Some days I need to turn up the music loud, concentrate and breathe…just to turn down the sadness in my heart so I don’t fall apart. Today is one of those days.

Jason loved to brighten his family’s and friend’s day by surprising them with flowers, and his last Valentine’s Day was no exception. I had the privilege of going with Jason as he picked out the biggest and best bouquet of roses for the girl he took out on that last Valentine’s Day. His sister was going through a rough time, so he also picked out the biggest and best bouquet of roses for her to encourage her and let her know she was loved and valued. He was just so thoughtful like that.

Oh, my boy, how I miss you.



Memory Quilt

When we lived in Oklahoma, I started making a memory quilt. I pulled it out last week to start working on it again. Even though I have lost so many things that meant something to me in our many moves, I somehow managed to keep pieces of leftover fabric from my family of sewers – from my grandma, my mom, my own sewing from jr. high on, my sister’s sewing (my wedding dress, Easter outfits for Jenna, etc.), Jenna’s sewing, etc.

I have pieces of fabric from one of the first dresses I ever sewed for myself, pajamas I made when the kids were little, shirts I made for the boys and dresses I made for Jenna. I have a piece of fabric from a robe I made and wore in the hospital when Eric was born. I have scrap pieces from shirts my grandma made for herself and from dresses and shirts my mom made for herself. In my mind, I can picture each and every article of clothing and the person who wore it. I am supplementing with fabric I’ve purchased that triggers a memory for me – a piece of fabric with pictures of chocolate chip cookies (because Jason loved to make chocolate chip cookies), video games the kids used to love, chess pieces (Jason’s favorite game), math quotes, etc.

One thing I terribly regret is not keeping more of Jason’s clothing. I’ve talked before about feeling pushed to go through his room before I was ready and how I would do things differently if I knew then what I know now. I kept a couple of shirts, his letterman jacket, a sweater and a sweatshirt he wore all the time. I have a Halloween costume I made when Jason was little, a white tee shirt and one with the Pillsbury dough boy that he loved. I’m not sure I actually have the courage to cut them up to put into my quilt. I also have a couple of Jason’s hats that he loved as a little boy.

Jason didn’t have a lot of clothes and, even though he was a tee shirt kind of guy, he always looked classy. He loved dressing up in three piece suits, white shirt and tie, dress slacks and a vest, a tux and his top hat, white gloves and cane for extra-special occasions. I have his hats and gloves, although the cane was lost somewhere along the way.

This week I sat hugging his letterman jacket and crying. It’s a tough time of year for me, this approach to March 3rd. Hugging a coat is a poor substitute for hugging my boy.


Jason David Carney – 7/29/82 – 3/3/02

Missing you, Jason. I love you.


© 2018 Rebecca R. Carney


Baby Mine

jumbo_dumbo_storkI love most Disney movies, and one of my early favorites when the kids were little was Dumbo. The gist of the story is that, after a long-awaited arrival, the stork delivers baby Dumbo to his mother, Mrs. Jumbo. Everyone thinks he is so cute – until he unfurls his huge ears, and then everyone is shocked and horrified because he is so different. They turn their backs on him and exclude him. They make fun of him and one of the other elephants calls him a “freak.” Mrs. Jumbo, though, adores him just as he is.

clipdumbo212As the circus opens to the public, mama elephant proudly encourages her offspring to meet the people. But, as kids at the circus make fun of him for his ears, his mother moves him away from the tormentors to protect him. When they keep harassing and making fun of him, she goes berserk at the thought that anyone would hurt or torment her precious little one. She would do anything to protect her baby from the insults. As a result of her actions, she is deemed violent and forcibly separated from Dumbo, locked up in a solitary cage. At one point, lonely Dumbo goes to visit mama elephant in her prison, and Mrs. Jumbo sings the song “Baby Mine” to Dumbo, her precious little one. It’s a universal song with a universal message – one that every mother would wish to impress upon the hearts of her children – of how wonderful and precious they are, just as they are. In the end, Dumbo learns that what makes him different is what makes him special.

