A Momentous Year


Birthday letter to Jason July 29, 2001. The pastor read this letter at Jason’s memorial service.

The morning of July 29, 2001, I woke up really early, and I knew the instant I woke up that I wanted to write Jason a special note for his 19th birthday. I just had to let him know how special he was to me and how much I appreciated him for who he was.

We tend to think of milestone birthdays as those  more momentous than others and seem to carry more “weight” or reason to celebrate than others. It’s not that the other years aren’t celebrated, it seems that bit more emphasis tends to be placed on those birthdays than others. What those birthdays represent have a stronger meaning. Turning sixteen tends to represent being able to get a driver’s license. Eighteen represents becoming an adult and going off to college or some other type of independent step. For some, twenty-one represents being able to purchase alcohol. Latin cultures have a huge quinceañera celebrations when a girl turns fifteen. Jewish communities celebrate the milestone of a boy turning thirteen with a bar mitzvah. In my mind, as I wrote in the note, I thought it wasn’t one of the ones we typically think of as momentous.

IMG_2558Little did I know, at the time, how momentous that birthday would be. It was the last one we would ever celebrate here on this earth with him.

That year, we celebrated on Jason’s actual birthday with our family and some of his closest friends, and then we had a large joint birthday party at a local park for Jason and his good friend, Justin. Just looking at those pictures, I can tell he was happy and that he knew he was loved. He loved being with family and friends. He loved to have fun.

On July 29th this year, we would have celebrated Jason’s 34th birthday. I can only imagine what his life would have been like and what he would have accomplished by now. What would he be doing? Who would he have married? Would he have children? We’ll never know the answers to those questions.

I am so glad Jason was born into our family. He was 9 pounds, 10 1/2 ounces of pure joy. Kind, loving, thoughtful, empathetic, intelligent, funny. There aren’t enough words in my vocabulary to describe what a special guy he was and how much I love him. And no matter how many years go by, I will always love and miss my precious boy. Happy birthday, Jason.


© 2016 Rebecca R. Carney

Happy birthday, Mr. Jay


Jason and Becky 1999

Jason and Becky 1999

32 years ago, we welcomed Jason David Carney into our lives. We were so privileged to have Jason born into our family. We love you and miss you so much, Jason.


Remembering Alina

This morning I am remembering and honoring Jason’s best friend Alina on her 32nd birthday. She and Jason spent part of their last day together here on earth. He was taking her home after watching a movie at our house when they were broadsided by a drunk driver who was going more than twice the speed limit. They both died instantly.

Alina was a sweetheart. She always had a smile and a hug for everyone. She always made our house warmer and more fun just by being in it. I know that she felt right at home in our house and that she knew we loved her. I miss her and will never forget her. Happy birthday, Alina.


My Very Best Friend
For Alina

By Jason Carney

How to describe my very best friend?
She’s one of a kind
No other even comes close to her
A shining jewel in my otherwise blackened existence.
She cares greatly for others,
And puts their needs in front of her own.

No matter what I do
She still cares for me,
And never turns her back to me.

Through thick and thin
She’s always been a friend.
I could always count on her
She always instilled confidence in me.

Ever since the start of our friendship
She’s accepted me for who I am.
I don’t have to act a certain way for her,
She liked me just the way I was.

Around her I have a feeling of security,
That I have with no other.
I can really be myself with her,
And not worry about rejection.

How well she knows me
Is a scary yet comforting feeling.
She can tell when I’m down,
Or I need to laugh, or just need a hug.

She always has a hug to offer me
On these gloomy days,
And brings a smile to my face when I’m down.

She’s always willing to listen,
When I need to talk,
And gives me advice
When I need council.

I never had such a great friend
And I thank God for our friendship.
Ah, she is a great best friend,
My very best friend indeed.

(Written by Jason for Alina)


© 2013 Rebecca R. Carney



Shower the People You Love with Love

[The title of my blog is borrowed from one of James Taylor’s songs – Shower the People You Love with Love]

We visited a new church on Sunday. Can’t say that we’ll be going back. We’ve had a hard time finding a church that “fits” us since Jason died. Some of the things that make up the organization and practice of churches seems so trivial any more…but, that’s a topic for another post.

Anyway, at one point in his sermon the pastor said, “You can’t live your lives for your kids.” Now, by the time he got to this point, I had pretty much checked out mentally. I can’t even tell you how he got to the place of saying that line in his sermon. He went on to say how he has four kids, but doesn’t let them run his life. I think he was trying to emphasize spiritual balance and the importance of putting God first in your life. Honestly, he was so all over the map, I couldn’t really tell you for sure the point of the message.

Now, I agree that one must have balance in life. If one area of our lives takes up much more of our time than it should or becomes of greater importance to us than it should, other areas can suffer and our lives can become out of balance. If one area has much greater importance than it should, the more out of balance our lives can become. It can get to the point of being unhealthy or to the point where we lose something we love.

