Life As It Will Be

Just a few thoughts on grief to follow up on my post from last night. So, how does the morning look after a night like that, one where you unexpectedly find yourself sobbing and unable to breathe? It was a restless sleep for sure, and I'm fairly certain I told Kyle that I just wanted to lie in bed for the next week and not get up. I called a friend (in this time zone!). Then, I took something to help me sleep and laid in bed wide awake for an hour or so, soaking up the memories from last year when we had to do the same thing. I smelled our friend's house where we were sheltered for weeks and let the comfort of being there wash over me again...the comfort of being allowed to just fade away at night into an oblivion of sleep where there was no tragedy, no grief, no mountain to climb. But, we always had to wake up the next day and go on. You absolutely have to. You have to hug and snuggle your kids, allow new (and old) friends to be there for you, and move forward building a new future. So, like last summer, I dragged myself out of bed and went for a run around the reservoir this morning.

It is hard to focus on the future at times like this. But, I think part of the grieving process is working through the past before you can move on into your future. I'm just now at the point of getting through the past and beginning to create a vision of the future ahead...without Ben and everything we cherished - our close friends, soccer, schools, teachers, community, work. But, I know there is a new reality, a new normal for us out there -- filled with much love, friendship, laughs, soccer tournaments, careers and community. It's just hard to see on some days.

A huge thank you to those who are supporting us right now and helping us create our new life.  

Life As It Was

June 30, 2014, playing at a restaurant in Ridgefield, CT with family and friends. I didn't know what the next week would bring, my Ben. I love and miss you! Thank you for the time you gave me. 

June 30, 2014, playing at a restaurant in Ridgefield, CT with family and friends. I didn't know what the next week would bring, my Ben. I love and miss you! Thank you for the time you gave me. 

Tonight, we enjoyed a wonderful U.S. Women’s World Cup soccer game with the kids and friends, in a venue with many memories from the “Ben days.” But, all I could think about was June 30th of last year. Where I was, how happy we were, what Ben was doing, how much time I thought we all had. How ignorant I was to take it for granted.

I finally got to text back and forth with a Connecticut friend. Now this isn’t just any friend. This was the person who had to be our rock in those first moments after Ben passed. These were our best friends, who knew Ben when he was just in my stomach, with whom we spent every weekend. What this friend doesn’t know is that I sit on my bed watching videos of Ben’s first crawling attempts on her floors, listening to her voice saying “Go, Ben, Go,” and we all clap.

When we got home tonight, I couldn’t help but just lie on the bed in Kyle’s arms crying and questioning….

Why can’t we all talk about pain? Friendship? And loss and grief? And the core of it all…love?

It's just too much, and we do it all in our own ways, in our own time. It breaks us in small ways if we deal with it head on, all at once.

But, pain, love and loss…maybe that is what let’s us know we are truly living. But, I don't want to know I am alive through this....I just want to hold and love my son.

In these days leading up to the one-year anniversary of his death. There is only one thought I have….

How could I not have known and saved him? It was the one day that I failed to text my husband and inquire about drop off at daycare. I could have kept Ben at home that day. I can't let go of that one moment, driving the girls to Vacation Bible School, when I actually passed his car on Main Street and wondered "how did he get to the coffee shop so fast?" I could have simply texted and asked...but my mind couldn't fathom the impossible as I passed the car, with Ben sitting inside. I simply thought "I misjudged when he left."

I’m so sorry, Ben. And, I’m speaking to all of our friends in Ridgefield, CT right now…I love and miss you. So very much it is beyond words. And, even more, I miss our life as it was. Those innocent beautiful days of last summer.

* Thank you to all my readers, who allow me to vent on this blog. It is my salvation. I do read your emails, and they give me so much renewed hope in humanity....they mean so much!

One Day...

I always thought, one day, I will figure it all out. The meaning of it all - of God, and you and me, and what is left when it is all gone. So, I searched. I pleaded in church pews and devoured books. I avoided the reality of evasive and unsatisfactory answers with the pure passage of mindless time, delving into pursuits that could fill the void of silence. One day, I thought, I will know God and what it all means. Then, I will have Become…me and what I am supposed to be.

