I’m not sure what brought it on but Tuesday I felt like I had been covered in this heavy blanket of grief. I was sitting at my computer at work and realized I had tears running down my face. I really can’t pinpoint the “trigger” for this it was just the overwhelming feeling of missing my boy. I came home that night and my wonderful husband and Molly Moo Moo had made me a cake. I hadn’t even told them that I was feeling an emotional wreck.
So many of his friends are getting married, having kids, and starting their careers. They are adults now. Life goes on but Drew is forever 20. He will always be in that grey area of teenage-hood and adulthood. He never got to get his first apartment or his first “new” car. When I think of these things I really realize how much we lost with losing Drew.
Thursday I was just having a hard day, my lupus was flaring up and I just was in pain. I left work early so I could go home and take a warm bath and try to feel better. On my way home I had to stop at Tractor Supply so I could get some adhesive bandages to wrap my hands in. Madison had told me a few days before that we needed to get the cats a different cat food that doesn’t have grain in it. The food she wanted to get them was quite expensive and I thought to myself that I would just check the prices of the food at Tractor Supply. I go to the cat food aisle and sitting right there on the shelf with the cat food was this stuffed animal squirrel, and it just happen to be sitting on the cheapest bag of grain free food. I stood in the aisle what seemed like forever just staring at this squirrel. There weren’t any other stuffed animals around that area. Just this lone squirrel on top of the cat food. After my initial shock of seeing this squirrel, I broke out into the biggest smile. I realized this squirrel was not there by accident. This squirrel was put there as sign from my awesome boy. He knew I needed to feel him near me.
Of course I bought this squirrel and brought him home. I set him on the counter and laid down in bed. Randall and Molly came home and Molly “checked” in on my me. Then she went to the kitchen and noticed the squirrel. She was so happy to have her own “Bubba” squirrel. The “Bubba” squirrels name is Fuzzy Wuzzy. It’s funny after I would cut Drew’s hair, I would rub his head and call him my Fuzzy Wuzzy. So that 1 stuffed squirrel gave me the feeling of Drew near me but also gave Molly a connection to her brother.
I was walking into work on Friday and there were quite a few people walking in also. This lady was walking out and the gentleman asked her where she was going. She hollered over her shoulder that her kids school just called and they were closing because of the snow. I asked him “she said her kids school was closing”, as I had just dropped Molly off at school. He said yea but she lives up North. I told him Molly goes to Turquoise Trail and I will have to keep an eye on whether they will close early. He mentioned his kids go to Nina Otero and they don’t usually close early. He then tells me he coaches one of the basketball teams there. I then proceed to tell him about Smiles From Drew. I tell him what we do to help the kids participate in sports and activities. I look for a card for Smiles to give to him. I tell him that we want to help more of the kids that wouldn’t ever think of joining a sport because of the money. The gentleman tells me about a little boy on his team that is like that and that he doesn’t even have shoes but he is the hardest working player on his team. Without even I thought I tell him Smiles From Drew will buy him a pair of basketball shoes.
Before Drew died I would have tossed all these encounters as just chance and with no meaning. I know all the way to my marrow that my Awesome Boy wanted me to me this man and he wanted me to talk to him and he wanted me to help this boy. They are not chance encounters. They are moments my boy is engineering so that I know what I am doing has a purpose and that what Smiles does is important. It’s important to not only to my emotional well being but it’s important to the kid we help.
I always knew my boy was destined for greatness. I would tell him all the time from the moment I held him at birth that he was going to do something great in this world. How little did I know that he wouldn’t be here to see it but he sure still has his hand in the making of it. Since I never think at the time how we are going to do what we do for the kids, I need to figure out how to pay for basketball shoes. I know that it will happen and all work out the way it is supposed to.
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.
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.
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.