Cherish the Moments

As I walk through retail or grocery stores, I am usually very aware of how parents talk to their kids. I notice the ones who lovingly pay attention to their children and speak to them respectfully. I notice the ones who are harried and (sometimes quite rudely) rush their kids along. I notice the ones who are so rude and harsh to their kids – it makes me cringe to listen to those parents. I notice the ones who are just awful to their kids – those are the ones that break my heart. Sometimes it sounds like they actually hate their kids!

I remember, when our oldest son was born, we were given a poem by Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D. entitled “Children Learn What They Live With.”

If children live with criticism,
They learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility,
They learn to fight.
If children live with ridicule,
They learn to be shy.
If children live with shame,
They learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement,
They learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance,
They learn to be patient.
If children live with praise,
They learn to appreciate.
If children live with acceptance,
They learn to love.
If children live with approval,
They learn to like themselves.
If children live with honesty,
They learn truthfulness.
If children live with security,
They learn to have faith in themselves and others.
If children live with friendliness,
They learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

Although children make their own choices, which are sometimes outside of what the parent would wish (especially as they get older), I am a firm believer that a positively-involved parent can make a huge difference in a child’s life. Children hear our words; they see our actions and learn to emulate them. We make a difference in their lives!

More than once, I have been tempted to stop a harsh, harried, or rude parent and say, “What are you teaching your child by your words and actions? Do you realize what are you imprinting on their lives? Don’t you know what a precious gift you have? Do you realize how quickly these years go by? Would you be acting the same toward your child if you knew they could die at any time? Would you regret your words or behavior if you no longer had your child to hold close? Cherish the moments with your child! The shopping will wait; the housework will wait! Slow down and enjoy being with your precious child! This moment won’t come again.”

We’ve all been there – in a hurry, upset, impatient, mad about something. There is no perfect parent. Children aren’t perfect, either, and that can make parenting a challenge. As the saying goes: parenting is not for the faint of heart. It’s not an easy job, that’s for sure.

After children are grown and away from home, we empty-nest parents have a full realization of how quickly those growing-up years have passed, never to return, and then we wish we had them back to take our time and enjoy more. When a child has died (no matter what the age), the opportunity to spend time and cherish any moment with that child is gone. Our child is gone! All we have is memories, and perhaps regret for missed opportunities to spend time together with our child.

If I had the chance, there are so many things I would do differently. As a homeschooling parent, I probably spent more time with my kids than most. I loved it, and counted it an honor to be involved in their lives as they grew up. But, I am far from perfect, and there are times when the “should have’s” tap me on the shoulder to remind me of things I could have done better or differently. I would love to have the opportunity to spend time with Jason, to play another game of chess or Yahtzee. I would love the chance make chocolate chip cookies together, to teach Jason how to make my “famous” cinnamon rolls, or type up his homework papers as he dictated them to me (Jason’s “thinking juices” flowed best as he walked around the room and thought out loud). I would gladly hand over the keys to our new car and encourage Jason to drive it to take Alina home that night – maybe he would be alive today if he had been driving a different car. I would love to… The list goes on and on. Most of all, I would just love to have my precious boy here.

We always think there will be more time, another opportunity. Sometimes there just isn’t.

© 2011 Rebecca R. Carney

8 months

From my journal dated November 3, 2002:

Sunday – November 3, 2002

8 months – 8 long, horrendous, lonely months

I hate it. I still hate it all.

  • I hate the emptiness Jason’s absence leaves.
  • I hate the 3rd of each month, aware of how many months Jason has been gone.
  • I hate the way our house is so silent most of the time.
  • I hate the emptiness of Sundays and going to church, just Joe and me.
  • I hate going so many places and doing so many things by myself.
  • I hate making dinner – enough to feed a crew, but the crew isn’t around any more.
  • I hate that Jenna doesn’t have her special brother in her life any more.
  • I hate that people avoid us, like they might catch something from us.
  • I hate going by Jason’s closed door every day, knowing his stuff is still there just as he left it when he took Alina home that night.
  • I hate the darkness and heavy sadness in my heart.
  • I hate that Thanksgiving and Christmas are marching toward us…they will never be the same.
  • I hate that it seems like everyone has forgotten Jason…like the accident never happened.
  • I hate it that Jason is gone.

I miss my life

From my journal dated October 7, 2002:

Is this pain every going to end? Will our house have life in it ever again?

I just don’t know if I can stand it any more. Nothing seems to be going right or getting any better. I’m just so sad today. I miss my boy so much. It’s just not right that he’s gone.

