Sunday, September 21, 2014

Today I wear red shoes

Last night we gathered to in support of the Biker's extended family. We honored a young husband, father, son whose life ended abruptly when living became too much to bear. The pain was deep, the understanding little, the friends and loved ones many. As I walked away last night I wanted to take my boots off, and curl up in a fetal position with a blanket and pillow. Instead the Biker and I picked up pizza and went to our own little family. The Biker played with the littlest one. I put together a jigsaw puzzle with my Mama and my kyds. We did normal things.  Normal is so far away from the family in the center of this tragedy. That road had ended and the one they now travel long and treacherous.

Today we will gather again to stand with them as they say farewell. And I wear red shoes for courage.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Following Your Footsteps

Down the cold and winter night road
Daddy speeding, Mama panting, down the cold and winter night road
Flashing lights and wailing sirens follow down the long cold winter night road
Such a hurry to start running
Running down your little life road.
Running, leaping, flying footsteps down your little life road.

One big brother, built in best friend
You the younger, he the older, 
Leaves behind his books and pencils, his beloved books and pencils 
Leaves behind his books and pencils
You the younger yet he follows
Follows flying over bike jumps, building high and leafy tree forts
Follows running, flying over bike jumps, leaping, climbing in the tree forts.

Little sister, almost twin sister
Chanting chicken soup with rice
"Going once, going twice, going chicken soup with rice"
Hand in hand, side by side chanting chicken soup with rice
Follows in your gift of friendship
Your sweet and twinkling gift of friendship
Finding, making, loving, keeping sweet and twinkling friendship.

Little brothers follow with their tiny footsteps
Follow with their tiny toddler footsteps
With their tiny trusting toddler footsteps
Riding high upon your shoulders
Riding high and safe upon your shoulders
Riding, laughing, flying safe upon your small and sturdy shoulders.

Down the hot and summer night road
Flashing lights and wailing sirens down the hot and summer night road
Follow flashing lights and sirens down the long hot summer night road
He is gone. Where shall we send him?
Send him down that road to heaven
Down that road of light to heaven
Down that road of light and love to heaven.
We will follow in your footsteps
In your running, leaping footsteps.
In your running, leaping, flying footsteps that lead us straight to God.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

And I am okay.

Twenty-three years ago at the end of a long, hot summer Saturday God called the Runner home. And long, hot summer day turned to long, dark winter night. At first it started on Friday night in anticipation of Saturday and I would not sleep until the wee hours of Sunday morning. As time went on it was the twentieth of the month that would send me spinning. Then as the years passed it became July, sometimes just the long hot summer days that would set me off. For years I hated summer. Yes, I hated summer. Summer was out of control.  Summer was fear. Summer was paranoid thoughts flashing in my mind unbidden. Summer was some untoward thing just waiting to happen. Last year was over the top, worse than ever, maybe because it was just so long, hot summer. The Biker and I were getting ready to head south on the bike and my head was a jumble of paranoid and untoward thoughts. I did not want to go. I did not want to stay home. We left on a long, hot July day. A few miles from home the bike broke a belt. We had to go back and start over. While the Biker did repairs I did prayers calling in reinforcements from a few trusted prayer warriors. The next morning we headed out. The jumble of paranoid, untoward clouds over me lifted and I was okay. It was still a long, hot summer day but I was okay.

This year as summer approached I wondered if I would be okay. I wonder every year and every year I think. yeah, this year I will be alright and every year I was not alright and once again I hated summer. But this year, praise God, I am alright. Yes, twenty-three years and I am okay. Today is a long, hot summer day. We went to Hillside Cemetery after lunch and released balloons. We each chose our favorite color. The wind carried them away and I am okay. All my fear, and hate and paranoia has truly been carried away on the wings of prayer. He is still gone and we still miss him but I am okay.

Ninja Turtle Green
Purple for Royalty
Pink for Sister
Blue for Because
Orange Woody for Uncle Leroy
and Red for Courage

Friday, July 4, 2014

Farewell Yellow Ribbon

In 2007 our Memorial Day celebration changes though we celebrate just the same as we always do: two parades and a visit to the memory stone up on the hill.  It changes everything when you know your two middle children plan to go the next morning to sign on the dotted line to join the United States military. And sign they do. She leaves in September. Mama grieves. Daddy cannot understand because he is so proud he is busting his buttons until the day it dawns on him that she is actually leaving.  Christmas that year changes too. We have our traditional Christmas Brunch twice. He leaves for boot camp five days before she comes home for Christmas. Mama grieves. The first the yellow ribbon is on the mail box and more on the Christmas tree.

Oh, the places we go...
Road tripping to boot camp. Parade in Review. Mama's heart beats a proud cadence: "We are the Navy, the mighty, mighty Navy...". The next time we fly. Great Lakes in February is mighty, mighty cold.