But, I am beginning to believe that I may have been looking in all the wrong places. Last Thursday, I found myself dialing my mother, as I sat on the ground crying into the phone. I’m dealing with things now that I couldn’t last year, I said.

Like what, she asked.

I paused.

What has caused this feeling, of my soul lying outside my body? Of being torn apart, a pain that becomes painless?

It's just him, I said finally, it's just purely Ben - the essence of him and how much I love him and miss him. It is finally only about…him.

Last year on this day, I could touch him, and now I cannot.

 And I continued crying.

Through the tears, I began to wonder if God is in the places I have been avoiding. Possibly my search has been far off point. For instance, I’ve never been a “toucher”…I tend to avoid showing my emotions or letting others in. I avoid touch, and being touched by anyone I could truly love,

and lose.

It’s the braille of their body that gets me. What you can read through each caress, the energy pulsating through them, and if connected by touch, then on through me. It is the love of you are here, but, one day, you may not be. And, if I truly come to know you, love all of you, then the pain would be the kind that eventually becomes painless.

But, what if it is not as easy as I once thought, to find God? To find meaning? Maybe it is not in a church pew, or a book, or even in the dirt of the Earth. Maybe it is in the energy of all of them, together, flowing through the touch of you and me. And, what if you never truly live unless you have said the words it is just him and someone has said the same about you? What if that tearing outward of the soul, the painless pain is so simply the core of God, and you and me, that we almost miss it for it can be as gentle and quiet as a soft caress? And, what if that painful love is what is left when it is all gone? 

Concerts in the Park

Concert in Ballard Park, Ridgefield, CT June 17, 2014

Concert in Ballard Park, Ridgefield, CT June 17, 2014

A friend invited us today to join her family at a summer concert in the park here in Colorado. It is the second of the summer, and I haven't been able to make myself go yet. I know we should, I'm sure it is lovely and fun. I miss it. But, the memories are too strong right now. Tuesday night concerts in Ballard Park in Ridgefield were simply the best part of our summer. The kids looked forward to them all year. Summer 2013 brought baby Ben at the concerts lying on the blanket just taking in the sights and sounds. If we go to the concerts here, there will be an empty space, a gust of wind, a smell that brings back the Ben I held last summer. Laughing, running around the park holding his favorite toy, a ball, throwing it, giggling, picking it up and...all over again. There will be fireflies and glass jars, best friends, chatter, innocent children screaming and playing soccer, runs to the ice cream truck, dancing at the stage. All was well, all was love, all the time in the world....I just didn't know. How could I not have known and stopped the next few months? But, isn't that life...why this was so hard for most parents to swallow? We live most of our life believing we are in control. But, there is a reality that is hard to face -- we have them to hold, but we can never know when that day may come. That's why we have to live the life that fulfills us each and every day, love those close to us deeply and unconditionally, and never waste a moment. It's all too short. Those blue shoes in the picture...I searched for them for hours in preparation for the funeral. They were nowhere to be found until one day I located them at the bottom of our "escape route" suitcase. Something inside of me must have known...I needed to keep those with me. As I write this, I'm listening to a song that downloaded on my iPhone the weeks after his death. Those first weeks, I sat in our sunroom, writing, for hours on end, listening to music. It is Jason Mraz's version of "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye To Yesterday." 

Yes, it is. I simply was not ready. 

Maybe next week we can cross the hurdle of concerts in the park. 

I love and miss you Ben!

Planet of the Golden Retrievers

Last Friday morning, a rough day with flashbacks. We just needed snuggles.

Last Friday morning, a rough day with flashbacks. We just needed snuggles.

A few weeks after Ben died, we had our first encounter with a service dog in training (to work with individuals with PTSD). We met him at Tazza, our favorite local coffee shop where we'd spent endless hours with Ben and our family friends. His owner gave us a card, and we later invited them to our house to share his gift with the girls. Then, the week after our Today's Show interview, Kyle and I were eating at a restaurant in the Danbury Fair Mall when I walked by a table and heard someone whisper "....she is....Today's Show." My first instinct was to hide because we had encountered so much negativity and gossip by that point. But, after we were seated a woman walked up to our table, introduced herself and told us she had seen the interview, respected us and was keeping us in her prayers. It was Jen Marr, the handler for Addie, a Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Comfort Dog that worked with Newtown families (see Good Morning America segment). She offered to bring Addie by to see my girls, which we gladly accepted. She is now a dear friend, and that one visit changed our life for the better. 

