On Running

I spent most of the day of Kyle's sentencing outdoors with the girls. This is a picture of us all enjoying a run on our local trails. 

I spent most of the day of Kyle's sentencing outdoors with the girls. This is a picture of us all enjoying a run on our local trails. 

 

As a runner, you learn how to 
feel the pain; 
in each solitary moment of a step, to 
feel every inch of your body; 
mindless, 
you simply exist in the moment.

Your soul becomes physical, 
each ache and pain, 
burning muscles, 
lungs taking in the life of 
the wildflowers, 
red sandstone, peaks in the distance speaking
I am alive,  
the breeze carrying droplets of 
crystal water off the mountain, 
and your body 
becomes one with the Living again.

You learn to feel the pain, 
and hold it there, 
pause and exist with it, 
then push through it, 
until I am free
and your mind is no more, 
you simply Are. 


We awoke, battered and beaten, 
thin, [un]human versions of our old selves, 
How do you survive the impossible? 
and saw a potential world, the 
self-destruction of "Us" 
as a means of forgetting the impossible. 
But, the battle to be fought was simply, 
that first step 
away from destruction, and 
towards Life.


So, we ran; 
health became our addiction, 
a means of fighting back 
            (against the impossible).
But, often I still run to 
feel the pain, of 
Ben's gone, and why he is 
never coming back. 
And, quite possibly, yearning to 
feel the pain, is my screaming 
I love you, but I'm angry, 
and these can co-exist in my heart, 
through there are no words for 
what they unite to become.


And, running, 
hard and fast, and seeing 
the red dust fly beneath my feet, feeling 
my lungs burn, 
is simply a way for me ("Us") 
to turn the physical limitations of 
understanding into, 
something more Real and Alive, 
and in the end, 
as we look out over the city, 
we place our hands on our knees, gasping, 
but together, 
and the anger, and pain, and disbelief, 
simply becomes nothing but the 
wildflowers, 
red sandstone, peaks in the distance,  
breeze carrying droplets of crystal water off the mountain. 


This is the impossible.
 

On Your Birthday Night

As you turn nine,

my daughter, I see

how time stretches and shrinks,

and becomes simply,

that one moment.

 

You are not a baby anymore,

so why do I watch you sleep?

Tiptoe in the middle of the night,

to check your windows

Are they locked?

So no one can take you

from me,

too.

 

If there is no rise

and fall

of your chest, then my hand

gently,

every so tenderly,

touches right where

your heart is.

Beating.

 

Breathe.

I can sleep tonight.

 

You are not a baby anymore,

but we yearn to snuggle each other,

those random weekend nights,

I hold you,

as if you were still

my baby.

 

Safety, life continues,

we both feel it.

 

As I lie, watching

you roll over to me,

face against mine, eyes closed.

Dreaming, of another day,

Happy, innocent.

If you exhale, and I inhale,

exhale, you inhale,

then do we become part of each other,

do my lungs receive,

pieces of you,

were these pieces of Ben, you became,

as you fed him his bottles,

and you both,

Inhaled, then Exhaled?

 

There will come a day,

when you will ask,

and read,

want to know,

and not understand

my answers, because the world will still

be all Good in your eyes.

But I will have to show you,

and you will see,

and we will grieve again together,

so it will be your task, as you grow

and Live and Learn,

to transform that which you will not understand.

 

But, that day is not now,

for on your birthday night,

you are still my baby,

as I inhale your

Innocence. 

 

 

* My oldest daughter turned nine on April 14th. Happy Birthday love! What a happy, mature, and kind young lady you have become. I love you!

Sentencing Statement and Final Thoughts

I hoped to attend the sentencing today in order to speak these words myself. But, I respected my husband's wishes that I be spared the additional trauma that the charge and related court appearances have brought on our family. Please excuse me for avoiding media calls today, but I'm spending the day with my girls as I should be. You can obtain a transcript of today's proceedings, which may offer useful insight. I asked that my attorney, Mr. Peter Buzaid, read the following statement to the Court: 

* * * * *

I ask that you look at my husband sitting before you. I fell in love with this man the first moment I met him, and that is my message today – one of love, understanding and compassion.  The kind of love that neither wavers nor ends because it reaches the core of a human being. My love for him is based on the fact that he is the most good-hearted, the kindest and most loving man I have ever met. He is not an average father or even a good father…he is an amazing father. He was a stay-at-home dad for four years, and would never have traded the time he got to spend at preschool with his daughters, soccer practices and games, on surprise “daddy-daughter” dates, or simply cooking for all of us. He is a father that never needed or wanted many friends because he was happiest just being with us, his family.

Then our joy, Ben, came along. Language limits my ability to describe our love for our little man, Benjamin Jacob Seitz.  He had stunning blue eyes that bore holes through our souls, giggles that echoed through the house, a smile that melted our hearts, and a soft, tender touch that reminded us of the goodness in life. Ben was a daddy’s boy all the way. Kyle had what I called the magic touch and spent many late nights rocking him back to sleep. Ben would pull gently with his chubby fingers on his father’s face, a slight grin underneath his pacifier, until he drifted back off to sleep. They were inseparable. Ben cried, and Kyle ran to him immediately. Our entire family was inseparable; you never saw one of us without the rest in tow. It was (and still is) pure love and happiness.

The pain of losing Ben is visceral; it never goes away. I want to sweep his blond curls out of his face again and kiss him; to hold him. But, I can’t. And, losing him in this way has taught me the greatest lesson of all, as a lawyer, wife, friend and mother – a lesson of hope and resilience, and of the power of the human spirit to reach within itself to find a greater good, even in its darkest hour, but only when focused on love, understanding, and compassion. It is with my greatest respect, Your Honor, that I ask this of you today  - for compassion and leniency in sentencing my husband. For him to be released to be with his family, so that we can finally be at peace to grieve and heal together.

* * * * *

I understand there is interest in obtaining (i) an update on where I am with public awareness efforts and (ii) my opinion on charges being brought against my husband. I'll take these in turn:

1. I am currently working with Janette Fennell, founder of KidsAndCars.org, to engage Congressmen and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ("NHTSA") in discussions surrounding next steps to solve this public safety problem. We met with several members of Congress last fall, as well as David Friedman, then-Acting Administrator of NHTSA, and his team. At that time, we had garnered support in Congress to move forward on this very important issue. We are waiting to see how our efforts progress through the Spring and Summer months this year, as more children will be lost in these tragic accidents. We will also work on raising public awareness of heatstroke dangers through other avenues. 

2. Being an attorney myself, it is very difficult for me to offer a public statement regarding the decision to bring charges against my husband, given the relevant facts in the arrest warrant. Yes, I have my opinion and it may be an educated opinion, but it is just that - an opinion. And, at this time, I prefer to keep that private, as it will not add anything useful to the public dialogue on this important issue. As an attorney, I can only speak to the way in which I would have gone about deciding whether or not to press charges: It would have involved intense, mind-numbing, hours upon hours of research and analytical thinking; comparing and contrasting precedent and other similar circumstances; pouring over information from expert psychologists in the area; reading federal government documents; weighing the theories of punishment (deterrence, rehabilitation, incapacitation, and retribution); talking to other district attorneys who did or did not press charges in their state (around 50% of these incidents are prosecuted across the nation); considering (in my heart, not solely my mind) the suffering and punishment the family had already had to endure to-date; and ultimately weighing whether there is a greater good, or "justice," that would be served by charges. I would have tried to factor in only ethically justifiable criteria, not media attention, pundits, conviction rates, or politics. If this was all done, then I respect the decision-making process, professionally. But, this is information to which I will never be privy, so I cannot accurately and ethically comment on the decision to charge my husband.

We made a decision to take a plea for one reason - we could not imagine asking a jury, our friends and family, or even the general public to live through the possible presentation by the State of pictures, descriptions and testimony about our son and my husband's state in the ER that night, along with the details of the entire day that still cause us PTSD symptoms nine months later. We do not want anyone to have to bear that burden except those that must. So, was it a win for the State today? I'm not so sure. But, I have no room in my heart for opinions, judgment or negativity (we have faced enough of that), so we would like to simply move on from this to better times full of laughs, love, friends and family. So, up and onward!

The only last message I want to share with the public is to reiterate from experience how deeply our actions and words can affect others, even if we don't know it at the time. This trauma (and I do mean trauma - we lost everything save our family unity and close friends; the ultimate loss being my beloved son) has opened our eyes to a certain truth that has changed my life, both professionally and personally. It is easy to get caught up on the most superficial layers of life and never stop to think, question and ultimately realize that everything we do has ripple effects not only on those closest to us, but on a broader scale, in society. We are all connected. We have been to the darkest places a person (and family) can go over the past nine months, both physically and emotionally, and survived, somehow...but it wasn't easy, and it wasn't a given. The decision to charge my husband could have destroyed, not only a man who was broken down to nothing already, but an entire family. Comments from strangers, interactions with CT DCF...these all could have had the same effect. 

My takeaway from all of this, which I hope to guide my life as I move forward is simply - love wins. That's it. Very simple. 

We are thankful for Judge Russo's compassion and leniency in ordering a conditional release.

Also, a huge thank you to everyone who has supported and stayed by us through the worst days of our life. We love you all! 

 


On Love and Survival

Well, my sweet Benjabear, your second birthday is fast approaching. It hit me a few nights ago. Hard. Since you passed away last summer, many things have happened that make it so easy for people to forget what this is really all about - You. Your blue eyes, soft skin, chubby legs, gleeful giggle, always happy smile, and blond curls that I loved to swipe out of your face so I could see You better. I've struggled with putting words to the emotions that have flowed out of our experiences over the last eight months. But, I see that on your birthday, it finally all comes back to you, as it should.

