Arby’s

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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

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Photographs and Memories

 

“Why are the photographs of him as a little boy so incredibly hard to look at? Something is over. Now instead of those shiny moments being things we can share together in delighted memories, I, the survivor, have to bear them alone. So it is with all the memories of him. They all lead into blackness. All I can do is remember him; I cannot experience him. Nothing new can happen between us.”

Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son

 

~Becky

© 2017 Rebecca R. Carney

The Gifts of Listening and Remembering

The Gift of Listening

One of the most precious gifts I received while I was in Washington was given to me by a long-time friend when we had dinner together. She gave me the gift of her time and her attention. She asked me if I was “ready to talk about it.” (It’s not that I have avoided talking about “it,” Jason, or that time…I just didn’t feel like anyone was ready or wanted to listen. It has seemed no one really has wanted to talk about Jason or that time – unless it’s briefly on his birthday or anniversary of his death – and so I just sort of gave up trying. Why make people uncomfortable and avoid you even more?)

I asked what she wanted to know; I would answer any questions. I talked. And she truly listened. She truly listened. She listened to my ideas on how I wanted to help bereaved parents. She cared. She asked questions. “What could I have done differently?” She apologized for not knowing what to do and for disappearing. Not once did she make me feel like I needed – at any time during the last ten years – to be fixed or that I should not have felt as I did.

As I began to talk, starting at the night of the accident, I started shivering. I thought I was cold – after all, going from 80 degrees in Florida to 28 degrees in Seattle was quite a change. I ordered coffee to warm me up, but it didn’t help.

Have you ever had a muscle that was knotted up tight for so long that it begins to shake? That’s what it was like, except through my whole body. It was like I had tried to hold together all alone and be strong for so long that my physical body reacted to “letting the story out,” to loosening my grip on some inner tension I didn’t even realize I had. Someone apologized. Someone cared. Someone actually listened to my story and looked me square in the eyes as I was telling it.

I realized the next day that something inside of me had changed. I felt freer than I had felt in a very long time. I have read about bereaved parents reaching a corner, a specific turning point, when something changes. I just didn’t understand it because it had not happened to me.

It’s been a rough ten years. Jason’s death; everything we dealt with concerning Jason’s death and the far-reaching after-effects (believe me, the ripple effects following the death of a child go deep, far, and wide); deep, prolonged grief that went far into my very soul; depression; too many relationship losses to count; watching my precious family struggle with losses and other difficult situations; job losses; my Mom died; loss of family relationships; moving, moving, moving; changes, changes, changes; pressure, pressure, pressure. I have felt like I’ve been hunkered down in a survival mode for a long time, that I’ve dealt with many, many things alone. It’s tiring. It’s draining. It ties you in knots, whether you know it or not.

I am so thankful for this precious friend taking time to ask questions and for listening. I know it wasn’t easy for her. I have worked very hard on my own at forgiving, even though there no apologies extended by people who knew they had hurt me/us badly and who knew they had deserted us. It was amazing to have someone say that our relationship was too important to lose. It was so freeing to hear someone say, “I’m sorry,” and to be able to respond, “I forgive you.” It was amazing to have someone truly listen with her heart and her full attention! What an incredible gift!

The Gift of Remembering

One of Jason’s good friends hosted a small breakfast get-together on the morning of March 3rd as a way to honor Jason and Alina. One precious young lady who attended took time to tell me how she would never forget Jason, how he was still the standard by which she measured guys, how Jason had once explained to her why he enjoyed classical music along with other types of music, and how she still listened to and appreciated classical music to this day because of what Jason had told her. It meant so much to me for her to take the time to tell me those things.

It meant so much, too, to me to listen to others who also spoke of Jason, who told me a story or memory and let me know he would never be forgotten. Every single person who shared with me memories of Jason gave me an incredible gift!

One of a mother’s nightmares following the death of a child is that her child will be forgotten. It’s almost like an unspoken job for a bereaved mother to make sure that never happens.

Following Jason’s death, a gal in our homeschool group offered to put together a scrapbook in Jason’s honor. I chose a scrapbook that would include photos (by those other than ourselves) and personal stories of Jason by those who knew him. At least I could remember him alive and hold his memory close through photos of things he had done and places he had been, by being talked about and remembered. Another gal was to contact people and spread the word so those who wanted could contribute to the scrapbook.

There were not a lot of contributions; the gal putting the scrapbook together was embarrassed and anxious I would be hurt. At first I was confused and hurt. I craved hearing about Jason’s life, about his experiences, about how he was remembered. I didn’t want my son to be dead. I felt like he was being forgotten. I didn’t want him forgotten. I needed to know that he was remembered – and would continue to be remembered – by those who knew him.

But then I realized that a couple of big issues were getting in the way. 1) The court hearings were just ahead and many people were composing impact statements to submit to the judge concerning how Jason’s and Alina’s deaths affected them (statements to help the court decide sentencing). That in itself had to be so emotionally draining. 2) In addition, a lot of these “kids” (and others) were still dealing with both Jason’s and Alina’s deaths (Jason and Alina had many friends in common); they were not able to vocalize their feelings just yet. It was too much to ask of them at that time. My need was greater than the ability of most people we knew.

With so few people talking or writing about Jason over the years, it was easy to wonder if he was being forgotten. I guess that’s one of the reasons it meant so much to me while I was in Seattle this time to have people specifically tell me their memories of Jason and that he would never be forgotten. They let me know that his memory had not disappeared with time, that Jason’s life mattered, not only to his family, but to others. He has continued to be valued, loved, remembered.

It was a good trip. Breakfast, coffee and conversation every morning with my precious friend Mary, who I have missed so much since we moved. Typical early spring Seattle weather – rain, snow, frost, sun. (Seattle weather has never bothered me.) And best of all, some people who listened, showed me they cared, and told me Jason was dearly remembered and would never be forgotten. They gave me the precious gifts of listening and remembering. It’s never too late to listen or remember.

© 2012 Rebecca R. Carney