I recently watched an interview on PBS of Ron Suskind, a Pulitzer-winning journalist whose son is autistic. Of the Dumbo film, Mr. Suskind says:

“Dumbo, in a way, is a simple story, and its simplicity – the core of it – is of such powerful resonance that it sneaks up and just whacks you…It’s a moment of love and of arrival, of birth. And then the ears!! Oh, my! Just look at those ears! There isn’t anyone who doesn’t feel pain then. ‘It’s all the fault of that f-r-e-a-k.’

‘I don’t want to be the outcast. Don’t leave me behind. And the things that make me different, I want to hide them. I don’t want people to see that. I don’t want to be left out’…Dumbo’s about how we all yearn to be part of the main, how we all just want to be like everyone else.

I’m just different, but the thing that make me different is the not a thing I need to wrestle with and hide. It’s a thing, once I recognize, it allows me to soar. It’s not ‘in spite of’ what makes me different that I did it, it’s because of it.”

Not to over-analyze a children’s cartoon, but this story speaks to me on several levels.

First – for all of those children who are different or feel different, for those who aren’t accepted or are bullied for some real or perceived flaw – you have something inside of you that makes you very special. Some very successful people have gone through periods of time when others didn’t believe in them (Albert Einstein, John Lennon, etc.). People who were considered “geeks” in school have changed the world (Bill Gates, and many others). Believe in yourself. Give yourself time to soar.

Second – a mother’s love is stronger than any chain. My kids have all been – as the song says – “close to my heart never to part…you’re so precious to me, sweet as can be, baby of mine.” I hope they know how much I loved them from the minute they were born and how much they have meant to me every minute of every day from the minute I knew I was pregnant. The only thing I ever wanted to be in this life was a mom. There have been times when my heart was so full of love for my children – so full of awe and wonder that they were actually our precious children, born into our family and given to us by God –  that my heart could hardly hold it all.

Third – no one likes to feel like an outsider. The one thing about the deep grief following the death of a child is that it can be a very lonely walk. I remember recognizing the feeling that I would never be the same, that people would never look at me the same after Jason died. After his death, one of Jason’s friends posted on his social media account  that he would never be able to look at us or Alina’s parents the same, that he would always see us as “marked.”  At a Christmas concert that first year, I remember glancing across the room in time to see friends, heads huddled close together talking, as they were obviously discussing Joe and me.

As bereaved parents, you become the ultimate outsider. I remember feeling like I was on the other side of the glass wall, looking in, as people celebrated this or that. The everyday joys belonged to others and not to me. I still feel that way. Unless you have walked this walk, I can’t imagine one would understand what it’s like to have relationships with people you value disappear into thin air – not just for a while, but literally for years or forever. We became pariahs, through none of our own actions. I literally never heard from some people ever again, people I had known for years and considered great “Christian” people, good friends.

Others expected me to understand how difficult it was for them to be around me. One gal wrote, “You have often been in my prayers, my thoughts. I want to call, come to visit, but I don’t know what to say. I don’t know how to relate to your pain and like a chicken I stay away and I don’t call and I don’t visit. I have many reminders of you…so I do pray…and my thoughts go to you and your pain and how hard it must be every day to live with the reminders and the emptiness.” She goes on to talk about how difficult it is going to be to have her son, Jason’s friend, go off to college and how much she will miss him and that the hardest part of parenting is letting go. She ended the note by saying she would have access to a car soon and that she would “make work of seeing” me. I never did hear from her.

I learned early on that I had to hide my grief and make it palatable so that people would want to be around me. At least, I thought I had to make it palatable. In retrospect, I’m not sure it made any difference. People disappeared, anyway, and I don’t think there was anything I could have done about it.

