It’s that time of the year again. We are finishing up a year and looking back at our highs and lows. We are also gearing up for a new year. The idea of a new year takes on a different meaning when you have lost a child. You have that sense of dread knowing that it is once again another year your child is not a part of. It’s one more year you have to work, struggle, and climb that mountain so that their memory is staying strong.
It is also another year of opportunities. I will have 365 new chances to tell people about Drew. 365 more days to show people that his memory matters. Drew Alexander Lighthall mattered and will always matter while I have breath in my body. I plan on finding “joy” in telling people about Drew. I will find “joy” in growing Smiles. I will find “joy” in the everyday moments in my life.
Joy will be my word for 2019. I will embrace the joy that being Drew’s mother gave me and still gives me. When the idea of the word joy coming into my life I felt like it was a paradox with the idea of grief. What I have found out that for me to survive this journey I need to be able to find that joy deep inside me, the joy I buried deep when I lost Drew. I will feel the pain of losing Drew to my core but he would want nothing more than to know that I can still feel his love and know that I will have Joy once again. The pain will not go away but I am hoping that I can remember Drew with more smiles to my face than tears in my eyes. I am sure that there will be many time that I will have both at the same time.
Grief and Joy are like the ultimate Yin/Yang. To have the chasm of grief that you have with losing a child there will always be the joy that they were and are yours. They will always be with you.
“The more unfelt grief we carry, the less we are able to feel joy. And because we often turn away from our grief in the pursuit of more joy, it follows that trying to always feel joy has the exact opposite result.” https://theunlockedheart.com/blog/2018/2/12/the-yinyang-dance-of-grief-and-joy
I challenge you to choose a word for the coming year. Choose a word that maybe you need to keep reminding yourself to do more, be better. To all those that are grieving remember it’s ok to have the joy with the grief. Celebrate the wonderful people that were in your lives, celebrate that you were honored to have them and experience the joy.
Tomorrow will be the day that all this hard work will pay off for Smiles From Drew. Tomorrow will be opening ceremonies for the Santa Fe YAFL. All the planning and bugging people to buy things. People will finally be able to see what it has all gone to. They will be able to see the smiles on these boys faces and finally see what I have been trying to do.
What I have noticed though is that giving is addicting. Once you get that feeling of love coming from you to another person for no other reason than for them to be happy you get hooked. I want to do more. I don’t want to stop at football. I have always thought that if a child would like to do something you should foster that. The sad part is that for whatever reason that can be hard at times. Drew loved sports, I’m not entirely sure where he got that from bur if a ball was involved he gravitated towards it. It would never fail just when I thought we would get a breather from games and practices he would come walking in with another permission slip that he wanted me to sign so he could play whatever was next.
The rules were simple if you wanted to play you had to keep your grades up and you had to finish what you started. If you chose something you did not like that’s ok, you know not to sign up for it the next time. You weren’t allowed to quit in the middle of a season just cause you thought it was hard. Life is hard and following through is a skill you will need when you are in the real world. Like I said before, Drew did about every sport there is. There were some sports that he did not care for at all and there were sports and activities he did to impress a girl. Football happened to be the one he liked the most. Drew was a big guy and had always been bigger than his class mates. When he was on the football field it didn’t matter. He wasn’t different. He was a part of a team and he loved it.
I asked him one time why he liked football so much, what was it about football he liked. He said “Mom, football is like chess. You got to know what your opponent is thinking before he does it.” Drew was really good at using his mind to solve puzzles and I could see him figuring things out while on the field. It was a good match for him. Just because football was his true love that didn’t stop him from doing other sports. He did basketball, he really liked playing it but he was slow. With the way his mind worked though he was a really good shooter. He could figure out all that angles and directions so he knew where he needed to get the ball into. He did basketball all through elementary and some middle school. Then there was baseball. I’m not sure he really liked baseball but he loved being out on the field. He loved being around his friends and he loved the sunflower seeds. He was just as content to be singing songs in the dug out as he was hitting the ball. I’m pretty sure he only played baseball so he could socialize more with his friends. And boy did he socialize.
I hope sometime soon his friends and team-mates will be able to tell some of the stories of Drew. I would love for all our Smiles supporters to get to know him. He was such a good kid. He was so funny and he loved to make people laugh. He was at his best when the people around him were happy. He would tell me all the time “Just Love Me…” in a voice only he could do. Drew, I will love you and I will always love you. I will work hard for people to know you even if it’s only from stories. You are worth people knowing.
If you would like to know about Smiles From Drew or would like to help you can visit our Facebook page Pay it Forward for Drew Lighthall/Smiles From Drew or visit our website at http://www.smilesfromdrew.org. Thank you to everyone that has helped us get this far and thank to everyone that will help us get farther.
Drew playing pumpkin basketbakk
Drew’s Beautiful Smile
I haven’t written a post in a long time. I think I have been trying to keep myself super busy that way I don’t have time to think of all I have lost this year. Wow….it’s almost been a year. This has been the longest year of my life and the shortest. I have been dreading the year anniversary. It is just one more step where I have to acknowledge the finality of Drew not being here. I still have a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that he is not just somewhere visiting or at school. There are some days I even imagine him in all these great places this past year. I sometimes imagine he got his dream job and he is travelling all around the world. Those moments make me happy till reality smacks me in the face and I remember how far from the truth that is.