I think back to the day you were born. March 28, 2013. It was one of the best days of my life. No, it was THE best day of my life. Your birth was so magical. We thought you were going to be born on the side of the road! But, we made it to the hospital, and ten minutes after our arrival you were here. You were so beautiful. Those were the first words I uttered after your birth. They just flowed without pause or thought, "Oh my God, he's so beautiful!" I held you. I said, "Hey, Benjamin, its mommy." And, you turned your head slightly to the right and looked up at me, following the sound of my voice. Love at first sight. Holding you all those sleepless nights...those were the moments that I will never forget. The moments that will forever take my breath away. THAT love....it punches me right in the chest as I think about it today. 

You weren't just our boy, you were all of our friends' little Benja-buddy too! You went everywhere with us. They miss you too, little man. Deeply. 

Your sisters are doing great, Ben. They miss you, but they are young and live like you would - happily and fully. Daddy and I are getting to know each other again - the "new" us - and we are recovering parts of the "old" us too. We laugh, go for runs together on the trails, enjoy the sunrise, breathe the fresh air that reminds us of you. Then there is sweet Harley, our buddy Golden Retriever you never got to meet. You'd love him! But, sometimes I think you brought him to us. And, your mommy...well, I'm missing you profoundly today.

I'm going back to Connecticut for your birthday. I have to be there. The pull of a mother to a child is, in ways, physical but completely beyond the physical...its spiritual. On Christmas Eve, I felt an intense need to be with you, to hold you again. And, I feel the same for your birthday. But, I can't have that anymore, so I need the next best thing. And, I know you aren't there anymore, you are everywhere. You are the sun, the moon, the rain, the leaves as they sway in the breeze. But, I am still drawn to be there. My baby boy, oh how I want to snuggle you again. That pain is quite possibly beyond description

I sometimes think of the moments I will miss in not getting to see you grow up. Its gut-wrenching. Every bit of it. Playing in the sand at the beach, that expression of utter amazement when you experience something new, sports as you grow older, graduation, wedding, grandchildren. Just simply...the moments of your face and your spirit, that essence of You. I remember how pure and good you were (are). A light to the world. Angelic. Always smiling. You were and still are my Joy. The short 15 months of your life were so happy, and your innocence and purity will never be blemished by the parts of the world we have experienced since your passing. This has caused an intense struggle within me. How do I respond, what do we do, how do we live through it? Who are we? The answer is in our response: our determination to survive and love, our desire to help others....or do we just fall apart, lash out, live with heavy hearts? 

You were too young to understand these things. Our experience is just a taste of the larger problems that face society - we see it each day when we turn on the news. And, I'm not angry anymore, just sad sometimes and fearful for the future. Its the darker side of humanity - a myopic, polarized world, focused on negativity, vindictiveness, winning instead of compromise and unity, judgement instead of understanding and compassion, all of which fail to achieve the greater good. And, yes, we've experienced the cruelty in human nature - a vile side in the way people can treat others. You never had to witness any of this. 

But, we have found, beyond this, the absolute, stunning beauty in life. Its truly magnificent, Ben. And, this is the only vision I want to speak about. I've come to believe that when your physical, seemingly "real" world is destroyed completely, you are left with the Core of what it means to be alive, wherein lies the answer to Who Are You? To have nothing but a sunrise or the smile of your children or the gentle breeze on your skin. In that moment you find what we all call God. It is the Core of all that is good; the Core of a reality that we can't see, touch, test or explain. It is the part of existence that is left when you lose everything else, and in this Calm Emptiness you find the universal Truth that is beyond words and description. Our Truth is the will to live and love, to find meaning in the simplest things, such as a sunset. It is a light, just like you, which can unify and give us hope. It  is not a myopic world of black and white, but the gray in between, a One World in which we all understand how integrally connected we are. 

And, for your birthday I want to make sure people understand the best in humanity we have found. And, this side of the world, Ben...it is so, very beautiful....

Love wins; kindness wins; forgiveness wins.

It is possible to face the loss of nearly everything, 

to hold your breath through the pain, 

to take anger, pain, negative thoughts and emotions and just

wait, think, be Still, let them pass, and in their passing to

find the Good and let that energy fill your heart. 

For it is the Light of the Good that illuminates, 

and gives us all hope.

It is possible to Love and be Loved and survive, and that, 

my baby boy, 

is the true Gift of Ben. 

 

In That Space, There is a Breath

 

"Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom." - Viktor E. Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning

 

I needed something from our pastor that he would never be able to give me. I yearned for it. I would die without it. Skeptics believe humans created the concept of God to help us make sense of life, to make us feel better amidst all the hardships, to comfort us. So, make me feel better. Comfort me. I was setting him up for failure from the start. It would be an impossible request. 

He sat across from me at our friend's house, as we planned Ben's funeral and hid - from the media, from reality, from everyone and everything. From God. The personal God I'd been taught had punished us for disobedience, but then loved us enough to deliver us from our inborn state of sinfulness. Is this punishment for all past indiscretions? Mine? Kyle's? Humanity's? Past, present, future? I'd thought in the ER three days earlier. Because we surely don't deserve "This." Or is this the state of the human condition from which I'd been promised salvation when I'd been baptized years before? Because, this does not feel like salvation. We were outside gathered around the patio table. The umbrella shaded part of his face. He was tall, with a stature that carried the weight of authority. He will know. I wondered if he was nervous, I doubted he had been trained for "This," as I'd found myself calling it in those first few months. This...complete deconstruction of reality, reminder of our mortality, unknown, lack of control, loss, love.

I looked at him. "I need to know heaven is real. I need to know where Ben is." Because he's not Here. He's gone and Saturday, in a private funeral service, he will be in the ground. And, I would later find myself lying on his grave, staring at the stars, wanting to crawl inside the casket with him, thinking that He, was there below me. 

I continued. "Will I see him again? I wasn't ready to say goodbye. If there is a heaven, will I recognize him?" It won't save me if you tell me that I won't recognize him.

He leaned into the shade to look into my eyes. "Yes, heaven is real," he said, "and, I believe that you will recognize him." He quoted some Bible verses. Beads of sweat formed on our faces. I watched the heat pulsate around me. I was crawling out of my skin, shifting in my seat. 

"But, you don't know for sure." And, that was my only truth, as we sat there planning a funeral, Kyle staring off into the distance. No one knows with certainty, I'd thought. I don't want faith or belief. I need to Know I will see Ben again. Or I won't make it through this. I need certainty. 

I had skipped over the need to know God was real, for in that moment I wasn't sure I wanted to know a God that would do, or allow, or watch this occur, or punish or save. I can't be saved. And, if there was no God, then Ben would soon simply be - in the ground.

So, I didn't really want to know,

in that moment, 

if God was real. 

But, if I could find Ben, I would find God, for between stimulus "Ben never showed up at daycare," and response, there is a space. And in that space, there is a breath, a heartbeat, a silence, a Knowledge that transcends, returns, merging into a heart-wrenching peace, fleeting.

And in that breath is an exhale of all the shattered pieces of physical reality I know to be true 

Tell me, convince me, with inadequate words, touch me, listen to me, let me See you.

Followed by a pause

There it is, in nothing but the calm, the knowledge a wave enveloping my body; a gasp.

And an inhale.

And, in that pause, which elicits an impossible response, there is a hope to find God, with a certainty that transcends.

 

 

Relearning the Art of Introduction

It never entered my mind that I would one day actually need to think about ways to introduce myself to potential friends at the ripe old age of thirty-six. I mean, haven't I been doing this for years? I'm a born introvert that has been forced to learn how to exist in an extrovert's world. During first year orientation at my law firm years ago, all 100+ of us were lined up in the shape of a horseshoe around the perimeter of a large conference room - from most extroverted to most introverted, according to the Myers-Briggs assessment we had just taken. I found myself second to last on the introverted end of the spectrum with my friends waving and smiling at me from the opposite end of the room mouthing "I can't believe you are wayyyy over there!" During interviews for my next in-house counsel job, my soon-to-be boss asked me about my weaknesses. Oh, don't go there, there are many. I settled on, "Well, I'm extremely introverted. Standing in front of a group giving a presentation is torture for me, but I can do it! I promise!" I can do anything. A year later, we sat in her office as she laughed "There is NO WAY that was true." Oh, but it was. I'm sure you are thinking Wait, she did television and radio interviews to raise awareness about the danger of hot cars after her son passed away last summer. True. However, I have yet to read the Time Magazine article or watch a single television interview, including either The Today's Show or CNN. I fast forwarded through random bits of a few early ones and then swore them off.  Watching myself on television makes me nervous, and hearing myself talk isn't my favorite pastime either - my accent is still so surprisingly Southern. Most importantly, though, the simple act of watching an interview makes this all too real. It happened. This not a dream from which I will wake up. I remember one of our best friends telling me "You have no idea what people will say about you if you go on television. People are spewing venom." I know it hurt our friends and family just reading it. Some of them voluntarily got off social media because of the venom and debate that ensued in the months after Ben's death. But, she was right, I didn't know, since we had both deleted our Facebook accounts long ago and refused to read comments to articles and other blogs after a few early mistakes. But, I have to. I can't explain it. They can't hurt us anymore than we are already hurt. People will judge us no matter what we do, so why not try to make a difference and let them see the real us?

No matter how introverted you may be, speaking, making introductions and navigating social settings, whether in the office or at a party, is a necessity. I have grown to enjoy it....small office meetings, presentations or other gatherings; intimate social settings at parties. The ebb and flow of social interactions - it is representative of life itself. Looking people in the eye, trying to gauge their emotions, wondering how you may be a part of their life, whether professionally or personally. What is their story? I truly want to know. As a lawyer, you learn how to read tone and guide conversations, kindly cut people off before it gets too heated, or insert a joke in just the right place to soothe irritations left over from arguments.

