Moving

We have moved into our new house and are doing our best to make it feel like home. I looked at Joe the other day and said, “We are no longer storage unit dwellers!!” While unpacking boxes that have been in storage for so many years, we have found things we had forgotten we had.

As we ran across the box that had Jason’s hats in them, both Joe and I stopped to hug each other. I know they are just “things,” but when I look at them, I picture Jason wearing them. They seem so empty without him in them. Such a classy guy. We miss our boy.

It has had its glitches – completion, delivery and installation issues, things that need to be fixed by the builder or that we will do ourselves, internet not available for 4-6 weeks, realizing how many more things we need to get, etc.

One good thing about having very little of our own when we bought the house is that most everything is new. The flip side is that having to buy everything at the onset gets expensive. We will have to work at some things over time, just like we did when we first got married and started our lives together. A new beginning.

As have said previously, I have not felt “at home” anywhere since before Jason died, but we are giving this all we’ve got. I want to find a way to honor Jason in our new home, something special. I’m not quite sure what it is yet. He is always in our hearts.


~Becky

© 2022 Rebecca R. Carney

Brokenhearted Mother’s Day

As Jason’s favorite classical piece, Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, came up on Pandora this morning, I found tears welling up in my eyes and I started crying. I am just so brokenhearted. Another Mother’s Day without Jason. Another Mother’s Day with no family close by. I miss my boy so much. He made everything so much better.

Mother’s Day is another stark reminder of his absence, a reminder that I wish I had treasured every single moment so much more than I did, a reminder of all we have lost. We take for granted our kids will be around for the rest of our lives. We take for granted we will have another chance to make more memories, to share more hugs and celebrate holidays. Even after 20 years, there are days when I just don’t know how to do this life without my boy. Mother’s Day is one of them.

I guess Mother’s Day exposes those cracks in the facade I try so carefully to maintain and to hide, allowing a bunch of feelings to flood to the surface. Mother’s Day just really gets to me. We’ll be alone again this Mother’s Day. I know that I am still a mother even though Jason died, but I feel so incomplete and empty. I wish I could skip Mother’s Day entirely and wake up on the other side.

I miss you, my beautiful precious boy. My Mr. Sunshine. You made me happy when skies were grey. I love you with all my heart.

~Becky

© 2022 Rebecca R. Carney

Home

We recently closed on a house that is being built. It’s been a long time coming. It’s a small house – 1100 square feet, two bedrooms, two bathrooms plus an office and a sunroom. It will have a walking track, lawn maintenance and is about a half a mile from a cute, small town. It’s in a community of nice homes with people who seem friendly. I’m hoping we can make some friends there.

We had looked around this area for a place to buy off and on since we moved here nearly ten years ago. We considered moving to an area where we could be closer to our daughter or son and grandkids. It’s difficult to have people you love and want to be around on two separate coasts. With health issues (Joe’s heart attack and me being in the hospital twice last year with UTI’s that went septic) and COVID, we haven’t seen Eric and his family in more than three years. We haven’t seen our grandkids in more than three years. It’s a difficult thing for me not to be able to see my family on a regular basis. Although our daughter no longer lives near us, we are able to see her more often as she lives only four hours away. We still miss having her close. Housing costs in both areas were prohibitive for us, especially since I would have to give up my job to move either place and we wouldn’t qualify without my income. There’s no easy solution. This opportunity came up and we decided to make the commitment to once again try to make a house feel like our home.

After Jason died, we had a hard time figuring out where we belonged. No place felt like home any more. Everything was changed; nothing felt comfortable and easy. The house that was busy with activity and people before Jason died was now so lonely and quiet that the silence literally hurt my ears. It hurt my heart even more. Every corner, every place was a reminder of Jason’s absence. Every time we left the house and had to drive by the accident site, which was often, the reminder of that horrible day and his death stared us in the face. Some of the people we knew were uncomfortable with such deep grief and avoided us like we had something contagious. We became the people that other people pointed to from across the room, the ones whose son had died, the ones people ducked down the grocery aisles to avoid. Most people had no idea what to say to us. It was difficult, to say the least.

