Archive for March, 2010

September 4, 2003

// March 30th, 2010 // No Comments » // From the forthcoming book "Losing Steve: One Mother's Journey Through Grief"

I have had such a compulsion to eat lately and I am gaining weight. Unfortunately I’ve regained most of the 30 pounds I lost earlier this year. I know I need to do something about it and have talked to God but for some reason I just can’t let it go. Before I pop that sweet into my mouth I forget how bad it’s going to make feel later. How can I forget that I’m going to get a headache and feel shaky, cranky, and depressed???

Last November I knelt down and finally admitted to God that I don’t want to give up my eating habits. I fully enjoy the flavors and textures of these foods that are killing me. The only way for me to make any change will be for Him to TAKE from me what I cannot GIVE Him. As I stood up from that prayer, my desire for sweets was gone. And I didn’t want any for a few months after. Then one day, at a birthday party in April, I think it was, I thought “It won’t hurt to have a little.” So I had just a little piece of cake. The next “little piece” of something didn’t take much self convincing. By May, I was back to my old habits and now I am worse than ever. I have no idea what is going on, I just want to eat all of the time! I am living proof of free will. God doesn’t force His will on us, even when we ask for it.

I know that I’ll feel better when I again let God take this compulsion from me. It’s not mine anymore! Why do I still eat like an addict!?

August 29, 2003

// March 26th, 2010 // No Comments » // From the forthcoming book "Losing Steve: One Mother's Journey Through Grief"

Is there an end to Grief? Does mourning ever truly cease? God has promised to turn my sorrow to joy. That promise is solid, but I am not privy to His timetable. My grief seems to be mounting, not abating. Since my birthday my saddness follows me everywhere like a dark cloud that should block all light, yet I can still see that the summer sun shines, though the light does not penetrate my soul. Though I function and go about my daily business seeming fine this burden I always carry feels heavier with each passing hour.

Last night I realized that the time of mourning is a time of stockpiling memories. They come unbidden to me at first, but once one tickles my mind I begin to search them out and organize them into chronological order. I can only go so far in a sitting before my mind is overwhelmed. As I sat there last night I tried to start with my first sight of my newborn son. My Steve, my own five pound-five ounce creation. At first my memories seemed like snapshots of time but as I patiently concentrated on one after another they began to flow more like an old, often spliced home movie. But even these are moments in time and not an even flowing of the years. It’s like big chunks of his life are missing from my mind’s photo album.

I remember that I wanted to nurse him and though I was unconvinced Steve’s biological “father’s” argument that breast milk was “too impure to cross state lines”(really, he actually used those words!) it was my “duty” to comply. (And did I tell you I was quite naive at the time?) So after Steve was born I was given a shot to dry me up. It didn’t work. Four days later my milk came in. I secretly tried to nurse him but I didn’t know what I was doing. Besides, he was already used to the ease of sucking from the bottle and he refused my breast. I never tried again. Sometimes I wonder if breastfeeding would have made any difference in his life. Probably not. Bottle feeding him did not diminish my love for him one iota.
Like any first time Mom, I made so many mistakes with Steve but he had such a forgiving heart. More than once he told Dave (not his biological father, but his “real” dad) and me that he couldn’t have asked for better parents. What an honor.

Yet at times in these past 5 weeks, 2 days I am eaten alive with “should haves”. I should have tried to help him wash his hands more those last few days, but I didn’t want to treat him like a child. I should have offered to feed him. It never occurred to me…or did I try? I have a vague recollection of holding his protein shake for him. Did I tip it to his mouth? Did he lose his appetite because he was too weak to grasp his fork? Did he see his food there and really want it but was physically unable to reach it and go through the motions? I don’t think so. I know his appetite was gone before he came home from the hospital.
I should have talked to him more, asked him more questions, asked him to tell me about what he was feeling. But in the end I let him lead the way and he seemed not to want to talk about it. I sat with him outside, the warm summer breeze sometimes all that moved betweem us. We were just together, often in a comfortable silence, and at the time that seemed to be enough. But now I long for more to remember.
I should have taken more pictures. I say I don’t want to remember how he looked when he was so sick but I cherish the few pictures we have from the last few months of his life. Each of these “should-haves” are inconsequential bits that don’t matter in the greater scheme of things and I really need to let them go before they crowd out the real issue ~ I miss my son.

