping for the dinner this week, I just grabbed random items and thought, “I think I can make a roast with this stuff”.
Tonight is the beginning of the long weekend and it’s hard, I know by now that we would be doing all our normal Easter rituals, but instead I settled for one of our favorite movies and popcorn for dinner with the kids. I scrolled online to see how the scholarship campaign has been coming along. It’s getting there! So happy and so grateful. It’s so hard to relive this tragedy over and over again, each time I see that video on social media. I still can’t believe it’s you, that I’m actually talking about you who died. How did this happen? How am I working for your memory? It just doesn’t making sense, it’s so frustrating that I can’t wrap my head around it. But I’m so honored to do it. Not only is my mind trying to wrap itself around the idea that’s it’s another holiday without you, but my body is also telling me that Sunday is the four month anniversary of when we buried you. I can feel the anxiety rushing through me, the hard to breathe moments, the everything makes me want to cry feeling, the silence that I carry…even Johnathan stopped and asked “are you sad mom?” – yes, I’m always sad, but I’m a little extra sad this weekend….”me too”, he says.
On my way home today I kept thinking about that weekend and what it felt like, I could feel the tightness in my chest again, the tense feeling in my shoulders and neck and the blurriness in my eyes from tears. I can remember staying up that night watching the sun rise and thinking that this can’t be real. I remember the next two mornings waking up and not knowing where I was and then reminded that this is a nightmare, I would pinch myself to see if it were a dream, each time it would hurt and then I would bruise. I remember staring off into nothingness in complete disbelief. Looking back I remember a lot of sitting and gazing off while everyone around me was rushing frantically trying to get answers, answering the telephone, speaking to investigators, speaking to people we knew, calling family and friends, I remember people in and out of the house, plates of food being brought to me every now and then, Johnathan playing, Bella crawling around….but I was still on the couch just staring in disbelief, shock; I couldn’t move for days it seemed. I came home after we buried you, walking into our house and smelling you here still…it hit me like a ton of bricks. I crawled into our bed and cried myself to sleep. I haven’t done that in a while, but I remember those long nights where all I could do was cry myself to sleep and hope for a miracle that I would wake up with you next to me. Now, I wake up slowly, I stare at the ceiling and think of you standing there next to the bed where I last touched you begging you not to leave. It takes everything I have to pull the covers off and start our day.
I don’t know that the anger will ever leave me, but the sadness is getting deeper and that’s the only way I can describe it. That deep cut that stung so bad is now scabbing and so the pain is getting deeper. Weeks don’t seem so fuzzy anymore…reality is settling in. I used to look back at a few weeks and not remember much. Now I can look back at three weeks ago and remember things clearly again. I don’t have to write myself a lot of notes to remind myself of what has to get done, my mind is starting to come back together again. I have been working so hard and I don’t know if it’s to keep myself from really grieving, but it’s what keeps me going for now. I focus on work, I focus on the kids, I focus on the organization and the scholarship is our number one priority. I’m trying my hardest to catch Johnathan up at school and Bella keeps jumping ahead five stages at a time I can barely keep up with her. I wonder what you think of her. She is such a firecracker, go, go, go from sun up to sun down she is on the go and taking in everything around her. She owns the world and she isn’t afraid to take it on. Her development is so fast and her doctor can’t believe it, she just got assessed for gifted! Can you believe that!? I know you would be proud, not just because of her amazing brain, but because of her little attitude, I know that’s you! She’s a wild one and she gets that from you.
Today, Sawyer’s groomer came, the same one who came the day of your funeral. Poor kid, he showed up thinking he was just going to groom a service dog, instead he got a family in chaos and grief. He remembers us so well and has become quite the companion to Sawyer. Each time he comes Sawyer is so excited to see him, today he asked, “the usual?” – an oatmeal bath soap with extra conditioning cream…. I added a trim too. He asked how we are holding up, I said “ok”. He acknowledged how awesome Sawyer is and said that he seems to be adjusting just fine…I agree, Sawyer has gotten so much better. He said, “I have a surprise for you Sawyer, I’ve been saving it for you” I was kind of confused but said, eh maybe a new treat….Sawyer came back with a red marine corps bow tie on his collar, he said I found it on the bottom of our tie bucket and knew this had be Sawyer’s for his next grooming! I took it off and saved it because I know Bella is quick to rip off all of Sawyer’s fresh new bow-ties. I love that everyone has kept a special place in their heart for Sawyer, because he felt this too, he hurts too, and he deserves a little something special every day too.