So, introductions with new, potential friends should be easy, right? It is the answer to the ubiquitous question that I thought I would have figured out by now: Who am I?

But, these days I'm finding myself in uncharted waters. I've come to realize that part of the purpose of life may be to answer that ultimate question of Who Am I? and it may take a lifetime or more to get there. Throughout my life to-date the answers have varied from "Hi, I'm Lindsey, 

...the kid who knows nothing about life but wants to one day.

...the student and runner, aspiring to be a single, successful working professional.

...the writer, wife and rambling post-grad trying....struggling through an existential crisis...to find her path in life.

...the wife and stay-at-home mom of a wonderful daughter, beginning to get restless. 

...the wife and mother of two daughters trying to make it through law school with an ounce of sanity left. 

...the wife, mother and lawyer focusing on her career. 

...the disillusioned female attorney trying to show it can be done, but missing her kids down to the depths of her bones. 

...the happy mom who has found a balance of friends, work and family. The mother of K, R, and...her new, baby boy Benjamin." 

A few weeks ago, I was invited to join a neighborhood Ladies Night, which rotates from house to house each month. "Okay, I'd love to come." But, as the night grew closer, I found myself retreating back to where I am most comfortable these days - at home (or running), with the kids and Kyle, reading or writing. I'll just skip, I can still cancel, no worries. But the day before the event, the kind neighbor who had invited me and arranged the entire event ran into us, while we were walking Harley. "You're coming tomorrow night right??" Pause. "Yes, I think I can make it." You see, "think" still left me room to come up with an excuse

What am I avoiding? Its two-fold: 

"Do you have kids? How many?" leading to the overarching "Who are you really?"; and  

Friendship. (It scares me these days. I'm too old to start all over amidst our new reality.)

We decided to move from Connecticut to Colorado in mid-October, after much heart-wrenching discussion, back-and-forth debates and soul searching. We always knew we'd move if Kyle was charged (as a Sandy Hook mom reiterated to me one night on the phone), and I think a part of my consciousness knew he would be. My primary concern originating from the first moments after I learned of Ben's death was to maintain my girls' innocence and childhood. Once taken, they would never get it back. I also had a profound concern about Kyle's well-being in Connecticut. We had seen the best of humanity - family, friends, community, new media - supporting us and showing intense compassion. But, we had also seen the worst of humanity - those shielded by anonymity, who didn't know us at all but wanted a voice, and spoke as if they would lose faith in "justice" if he were not burned at the stake. I will always remember the quote I read in a local article: "We all know what should happen here." Do we? What did happen here? Who are you? Can I please look you in the eyes as you say such things? Each turn through our beloved small town contained either a good memory (Remember the day we took Ben to that park? The way the sun's rays split through the green leaves above us, falling on his sandy blond hair. His giggles, as you tickled his legs. Yes, we will never forget that day.) or a horrible memory (That's where I saw your car and didn't text you to ask how you had gotten there so fast. See Jersey Mike's, where you went to lunch that day without a single thought that Ben was anywhere except at daycare. Safe. And...this is the spot where you hit someone trying to drive to the hospital faster. Screaming, crying.) In ways we felt like lepers. Some didn't know what to say to us. Just say hey! I know it seems impossible, but we're going to be okay. The look of shock on a neighbor's face when I simply said hello and started a conversation shook me to my core. So, we both knew that a new setting would greatly expedite our healing, especially Kyle's. After a long talk with the girls over S'mores and a fire pit in our backyard, we received their answer: "Yes, if you decide to move, we can totally dig a new family adventure!" 

But, there has always been my Achille's heel (actually, just one of them because there are many). Our friends. I do not take friendship lightly because true friends are hard to come by. Those that you feel are your soul mates from another life, that will stand by you no matter what happens. And, you would do the same for them. Those few that you allow to see your true Self. Through my nomadic life, it had taken me thirty-four years to find my "adult family." And, I would soon have to leave them. At least we had a few weeks to plan. We told those closest to us that we were leaving and planned our last nights out together. It would work out. I would ignore the pain building inside my chest. It would all be fine. 

But, then we received the news. It was around 5:15 pm on Friday November 7th. Kyle's lawyer called, while a DCF caseworker was at our house for his weekly visit. I will never forget the moment my husband told me.  "So." I felt his pause, viscerally, and just knew without him having to say a word. "They are going to charge me with criminally negligent homicide but they said I can voluntarily surrender." Pause. Breathe. Think. Calm Yourself Down, Control Your Mind. "Okay, we need to leave asap instead of next Friday. I'll finish packing. Tonight. When the media finds out, they will be at our doorstep within a second. We've got to protect the girls from this." I immediately called a trusted friend and reiterated the facts and my conclusion to her. "Tell me if I'm being rational or not because I can't think clearly. Do we leave or wait?" I had asked. We are back to square one, I thought, it feels like July 7th all over again. Our bodies are overcome with anxiety, shaking, unable to form sentences correctly. "Lindsey, if I were you, I would leave. Do it. Now," she responded very matter-of-factly. I searched for flights and found one that left early the next morning. My fingers involuntarily started texting my best friends He's being charged. We are leaving tomorrow morning. I don't remember much of that night. Maybe that is how your mind protects itself during trauma. I drove to some friends' houses Goodbye. Some were gathered together playing games with the family, laughing. I want those days back. But, it can't happen. Accept it and try to move on. I remember thinking, Don't cry or you won't make it through this. Yes, friends are one of my Achille's heels. The pain of losing friends after a tragedy can rip you apart. 

So, a few days ago I met my neighbor at the top of our hill and we walked together to Ladies Night. I have never felt so awkward, placed in a surreal situation. Who Am I? Do I have two kids or three? I have three, my son passed away this past summer. But, I can't say that because that will lead to...how did he pass away? What do I do for a living? What does my husband do? We're taking some time off right now. We are simply trying to live. Isn't that enough? Why did you move here....career, military? We moved because the purity of God in Nature here saved us. We found Ben here, on the mountain, do you want me to take you there? 

The night ended up not being as bad as I had imagined. During the first hour, I stood safely with my plate in a spot where I wouldn't look like a complete introvert but still protected me from....being vulnerable. Small-talk ensued. It ended up my neighbor had already done her duty and informed new arrivals that "We have someone new tonight. She has two girls in school here." So, my answer was simple: "K is eight and in third grade, and R is six and in first grade." I stopped there. "We moved due to...a life's change. We're taking some time off with the kids right now." End of story. The next few hours flowed with more ease, I laughed, we joked. I could just be "Me," not having to talk about this reality.

I still struggle with the hermit syndrome. Do I let people in? Do I wait until we are friends and then drop the bomb, or do I tell them up-front at the beginning so they can choose? If I take the latter route, I can vet those that will love, accept and be there for the real me, whoever that turns out to be. But, am I damaged goods, someone who has undergone too much irreparable harm to make new meaningful friendships after all of this? Or is it just a momentary weakness of mine to be scared of true friendship that can be lost or gained in an instant?

Only time will tell. 

For now, Who am I? 

I am a writer. I am broken and imperfect. I am a mother of three, who lost part of her heart when her son died. I am a wife who loves her husband through the good and the bad. And, I am a friend, who is trying to believe (maybe naively) that if I say all of this...there may be a few who will respond with "Okay. Tell me more. Let's hang out."

From That First Laugh A Seed Is Planted

A dear friend sent an email to me on September 12th, which reaffirmed my gut feeling that I had something worth fighting for. Here are some excerpts to give you a flavor of her sentiment: 

"I was [glancing through] an article...when I read the following.  My next immediate thought was of you and Kyle. 

'...It might be more accurate to call them a marriage of true minds.  They're just the most wonderful and joyous couple ... You feel good when you're around them.' 

I think it sums up my impression of you two before Ben's death.  While it's unimaginable to ever think life could ever be so carefree again, what I do think is to have ever had such a love between a couple that could leave such an impression is such a gift in itself. [That's what some people don't understand]...where some of the amazing strength comes from .... a heart that will fight to the ends of the earth for the sake of it." (the quote she used was taken from: John Powers, "Naomi Klein on This Changes Everything, Her New Book About Climate Change," Vogue, August 26, 2014).

This message took me back to "who we were when" - not just Kyle and I but our entire family. We've found a great therapist here for the girls, one that we can have ready in the wings if anything should pop up with the girls in the future. During our last appointment, our entire family went in together and we played the card game, "Truth or Dare." My oldest daughter, K, pulled a card with a dare to imitate a runway model. She jumped off the couch, put her headband on backwards, which lifted the flowing ends of her hair up to fall down over her forehead, and strutted her stuff across the room, shaking her little bum back and forth, hand on hip, saying with her best model accent "Oh, yeah, I'm awesome." She turned to blow a kiss to her admirers. My youngest, R, jumped up to join her. We all found ourselves bent over laughing, including the therapist. Then, it was my turn. My dare was to imitate a golfer. I grabbed my putter, dropped the ball on the ground, stepped back to take aim, bent over a bit, shaking it like K had a few moments earlier, saying in my most helpless girl voice, "Oh, I just don't know how to putt...hun, can you come show me?" reminiscent of the worst "first date" movie you have ever seen. The room filled with laughter again. As we left the appointment, the therapist pulled me aside, saying "They're just great, Lindsey. Just wonderful. So funny, so happy." 

