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

“You’ve Got Mail”

I watched the movie You’ve Got Mail the other day. It came out in 1998 and Jason absolutely loved that movie. As a matter of fact, Jason’s friend Alina (who died in the same car accident as Jason) had bought the DVD for him the Christmas before he died.

It took me years to watch You’ve Got Mail after Jason died. When I finally felt like I could watch it, I cried and cried all the way through it. It came up the other day as I was looking for a movie to watch, and so I decided to watch it again. It still made me cry and cry. Certain memories of Jason are so strongly associated with this movie. It suited his personality – fun, upbeat, caring, romantic, lover of flowers and giving them to those he loved.

Besides Jason’s love for the movie, quite a bit of the music in the movie reminds me of Jason. We played the “The Puppy Song” by Harry Nilsson at the beginning of the slideshow at Jason’s memorial service – a fun, upbeat song that suited Jason so well and his love of his friends. It was the very first song in the memorial slideshow.

“The Puppy Song”
Dreams are nothing more than wishes

And a wish is just a dream
You wish to come true, woo woo

If only I could have a puppy
I’d call myself so very lucky
Just to have some company
To share a cup of tea with me

I’d take my puppy everywhere
La, la, la-la I wouldn’t care
And we would stay away from crowds
And signs that said no dogs allowed
Oh we, I know he’d never bite me
Whoa de lo…….
We, I know he’d never bite me

If only I could have a friend
To stick with me until the end
And walk along beside the sea
Share a bit of moon with me

I’d take my friend most everywhere
La, la, la-la I wouldn’t care
We would stay away from crowds
With signs that said no friends allowed
Oh we, we’d be so happy to be
Whoa de lo………….
We, we’d be so happy to be together

But dreams are nothing more than wishes
And a wish is just a dream
You wish to come true
Whoa whoa……….

Dreams are nothing more than wishes
And a wish is just a dream
You wish to come true
Whoa whoa woo……..

Dreams are nothing more than wishes
And a wish is just a dream
You wish to come true

 
 

There are a couple of other Harry Nilsson songs in the movie that bring me to tears when I hear them – Remember and Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Other songs in the movie by other artists, too, tug at my heart and make me miss Jason tremendously. Dreams by the Cranberries was on Jason’s favorite playlist at the time he died. Dream by Roy Orbison speaks to the longing of when things were better and memories of when Jason lived.

Remember (Christmas)”

Long ago, far away
Life was clear
Close your eyes

Remember, is a place from long ago
Remember, filled with everything you know
Remember, when you’re sad and feelin’ down
Remember, turn around
Remember, life is just a memory
Remember, close your eyes and you can see
Remember, think of all that life can be
Remember

Dream, love is only in a dream
Remember
Remember, life is never as it seems
Dream

Dream, love is only in a dream
Remember
Remember, life is never as it seems
Dream

Long ago, far away
Life was clear
Close your eyes

https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/harrynilsson/rememberchristmas.html

Long ago, far away…life was clear. Remember. Missing my boy with my whole heart. Oh, my precious boy, how I miss you.

~Becky

© 2020 Rebecca R. Carney

Another Thanksgiving in the books

Holidays are filled with landmines and pitfalls following the death of a child. I remember the “firsts” of the year Jason died – first Easter, first 4th of July, first birthday, first Thanksgiving, first Christmas, first New Years. Holidays just are never the same when a child dies. Sometimes they are incredibly difficult.

For some reason, this Thanksgiving was particularly difficult for me. Perhaps it’s the whole pandemic isolation thing, being so far away from family. Perhaps it’s the uncertainty of where we are going to live and feeling like we are still at loose ends. Perhaps it’s that so many things feel temporary. We haven’t had a home of our own in so long that it’s beginning to feel like it will never happen. Perhaps it’s a lot of things combined.

I woke up on Thanksgiving morning and just couldn’t seem to find a smile in me. I felt like there was a huge lump in the pit of my stomach that made it hard for me to breathe, like I could cry at the drop of a hat. I had a hard time holding it together. I long for the day when we could all be together in a home of our own. That day is gone and will never be again. It’s just so hard sometimes.

