My dad died 31 years ago today. It was not unexpected, but that did’t negate the feelings of finality of such a death. Although I had had several months to get used to the idea that he was dying (he had gone in the nursing home in August of the previous year after several strokes), it still felt like a shock to me. Seeing my dad in that coffin took my breath away, just by the pure realization of finality right in front of me. When someone dies, you no longer have the opportunity of resolving differences, creating new memories, or just sitting and talking. Everything you had together was in the past; there is no future with that person.
I’m a lot more like my dad, personality-wise, than I am my mom and I was closer to my dad than my mom. I tend to be independent, stoic, never ask for help. My sister is more emotional and relational like my mom was. Jason was a lot like me.
Anyway, I’ve been thinking about my dad today. I wish my kids had had a chance to know him better – maybe a younger version of himself before he was so ill. They were quite young when he died. They really would have loved really knowing him. We lived a long way apart, so we didn’t get to see them much. Distances are hard on establishing or maintaining close relationships.
I have written about him before: https://onewomansperspective02.wordpress.com/2012/06/17/happy-fathers-day/ and https://onewomansperspective02.wordpress.com/2015/06/21/lost-in-thought-on-a-sunday-morning/
I think one of the most encouraging things that happened since Dad’s memorial service was when someone found my blog online and posted the following comment:
When I was young in the early 1970′s, my father would take me fishing and hunting with him in Wyoming. We spent lots of time around LaBarge Wyoming. On Sundays, as we drove along beautiful rivers and streams near the Salt River Range and the Wyoming Range, my dad always found ‘The Singing Knudsens’ on the radio. I believe it was KMER, the radio station out of Kemmerer. We thought you guys were great. I remember thinking how brave you must have been to sing on the radio. I think about those times a lot because I was very close to my father. Those were such incredible times. I was just thinking about LaBarge, my dad, and listening to the Singing Knudsons. I searched the internet and found you here. I have three sons of my own now. I was truly heartbroken when I read your story. I can not imagine losing one of my boys. I wonder if I could even survive it. You and your family will always be very special to me. I wish happiness and love to you and your family always. Thank you for bringing much to mine.
I was so thankful that he took the time to share these memories, even though it was so many, many years later. A fellow blogger, Melanie DeSimone, recently wrote a post entitled “Child Loss: Helpful Tips for Interacting With Bereaved Families.” One of the tips was: “It’s never too late to reach out. NEVER.” So true. No matter how many years it had been, it was so nice to hear these memories of my dad and for Peter to let me know that he remembered.
Let people know you remember their loved ones. It could mean the world to them.
© 2019 Rebecca R. Carney
When we lived in Oklahoma, I started making a memory quilt. I pulled it out last week to start working on it again. Even though I have lost so many things that meant something to me in our many moves, I somehow managed to keep pieces of leftover fabric from my family of sewers – from my grandma, my mom, my own sewing from jr. high on, my sister’s sewing (my wedding dress, Easter outfits for Jenna, etc.), Jenna’s sewing, etc.
I have pieces of fabric from one of the first dresses I ever sewed for myself, pajamas I made when the kids were little, shirts I made for the boys and dresses I made for Jenna. I have a piece of fabric from a robe I made and wore in the hospital when Eric was born. I have scrap pieces from shirts my grandma made for herself and from dresses and shirts my mom made for herself. In my mind, I can picture each and every article of clothing and the person who wore it. I am supplementing with fabric I’ve purchased that triggers a memory for me – a piece of fabric with pictures of chocolate chip cookies (because Jason loved to make chocolate chip cookies), video games the kids used to love, chess pieces (Jason’s favorite game), math quotes, etc.
One thing I terribly regret is not keeping more of Jason’s clothing. I’ve talked before about feeling pushed to go through his room before I was ready and how I would do things differently if I knew then what I know now. I kept a couple of shirts, his letterman jacket, a sweater and a sweatshirt he wore all the time. I have a Halloween costume I made when Jason was little, a white tee shirt and one with the Pillsbury dough boy that he loved. I’m not sure I actually have the courage to cut them up to put into my quilt. I also have a couple of Jason’s hats that he loved as a little boy.
Jason didn’t have a lot of clothes and, even though he was a tee shirt kind of guy, he always looked classy. He loved dressing up in three piece suits, white shirt and tie, dress slacks and a vest, a tux and his top hat, white gloves and cane for extra-special occasions. I have his hats and gloves, although the cane was lost somewhere along the way.
This week I sat hugging his letterman jacket and crying. It’s a tough time of year for me, this approach to March 3rd. Hugging a coat is a poor substitute for hugging my boy.
Missing you, Jason. I love you.
© 2018 Rebecca R. Carney
I came down with that nasty flu bug a week ago. It hit me hard and then went into pneumonia. About the only place I have been out of the house for the past week has been to go to either urgent care or to the emergency room. It’s left me totally miserable, with barely enough energy to take a shower some mornings. Add on top of that that I had “ice pick” headaches nonstop in addition to a horrible “regular” nonstop headache for the first five days, it’s about put me at my max. (Ice pick headaches are just what they sound like – horrible, sharp headaches that feel like someone is hitting your head with an ice pick.)
My husband and I are not ones to just sit around the house. We like to go and do things. We don’t watch tv during the day. Because I grew up without a tv until I was in high school, I max out on tv fairly quickly. But, because of being so sick, let’s just say there’s been a lot of sitting and laying around the house on my part. I’ve been napping when I felt tired, which I suppose is what I need to do, but it’s messed up my sleeping schedule some. I’ve been waking up at night and my mind won’t shut off.
Last night, I woke up thinking of Jason. Not that he’s ever far from my thoughts, but the pictures and vignettes of things we used to do played clearly in rapid succession. My cuddly little baby boy. High energy toddler. Determined little guy. Loving hugger. Oh, how I wanted to step back into that time and hold that little guy in my arms. I started crying and couldn’t stop.
Oh, how I miss you, my boy.
© 2018 Rebecca R. Carney
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.
© 2017 Rebecca R. Carney
“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
© 2017 Rebecca R. Carney