It was after feeling our intense anxiety melt away, if just for the moment we were petting Addie, that we began exploring the idea of getting a Golden Retriever. We found a breeder in California, and I knew it was a match as soon as she told me his name was Harley. He was bred for service work or simply to be a family dog. Next thing I know, in late September I found myself waiting in the cargo area at JFK to meet our new puppy. This is what greeted me: 

Meeting Harley at JFK Airport. "Hi!!! Are you my new mommy??!!"

Meeting Harley at JFK Airport. "Hi!!! Are you my new mommy??!!"

Over time, we learned that Harley had very distinct traits and gifts:

Giving and receiving love. Our family joke is that he is our lazy dog, inevitably quitting on us at the end of every hike, quietly lying down on the trail. Sometimes I think he needs us even more than we need him. He craves love, each and every minute of the day. He slowly stretches out on his side when he sees us walk toward him. “Just pet me,” he says. He is a dog that doesn’t bark but “mumbles”…it’s a low key growl-like sound (call it a "purr") that he emits whenever he is happy and relaxed. Now, don’t get me wrong, he musters enough energy to run or play with the kids each day, but he really exists simply to love and be loved, nothing less, nothing more.

Staying. Because of his laziness, Kyle loves to say he is Yellow Dog "guaranteed to never run away” (from the Chevy Chase movie, Funny Farm). When Goldens find their family, they stay. One day, our youngest daughter let him outside, not knowing the wind had blown the gate to our fence open. Twenty minutes later, our neighbor showed up on our front porch where Harley was sitting patiently staring at the door and waiting (not barking, of course). “I saw Harley sitting here on your front porch when I drove by and wasn’t sure if you knew he was out,” she said. He is not a runner, he is a “stayer.” I’ve read articles and wonderful blogs about how friends can help grieving families. There are many things you can do, but I can narrow it down to one of simplest yet most fundamental actions: Staying. There may be nothing to say or do; your friend may push you away only to come back again later. You may feel utterly helpless and in pain, but a simple message of “I’m here when you are ready” can mean more than you could ever imagine. Often there are no other words. I'm sure I have whispered amongst tears many nights, Just Stay.

Therapy. He senses stress, anxiety, sadness, depression. There have been days when I’ve come home, and he has absolutely attacked me….would not stop crawling all over me, giving me hugs, putting his face against my leg. Sometimes I don’t even know how stressed I am, until I realize he has sensed it. Then, I try to let go of the tightness in my chest. The picture above was taken last Friday morning. It had been a subtle trigger. I’d awoken to sun seeping through the slits in our blinds, then the breeze of the ceiling fan hit my face, blowing my hair. In an instant, I was taken back to a morning in our bedroom in Connecticut last summer, sun breaking through the thick tree cover, birds chirping, window fan circulating the fresh summer scent through our room. I was there again, breathing in the smell of our house and yard, humidity enveloping my body, waiting to check the monitor and see Ben playing in his crib, quietly waiting for us to get him up. But, this Friday, when my youngest ran into our room and I buried my face in her hair, yearning to smell our past life again, there was no crib, no Ben, no trip to the lake later that day. But, we had Harley. We needed some love therapy, and he was eager to give it.

Amidst the criminal and DCF investigations and court proceedings against us, Kyle made a statement that resonated with me: “You know, humans are going to destroy each other, and one day Golden Retrievers will rule the world.” Sometime I think he’s right. Humans fight and argue without even stopping to ask why, and Goldens, well, their only goal is to make it all better. Have you ever argued with someone and realized later it was because you loved them, not because you were angry or disagreed with them? I have. How counterintuitive, yet so utterly human, is that?

As for myself, I am still trying to learn how to simply...

love and allow myself to open up enough again to receive that same love in return. 

Lazy dog after a hike. "Just love me."

Lazy dog after a hike. "Just love me."



What The Eyes Say

June 28th, 2014, enjoying a day at Jones Beach for our oldest daughter's soccer tournament.

