I’ll Be Home for Christmas

My husband and I are going back to Seattle for Christmas this year. It’s been three years since we’ve been there. Although we no longer actually have a physical home there, Seattle will always feel like home to me. It’s never an easy thing to do, this going back to the “home” that used to be, the one that remained after Jason died.

I know that there will be times when we will be in places that are poignantly familiar. I know that, at times, there may be triggers. We will go to visit Jason’s grave. I know that we will miss Jason like crazy.

As I cleaned closets today, one of the songs that came on my iTunes was a song sung by Jimmy Durante – “I’ll be Seeing You.” It brought tears to my eyes.

I’ll be seeing you
In all the old familiar places
That this heart of mine embraces
All day through
In that small cafe
The park across the way
The children’s carousel
The chestnut trees, the wishing well
I’ll be seeing you
In every lovely summers day
In everything that’s light and gay
I’ll always think of you that way
I’ll find you in the morning sun
And when the night is new
I’ll be looking at the moon
But I’ll seeing you.
Songwriters: Irving Kahal / Sammy Fain
I’ll Be Seeing You lyrics © BMG Rights Management
Here’s to you, my precious boy. I know that everywhere I look, I’ll be seeing you and missing you. Life is not the same without you.
~Mom
© 2018 Rebecca R. Carney

Cleaning Closets

The last day or so, I’ve been working on cleaning out my closet. Because our entire set of belongings were in storage for a number of years after we left Oklahoma (including all of my professional wardrobe), I ended up with a double wardrobe. When we settled in Asheville, I started looking for a job. With my professional wardrobe in storage and needing clothes for job interviews and, subsequently, daily wear to work, I ended up purchasing nearly an entire new wardrobe. (Thank goodness for Dillards outlet and their wonderful discount super sales!!) When we moved our storage items from Oklahoma a couple of years ago to where we are, I  ended up with more clothes than I could possibly wear.

Yesterday, I put on music, pulled every item out of my closet to try on and evaluate, and have been packaging up items to pass on to an organization that helps women re-entering the workforce. It’s been very cathartic in many ways.

In some ways, it’s been sad, though. Some clothing items reminded me of pleasant times working for a previous boss, one who hurt me so badly. I have hardly worn any of them for a long time, and it’s time to get rid of them.

A couple of the items made me cry, particularly the sweater and skirt I wore to Jason’s graduation.

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Jason was a very loving young man and had a special way of showing affection for me. He would lean his forehead toward me and we would touch foreheads. Even at his high school graduation and in front of a very large crowd, he leaned his forehead toward me and we touched foreheads. It was so incredibly sweet and touched my heart in a way I just can’t explain. He wasn’t ashamed to show affection for those he loved, no matter the setting. Someone in the audience happened to snap a photo just at that moment and gave it to me later. I’m so thankful I have that photo.

Oh, how I miss that precious young man.

~Becky

© 2018 Rebecca R. Carney

‘Tis a Fearful Thing

‘Tis a fearful thing
to love what death can touch

A fearful thing
to love, to hope, to dream, to be –

to be,
And oh, to lose.

A thing for fools, this,

And a holy thing,

a holy thing
to love.

For your life has lived in me,
your laugh once lifted me,
your word was gift to me.

To remember this brings painful joy.

‘Tis a human thing, love,
a holy thing, to love
what death has touched.”

Judah Halevi

For a parent whose child has died, the awareness that death CAN touch the people you love at any time is greatly enhanced. Before Jason died, I innocently was unaware of the ravages and searing grief the death of a child can leave in its wake. I guess I felt immune. I felt that God heard my fervent prayers and protected my family. My life had a plan. My kids were going to grow up, go to college, get married, have grandkids for us to love and spoil.

It never dawned on my that one of my children would die – at least not before me, not as a healthy, wonderful, handsome 19-year old with the whole world before him. I was so excited for Jason as he was ready to enter the next phase of his life – finish and graduate from college, get a job, get married, have kids. I couldn’t wait to hold Jason’s kids. I was looking forward to rejoicing with him on the various aspects of his life. He was my sunshine, my joy, my precious boy. I didn’t expect him to die. I didn’t expect to outlive him. I didn’t expect death to touch him.

For a long time after Jason died, panic and fear gripped my heart with each siren I heard.  I tend to worry about things concerning my family, anyway – Joe climbing on the roof to clean the gutters, Jenna driving a long distance, stuff like that – but now, there’s an understanding of stark reality behind the worry.

In some respects, I suppose it’s like anything traumatic – you don’t know the walk until you’ve actually walked the walk. We all know on some level of subconscious understanding that people we love will die. We know to some extent that it will be hard to lose someone we love and that we will grieve their death. We assume we will outlive our parents, our grandparents, but know that at some point they will die before we do. We just don’t expect our children to die.

