Joe and I laid in bed last night talking and feeling all the emotions together. We both are experiencing very intense grief and it has brought chaos, anger, and much sadness to our home lately.
May and June just suck and if I could skip over these two months and jump straight into July, that would be my preference; however, that isn’t a thing, so here we are knee deep (over our heads deep) in consuming yuck.
May holds Mother’s Day, Joe’s dad’s heavenly birthday, and my dad’s birthday (his first heavenly birthday this year). June is Nikolai’s birthday, his death date, and Father’s Day. All great dates to remember what you’ve lost, and I say that with immense sarcasm.
Memorial Day weekend is typically a time when my entire family gathers at my parent’s house for games, relaxation, cocktails on the porch, great conversation, and tons of laughter. This year, it is me, my sister and my mom holding a garage sale to sell my dad’s things to strangers.
Combine all of this with watching Nikolai’s friends’ parents post the amazing senior stuff: awards ceremonies, athletic senior night celebrations, last band and orchestra concerts, graduation party invitations, and all their kids dreams and plans for the future. It’s really almost too much for this mama heart to bear. Don’t get me wrong, I am excited and thrilled for these kids. I’ve known them for years and to see them grow up and step into their next adventure is amazing. However, I also have frequent bursts of anger because my kid should be doing this stuff too.
Nikolai hated school and these last few years would have been the greatest struggle to get him to graduation, yet I sure would have loved the chance to do it and get him to this point. I feel robbed.
Each day that gets closer to June finds me looking at all the FB memories and realizing that anything in 2019 was just a matter of days before his death. I find myself reaching into those photos of him and trying to figure out how he can look so happy and full of life and then one day he’s gone. I still can’t make sense of it.
So much pain. So much heartbreak. So much grief.
I don’t know what to do with it all. Normally I am able to do all the self-care stuff, sit in my emotions, seek out joy; yet this time, this week, last week, it’s just not working. The pain is weighing a little heavier and isn’t as easily reconciled. And when your partner in life is also stricken by pain and doesn’t know what to do with it, it creates a very precarious position. The universe has always allowed one of us to be filled with pain, while the other absorbs it. When you both feel it heavy at the same time it’s just hard.
I keep telling myself it’s okay to not be okay, but then I go out and people ask how you are and well… I can’t bear it because while outwardly I smile and say I’m fine, internally I swallow my scream of I’M NOT FINE!
I’m not okay. I’m lost. And I can’t seem to get my shit together.
In late 2019, following the death by suicide of her 15-year-old son Nikolai, Waterford resident, marketing professional and in the midst of a two-term stint as the Waterford Area Chamber of Commerce Board President, Kris Miller started social media platforms and a grief journey blog housed on the website called On a Dragonfly’s Wings (www.onadragonflyswings.com).
The intent was to not only share her grief journey with other survivors of suicide, but to generate conversations, programs, and initiatives to start talking out loud and boldly about mental health issues. Miller says, “As parents, my husband Joe and I did all the things we thought we were supposed to do to help Nikolai. It is always after the fact that you realize you didn’t do nearly enough because you didn’t know enough. This began my mission of educating about mental health, mental illness, and suicide ideation. The more we know, the better chance we have of preventing suicide.”
Her maternal boldness and her gifted prose started an online movement… she connected to other survivors, families started calling her for resources and referrals, sponsors stepped up to support her marketing efforts, invitations came for her to speak at public events or suicide prevention trainings, and the late State Representative Andrea Schroeder stepped in and supported the Save our Students bill, which became a Michigan law on October 14, 2020.
Then Miller, boldly again and feeling a calling, hung up her professional marketing hat and filed for On a Dragonfly’s Wings to become a federally registered non-profit 501c3 after realizing the impact the movement was already making. The official paperwork was approved on ironically, Valentine’s Day 2022, and Miller is now On a Dragonfly’s Wings Founder and Executive Director. “It’s a calling I never expected,” says Miller, “yet I just can’t stop feeling intense compassion and love for the adolescents who are struggling with mental illness. We need to do better.”
Miller added, “I may never know if a death is prevented, but I will know that I have advanced the conversation, that my organization is advocating for those who struggle in silence, giving them a voice that will help us break the stigma of mental health and suicide.”
We have hit the two-year, two-month mark of Nikolai’s death. That’s kind of a long time, relatively speaking, I guess. Yet, what I find odd is that, after all this time, it is finally (26 months later) hitting me that he is gone and that he isn’t coming back.