June 28th, 2014, enjoying a day at Jones Beach for our oldest daughter's soccer tournament.

Why don’t you look me in the eyes?
It was a legitimate question,
but she was a new friend,
who didn’t Know,
so I faltered.

How do you say….

The eyes are dangerous, and
in their reflection,
I cannot hide
Me,
and what I’ve seen,
touched,
heard and experienced,
who I’ve loved
and lost,

the Me that lives fully, deeply and passionately,
but is too scared to feel anything again,

the suffocating pain but
also the love, happiness and hope,
past, present and future.

The eyes are windows to
the soul, a place where I go alone, when nothing else is left,
the heart, where I carry the Ben that was,
and heaven, where I can still feel the Ben that is.

The eyes are sacred, because
they once held his steel blue gaze,
and they can’t let go,
but if you look,
I fear
he may disappear.

And, what would you see, in that reflection?
It's summer now, with
sunscreen,
sand,
heat, which is
simply
the Ben my eyes once saw -
his navy Hawaiian bathing suit,
shovel in hand,
giggles while digging in the sand;
the Ben my hands once touched –
applying the sunscreen to his soft skin,
wiping the curls out of his face
that last morning with a whisper
you’re too pretty to be a boy, I love you;
the Ben my ears once heard –
the first and last time,
the weekend before he was gone,
Mama, mama, mama

Mama (echoing forever)….

I fear you would hear him too.

My eyes would show you,
I’m right back there today,
and they would take you there too.
But, right now you are safe,
and you don’t have to know what I know,
that there can be beaches and smiles, then nothing,
and fear what I fear,
loving and losing,
Ben, and
the friends I held so close,
and right now, my eyes,
they would only reveal
the truth
that I can’t let anyone in again,
not quite yet,
for you don’t want to see,
what I have seen.

** I was not ready for what this first summer would bring. It hit like a unexpected tsunami. The first hot, sunny day we had in Colorado, a day at the pool, smells (sunscreen, water), sensations (the breeze), sights (a mother rocking her son, with a navy bathing suit, in the same position I used to rock Ben). It has been nine months since I’ve experienced a flashback and never one like this. At the pool today, all of those senses coalesced into one moment and my mind took me back to the weeks before Ben’s death, then the week after - I was at the beach with him, then I was at our friend’s house where we hid that first week. I smelled the comfort of her house. Then, I profoundly missed the friends I had to leave in Connecticut. It has been good for us to start anew, but sometimes I need those who experienced the trauma along with us, those who have had the same triggers with the heat these past few weeks, who sheltered us at their houses during breakdowns, who hugged me when I could do nothing else but sob.

A Life in Pictures

I don't look at pictures often. I assume it is a survival tactic. We haven't put pictures of Ben around our new house yet, and I don't carry one in my wallet. They cut to the core. When I break down and look through iPhoto, I smell him, feel his soft, innocent skin and curly blond hair, hear his laughter. It's too much of an emotional roller coaster for most days. 

During my writing session today, I was trying to describe a particular vision -- sleepy-eyed Ben in his alligator pajamas. I scrolled through iPhoto searching in vain, for it wasn't there. Then, my eyes stopped on the videos and pictures of him over July 4th weekend. It is beyond belief how happy we all were...loving, innocent, naive - so much time ahead of us for laughs, vacations, kindergarten graduation, soccer tournaments, snuggles, kisses. Then, as I scrolled down, the pictures jumped to blue flowers at his funeral. The space between those two sets of pictures is beyond my comprehension. Isn't it a basic human fear -- to go from A to Z in an instant and not understand how? To feel someone on a Sunday, then they are gone Monday. To hear giggles, and then they are only echoes in the wind. Maybe it is the pain in that space that holds something very integral to life and human existence -- how much we can truly and deeply love others and fear loss. To this day, that feeling still keeps me from making new connections with friends, opening myself up, or considering having another child. Is it better to love fully and risk the pain of losing that? I hold my girls tighter and tighter each day, now that I know....there can always be that space between pictures.