As much as I wish I could skip through Easter and just jump right into the next weekend, I can’t. I will have to face it like everything else we have had to face. I will spend it quietly at home with our kids, there will be no grilling, there will be no deviled eggs, or candy, there will be no Easter baskets, or stupid bunnies, or stupid chickens, it will be just us and some sort of dinner.
This song reminds me so much of us, you would always play and sing it to me…in the most beautiful awful way, thank you for loving me like that.
I love you, I miss you, I want you home.
Since the death of my husband in December there has been a lot of adjustment I have had to make. We have two children together, Johnathan Alexander, 6 years old and Isabella Ireland 15 months old. My husband passed away December 2, 2016 just 9 days away from our daughters first birthday. His death was sudden and tragic. I was lost and didn’t know where how to pick up the pieces, but knowing I had two young children who needed me. The morning after he died I remember rehearsing in my mind the words I would use to tell our son that his dad had died. I had to be gentle and not disclose too much information to him yet, right then he just needed to know he wasn’t going to see his father anymore and he would also need comforting. I sat him on my niece’s bed at my sister’s house; I told him, “remember last night how I told you daddy needed some help”, “yup” he said, I continued, “Well mommy did her very best to get daddy help, I did everything I could, but there was an accident and last night daddy died.” There was silence, I saw the tears and confusion on his face, he looked up at me and asked, “my dad?” I said, “yes sweetheart, your dad. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry” I hugged him as he started to cry and asked, “what happened?” I told him I wasn’t sure, I called 911 for help and something happened when the police were trying to help his dad. He cried and said, “Wait, I already knew that, I had a dream about it!” he went on to tell me about a dream he had about his dad being locked in a room and he was trying to help him and get him out, but he couldn’t and his dad started to slip away into another dimension. I was stunned and afraid, from that moment the fear has never gone away.
Since that day four months ago my children and I have struggled to pick up the pieces, some days are better than others. As a new single mom I have had a lot of adjustments. I returned to work a month after burying my husband and felt numb. I returned to only part-time as a family therapist choosing to work the hours my children were in school (particularly my son). I was fortunate enough to enroll Isabella into a daycare that is under the same organization as my work, she was enrolled when I was in college still, so she still qualifies for free daycare until age 3; I am so grateful for this. I have lost half my income since my husband’s death and have been supporting my children and myself off of our savings account and my part-time work. I am still waiting for the children’s veteran’s benefits and social security benefits to begin, but that has been a difficult issue to navigate. Luckily we have a very supportive family, who are willing to help financially if we need it. This new money adjustment seems to be the last thing on people’s minds, but I can assure you living in a single income is no easy task and requires careful budgeting that I was not previously used to.
I am also still overcoming the barriers of day to day tasks, every day is different. Usually I am up by 5 a.m. to get myself ready for the day and hopefully enjoy a cup of coffee by myself. I wake up my son at 6:45 for breakfast, he is quite independent now and can get himself dressed and brush his teeth. He still needs help making breakfast, packing his lunch, and doing his hair. These tasks are all new to him since his father died, but without encouraging this independence we would not make it to school and work on time. I wake up Isabella at about 7:30, I change her diaper, get her dressed, do her hair, and offer her a bottle. I then let the dogs out and feed them. We are hopefully out the door by 7:40. First we drop off Johnathan, then Isabella and I go to work and school together. I take her to her teacher about 8:15-8:30 a.m. I check myself into my office and hopefully do a little meditating before I begin seeing my clients for sessions. My last session ends at 2:00 p.m. and I leave to pick up Johnathan from school by 2:30 across town, then we head back across town to pick up his little sister when she is out of school by 3:00 p.m. When we arrive home, I bring the dogs in, give them water inside, check if my niece has come to walk the dogs and fix the children a snack. I sit at the kitchen table and go through mail, review Johnathan’s homework folder, and begin any home or business tasks that need to be addressed, such as: scheduling appointments, making phone calls etc. I will start a load of laundry, clean up, have the kids finish their snacks and wash up to play a little before dinner. After dinner the kids take their baths. I help Isabella of course and get her dressed for bed. She has a bottle and falls asleep in her crib at about 7:30 p.m. Johnathan and I then do homework together and read before his bed time at 8:30-9:00 p.m. I then take a little time for myself, feed the dogs, go outside and spend some quiet time to reflect and maybe write.
