Why Do We Turn Away?

The last words of this post brought tears to my eyes. They could have been my own pleading words so many times, “Please don’t turn away. Please don’t leave us so alone.” I have written much about the aloneness of grief and how it affected – and continues to affect – us. It still hurts when I think of it.

~Becky

thelifeididntchoose

The news goes out over Facebook, over phone lines, over prayer chains and everyone shows up.

Crowds in the kitchen, in the living room, spilling onto the lawn.

It’s what you do.

And it’s actually the easiest part.  Lots of people, lots of talking, lots of activity keep the atmosphere focused on the deceased and the family.  The conversation rarely dips to deeper waters or digs into harder ground:  “Where was God?”;  “Why him?”;  “Why do ‘bad’ things happen to ‘good’ people?”

But eventually the busyness and noise gives way to stillness and silence.

That’s when the harder part starts.

The long hours of nightime darkness that invite questions that demand answers.  The quiet hours of daylight that insist on playing a home movie of the years that went before. Forcing me to wrestle.  Tossing me in the ring of trying to reconcile this tragedy with my worldview.

And…

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Daffodils

Jason always loved flowers. When he was a little boy, he would collect bouquets of dandelions and bring them to me.

Jason giving roses to fellow “Our Town” actor

As he got older, he gave flowers to those he cared about – a rose to every girl who was in the play “Our Town” with him, daisies to a friend for her birthday, roses to his sister when she was going through a rough time.

Picture table at the memorial service

At Jason’s memorial service, we scattered the photo memory table with red rose petals.

Because we had to drive by the accident site on the way to work, to school, for shopping and most everything else, I purchased daffodil and crocus bulbs prior to the first anniversary of Jason’s death as soon as I saw them become available at Costco and planted them by the side of the road – bright yellow daffodil bulbs for Jason and purple crocus bulbs for Alina. Yellow flowers remind me of Jason’s bright, sunshine-y personality and purple was Alina’s favorite color. I wanted to drive by a sign of spring and life on the anniversary of Jason’s death at a time when my world seemed so dark and sad.

I went to the hardware store, bought potting soil, mixed the bulbs in with the potting soil so they would be ready to plant. I took a shovel, parked by the side of the road where the accident happened, dug a hole and put my pre-mixed bulb mixture in the hole, making sure the bulbs were right-side-up so they would grow. I carefully covered them over with more potting soil. I had no idea if they would actually grow along the side of such a busy road where the road shoulder was so hard and rocky, where the big mowing equipment regularly came by to mow with their giant chains, and where the wild animals robbed gardens of things that tried to grow.

But they came up.

I watched as they gradulally came up out of the soil, green shoots reaching for sunlight. On March 2nd, the day before the first anniversary of Jason’s death, I noticed tightly closed bulbs on both the daffodil and crocus plants. As I headed to school on that first March 3rd anniversary, bright yellow daffodils and purple crocuses greeted me as I approached 180th Street from Interurban Road, the site of the accident. I sat in my car and cried, both with longing for my precious boy and for the miracle that the flowers had actually bloomed on that very day. They never came up again any successive year, but I am so glad they bloomed that year.

Flowers still strongly remind me of Jason – roses, daffodils, and daisies, especially. They remind me of his brightness, his kindness, his specialness, his thoughtfulness. I look for the first flowers to come up in the spring, especially daffodils, and take pictures of them because they remind me of my precious boy.

On Friday, we drove out to the Biltmore Estate – one of my favorite places to photograph flowers. About the only flowers growing right now outside of the conservatory are daffodils, crocuses and pansies. But their beauty reminds me of Jason and his beauty, both inside and out.

I miss you, my boy.

~Becky

© 2021 Rebecca R. Carney

ALL PHOTOGRAPHS TAKEN BY AND COPYRIGHTED BY REBECCA R. CARNEY

Symbolism in Dreams

I had a dream last night. I don’t dream a lot – either that, or I don’t remember my dreams much – but this was a vivid one.

I dreamed that I met a friend for breakfast, a friend whose family we used to think of as extended family members. Our kids were young – middle-school age or younger. They were so excited to be together and were having so much fun. We were seated in a far corner of the packed restaurant. We initially spoke to the waitperson, but then the person waiting on us disappeared and never came back. The kids kept getting more and more restless. After about 45 minutes of waiting, I decided to go and find someone to help us.

