We Remember Them

At the rising of the sun and its going down,

We remember them.

At the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter,

We remember them.

At the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring,

We remember them.

At the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of autumn,

We remember them.

At the beginning of the year and when it ends,

We remember them.

As long as we live, they too will live.

They are a part of us,

We remember them.

~from Gates of Prayer, Judiasm Prayerbook

Jason David Carney

July 29, 1982 – March 3, 2002

My precious boy, I will never forget you. I love you.

~Mom

© 2019 Rebecca R. Carney

God’s plans

My sister is retiring at the end of this month after 35 years with the same company. It was not necessarily a planned retirement on her part. The company needed to tighten its budget and offered a retirement incentive package to a bunch of employees who were over the age of 55. If not enough people took the company up on its offer, there would then be mandatory layoffs with a less-beneficial financial farewell. So, she took them up on their offer.

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As she was cleaning some things out of her office this week, she ran across the gift bag she had stored at work. She took it as a sign from God and posted this on Facebook: “I was cleaning out my credenza drawer this week and came across this gift bag. I nearly fell over! This verse has come up in so many unusual ways this past couple months. I do believe that God is saying something powerful and personal to me.”

The whole verse in full reads:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

I see this verse come up once in a while on Facebook and different places, usually posted or quoted when someone is facing a change or uncertainty. It gives them hope in uncertain times. My reaction now is always a bit different than that.

You see, I “gifted” this verse to Jason when he was in high school. I bought a nice picture frame. I typed and printed this verse – typed with a fancy font and printed on fancy paper – and put it in the special frame I had purchased. I gave this gift to Jason as a reminder that his future was in God’s hands and that we believed – as we had from the minute he was born – that God had a special plan for his life. Jason put it on the table right beside his bed, and it was still sitting there the night he died.

So, whenever I see this verse, my quandary since the night Jason died has been: Why didn’t God hear my prayers for Jason’s future, for his protection? My hope, my expectations for Jason and his future are gone. I believed this verse from the bottom of my heart – that God had big plans for Jason, that He would prosper Jason, that God would keep him from harm, that God had future plans for Jason, big plans. We were excited to see what Jason’s future held.

Jason’s future is no more. It ended on March 3rd, 2002 when he was 19 years old. Why didn’t God protect him? Why did Jason’s “plans” end on that night?

I don’t have an answer to these question, even after all this time. I still struggle with my faith. I wish I didn’t, but I do. So many questions. More questions than answers. I wish I believed as strongly and firmly and blindly as I used to. I wish I still strongly believed that God had plans for us, plans to prosper us and not to harm us, plans to give us a hope and future. I’m glad people find hope for the future in verses like this. I wish I still did. But my faith was sorely tested by Jason’s death, and sometimes I just don’t know what to do about that, how to “fix” it. I’m trying, but I’m not there yet.

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

~Becky

© 2019 Rebecca R. Carney

Struggling

One would think I would be used to some of this grieving stuff by now, but there are times when something raises its head and I have to deal with it all over again. Just when I think I’ve got at least a partial handle on the reality of the way things are now, something comes up and pierces my heart.

This time it’s grandkids.

Two of my boss’s grown children have recently surprised him and his wife with announcements of additional grandchildren arriving in the near future. He is so excited to show this kind of thing to me. He’s so proud of the way his children announced the news to them. Fun, cute announcements. So excited for more grandchildren arriving soon. Can’t wait to play with them, be grandpa.

I’m happy for them, but I’m also really struggling with it right now.

While it’s true we have three grandchildren, it’s also true that it has not been the Norman Rockwell-esque scenario we were looking forward to – not by a long, long shot. From the beginning of their relationship, our (now) daughter-in-law has done everything in her power – I’m not sure whether consciously or subconsciously, although maybe some of each – to cause division and problems between our son and us, and to make sure Joe and I know of how little value and importance she feels we are to their family. She has also done a more-than-adequate job of communicating this sentiment over and over again in many different ways to our son and grandkids. I will refrain from saying any more, although there is much more I could say. It has been a difficult pill to swallow. Since we live all the way across the country, it’s also a very difficult sentiment to counteract.

It breaks my heart. We have done everything we can, absent moving back to Seattle, to show them how much we love them and how much they mean to us. I don’t know how much good it’s done or if it’s even registered. It’s hard to tell. Even if we moved back now, it would be too little, too late. At ages 20, 13 and 9, the patterns have already been set, opportunities missed never to return.

Joe is and has always been a great dad. I could not have asked for a better man to be the father of our kids. When the kids were little, he would come home from work and play with them, read to them, play board games, take them swimming – all after a long day’s work. He’d make up games or change up the rules to games to make them more fun or different. He’d read books backwards, just to make the kids laugh. When the kids’ friends would come over, they would beg Joe to play “swamp monster” with them, to which he would happily oblige. As they got older, he always had time for them. He even helped our daughter and her friend dye their hair. He really was looking forward to doing the same with grandkids. He told me once that he could just imagine grandkids running around our house and it made him so happy.