Today has been a rough day. I’m just on the verge of tears.

Sometimes it feels like my heart is in a vice, and it’s just squeezing nothing but pain out of it. Literal, physical pain.

I miss my life. I feel like I took it for granted, and now it’s gone…never to return. That’s the way I felt after the tree fell on the house in Bellevue, that I had blown it by not fully appreciating what I had at the time. Maybe that’s being too hard on myself…but now I look back and see the wasted time, the needless frustration, the focus on things that don’t even matter now.

How I wish I could go back. I’d give anything to have my Jason back!!

Some days are better than others

From my journal dated October 1, 2002:

Cleaned house today – kitchen, bathrooms, vacuumed. Trying so hard to get back in the swing of things…so many things I need to do. It makes me sad to clean the house, because it’s what I had asked Jason and Jenna to do the Saturday before the accident. It seemed so important at the time. So, here I am today washing the bathroom floor, crying so hard I can hardly see what I am doing.

After I vacuumed the floors, I vacuumed Jason’s top hat, wrapped it in a plastic bag to protect it, and put it  in his room. The box of photos, chess sets, memorabilia, and Jason’s top hat and gloves have been sitting in the bonus room since the memorial service. This is the first day I’ve felt like I could deal with putting them away.

I fell apart when I walked into Jason’s room. I haven’t been in there for a long time. Seven months later…and I’m still wanting and waiting for Jason to come home. I miss him so much.

Yesterday we went to see Sweet Home Alabama with the McFarlane’s. Cute movie. It was so weird, though, after the movie. We were getting ready to head over to Applebee’s for dessert, and I had an overwhelming feeling that Jason was on his way to meet us there…like he’d been somewhere else doing something with a friend, but was meeting us to celebrate my birthday. It was just a momentary feeling, but it seemed so real! I wish it had been real!

My sister called to wish me a happy birthday. I feel sometimes like I just go through the motions of conversation, but it doesn’t quite reach my heart. I’m like a robot talking, doing things. Maybe I just don’t want to feel anything.

I was so antsy and frustrated today…had a hard time sitting still and concentrating in school and while working on homework. I can’t seem to get a focus on my story for my journalism class. My brain seems like it’s moving through molasses!

The Herald [newspaper] called about doing another story on Jason and Alina. I just don’t really see a point in it. I feel like they’re using Jason and Alina to sell stories – some story on victims not getting fair justice. It just doesn’t feel right. Why now?

The reporter talked about no arrests being made yet, and how other victims felt that justice was not being done for them. I just don’t see where it brings honor to Jason and Alina to have their names associated with a gripe fest. I told her we weren’t interested in doing an article right now. She wasn’t very happy with me.

They’re probably used to people wanting their 15 minutes of fame…but this is not fame I want. It brings pain to too many people with little purpose. Jenna says it’s fame she doesn’t want either. She doesn’t want to be in the spotlight. I told her that I think we probably can’t help but be in the spotlight during the trial, but there’s no good reason now.

I took some bulbs and a small shovel with me today when I left for school. I stopped by the crash site on my way home. I cleaned up the trash, and then I dug a few holes and planted the bulbs – a big variety of bright daffodils for Jason, my Mr. Sunshine, and white and purple crocuses for Alina. Some will come up in early spring and some will come up in late spring, very near the one year mark of the accident. I want them to symbolize life out of death with a bright array of color along the side of the road for everyone to see as they drive by.

Today was a tough day for me.

Party of 5

From my journal dated September 29, 2002:

Joe and I are so lost on Sundays. We went to church, and then we look at each other and ask, “Now what do we do?” Sundays were days we spent together as a family – church, out to lunch, doing something fun.

Our family is so used to operating in 5’s – 5 Disneyland glasses, 5 Christmas stockings, 5 everything. But it’s like Jason was more than 1/5. It’s hard to explain. He filled in so many areas for all of us – hugs, smiles, help, heart, love. Such an incredible young man.

I can honestly see how someone could go crazy with grief. It’s something you can never get away from. It sometimes seems like it will never get any better!

It’s like a pool or ocean that’s trying to drown you. You have to fight to stay afloat, especially when you are doing it mostly alone like we are. It’s just such hard work. There’s no break and no end in sight…it goes on and on. It’s exhausting.

I stopped by the cemetery today for a few minutes. I just wanted to tell Jason that our lives aren’t the same without him. So empty. I miss him so much. There is no substitute. I’m just drowning…I’m so sad.