Christmas is right around the corner and the Christmas spirit seems so far to be very elusive this year, too. My mind can’t seem to wrap itself around the fact that we have to spend another Christmas, another year without Jason. I’m doing the best I can, but I feel like I’m failing miserably. A new year is rapidly approaching.

Another year without my boy. Sometimes I just don’t know how to do this.

I love you, Jason, and I miss you with my whole heart.

~Becky

© 2020 Rebecca R. Carney

 

Life in boxes, once again

Quote

We have boxed up our belongings and rented a storage unit to store them. Again. The few remaining items we use on a daily basis are ready to be boxed up, our clothes in suitcases ready to be zipped shut and rolled out the door. On Tuesday, September 15, the local Two Men and a Truck moving company will come to pick up our boxes and move them to the storage unit.

My life is in boxes once again. Since we have lived in a small furnished rental for the last eight years, we have no furniture to move, just boxes. We have not owned a vacuum cleaner or couch or a bed or a table and chairs in 11 years.

Since our landlord unceremoniously dropped the bomb about us having to move out by the end of September, we have run the gamut of emotions. First, we were in shock at the unkind, unwarranted, horrible manner in which we were treated by someone to whom we had tried to show kindness. Next, we embraced this as an opportunity to make some changes for the better, to try to find that elusive place to finally be “at home” in a home of our own. We have been trying to decide where that might be. We looked at homes in Charleston, where our daughter lives. We have looked at homes where we currently live. We are trying to find a nice, comfortable, affordable home without breaking the bank, so to speak. We would like to be near family (with our daughter in Charleston and our son in Seattle, they are coasts apart), but either one would involve me giving up my job and trying to find another – in the middle of a pandemic and on the cusp of turning 65 on September 30. Plus, any place we want to live the housing is very expensive. There’s no way we could qualify for a home loan – or even an apartment rental – on just Joe’s Social Security, and as much as employers are not supposed to consider a person’s age, I am cognizant of the fact that my age not in my favor in looking for a new job somewhere else.

We have tried to find a short-term, furnished rental or vacation rental to buy ourselves some time to work things out (and so I can continue working at my job), but that, too, is proving nearly impossible. Vacation rentals are booked because it’s headed into fall and “leaf peeping” season here along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Other rentals, such as apartments, want long-term leases. We don’t have time to find a place to purchase. We just don’t know what to do any more. Right now, my emotions on the verge of full-on panic.

We have no place to go and have to move out in 17 days. We continue to look, but it’s not hopeful. I guess there’s always a hotel.

I’ve hit lots of other emotions, too. I’m so worried about how all of this stress is affecting my husband who had a heart attack a scant nine months ago. Once a person has a heart attack, his chances of having another are greatly increased. I am struggling to hold onto my carefully constructed facade of togetherness. I wake up in the middle of the night, desperately searching for a place to live. I sit alone in the dark, break down and cry for all we have lost. Too many losses over the years. The losses easily come to the surface when one is stretched so thin. I’m embarrassed that we find ourselves in this position at our ages. It has not been an easy road since Jason died. We have lost our home, friends, income, security, hope, faith. My faith in God and in his people has not been the same Jason died.

My sister has tired to encourage us, recently sending this Bible verse and her interpretation of it.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.”

Jeremiah 29:11-14 – NLT

God has had plans for you all along. They are good plans, not plans for disaster or poverty or hopelessness. Rather, they are plans that will cause a spring of hope and joy in your hearts when you think of them in your future. Even now, today, when you reach out from that place of uncertainty and pray in faith, God promises that he will hear you. Your words won’t just bounce off the wall, but He will actually listen and take to heart the words that you are saying. He will reveal Himself to you, bringing comfort and direction. You will begin to notice the sadness and emptiness that has dogged you for so long, come to an end and a real joy and hope will return. You will begin to see things that you’ve lost be restored to you. Your wandering will end and you will return to your home again to your own land.  These are the plans that God has for you, Plans that will give you hope and a future, says the Lord.

My response:

I truly appreciate that you are trying to encourage us. It has really been a discouraging time, that’s for sure. 

