“It Never Becomes Okay”

A recent article stated that legendary actress Vanessa Redgrave is “still coping with the loss of her daughter Natasha Richardson.” Her daughter, Natasha Richardson, died in a skiing accident ten years ago. The article goes on to quote Ms. Redgrave as saying, “Time does not heal; that would seem to me to say that suddenly it’s OK, and it’s not…It never becomes OK.”

Any parent who has lost a child would agree that “it never becomes okay.”

~Becky

© 2019 Rebecca R. Carney

Sweet Memories

For Thanksgiving Day and Christmas morning, I used to get up really early to start making fresh cinnamon rolls and dinner rolls for my family on these very special days. I would set my alarm for 4 a.m., go downstairs and begin the process of mixing the dough. I’d turn on the oven light for a bit, just long enough to warm the oven up a little, while I got the ingredients together.

The milk went into a large pan and onto a burner to warm to just the right temperature. When it got warm enough, I’d take it off the burner and add in the butter to melt and pinch of salt, gradually mixing in a flour/sugar/yeast mixture, along with the eggs, and then beat it on high for one minute. After that, I’d start adding more flour bit by bit and mixing by hand, eventually pouring the mixture onto the freshly-washed and floured kitchen table, kneading the dough until it was just the right consistency. Once it was all mixed to the perfect consistency, the dough (covered by wax paper and a clean kitchen towel) went back into the now-greased pan and into the oven that had been warmed by the oven light. There it would sit until it had risen to the perfect, fluffy height.

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Dough for cinnamon rolls – Christmas 2000

I’d go back to bed, setting my alarm to wake up and go back downstairs in another hour and a half or so. I would pull the dough out of the oven, carefully remove the wax paper, and then poke two fingers down into the dough. Sometimes it would have risen so much it would look like a muffin with dough pooching over the side of the pan. There’s something so satisfying about poking fingers into beautiful, raised dough. And it smells so wonderfully yeast-y. I’d then fold the dough in on itself to deflate it a bit so I could get it ready for the next step.

I’d take a big knife and carefully section each of the dough balls into quarter-portions – some for dinner rolls and the rest (most of it) for cinnamon rolls. I started with the dinner rolls, because they were the quickest to put together. Half dollar-sized chunks of dough were pulled off and rolled into little balls. Into greased cupcake pans they would go, three to a cup, to make cloverleaf dinner rolls. Covered and set onto the stove to rise, I’d move onto making cinnamon rolls.fullsizeoutput_139b3

The remaining sections of dough were individually rolled one at a time into rectangular shapes, and then slathered with partially-melted butter and generously sprinkled with cinnamon and brown sugar. Some had nuts and raisins added, some only nuts, some neither nuts nor raisins. The dough was then rolled up tightly into a long roll and scissored into sections with dental floss. Into the greased, waiting pans the dough would go, ready to be covered and set in the still-warmish oven to rise again.

This time, because the cinnamon rolls and dinner rolls didn’t need to rise as long, I usually set my alarm just to make sure I put them into the oven in time, but I didn’t sleep. Sometimes I’d use the time to take a shower and clean up the kitchen, although I usually cleaned as I went along.

fullsizeoutput_139bfOnce my alarm went off, back to the kitchen I would go to begin the baking process. The whole house filled with the wonderful smell of fresh bread and cinnamon. That usually brought everyone downstairs and we would begin our Christmas morning traditions – eating warm cinnamon rolls while Joe read the Christmas story. Orange juice, milk, coffee, and fruit would complete our Christmas morning feast.

We all munched cinnamon rolls while listening to the story of the birth of our Savior, sometimes taking turns reading so Joe would have time to enjoy the his cinnamon roll while it was nice and warm. The oven would then be repurposed to bake Christmas Day dinner –  sometimes a ham, sometimes a turkey, sometimes both.

I usually would mix up two or three huge pans of dough, having been sternly told by my family the night before to make sure I made enough cinnamon rolls. Believe me, we never ran out of cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning. People would drift back into the kitchen all morning and into the afternoon to get another bite of a cinnamon roll.

I don’t make cinnamon rolls any more. I tried to continue with the tradition, but it never brought the same joy. That first Christmas after Jason died, I’m sure my tears were added to the dough. It was such a tough year to celebrate Christmas at all. Jason had asked me the year before to teach him to make bread, especially cinnamon rolls. He wanted to get up with me on the next Christmas morning and help me make them so he could learn. He didn’t live to see that next Christmas morning.

Yesterday, my husband and I went for lunch to a local cafe here in town called City Bakery. It’s really a combination coffee shop/bakery/sandwich shop. It has a very comfortable vibe with people drinking coffee or eating a sandwich while chatting with a friend or relative, students studying or people on their laptops.

One menu item that City Bakery has is something they call “sticky buns.” They look and taste almost exactly like the cinnamon rolls I used to make. Mine were a little bigger and had a little more gooey stuff inside, I think, but to eat a warm cinnamon roll at City Bakery is like slipping right back in time to those Christmases when Jason was here and I got up early to make cinnamon rolls.

 

 

Sweet memories, but, oh, how I miss my boy. I would give anything to go back to those days.

© 2019 Rebecca R. Carney

The Stockings Were Hung by the Chimney

When our kids were born, we decided not to do the whole Santa thing with our kids. With my dad being a pastor, Santa was never part of our Christmases growing up, anyway; it was all about the birth of Jesus.

Growing up, my husband’s family encouraged asking Santa for gifts, taking photos with Santa, opening up presents on Christmas morning from Santa. When Joe found out, as a young boy, that the gifts were bought by his parents and not given to him by Santa, he felt like his parents had lied to him. He felt betrayed. Santa was a myth; his parents had lied. Therefore, he was absolutely adamant that our kids would know that Christmas was all about Jesus and not Santa, that the greatest gift of all was Jesus being born on earth. Gifts were bought, given and received by people who loved each other.

We did, however, put up stockings. Instead of gifts from Santa, we bought each other small gifts to put in the stockings. One year, my sister made all of us beautiful, handmade stockings. By Christmas morning, the stockings were overflowing with fun little gifts.

After Jason died, I really struggled with what to do about the stockings. It didn’t seem right to put them all up and continue the tradition of filling them with small gifts. If we did that, four stockings would be full and Jason’s would hang empty. I couldn’t put up just four stockings so we could continue our “before” tradition. I couldn’t just leave them in a box over Christmas. We had to figure out a new tradition.

I came up with the idea of Christmas bingo. We still hung up the stockings as decorations, but we came up with a new tradition. We bought fun little items, ones we typically would have put in each other’s stockings. Instead, all the gifts were put on a table and we played bingo. Whoever won the bingo game got to pick a prize. We chose an age-appropriate bingo game, depending on the year and who was with us at Christmas. Some years, we played “bingo” with card games; whoever won the card game got to pick a prize. It has ended up being a hit with all ages.

When a child dies, traditions that a family used to do only highlight the empty hole left by the child’s death. I can’t tell you how much I struggled that first Christmas. I tried so hard to maintain the Christmas traditions as we knew them – partly because I didn’t know what else to do, partly because I was trying to maintain some sense of normalcy, partly to try to maintain our traditions.

After the death of a child, holidays are incredibly difficult times. If you are experiencing such a loss, please know that you are not alone. I pray that God – along with your family and friends – will hold you especially close this season.

Missing my boy, this Christmas season and every day.

~Becky

© 2018 Rebecca R. Carney

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