‘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

Jason: Never Knew a Stranger

sc005ba7efJason was a people-person from the get-go. When he was a baby, he was happiest being held. As a baby, I carried him in a front-pack carrier nearly every day around the house, just because he wanted to be near me. As he grew older, it wasn’t uncommon for Jason to rest his hand on my arm, whatever we were doing. He loved human connection.

When Jason was barely three years old, I took the kids to the mall to let them run around a bit. It was a great place to go on rainy days when we needed to get out of the house. Back then, the malls were fairly empty during the day, so the presence of a mom with three kids didn’t bother anyone. Or so I thought.

As we walked down the mall, we saw a maintenance man working on some tiles on the floor. Jason went up to him to say hello and asked what he was doing. The guy didn’t look up at all and didn’t answer, so Jason asked him again what he was doing. Obviously not a kid person, the man looked up, glared at me and then Jason, and gruffly said to him, “Don’t you know you’re not supposed to talk to strangers?” Unaffected by the man’s grumpiness, Jason earnestly replied, “What’s a stranger?”

And that was Jason. He never knew a stranger. He connected with people like no one I’ve ever seen. Unassuming, yet friendly to everyone. Empathetic, kind, caring. His heart for those he knew and loved was immeasurable. He accepted everyone at face value. He valued and cherished people for who they were. He loved unconditionally. The world was a much better place, just because he was in it.

Missing my boy,

~Becky

© 2018 Rebecca R. Carney

Every day, every hour, every minute, we miss you.

I’ve been doing some spring cleaning and ran across all of the journals I wrote after Jason died. I started writing the week after Jason died. This one is from February 21, 2009, just a couple of weeks before the eighth anniversary of Jason’s death:

2/21/09

My precious Mr J –

I can’t believe you have been gone nearly eight years. In so many ways, it just seems like yesterday.

I miss you so much.

[Songs from] that Collective Soul CD came up on my iPod yesterday – the one that you would put in the CD player in the car and crank up loud so that we could rock out together to it…and I was instantly back at that time…a time of hanging out, of me driving you to college or the bus stop or to work at the hardware store…a time of all the great, wonderful, everyday things with you in our lives.

How I miss you. Our lives are not the same without you.

I am not doing well. I can’t get over losing you, my precious and wonderful boy.

My life is so much of a shadow of what it used to be – and so much less filled with hope.

You took my sunshine with you when you left…and I don’t know how to go on without you.

With you around, it seemed like the possibilities for good things were endless – and now I drag through the days.

I loved spending time with you. I loved hearing what happened in your day. I loved our times of stopping by Arby’s during your first quarter of evening classes at Edmonds [Community College], grabbing a bite to eat after class and catching up.

I watched you with amazement – amazed that such a wonderful young man was my son, and feeling so blessed that God gave you to us.

But then He took you away, and nothing has been right since then.

We miss you. Every day, every hour, every minute, we miss you.

I love you with all of my heart.

Mom

I still miss you, Mr J, every day, every hour, every minute. I still love you with all of my heart.

~Mom

© 2018 Rebecca R. Carney

Baby Mine

jumbo_dumbo_storkI love most Disney movies, and one of my early favorites when the kids were little was Dumbo. The gist of the story is that, after a long-awaited arrival, the stork delivers baby Dumbo to his mother, Mrs. Jumbo. Everyone thinks he is so cute – until he unfurls his huge ears, and then everyone is shocked and horrified because he is so different. They turn their backs on him and exclude him. They make fun of him and one of the other elephants calls him a “freak.” Mrs. Jumbo, though, adores him just as he is.

clipdumbo212As the circus opens to the public, mama elephant proudly encourages her offspring to meet the people. But, as kids at the circus make fun of him for his ears, his mother moves him away from the tormentors to protect him. When they keep harassing and making fun of him, she goes berserk at the thought that anyone would hurt or torment her precious little one. She would do anything to protect her baby from the insults. As a result of her actions, she is deemed violent and forcibly separated from Dumbo, locked up in a solitary cage. At one point, lonely Dumbo goes to visit mama elephant in her prison, and Mrs. Jumbo sings the song “Baby Mine” to Dumbo, her precious little one. It’s a universal song with a universal message – one that every mother would wish to impress upon the hearts of her children – of how wonderful and precious they are, just as they are. In the end, Dumbo learns that what makes him different is what makes him special.

I recently watched an interview on PBS of Ron Suskind, a Pulitzer-winning journalist whose son is autistic. Of the Dumbo film, Mr. Suskind says:

“Dumbo, in a way, is a simple story, and its simplicity – the core of it – is of such powerful resonance that it sneaks up and just whacks you…It’s a moment of love and of arrival, of birth. And then the ears!! Oh, my! Just look at those ears! There isn’t anyone who doesn’t feel pain then. ‘It’s all the fault of that f-r-e-a-k.’

‘I don’t want to be the outcast. Don’t leave me behind. And the things that make me different, I want to hide them. I don’t want people to see that. I don’t want to be left out’…Dumbo’s about how we all yearn to be part of the main, how we all just want to be like everyone else.