My grief and mourning have turned into depression. Not the black hole of depression that I went through when I was in my twenties as a young mother in a new town, overwhelmed and hormonally challenged. Now I am numb.

Sometimes I feel “normal” as I go about my day and move among people, but I am joyless, passionless. My breath has been crushed out of me. My arms and legs are heavy whether I am moving or sitting. I plod through the day merely going through the motions. When I have to leave the safe confines of my own home I wear a happy, relaxed face that doesn’t match my heart. I have learned to look people in the eye and lie to the inevitable question, “How are you?” “Fine” or “As well as can be expected” is my reply. But I want to shout “I AM NOT FINE! A PIECE OF ME IS GONE. I AM INCOMPLETE AND WILL BE UNTIL MY DYING DAY!” But that’s not what they want to hear. They don’t really want to know the extent of my inner suffering. How could they possibly respond to the raw truth?

I know that over time I will grow accustomed to this hole in my being and I will again laugh with gusto someday (soon?).


// March 24th, 2010 // No Comments » // Uncategorized

Hi All!
I’ve been spending several hours a day working on the book. It has been an unexpectedly satisfying experience changing it from a journal format into a memoir. I tried to fight my editor, Bob Yehling, on the idea because I was so certain that it began as a journal it simply had to stay a journal! But after talking to my husband, Dave, I began to catch Bob’s vision. The new format allows me to add so much that was missing from my journals and kept Steve and our family hidden among the missing details. So, I have a whole lot of work to do before we are anywhere near offering the manuscript to an agent.
That said, I plan to cut back to twice a week postings for the blog. After today, I’ll post on Tuesdays and Fridays.
Thanks everyone for sticking with me on this. I know it’s not always easy reading, but it does have a “Happy Ending” and I truly do appreciate your support and you many kind words!

Peace Be With You

August 28, 2003

// March 22nd, 2010 // 1 Comment » // From the forthcoming book "Losing Steve: One Mother's Journey Through Grief"

I did a terrible thing to a friend today.

I hadn’t seen Wendy since the end-of-the-school-year picnic last June. At that time Steve was sick but we didn’t know what was wrong with him or that he was dying. Many of my friends had been praying for him, including Wendy. Today was the first get together of the new school year for our homeschooling group. We met at the local indoor rock climbing gym. As Robyn and Jae set out to scale one of the man-made rock walls with a dozen other kids, I joined Wendy and Tracy at the chairs set up along the wall for the spectators. As as I sat down, Wendy turned to me and asked, “How’s your son?” “Much better…” I told her but before I could tell her why her face lit up like a beacon. It broke my heart to continue, “…because he passed away” and watch her expression fall.

Actually, he is much better, right? According to the platitudes I am greeted with. According to the messages I hear. “He’s in a better place…” “He’s not hurting any more…” “You’ll see him again someday”. I know all that and whole heartedly agree. The moment Steve left his body I understood all of that.

But, how can a life cut short be better? He still had so much to do. So much to see. Two young sons he wanted to introduce to a wide world. He wanted to be able to go to work every day to support his family. He wanted to invest in real estate, to own a boat. He wanted to spend a month in the desert riding his Banshee all day or all night, without needing insulin injections or tubes hanging out of his belly that he would use to connect himself to an exchanger each night to clean his blood because his kinneys couldn’t. He wanted to eat a banana split without the worry of spiking his blood sugar or overloading his system with potassium. He wanted to stay with his family and grow old with them. But instead he had to die to find peaceful rest from a body that failed him.

So I didn’t really lie to Wendy today. But in hindsight it was a cruel way to tell a friend of my son’s death.

I won’t do that again.