Joe and I struggled horribly. I felt like I was crushed to nothingness, an empty box with both ends cut out. Increased noise sensitivity and a flight-or-fight reflex whenever I felt trapped or cornered in any way were just some of the things I dealt with on a daily basis. I couldn’t sit still for very long. I was antsy and restless. My doctor prescribed sleeping pills so I could get some sleep. We didn’t want to stay around the empty house on weekends, but we didn’t have much of anything to do. It was hard to find the enthusiasm and interest to do anything. I kept going to school and Joe kept working.  It’s as if we thought that if we just kept moving, maybe it wouldn’t hurt as much.

We eventually sold our house in Snohomish and most everything we had and moved to Oklahoma. We purchased a home and bought some furniture. I got a job. Instead of feeling at home, I found that I pulled inside myself and went into a survival mode there and, although I worked full time, felt like I mostly just existed to make it through the day so I could go to bed. While it had been difficult to live in a place that screamed of Jason’s absence, it was even harder to live in a place where he had never been, around people who never knew him. My sense of connectedness was gone and I felt adrift.

After deciding that Oklahoma was not the place for us, we once again sold our house, along with all of the furnishings we had purchased a few years earlier. The things we wanted to keep, such as photos and momentos, went into storage until we knew where we were going to land. Since then, we have lived in furnished rentals in Florida and North Carolina, trying to figure out where we fit. We still have the few belongings we have left in a storage unit. I currently work two jobs – one for 30 hours a week and one on a contract basis. Joe, never one to sit still, has found odd jobs to keep him busy in retirement and in pocket cash. We really don’t know where else to go. You really can’t outrun grief. No decision is a decision in itself and it’s time we have a home of our own.

I am, at the same time, both excited and filled with trepidation at this purchase and such a large commitment at this stage in our lives. It hasn’t helped that rising inflation costs and supply chain issues are affecting building materials and things we need to purchase for our home.  We need to purchase most EVERYTHING for our home – from pots and pans to appliances to a bed to sleep in – and everything in between. I have been working gradually at purchasing kitchen items – with the help of my sister who had a virtual “housewarming Pampered Chef party” for us a while back and family who bought items for the house at Christmas. We are working on the big-ticket items, but need to have the house to be done enough to be able to have delivery there, all while trying to work through rising prices and backorders. It’s a bit overwhelming at times.

I’m hoping we finally can feel “at home” in this house. As I said earlier, I haven’t really felt “at home” any place since before Jason died. Carrie Underwood sings a song called “Temporary Home,” one with which I feel an affinity. I know that we are all travelers just passing through this life on earth. This is our temporary home. I believe that one day we will see Jason again in our final destination, our home in the heavens. I look forward to that day. Until then, we will do our best to be people of whom he would be proud and try to find joy and contentment where we can in our new home while we are here on earth.

The anniversary of Jason’s death is one month from today. It has always been a difficult time of year for me. Grief ebbs and flows, but it never ends. As of this year, he will have been gone longer than he lived. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around that. We will find some way to honor Jason in our new home. He is always in our thoughts and in our hearts. We take him with us wherever we go.

~Becky

© 2022 Rebecca R. Carney

(edited slightly for clarity)

Thanksgiving Musings

As I sit here this morning drinking my coffee, my mind is full of memories of Thanksgivings past.

The early married years of learning how to time preparations so that everything was ready to serve at the right time. It’s not as easy as it seems.

The year we had intended to invite solo people from church into our home for Thanksgiving, but somehow never got around to it. It turned out to be a good thing we didn’t because our refrigerator went out a couple of days prior to the holiday and no one could come to repair it until several days later. We went out to Denny’s for dinner that year.

The year we had pizza for our Thanksgiving dinner.