I’m just different, but the thing that make me different is the not a thing I need to wrestle with and hide. It’s a thing, once I recognize, it allows me to soar. It’s not ‘in spite of’ what makes me different that I did it, it’s because of it.”

Not to over-analyze a children’s cartoon, but this story speaks to me on several levels.

First – for all of those children who are different or feel different, for those who aren’t accepted or are bullied for some real or perceived flaw – you have something inside of you that makes you very special. Some very successful people have gone through periods of time when others didn’t believe in them (Albert Einstein, John Lennon, etc.). People who were considered “geeks” in school have changed the world (Bill Gates, and many others). Believe in yourself. Give yourself time to soar.

Second – a mother’s love is stronger than any chain. My kids have all been – as the song says – “close to my heart never to part…you’re so precious to me, sweet as can be, baby of mine.” I hope they know how much I loved them from the minute they were born and how much they have meant to me every minute of every day from the minute I knew I was pregnant. The only thing I ever wanted to be in this life was a mom. There have been times when my heart was so full of love for my children – so full of awe and wonder that they were actually our precious children, born into our family and given to us by God –  that my heart could hardly hold it all.

Third – no one likes to feel like an outsider. The one thing about the deep grief following the death of a child is that it can be a very lonely walk. I remember recognizing the feeling that I would never be the same, that people would never look at me the same after Jason died. After his death, one of Jason’s friends posted on his social media account  that he would never be able to look at us or Alina’s parents the same, that he would always see us as “marked.”  At a Christmas concert that first year, I remember glancing across the room in time to see friends, heads huddled close together talking, as they were obviously discussing Joe and me.

As bereaved parents, you become the ultimate outsider. I remember feeling like I was on the other side of the glass wall, looking in, as people celebrated this or that. The everyday joys belonged to others and not to me. I still feel that way. Unless you have walked this walk, I can’t imagine one would understand what it’s like to have relationships with people you value disappear into thin air – not just for a while, but literally for years or forever. We became pariahs, through none of our own actions. I literally never heard from some people ever again, people I had known for years and considered great “Christian” people, good friends.

Others expected me to understand how difficult it was for them to be around me. One gal wrote, “You have often been in my prayers, my thoughts. I want to call, come to visit, but I don’t know what to say. I don’t know how to relate to your pain and like a chicken I stay away and I don’t call and I don’t visit. I have many reminders of you…so I do pray…and my thoughts go to you and your pain and how hard it must be every day to live with the reminders and the emptiness.” She goes on to talk about how difficult it is going to be to have her son, Jason’s friend, go off to college and how much she will miss him and that the hardest part of parenting is letting go. She ended the note by saying she would have access to a car soon and that she would “make work of seeing” me. I never did hear from her.

I learned early on that I had to hide my grief and make it palatable so that people would want to be around me. At least, I thought I had to make it palatable. In retrospect, I’m not sure it made any difference. People disappeared, anyway, and I don’t think there was anything I could have done about it.

I, especially, think it was difficult for our daughter being “different” at 17 years old. It’s never easy being the teenage girl who is different than everyone else, and losing your brother in a car accident really sets us apart from everyone else. While other girls were buying prom dresses and planning for graduation, she was helping pick out her brother’s casket and choosing photos and songs for his memorial service. I wish I could say her friends stepped up and surrounded her with love and caring, but that was far from the case. She and Jason were so close their entire lives, and I would have done anything to spare her the pain she walked through. Losing a brother is horrendous; being made to feel an outcast because of it is also a horrible thing.

I’m not sure I agree entirely with the last paragraph of Mr. Suskind’s comments about difficulties or differences making us soar. It rather feels like one of those “what doesn’t kill us makes us strongerplatitudes. But, because of what we have walked through, I feel like I have a deeper empathy for those who suffer deep loss. I hope so. And I hope I can do my small part to raise awareness of what it’s like to be the bereaved parent and sibling to a fantastic, wonderful, incredible, phenomenal young man like Jason. If I can encourage some measure of kindness toward bereaved families, I will feel like I have done my part.

Miss you always, my precious boy.

Baby Mine

Baby mine, don’t you cry.
Baby mine, dry your eyes.
Rest your head close to my heart,
Never to part,
Baby of mine.

Little one, when you play;
Don’t you mind what they say.
Let those eyes sparkle and shine,
Never a tear,
Baby of mine.

If they knew sweet little you
They’d end up loving you too.
All those same people who scold you;
What they’d give just for the right to hold you.

From your head down to your toes,
You’re not much, goodness knows.
But you’re so precious to me,
Sweet as can be,
Baby of mine.

All of those people who scold you,
What they’d give just for the right to hold you.