August 23…one month after

// March 19th, 2010 // 1 Comment » // From the forthcoming book "Losing Steve: One Mother's Journey Through Grief"

Tonight we had a family dinner for my birthday. Steve’s absence was palpable. It seemed so quiet without Nick and Steve just being Nick and Steve. They always spread so much laughter wherever they went and tonight that was obviously missing. We have so much as a family and are very close but a certain amount of our joy is gone, perhaps never to be fully regained in this life.

For a few minutes tonight after dinner I felt angry. Not at anyone in particular. Just angry at the situation. I miss him so much, sometimes I just want to scream. No. I don’t want to, I need to, and sometimes it just boils out from my gut. Sort of a mutation of a scream and a moan. It happens when the realization washes over me again, like today on my way to Costco to shop for tonight’s dinner. As I drove along the familiar streets I was thinking about the few items I had to pick up and for a moment I had a contented, peaceful feeling as I thought about my family coming over for what has always been a happy celebration ~~~ a birthday dinner. When I realized Steve wouldn’t be there the pain of knowing seized me at my waist tossing me forward. I tightly clutched the steering wheel and screamed, as I continued to drive down the curvy road.

This was our first family dinner here since Steve died and I dreaded it, though I knew we had to do it. We have so many “firsts” we have to get through in the upcoming year. It hurts so much to do the things we’ve always done, now doing them without him. It feels like somehow we’re being unfaithful to him, though I know that to stop living as usual would be the ultimate insult to him and to his memory.

Dave picked up his Aunt Ada and brought her to dinner tonight. Nick said that though he’s glad to see her it’s also hard because the way she moves reminds him of Steve. During his last several months Steve aged rapidly, becoming an old man before our eyes. His muscles atrophied, shriveling to a bare whisper that hung loosely on his bones. His skin turned a pale grey and his face became deeply lined and craggy. The last shred of his independence, sitting outside for a solitary smoke, was taken from him in his last four days as he lost the strength in his hands to ignite the lighter, and, on a few occasions, to even hold the cigarette between his fingers. It’s also hard to see Ada, because Nick knows that all too soon we will lose her, too.

As quiet as the house felt to me tonight Ada, who never had children of her own, made an ironic comment to me as I drove her home. She said “There’s always so much liveliness with you. You always have children around.” And so I do. I don’t think that will ever change. These children link us to the future, they provide continuity to our lives as we pass our traditions to them, and they show us that time truely is passing as we witness their growth without noticing our own aging.

I like it that way.

PS ~ From today I can safely say that we have regained our joy! Though we still miss Steve at our family celebrations and in our daily lives, God has been faithful to His promises to us to turn our sorrow into joy. He continues to add to our family in ways we never dreamed possible. Annett (Steve’s widow and now our daughter) remarried a wonderful man who we love like a son. Jon is everything Steve would have wanted to step in for him to raise Christopher. And last September Jon and Nett added a granddaughter to the family, Shelby, just one day before Amy and Jeremy added a grandson, Jaxon. Our cup truely does run over!

August 20, 2003

// March 17th, 2010 // No Comments » // From the forthcoming book "Losing Steve: One Mother's Journey Through Grief"

Today I turned 50. I have completed my first half century. All things considered, it was a good day. I woke up very tired, as usual, so after Dave left for work at 6:45 I crawled back into bed hoping for a little more sleep. As soon as I got all comfy my mind grabbed hold of some idea and ran with it.It must not have been a very important idea. I can’t even remember now what it was. It wasn’t worth the bother to lie there and work at getting back to sleep so I got up. Besides, I knew that Amy would be here by 8:30 for our morning walk. Today we made the entire two mile round trip to the west end of the flume. We are enjoying these walks and plan to continue even when our schedules are tight. It gives us a chance to talk about our lives and to ponder death. We talk some about Steve but not exclusively.

Dave and I planned to go out to dinner tonight with the kids for my birthday but didn’t get out of the house till almost 7:30. We went to IHOP because I like pancakes for dinner! Amy, Kirstie, Kyle, and Jeremy joined Dave, Janiece, Robyn and me there. We spent the evening talking and laughing together. It almost felt like any other normal family birthday dinner. Amy told me that she was thinking about having a party for my birthday but she feels it’s too soon since Steve’s death. Maybe for my next milestone. This one has been overshadowed and is probably best kept low key.