I had my own vision of grandkid fun – baking, crafts, exploring, drawing, painting. Before we moved from Seattle, I tried to take our grandson places and plan fun activities as much as I was “allowed” to do so. Once we moved, those opportunities were gone.

Our daughter doesn’t want kids at all. She has said that exact same thing since she first took a babysitting class at the age of 12. We have come to the realization that she meant exactly what she said. It’s certainly her choice and we respect her wishes.

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Jason and our grandson Michael – Summer 2001

Jason was my hope – my hope for a daughter-in-law that would be glad to be a part of our family, for grandkids that we could love and spoil, who would be happy to see us and love us in return. The whole Norman Rockwell thing. I was looking forward to being that kind of grandparent, as was Joe – REALLY looking forward to it. Some days the realization of what we have missed because of Jason’s death hits us square in the face, right in the heart. And it hurts.

I’m happy for friends I know whose children have gotten married, had grandchildren, bought houses, etc. I see their photos and announcements on Facebook or wherever, and I’m truly happy for them. But my heart hurts that this part of our future died with Jason. He would have been a great husband, a great father. He was so fun, loving and kind. He loved kids. He loved us. I know he was looking to all of those adventures. We were, too.

And it makes me sad. Just being honest – I’m really struggling with this today.

~Becky

© 2019 Rebecca R. Carney

 

 

Remembering and Chocolate Chip Cookies

On Saturday, I posted on FaceBook a similar post to the one I posted here. Several people responded about baking chocolate chip cookies on March 3rd to remember Jason, along with other kind remembrances. I just had to share one of my favorite responses from a friend of Jason’s and Alina’s who baked chocolate chip cookies with his daughter.

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Juliette and I made chocolate chip cookies this evening. We talked a lot about Jason and Alina and how significantly treating people nicely can affect others.

(Posted with permission)

When I asked for permission to post this on my blog, the friend said this:

I think of both Jason and Alina often and what a positive impact they would have made on this world if things had been different. I hope that in some way our memories of their positive spirits can allow some of that impact to live even without them being here.

This whole exchange touched me incredibly. What more of a legacy could a person wish to leave than he or she be remembered by how nicely they treated other people? That this young man would use the memory of Jason and Alina and their lives to help teach the next generation to be kind is such an amazing thing. I think that would have made both of them very happy. It’s exactly what this world needs more of – niceness and kindness.

~Becky

© 2019 Rebecca R. Carney

Memories

sc0021f1ec01I’m going to be honest. This is a really rough time of year for me. Tomorrow is the anniversary of Jason’s and Alina’s deaths at the hand of a drunk driver.
 
“Anniversary” is such an out-of-place word to use when talking about the death of a child. “Anniversary” is usually used in conjunction with a happy occasion. If a person says, “It’s my anniversary,” there is an automatic assumption that that person is celebrating the number of years he or she has been married. It’s a happy occasion commemorated with dinner and gifts and congratulations.
 
I know people use the word “anniversary” when talking about other things, too, though. 9/11. War events. Floods. Mud slides. Not every anniversary is celebratory.
 
For the first couple of years, I hated the 3rd of every month, beginning with that first March 3, 2002. It marked a horrifically agonizing, lonely, and excruciatingly painful time – Jason had been gone one month, two months, three months. At the two year mark, I sort of switched to years. Two years, two and a half years, three years. It sort of reminded me of the way I marked the ages of our kids when they were little – giving their ages as so many months and then switching to so many years. Instead of marking the celebration of life, it marked the number of agonizing days we had walked the earth without Jason.
 
Jason has now been gone 17 years. I can’t believe it’s been that long. It seems like forever ago…and yet yesterday. I still tend to rebel against even the thought of it. I remember that day as clear as a bell, every single thing. My heart is still so broken. I know that this whole experience has changed me in so many ways. I miss him so much. Grief lasts as long as love does – forever – and we will forever have a Jason-sized hole in our lives. He had so much of life to live, so much to give. As one friend said, “The world is a darker place without him in it.”
 
I hope you will take time to remember Jason and Alina tomorrow, the lives they lived and the people they were. We, their families, are the “keepers of the memories.” I’m sure each and every bereaved mother or father would say that one of their greatest concerns is that their child will be forgotten as the world moves on without them.
 
If you would like to honor Jason tomorrow, you could play a game of chess (Jason’s favorite game), bake and share some chocolate chip cookies (Jason loved to bake chocolate chip cookies), give someone some flowers (Jason generously gave flowers to those he loved), share an act of kindness (Jason was the most kind and loving person I have ever known), be nice to a stranger (Jason knew no strangers), hug your family and friends tight (Jason gave awesome hugs), listen to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata or Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s “A Mad Russian’s Christmas” or many other songs he loved.
 
