14 Days of Joy came about like everything else I have thought of since Drew died, in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep. It was about a month before his 1st anniversary (which is a really bad word for that day) and I felt like I was drowning. I was drowning in my pain, my what if’s, and what should be’s . I felt this frantic feeling in my chest and had no idea if I was going to survive the tolling of the calendar. I feel like I may know what someone on Death Row may feel like.
When you lose a child the passing of everyday is like one more step farther away from your child. You have all those moments that have happened between on August to the other. My mind was racing, my heart was not in my control and I knew that if I didn’t do something it was not going to end well with me. I looked back on the things we had done the past year in Drew’s memory and all the people I was able to tell about my sweet boy and I smiled. Then it came to me….if I purposefully got out of my own head for awhile I may just may be able to handle that dreaded 1 year mark. As with anything (at least for me) the leading up to a day is much worse than the actual day. That’s when I came up with the idea to spread joy to at least 1 person. It was a goal…it was something my brain could fixate on instead of not having Drew. That was the start of 14 Days of Joy.
Here it is that time again and we are doing our 3rd 14 Days of Joy. This project is so much more personal for me than Smiles and Smiles is pretty darn personal. 14 Days of Joy is my lifeline, it helps me give myself to others so that I am not so broken inside. It really doesn’t take much to do this project with me. You would be surprised as to how the joys come about without you even realizing. Helping someone with putting their groceries in the car, holding a door open for someone, letting someone go in front of you at the store. Do these things purposefully, with joy in your heart and you will feel a lifting in your own spirit.
Everyone could use some joy in their lives, we never know what people are facing alone. Let them know at least for a moment they are not alone. My hope is one day that more and more people know about 14 Days of Joy. They know that it was started because of my beautiful blue eyed son and when they see the momentum they smile. They smile because nothing would make my heart so happy as to see others do this with me and they smile because they brought joy to someone else and the circle is unbroken.
So I ask you from July 21- August 4, 2018 go out and do something to bring joy to others. It’s ok if you get strange looks, it’s ok if others don’t understand your why. Do something for someone else. When you do use the hashtag #14daysofjoy2018 and #smilesfromdrew https://www.facebook.com/smilesfromdrew Follow the hashtag and see how others are bringing joy. So my question to you is…….
I have been trying to write this post for several months. I wanted to write about my wonderful Madison. I try not to write too much about Madi and Molly because I’m not sure how much they want out there. Molly is too young to really tell me and Madi is pretty private. We have had a year of some many milestones and it makes me realize how much Madi’s life has changed in the last 5 1/2 years.
Madi had always been the youngest child. I am pretty sure it wasn’t easy being a little sister to the rough brother love of Drew. When he was younger his idea of affection towards her was wrestling or putting her in a headlock till she gave in. Drew also heard quite often “don’t make your sister cry”. I’m pretty sure she milked that factor a time or 2 to see if she could just get him in trouble. Madi was 4 years younger than Drew so he had been in sports practically her whole life. We would have to bundle her up and take her to one ball field or another. She usually didn’t mind because most practices and games there was a park near by. She was happiest when she could run free and play like the wind. And if you weren’t careful she would wander off and the cops would have to be called. Madi was my Houdini. It’s always a balance with being a mother to more than one child. You have to make sure each child gets the attention and love they need. Drew was the one who was always busy doing something whether that was sports, friends, or fishing but Madi was the baby. She was my curly haired princess and she basked in that space.
Then she started school and was in the same school as he was in. She was kindergarten and he was a “big” kid in the 4th grade. Before school started she loved the idea of being in the same school as Drew. She really did idolize her big brother. As school went on she was always categorized as “Drew’s sister”. She would tell people “you know I have a name and it’s not Drew’s sister”. Drew and Madi are and were completely different people. If you have more than 1 child you understand how different each child could be. It’s one of the great things about having more than 1 child is how each of their personalities is exactly what your family needs. Madi wasn’t a fan of participating in sports. She didn’t care for being surrounded by lots of people but she did love pestering her brother just so he would pay more attention to her. And she loved getting him in trouble because he was “mean” to her. I would tell him to quit picking on her and ever once in awhile I would catch her little smirk.
For 14 years Madi was the youngest of our family. All that changed when we were surprised with Molly coming. Poor thing, not only did she lose her place as “baby” she was starting middle school too. Oh Madi was so good with Molly. When Molly was super little and she would cry Madi would sing to her the song Soft Kitty and Molly would just look up to her big sister with wonder and quiet down. Even though Madi was no longer the baby in the family I think she was happy to be a big sister. We saw a softer side of Madi and I think in some ways she surprised herself. That is the point Madi became a “middle” child. She had her big brother who was trying to find his way in the world and had a new sister that she had to be patient with.