I know he’s gone. I know he’s not coming back. However, I’m just now realizing it. His death is final. It dawned on me a couple of days ago as I stood in front of his gravestone. I kept tracing his name with my fingers and saying his name out loud, like I needed him desperately to respond.
Almost every day, my FB memories reminds me of his life. I can’t stop staring at pictures, like I’m willing that time back, I’m willing him to walk back into our lives.
The depth of how much I miss him is hitting so hard.
We celebrated my granddaughter’s first birthday on Saturday and it was joyful and amazing and I kept thinking how much Nikolai would have loved to be there. How much fun he would have had with her and the things he would have said and done to make her laugh. He would have loved snuggling with Daley’s new puppy.
And yesterday, we had friends over and one of his best friends was playing whiffle ball with all the other boys in our yard and it made me immensely sad that he missed that, while also knowing his friend misses him and also silently wishes he was there.
My sadness lately seems on a whole new level, another level of grief to rock my world and leave me begging for this pain in my heart to stop.
Grief is not linear. It’s a pattern of loops and zig zags and most days doesn’t make an ounce of sense. There are definitely more okay patches than devasted ones, more joyful times than sad; however, this grief thing, this slow healing, is meddling in the way my life is supposed to go.
It shouldn’t take this long to grieve and heal, or so the world has foolishly led us to believe. Grief is tricky. It doesn’t ever really go away. We will always carry it. Some days the load may feel lighter and other days it will feel so heavy you don’t know how you can possibly carry it.
Grief is living two lives. One is where you pretend that everything is fine, and the other is where you want to scream out in anguish. And it’s a constant battle of will to keep that second one from coming out, to fake it until you make it, to convince those around you that you really are ‘okay’.
Until today. Today I realize that you are gone forever. You really aren’t ever coming back and I’m not okay. I grieve the loss of my kid. I miss him being a part of our family. I miss his laugh. I miss his smile. I’m tired. My heart hurts.
And, all of that… all those feelings… that is okay. It’s okay to feel broken sometimes.
“The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.” – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
How do we make someone with a mental illness feel seen and supported?
Through On a Dragonfly’s Wings, I post almost daily on FB and IG resources, tools, best things to say, what not to say, motivation and support, love, and as much information as I can to educate those of us in a support role and those who are struggling.
It’s just not enough.
I have a friend who struggles every day of her life to get out of bed, to put one foot in front of the other, to keep going day after day. And even with all that I know, it’s not enough.
I love her beyond the stars and back and I don’t know how to help her.
That’s the thing about mental illness, no matter what we say to the hurting person, their brain will tell them the opposite. We know all those things are awful, but to the person struggling, it’s their truth.
Nikolai used to say all the time how stupid he was. No matter how many bazillion times we told him he was so smart, he just didn’t believe us.
The Real Depression Project recently posted some of the best things to say to someone struggling with mental illness:
1. Your mental illness does not define you.
2. You are strong for fighting an invisible illness 24/7, 365.
3. Your struggle doesn’t make you weak.
4. If all you do is survive your dark days, that’s enough.
5. Don’t feel guilty for resting – it’s essential for your well-being.
I’m pretty sure I’ve said all of these statements to one person or another, including Nikolai, including my dear friend. It’s not enough.
I have zero answers.
Today my heart just hurts so badly for those who live in a mind that speaks lies to them.
Words don’t seem to matter today. All I can do is wrap her up in more love than I can almost bear and pray that it is enough.
Join me today in praying for all those who can’t see their worth, who struggle with thoughts of suicide. Please God cover them in light and love.
If you are a suicide survivor, I highly recommend you read, “Understanding Your Suicide Grief” by Alan D. Wolfelt, PhD. Shortly after Nikolai died, an acquaintance I know in my community gave me this book.
It took me almost two years before I decided that I should read it, that I needed to read it. I ignorantly believed all this time that I was fully in touch with how to handle my grief and heal myself.
I tried therapy and that didn’t work for me. It was probably more me than him, but either way, I walked away from it. I got a few things off my chest and decided I was good to go. Then as you all know, that season of anger hit me like a fan on full blast in your face. The last few months has been trying to figure that out and what to do with it. Per my last blog, I read “The Choice” by Dr. Edith Eger. I believe that book saved me in many ways. It gave me a different perspective and helped me pinpoint the anger. I was angry at me. The need to find a way to forgive myself and truly heal has been at the forefront of my mind ever since.