We have never known how to live without laughter in our house, and we were so off-kilter for the first few months after Ben's death. There was only crying, silence, random outbursts of anger (or frustration or disbelief or an emotion for which there is no adequate word) from me to Kyle, long talks, and more silence. I didn't know if we would ever see even a glimpse of the family we used to be. And, Ben was just like the rest of us, or even more so. We were a true family of like spirits. Ben simply smiled and laughed All. The. Time.

After Kyle was charged in November and ordered (as a condition to his release) not to leave Connecticut, even over the holidays, he found himself again in a state of complete despondence, depression and loneliness.  To say I worried about him moment-to-moment is an understatement. I prayed that he would just hold on long enough to come back to us. We will be eternally grateful to our friends who sheltered him and provided him with much-needed support and company during those tough weeks.

After the condition was lifted on Dec. 16th and he was able to join us here in Colorado, I noticed a slow but sure evolution take place. We hadn't seen him in over a month, so I spent those first days getting to know him again. The new him, the new us, in our new, very different life. But over time, I began to notice a joke here and there, then some more, and a few inappropriate quips flying between us as we drove down the road alone together.  And, that first laugh we allowed ourselves to have together in December planted a tiny seed that has continued to grow. We now find laughter filling the house again. 

I remember in the month after Ben’s death, several people told me that they worried we would never experience pure joy again. I’m posting this for you. No, we are not the same people as we were before July 7th. We never will seem carefree and "happy-go-lucky" again, but we will find joy. And, pure joy at that. For, in those random moments of laughter, our minds focus on nothing except each other and the fact that life is truly worth living, even after tragedy and loss. Time stops, if just for a second, and I stand, trancelike, mesmerized with the innocent laughter of my girls, watching their faces of glee....memories of times past sweep in, ushering me to a time and place where I can forget the hardships and grief...then my eyes blink back to reality. 

We will never be the same. Ben permeates my every thought, step, and breath. But, through an honest laugh here and there, Ben is giving us permission to feel what he made us feel each day he was with us - pure joy.

You were and will always be my pure joy, my little man.  

On Pokemon and Leaps of Faith

Hello friends, I can't believe its been over a month since my last post! This has been for several reasons, including (1) it was our first holiday season without Ben and it was tough to know what to say, (2) this past month has been the first time since Ben passed away that we could finally rest in peace as a family, grieve and start to heal together, and (3) apparently, according to my youngest daughter, R, I have become a hermit and true introvert! The girls and I were sitting in my bedroom reading together, as we often do late at night these days, and R looked up from her book and simply states "You know, mom, you could never be on Ninja Warrior!" I look up laughing, "Why?" She responds with giggles, flexing her biceps, "Because you aren't tough enough! All you do anymore is read, read more and write." Pretending to be offended, "Thanks a lot! But, you know, strength comes in many different shapes and sizes." Granted, I've lost a lot of weight since Ben died, but this is the fittest I've been in eight years -- I'm even back to running again. But, I understood her viewpoint, since I've retreated into myself a bit, reading, writing, existing solely with my family. Movie/Wii nights, nighttime snuggles with the girls, long walks with the family, including our blessed gift from God - Harley, our golden retriever pup, who was bred to be a therapy dog.

November ushered in one of the most trying months of my life - it was the month that solidified that the "me" in my core, which I so desperately needed to be, had been long lost and urgently needed to be found. It was a month which taught me that life can bring complete destruction in ways, so you have to be able to find strength, alone at times, solely within yourself. God, peace, a place of complete stillness. When all else seems to fall away, you will always have your core strength. Sometimes this mission entails a self-imposed seclusion, so the spirit and body can heal, grow and find a path forward. 

This brings me back to the weekend that I landed with the girls in Colorado on Saturday, November 8th, which was neither our first nor last big Leap of Faith. Boulder will forever hold a special place in my heart. It welcomed us with open arms - majestic mountains and trails, where we hiked to flesh out all of our worries, fears and heartaches that next Sunday, and a fresh snow on Monday, marking the beginning of a new period of purity and grace for us all. Our lease in a town further south wasn't supposed to start for another week, so we couldn't move into our new home until Wednesday at the earliest. So, in the aftermath of our quick flight out, which was expedited by one week, I had decided to take the girls for a long weekend road trip to Boulder, a town I'd heard about in my college running years but never visited.

We sat huddled together in Panera on that cold Colorado Sunday after our arrival. We were all ecstatic to be starting our new " family adventure" (as we'd named it during our family-focused October discussions about whether we wanted to move for a fresh start or remain in Connecticut, weighing the pros and cons). The girls were sifting through their new Pokemon cards, trying to explain the game to this "mom of an older generation," who doesn't at all understand the Pokemon craze. 

"Mom, do you want some of my cards?" my oldest daughter asked. 

"Will they give me special powers?!" I inquired, a rush of child-like excitement pulsating through my body. Can I be a child again, and believe in special powers and magic shields?

"Oh, yes mom, they will!" she exclaimed.

I'm going to need many super powers to get through this next month, I thought. So, I began picking out the coolest-looking cards I could find. I should have used a criteria other than graphics and color, since I ended up with cards such as "Rhyhorn," strong, but not too bright, this Pokemon can shatter even a skyscraper with its charging Tackles. However, I trusted my trainer, "Shauna," could whip them into shape. 

I still carry those Pokemon cards in my purse. As I looked at my girls across the table, in our new home state, away from more trauma that I had learned two days earlier was brewing, I breathed a sigh of relief, You are safe. They sensed, however, that mom would need some extra strength to make it through (and I knew they were right, having already thought through what would ensue the next weekday), so these cards were a special gift shared between mother and daughters. 

I look forward to sharing more about our holidays in my next few posts, since parsing it out will take a bit of time and thought. In summary though, since its been so long, we are doing well. The month of December ushered in our first real month of healing, so I feel like we squeezed five months of healing into one month. Yes, there were rough days during the holidays (hence, my hesitancy to post during a season of joy), but many more good days. And, that's the direction in which we need to be moving - toward the good days outweighing the bad.

Though belated, I hope everyone had a wonderful, peaceful holiday season. God bless -

 

 

The Story of Us (Abridged)

 

I cannot find the energy to write much today. Our Thanksgiving respite is ending, and we are getting ready for the onslaught another week will bring, as everyone returns to their day jobs. Anxiety rises as the weekend closes. 

But, there is a story I need to share. It is the story of us, the abridged version. It really cannot fit into a few short paragraphs, but today it must.

Kyle and I met in August of 1998. I first saw him lugging my heavy furniture into my apartment off the campus of N.C. State University. He had graciously offered to help a friend of a friend, not knowing me at all. He was wearing a blue plaid shirt, looking very preppy, I’m sure he’s a “frat boy” and already has a girlfriend, I thought. That’s someone I could date, he seems so kind and well-mannered. (Ends up he was the opposite of a “frat boy,” did not have a girlfriend, and was immediately attracted to me as well.) But, we barely spoke until we met again a year later, through chance.

After several years of dating on and off, we were engaged late in the summer of 2001. We were innocent, optimistic for the future, planning our every moment together.

September 11, 2001. I remember standing in front of the television in our little apartment, watching the second tower fall. I had my mother on the phone as it happened, but no words escaped from our lips. We could only watch and cry in horror. What was this world in which we lived? Unrecognizable.

Kyle returned home from work, and we sat together on our couch. Eyes glued to the television; shock; speechless. All that we thought we knew was no more; uncertainty enveloped our lives; life, death, love; the reality that, on some unknown day, we may never see a loved on again.

November of that same year, we sat in the parking lot at a shopping center, our minds and hearts still reeling. “Why are we waiting to have a big wedding in the Spring,” I asked, “None of that really matters. Life is too short, we don’t even know if we get tomorrow.” He shook his head in agreement. We both silently knew. “Let’s just do it, let’s get married, now,” I stated, “Want to?” And, it was a deal.

Marriage license procured the next week, and on November 30, 2001, we walked into the county courthouse, found a random witness, and were married. Life is simple; love; time; faith; hope. Nothing else matters.

We ended up having a small ceremony in May of 2002 with close friends and family, many who are just finding out today our secret of 2001. You’ll have to forgive us for the little secret we held close to our hearts; this kernel of “us” has ended up being our salvation.

I cried through the ceremony, which was so unlike me. I am re-reading the end of the letter I gave him on our wedding day. “There just came a point where there was no longer a ‘you’ or a ‘me’ but an ‘us.’ One day I woke up and realized I could not imagine us apart – had we ever actually been apart? That feeling was not even imaginable anymore. Kyle, I am so lucky to have found my soul mate in you. I cannot conceive of ever having to be with anyone else. It is like we have been together forever – well, maybe we have. We match perfectly, like a puzzle, and complete each other. Most importantly, you are not only my husband, but my best friend. I love you more than you could ever know!”

Happy Anniversary to the only man I’ve ever loved. And, as I ended my letter of 2002, so I repeat today…

Love Always,

Lindsey

Once You Are Real

Ben "became." Actually, he simply is, and always was, Real, in full living color and vibrance. If you have ever met him, you know what I am talking about.  He had a spirit beyond words. Honesty in innocence. Slate blue eyes, which allowed us to see Heaven, even if just for a moment.

I would like to say I have "become," but that statement would be fitfully untrue. I am still a work in progress. I may never reach the plane on which he existed for those fifteen beautiful months, but I am trying.

To become real, we are asked to take a journey through the labyrinth of life, where we will become lost, only to find ourselves, over and over again. We must fight through, messy and raw, until we can one day manifest, pure, as our true selves. Real is the place beyond trauma or loss or disease. It is the space where one can simply exist, alone, with nothing left, and still breathe, feeling God’s energy all around. To simply Be. It is You stripped down to your core, in honesty and without fear. Loving yourself, your truth, and the joy of pure existence.