It is rare that I'm brought to sobbing, but pictures do it to me. It is painful to realize that all I have left is a life in pictures. After that quick glance today, I realized -- Ben in his alligator pajamas...that wasn't even a picture. It is a memory as vivid as life itself, hovering in my mind each and every day, an unfolding vision of the last moment I saw him, touched him, smelled him. I will always have the memories....

Yes, the pain of missing Ben is strong today. 

Intermittent Waterfall

Intermittent waterfall on the Intemann Trail, Manitou Springs, Colorado.

Intermittent waterfall on the Intemann Trail, Manitou Springs, Colorado.

Chiseled mountains,
worn thin and strong, by rivulets of
yesterday’s rain;
speckled rocks beneath our feet, glistening with memories,
earthy and jagged.

Our bodies move in unison with one shadow
to hide the secrets of
Silence, only breathing. And magpies soaring above,
crying.

Prominent red rocks lie contemplative in the distance,
emanating an energy from another time, another place,
where we will remain entwined.

Stenciling, my fingers (charcoal dark and strained)
trace the gentle curves of the ravine,
the dirt relinquishing pain with each touch.

A curtain of sunlight glides across the canyon, unveiling
a world glittering and alive,
pulsating waves of heat,
thick and thirsty with longing.

Ascending, cliffs hang loosely across the trail,
bridges, spanning the time and space between,
turning, he reaches for my hand;
I find comfort in relenting.

We vanish into a canopy of green, darkness
and the richness of the earth,
a soft relief, as our imaginations flirt
with possibility, a hidden sanctuary, where we
fly wingless, carried by the
scent of fallen spruce.

Ageless, we slide down rooted embankments,
two mud splattered bodies guided by the aching roar,
we land stained and pure;
water rushes overhead, violent and sensual,
a pounding pulse to soothe our pain, I slide my arms around his waist
and whisper I love you.

I turn away, guilty and shy, as the mist engulfs us.

 

 

* Kyle and I run together on local trails almost every day. We escape for an hour into a world of no judgment, no media, no trauma - just us. We feel far away from the real world, in a land of our own, where we can love and grieve and simply be ourselves. Last Monday, a friend told me about a hidden waterfall on the Intemann Trail. The next day Kyle and I trekked for an hour and a half in search of it. Our journey showed me, once again, the relief that can be found in simply forgiving and loving - loudly, purely and honestly. Isn't that what makes us human? We are imperfect beings, and one of our greatest gifts is the ability to give limitless love to one another. What a wonderful experience....

 

Lazy Days of Summer

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.” - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby 

This is me, around age 3 or 4, enjoying watermelon with family and friends.

This is me, around age 3 or 4, enjoying watermelon with family and friends.

After several weeks of torrential downpours, thunderstorms, hail and even snow, I awoke this morning to birds and sunshine. The girls are feeling it too. They were up fixing their breakfast before we could even make it downstairs. The house was abuzz and bursting with excitement for what exactly? The sense of freedom so close at hand? School is ending, no more tests, just reading days, parties and field trips. They can don their shorts, huge smiles on their faces, muscles twitching to run and play, laughter abounding. They know the summer is near. It is contagious.

Do you remember those lazy days of summer? For Mother’s Day, my mom gave me two large photo albums that follow my childhood from birth to high school graduation. The pictures take me right back to the deep South of my childhood. I feel the watermelon juice oozing down my chin as we snack at the campground; my hands and feet are wrinkled from swimming all day; the moonlight reflects off glass jars as I flit across the yard catching fireflies; I feel the breeze through the open window, allowing a symphony of crickets and tree frogs to lull me to sleep in my grandparent’s farmhouse. I am happy and invincible, no worries or concerns, no limitations…nothing but time on my hands.

I know the world has changed in many ways since my lazy days of summer in the 1980s, but I truly wish that same experience for my girls. I want them to be innocent, joyful, free  – they will have plenty of time to be serious as time passes. And, as I feed off of their energy over the next few months, maybe I can be a child again too. 