So when I saw this book gathering dust on my bookshelf I decided to finally take a peek.
It didn’t take long. On page 34, Dr. Wolfelt writes, “In large part, healing from a suicide death is anchored in a decision to not judge yourself but to love yourself. Grief is a call for love. So, if you are judging yourself and where you are in this journey, STOP! Judgment will not free you to mourn, it will only make you afraid to do so. When you stop judging the multitude of emotions that come with your grief, you are left with acceptance, and when you have acceptance (or surrender), you have love. Love will lead you into and through the wilderness, to a place where you will come out of the dark and into the light.”
I have found that I am afraid to let go of the pain, I want to hang onto it; yet, at the same time, I want to be free of it. This is making me so angry. And, really, it all begins with forgiveness and love. Nikolai’s death is not my fault. His death was not in my control, it was in his. He is responsible for it, not me. I was a good mom. I wasn’t perfect, but I was good enough.
All of the what if’s and why’s have to stop. These are only questions Nikolai can answer. They aren’t for me. To continue to try and relive every step of his life serves no one.
It is time for me to surrender, to forgive, to love and let peace finally settle inside me. Easier said than done? Perhaps. But it’s time.
Grief work is hard, yet necessary. This journey through loss and healing does not mean we forget those we have lost. It doesn’t mean that our feelings of loss will ever disappear. However, if we do the work, the devastating feeling of loss will soften and peace and joy will re-enter our lives. We will never go back to “normal,” we will discover a new “normal” and that is where forgiveness lies and love lives.
We have a responsibility to live. While it hurts to suffer lost love, we owe it to those we lost to continue living with passion and love on our heart.
“Your joy is sorrow unmasked…
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.” – Kahlil Gibran
I have read so many books, both fiction and non-fiction, on the Holocaust. There is something so captivating and horrific about this time in world history. About a month ago, I was listening to a Brene’ Brown podcast. Her guest was Dr. Edith Eva Eger, an author, therapist, and Holocaust survivor. She just released her new book “The Gift” and was sharing a little bit about her personal story and the reason for writing her second book.
Her story is so raw and unfathomable, so traumatic, yet it is a story that all humanity needs to hear.
After listening to the podcast I found her website and started reading more and more about her. I decided to order her first book, “The Choice.” At this point I have about 40 pages left, yet I keep rereading the last three chapters because I am discovering something and it is in these pages.
My last blog piece was me releasing the angriest parts, the most vulnerable parts of who I am right now. And today I am still angry; however, I’ve realized who I’m most angry at… it’s me.
Since the day Nikolai died I have been consumed by guilt. And I am realizing now that even my work with On a Dragonfly’s Wings has been out of guilt. The blog was to capture my grief journey; however, the social media platform’s sole purpose was to educate about mental health and suicide, to prevent more deaths, to give aid to those who are struggling, to let people know they are not alone. I have lived and breathed these last many months telling myself that I couldn’t save my child, but I can save someone else’s by all this work. I was not enough for my child but I will be enough for someone else’s. I am consumed by guilt in not knowing more, not doing more, not being enough of a mom for my son to help him. I have allowed these thoughts to devour me whole.
But what if I didn’t? What if I CHOOSE freedom? What if instead of beating myself up, I choose to accept that I am human and imperfect? What if I CHOOSE to forgive myself and all my flaws?
Dr. Eger writes, “It was the inner work. Of learning to survive and thrive, of learning to forgive myself, of helping others to do the same. And when I do this work, then I am no longer the hostage or the prisoner of anything. I am free.”
This has profoundly changed me. I have put myself in a mental prison and until I can fully accept forgiveness, I will never be free. I have much work to do here; however, it feels good to be onto something, LOL.
Perhaps by forgiving myself, setting myself free, I can find meaning and purpose from what hurts my heart most. I can’t change the past yet I can move forward with patience, love and compassion toward myself and others. I will be able to CHOOSE my work as a mental health advocate, rather than it be my redemption.
In third grade Nikolai had the best teacher. Don’t get me wrong, he had amazing teachers his whole school career; however, one teacher always stood out to me and this was his third-grade teacher, Mrs. Breen.
This was the one year of elementary school that I remember as being his most joyous. While he still had to get the work done, Mrs. Breen wasn’t the teacher that scolded him, made him feel bad for not doing his work, or held him back from recess (which he so desperately needed to burn off his energy). She softly redirected him, used wit and sarcasm with him, and tried to always make tasks a game. I know he was a handful and we talked frequently about challenges. However, his third-grade year was the year he smiled most. This was the year he thrived in school the most.
