Sunday, December 19, 2010

Birthday Musings

I am 60! It is incredible to me, but I am.  It has been a birthday to remember and cherish for the rest of my life.  It started the day before, when I received a package in the mail from Jessica.  She made me a beautiful plaque, with a handwritten poem about my hands that moved me deeply.  She is a gifted writer and I treasure each of the many poems from her. It was sad for both Jess and I that she couldn’t be here to celebrate, due to her work schedule, and the distance. We had a nice long chat in the morning, while Kailyn and David were buying out CostCo!

Kailyn gifted me literally all week with her presence.  She was here to help decorate and put in many, many uncomplaining hours to help me prepare for the party.  She set up the Snow Village houses, cleaned, baked cookies and creatively managed to take a huge stack of pictures and design an eye-catching display on the frig.  I loved it and appreciated her every day for being here.  Her final gift of the day was when she and Nick told me they would be my clean up crew!  They worked quickly and the kitchen was restored to sparkling while I sat with my feet up and read my wonderful birthday cards!

The party itself exceeded my wildest imagination.  It was an eclectic group of family, long time friends from childhood, friends made through my children’s connections, and through church.  There were friends formed through book group and those I’ve worked with and exercised with.  It was crowded and noisy and I loved it!  There were times when I was literally overwhelmed by the sheer crush of bodies in this small house, and deeply touched by the people who came, whether for minutes or hours, to celebrate with me. As I listened to the laughter and the buzz of conversation, I realized my dream when I first thought about having a party had come true. I had gathered friends and family together and no matter what the connections were to me, my friends and family made new connections amongst themselves.  While it was an open house, the joy of seeing that many stayed over several hours was reassurance of the rightness of the day . . . people wanted to be here, and wanted to stay.  I loved that!

Another bonus for the day was that I had asked people to bring donations for Open House Ministries, a homeless shelter downtown, and the generosity was heartwarming. People came with bags of clothing, food, personal toiletries, cash and checks.  Just for fun, I weighed the food and it came to over 136 pounds! It will feel so good to me when we deliver these items on Monday.  

This was the first time I ever planned a birthday party for myself, and while it seemed a little self centered, it was the right thing for me to do and the right time.  I looked forward to it during the planning and preparation stage, and I will look back forever with precious memories of those who who able to  share my day with me.  There were many sweet surprises and it felt good to bask in the love of those I have loved and cared about over my 60 years of living here in Vancouver.  

My heart and soul feel satisfied, and it is good.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

December 16

December 16, 2010 ~ Five years ago today, I was at the hospital with David, watching my son breathe with the help of machines, being told there is no brain activity.  I was numb, disbelieving, in shock, so we came home and told the girls and we all got ready to go to work and school.

I had the foresight to secure a sub for the afternoon, thinking I would be able to go on as usual for the morning. On my way to work, Chris came to me, I don’t know how to explain it, or understand it, but he verbally came to me, out loud, and told me, “Mom, I love you.  I didn’t mean to do it. I’m sorry.” I heard his voice, and he was crying, I could tell he was crying, and I drove to school sobbing so hard I could hardly see to drive. Luckily, Judi came to my room, set me straight, sent me home.

I called Pam and said I wanted to go back to the hospital, could she come get me?  She could and did.  Thank God for Pam. Kelli met us somewhere, I don’t remember where and we went back to the hospital and waited for organ recipients to be found, and signed paperwork and watched Chris breathe, with the help of machines. 

Dozens of people showed up all day.  Many close friends and family members came to honor Chris and say their good-byes.  His forever friends, Cory and Bill, hugged me and we cried together for the loss of someone we loved so much. They thanked me for giving them their best friend, and I thanked them for always being there. 

I stood by my beloved son's side, holding his hand, kissing his face, marveling at the little tiny bullet hole he inflicted in just the right place, to take his pain away.  I understood him wanting to get away from his pain, but in doing so, he left us all inconsolable in our pain.  I rubbed his feet, kissed his feet and sobbed at the loss of my only son, reminded of the story in the bible of the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears.