I will tell you that I used to wholeheartedly get behind this verse. So much so, in fact, that I had printed it out on nice heavyweight paper with a pretty font. I purchased a incredible frame, put this printed verse into the frame and gave it as a special gift to Jason as an encouragement for his future. It was sitting by his bedside on the night he died. Both Joe and I truly believed from the minute he was born that God had a special purpose for Jason. I used to wake up in the middle of the night nearly every night, go downstairs and pray for our kids, for their friends, for their futures, for their future spouses, for our grandchildren, for protection and blessing for my family. I believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that my prayers “availed much.”

But no one told me that God would turn a deaf ear to my earnest prayers for protection for my kids and allow Jason to die, that he would not protect Jason, that the “plans” and “future” (and as a promise from the Bible I used as an encouragement for him) that he had for Jason was for him to die at the hands of a drunk driver at the age of 19, that Eric would marry someone who has so undermined our relationships with him and our grandchildren to the point where our grandchildren hardly have anything to do with us, that so much would happen to Jenna that has cost her so much, that our good “Christian” friends would leave us so alone when we needed them the most. Joe, Jenna and I have paid a high, high price because Jason died, a higher price than anyone truly knows. [Although I have written about what we went through, there are still many things I am not at liberty to write about.] I’m sorry and I don’t mean any disrespect and I by no means mean to sound harsh, but I just do not so blindly believe this any more. If God has some special plans for us, he needs to show up pretty soon and prove it. 

I honestly do thank you, though, for thinking of us and for caring about us. You are really the only one who has stuck around at all, despite all those people on Facebook who say that they care or are praying for us. Perhaps they do care and do pray, but it’s difficult to trust in people any more. It’s difficult when people say something but don’t follow up with actions. I’m not fooled; I remember which ones of them stood by us when Jason died. They were few and far between. They told us they prayed and cared, but then left us so alone. They did nothing and that hurt. It really hurt. I’ve always said that my head understood that we were difficult to be around but that my heart didn’t understand. It’s still true – my head still understands that they just didn’t know what to do to help. My heart still hurts at being abandoned. I don’t really want an answer or discussion or a sermon. I just wanted to let you know this verse doesn’t necessarily mean to me or to Joe what it means to you. 

My faith in God was shaken when Jason died. It’s never really recovered. I want to believe and I honestly try, but I still struggle. At first, I prayed God would use this horrible evil and loss for good. Then, I hoped and believed God would restore and bless us as he did Job in the Bible. It’s been nearly 19 years and I’ve yet to see such a thing. My faith in people was shaken when people died. Many have disappeared from our lives, never to return. Only my friend Mary stepped up. I miss her. I have a hard time making friends any more. I have a hard time believing in friendship. My heart was a broken beyond repair. I still miss my boy so much. I miss the life we had as a family.

You never could have convinced me that at 72 and 65 years old, respectively, Joe and I would be in the position we are now in. Unless we find something to move into in the next 17 days, we will once again be houseless/homeless. We faced a similar time in the big 1993 Seattle Inauguration Day storm when a big tree fell on the house we were renting. The house was so damaged we had to move out the next day, putting all of our things in storage. We were without a home for several months while we looked for a place to buy. We stayed in a hotel, stayed with friends for a while, I went on an extended trip to visit relatives in the Midwest. We ended up renting a small apartment while we had a house built.

One difference between then and now – other than our ages and the fact that our Eric and Jenna are grown, live on different coasts and Jason is dead – is that it was easier for me to have hope. I had hope that things would get better, that we had time for things to turn around. I had not yet gone through so much loss. We had not yet traversed for so long on such a long, rocky, tiring journey. The whole “He leads me beside still waters, restores my soul” thing has been an elusive promise. We just don’t know what to do any more and we’re running out of time.

Our days are numbered and I am well aware of that. Both of my parents died when they were 78 years old. Joe is 72 and had a heart attack nine months ago. He has been struggling with some memory issues lately, now exacerbated by all of the stress we are under. I am very aware – probably more than most – that those we love die and that each moment is precious. I want to find a place where we can enjoy the years we have remaining, a place close to family, a place where we can be “at home.” I want the illusion to become a reality.

Meanwhile, our lives are in boxes once again.

~Becky

© 2020 Rebecca R. Carney