Archive for July, 2010

July 10, 2004

// July 30th, 2010 // No Comments » // Uncategorized

Ah ~ the last day of camp! Dave and I drove up to Big Bear today to get Robyn. It was only a week without her but I missed her like crazy, even though I knew she was having the time of her life! And I was right about that! Along with everything else that makes SEP such an awesome camp experience…canoeing, daily fun Bible study, friends, “the best counselors on earth!”, hiking, bikeing, and so much more….again this year she took first place in girl’s archery and tallied only two points behind the highest scoring guy. She’s very pleased with herself.

I was looking forward to seeing Robs but after parking the van in the dusty lot I was filled with mixed emotions as we neared the worship hall. The building was already alive with music when we arrived. It was the same music they were singing as we entered last year when my heart was so heavy, knowing that very soon I would break my daughters’ hearts. Everywhere I looked in that enormous room today there were joyful young people clapping and stomping with the music, shouting out praises to God. I couldn’t stand there without crying, because my heart remembered the pain it was in the last time we were in there.

But something I learned from my neighbor, Dave, a few days ago seems to be helping me through this very difficult time. He lost his son a few years ago so he has a good idea of what I’m going through. He told me when my heart or gut starts to feel that gnawing heavy pain, give God thanks. Thanks for his uncountable blessings and thanks for the time we had with Steve. Each of us was altered in some way by our relationship with him. Each of us is richer.

This lesson from a friend has been a great blessing to me and I’m feeling somewhat happier. Like he said, it’s still there, that pain, but I can be happy, too, and that is not a betrayal to Steve’s memory but rather a confirmation (?), validation (?) of his impact on my life. At least for today, I’m not quite as afraid of July 23 as it draws closer.

I thank God with tears of joy for this.

July 23, 2010 Nick

// July 23rd, 2010 // No Comments » // Uncategorized


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The view from Devil’s Slide today…

From 2010 ~ July 23

// July 23rd, 2010 // No Comments » // From the forthcoming book "Losing Steve: One Mother's Journey Through Grief"

For six years now, the weeks leading up to July 23 are always hard. Oh…I know that the Good Lord has renewed my joy. That’s not the issue. This physical being I am (what I sometimes call ~ borrowed from Oingo-Boingo~ “walking with a dead man over my shoulder”) weighs me down with the physical memory of those weeks in 2003. My mind and my body drag, my tears come easily. But on July 23 or 24, I usually wake up alone, that is, without that dead man hanging on me.
This morning I awoke at 5:40 with a smile. Nick got here at 6:00 to pick me up for a trip out to Steve’s favorite place on earth. I took a pillow with me knowing that I would fall asleep on the two hour drive out to Ocotillo Wells, but I didn’t! My son and I talked all the way. That guy is never boring!
After a quick pit-stop at the Ranger Station we took the truck out onto the hard packed roads and right on up the sandy hill behind Devil’s Slide.
It was different out there this time. The sky wasn’t as clear as usual ~ obscuring the more distant mountains; we encountered several intrepid off-roaders, when we are usually the only people to be seen away from the ranger station; and the temperature was…well…temperate. It couldn’t have been more than ninety-five and was just a bit muggy. We’re used to it being 114 or more on our annual visits, and often dry as dust.
Even the quiet was changed somehow. With just the two of us there I could hear birds in the distance, insects buzzing, and a lizard scurry across the sand.
Nick left me alone on the hill top when he ran to get a bottle of water. I was alone with my thoughts and realized…I need to quiet those thoughts (something I am not good at AT ALL!) I felt like I was wasting a golden opportunity. I needed to listen. Hear what God wants me to hear!
As I quieted my racing thoughts, for the tiniest fraction of a second I felt Steve standing beside me. In that moment his presence was soft and comforting. As the feeling of Steve faded, the love of God wrapped me completely in a cloud of peace and…and…oh! How to define a realm that has no physical parameters!?
After a few more minutes sitting on that rock, feeling the sun soak into my skin, I knew it was time to leave. I walked down the sandy slope, checking each footstep before taking another, and the cloud of comfort came with me. I am not alone, and never will be.

July 9, 2004

// July 20th, 2010 // No Comments » // From the forthcoming book "Losing Steve: One Mother's Journey Through Grief"

Dave and I have decided to rent a bounce house for the party. There will be more than a dozen kids here looking for something fun to do. At so many parties we end up with unintentional damage from rowdy kids. This time they can spend all that energy literally bouncing off walls!
I started calling around today, hoping one will be available on short notice. The first three numbers just had an answering machine pick up and I didn’t feel like leaving a message. The forth call was to American Bounce Co and I got a real human being on the line! Dan said that, yes, they have several bouncers available for July 24th.
“Do you happen to have any, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?” (Steve’s favorite) Sadly, they didn’t.
“Is this for a birthday party?” Dan asked me.
I paused a moment before quipping, “No. More like a death day party.”
After three seconds of stunned silence on the other end I went on to explain the reason for our celebration. He came back with, “Well, that’s a first for us! You know we do have a Spiderman available for that date. They’re pretty popular now.”
“Well, how ‘bout that! That was another of my son’s favorites! Too bad you don’t have Mulder and Scully from the X-Files! That would have been PERFECT!”