The number of years another family and ours got together to celebrate the holiday. We ended up with a shorthand way of discussing who was going to prepare what for the meal. “Are you going to make what you usually make?” I made the cinnamon rolls, dinner rolls, sweet potatoes, stuffing, brought the sparkling cider, cranberries, etc. She made the green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and gravy, cooked the turkey. She made stuffing cooked in the turkey and I made stuffing baked in the oven. One of us would usually make a ham, too, since Jason loved ham. Each of us would make our favorite desserts. We ate at their house so her mom would be able to join us. We’d split up the Black Friday ads from the newspaper to see if there was anything we needed to rush out for bright and early the next morning, switching ads when we were done looking at them. The kids would play games, watch movies. It was comfortably familiar and we felt like this family was our adopted extended family.

The year Jason died, we tried to continue that particular tradition. I got up early to make the bread items and cried through most of the process. I had no energy and just wanted to curl inside myself and sit like a lump on the couch. The other family tried hard to make things “normal,” but the normal we knew was gone. I’m sure they felt like I acted like a flat rubber ball with no bounce. That’s exactly how I felt. I could barely function. We went through the motions and left as soon as we could without being too rude. We never got together for Thanksgiving with that family again. We needed a change for a couple of reasons. One, the absence of Jason’s presence loomed so large and, two, after the initial memorial service, we had nearly non-existent support from any member of that family. Our adopted extended family had no time for us.

The next few years we tried to make new traditions for Thanksgiving, but holidays are never the same after the death of a child. I haven’t cooked a turkey and the fixings for years. It’s been years since I made cinnamon rolls. Our daughter is a vegetarian and our son-in-law hates turkey. Our son and his family live way across the country. There’s no reason to make a big meal. Two years ago, when Joe was in the hospital after his heart attack, he ate the hospital version of a Thanksgiving meal while our daughter, son-in-law and I found a restaurant for a meal. We will do the same this year.

It’s been two years since Joe’s heart attack. I am thankful he is doing well. Our daughter and son-in-law are driving here to see us for a couple of days. I am thankful they will be here so we will not be alone.

A fellow blogger Melanie wrote, “Grief does not preclude gratitude.” I would also say that the reverse is also true – gratitude does not preclude grief. No matter how many things I am thankful for, the hole Jason left will always be there and I will always grieve the fact that he is no longer here. It still hurts. Holidays especially emphasize the absence of Jason in our lives. Our lives have never been the same.

The memory of our last Thanksgiving before Jason died is so clear in my mind like it was yesterday. It was full of fun, friends, excellent food, thankfulness. It was comfortable, familiar. I can picture the clothes Jason was wearing and the big smile he wore all day. He was at his happiest with family and friends.

I am so thankful Jason was born into our family. He was a bright, sunshine-y presence in every moment of every day. I miss my boy so much.

~Becky

© 2021 Rebecca R. Carney

Empty Arms

Tomorrow is Jason’s birthday. He would have been 39 years old.

I realized tonight as I got ready for bed tonight that I had felt such an emptiness all evening, like my arms were trying to reach out to hug Jason. He gave the best hugs in the world.

I wasn’t actually physically reaching out with my arms, but it was almost as if my whole being wanted to reach out, bring him close and hug him tight. But it felt like there was a huge, empty, gaping hole right in front of me where Jason should be, a void that could only be filled by Jason. My arms just felt so empty and there was such a huge ache in my heart.

We can talk about holding memories close. We can remember certain events and relive them in our minds. We can look at photographs and reminisce.

I remember what Jason’s hugs felt like. I remember his laugh and his smile. I remember his beautiful blue eyes. I remember so many things about him.

But a memory doesn’t hold a candle to the real thing. For me, there will be no more Jason hugs, no more memories to be made or events to be celebrated with Jason, no more Jason anything. I can’t wrap my arms around him and feel his wonderful bear hugs. And my arms feel so empty tonight.

Oh, how I miss you, my precious boy.