I am not there yet. My labyrinth has many twists and turns. At times, I am able to invite you in to walk the passageways with me – those that give me hope (and therefore offer you hope) and take me one step closer to Ben. But, I have felt the need to protect you from the walls that swiftly close in around us at times. Those walls on which I pound with iron fists, screaming, “Let me out! This can’t be real.”

I hide these walls out of fear.  It is the fear of bearing all of myself for you to see, fear of allowing others to feel pain simply through the telling of our story. I struggle with what my duty is to others. I have seen acquaintances tear up just talking to me, I’m ok, I swear! Shall I just smile? So, I do, and we move on. But, by simply moving on, we are shackled to blindness. I am beginning to understand that the walls may serve a greater purpose than even the clearest pathways of light, for it is through the sound of the walls falling that I can show you It is possible. Have hope. Without these walls, there can be no growth, and we would be left, stagnant. We would all be servants to eternal blindness, never to truly See.

During these first few days of this holiday season, I have found myself faltering in my approach, as my lowest points have brought a yearning to just be Real. I remember a friend uttering these words in idle conversation, a cliché that still resonates today: “The holidays will be tough.” Over Thanksgiving, I have grown less able to be honest with friends. I have not texted or called as often, so as not to interrupt the joy of the holidays that still exists for them. If I don’t want to lie “Today is great!”, and I don’t want to share my burden “Today is so depressing, how do I get through? Did this really happen?”, then silence seems befitting. And, as I walked with my mother through a local Christmas shop yesterday, the walls began to bear down upon my heart.  As traditional Christmas music played in the background, my soul remembered the joy of Christmases past. In a parallel universe, I felt the day as it was supposed to be: our family walking around the shop together, the girls brimming with joy picking out ornaments and sipping apple cider, Kyle and I choosing the perfect wreath, and Ben toddling around touching anything that was shiny. I lift him up, my arms encircling his chubby stomach and kiss his cheeks. Laughingly, I say, “No Benja!” and place him on my hip, our faces nearly touching. I feel his sweet breathe.

In my reality, though, I turned to my mother, as tears streamed down my cheeks, “I can’t do this. I don’t know HOW to do this.” To escape the Christmas memories, we marched upstairs to the discount room, where to my surprise I found a beautiful picture frame waiting for me. It read…You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept…. Soon thereafter, we made a hasty exit.

As I drove home, I could not keep my Real from seeping through the broken places in jagged sentences, somewhere out of my unconscious. I told her that the aftermath of a tragedy is a trauma in itself, day-after-day. I could never have imagined the subsequent losses and events that would unfold. It can’t be real. But, it is. I explained to her that I have become numb to certain of the more painful occurrences; the scars so deep, a thick hide formed over each, serving as a superficial protection. But, it only takes a small scratch at the weakest spot, and the pain bubbles up again, a torrent of emotion.

Yesterday, a solitary moment of realization, one that occurs at the most unexpected times This can’t be real. It is a nightmare? I will wake up soon; promise me….

In the aftermath of a tragedy like this, I do not believe anyone really wants to hear the Real. We’re okay, I swear! But, for each passageway, there is an equally formidable wall.

Lend me an ear, if you want. If not, simply glide past this blog. It is okay. I understand.

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

My son died. Alone. Did you cry for me? I DIDN’T KNOW! Please forgive me, come back. It was any other day, which makes it the day all parents fear. You cannot foresee it in order to stop it, and then there is just a gaping hole that remains. July 7th, 2014, the day my world was ripped off its axis, now spinning in darkness, out of control.

Please give me the day back, the moment I drove past my husband’s car on Main Street. Ben is at daycare. Why would I question it?

Please give me the moment back, when I sat at the coffee shop and knew he was safe. If I had been at work, I would have sent the daily text “How was drop-off?”

Please take away the memories of that day, when I drove to my husband’s office with the girls to surprise him for lunch. Was I meters from Ben, yet an eternity already?

Please, Ben, tell God to drown out the images my mind creates of that day. Please, my son, beg of him.

It was on July 7th that I experienced the intuition, which every human dreads; the phone call we all scream against in our nightmares. The rush of anxiety, the moment, when our worst fear materializes in our consciousness, but No, it can’t be true, so we scream and push it away until it is no longer possible to ignore. Just one more minute of the life I know to be true.

Take it all back, I do not want this. This did not happen, not to me.

It is the aftermath, which I could never have foreseen. Do you really want to understand? This is what I keep hidden. Ben’s death was the earthquake, but tremors may last for months or years; forever.

Please stop reading.

My friends told me never to say “I’m sorry,” because no one can judge grief or reactions to trauma. But, I can’t stop, I whisper alone at night:

I’m sorry you were the first person I called, or the second when I left a voicemail (Please don't answer!), in the parking lot near the police station, after I’d collapsed. I’m sorry I made you join me in the unimaginable.

I’m sorry for the things I said, or didn’t say, in the months that followed. Or the times I cried, or didn’t, or my words and actions made no sense at all. But, that is grief. That is trauma.  I could be no other.

I’m sorry, mom, for you lost your grandson. It is against the natural order of things.

If it had stopped at grief ("Ben’s gone, he’s dead!" I muttered into the receiver that night, nurses listening, marking my every word), our story would be somewhat easier to digest, in pieces, over time. “My husband, he’s catatonic, he’s left reality, just rocking and screaming, please help him. Please give him medicine. I’m worried he won’t make it through the night,” I urged, talking to whoever would listen, numb. No one knew what to say. 

But, it doesn't stop at grief. It continues. There are friends lost, those closest to my heart, my soul, “This,” it is just too much. I understand. How can I put that into words? It is a pain beyond pride, but a knife that cuts as deep as death itself. I miss you. I’m at once sorry you knew Ben and glad he touched your life, he was like a son, I’m sorry you had to witness…This. But, those words make no sense; it is trauma and grief speaking. They said not to apologize. But, I’m sorry.

And continues, “Ma’am, you can’t go home, the police are there to investigate; no one can enter.” Not comprehending, “To investigate?! But, I need my glasses, my clothes! We can’t leave the ER tonight, he’s not safe!” Facing the police at our house the next morning of catatonia and shock, I stuttered in shock, “You want to see what? WHY?” My world spinning; lawyer, mother, wife. Who am I anymore? This is a dream, I’m sure. Just keep it together, I told myself, you’ve got to be the strong one or the world will surely fall apart.

The State of Connecticut Department of Children and Families: "Sign this. He can only have supervised visits with his girls.” I blink: “What?” The words on the page blurring, meaning nothing, Ben’s dead, my only truth. Months later, I saw my signature on the bottom line, but was it the ghost of me that held the pen? There was no expiration date, Can my girls never see their father alone again? Soccer, daddy dates at Starbucks, God help me, I thought.

It has yet to end. Will it ever end? Can we, can I, can my girls just rest and heal and be at peace? I am their mother; I wasn’t even involved that day. I’m so confused. This is not logical anymore. 

Daily, we wake up anxious. My phone rings, a rush of anxiety pulses through my nerves, what is next? Force us to do What?! No. I’m their mother. They are innocent and will remain so. I will ensure a tragedy does not take away the only thing they have ever known – love, happiness and joy.

My oldest daughter, after we watched a movie with friends, crying in the car: “I just want to go on a play date now! Why do I have to go home to talk to them again?! Why can’t they just leave me alone so I can move on and be just be happy?”

“I know, honey, but we just have to, since Ben died. You understand. I’m doing my best to make it stop,” I replied.

Friday, November 7th, 5:30 pm, Kyle stated, so matter-of-factly (since haven’t we known all along, through our lack of faith in justice?), “So, my lawyer just called. They’re going to charge me with a misdemeanor. And, like we agreed, I can just surrender in the next few days.”

Lessons learned of media parked on our street, beating on our door, a frenzy that will change our family’s reality forever. How soon will they find out? I will not let this ruin the good family life we all know to be true. The girls -

We had come so far. The moments of joy returning, laughter, hope, the holidays were upon us. In that instant, we fell, sharply, endlessly

back       to

Square One.

My mind wandered to the days after Ben’s death, Kyle lying in bed, friends coming in and out on shifts to ensure he was safe. “Hun, I’ve got to get you a lawyer.”

Catatonic, shock, deepest depths of trauma, “What?” he paused. Tears, shaking, barely able to speak, “They can’t hurt me. Nothing can hurt me more than this.”

Weeks later, he verbalized the truth we all felt, “You know, I feel like the only way this will stop and our suffering will end is if I were to hang myself in the basement. But, the only thing they would regret is that they never got to see me in court, or harass us more about the girls, and I refuse to give them the satisfaction."

But, he is strong, so much stronger than any man I know. He never once questioned Life, other than a fleeting intellectual musing. He held firm to our love and continued on. Psychologists stunned, “Its amazing, no one even gives him credit for that feat.” But, I cannot help, in those groggy moments between dreaming and wakefulness at night, when I hear my phone vibrate, my heart jumps, Is THIS the phone call where a friend calls me and whispers “Lindsey, its Kyle.”

My mother sobbed, as I shared, the day after Thanksgiving, “I know our situation is only a fraction of this, but it is the only analogy that even partially fits from a physiological and mental perspective. We feel like we are prisoners of war, gulping any breath of fresh air offered to us, before the water flows over our faces again. Each day, we live on eggshells. When will the next shot come? Will it be above or below the belt, or straight to the heart? We can’t take much more.”

Becoming real. The truth is we have been beaten down to near nothing, but we still breathe and hold on to what is true, we fight through, together. Our adrenal glands are nearing exhaustion, a constant state of re-traumatization with each phone call or email, rushes of cortisol through our systems. PTSD means even loud voices make our skin crawl; bumps in the road, and we jump out of our skin. We look in the mirror, mere skeletons of our past selves. Food has become a means for survival, not enjoyment.