As I sit here now, writing and crying, I think I should get out pictures, but then realize, I don’t need pictures.  My son’s face is imbedded in my memory and I can sit here and watch his face, from birth to death, in my mind, as clear as if I was with him. And, should I forget, I can just look up at the Christmas tree, and see his charming smile over the years, as there are ornaments hanging with his sweet face.

In two days I will be 60.  For the past five years I've hated my birthday, as it just reminds me of my loss. I’ve outlived my mom by 30 years, and I find it disconcerting that she died at 30 and her oldest grandson died at 30, also.  

But, I’m having a party.  I’m surrounding myself with people I love, and who love me.  I am celebrating that I choose life, that I choose to go on, that I am a survivor, on so many different levels.  And I am humbled by the fact that God has a plan for my life, in spite of my own poor choices. I have miraculously survived two horrible car accidents; I slipped off a dock and inexplicably came back up between two walkways, instead of knocking myself out and drowning. I have survived the loss of my mother as a child, and the loss of my son. I realized a life long dream of becoming a teacher at the crowning age of 51, and love my job (most of the time J).  I am a miracle, I am loved, and I am worthy of celebration.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Thoughts on Celebrating Life . . . Even When it’s Gone

Today would have been Chris’ 35th birthday.  I woke up this morning first around 2 am, remembering labor, and fear, and excitement at being on the brink of bringing my first child into this world.  Eventually, I fell back asleep and woke again just after 6 am, right about the time Chris was born, via emergency c-section.  My first thoughts when I saw him were, “oh my God, I have a deformed child.”  He was bent backwards like a fishhook, with his head touching his rear end.  I fell asleep finally, exhausted from 24 hours of labor, worrying about this little boy who would be forever looking up, if he ever managed to walk.

Of course, he didn’t stay that way, and by the time the hospital let me go home with him five days later, he was mostly straightened out, although he could lift his head from birth!  Oh how I loved that baby boy!  I wouldn’t let anyone do anything; I wanted to be the diaper changer, and the clothes changer and the bottle sterilizer and the bottle holder.  I held him throughout his naps, marveling at the miracle of his precious life and how his birth had changed mine forever.

I wasn’t the best mother, because I spoiled him rotten.  Truly, I was a lousy disciplinarian, and I gave into every wish and desire.  Only with time did I come to realize what huge mistakes I had made in loving him in ways that didn’t help him grow and mature the way I should have.  Despite my worst efforts, he managed to become a young man who had a heart as big as all outdoors, and would give anyone, stranger or friend, his last dollar if they needed it.

As Chris was growing up, he was my best buddy.  We spent our days together, riding bikes, playing, taking drives.  When he was a little older, and it was just he and I, we often went to the beach to visit our grandparents. He loved to explore as much as I did, and we spent hours and hours on the beach at Seaview, and Beard’s Hollow, crawling around on the rocks and searching for sea treasures.  Coming home, we’d take all kinds of back roads arriving home long after dark. No matter where we traveled, if we’d see a road we hadn’t driven before, both would say at the same time, “I wonder where that road goes?” and we’d be off. 

The year he was in second grade, we lived in a fantastic little house on the Columbia River one winter, near Stevenson, and had acres and acres to hike around in.  One night when it snowed we stayed up and built an igloo, using a dishpan to build the blocks.  Later, we sat together in a chair and watched the headlights of cars spinning out over on 84, the Oregon side of the river. That year we couldn’t get out of our driveway for a week as the little Honda was practically buried.  Carson didn’t close the schools, and we’d hike the ¼ mile to the highway and catch a ride with the principal to school!

 I miss my little boy today.  I miss his smile, and his laugh, and his bear hugs. I miss him telling me “I love you, mom.”  I miss his sweet poems he wrote as an adult to me. I just miss him something awful. 

Today marks five years since I had my last hug from Chris, at his 30th birthday party.  In 12 days, it will be the anniversary of his death, and while that memory is the worst pain I’ve ever experienced, I am grateful for the precious memories of times spent with my son. 

Wherever my boy is right now, and I chose to believe he is with God, I know in my heart he is at peace.  That thought gives me peace and helps me get through another day without him.