Conquering the Incline

View from the top of the Manitou Incline in Manitou Springs, Colorado

View from the top of the Manitou Incline in Manitou Springs, Colorado

I halfheartedly pulled myself out of bed early this morning to hike/run the Manitou Incline with a good friend. The Incline has become a famous local challenge – something you have to try once,  and you can wear as a badge of honor, if you conquer it. Athletes love to compare times, since it’s a great test of your fitness and mental determination. That being said, I run mainly for fun these days, so I was less than enthusiastic with the prospect of heading up to the Incline at dawn today for the 2,000+ vertical feet ascent in less than one mile.

While I was waiting for my friend to pick me up to drive to Manitou, I found an email sitting in my inbox from KidsAndCars.org with a link to the most recent hot car death of 2015 in Florida. As I read through the article, I experienced my normal emotional response to such triggers: flashbacks, rush of adrenaline, tears rising. But, this trigger was unique, as it brought on an overwhelming sense of empathy and pain in my chest for the child and parents, thinking of what they may experience over the coming months and years.

As I made my way up the Incline, I was stunned by the beauty of my surroundings. It was just me, the wilderness, my burning quadriceps and racing heart. I discovered that my previously untested “slight” fear of heights was actually more of a “substantial” fear of heights. Portions of the Incline are so steep that you have to bend forward to touch the next step in order to stabilize. At that point, I felt my heart start pounding, and I realized I could not look up, nor down, but only at the next step directly in front of me.

Trauma and loss are life-changing. I believe this is the reason I started writing again. Of course, writing has always been my passion and “who I am,” so in a way it has been a return to myself. But, it is also a way for me to deal with the pain in my chest that I felt earlier this morning. I cannot change last summer, the world, life and death; I cannot erase the pain of losing friends or life as we knew it altogether; I cannot escape the horrible memories from experiencing criminal and DCF investigations; I cannot make my life more normal again, nor can I keep others from experiencing loss and trauma. However, I can share this message: Life is beautiful. There is hope. You can survive.

From the earliest days onward, our trauma response changed from the acute symptoms of shock (and catatonia for Kyle) to generalized symptoms, such as increased startle reflexes, insomnia, inability to concentrate, and bouts of crying or agitation. If our brains became overloaded with stress, then they would simply shut down. At times we could not respond to simple questions from others: Mom, what store are we going to next? Gradually, our nervous systems began to heal, though they may never be the same as before July 7, 2014. We weaned off anti-anxiety and sleeping medications (down to just melatonin). There are still nightmares and times when our skin crawls, adrenaline rushes, or we jump from loud noises, bumps in the road or people touching us unexpectedly…but it has lessened in intensity and frequency over time.

I realized today that I have done (and continue to do) the work necessary to deal with Ben’s death and related events, so most of our days are actually full of laughter, smiles, and lots of hugs. But, there are still triggers. I warn new friends that they are walking around land mines because no one (including myself) can know what a trigger will be. Riding or sitting in a hot car, seeing flashing police car or ambulance lights, hearing babies crying, or visiting hospitals. Super Bowl commercials with fathers and children. A random story about a child who suffered a heart attack. This morning, reading the article about the hyperthermia death in Florida. My visit to Connecticut for Ben’s birthday. The trauma reaction now consists mainly of flashbacks and a rush of emotions. So, I just take a moment, bring my mind back to the present and get through it.

Today the Incline was my mountain of recovery to conquer. At the beginning, survival starts very simply. You cannot look backward and you cannot look forward, you have to look at the next step in front of you, lift your legs and sometimes nearly crawl. You get out of bed and take a shower. You let people in, don’t push them away. Hold onto what’s good and real. You go to therapy, stay healthy and breathe. Take medication if you need it. Step by step.

We have thankfully avoided, by sheer will and a lovely, little pill, anything more than normal (under the circumstances) bouts of depression on rough days, but I’ve experienced my share of depression in the past. And, though it never reached this point for us, many individuals who have experienced a vehicle-related hyperthermia accident (or any other type of loss or trauma) do become severely, dangerously depressed and hopeless. I think this was the root of the pain in my chest this morning. We’ve made it closer to the top of our mountain, so we can see beauty in the world again. But, it hurts to remember what it was like to be on that first step, looking up.

For anyone facing loss, grief, or trauma – just know that you can survive, love, and live again.

One step at a time. 

If I Were...