It’s hard to find a breather in these typical day to day tasks. I don’t get to watch T.V. like I used to enjoy or read books. I have missed many of my favorite shows because my time doesn’t have any room for them, I haven’t finished a book I started back in September. I am so exhausted by the end of the day, but I struggle to fall asleep because the memories of my husband keep me awake at night. I cry a lot during the day, when I’m home with the kids, or even alone at home. Mostly I cry because I miss my husband. Sometimes I cry because I feel so overwhelmed with everything. I don’t know how I’m doing it, but it’s the only choice I have because of my babies. When my husband was alive, he would make dinner, even do laundry, sweep and mop the floors, the kids would be bathed if I had to work late, sometimes they would even be in bed by the time I got home. He was a stay-at-home dad and went to school in the evenings twice a week. He took on a lot of the responsibilities at home, like those chores, but also picking our kids up from school, coaching our son’s soccer team, and taking them for the occasional ice cream cone after school. Now, I’m sometimes late to pick up Johnathan from school and he gets very angry when I am, Johnathan hasn’t been able to do soccer because I must take care of his sister. Not only have I had to make some hard adjustments, but so have our children. My son still only likes the way his dad makes French toast for breakfast, he misses him as his soccer coach, he only likes ice cream with dad, and I never read the characters of his favorite books right. But he appreciates me trying, even though we both don’t like our new roles in the family we are doing our best.
Isabella, though as an infant you might think she would adjust easily, has had quite a difficult time in her adjustment. She didn’t sleep at all in those first couple weeks her dad died. She ended up getting strep throat too that week he died. She only slept with me. She regressed too, she had just started to give up her pacifier and her bottle; after her dad died she took back to those comforts of sucking. Just as she was about to walk, she stayed crawling a little longer until almost 13 months old. About a week before I returned to work, Isabella began to sleep in her own crib again, but even today she still needs a bottle before bed and her pacifier throughout the day. She is very attached to me. I give her narratives of where I’m going and what I’m going to do next. For example: “Bella I’m going to go to the kitchen now to cook dinner” and she will then follow close behind me. If I don’t tell her where I’m going or what I’m going to do she will not be cued to follow me and will be left behind in the next room. If she so happens to turn around and realize I have left her without a narrative she will begin to cry and get scared, I will have to go pick her up and she will not let me put her down until she feels “safe” or can trust me again. I have been very mindful of her needs. I joke that she is my little shadow and I look for her now everywhere I go, even when I know she is not around. I believe that even though Bella doesn’t know her dad died, she knows he’s gone and she is fearful that if he can leave so suddenly and not come back, the same can happen to mom and that is why she is so attached and keeps close to me.
We live everyday on the tips of our toes not knowing what to expect or if there will be a new challenge we have yet to face. But I keep my kids close, we comfort each other, and they out everyone else know how hard this adjustment has been.
I am quickly entering into tiring times and keep seeing you out of the corner of my eyes every day. I sat in our bathroom crying late one night trying not to wake up Johnathan; I told you I needed a sign from you, I needed some of your strength; I said that I was sick of all this spring weather and sunshine…I need some rain, Josh…can you do that!? The next day it was so windy and rain was not in the forecast, but I was woken up by the familiar smell of desert rain, it’s my favorite. For the next two days as I struggled to stay asleep but I woke up to rain…I know it was you answering me, showing me that you’re still here…just when I need you the most.