In the beginning writing the blog helped me. It got all the swirling thoughts of mine out and not trapped in my head. Writing about him, about our before’s and writing about our after’s do take a toll on me. I’ve been trying to write this entry for well over a week. There are so many things that I need to say and so many things that I feel the only way to convey them is through writing them down. Grief is a long and lonely road. Even if you have people on the same path as you, the journey is never the same. No one ever loved Drew the way I did and do. I don’t mean that as I was the only one that loved him, I mean that my love for him is not the same as his grandmother’s, sisters, or anyone else. That is the great thing about love, it’s like a fingerprint, each love is unique and made just for that one person. It doesn’t mean one is better than the other it is just different. No one will know what it is like to feel his heartbeat inside them. No one will ever know the feel of him growing from the inside out.
Drew was so very special and lucky that so many people loved him and the great thing about him was that each person loved him for a different reason. He could be so many different things to each person. He adapted and somehow unconsciously knew what each person needed from him. Whether that was his soft fuzzy side or his funny goofy side. Looking back he was a chameleon of sorts. He was very intuitive as to what people needed from him and he was able to provide it. It’s a rare trait for someone to be able to know what you need and be able to give it. When I talk to people that have been touched by Drew in his short 20 years that is what I am most amazed about. I always knew he was a great kid. I knew he had a heart of gold and would give his shirt of his back, but it’s been so nice to hear the amount of love and joy he gave to people just because.
Now that we have hit a huge landmark in this “after” I worry that I will forget the little things. I worry I will forget what his laugh sounds like and how his dimple in his cheek would be more pronounced when he was fibbing. I worry that I will forget what his hugs felt like and just the amount of loved that oozed off that boy. I tried telling someone my fears a few weeks ago and they scoffed at the idea. They told me that I wouldn’t forget that I am just worrying myself over nothing. What they don’t understand is that my memory sucks. I have such a hard time remembering things that happened last week much less several years ago. My mind just shoves all the stuff it feels like I’m done with and dumps it. I am then left with the Cliff Notes of my life and memories. I don’t want the Cliff Notes of Drew I want the whole novel. I want to remember ever detail. I want to remember every smell. I don’t want to forget it. I know I will remember quite a bit but that’s just not enough. I want to selfish, I want it all. That is why I like to hear other people tell me about Drew. I like to hear things about him that maybe I didn’t know. I’m hope I am tricking my brain into not dumping those.
As I finish writing this post it has hit midnight…it’s been one year since my Drew died. It’s been one year of tears, struggles, and heartache. My hope is that people can remember Drew and all the great things that he was. I hope that I can be a strong enough memory keeper for him. I hope that my lose of my beautiful boy will turn into great things for others. Keep telling me and others your stories of Drew. As long as his name is on out lips he will never be truly gone.
I just need one more moment with Drew. I don’t have nearly enough pictures. I don’t have nearly enough moments with him. I need more. I want more. I wasn’t done making our moments. If I had known that my time was so short I would have done more. I would have said more. I would have savored the moments I had left. I know they say hindsight is 20/20 and all that but I truly feel it now. I feel to my bones the moments I missed because I didn’t understand that I wouldn’t have more. I had already started feeling that the time with your children was short from them growing up on you. I just never thought it would be cut so short.
Today had me really missing my boy. It was beautiful weather and I could hear him asking me if I had any food he could take fishing. He would have called me asking me if I had any money. I would be OK with another phone call of him asking for money. Never in a million years would I have thought that I would have no more moments with Drew. I would have never thought that I had all I was ever going to get. Drew was getting to the point in his life where he was doing more and more on his own. I tried not to be an overbearing mother and call him all the time. I thought that if he needed or wanted me he would reach out. I thought I was trying to give him wings. If I had known he wasn’t going to be here I would have called so I could just hear his voice. It’s a strange thing as a parent when your children start growing up and becoming adults. You want them to know that you are there for them but you want them to be able to do things on their own.
We would tease Drew that he was going to build us a basement just so he could live in our basement. He came home from college because he got homesick. I wondered how that poor boy was going to make it as an adult. I prayed that he would find his way and that he learned the things he needed to be a great adult. I was just starting to get glimpses of the man he was going to be. He would have made a great husband. He really wanted kids. He would have been a fantastic father. Seeing how he was with Molly I had no doubt of how great of a Dad he would have been. He just really loved seeing all the milestones she would hit. I think he got more excited about some of them than I did. If he had one more moment we would get to see the gleam in his eyes when he played with his own children. If he had one more moment he would have found his path and started his great big journey of life.
Madison and Drew are 4 years apart. Drew was rough with Madison. We would say that there were times when love from Drew hurt. They would fight, they both wanted what the other had. Last June, the kids went on a road trip to Oklahoma. I noticed that when they came back that their relationship was changing. They were maturing and being able to see each other as friends and not competitors. As a mother it was a great thing to see it warmed my heart so much. If we had one more moment they would have time to nurture their new found friendship. If we had a one more moment they would have time to realize that they are on the same team and working for the same goals and be able to enjoy each other. Madison deserves more moments with her brother. She needs more moments of him making sure the people she dates is treating her well. She deserves more moments of him taking her driving because it’s nicer for him to do it than when Mom does it.
I can think of so many reasons why we need one more moment. The biggest reason is I miss him. I miss his face, his voice, his being a pain in the butt. I miss all of it and I need one more moment.
Drew and Molly
Drew and Madi at Water World in Denver.
Drew helping Molly swim