Julie Lindsey, a homeschool mom, generously gave and prepared a scrapbook for Marie and me. She asked us what we would like in them. I had asked that the scrapbook contain photos I didn’t have and written memories about Jason from those who knew him. It just happened to be around the time when people were writing victim advocate statements to present to the court for the sentencing of the young man who killed Jason and Alina, so most of the efforts went to writing letters to the court. I am very thankful for those who wrote to the court and have copies of all of those letters. It was a lot to ask for at that time.
 
Whatever memories and photographs we have of Jason and Alina are the only ones we will ever have. There are no graduation, wedding, birth of children, holiday celebrations or any other memories or photographs we will ever have of Jason past the date of March 3, 2002. The opportunity for additional memories and photographs died right along with Jason, along with his future. In our minds, Jason will forever be 19 years old.
 
Thank you for taking the time to remember Jason and Alina. We appreciate it.
 
~Becky
© 2019 Rebecca R. Carney

Home

IMG_1489They’re building a new house behind the office where I work. As I looked out the window this morning while waiting for my coffee to brew, I realized that it made me nostalgic for the time we had our house built in Washington. It was a fascinating and exciting experience watching our home come together from a piece of raw land to the finished product.  Not everything went perfectly, as things rarely do, but we were thrilled to watch it going together and even more thrilled when it was complete.

We built our house after a tree fell on the house we were renting. It was quite a journey and nearly two years between the falling tree and moving into our newly-built home. We had stayed with a couple of friends for a while, looked and looked and looked for a house, made an offer on one house that fell through, moved a family of 5 into a small apartment while still having most of our belongings in storage.

images-1At one point in the journey, I was very discouraged. It didn’t seem like we were ever going to find a place to call home. Right around that time, a local radio station just happened to sponsor a poem contest in conjunction with the home show that was going on at the Kingdome. The poem had to be something that reflected the true meaning of the word “home.” I thought, “If there’s something I know (after all we had been through), it’s what the true meaning of a home is.”

imagesI wish I had kept a copy of that poem. It was something about a home being more than the sum of its walls and doors. The poem won second prize, which was high-quality, custom mini blinds for the winner’s whole house. We didn’t have a house at that point, but it gave me hope. I knew that, whenever and wherever we found a home, I had won mini blinds for it!! I felt like God had heard my prayer for a home of our own and this was sort of a down payment on that home-to-be. I called the radio station to let them know we didn’t have a house quite yet, and they and the mini blind company were gracious enough to extend the deadline to claim the prize. One of the first things I did when we moved in was to order our mini blinds!

A few years ago, I found my “wish list” for a house that I had written not long after we had to move out of the tree-damaged rental and early in our house search. It was amazing to look at that list and realize that our Washington house had hit every single thing I had written on that list. No wonder it felt so much like home to me.

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I’ve driven by our home a couple of times when I’ve been in Washington. I still think of it as our home. It looks much the same, with only the trees and shrubs taller. The neighbor told us that the “new” owners have paved the driveway. I wonder if our names are still in the concrete where we wrote them in the wet cement of the just-poured foundation.

When we were back in Washington for Christmas recently, we had lunch at the pizza place owned by our former neighbors. It’s interesting to me that every single member of that neighboring family still refers to the house as “your house.” We sold the house over 12 years ago. We’ve been told quite a few comments such as, “They taking good care of your house for you,” and “They paved the driveway up to your house.” I guess we’re not the only ones who still think of it as our home.

That-House-was-a-Perfect-House-Tolkien-Quote-Free-Printable-Hand-Drawn-Artwork-from-The-Inspired-RoomI’ve written about what our journey has been since we sold that house, how difficult it was for me to leave Washington and how unsettled and “home-less” (not “homeless”; “home-less” – without a home) I have felt since then. The small one-bedroom apartment we now rent simply doesn’t feel like home. It’s dark; it doesn’t get much sunshine because of the trees surrounding it. None of the furnishings belong to us. A lot of our belongings are still housed in boxes. It’s temporary. Asheville, in general, feels less like home to us since our daughter and her husband moved away, too.

I miss the house that we built in Washington mainly for the reason that it felt like home to me, something I haven’t felt for a very long time, not since we moved from there. It felt like my haven. It was a place filled with sunshine and baking and projects and laughter and game-playing and studying and traditions and friends and family. It was the home filled with the beautiful, sunshine-y presence of our precious Jason. Those were the things that made that house our home.

I miss that true feeling of being “at home.” I don’t know where that is or how to find that feeling again, but I hope to find it some day.

“The happiest moments of my life have been the few which I have passed at home in the bosom of my family.” – Thomas Jefferson

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Missing my boy, today and always.

~Becky

© 2019 Rebecca R. Carney