A couple weeks ago I was flipping through the radio station as I was on my way to pick up Johnathan from school. I saw the song “Good Grief” by Bastille…I skipped right through it because I assumed the title meant something else…but the word “grief” struck me so I reluctantly went back and listened to it. I cried and laughed when I related to “you might to have excuse me, I’ve lost control of all my senses, all my words, get drunk call me a fool” – I mean who can ever explain what this pain is like better than that!? I’m surprised I haven’t been committed yet with what little senses I can display, my coping skills aren’t the best either….So I told Johnathan to listen carefully to the words. I told him, “Do you hear that? It makes you want to dance doesn’t it?” he said, “yeah”. “Johnathan listen to the words and what he’s saying…he’s talking about losing someone…someone died and he misses them”. Good grief. Though the song is about grief itself, it doesn’t mean that it has to be bad. No, grief isn’t bad. I told you that grief means I loved you that as much as I try to run away from it, it will eventually catch up to me. Every week that goes by I learn the hard way…I never take the time to sit here and be good with my grief…no I run, like always….you know me.
Grief hit me on Tuesday this week. Your brother and I went to NMSU to preview the video we filmed for the scholarship campaign and sign the last documents for the accounting department. I saw the video and felt a shock come over me. I couldn’t cry right there….not surrounded by strangers, I smiled and held it back. But that night I couldn’t help but think of the video, watching myself talk about you and who you were just made this all too real. I mean I talk about it all the time, but when I do I check out and have this out of body experience where I’m not really here or talking about your death. But seeing myself on video talk about it, watching the sadness in Johnathan’s eyes as he watched me made it sink in. That night was filled with nightmares that constantly woke me up, that’s when I told you I needed rain. I spent most of the next day numb trying to cover up swollen eyes with dark eyeshadows. But when that rain hit, I knew it was you. It was so cold, but Johnathan and I stood out on the patio anyway and just watched and smelled. We left the back door open while we played music and did some chores and tried to fold laundry. Then on came Bastille, Good Grief, we both jumped up and sang along with Bella. The next day Bella’s amazing second mama stopped me in the hallway and said, “Are you ok? No you’re not ok? Come here” she wrapped me tight in her arms and cried with me outside Bella’s class and said, “I know…I feel it too”. We talked about how overwhelmed we both are, how it all felt like it was too much and then to have to deal with real life still. Josh, you are putting the right people in my life to help me and tearing away the ones you know aren’t really here to help, thank you. She loved you so much, she loves our kids so much and I don’t know what I would do without her, on the days I don’t see Bella’s second mama I know she feels lonely and misses her too. When we got back to life, she was there waiting to just hug us…no questions, no judgment, just hug and cry as we played with Bella on the floor. We laughed and wiped away our tears before anyone saw us and went back to work. The moments that let me know yes, you’re still here. Not the way I want, not the way that I will never be ok with, but you’re here in your own way. Though I’m not ready to accept that, I thank you for the signs, for the comfort.
We are literally hours away from launching our statement fundraiser for your scholarship and I don’t think I can handle the anxiety much longer! So much work and thoughtfulness have gone into this from so many people that I am truly grateful. It is becoming bigger and bigger each week and we haven’t even launched yet. Donors are on standby which blows my mind! We all will have so much work for the next 45 days keeping up the energy and momentum that I’m doing my best to sit still, be with you, and trust your guidance as always, that whichever way this campaign ends you’ll know that I did my best, gave it my all, and won’t just stop there! Are in over our heads here? That’s something I ask you over and over in my mind, I’m terrified, I’m worried, I’m excited, I’m grateful and I’m still grieving. It’s such a confusing time with all these feelings rushing through me. I will continue to sit still, make time for grieving, and make time to stay connected to you….send more rain! I love you, I miss you, I want you home.
I woke up two days ago from a nightmare. I woke up gasping for air, I was confused and didn't understand what was happening and I didn't know if I was still dreaming. I laid back down and was itching my arms. I remembered my dream, we were laying on the floor playing with Isabella and Johnathan, you told me to grab the red ball for Bella, so I did. When I was handing it over to you the ball fall apart into hundreds of tiny spiders that started crawling up my arm, I couldn't shake them off and they were so fast. I jumped up and started screaming for help and I couldn't find you anymore, I ran outside screaming your name and you were no where to be found; suddenly I knew you were gone and I started screaming that I needed your help and you weren't here, I was so angry at you because something terrifying had just happened to me and you were not around to help. I woke up. Needless to say there are many times throughout everyday that I need you and get so angry that you aren't here to help.