But, we push forward.

 Why? In this passageway, the writing etched on the wall simply states: Find your core. Trauma strips away all your layers, until you are forced to simply exist, alone, with nothing left, and you must answer the most fundamental questions of Who am I; What is life; What is real? We refuse to give up because we are finding the essence of life and what we know to be real.

How? We put on a suit of armor. My friends laughingly say, “You don’t do pity, do you? Why not? Is it because you feel it weakens you?” Yes, that is it. Exactly. Please don’t say “I’m sorry,” for it weakens me. I’m not sure This is possible really.

 But, it may be. We have come this far.

So, I will continue to write and share the positive moments of my spiritual journey through grief and beyond, of my tight grip on love and hope, for I want you to know it is possible.

But, I want to become real, to follow in Ben’s footsteps. I owe you this much. No human should be held to silence, for then you can never truly exist.

The words I spoke to my mother resonate in my mind today: “Don’t they know? Can’t they feel it? Can’t others imagine what they are doing to us? Kyle - my one true love - he has been broken into a million pieces; he is barely surviving. What has the world become, its end-goal? We are all connected; one action, a ripple, forming another, and another. No wonder society is falling apart, politically and ethically, if this is the way we go about our daily lives.”

Just hold on tight, for just one more day.

My mother was right when she finally replied, sobbing, “I know, it changed everything, life will never be the same.”

 My tears spoke I miss Ben. And, I miss life as it was. Please, can I have it back?

 But, that is not possible, and I remind myself of the words I spoke at Ben’s memorial service:

“We had the perfect life, and maybe this teaches us all that life isn’t meant to be perfect…that broken pieces make us stronger – maybe sorrow is an integral part of life. My friend sent me an email Tuesday that read: The world can seem so unnatural, unfair, and unthinkably cruel. In the end of the novel Farewell to Arms, Hemingway writes “The world breaks everyone, then afterward many are strong at the broken places.” My family, friends and this entire community are the glue keeping these broken pieces together and making us stronger at the broken places. Thank you. Right now, trust me, Ben is watching over us, laughing with his slate blue eyes, thinking 'Oh my, they have no idea how wonderful Heaven is.' ”

I love you, Ben, we hold on because of you and your sisters. “Because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” Only through becoming Real can we find true freedom.

Giving Thanks for a Love That Transcends

 

"Mountains are giant, restful, absorbent. You can heave your sprit into a mountain and the mountain will keep it, folded....mountains are home" - Annie Dillard

 

IMG_4218.jpg

 

 

Our first run together amongst the mountains,

the towering backdrop, a majesty which spoke to us,

This, is your truth of Thanksgiving:

 

Ben, is all around you, the energy of this day,

the laughter,

the sun's rays, vibrating,

you are free, together, now.

Red dirt, firm beneath your feet,

your eyes sharing pure joy;

all that you feel, he is, transformed.

Just say Hi, we love you, meet us here.

 

He will come.

 

Each became your child in an instant,

upon the first glimmer shown out of the spinning darkness above.

You saw Heaven in their eyes, and a truth was formed of

unconditional love.

Your arms, cradling, reassured them

I will protect you.

The gift of parent to child, an unbreakable bond;

They are entrusted to you, and to you alone.

 

The breeze off the peaks, whispering, Can I tell you a story of times past?

A country borne out of rugged individualism and self-reliance,  

a people in search of their God-given freedoms.

They bowed, thankful this day for bounty, selfless giving, love, and hope;

so shall you, go give thanks for the gifts they have forged for you over time -

 

A voice, all women, children;

Speak.

Parental rights, established beyond debate, as fundamental;

Marriage and family decisions, held as core to American society;

All sheltered against state usurpation and disrespect.

            Love; strength; family; faith.

 

The vista provided a moment of peace; yet,

I could not speak, as they ran ahead, innocence abounding;

their feet pounding the rhythm of my truth this Thanksgiving day --

 

You were given to me out of all that is holy;

I would suffer for you unconditionally;

to give you that which you deserve;

to protect you;

to build your future;

this moment, on this day,

as we laugh, run, hug,

I am yours;

this is your peace.

And, you are mine, and mine alone.

 

Wishing all a Happy Thanksgiving. Today, I give thanks for a love that transcends time and space. I give thanks for the right to love as I see fit, to parent my children in their best interests, and to speak, as a strong woman, wife and mother. You all have rights and voices. Let them be heard.

God bless this day.

I love you, Kyle. Today and always.

 

Home for the Holidays

 

I am always moved each season by the song “Home for the Holidays.” In the past, it has elicited a general sense of yearning, but superficial to the touch. A temporary graze of the hand, quickly eased.

When you pine for the sunshine of a friendly gaze.

This year, I am mired in its depths. Its resonance weighing down my every step; I rise; and fall.

Since July 7th, my husband and I have been allowed to grieve for Benjamin only in short bursts of peace, and we have devoured these moments, as if famished. By using the word grieve, I am referring to the soul-wrenching process of finding the space between. It is the metamorphosis of a palpable void into an infinite space of connectivity, where we can exist both physically without our son and spiritually with him at all times.

A love that reaches beyond all boundaries.

In the brief moments of peace and silence, my family was able to find a hope for the holidays – the first we would spend without Ben’s giggles as he tore apart wrapping paper and we placed red bows on his head. The holidays for our family usually begin on Thanksgiving Day with the smell of a fresh roasting turkey and sweet potato soufflé, the sound of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in the background, and the touch of our interlocked hands in blessing, We thank you for all you have given us. We thank you for this love.

Over a month ago, our journey through grief led us to a place that we immediately called “God’s Country,” a land of rebirth and energy, peace and love. We easily made the decision to relocate, a first step in rebuilding our life. Together as a family, we discussed our future of hope and growth, envisioning a time and place where we could begin the process of true healing. As we do each year, our Black Friday would be spent with daddy struggling to ensure our fresh-cut Christmas tree made it to the baler with all branches intact, the girls eyes glittering with excitement as they caught flurries of snow on their tongues, and my picking out fresh garland and cinnamon pine cones for the house. Christmas music and rosy cheeks on the ride home.

The vision was close enough to touch. The girls were brimming with excitement. We would all spend the Saturday after Thanksgiving turning the tree into a homespun mastery of lights, the girls excitedly placing each unique family ornament gently in its “perfect spot.” Standing back admiring our creation, then snuggling on the couch watching Christmas movies, the fireplace and tree being the only light penetrating the sanctity of our protected space.

Take a bus, take a train, go and hop an aeroplane.

No longer a graze, the song now penetrates to form a deeper scar. I do not know how to tell my daughters that Daddy won’t be "home for the holidays," that the path we have carefully forged to heal during our first holiday season without their brother will not exist this year. Our rebuilding together will have to wait. Daddy is the other half of your world, my loves, he will come to you soon. Just hold on.

This season, I can honestly imagine what other families have felt listening to that particular song in years past. Military fathers and mothers, singing Silent Night to their children over static-filled phones, their hearts being ripped apart with each note; families who have lost everything through tragedies, layoffs or divorces; individuals struggling with the loss of a loved one whose face will no longer be seen opening presents on Christmas morning. And, I feel so very sorry that anyone must experience the yearning of that song.

For the pleasure that you bring when you make that doorbell ring.

As I watch the snowflakes outside our window today, the promise of what was to be, is no more. I cannot mutter the truth that the doorbell will not ring, no matter how much you wish. But, Daddy loves you so very much.

Maybe the holidays are not limited to a time and place; quite possibly the holidays are truly a state of mind. It is the cushion that catches you when you fall. It is the space where you exist in eternal peace with God and your loved ones, a space of light, where together you can survive anything, a comforting reprieve. The holidays exist all around us, every day. My oldest daughter reaffirmed this to me on our ride to school last week, exclaiming "I love it here, mom, its like we are in Heaven in the stars."

This may all be true, but

I do so truly wish that I could give you the symbolic time and place of the “holiday season” this special year – the turkey, hiking for the perfect tree, the mystery of Christmas upon us; together, as we should be.

If only I could give you this; but today, in this moment, I am offering you so much more. Your daddy and I have been building for you a shelter from the storm, where you will find the peace of the holidays for years to come. We will protect you this day and always. When you are older and look back, know – the holidays are about your core; the Divine; your spirit; celebration; being You. You will learn one day what it means to stand on your own, to stand up for what you believe in, to be at peace within your soul, to know God. And, when you find that time and place, you will understand what it really means to come home for the holidays. 

The Other Side of Broken

 

I must show you the other side of broken,

as I watch you dream, the wisps of your breath an innocence encircling my chest;

can I share with you now, as you sleep?

Your soul can keep the secret, until you need to know.

But, not now, not tonight.

 

For this moment alone, I will share with you what I have seen,

so please do not open your eyes.

But, you must understand that there may come a day for you too,

and I promise –

there is a place that exists on the other side of broken.

 

You will sense it coming, but you cannot foresee the exact moment.

I hope it will be as it was for me – a silent failing of senses:

all that is physical, all that is conscious; it is stripped away in pieces.

You will feel them float away, no longer tethered by gravity,

into space.

 

Breaking entails a myth that all is lost into an endless void;

that you are no more,

that all you know has been dispersed.

The myth comes from the solitary moment

of shattering.

 

But, you must fight through the moment to find the other side:

when your spirit reaches that most physical of end points,

where conscious thought is overcome,

and your mind can no longer comprehend.

just Breathe, and

Let

Go.

 

It is on the other side of broken that you will find your core.