If I were a painter,
then I would blend the colors of
the Ben I knew
into an abstraction of a
sunset or
reflection or
tear drop
(you decide)
and, in the varying impasto textures
[I would close my eyes and rub my fingers across the canvas to feel him once more.]
and misshapen strokes,
with infinite colors, I would portray
a truth beyond (the Ben I knew),
so you would See
the mind of God.

                                                                     But, I am not a painter.

If I were a physicist, then I would diagram life, and death, down to the most fundamental (particle) and the nothing that is left but energy in the soil;
[I would rest (un)assured that he was here, and then he was nowhere.]
reproduce equations supporting a theory that You and I (and my love for the Ben I knew) are mere electrochemical reactions of the brain; draw pictures to explain why one perceived truth is not all truths; discuss how the past, present, future are only illusions of an ever-present Now that simply Is; lecture on string theory and the vibrations that guide the harmony of the universe back to a moment (after the moment) of time zero. but there will always be a spacetime of the infinitesimal that no formula can reach, leaving room for an unknown variable, which we do not know now, but one day We Will. [And, I would falter at the “one day We Will.”] The theory of everything, (one day). Then, you would Be the mind of God.

                                                                     But, I am not a physicist.

If I were a composer,
then I would produce a symphony that resonated with the intensity of a
beautiful unknown,
which the heart (carrying my love for the Ben I knew) would feel, but the mind
would not grasp,
and in the rise and fall of the composition, the depth of sorrow and lightness of hope,
you would Hear
the mind of God,
and overtones created by [real hands plucking] strings would speak of the most fundamental (lesson) -
the harmony of
nature,
consciousness,
the universe.
[I would Be Still and allow the vibrations to soothe my aching heart.]

                                                                     But, I am not a composer.

If I were a pastor,
then I would stand high (above you) and
preach with a calming cadence of reassurance,
like the waves of an ocean,
strongly      crashing
gently         caressing
my words so that Faith would seep into your body,
and you would have hope that
ThereIsAGod
who gave his only son to save You
from the sins of humanity.
And, [listen closely]
if you accept this only truth, then
ThereIsAHeaven were your soul will reside
(with the Ben I knew).
But, if not…. [I would falter at the “if not,” thinking of other sons, of mothers with other truths.]
And, since you can never Know the mind of God,
for it is far too great,
you must rely on your Faith,
        unless
one day it fails,
[your son was there, and then he was gone, too]
and you need to See, Hear, Know ThereIsAHeaven,
with certainty.

                                                                     But, I am not a pastor.

If I were enlightened,
then I would teach you how to attain
Awareness of the most fundamental (truth)
of a Now
with no thought, but all-knowing,
with no You, but all-Being,
so that, when the (less than a) moment comes
of death and the Calmness of [un]reality falling away,
[I would imagine the Ben I knew and his hands reaching for the Light.]
you would be Free.
And, you would learn there is
no mind (to Know)
of a God,
        and therefore no soul.
But, my heart would feel the soul of the Ben I knew,
in the sun,
rain,
wind,
songs of bluebirds
[so, I would falter at the “no soul.”]

                                                                     But, I am not enlightened.

If I were a writer, then I would create a new language to express the love hate joy pain grief beauty of Life of losing of what comes next but always was and is, of becoming Real and [not] Knowing or Seeing or Hearing (but some greater universal sense) of being by, inside, amongst the mind of God.

                                                                     But, I am even not a writer,

for I can create no language
with lines, dots, letters, sentences
        syntax
that would let you
hear the color blue (of his eyes),
see the sound (of his voice),
touch his reflection,
understand the Wholeness of an image from its mere shadow,
return the energy (I feel Now) into the matter (I held Then), or
merge the love hate joy pain grief beauty of Life of losing
the Ben I knew.

But instead,
I have only
the emptiness of an “o,”
the punctuation of [no]thing
the space between the (he was here)        and then        (he was everywhere),
and the rhythmic pulse of words
a symphony of strings [being plucked by, inside, amongst the mind of God]
whose vibrations
carry an unknown variable, of
impasto textures,
the calming cadence of ThereIsAHeaven [for other sons, of mothers with other truths too],
and the soul of the Ben I still know,
for he is all-Being in
the sun,
rain,
wind,
songs of bluebirds.

 

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