~Becky

© 2021 Rebecca R. Carney

Siblings

Today is our daughter’s birthday. Jenna was born two weeks to the day before Jason’s 2nd birthday. They were close in age, and very close in heart.

Our daughter was 17 years old when Jason died. While other kids her age were thinking about prom dresses and college, Jenna was helping pick out her brother’s burial site and planning his memorial service. My heart just hurts to think about what she has gone through as a result of Jason’s death.

A lot of what my husband and I experienced following Jason’s death was also experienced by our daughter in her own right and in ways specific to her. She not only lost her brother and the majority of her friends disappeared, she basically lost her parents in a lot of ways because of our deep grief at a time when she needed us most.

I am not at liberty and do not have permission to talk about some of the things she experienced following her brother’s death, but I will say that you would be shocked at some of the things she went through – at 17 years of age. Even now when I think about it, it just boggles my mind why people did (or didn’t do) the things they did (or didn’t do). It’s heartbreaking.

At the time Jason died, Jenna was a senior in high school and a freshman in college, participating in the Running Start program in Washington State. As happened that quarter, Jason, Eric and I were also taking classes at that college. The week following Jason’s death, both Jenna and I went back to school. Not only did Jenna go to school, she worked part-time. I marvel that she actually managed to continue on with her life and accomplish what she did. I don’t think I could not have continued on without her. I could barely function at the time. I know she was in so much pain, too.

I think Jenna felt she had to be brave for Joe and me. She didn’t want to be an additional burden on top one everything else. Plus, it’s not easy being a 17-year old whose brother died. No young person wants to “stand out” with the distinction of being the teenager whose brother died. They looked at us differently, and she was no exception. People would ask her how we were doing, never how she was doing.

After graduating from community college, Jenna transferred to a university about an hour from where we lived. She didn’t feel that she could live in a dorm with a lot of people, so we set her up in her own little apartment. She worked two jobs while going to school, all while maintaining excellent grades. By the end of her junior year, she was so burned out that she moved back home. She went to a year of technical college and became a massage therapist, graduating at the top of her class. Since then, she has gone back to the university and received her bachelor’s degree with honors (also while working two jobs) and then her Master’s degree with a 4.0 GPA (also while working). She is an amazing young woman.

Jason and Jenna were incredibly close from the moment Jenna was born. They were each other’s companions, best friends, confidants. They did so much together. They each had their own set of friends, but they could always count on each other for companionship at any time. They set up movie outings with their friends and could fill our house with people on the spur of the moment on a Sunday afternoon. They shared a birthday party one year and had a blast.

When Jenna was little, Jason was her protector. He fed her yogurt and made sure her automatic swing never ran low. As she got older, he always watched out for her with the most tender of hearts. She was the photographer of his high school senior pictures. He was the loudest to cheer at Jenna’s softball games. They were two peas in a pod and the best friends you could ever imagine.

The day before Jason died, Jason and Jenna hung out together for a good portion of the afternoon and went to Starbucks with Jason’s friend Alina (who also died in the accident). They all came back to our house and Jason and Alina watched a movie while Jenna went to see a friend. As Jason headed out just after midnight to take Alina home, he stopped by Jenna’s room to see if she wanted to go with him. She had had a difficult time with the friend she went to see and opted to go to bed. Within a few minutes, as he drove Alina home, Jason was broadsided by a drunk driver going more than twice the posted speed limit. And, just like that, her precious brother was gone.

Jenna doesn’t talk much about what she went through at that time, but I know it has affected her more deeply than anyone could imagine. At the time, I wished that I could take away the pain. I wish even more so now. I can only imagine what her life – and ours – would have been like had not Jason died. It hasn’t been easy. She has lived more than half her life without her brother. I know that she keeps him close in her heart and thoughts. She misses him like crazy.

Our daughter is a wonderful, thoughtful, kind, amazing, beautiful woman. We would give her the world if we could. We love her with our whole hearts.

~Becky

© 2021 Rebecca R. Carney