As I headed toward the front of the restaurant, I ran into the mother of a child who was a good friend of our daughter. I could tell she was so mad at me and she walked away from me without saying anything to me. I didn’t know why she was so mad at me. I found out where she was sitting, tried to apologize for doing whatever I had done that had offended her and reached as if to give her a hug. She avoided me entirely and refused to even look at me. I gave up and went to find the manager.

The manager said that they were not going to be able to take care of our party at all because they were having a sale to support a charity. All of their employees were downstairs helping with the sale and no staff was left to serve us. I went down to the lower level where they were having the sale and saw that all of my personal fabric (I used to sew a lot) was mixed in with all of the other fabric and things for sale. Most of the fabric belonging to me was some that I was going to use to make a memory quilt. Someone had taken my fabric without my permission and had given it all away. I was so frustrated that someone thought so little of my things – things that belonged to me and things that were important to me – that they just took them away from me without my permission. I tried to find a box to start collecting my things, but whenever I stepped away, someone took my fabric and placed it somewhere else to be sold. It was all gone before I could do anything at all to get it back. I had nothing left.

I found my sister (who was in charge of the charity sale) to tell her what had happened, but she acted like it was no big deal. It was for charity, was a good thing for someone to take my fabric away from me and add it to the rest of things to be sold. It was for charity, after all. She said that I didn’t need it any more and it was time for it to move along to someone else. I was so mad that I started hitting things and knocking them over (which is totally unlike me) as I walked out the door.

And then I woke up with a start.

I realized I was really upset and still so mad, even though I was awake and knew it was a dream. I started to think about what I’d dreamed and believe it actually symbolizes many things we have gone through.

First, the anniversary of Jason’s death is just a couple of days away. It is a difficult time of year for me. The friend and her kids that we met for breakfast symbolized the people we once knew, people we considered to be close friends, people we loved and cared for. The disappearing, non-existent waitperson symbolized the help we expected from those we knew after Jason died, help that never materialized.

The mother of our daughter’s friend who was so mad at me symbolized the people who didn’t understand why it hurt me that they deserted us after Jason died. They thought we should get over it. When we could not be who they thought we should be, they rejected or avoided us. The woman in my dream was the one who proudly told me in real life, just a few months after Jason died, that her kids were nearly 90% back to normal. She actually told me to my face that her kids were nearly over my son’s death. It was unbelievable.

The fabric symbolized all of the things I felt have been taken away from me without my permission since Jason died. I’ve lost so much. My sister represented the callousness of people who seem to have not cared how much we have lost and those who feel it’s time to forget and move one. My sister is not callous at all, by the way, so I don’t know why she was in my dream depicting such a person. It’s genuinely easy to feel at times that hardly anyone even cares any more how much we still hurt or all that we’ve been through. People got tired of our troubles. Out of sight, out of mind. After all, it’s been 19 years, right? Except that the pain of losing a child never goes away.

The anger in my dream represents just that. There are still times when I’m angry. Not all the time, but I sometimes struggle with anger. I’m angry that Jason died. I miss my boy. I miss his hugs, his beautiful smile. I miss everything about him. I’m angry both at the people who deserted us and those who seem to have moved on with their lives. I feel like Jason is being forgotten. I’m angry at the way people treated us, the way our daughter’s friends treated her. My precious daughter. She didn’t deserve the way she was treated.

At times, I’m still angry, no matter how hard I have worked at forgiveness. I’m angry that Jason did not have the chance to live his life, to graduate from college, to marry and have a family. His friends are doing all of those things. I’m angry that we don’t have the opportunity to dote on and love his children, our grandchildren. I’m angry that we have struggled so long and so hard to get our feet under us after Jason’s death and to find a place where we belong, only to still feel like we don’t belong anywhere, in limbo, our possessions in storage once again. We are like the man/woman without a country. We have no home of our own, no furnishings, what little we own in storage. I feel so alone sometimes. 19 years later and we are still lost. It boggles my mind.

Our minds are amazing things. No matter how hard we try or how much time passes, we never forget the things that are in our hearts, the experiences we have been through and that have deeply affected us, and the pain of losing a child. Sometimes our minds pull those fragments together and they come out in our dreams.

Missing my boy, always.

Hugs,

Becky

© 2021 Rebecca R. Carney

Self Care

On March 3rd, 2002, our 19 year old son died when he was broadsided by a drunk driver going more than twice the posted speed limit. In a couple of weeks, it will be 19 years that he’s been gone. Jason would be 38 years old this year had he lived. He’s been gone the same number of years that he lived. It’s just so hard for me to process.