A year in Monterey at the Presidio. Mama misses out but a special someone makes it there. A Sweet Sailor comes home to get married. Foregoing yellow we beribbon the church in blue and brown.  The Biker extends his annual bike ride south all the way to Pensacola to take a sailor to dinner. We celebrate a Hawaiian Christmas, a gift from sailor. Pearl Harbor. Hickam Field. Waikiki. Hanauma Bay.  All the family gathers in his unfurnished apartment at Mililani Manor. We decorate a pineapple with purple ribbon and watch ribbons of oil rise from the USS Arizona.

Hawaii again. This time Mama keeps the watch in a square chair at Tripler. Jaw surgery is brutal and it is successful.  The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Punchbowl Crater and the Foster Botanical Gardens, both in Honolulu. And the ribbons of light coming into Phoenix.

We have Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant in Virginia Beach and we visit a little house in Augusta, Georgia. There is a blue ribbon on the mailbox to welcome our little Georgia Peach.

There are many comings and goings. Sighs and tears. Surprise visits and anticipated homecomings. At some point a bright yellow bandana becomes the permanent yellow ribbon on the front door. It weathers and fades. Then, after six years, they come home. In August the Sweet Sailor finishes her enlistment. They pack up the little Georgia house, the little Georgia Peach and move home. Three months later the Super Sailor follows suit from Virginia Beach. He is home in time for Christmas. There are job offers coming in from all over. In January his life starts over again, this time in Houston.

There are still comings and goings and Texas is too far away. The yellow ribbon is no longer on the door. Today there is red, white and blue to celebrate our freedom. Freedom that they stood watch for away from home and family. We are proud and we thank you.

Keep a yellow ribbon tied around your heart for those still coming home from far away places and far too many kinds of battles. Wear red shoes for courage.

Friday, May 2, 2014

And I cry.

All through the evening I think of her and I cry. I crawl into my bed and I think someone somewhere is not sleeping and I cry.  I don't really know her but her daddy is my cousin. She is a little mama with three white haired babies and one soon to be born and now she has to have an empty place and a grave and her mama lives far away. And I cry. I think about that far away grandma and I cry. I don't know him either but he is my sister's nephew and I cry. I think of another white haired boy and a brown eyed boy and other brown eyed boys and all the other little boys and I cry. I think of all the little mamas and all the pain and I can't curl up in a tight enough ball to make the pain go away. I couldn't curl up tight enough then and I can't curl up tight enough now and I cry. Today a little boy winged his way to heaven and tonight I just don't know if there are enough red shoes...        

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Choose Healing

I posted this today on a grief page where I am a member.  May it be a light on your healing journey.

In the past week or so I have read many posts here by bereaved parents who are 8, 12, 15 even 20+ years into their grief journey.
These quotes catch their general feelings:
 "They said it will get better but it gets worse every year."
"I have nothing to "go on" for in my life."
"I still have a boulder on top of my heart and feel kind of numb or frozen."
"I can barely find a reason to still hang on."
This just squeezes my heart and makes me so sad. Our son died 23 years ago as a 8 year old.  Leroy would now be 31.

The first years of my grief were a deep, painful journey, dark and lonely.  It was a terrifying place of sheer survival. As the years have passed I have found deep, deep healing. I no longer walk in the dark. I am not afraid. I have joy and laughter.  Yes, I miss him and yes I cry.

I faced the death of my son the same way I do any new experience: I read every book I can find on the topic.  I found a couple a rummage sale in my home town.  One of them, Don't Take My Grief Away by Doug Manning, became my grief manual.

This book is divided into 3 parts.  Part one is funeral planning which we had long passed when I got  the book but I was gratified to learn that some of the decisions we made instinctively were very healthy.

The second part encourages one to grieve as needed, in their own way and at their own pace, hence the title. Don't let anyone take your grief away. He says you need to give your self permission to grieve and not let anyone else dictate what that should look like.

The third part emphasizes giving yourself permission to heal. Just as we need to give ourselves permission to grieve, we need to give ourselves permission to heal.  Unspoken and deep within us we have the belief that if we stop grieving we stop loving and we have forgotten. We consider it a betrayal of our child. That is so far from the truth. If we do not choose to live and choose to heal we are in essence saying that the death of our child is more important than our child's life.  When we allow ourselves to heal there is nothing holding us back from treasuring every photograph and  reliving every memory with joy. There is nothing that stops us from enjoying every place we ever went with our son. We celebrate a little brown eyed boy by eating his favorite foods with pleasure. We celebrate his birthday every year with cupcakes frosted blue and decorated with sprinkles and gummy fish. Some years family members have made them in four different states.  We are sharing his life with the next generation who will grow up knowing Uncle Leroy from the stories we tell, his trunk full of belongings and pictures of him everywhere.

I want to leave you with two quotes I collected today:

"The last 20 years have been what "I" have called not kind. I have learned to go into my trials and pull out my joys and blessings."
Sandy Holombo-Olson 2014

"We can still choose to either die alongside them,
spiritually and emotionally, or to take this day and
soak up as many good things from it as we can muster."
Erica Farrimond 2014 TCF

Choose healing and wear red shoes for courage - Pat