August 5, 2015 was……
2 years 6 months
For me it feels like that Alan Jackson song “Where were you when the world stopped turning”. This is the date my world stopped turning. The date is etched deeply on my soul. I remember exactly what I was doing when my Mom’s neighbor called me. I knew from the tone of his voice something was wrong. I never once thought it would be Drew.
I think back to the few days before he died often. They go over and over in my head. I have people tell me “it’s not your fault. How could you have known?” Well I was his mother, I should have known. I carried him in my womb for 9 months and parented him for 20 years. I should have known. I should have known I only had a few more I love yous. I should have known we only had a limited supply of his hugs. I should have known that the last time was the last time. I would have slowed down. I would have really looked. I would have memorized the look in his eye. I would have held on and not let him go. Did I say good things to him before or did I do the nagging mother thing? Did I tell him how much he meant to me? Or did I just assume he knew.
Life takes hold of you and there are days that the only thing you can do is get through it. I hope I am better at doing those things more now with Madison and Molly. I hope they know how much they mean to me because I have told them and showed them. I stare at them trying to memorize their face in case anything happens to them.
I just can’t believe it’s been 2 1/2 years since I saw Drew for the last time. I miss him so badly that there are times I cannot breath. I feel as if one of my limbs has been removed and I don’t know why. The path of child loss is a hard one. It is unpredictable, it is painful, and it is lonely. Working with Smiles From Drew helps but there are days that not much helps it just is…..2 years 6 months ago.
I sit down at the computer to write and my mind wanders. It wanders to all corners that are buffered. I hide from the edges, the edges hurt. The edges of my thoughts cut right to my core. We started another year, which to a parent that has lost a child it is one more year that your child is not a part of. It’s more family moments they aren’t a part of. I dread the start of the year.
There are so many milestones happening this year. Madison will graduate high school. She has fought hard to get to that point. Not only with the loss of her brother but with her learning disabilities. Drew would have been in those stands cheering as loud as he could for her. He would have surprised her with something sweet like flowers or a Manga book. Even though they fought like brother and sister they sure did love each other.
I imagine he would want to give her advice on what not to do in college. Lord knows he learned those lessons the hard way. He would tell her to pick classes in the afternoon so she didn’t have to get up early for classes. I imagine all the other life lessons he would tell her, and I am pretty sure it wouldn’t be the advice I would give her. Madi would listen and laugh, knowing the stories of Drew in college. She would look up to her big brother and give him a big hug. She would know that when the going got tough she would be able to call him. These are the moments that won’t happen. They just happen in my mind.
Molly will start kindergarten this year. She was 2 when her brother died. He so would have loved to walk her to her class on the first day of school. I imagine he would hold her pink backpack with pride and bend down and whisper something in her ear so she isn’t scared. She would give him that shy smile of hers knowing her big brother has her back. I am sure he whispered that if anyone messed with her to tell them that she has the best big brother and they wouldn’t want to mess with him. I imagine that at her first performance he would be there and clap so loud after she finished singing. She would never doubt how much her big brother loved her.
But sadly, these moments are all made up in my mind. They are my “happy” place. They won’t happen and when the moment hits me and I realize they won’t, I cry. I will be there for all those moments. So happy for all the achievements of my girls but in my mind I am thinking of how much Drew is missing. How much the girls are missing without him here. So you see, it’s not just a new year starting that makes it so hard for us with children that have gone ahead of us to the gates of Heaven, it’s all those moments we know they would have been there for that they aren’t. It’s all the memories that you hold on to for dear life because you don’t want to forget a single thing. One more year……..
You find that when you have lost a child you grab all the life preservers you can. Whether at that time a life preserver is just going into you daughters’ rooms at night to stare at them to make sure they aren’t going anywhere. It doesn’t matter how old my children get I love to watch them sleep and see that peaceful look on their faces. You look at them and you realize why you are working so hard to stay afloat.
You grab a book for a moment as a life preserver so you can get lost in the story and try not to relive the story that keeps replaying in your head. I have always loved to read but there are times now that I have to read so that I can get the visions of my last moments with Drew out of the repeat cycle.