Jae gave me quite a compliment this morning. “You’re too young to be fifty!” It made me remember a time when my Grandma Toll was in her seventies and she told me, “When I close my eyes I’m still the same girl I was at twenty-one.” I was twenty-two years old at the time and I couldn’t understand what she meant. But now I do. Now when I close my eyes I’m 120 pounds with long, shiny-brown hair (not my current dull brown and silver) and I’m about twenty-five years old, yet tempered with experience.

Now that I’m fifty I’m OK with it. I thought it would bother me, but like I told Steve when he was queasy about turning thirty ~ “It sure beats the alternative!”

August 6, 2003

// March 15th, 2010 // No Comments » // From the forthcoming book "Losing Steve: One Mother's Journey Through Grief"

Robs and I were invited to a get together with some of our home school friends at Helen’s home for today. I got up at my usual 6:15 to make Dave’s breakfast and lunch, but I really wasn’t ready to plunge into my day so I went back to bed, “to sleep, perchance to dream” as Hamlet said. And I did dream. I had another house dream, but this one was different than the recurring “house dreams” I’ve had over the past thirty years. Usually in these dreams, I find myself in an unfamiliar house that we are considering buying or we are moving into. As I walk around in the house I discover a hidden room or rooms, often including an old fashioned bathroom. This time it was our house I found myself in and as I walked into our bedroom, on the south wall I found a door to a large walk-in closet. As my dream self tip-toed to the open door of the closet I peeked in and saw that it was empty. Now as I look back on the dream I remember being so happy to find this newly discovered space.

I finally got up at nine o’clock and Robs and I slowly got ready to go to Helen’s.
As we were driving down the freeway Dave called to ask me if we have any plans for tonight. I’ve been worried about him lately. He seems so down but not ready to “let it out”. Yesterday, when I asked, he admitted that he is “on the edge”.
We’re going to Nevada this weekend for Amy and Jeremy to pick up Kirstie and Kyle from their Dad and have decided to leave a day early. We’ll just hang out in Stateline, relax, and do nothing. It’ll do us both good.

Robs and I got to Helen’s a little after eleven. Our long-time friends Tracy and her daughter Rob’yn were already there and everyone greeted us with warm smiles as we came in. As I walked through the door I wasn’t sure I’d be able to stay long. My heart really wasn’t into being out for a social call. It was my first nearly normal day in two months, maybe even longer. Since December helping Steve had become my normal. It felt good to sit with friends and talk about a wide variety of things. We talked a little about what my family has been going through but we also talked about regular stuff, too, like home schooling, gardening, and what to make for dinner when you’re just too tired to even think about cooking. Robs and I stayed till 3:30 and then ran a few errands before heading home. It was a good day.

The loss of her big brother finally hit Jae full force today, but the cry did her good. Until now she’s been going on about her usual life (school, outings with friends, church youth group, work) trying to hang on to a sense of normalcy. But grief will not be ignored. One way or another it will be there. Tears, anger, ulcers, broken relationships ~ grief will have its due. So what looked like a breakdown for her was actually a step forward. Dave and I discussed not going to Nevada, to stay to help Jae through this but she’s doing better now, and she has her siblings Nick, Marisa, Amy, and Jeremy, and her close friend Will and his mom Carolyn (who is like a second mom to her) to call on if she needs someone.
Though if it were up to me, I would stay home.

Today I’m grateful for a new beginning that does not deny the other beginning’s end.

August 5, 2003

// March 11th, 2010 // No Comments » // From the forthcoming book "Losing Steve: One Mother's Journey Through Grief"

This is my first full day alone since Steve died. Every day since Nett and Chris left I’ve been occupied with kids, appointments, or errands. Amy planned this whole day for me. She has taken Kirstie, Kyle, Robyn and the Knowles kids to the beach for the morning. After the beach she plans to take Sam, Toni, Alex, and Dominic home, but keep Robyn with her for the afternoon. She said she’ll bring her home by dinner time.