I love my family so much. It is a fearful thing to realize that I am not immune from death’s reach, that they are not immune, that death can reach out and touch the ones I so dearly love. I don’t live in fear, but sometimes the window cracks open to that fear, because I truly know beyond a shadow of a doubt that death can reach out and touch any of those I love at any time. We are frail human beings. Jason worked out at the school gym and played various sports. He took care of himself. He was smart and wise beyond his years. He was physically strong. But he was physically no match for a speeding car driven by a drunk driver.

As I sat across from my husband in the Wild Wing Cafe yesterday, watching the Carolina Panther football game on the big screen TV’s, I felt a huge rush of overwhelming love for Joe. He is such a wonderful man and I love him so much. He is kind, thoughtful, fun. That rush of love was followed by the thought, “I don’t know what I’d do without him.” I seriously don’t know what I would do without him, and the thought of that gripped my heart with anguish. It is a fearful thing to think of a life without him. It is a fearful thing to think about living without any of my family.

Because Joe is retired and I am still working, Joe will call me quite often when he is close by to see if I would like to have lunch. I say Joe is retired, but he has never been one to sit still. He helps our older neighbor around his house and yard, he drives for Uber and Lyft, he helps out around the office with whatever may need done in the maintenance area. He likes to stay busy. I’m sure it seems odd to the people in the office that I go to lunch with Joe as much as I do, but I truly appreciate every moment I have with Joe.

In the whole scheme of things, we are rather frail, fragile creatures. No matter what precautions we take, there are a lot of things beyond our control. We and the people we love are given only a certain number of days. Our days are finite. We are given only a certain number of days with the people we love. I never, ever would have thought in my wildest nightmares that I would have only 7,157 days with Jason. We have to do our best to make each and every one of our days count, and to show the people in our lives how much we care for and appreciate them.

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

Remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered–how fleeting my life is. Psalm 39:4

https://biblehub.com/psalms/39-4.htm

Oh, my boy. How I miss you. “Your life has lived in me, your laugh once lifted me, your word was gift to me. To remember this brings painful joy.” ‘Tis a painful thing that death reached out and took you from us. I love you yesterday, today, forever. ~Mom

Hugs,

as always,

~Becky

© 2018 Rebecca R. Carney

Empathy

One of Jason’s outstanding qualities, among his many, was his kind and caring heart and that he was a very empathic person. Even as a little boy, Jason had so much empathy. He had the ability to understand what others felt on such a personal level.

Empathy is described as “…the experience of understanding another person’s thoughts, feelings, and condition from their point of view, rather than from your own. You can imagine yourself in their place in order to understand what they are feeling or experiencing.” (Psychology Today – https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/empathy)

One Christmas my husband’s sister sent a book to the kids, something along the line of “how things work.” One of the articles in the book had to do with tear ducts and showed a photograph of a child on the beach, crying because he had sand on his hands. As he looked at that book, Jason would stop at that page and stare at the picture. He felt so much empathy for the little boy in that picture that it truly made him sad. He could imagine what that child felt.

After a while, the book would automatically fall open to that page because Jason was looking at it so often. I think he, in his young child’s mind (in addition to his helpful and caring personality), he was trying to figure out a way to help that little boy to not be so sad. We eventually had to put the book away, because there was no way for him to actually solve the problem depicted in that picture and we didn’t want him to be unnecessarily sad.

When the kids were small, I made each of them a Raggedy Ann or Andy doll. I started making Raggedy Andy’s for Eric and Jason, and then made a Raggedy Ann doll for Jenna one Christmas when she was three years old. Jason watched me every step of the way as I made the doll for Jenna – stitching the features (eyes, nose, mouth) on the face, adding a hand-stitched heart on the chest, sewing the body together, adding the stuffing “just so” in every part of the body, hand-writing “I love you” in the heart with a fabric pen, adding row after row of bright red yarn-hair, sewing the dress and apron with the red rickrack. He was so excited to be a part of the secret, best-ever Christmas present for the sister that he adored.

When Christmas morning arrived, Jason could barely contain his excitement when it was time for Jenna to open her present. Jenna opened the present, looked at the Raggedy Ann and just set it aside. She didn’t really care about it one way or the other.

In her defense, Jenna was never one of these girls who was crazy about dolls, and I knew this about her. As a matter of fact, she didn’t like dolls at all and never understood why some girls liked them so much. But, both she and Jason absolutely loved stuffed animals. As a small child, Jenna carried around a yellow striped, stuffed tiger for a long time. The tiger’s tail curved around and connected to its body, making a perfect handle to carry it everywhere and anywhere. In my mind, I guess I thought Jenna might see the Raggedy Ann more as like stuffed animal than a hard, rubber doll, and imagined how great it would be for each of them to have a Raggedy Ann or Andy to make a complete set. However, I always had in the back of my mind that she might not like it because she might view it more as a doll than a stuffed animal.