You keep yourself really busy…..you find more projects, more work, more things to keep your hands and mind off where it really wants to go. I work full time. I go to school for media arts. I run a non-profit and I sell LipSense to help fund it. There are some days I am not even sure what day of the week it is.
These are my life preservers for the moment. It may not be forever. Eventually I will have to look at all this head on but for the moment I am going to stay afloat with my life preservers.
The few things you learn in child loss is there is no normal path. Everyone grieves different and each situation makes you feel different. I never know how something it going to affect me until it affects me.
Yesterday was just one of those days that I should have just stayed in bed. I ended up being 15 minutes late to work. You can’t be late with my boss. There are no excuses she feels is valid. I knew when I walked in she was going to be upset so I was hoping to just duck and cover. Nope that wasn’t going to happen. She was already upset that I was late and then she started looking for other reasons to be mad at me all day. Every time I would leave my desk I would find these passive aggressive notes on my desk, “where was your head when you were typing this” “do we need to teach you the alphabet again so you can get the files in the right place”, it just went on and on. Most of the mistakes she found were things that she was working on and not me but at that point there was no way I was going to point that out.
Finally the end of the day came I had decided I was going to drown my frustration in a cup of coffee and a donut. I walked into Dunkin Donuts and the just the smell was already making me feel better. I got my coffee and just 1 chocolate frosted donut (with sprinkles) and found me a seat near the window so I could just sit for a bit and people watch. That was my first mistake.
I’m sitting there and 3 teenagers walk in. Two boys and a girl, they look like they are about 16 or 17 and are enjoying that they have the freedom to go to Dunkin at 5 in the evening without a parent. You could just feel the excitement flowing off of them. There were a few people ahead of them so they were bantering back and forth, the boys being more vocal than the girl. One of the boys starting telling his friends that he wanted 2 of everything, then he said no he wants 6 of everything and started laughing. The girl told him that it wouldn’t surprise her if he ate that much cause he was a bottomless pit. They finally get to the counter to order and they sit down at the table next to me. I look over and the girl had 1 single donut and a frozen coffee drink. The boys sit down with this box and a couple of carton of milk. I turn my head to look at them when I notice the “bottomless pit boy” is super excited that he is practically drooling. I look and the boys have the biggest donut I have ever seen in my life. they are laughing and trying to figure out how to eat it. That is when all of sudden this wave of sadness overcame me and I realized I was crying. Not just a few tiny tears but big fat crocodile tears.
I was crying because I could totally see Drew and his friends being this excited over a donut. I could see them betting each other who would eat the most before they got sick. I’m not entirely sure Drew would have wanted to share that donut with anyone but I could see he and his friends having their own and seeing who could eat it the fastest. That thought brought me to a memory of the time Drew decided to join a pie eating contest.
It was around Halloween time and we had gone out to the Horse Park to their annual Harvest Festival and he decided he wanted to do the pumpkin pie eating contest. The lady that was doing the introduction said that the most pies ever eaten were 6 and if anyone beat that they would win a grand prize. That was all Drew needed to hear. Game was on. He just knew he could eat 6 pies no problem! He loved pumpkin pie. He sits at the table with the other pie eaters, Madison being one also, and starts in on his first one. He gobbles that pie up so fast, they give him another one. He starts devouring that one. I’m thinking to myself he better pace himself or he’s going to make himself sick. I do believe pie eating contests are a time slow and steady is the course to take. They put the third one in front of him and I see the color to start changing in his face. He looks like he is getting a little paler..his bites aren’t quite as voracious…his movements get a little slower. He finishes and they put number 4 in front of him. At this point there is only 2 people left in this contest an older gentlemen that looks like he has done this a time or two and Drew. By this time, Drew is starting to look green, I think the announcer started to see that too because I see that she had gone to go get the trashcan and bring it closer to Drew. He is probably not quite halfway into the fourth pie when it was almost like that scene in Stand by Me……thankfully the whole crowd didn’t start throwing up with him too.
After it was all over and he didn’t win the big prize I asked him if he would ever eat pumpkin pie again. He said of course it’s my favorite, you don’t get rid of your favorite just cause it made you sick once.
This is why life is so strange that memory came as clear as day because I saw two teenage boys excited over a donut. Life is strange because I will never have another memory to add to this one. Life is strange because I will never be able to tell his children all his crazy stories.