My daughter Amy thinks that in all my busyness I’m doing the one thing I don’t want to do, pushing Steve aside. In her opinion a full day of crying in bed will do me good. So I have had some of that this morning. Still am, I guess. But I desperately feel the need to get moving. To move on. But I don’t want to move on because that means leaving him behind! But what else can I do? I can and will always carry him with me but right now the weight of it is crushing the breath out of me. I feel I have to push it off.

But I don’t want to.

Tue, July 29, 2003 10PM

// March 10th, 2010 // No Comments » // From the forthcoming book "Losing Steve: One Mother's Journey Through Grief"

This last week has been like living in a haze. I go on about my days with a vague understanding of my loss, then like a kick to the stomach, it hits me again. The pain washes over me like an ocean wave that pulls me under, threatening to hold me there and then it eases back. I am standing in the water, wave after wave, knocking my feet out from under me as I look toward the shore, wishing I can stand on the solid ground again. I have been told that I will get there but right now I don’t see how that is possible. Right now I just want to let the waves pull me out to sea….

Sometimes it feels like he’s sitting right outside on the porch having a smoke, then my mind flashes on the blue sheet pulled up to his chin. I see myself watching all color fade from his lips and face. I can still feel his cool forehead on my lips the last time I kissed him goodbye.

Sometimes I remember, but sometimes I KNOW. He has gone away so many times before only to come back ~ Iowa, Colorado, Tennessee, the hospital. So why should this absence be any different? Well, we all know it is. Our next reunion will not take place on this familiar ground. This time it is we who will have to go to meet him.

July 26, 2003

// March 8th, 2010 // No Comments » // From the forthcoming book "Losing Steve: One Mother's Journey Through Grief"

One hundred and five people came to our home today to remember Steve. We made his “funeral” like all of the other going away parties we’ve had for him in the past. We invited friends and family to a pot luck lunch.

I know of at least thirty more that would have come if we had waited a week, but I just had to get through this, get it over with. I had to make it happen as soon as possible so I didn’t feel it hanging over me, like the guillotine balde. So we did it today, just three days after he died.

As his health deteriorated, Steve had questions, big questions. Questions about life, death, and life after death. He was blessed with the opportunity to talk to two pastors; Amy and Jeremy’s pastor, Greg, and my pastor, Mark. Each was able to share God with Steve but each seemed to share a slightly different side of our multifaceted God. As they talked, Greg stayed very focused on the topic, showing Steve the constancy and stability of God. Mark reinforced this view but also kept God in the ebb and flow of the conversation. One day after Mark left from a visit, Steve shared with me their conversation. He said, “We talked about God, child rearing, God, cars, body surfing, God, diabetes, God,” etc, etc. In a way Mark was able to show Steve a small hint of God’s diversity and playfulness. That God is in everything we do, and with us everywhere we go. Both of these wonderful men were able to come to the service today.

Once everyone arrived, we got the food and utensils all arranged on the dining room table. Then we all gathered in the driveway under the hot summer sun where Greg then Mark was able to speak to us about life, death, and the hope we all have in the resurrection. After that, as many of Steve’s friends and family that wanted to shared their special memories of him. His Uncle Dave told the crowd about the summer Steve was nine years old and together they built a tree house just beyond our front door. For many years Steve (and sometimes his best friend, Shawn) would sleep out there as often as we would let him. Some of his desert buddies talked about Steve’s kindness. How he would never charge you to pull you out of “Ten Dollar Hole”. They talked about hearing Steve’s unique laugh from two campsites away. Carolyn, who watched and closely participated in Steve’s life, talked about a young man who made some unfortunate choices but how he ultimately overcame those and became a good man–a great friend and neighbor. As the sharing went on it started to get a little maudlin. But then someone said, “I know what Steve would say about now, “Let’s eat!” So we did.

One hundred and five people milling about in our home, yet it felt so empty.