From your head down to your toes
You’re not much, goodness knows.
But you’re so precious to me,
Sweet as can be,
Baby of mine.
Baby of mine

Dumbo photos courtesy of https://www.disneyclips.com
© 2018 Rebecca R. Carney

“Who You’d Be Today”

Who You’d Be Today

Sunny days seem to hurt the most
I wear the pain like a heavy coat
I feel you everywhere I go
I see your smile, I see your face
I hear you laughing in the rain
I still can’t believe you’re gone

It ain’t fair you died too young
Like a story that had just begun
But death tore the pages all away
God knows how I miss you
All the hell that I’ve been through
Just knowing no one could take your place
Sometimes I wonder who you’d be today

Would you see the world, would you chase your dreams
Settle down with a family
I wonder what would you name your babies
Some days the sky’s so blue
I feel like I can talk to you
I know it might sound crazy

It ain’t fair you died too young
Like a story that had just begun
But death tore the pages all away
God knows how I miss you
All the hell that I’ve been through
Just knowing no one could take your place
Sometimes I wonder who you’d be today

Today, today, today
Today, today, today

Sunny days seem to hurt the most
I wear the pain like a heavy coat
The only thing that gives me hope
Is I know I’ll see you again someday

Someday, someday

Written by Aimee Mayo, William Luther • Copyright © Universal Music Publishing Group, Words & Music A Div Of Big Deal Music LLC
I heard this song this weekend, and it just spoke the words that have been in my heart. A story just begun. I miss you, my boy. I love you. “The only thing that gives me hope is I know I’ll see you again someday.”
~Mom
© 2017 Rebecca R. Carney

Missing You

IMG_5729

The way I feel

 

They say there is a reason,
They say that time will heal,
But neither time nor reason,
Will change the way I feel,

No-one knows the heartache,
That lies behind my smile,
No-one knows how many times,
I have broken down and cried,

I want to tell you something,
So there won’t be any doubt,
You’re so wonderful to think of,
But so hard to be without.

~Author Unknown

 

I miss you, Jason, now and forever. I love you beyond words and beyond earthly bounds.

~Mom

© 2017 Rebecca R. Carney

 

 

Arby’s

DSCF3426

As a junior and senior in high school, Jason participated in a program called Running Start. Running Start is a program in Washington State offered through the public school system where a student, as a junior or senior in high school, can attend a local community college or university and receive both high school and college credits at the same time. Jason had about topped out of what I could teach him and what the homeschool community had to offer as far as classes, and so we decided it would be the next logical step in his education.

The classes Jason took the first quarter were not offered at consecutive times – he had a couple of classes certain mornings of the week and one class a couple of evenings during the week. We lived 20-30 minutes away by car (nearly an hour on the bus) from the school with no good public transportation close by, so one of the things we had to work out was a way for Jason to get to school.

At the time, we had a Volkswagen Eurovan. Jason had had his permit to learn to drive since he was 15 and a half, but didn’t have his driver’s license yet at 16 years old. I had taken him out several times for lessons on the VW, but it had a manual transmission with tricky clutch. That first semester of college, he had a lot on his plate. He was beginning a new level of higher education going to college at 16 years old, working part-time in a local hardware store and tutoring math students through the homeschool co-op. For some reason, on top of everything else, dealing with the tricky clutch while learning to drive was just a bit too much for Jason at the time. He took everything he did with great responsibility, including the responsibility of operating a motor vehicle. After a couple of lessons of clutch frustration, he decided to put off getting his license for a little while until he felt he was ready to learn to drive.

The closest bus stop for public transportation was several miles away, so, on the mornings he had classes, I drove Jason to the bus stop and then picked him up again when he was done. He would hop in the car and immediately turn on the radio or pop one of his compilation CD’s in the van’s CD player, and off we would drive to the bus stop, both of us humming or singing or rocking away to some song or another. Jason liked a wide range of music from classical (his favorite piece was Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata) to a band named Collective Soul to contemporary music to Christian music to Christmas music. Whether or not it was anywhere near Christmas, we would blast Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s Christmas album “Christmas Eve and Other Stories” over the van’s speakers, bobbing our heads in time with the beat of “Sarajevo” or “Mad Russian’s Christmas.”

I decided to sign up for a continuing education evening class at the same college that first quarter of Jason’s Running Start. That way, I could drive Jason to his class so he wouldn’t have to ride the bus at night for nearly an hour each way, and I could learning something new at the same time. Quite often, he and I would leave early enough so that we could stop and eat at Arby’s on the way. We would order their 5/$5 special, and then sit and munch on curly fries and roast beef sandwiches, talking about whatever was on our minds. He loved Arby’s and I loved spending time with him.

I don’t go to Arby’s any more hardly at all, just because it’s too hard. But, I found myself craving an Arby’s sandwich yesterday, so I stopped by for lunch. I ordered a roast beef sandwich and curly fries. As I started to eat, my eyes filled with tears and I had a hard time actually eating what I’d ordered.

The food didn’t taste as good as I remembered, but the memories of my time with Jason eating at Arby’s are clear, strong, wonderful and so very bittersweet.

Oh, how I miss you, my boy.

~Becky

© 2017 Rebecca R. Carney