One particular class project they worked on was called “I Am Great.” The kids colored or painted those words in the middle of the page and then each child’s page was passed around to the other kids in the class to write something positive about that child.
Last week I was sifting through Nikolai’s box of treasures, as I like to call it. Each one of my boys has a box filled with all the things I want to save forever and ever – their first baby shoes, baptism gowns, homemade blankets, report cards, pictures they colored, Mother’s Day cards handmade with love and on the rare occasion, a meaningful assignment from one of their classes. It was through this sifting through his box looking for something else entirely, that I came across this “I Am Great” assignment.
I started reading all of the comments and I laughed and cried. Comments about how nice he was, what a good friend he was, how good he was at athletics, reading and coloring. Yet it was Mrs. Breen’s note that jolted me: “You are a super athlete with an amazing passion for life.”
“An amazing passion for life.”
This was Nikolai summed up in one sentence. The BEST sentence. And as a parent who struggled with this child constantly, I wish I had focused more on that one sentence. As a parent, I focused so much on what he didn’t do or did wrong and forgot to look at him as a person, as a friend, someone who was kind and joyful and who had a zest for life that few others had.
Chalk this up with the other millions of mistakes I made with my kids. Raising kids without an instruction manual is just hard.
Yet it got me thinking… why don’t we all have an “I Am Great” assignment posted somewhere where we can see it all the time? What if instead of looking at all of our flaws, we took time to realize all the great things about ourselves and each other? What if we looked at kids like Nikolai and instead of seeing a kid who can’t focus on a single thing and is crazy impulsive, we saw a child who had “an amazing passion for life”? It’s all perspective and perhaps it’s time to change that view for one that shows the light in someone, not the darkness.
Nikolai ended that school year with a “worm-off” with Mrs. Breen. If you have never heard of the worm, just google “Worm Dance Move” and you can watch hundreds of YouTube videos of it. This final moment of third grade was talked about his whole life as one of his greatest shining achievements, as he is convinced he beat her! After Nikolai died, Mrs. Breen messaged me the video of the “worm-off” that another parent had captured. I will forever keep this video and watch it when I need to be reminded that life is full of joy if only we choose to look for it.
I was listening to a podcast recently and the guest speaker, Lori Gottlieb, said this, “Part of getting to know yourself is to unknow yourself. To let go of those limiting stories that you’ve been telling yourself about yourself so you can live your life and not the story you’ve been telling yourself about your life.”
I feel this quote in my soul. This process of getting to unknow myself began the day Nikolai died. When your child takes his own life, you can’t help but to evaluate your own story. What kind of parent was I? Was I the kind of person I really want to be? Could I have acted or done something different? What if I had just done this or just been this kind of parent/person, maybe things would have turned out differently. This is guilt talk telling me that I wasn’t good enough.
Over the course of several months after Nikolai’s death I felt more and more broken. Broken to my very core and guilt ravished my brain. And then I just started to get mad.
When I began the work with onadragonflyswings community, it quite literally stemmed from a guilt complex I just couldn’t let go of – that feeling of I was not enough for Nikolai and so I owe it to him to do this thing, to put myself out there and become very uncomfortable. Insert therapist here and I began the hard work of letting go of this self-loathing that was devouring me. At the same time, I started to really research, read and listen to everything I could get my hands on about mental health and suicide. I participated and spoke at several suicide prevention trainings. This is when I discovered that it wasn’t that I wasn’t enough, it was that I didn’t know enough. And, that my friends, is the shift in my story.
Stories are the way we make sense of our lives. The guilt I felt then is something I will continue to feel, possibly for the rest of my life; however, the heaviness of it is so much less now. This isn’t the story I want for my life and I’m sure that it isn’t the story that Nikolai would want for my life either.
Before Nikolai died, I set the first meeting for a book club called Girl Stop Apologizing (The GSA Club). This book club was made up of myself and six other women who all shared a passion for Rachel Hollis and her new book “Girl Stop Apologizing.” That first meeting was delayed for a couple of months until I felt the timing was right to get back to living. I wrote these six women into the first chapter of my healing and my transformation. And there isn’t a chapter in my story since that doesn’t include them and the power they have wielded to help me change who I am and realize who I want to be. They have shown me that I can choose to play the hero or the victim in my story. I will choose hero every day.