Any area can cause our lives to be out of balance – work, hobby, television, video games, relationships. A person who is a workaholic can lose an important connection to his or her spouse or significant other. A parent who focuses an inordinate amount of time on the children can cause the other parent to feel unimportant. Focusing too much on activities or friendships outside of the family can cause our families to suffer. Even church activities, done in the name of God, can cause an imbalance. Growing up as a preacher’s kid, I’d have to say that we kids all knew where we fit in the whole scheme of things, below God and the church. [It’s fairly common for preachers’ kids to feel second (or third or fourth) place to “the church.”]

Perhaps you only can’t “live your lives for your kids,” but we can certainly cherish them, listen to them, spend quality time with them. Our children are our greatest gifts. They grow up so fast; before you know it, they are grown. These times never come again. And if your child dies, all you have are memories of bygone times with your child.

I read a blog this morning that really touched my heart. The author lost her son to pediatric cancer when he was three. Her encouragement to cherish your children is so poignant. On this day, his 6th birthday, she writes:

I miss the days where I lived carefree and unaware.  I miss going to the party store and picking out candy and balloons.  I miss living a life where I didn’t even give a thought to pediatric cancer.  But more than any of that – I miss watching my son, for 3 years now, blow out the candles on his birthday cake.  I miss crying out of joy instead of sadness.  I miss Tanner.  More and more with every passing second.

So, log off, put your phones down, and enjoy the moments you have.  You may have only one.  You may have a million.  You need to relish them, you need to be present in them, you need to be so full with joy that you can’t keep the tears in your eyes.  The greatest gift I ever had gave me that, on his birthday.


© 2013 Rebecca R. Carney

Forever 19 or “What if?”

Tomorrow is Jason’s birthday. He would have been 31.

31. It’s hard for me to imagine Jason at 31.

In my mind, Jason will always be 19 going on 20. He will always be a young man with so much potential and a bright future ahead of him, the young man sitting on the kitchen counter telling me about his day while I fixed dinner.

Along with other memories and emotions, birthdays after a child dies are reminders of what might have been. The question of “What if?” raises its head. What if things had been different? What if he had just waited a few extra minutes before leaving our house? What if Jason hadn’t died?

What would Jason be doing if he had lived? Would he be married? Would he have kids? Who would he have married? How many kids would he have? Where would he work? Where would he live? Who? What? When? Where? How? Why? Questions, questions. No answers.

I can’t quite get a clear picture of these things. I notice the life progress of Jason’s peers and friends – getting married and having kids, buying houses, getting college degrees, getting or changing jobs, going on vacations, doing their daily lives. I can sort of conjure up an image, a life of what might have been. But it’s very fuzzy and out-of-focus. It’s all conjecture, anyway. My projections are just that – imaginary projections. They are based on the son I knew – the amazing 19-year old, funny, handsome, kind, courteous, thoughtful, intelligent young man – mixed with bucket loads of “what if’s” and “what might have been’s.”

I wish I had had the opportunity to know the “what if’s” in the life of our precious son. I wish I had had the opportunity to see “what might have been.” I wish Jason had lived.

Happy birthday, Jason. I love you with all my heart. I miss you so much.

© 2013 Rebecca R. Carney

Happy Birthday, Precious Son

Dear Jason,

You would have turned 30 today. 30 years old. It’s hard to imagine you being 30 years old. You will forever be 19 in our memories.

If you had lived, what would you be doing now? Would you be married? Would you have kids? Would you still live in Washington or would you have moved to another state? What would you do for a living?

We’ll never know. You never had a chance to find out. You never had a chance to make those choices with your life. You never had the chance to find the love of your life, ask her to marry you, or to know the incredible joy of holding your newborn child. You never had a chance to graduate from college, move into your first apartment, buy your first home, or hold a full-time job.

There are so many, many things that you never got a chance to do.

I do know this, though. Whatever you would have done, it would have been with the integrity, empathy, kindness, and caring that were such a part of you. You would have loved with your whole heart and lived a life bringing sunshine and love into the lives of those who knew you.

I’m so sorry you didn’t get a chance to live your life to 30 and way beyond. I’m sure you would have lived it to the fullest. I’m sorry you didn’t get a chance to get married or have children. You would have been a wonderful husband and father. I’m so sorry that you were taken from us. The hole you left in our lives is huge.

But, I’m SO GLAD you were born into our family. I’m SO GLAD you were OUR boy, our precious son.

I miss you, my precious Mr. Jay. My Mr. Sunshine.

I love you…always. I miss you. You are always in my heart.

Happy birthday, Jason.


© 2012 Rebecca R. Carney

Alina’s Birthday

From my journal dated December 12, 2002:

Alina's surprise 18th birthday party

Alina would have been 21 today. I’m sure this is a tough day for her family.

This morning I was thinking about the surprise birthday party Jason and Hannah planned for Alina when she turned 18. That was so much fun – to so successfully surprise Alina, to have all those kids in our house, to be a just a small part of something that obviously gave Alina such happiness.

In my mind, I can still picture Alina, Jason, Hannah and all the other kids in our home that day – having so much fun together. They were all such good friends. I think I still have the birthday candles from the cake somewhere – chunky, yellow and green number 18.

Happy birthday, Alina. Miss you.

© 2011 Rebecca R. Carney