Jason stood beside me for the longest time, with his hand on my arm or shoulder, carefully watching me. He was so worried that my feelings would be hurt because Jenna wasn’t absolutely thrilled about the Raggedy Ann I had put so much work into. I hugged him and kept reassuring that I was okay, that my feelings weren’t hurt. But his little-boy caring heart was concerned about me.

My precious, empathetic little boy grew into the most wonderful, kind and caring young man. I miss him beyond words!!

~Becky

© 2018 Rebecca R. Carney

 

 

Jason: Never Knew a Stranger

sc005ba7efJason was a people-person from the get-go. When he was a baby, he was happiest being held. As a baby, I carried him in a front-pack carrier nearly every day around the house, just because he wanted to be near me. As he grew older, it wasn’t uncommon for Jason to rest his hand on my arm, whatever we were doing. He loved human connection.

When Jason was barely three years old, I took the kids to the mall to let them run around a bit. It was a great place to go on rainy days when we needed to get out of the house. Back then, the malls were fairly empty during the day, so the presence of a mom with three kids didn’t bother anyone. Or so I thought.

As we walked down the mall, we saw a maintenance man working on some tiles on the floor. Jason went up to him to say hello and asked what he was doing. The guy didn’t look up at all and didn’t answer, so Jason asked him again what he was doing. Obviously not a kid person, the man looked up, glared at me and then Jason, and gruffly said to him, “Don’t you know you’re not supposed to talk to strangers?” Unaffected by the man’s grumpiness, Jason earnestly replied, “What’s a stranger?”

And that was Jason. He never knew a stranger. He connected with people like no one I’ve ever seen. Unassuming, yet friendly to everyone. Empathetic, kind, caring. His heart for those he knew and loved was immeasurable. He accepted everyone at face value. He valued and cherished people for who they were. He loved unconditionally. The world was a much better place, just because he was in it.

Missing my boy,

~Becky

© 2018 Rebecca R. Carney

Keepin’ on Truckin’

I had lunch with my husband today at Olive Garden. He always gets their pizza bowl and I get gluten free pasta with extra sauce. We’re creatures of habit.

Joe’s semi-retired, and I work full time. I try to meet Joe for lunch whenever he calls. It’s a nice respite from work. He rescues me if I’m having a bad day, and I listen to the stories of experiences with his Uber customers. When you get to be our ages and have walked through what we have walked through, you realize that it’s important to cherish every moment with the people you love. You just never know how many more you’ll have.

Our very first date was when Joe called me at work to ask me to lunch, and it’s been something we’ve enjoyed since then. When the kids were little, I’d pack them up in the car and we’d head downtown Seattle to meet Joe for lunch. If he wasn’t particularly busy that day, he’d take the kids to work with him for the afternoon. They loved it! Such a good daddy.

Anyway, somehow we started talking at lunch today about how difficult it is to make friends, especially when moving to a new area. As I’ve written previously, it’s really not an easy thing for me to make friends. After Jason died and we were left so alone, I ended up very guarded toward people and too wounded to open up much to other people. I didn’t let many people get close to me. In Oklahoma, I was in such a survival mode that I really didn’t try to make friends. I hated it there (no offense, Okies!). When we moved to North Carolina, I allowed myself over time to truly care for someone who ended up hurting me very deeply. Since then, I’ve just sort of given up and really haven’t tried to make friends.

Our daughter and her husband recently moved to another state, and she had mentioned to Joe that she misses her friends and being around people she knows. She misses us, and we miss her terribly. It takes time to make friends, that’s all there is to it. She knows it, but that doesn’t make loneliness any easier in the meantime. I have found that, even if you really try to reach out to people, they have to have room in their lives for a new friend, along with the willingness to reach back in friendship. As we were discussing this, Joe said, “You have to have friends or you die.” Before I even realized what I was saying, I said, “I’m dead already.” It surprised me as much as it surprised Joe that I said that!

I realize that sounds harsh, more harsh than I meant for it to sound. But, I will say that, after all we have walked through since Jason died, there are times I have felt more dead than alive. It’s been a really long, hard, lonely walk since Jason died, and we’ve had some really rough years. We’ve lost so much over the years. At times, many times, I have been incredibly weary of the journey. I have tried – and keep on trying – to “water” the good and living things in my life, and to do the best I can. At times, I just really don’t have the enthusiasm or energy to do more than just get through the day.

After Jason died, I looked for, prayed for, hoped for, expected something good to come out of the bad. I have discovered that the whole “good from bad” thing doesn’t necessarily happen. Sometimes it does, but sometimes we just have to keep on going and do the best we can. And that’s what I’m doing – doing the best I can. Living in the present, trying to make something worthwhile of my life, while looking forward to the day when I see my boy again. I had a t-shirt when I was in college that said, “Keep on truckin’.” And that’s what I’m doing.