I am a changed person and I don’t mean that subtlety – I mean like a whole 365-degree change. I question everything. I try to view every person and situation with compassion and kindness. I thrive on my faith and my God. I have tightened my circle, yet at the same time completely opened it up. There is movement in my soul, and I love this person I am evolving into. This is my real story. This is the story I want to tell.
You choose your narrative. Make sure it’s the story you want to live.
I have been reading “Divine Alignment: How Godwink Moments Guide Your Journey” from Squire Rushnell, and this book literally is what’s happening in my life right now. It hit me on the very first page when he says, “Each of us is born with a built-in GPS. God’s Positioning System. Right from birth, we come equipped with a highly sophisticated navigational package that – through an internal voice of intuition and godwinks – divinely aligns us with people, as well as events, who assist us in reaching our destiny and keep us from losing our way.”
This whole life, I’ve had my own personal Navigator in God. So have you. However, it’s up to us whether we listen to the GPS and follow the journey. For years I’ve been asking myself “what is my purpose in life?” I think we all ask ourselves that at some point in life. I’ve always felt like I was meant to do something bigger yet didn’t know what that was.
And then Nikolai died.
Instead of running from God, I ran to Him full tilt. My heart was broken. I was broken. I didn’t know where to turn to make sense of what happened, except to God. The immediate weeks after Nikolai took his life, I started to feel peace, but not in the sense you think. It was more like someone putting their hand on my shoulder and telling me it was going to be okay, and it was a constant. And because I had decided therapy wasn’t for me, God was the only one I was talking to. All the raw emotions I was feeling – the guilt, the sadness, He got it all. Through that process of grieving with Him, I came to slowly realize my journey had just begun.
My first godwink was when a colleague of mine called me up one day and asked to go to lunch. Julie and I had talked to each other many times at Chamber of Commerce events; however, we weren’t on a level of hey, let’s have lunch, outside of business. Something in my gut told me to go to lunch with her.
That lunch has changed my life. Julie proceeded to tell me that day that she felt I had something to share with the world and she wanted to help me do it. Would I be open to putting myself out there in a blog to help others cope with their grief? I said yes. In a few whirlwind weeks, Julie not only set up a blog platform for me, secured a domain and built a website and social media platforms for me, she also found businesses to sponsor my blog to help with the costs of all that was about to occur. Divine alignment happened and thankfully we both acted upon the godwinks that were presented to us.
My second huge godwink came at a networking event for the Waterford Area Chamber of Commerce. I had been thinking for weeks prior to that event that there was something even bigger than my blog, bigger than all things onadragonflyswings that I needed to be doing to really make a difference. The minute State Representative Andrea Schroeder stepped foot through the door, I knew I had to connect with her. I was drawn to her for some reason and decided to just go for it. We exchanged contact information, but honestly, I really didn’t expect a call back.
In less than a week, Andrea reached back out to me. She had talked to people in both school districts and was ready to move forward with my idea to put the suicide crisis hotline numbers on the back of 6-12th grade student ID cards. Not only that, her and her husband paid for all the stickers and got them to the right people in the two school districts to make sure conversations were being held around them. I then told her I wanted this to be required of all school districts. Guess what… she’s making that happen. We are only a Senate vote away from making the Save Our Students Bill a law. Did you also know that Andrea shares her birthday with Nikolai? Did you also know that her daughter’s birthday is on Nikolai’s death date? These are not coincidences… these are godwinks. This is Divine Alignment.
In the book, Rushnell is talking about the death of a young filmmaker, Zaki Gordon. He states, “You are still struggling with the tragic loss of Zaki’s life, asking yourself why a loving God would allow such a bright light to be extinguished so horribly. But we can make some suppositions. Suppose God sees things from a wider perspective than you and I. Imagine that we are like ants at the bottom of a giant redwood tree in the midst of a great forest while God, from above, can see everything with great clarity. If that’s the case, would it not stand to reason that something that doesn’t make sense to us, way down here in the weeds, actually makes perfect sense to God, as He sees it, as part of His perfect plan?”
Through the inner compass of Zaki’s dad, God was able to implant ideas, allowing his spirit to prevail, while touching the lives of thousands. Look up the Zaki Gordon Institute if you want to more about this particular story. However, my point is, without my Navigator (God) and my willingness to put on my bravery boots and act on some of the godwinks, we may not have onadragonflyswings.com. We may not have a Save Our Students Bill. I’m listening all the time. I know there is so much more in store for me, all in God’s timing. I just have to be open to all the godwinks.