I work with a young man who is 38 years old – college-educated, home-owning, married, two beautiful young kids, his whole life ahead of him. That’s what Jason should have.

Most March 3rd’s, I have attempted to do what I thought I had to do on those days – school, work, etc. I guess I thought if I focused on some type of “normalcy,” the horror and significance of that day would not be quite so much in focus. It never works.

I remember the first March 3rd after Jason died, the first anniversary of his death. I had gone back to school just months before Jason died, furthering my education so I could get a good job after homeschooling the kids for so many years. I don’t exactly remember why I thought I had to be in school that day – a test or something due. I should have just told the teacher what was going on and taken the day off. I remember sitting in a philosophy class, aware of one of Jason’s best friends who was in the same class sitting across the room, both of us lost in the misery of the day. I can’t really remember much about that day except that I trudged through the day in public and cried and cried in private.

I’ve always been very independent. I have had to grieve alone, not through my own choosing. I just don’t think I can soldier through another March 3rd, putting on a brave face as if I am okay. I’m not okay. I’m heartbroken that my boy is gone. 19 years. I can’t believe it’s been 19 years.

I got a massage yesterday. I don’t get massages for the luxury of getting a massage. I don’t go to one of those fancy spas where they serve champagne or mimosas. It’s more of a therapeutic massage to keep me moving physically. My massage therapist and I were talking about how alone and how isolated people have been during the pandemic.

My husband, who is retired, is alone a lot, especially when I’m at work. I worry about him being alone so much, especially since his heart attack. I mentioned how we have lunch together most every workday, and she thought that was so cute. She asked how long we’d been married. I told her that June will mark our 45th anniversary, and she remarked how unusual it was to hear someone being married that along nowadays. It doesn’t seem like we’ve been married that long. We’ve had our ups and downs, as most marriages have, but we have worked through them and still love each other very much.

As she continued my massage, I started thinking about the different significant numbers. 45 years of marriage. My age, Joe’s age, our kids ages, how old Jason would have been, how many years it’s been since Jason died. I was 46 years old when Jason died. It’s so strange how I feel like I am stuck at 46 years old. Life has gone on, but I feel like so much of my life ended then and I am still 46 years old. My body is aging, events happening, time is passing, but I feel stuck at 46.

I’ve been working a lot – one job for two financial advisors in the office and one job for a financial advisor at home on a remote basis. Each has their own business, their own needs and ways of doing things, their own systems and issues that come up. I wake up in the middle of the night at times thinking of work and what I need to do. I like to do things right the first time and sometimes my brain kicks in gear and won’t shut off. I sometimes get up at 3 a.m. or so to take care of whatever I can at home on my computer, just to get it off my mind so that I can go back to sleep. I really do appreciate having a job, especially when so many people don’t. I want and need to keep working until we can figure out what we want to do and where to move.

I had mentioned to my massage therapist that I had been working a lot. I’d even had to cancel my last massage so I could get caught up. As I got ready to leave, she said to me, “Becky, you have to take care of yourself.”

I tend to take care of everyone else first. I always have. I bought clothes or treats or whatever for the kids or Joe before I ever bought clothes or anything for myself. I have taken care of business outside of work hours, even when I’ve been exhausted. I am trying to do a better job of taking care of myself, though. I’m going to take a couple of days off around March 3rd this year and try to figure out how and what we can do to make it a day of celebrating Jason’s life and to make it a time of self-care. I need it.

Take care of yourself. Good advice.

© 2021 Rebecca R. Carney

Temporary Home

As I sat having lunch in the park with my husband, Carrie Underwood’s song “Temporary Home” came on the radio. It always makes me cry when I hear it. It’s such a beautiful song, one more of hope than loss. If you haven’t had a chance to listen to it, I urge you go do so now.

I can relate with this song on so many levels. I feel like my husband and I have been living a “temporary life” for so many years that it’s difficult to remember what it’s like to be settled in a home of our own. On top of that, since Jason died, I have been so incredibly aware of how temporary things here on earth are – friendships, life, happiness, health, etc. – and that this world definitely is not my ultimate home. I long to see my precious boy again, and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I will see him again one day.

This world is just my temporary home.

~Becky

© 2020 Rebecca R. Carney