I, especially, think it was difficult for our daughter being “different” at 17 years old. It’s never easy being the teenage girl who is different than everyone else, and losing your brother in a car accident really sets us apart from everyone else. While other girls were buying prom dresses and planning for graduation, she was helping pick out her brother’s casket and choosing photos and songs for his memorial service. I wish I could say her friends stepped up and surrounded her with love and caring, but that was far from the case. She and Jason were so close their entire lives, and I would have done anything to spare her the pain she walked through. Losing a brother is horrendous; being made to feel an outcast because of it is also a horrible thing.

I’m not sure I agree entirely with the last paragraph of Mr. Suskind’s comments about difficulties or differences making us soar. It rather feels like one of those “what doesn’t kill us makes us strongerplatitudes. But, because of what we have walked through, I feel like I have a deeper empathy for those who suffer deep loss. I hope so. And I hope I can do my small part to raise awareness of what it’s like to be the bereaved parent and sibling to a fantastic, wonderful, incredible, phenomenal young man like Jason. If I can encourage some measure of kindness toward bereaved families, I will feel like I have done my part.

Miss you always, my precious boy.

Baby Mine

Baby mine, don’t you cry.
Baby mine, dry your eyes.
Rest your head close to my heart,
Never to part,
Baby of mine.

Little one, when you play;
Don’t you mind what they say.
Let those eyes sparkle and shine,
Never a tear,
Baby of mine.

If they knew sweet little you
They’d end up loving you too.
All those same people who scold you;
What they’d give just for the right to hold you.

From your head down to your toes,
You’re not much, goodness knows.
But you’re so precious to me,
Sweet as can be,
Baby of mine.

All of those people who scold you,
What they’d give just for the right to hold you.

From your head down to your toes
You’re not much, goodness knows.
But you’re so precious to me,
Sweet as can be,
Baby of mine.
Baby of mine

Dumbo photos courtesy of
© 2018 Rebecca R. Carney

Too much time on my hands

I came down with that nasty flu bug a week ago. It hit me hard and then went into pneumonia. About the only place I have been out of the house for the past week has been to go to either urgent care or to the emergency room. It’s left me totally miserable, with barely enough energy to take a shower some mornings. Add on top of that that I had “ice pick” headaches nonstop in addition to a horrible “regular” nonstop headache for the first five days, it’s about put me at my max. (Ice pick headaches are just what they sound like – horrible, sharp headaches that feel like someone is hitting your head with an ice pick.)

My husband and I are not ones to just sit around the house. We like to go and do things. We don’t watch tv during the day. Because I grew up without a tv until I was in high school, I max out on tv fairly quickly. But, because of being so sick, let’s just say there’s been a lot of sitting and laying around the house on my part. I’ve been napping when I felt tired, which I suppose is what I need to do, but it’s messed up my sleeping schedule some. I’ve been waking up at night and my mind won’t shut off.

Last night, I woke up thinking of Jason. Not that he’s ever far from my thoughts, but the pictures and vignettes of things we used to do played clearly in rapid succession. My cuddly little baby boy. High energy toddler. Determined little guy. Loving hugger. Oh, how I wanted to step back into that time and hold that little guy in my arms. I started crying and couldn’t stop.

Oh, how I miss you, my boy.



© 2018 Rebecca R. Carney

How to Talk to a Parent who is in Grief

Ran across this article today by Samantha Hayward, and thought I would pass it along.  “How to talk to a parent who is in grief. From someone who’s been there.” Samantha’s oldest daughter, Ella, died at 19 days old. I hope you will take time to read it. It’s certainly a good place to start/continue this conversation of what to say to bereaved parents. Good suggestions, all, but I will pass on these three:

1. Four years on I get up every day with the exact same sadness I had the day Ella died.

The only difference is I’m more skilled at hiding it and I’m much more used to the agony of my broken heart. The shock has somewhat lessened, but I do still find myself thinking I can’t believe this happened. I thought that only happened to other people. You asked how I was in the beginning yet you stopped, why? Where did you get the information on what week or month was good to stop asking?