 

Relax your body, in the silence of the dark; you can feel it now,

emanating from your heart.

This is your core, which cannot be destroyed.

The other side of broken is even more magnificent,

for it is there that you can simply Be.

And, in this space, nothing is lost,

you can no longer be hurt;

after the breaking, you will Rise.

 

You will not be alone,

for no one is unbroken.

As you walk through life, even now, feel it,

you will sense the pieces of others;

hold them, protect them, for all are connected.

Lift each one you find with the strength of your love, 

for there may be pieces, long lost by others, that fit only 

in the palm of your hand.

 

Now, wake.

Just go be, you.

The other side of broken exists already within you, it is your spirit;

in its peace, you are protected.

Find its strength.

For Life, when all else falls away, is the blinding sun rising in the East,

your brilliance to explore.

 

* The Other Side of Broken was written with my two daughters in mind. However, it is meant for anyone who has broken or feels that they are facing the impossible. I found the other side of broken on November 20, 2014. Whether you are experiencing the loss of a loved one, illness, loss of security, homelessness, divorce, loss of a friendship, depression, daily stresses of life, or any of the myriad losses and traumas individuals face each day, I am speaking to you. Please know that you are not alone and that there is space on the other side of broken. Hold on, fight, and find strength in your core. There is a brilliance to Life itself, within you alone, even when all else seems lost. Reach out to others, for we are all broken in ways, and our pieces surround you every moment. We are all connected and can help each other. Reach out in peace, love, and faith. There is always hope. Just go be, you. You are beautiful.

I May Have Broken My WHAT? And Why....

I don't cry, or at least not much. I've shed more tears in the past 4 months than the better part of my entire life. Sunday ended with an unexpected few tears appearing, while we were out for dinner with friends. It had been a particularly rough few days involving an intense yearning for parts of our "pre-July 7th" life that we lost, and a sense of profoundly missing Ben and what we had, including our love and relationships with close friends that, always, involved Ben. I woke up this morning with the same core sadness. 

After the girls were safely at school and Kyle on an errand in Newtown, I sat down on the couch to listen to country music with headphones (a new post-July 7th quirk of mine) and write. Deep in thought, I realized I needed a book that I'd left on the kitchen table. Jumping up, computer in hand, I started walking, not realizing my headphones were still connected to my iPhone on the couch. As I felt the tug of the cord, my balance altered, foot with socks on slippery hardwood floors, I took a step back to try to keep my iPhone from falling, landed on my heel, and started slipping. 

You only have a second. And, in that second, my mind scanned so many things to make the "decision," which was more like instinct. I fell, trying to protect my computer, not letting go to brace myself with my hand and CRACK. Yes, I heard a loud crack and saw the flash of light that I'm assuming is a brain signal produced from intense pain. 

Its interesting how you really do assess your body after a fall. I'd felt the jolt radiate up my spine, so I made sure I could feel and move everything. The very next thought was like a "life review" but of the future. I saw myself in the bright, crisp sunlight with Kyle, the girls and our golden retriever puppy, running and hiking on vast trails, breathing in the peace of fresh air. Blue, clouds, breeze. The words that ran like a script across my mind: Nooooo...if I've broken something or have a compression fracture in my spine, I can't do THAT for a very long time. I NEED to do that. But, if I did break something serious, I'll be okay. I'll get through. 

Then, my often-used catch-all word, SERIOUSLY? Did this really just happen?

Next, I mentally scanned through friends to call. Who is closest? Not at work? Who don't I mind seeing me flat on the floor? Then comes the embarrassing call to 911, after we both figure out I can't sit in a car to get to the ER. I felt like saying "I've fallen and I can't get up!" but resisted, thinking humor may not be appropriate at that point. My friend arrived before the paramedics, bless her heart. I'm fairly certain the first thing I said was "You CANNOT laugh at me!" 

The paramedic informed us he would be driving me to Danbury Hospital because it was closer and less of a bumpy ride considering my pain level. My friend immediately said "Linds, is that a good idea? No, let's do Norwalk." We ended up on the way to Danbury, since in my mind, "I'm fine, I can handle anything, noooo woorrrrieeesss.....," plus my bum really hurt! The paramedic asked what was wrong with this hospital. I answered point blank (I've found things tend to be easier that way these days) because my son died this summer and we took him there. He went on to ask How?, to which I responded We're THE Ridgefield family. In my head, Yes, I'm THAT mom.

When he asked how I fell, I started to methodically dissect the event. Then, I began crying, chin quivering, tears streaming - the whole shebang. I didn't put my hand out to brace myself because I couldn't drop the computer and risk it breaking. All my pictures and videos of Ben are on my computer! I feel so stupid, but I couldn't drop it! I didn't care what I broke..... [Yes, I'm sure we've backed up everything. But, they are just that - "back-ups." I need three or four back-ups. If I break one, that's one less back-up I have.] 

He reassured me I wasn't stupid and, I'm sure, realized he'd gotten himself into more than just a normal post-fall drive to the ER. Then, I joked around a bit, met my friends and husband at the ER (which thankfully was brand new, with no memories or similarity to the July ER), made a lot of fun of myself and allowed them to do the same, and was discharged by noon. Diagnosis: No pelvic, spine or hip involvement, possible fracture of the coccyx, i.e. tailbone, or bad bruise (no x-rays because who needs radiation if the result won't change treatment). Treatment - rest and see how soon it gets better. 2 week = bruise; 2 months = fracture. Another friend faithfully bought me the obligatory foam donut, and we were all set. I had no shoes, but found eating at Chipotle with only hospital socks and a bright yellow donut oddly not embarrassing. Its all relative these days. 

So, what in the world did I learn from today? 

First, I don't have Ben physically anymore, but he is spiritually around me every day. I have memories and I have...pictures and videos. As my mind's eye fades, I need the pictures to trigger more intense connections with him. More vivid memories to get me through. And, I'd risk a broken bone to save those. I'd instinctively reached back to try to stop my iPhone full of over 2,000 pictures from crashing to the floor (though unsuccessfully), and I'd refused to let go of the computer in the fall.

Second, I was reminded that, though things can change for the worse, they can change for the better too. I still have sister friends, a few which I may not have had otherwise, and I'm willing to let them see me lying flat on the floor, embarrassed. And, those friends are still able to make me laugh and willing to buy foam donuts for me. 

Life can be different, but still good. And its so very much worth it.

 

Halloween is one of those holidays with a capital "H"?

Since Ben's passing, I've often heard "oh, the holidays will be hard." Holidays? Which ones? Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine's Day, his birthday, Easter? 

Or what about July 4th, when we played at the beach and watched fireworks together? Or Memorial Day, when he sat on his daddy's lap watching the parade and was so enthralled by the floats passing us by (and slightly concerned by the loud car engines)? Or simply Labor Day, when we grilled out with friends and he laid on his blanket sucking his thumb, looking at me, grinning contently? 

As opposed to any ordinary day, or moments of ordinary days. When I think I hear him crying in his crib at night, but its my imagination (or my mind re-creating reality). When I expect him to walk through the kitchen, throwing his tiny basketball, laughing uncontrollably, but he never does.  When he should be watching his big sister's soccer game, squealing as he runs after a ball on the field, and I quickly pick him up and run to the sidelines. 

But, Halloween? It hit me, so unexpectedly. Pulling out of the grocery store parking lot, explaining things to my girls: "So, I'm just going to say it once today, then I'm going to try not to talk about it again ok? But, I REALLY miss Ben today." Then, watery eyes -- really, Halloween? Out of the blue, my oldest daughter asks me to turn into the cemetery so we can visit him, "quick, do it mom." (She's not usually expressive about her loss.) As we drove up, I noticed someone had placed a little pumpkin on his grave. More tears, but we find our way together to stand, kneel by him, and "We love you Ben, we miss you," slips out. The three of us have our quiet moment of mommy, daughter time. 

The moments of recognition are much needed for all of us. We laugh, smile, and play; we love; but then, in the moments, we cry, long for him, and just simply miss him. And, its all okay. 

If all else fell away

 

To, my daughter K

 

If all else fell away,

and you simply

Were.

The clouds turning to ice with our exhale,

I would stay.

And, sit. Embracing the silence,

existing beside you.

Look - 

the snow blowing in sheets off the mountain.

Do you See?

 

Shivering, I would lean toward you,

listen, that's my heart, and feel -

the warmth pulsating,

surrounding us. Protecting us.

The sun blinds in its brilliance,

but in blindness we are free.

This gravity of me

towards you.

This connection that whispers I love you

is our heaven.

If all else fell away….

Falling Into You

 

Can I fall into you, my son?

Love becomes

Only a combination of letters, born from the lines and curvatures of our limited consciousness

Christening our lips for the unspeakable, the unknowable

As one bubbles, upon another, in singularity these words give life. I feel

Your presence is like the universe, expanding

energy that blankets my everything, my history and future –

 

Was every moment, a history without you, but always with You?

Non-linear, time brought you before birth and shepherds you to

Where are you now?

 

The shards of light, glimmers of you through the falling leaves

The flurries of snow melting on your sisters’ tongues

The breeze tunneling through the trees with the sound of your voice

All and, the silence.

 

God in the space between.

 

As a star collapses into itself,

Did you follow?

May I find you there?

I will not wait for your answer to fall upon my ears

Space,

Time interrupt, or prolong, Begin?

As I search for the horizon, that event of birth, beyond which there is only

You, always shifting, seemingly just out of reach

You try to answer I am here, further

You worry I cannot hear you -

That I yearn too much for the physical moment of you…

 

But, oh my love, you do reach me.

Listen to my voice as I speak to you at night -

I hear you

Feel You

Faith transmits your answer, trust in me,

I will listen, am listening, have always been listening.