I had to put this away for a while, I couldn't finish writing this....I know what the trigger was for that dream, I know what the trigger has been for my anxiety since that nightmare...today marks 100 days without you. I typed that, shut my laptop closed and ran out the door and escaped the house for a few hours. I had lunch with a friend who hasn't been afraid of my grief, who allows me to carry her with me when it's too much to handle. On a day like today, I needed that. We had dinner at your parents later. Everything today seemed empty. hazy. I can't believe we have lived 100 days without you. I got a canvass of you and sawyer and hung up in the living room this week, Johnathan says good morning to you everyday and goodnight; Bella points at the picture and says "dada", I try not to look for too long, it gets overwhelming fast, hard to breathe, heart starts pounding, and just as I feel my eyes well up with tears I look away from it. It's my favorite picture of you, with Sawyer; you are so happy, you were so happy to have your dog, why wasn't that enough!? Monday is Sawyer's birthday, we had planned his birthday soon after he came home. We were going to make him a doggie cake, give him treats and a new scarf. I am so grateful for Sawyer, he has saved us many times, his purpose is so much more now, for all of us he is piece of you.
I went back and thought about 101 days ago. It was Thursday, you worked and I worked late. On my way home that evening you wanted me to bring you home Taco Bell for dinner, that was our last dinner together. The kids were asleep when I got home and I sat at the table with you while you ate. We talked about our day, we laughed about something on T.V. It was quiet, it was just us two. We fell asleep to a movie. I think about what I would have said if I would have known that was going to be the last night we slept together, the last night we would have dinner together, the last time you would kiss our kids goodnight, and that you kissed me goodnight. What would I have wanted you to know? everything.
100 days ago was the worst day of my life. I was so sure you were coming home; I miss that ignorance. That ignorance that I lived in, that nothing bad could happen to our family, that I believed so much that good things happen to good people and if we lived as good people forever, nothing could ruin that. When I believed that bad things had purpose...like karma. It's true; ignorance IS bliss. Because now I live in a world where I know bad things can happen to innocent people, good people and lives can be shattered, that your life can be taken away and changed forever. Everyone else will move on and continue with their lives, but we will forever be shattered by this, we will forever be grieving from this. The world we live in now makes no sense. Johnathan's innocence is shattered, his innocent mind and perfect world was ripped away and he doesn't understand why; his dad wasn't sick, he wasn't in a car accident, all he knows is his daddy needed help and somewhere there in the grey area he died.
96 days ago....or somewhere there..... we sat and planned your funeral. I can't remember much of that week. I can't remember much of the details that we chose, I just remember feeling overwhelmed, dreamlike, and deep sadness. The smell still haunts me. Walking into a room full of caskets and trying to pick out the best one for you. I remember looking for something you would be comfortable in and a design you would appreciate. I stopped myself and thought, comfortable? will he care? well, I do. I want him comfortable I suppose. I touched each one, picked out the ornaments that surrounded the corners of your casket, turned and asked your brother and parents if these choices were all ok....all the while not even sure you would be able to be seen in a casket, not sure if we could do an open casket, or a public service at all yet. All we knew at that point was the damage was so severe to your body that there was no way to tell what the funeral home would be able to salvage or serve us for. We picked out a casket anyway and hoped for the best...I needed to see you one last time. We continued planning the celebration of your life, carefully, with every detail matched to perfection. I got the call a few days later that you had arrived at the funeral home, I was told they could do it, "we can do the casket" and I remember hearing, "but I will need you bring Josh a high collard shirt or something to cover his neck fully....and his entire body......but I think we can do this....when he's ready we'll let you decide"....I mumbled something and hung up and said "oh my god, what did they do to you?!" my mind started racing, how bad was it? would you even be recognizable? can we change our minds last minute if i'm not happy with the presentation? my mind went to the most morbid thoughts I can't even believe I was imagining now. Then, I saw you.....I felt weak. I touched your hand, your face, your lips, your hair...from then on I couldn't leave your side. I sat and stood with eye sight on you at all times. I cried and did my best to answer all of Johnathan's questions. When the last person left the public viewing, I was the last person sitting in the room, alone, just you and me.......the assistant asked if I would like to help close the casket and lock it for the night until the honorary service the next day. I said yes....He held my hand as I walked up to the casket, touched your lips again, fixed your tie, held your hand, I told you goodnight, love...I locked the drawer, brought down the casket, locked it, draped over the flag, and walked away......