1975 GL 11

~Becky

© 2018 Rebecca R. Carney

Dreams

There are people that dream about their family members who have died, but typically I am not one of those people. I am not one who usually dreams or remembers any of my dreams at all, although I’ve had a few very vivid dreams about things over the years.

For example, one Friday night I had an extremely vivid dream about my mother-in-law. I dreamed that she had fallen, that someone had come to pick her up, and that she was dying. Her health had been declining, but there was no indication that she was near death, so this dream really rattled me.

The next morning, I debated with myself about whether or not to tell my husband, but I decided I’d better tell him and encourage him to call his mom to check in. When he called his folks, his sister answered the the and said, “Joey, I’m so sorry. We should have called you. Mom fell yesterday, and they came and took her to the hospital. They’re really not sure how long she’s going to live.” Needless to say, he booked his plane ticket right away to go see her. She died not long after. That whole experience still gives me goosebumps.

I’ve had several other similar vivid dreams that seemed to fit exactly into what was going on in real life. It is a bit unnerving at times, I have to admit.

I have only dreamed about Jason a couple of times, most memorably about six months after he died. I wish I dreamed about him more. I miss seeing him so much. I miss his hugs so much.

After Jason died, it caused me enormous anguish to think that my precious, beautiful son had borne the direct hit of a car going 70 miles per hour. As a parent, we just want our children to be safe and protected, and our minds rebel at the thought that they weren’t. Our whole beings cry out for the safety and protection of our children. My husband went through a horrible time of guilt that he wasn’t able to protect Jason; he felt like he should have been able to protect him somehow. When the accident happened, the drunk driver’s car hit Jason’s car right on the driver’s side door, right where he was sitting.

My anguish was made worse when I got the death certificates in the mail. Not understanding the medical terminology of the main cause of death listed on the death certificate, I made the mistake of looking it up on the internet. I have never, ever shared what I found with anyone, and I never, ever will. Ever. It caused me a whole lot of anguish for many years. It’s not like I have dwelt on the cause of death all the time, but it definitely factored into my grieving process.

Although we have a complete set of the police investigation, along with all of the photos they took that night, it is securely taped shut with a stern warning on the outside about never, ever opening it. I’ve never looked at it and I never want anyone to, either. When the police detectives reviewed the case with us, they were very selective in the few photos they showed us of the accident. I’m sure there is a very good reason why. I’m glad the whole court case didn’t go to trial; otherwise, a lot of that documentation would become public. I should probably have our work’s shredding service take it away. I don’t know why I’ve held onto it this long.

Anyway, some years after Jason’s death, I hit a really low point and was struggling mightily in my grief — not only about Jason’s death and everything surrounding that time, but how he died. And then, one night, I had a dream that really brought me comfort.

We lived in Florida at the time. In Florida, there are canals and waterways all over the place, and there are some bridges that go up on either side to a flat area on top. As you go  up and across the flat top, you can’t necessarily see if there are any cars stopped as you head down the other side. I always watched in fear that someone would come off the bridge too fast to stop. Florida has some crazy, fast drivers! (No offense to any Floridians!)

In my dream, I had gone across the flat top of the bridge and was on the downslope on the other side, stopped and waiting for the light to change. In my rearview mirror, I saw somebody in a very large, heavy vehicle come barreling up behind me. I instantly knew that there was no way he could stop in time, that he was going to hit me hard, and that there was no way I was going to survive. Right in the split moment before he hit me, I felt my soul, my spirit, whatever you want to call it being pulled out of my body so that I was several feet above the car.

In my dream, I could actually feel the sensation of being pulled out of my body. I don’t even know how to describe it — sort of a quick, but gentle and airy separation of body from spirit that sort of tickled, like someone grabbed me by the back of my collar and just lifted me right out of my body. I was still me, just not in my physical body any more. I could look down past my feet at my physical body in the car, and I felt a holy presence beside me, holding me. I had felt no pain at the moment of impact because I was no longer a part of my physical body; I had been pulled out in the split second before the car hit me.

And, as I woke from that dream, I realized that that’s what had happened to Jason. God had spared him the horrendous pain of being hit by that drunk driver, of his 180-pound frame absorbing the full impact of a speeding, 4000-pound car. He had quickly and gently pulled the true spirit of Jason out of the way of that speeding car to be with Him, leaving just the shell of his body behind to absorb the impact.

From that time on, even though I remember the medical terminology of Jason’s cause of death and know exactly what it means, I know in my heart that he felt no pain at the moment of the accident. He is safe; he is healthy; he is happy. And he’s waiting for me.

I love you, my precious boy. Oh, how I miss you.

~Becky

© 2018 Rebecca R. Carney