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

Sorting through a deceased child’s belongings

A while ago, I wrote briefly about taking time to go through your child’s belongings in my blog, “A Few Things I’ve Learned in the 10 Years Since Jason Died.” I’ve also responded on Facebook to bereaved parents who’ve asked about what to do with their child’s things. It dawned on me yesterday that I’ve never actually written a specific post with my recommendations on the subject.

When you were ready, here are my suggestions for going through your child’s belongings.

Take your time

First of all, don’t let anyone rush you or push you to go through or “get rid of” your child’s belongings. This is something that’s a very difficult thing to do and you should be given the grace to do it on your own time frame. Let me say that again – your own time frame. Yours. Only yours. Not a time frame someone else has decided for you. Even within family members, the time to go through a child’s belongings should be based – not on the FIRST person who decides or feels like they are ready – but rather on the LAST person reaches the decision that they are ready. If you are the first person to reach this decision, extend copious amounts of grace to everyone else. When it comes to sorting through your child’s belongings, no one should feel rushed or mowed over.

If you absolutely have to consolidate belongings because you have to move or for some other valid reason, that’s one thing. Even then, you should not let anyone push you on their schedule. If someone intimates or outright tells you that you are making a shrine to your child and makes you feel like that it’s a bad thing to wait until you – and only you – are ready to tackle this task, just chalk it up to their not having been in your shoes. They have no idea what they’re talking about, and we need to hope that they never will.

Be gentle with yourself

Going through your child’s belongings is not a marathon or a mountain to be climbed. It is not a task to be conquered. If you begin and find it too overwhelming, it’s okay to take a break or close the door and wait until another day. There is no rule or set time when this task needs to be started or finished. If you need to stop and take time to grieve, extend yourself the grace and time to do so.

Realize that it’s a hard task

No matter how long you wait to begin sorting through your child’s belongings, acknowledge to yourself that it’s an emotional and difficult task to do. It will always feel like you are erasing part of your child’s life from your own. The older the child, the more things they will have collected, the more you will have to sort through.

If you need to, ask for help

If you have a trusted friend or family member who will follow your lead and be sensitive to what you’re going through, ask that person to help you. Don’t be offended if someone says no. Not everyone can handle such a difficult and emotional task and walk beside you as you do this. Let them know it will not be an easy task and make sure they know it’s okay to be honest with you if it becomes too much for them to handle. When we started to go through Jason’s room, our daughter said, “This is more difficult than I thought it was going to be.” She thought she was ready to help, but couldn’t do it and had to leave. And that was okay.

Make a plan and be prepared

Purchase some Rubbermaid totes or other types of long-term storage containers and some boxes. Make sure you have on hand some type of labeling material that does not easily come off of boxes/containers (permanent markers, stick-on labels) and sealing materials (package sealing or duct tape). You may need some file folders, hanging file folder holders, file folder labels and bankers boxes for organizing papers. Also get some various sizes of Ziplock bags for grouping small or similar items and some recycling and garbage bags.

Organize

To begin, choose a small, less-emotionally charged area to sort. Try not to take everything in all at once, as it may become overwhelming. Focus on one specific area. Success breeds success, and you will feel more able to continue when you have successfully completed one small area.

Divide things up into five sections: 1) absolutely have to keep; 2) not quite sure yet whether to keep or not or what to do with; 3) special things you want to give to certain people; 4) things to donate to a charitable organization; and, 5) things to throw away. As you go, box up the things you know you want to keep and label the contents of each container. The same goes for the “not quite sure” items. For the special mementoes, put items you want to give in individual Ziplock bags/boxes and label who you want to give them to. Box up donations, label where they should go and bag up garbage to go where it need to go.

While the others sections may be obvious, the one area that may be overlooked and yet is very crucial is the “not quite sure” items (# 2 above). It’s okay not to know if you want to keep something or not. You don’t have to decide at that very moment. Let me say that again – you absolutely DO NOT have to decide everything at that very moment. I strongly suggest boxing up the things you are not sure about in long-term storage containers and then setting them aside in storage for review at another time. With distance, things may be clearer. It’s an absolute tragedy to give or throw away something you later wish you hadn’t. Once it’s gone, it’s gone and there usually is no way to ever recover those items. Box up those items you are not sure about, store them in your basement or garage, and go through them again when you feel you are ready – whether it be months or even years down the road.

Before making final storage/disposal of items, be sure you check with family members to see if they have any input, changes, or wish to go through your decision choices. Disposal of your child’s things really feels permanent, like the closing of a door, and it’s worth the effort to consider the feelings of others before taking this step.

Final Comments

All of these suggestions are made from experience – either things I did well or wish I had done differently. My greatest errors were allowing myself to be pushed to go through Jason’s room before I was ready to do so, and to not set aside things I wasn’t sure about to review another day. At the end of the day I was totally traumatized at a time when I didn’t need any more trauma. I gave away or “got rid of” things I wish I never had. If I can encourage anyone to take time and give themselves or another bereaved parent grace with this heart-wrenching task or save someone the agony of giving away something they wish they hadn’t, then this post has accomplished its task.

If you have any additional suggestions, please feel free to share them in the comments section.

~Becky

© 2020 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