100 days is here...I wrote it down my calendar, "100 days...you made it this far...keep going..."
I love you, I miss you, I want you home.
I wish I could go back several years. Several years ago was perfect, or at least I thought it was, or maybe you worked so hard to make it perfect when deep down you were falling apart? I’m still trying to pinpoint where it all went wrong. Was it when we would argue? That you would feel so helpless. You used to tell me, “I hate hurting you, I can’t take it anymore”…..but I could. I met your darkness, I met your weakness, I matched your anger and I never backed down, because I believed, because I took a vow. When I said I was done, it was like I was uttering the words, but not knowing what I was really saying; I didn’t mean it. I watched your heart breaking right in front of me…..and then explode. I tried to pick up the pieces and put them back together, I did everything I could to put them back in place, but you wouldn’t let me; you were done too. I sat on the floor crying, trying to find some way to make this better, trying to find some way to take back what I said; I begged, I pleaded, I screamed, I got in your face…I looked into the eyes of a man I did not recognize anymore, he was too far gone. You placed your wedding ring on the edge of the bed when I wasn’t looking, you told me again, “I can’t hurt you anymore, and I can’t see you in pain like this…because of me”. But you couldn’t see, this wasn’t because of you, this was marriage, it’s not easy, we argue, we get angry, we work it out; we always do. But no, you were done too. You worked hard for all these years to make my life perfect. You loved extra hard. You went a mile longer to make me smile.
You gave me a fairytale marriage. You would leave me notes every morning saying you loved me. You sent me flowers almost weekly. You fought for us with love. You didn’t let anything come too close that could hurt me. All this, because you never wanted me to feel slightly the way you did. But this is marriage, it’s not perfect, sometimes it’s downright dirty, and you refused to settle for that; no, you wanted a fairytale marriage in all its perfection, and when it wasn’t, you felt like a failure; but you weren’t. Why couldn’t you see that? Where did it all go wrong? You became more and more frustrated with yourself, we couldn’t understand why you were forgetting things so much; the signs were there. Something wasn’t right, this wasn’t you. Then, in July we sat looking at the MRI scans….you fell apart and started apologizing for failing me. I was confused, failing me? How? I think that’s when. When we finally had an answer for all these symptoms. TBI. White matter was spreading, collapsed ventricles, a shift to the left side, severe vertigo, tinnitus; now what? A prognosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s, but we can prolong it. Suddenly depression like I had never seen began to overwhelm us both, anger like I had never seen.
You walked out that door, it slammed on Sawyer and me, but I somehow ran after you and screamed out to the neighborhood for help. The rest is still a blur until I hear the gun shots. I guess many don’t know I was there when this all happened, that I saw you, that I heard everything. My biggest regret is not telling you I was there when I had the chance; maybe things would be different if I told you, “I’m here”. I should have forced my way up there and knocked on your door. They keep telling me, it could have been much worse if you had; how? How is anything worse than this? I followed you anywhere, anyway. And our children, our children. Looking into our sons eyes and having to tell him his daddy is gone forever; the confusion on his face; the demanding tone, “my dad?!?, my dad?!?” “Yes baby, I’m so sorry, your dad”, “WHY?, WHAT HAPPENED?” He had the same tone I did at the hospital, an uncontrollable yell. Then he fell into my arms and cried and just as quickly as he fell apart, he left the room and ran downstairs. He will never be the same little boy. He’s still sweet, kind, and caring; but his innocence is gone. His little heart that believed nothing bad could ever happen is shattered and tainted with anger, confusion, and grief. How could someone so small deal with the incomprehensible? But he is. He is your son. He is facing it, because he has no choice, but mostly because he is brave. Every day he demands an apology he will probably never get; lives were changed forever, but my son does not get his father home again, his father was not a “bad guy”, he was one of the “good guys”, he needed help, he deserved to remain the best father. He didn’t deserve any of this, our son certainly did not. I pray that someday, someone, can look our son in the eyes, get down to his level, and give him the apology he so desperately needs for healing.