This is going to be a great party!

July 7, 2004

// July 16th, 2010 // No Comments » // From the forthcoming book "Losing Steve: One Mother's Journey Through Grief"

Tomorrow marks our 27th anniversary, and one year ago that the course of our future took a sharp turn. The day Dr Lilly crooked his finger at me telling me to follow him to a private place, where he told me that Steve wouldn’t be walking out of the hospital.

Dave, the kids and I have been talking about an appropriate way to honor Steve on the first anniversary of his passing. We tossed around a few ideas…a donation in his name to Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, have a plaque made to place somewhere here on our property, plant a tree….but we came to the conclusion that there is only one way to do this. On Friday night, the actual anniversary, we will have a family dinner and make enchiladas. Every year I would ask him what he wanted for his Birthday Dinner. He wouldn’t even hesitate before declaring “ENCHILADAS!” So we will serve them in his honor on his un-birthday.

We also decided that since Steve was all about family, friends and food a good and proper way to celebrate his life will be to have a party in his memory! On the 24th we will have a pot luck here and make it as festive as possible.

Coincidentally, planning a party will help keep our minds occupied in a more positive way.

As the day draws ever nearer, I have a growing anxiety settling in my chest.

July 3, 2004

// July 14th, 2010 // No Comments » // From the forthcoming book "Losing Steve: One Mother's Journey Through Grief"

As we came into July I found myself particularly more weepy. In the past few weeks I’ve had more dreams with Steve in them, but most evaporate as I wake up. All I’m left with is a disembodied afterimage tickling my mind.
Last week I has a long visit with my beautiful son as I slept. He looked so healthy and vibrant. We chatted for what felt like hours but all I can recall him saying is something like, “Heaven is not what you think it is, Mom.” Strange, considering my beliefs.

I had another dream a few nights ago while Nicholas was visiting. Earlier that day Nic and I had gone through Steve’s clothes that I have packed away in my closet. We were looking for something that Nic could have that had belonged to his dad. The clothes are all too big for him so it doesn’t make much sense to give him a shirt or jacket yet. As we were going through the third bag we came across Steve’s head covers. After the surgery to remove the infection from his scalp Steve always wore something on his head to cover the bandages. His baseball caps wouldn’t fit over the bandages so he wore stocking caps or a “Do Rag” (a cross between a bandanna and a skull-cap) to help minimize the stares from strangers. Nic saw a black Do-Rag with white skulls on it and snatched it up saying, “This is what I want!” I tied it onto his head and he didn’t take it off for two days!
In my dream that night Steve and I were driving through town in my van. I knew that he had been dead for nearly a year but I wasn’t surprised to see him there. He looked over at me and said in a mock-hurt tone, “Mom, are you giving my stuff away?” I said, “Well, yeah. You were dead.” He sort of shook his head like I should have realized he would be back. I told Nick and Amy about the dream and they say he’s telling me not to get rid of his stuff yet… but they both agree that the Do Rag for Nic is OK.

In most of my dreams Steve looks so healthy and I wake up with that picture of him in my head instead of the image of him emaciated and chewed up by infirmity.

June 19, 2004

// July 9th, 2010 // No Comments » // From the forthcoming book "Losing Steve: One Mother's Journey Through Grief"

As of this afternoon, Nick and Marisa are married!
The day started ominously, clouds and drizzle. There was much debate as to whether or not to get a frame-tent to cover the seating area in Marisa’s parents’ back yard. Marisa’s dad, Jose, made the final call and ordered the cover. It arrived and was set up in less than an hour, just before the clouds parted and the sun decided to shine on our festivities! It was a good choice after all, to shade those who were seated from the modest sunshine.

Just before her walk down the aisle that had been prepared by her brothers in the beautiful back yard, I stole a moment to tell her there was only one thing that would make me happier….Steve here to stand by Nick’s side.

Nick and Marisa were joined at the simple altar by their best friends, Jodey ~ Marisa’s best friend since second grade and Dameion ~ Nick’s best friend who has helped Nick in so many ways since Steve died. Dameion knew that he was holding a very special spot for Steve and I believe he was honored to hold it.

My pastor Mark was so full of joy to hold this service for our family. It is another link in the chain that helps to turn our sorrow to joy.

A few of us tried to give Steve a presence at the wedding. I wore his favorite color, purple, and kept a picture of him tucked close to my heart. In his breast pocket Nick put three special pictures; one of him and Steve taken when they were young, one of Steve at Amy and Jeremy’s wedding, and of course a picture of them at the desert.
After the ceremony I didn’t even welcome Marisa to the family; she’s already been a part of us for so long!

I know that we were all thinking of Steve today but we enjoyed a perfect day, late into the night! It was a relief to be able carry him with us and not be weighed down by his absence.