Your energy which should not, did

Find me.

I hear your giggles, feel your soft cheeks, see the curls falling softly over your eyes.

 

The energy of you now, of where you are - speaks,

rolling off the tongue, as a peculiar combination of the soul emoting

that which is the energy of Love

You were, and will always be.

 

For I did fall into you, am falling into you, will continue falling into you 

Infinitely, this love, of you, us, my son

You know now, what I can only still imagine - 

In your star's collapse, the energy that is You, beautiful soul, is disbursed into

The All

That ever was and ever will

Be.

 

I have always been a part of your horizon,

Passing infinitely into your beginning

Not end.

Return is not needed,

For we eternally are

 

Together,

In the space between.

Our Reddi-Wip® Days

Surviving grief, and living. The initial steps are simple, mindless, but the latter steps more arduous. 

The day after your trauma - get out of bed. Shower. Shave. Its that simple. I promise. Trust me. 

The three month anniversary. There is no recipe, this maze is complicated, winding, and individual. But, I can talk about what today brought for us. Driving my oldest daughter home from soccer, I found myself saying, "Can I tell you something? After Ben's death, I'm sad, and its very painful, daily. But, you know, I'm happy too, especially in the moments. Getting up in the morning, reading, writing, being with you guys and daddy and friends. Can I say that? Is it okay?" 

"Yes mom." 

And, after homework and dinner, the girls begging for dessert. My next instruction to you, for the three month anniversary -- do what you need, scream, cry, snuggle with your family, laugh, love, write, read. But, if the time calls and your kids ask for whipped cream -- spray a gob of Reddi-Wip® in their mouths, and yours, and listen to the laughter resonate within your home.

Then, wake up, shower, shave. 

And - Breathe.

 

 

My God, My Child

Its tough to write much these days. Not because we aren't "okay" (in the sense of the word that most people think about), but more because writing takes a mental focus and freedom that is difficult to find in our lives right now, for we continue to be weighted down by extraneous factors that take our attention away from what truly matters to our family unit. One day soon, we pray, we can just collapse into each other and grieve, forge a new life together - in peace, much needed peace.

That being said, I can't avoid writing. It builds up in my chest as rumblings of anxiety unless I allow it to flow out at least in little trickles for now. So, maybe I will try short blurbs each day. Nothing special, just tidbits of the immense emotions sweeping through our lives. 

I've been daily contemplating God, energy, and connections -- paths that are woven together, and coincidences which are not.

Last Monday, I was handed Emily Rapp's memoir, The Still Point of the Turning World, in which Rapp chronicles her journey through grief and "mortal love" after finding out her nine-month old son, Ronan, had Tay-Sachs disease, an untreatable genetic condition whose victims usually survive only one to three years. She lived through love, knowing she would lose the very pulse of her existence. 

I remember happening upon her blog when Ronan was still alive, February 5, 2012. A friend had sent me a link to Rapp's article at therumpus.net titled Transformation and Transcendence: The Power of Female Friendship. My friend told me "There is more, but its a tough read, knowing you have kids and all..." But, she continued to lead me to Little Seal: Ronan's Blog. Heart wrenching for any reader but, for some reason, it tore my heart apart. I felt a compulsion to write. So, I scribbled down the following in about 10 minutes, in February of 2012. I'm still mentally exploring the Why? And, it only perpetuates my exploration of "God," as I work through Ben's death. 

 

My God, My Child 

 

I question you, this child of me, as

your skin nuzzles against mine.

This God of which you speak has given,

yet taketh away.

But you speak of Him, with each hand

Grasping

at my fingers, comfort for you. And

for me a reminder that

there will come a Day.

 

This God, he has spoken to me too,

and he has called himself a child.

You, dear,

and father, are my God – and you speak

so gently.

 

Through nightly whispers I hear Him,

touch you, caress your skin.

This God of Uncertainty,

forcing met to question what I have found

as Suffering.

 

But, this God gives Life,

through each warm breath I feel

against my skin, it is Life

for with this suffering, I find existence,

we breathe, together, cadence.

Speak to me dear child,

with your cries.

Mixing with mine.

 

For I embrace, tightly,

you, this Time,

through Him, we See

a meaning in this suffering,

and it is called

Living. Through you

my God, my Child.

 

- February 5, 2012

 

Women of Courage

I’ve never been one for clubs, but I now find myself a member of an exclusive club that no mother wants to join.  The hallways of this club are convoluted, dark and lonely. The first few days after Ben’s death, I walked through these corridors alone, crying and beating against its walls for comfort. Then, a door opened. A mother who lost her precious child in the Sandy Hook, CT tragedy walked out and offered me her hand. As I lost sight and stumbled during those early days, she guided me and saved me over and over again, for she had walked these halls before. She guided me around each corner, carrying me across the chasms that threatened to swallow and destroy me.

She comforted me when I needed to know Heaven was real, the nights when I texted I cannot breathe, he’s so beautiful. Moments of unimaginable pain, in your soul. How do you get through? The day of Ben’s celebration service, the moment when I cried into the phone, searching I just need to know it gets better. If it does, I can fight to try to get through.

She promised it would. So, I fought.

Many of her words made no sense to me at the time, but I understand now. It hurts like no other pain and it feels like it will swallow you whole. Keep breathing. In. Out.  This is a marathon that you will finish in order to get back to Ben. Talk to him. He hears your voice. He is all around you, wanting to help you. The brilliance of God and Ben that I have experienced since she first uttered those words is something I cannot even delve into through writing yet. But, she was right, I found Ben.

Weeks later, when I could concentrate enough to process sentences, I began to self-medicate by drowning myself in books, instead of other more destructive options. (I had to be strong for those that needed me the most.) As I devoured them, I found myself frantically searching for an escape from the feeling of isolation. I needed to hear “you are not alone.” I yearned to know that others had felt, not only the pain, but also the hope and energy of God, of their beloved child. As I raced through the books, underlining passages, some would be tossed aside with a No, that one doesn’t quite capture it or kept by my bed That one is close enough for now.

I have felt God at work, or maybe it is Ben I feel (are they different?), filling my needs in unexpected ways. This time last Sunday, after a rough few days, I woke up with an overwhelming, intense feeling in my chest. My heart needed something that was missing. It called me to search, for “something” - as I so often find myself doing these days. Coffee in hand, several websites later, I was led to Rare Bird, a story by Anna Whiston-Donaldson of the loss of her twelve-year-old son in a random flood. I drove 45 minutes that morning to locate it, and after several straight hours of reading, I sighed OK, this is the closest to my journey so far. Relief.

RareBird_3d book cover.jpg

Two days ago, I received a package from a close friend from high school, who knows Anna. We haven’t seen each other in years. Unbeknownst to me, the Friday night before my heart inexplicably led me on my quest to find Rare Bird, my friend was telling Anna about our family and beloved Benjamin, asking her to sign a copy of the book for me. My friend’s note that arrived with the book reassured me that during those rough nights last weekend, when I was struggling greatly, our family had “even more prayers coming our way” from their little town.  And, as I woke up that next morning, after the prayers, my heart knew. The power of God’s energy – it leads in mysterious ways.

Over time, my club’s membership has expanded, and it now includes women that have experiences beyond the pure grief of losing a child. There are various circles of friends behind each door, sitting, talking, sharing – those who were struck with sudden losses, those with longer battles, some who are experiencing the fear of death in their own life, and women who are rising above a variety of other challenges. Breast cancer, addiction, divorce, or just the challenges of “life.” But, the common thread: These Women are POWERFUL.

I asked my Sandy Hook friend what our club should be called. We are survivors, but we are more than that. We are warriors, but that doesn’t seem quite adequate either. I find that words carry their own energy, just like the energy we feel through the human connection or God or just experiencing life. So, yesterday I wrote down the words that had an energy connecting me to these women: strong, core, support, warrior, survivor, hope, energy, resilient, power, faith, change, dynamic, will, foundation, love. Maybe there is no single word that encapsulates who they are. But, I searched for it.

The message God needed Anna to share with me was greater than redemption and hope. It was that of courage and friendship. For there have been many dark days where I have felt very alone walking these hallways of trauma and grief. But, I have begun to notice other forms emerging from the fog, reaching out to support. They may not be members, but they are friends willing to “go there with me” if just for a moment. To risk joining me in the pain, in order to help me through. Anna gets it right, when she states the painful truth that “[i]f I'd made a list of who I thought would be there with us to try to pick up the pieces after a tragedy, that list would have been off.” The dirty truth of a tragedy goes beyond the immediate grief of the loved one lost. Life is much more complicated that that, but it is what makes us human. In her words, “[f]riends who grieve with us have to face their own version of leaning into or dealing with grief. They run the risk of being overwhelmed by it, pulled into their own form of depression, fear and bitterness.” As a friend said last night, it would be nice to know who those warriors will be before they are tested. But, this is not possible. And, I’ve come to believe that this discovery is part of the journey of grief and loss, and through it, Life.

But, for those who are courageous enough to face their greatest fear as a mother, to feel the pain for just an instant, to hold my hand through it -- I thank you. It is because of you that I can even begin to utter the words “Life is Extraordinary” and search for the light at the end of this tunnel.

You will find a thesaurus that lists “manly” as a synonym for “courageous.” But, I respectfully disagree with that social construct.

Women cannot comprehend their immense power – a power whose energy is only matched by the single word COURAGE.

For more thoughts on how you can help your friends or family through the deepest layers of grief, please see "5 Ways to Help Your Grieving Friend - Rare Bird Launches!!!" (blog by Glennon Doyle Melton), at momastery.com. One day, I will be able to write and share my own thoughts on this subject. But, not quite yet. Baby steps.