On August 5, 2015, her life had another major change. We found out her brother had had died and everything that we knew was different. The family was grieving and she was thrust into the role of being the “oldest” child. She helped with Molly and tried her best not to “make it harder” on me. Sibling loss is something all on its own. Drew was the only other person who knew her since the day she was born. The only other person who
would know what it was like in your childhood. She lost that connection when he died. Sibling loss is usually an overshadowed grief. People wanting to show their support to the family in a time of loss usually focus that attention on the parent that lost the child and not the sibling that lost a best friend and worst enemy all in one. I think in some ways Madi felt like it was her job not to be sad so I wouldn’t be more sad. She still doesn’t really like talking about her feelings of losing Drew but I hope one day she will feel comfortable to talk to someone about it. My hope for Madi is that one day she will be able to come to terms with her feeling of losing Drew and how it has impacted her life. I hope one day she can look back and remember that he loved her dearly, even if at time it didn’t seem like it. I hope one day she can reminiscence and smile with all her memories.
There is no better time than now to get that good camera. There will be a time when you want to look back at those pictures of your children, whether you are lucky enough to look back at them when they are grown or whether you look back at them because that is all you have left of your child.
You don’t want those pictures to be blurry, dark, and just bad quality. That is my problem now that I go back through pictures of Drew and Madison when they were little.
I didn’t realize the importance of it. When they were little we didn’t have digital cameras so you had to buy the camera, buy the film, and try to remember to develop it. You didn’t get to look at the pictures before you just rolled the dice and hoped your kids didn’t take too many pictures of the ceiling or up their nose. I have lots of pictures of Madison’s nose.
I don’t have many pictures of me with the kids. Either we were in places that we couldn’t get anyone to take our picture or they kept me too busy to even bother. It’s quite sad really when you think about it, I have 20 years with Drew and maybe a handful of pictures of him and I together.
Today, almost all of us have a camera on our phone. It makes it so much easier to get those moments that you wouldn’t have been able to get before. Those look at me Mom moments of them hanging upside down or doing something for the first time. The problem with having all these pictures on the phone is that we don’t do anything with them. I have hundreds of pictures just sitting in “the cloud”. My goal for this year is to make some photo-books with some of the pictures. Take all those pictures I’ve been taking and put them somewhere where we can look back at them in 10, 20, or even 30 years from now.
So buy that camera. It’s worth the money. Don’t worry that you take too many pictures. It’s OK. Get that selfie stick, ask someone to take pictures of you with the kids. You will miss it when you realize that you don’t have any pictures of you with them. As moms we are always doing for others but do these few things and it keeps the memories alive. Print them out. Savor them. Enjoy them so you can remember when.
It’s 8 days till Drew’s 23rd birthday. I won’t get to sing happy birthday, I won’t be able to make a cake, I won’t be able to hear him making fun of me for having a “kid” that is so old. Oh and how would he have made fun of me. He would have been 23….wow. That is full on adult-hood.
It’s the 3rd birthday without Drew. It’s hard to believe that it’s been that long without him. I am sure I have mentioned this before but when Drew moved in with his other parent his freshman year, I thought my life was ending. I thought the few months without seeing him would break my heart. At the time it did break my heart. I felt like he was choosing the other parent over me. I got to talk to him all the time and he would call me, as he would say “just to hear my voice and say I love ya Mama”. I would send him care packages and make my list of things I would cook for him when he came home. He stayed with that parent for a year but it didn’t go well and my heart was happy once again. I had my baby back.
I will admit I was one of those moms that cried and lamented on Facebook when Drew was going to college. How was I going to last when I would only see him on holidays and breaks. I was so proud that he was taking this huge step and going out-of-town for school and I was also nervous for the change. I knew that once he left for school my boy would leave the nest and life as we knew it would be different. Life did change but I got to talk to him once a week. I would talk to him more when he wanted money or for me to send him his Amazon supplies. I still missed him terribly but it was bearable and I even got used to not having him around all the time. My heart was happy because I knew he was happy, healthy, and doing what he needed to do grow up and become his own person. I had that sense of peace in my mind because I knew deep down that everything would be OK.
Then one day it wasn’t OK and life changed completely. Drew was really gone and I couldn’t just pick up the phone to text him (he never answered his phone). I couldn’t just swing by and check on him. I was blindsided by the pain that I once thought I knew. I didn’t. I didn’t have a clue and unless the unimaginable has happened you won’t know. We worry about our children but there is always that part in the back of your brain that tells you all will be well. It was my safe place. Now I know that losing a child can happen and it is real and it is painful.
These are the thoughts that go through my mind as the calendar inches closer to his birthday. The thought that I can’t just pick up the phone and call him just breaks my heart all over again. I can’t listen to his stories of his day and all the adventures that went with that. People change so much in 3 years and I start to wonder what he would be doing now. I look at the kids (young adults) that are around his age now and see all the wonderful things that are happening. They are graduating from college, getting married, starting a family, and finding their way in this world. All their parents hopes and dreams helping them navigate this world. Unfortunately, for Drew all I have is the ticktock of the clock as time keeps going on without him.