9. I did notice.

To the friends and family that found the entire death and dealing with my sadness all too hard and held secret events behind our backs that were lied about, stopped inviting us to things we had always been included in and slowly ended our relationship thinking I didn’t notice. I did notice. The only reason why I never said anything is because I’m not wasting my words on your shameful behaviour. I am thankful for something though – I didn’t waste any more time on people that were capable of such shallowness and cruelty. Please don’t fear. I would be the first one by your side if the same thing happened to you. That should give you some indication of how horrible it is.

10. Grieving for a child lasts until you see them again.

It’s a lifetime. If you’re wondering how long your friend or family member might be grieving for, the answer is forever. Don’t rush them, don’t trivialise their sadness, don’t make them feel guilty for being sad and when they talk to you, open your ears and listen, really listen to what they’re telling you. It’s possible you’ll learn something. Don’t be so cruel as to give up on them remember it’s not about you it’s about them.

I’ve been left repeatedly heart broken as friends that I truly loved and never thought would walk away from me tossed me into the too hard basket or – more hurtfully – the crazy basket. Phone calls stopped, text messages stopped, comments on Facebook stopped and I get the same thing every time. “Sorry darling I’m just flat out”, “Let’s catch up soon” and “I miss you.” The list could keep going but I get it. I’m not the type of person either that is going to pursue a friendship I know the other person doesn’t want. Everyone has a conscience and thankfully I don’t have to live with theirs.



© 2018 Rebecca R. Carney



“A Date Which Will Live in Infamy”

December 7, 1941 was the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, the U.S. naval base at Oahu Island, Hawaii. Because of this action, the United States entered World War II. December 7th was designated as National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day by the United States Congress in 1944, and today marks the anniversary of that day in the history of the United States. Every year, including this 76th anniversary of that “date which will live in infamy,” Pearl Harbor survivors, visitors, family and friends visit the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument to pause and remember those who died on that day.

There are few wars that don’t affect someone we know. Henry, my husband’s uncle by marriage, fought in the Pacific in World War II, and died when his ship was sunk. He had lived in the Philippines (originally from Colorado), and his wife (Joe’s aunt) had died in a car accident a year or so before the war started. Following Henry’s death, Joe’s grandmother went to the Philippines to bring home Henry’s (and her daughter’s) twin children, then barely aged 2. While she was there, the Japanese invaded the Philippines. Joe’s grandmother and the twins were sent to the Santo Tomas internment camp, where they spent the rest of the war until they were liberated in February, 1945.

As I was driving to work this morning, I thought about the meaning of “a date that will live in infamy.” Infamy means being known for something horrible. We, as parents whose children have died, have our own date that will live in infamy. My personal date that will live in infamy is March 3, 2002, the day Jason died.

Similar to survivors of war, we parents have endured a specific horrendous event on our personal date that will live in infamy, one that affects us and changes our lives in so many ways, more than we ever could have imaged. We are changed so much we, along with our family and friends, don’t even know who we are any more. Some of us end up with PTSD. Some lose friends because of a lack of understanding about the struggle we are having or the path we now are walking. Some have marriages that end. For some, it’s a lifelong struggle. Some never recover. It takes years to recover any semblance of normalcy (if there even is such a thing) and rebuild lives.

We are all changed by our personal date that will live in infamy, the day our children died.


© 2017 Rebecca R. Carney


I am making baked beans, one of Jason’s favorites, for dinner tonight on this summer Saturday. It took me a long, long time even to be able to cook, bake or buy things that Jason really loved. Orange rolls for breakfast. Cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning. The Christmas before Jason died, he had asked me to teach him how to make cinnamon rolls. It was something he wanted us to do together. He loved baking.

He loved to bake chocolate chip cookies. Sometimes when friends would come over, they would bake cookies together. I always tried to keep everything on hand that he would need. I can still picture him in the kitchen, mixing up cookies, pouring chocolate chips into the dough.

Weekends were so full of doing things with the kids. I’d mix up some pancakes on Saturday morning or bake some orange rolls. Weekends were busy, full. Now they seem so empty.

Missing my boy this weekend…and every day…


© 2017 Rebecca R. Carney