I could go back the last 12, even 24 months of my life and see all the godwinks placed in front of me. I am definitely on a guided journey constantly asking, now what? There is much work to be done in the world of suicide prevention and mental health awareness. My impact right now seems so insignificant some days. I’ve always said if I can help just one child, one family. I know I have at least done that, yet I want to save them all.
One baby step at a time, following my GPS.
Let me leave you with one final quote from Rushnell, “Day in and day out you nonchalantly encounter one person after another as you bound from one event to the next, casually accepting life as a series of accidents. Only when you stop to open your mind to the immense possibilities of Divine Alignment do you begin to see the marvelous connections and invisible threads that connect you from one person to another. You begin to understand that your life is not an accident at all.”
People keep telling me that the second year is actually the worst. Why they would tell me this I don’t know. I mean, I guess thank you for the head’s up? It has something to do with the fact that you are mostly numb the first year – sort of in a state of disbelief, like your loved one just went on a vacation for a year and you suddenly realize they aren’t coming back. I’m sorry, but that’s just dumb. And don’t anyone say that to me. Ever.
We have been through all the holidays that start with “happy”, Memorial Day weekend, St. Patrick’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day tomorrow, your birthday… yep, we’ve done them all, without you. We finished out last summer with hot baseball tournaments and mini vacations. We entered Fall and then winter. We did snow hiking and snowball fights with the dogs. We have been through the rainy spring, the blooming of new flowers and buds on the trees and a quarantine. And today, ironically, is the first day of summer. Another summer.
Throughout this past year it has become painfully clear to me that life moves on. We still have jobs we have to go to everyday, bills that still need to be paid, and other kids to parent. The world continues to move around us as if nothing has happened. Only something did happen. Some days I want to look at people and ask them, “don’t you know what has happened to me?” I still have this pent-up scream stuck inside of me that I swear someday I’m going to let loose and it will be unholy from the bottoms of my toes.
June 20, 2019 was a normal day. I came home from work and had to leave at 5:30 to volunteer at an event in the park near our home. You were hungry, so we had a quick dinner together, just you and me. You sat across from me. You had strawberries – those were your favorite. We talked about our days. You asked if you could have ice cream for dessert and I said how about you wait until I get home and we can have some together. You agreed without a single complaint. That should have been my first clue that things weren’t quite right. You had cleaned the kitchen and loaded the dishwasher before I got home from work that day. It’s my biggest pet peeve if that isn’t done, and it never is, and I always have to yell at you and Reilly to take care of it. This night it was all done before I got home from work that day. That was another sign. You did all the things to make me happy that night.
I wish I had known that was the last time I would see you alive. I wish that I would have hugged you tight instead of yelling out as I walked out the door for the two of you to be good, see you in a bit and I love you. At least I said the last part.
Your oldest brother stopped by the park that night to bring me a coffee because it was cold and rainy. I bought him some food. And I bought him an ice cream cookie sandwich to give to Reilly. I wish that I had bought you one too instead of deciding to wait and have ice cream with you at home like I had promised. You might still be alive if I had. The ice cream would have been melting and your brother would have given it to you right when he got home. If I had only bought you an ice cream.
Your brothers were amazing. They did all the right things that night. They can’t unsee that night and I can’t imagine the pain of what their vision of that night looks like. All I know is that the call I received and the urgency in which I drove home, and the remainder of that whole night was a parent’s worst nightmare.
We held your hands when you slipped away at the hospital. I brushed your unruly hair out of your face and whispered I love you one more time. Your dad talked to you gently in your ear in a long-distance call from California. It’s surreal, even today, I cannot believe it. Yet, I can still relive every single minute of that night in my mind. The screaming when I got to the house, the tears, the doctors trying so hard in the ER to revive you, the look on your brother’s faces. Images I wish I didn’t have.
That was the worst night of my life. And every “first” we have hit since that night is so hard. Every 20th of the month is so hard.
I will live the rest of forever without you.
I will live the rest of forever wondering who you would have become.
There are a million things I would have done differently. But it’s too late and I can’t change anything. All I can do is live joyfully, as you would have. And I promise you that I will do what I can to make a positive impact on the lives of others. I will be kind and empathetic. I will listen and I will love. And I will be an instrument of change we so desperately need in this world.
A year. One full year without you.
We miss you.
God may have you in heaven, but I have you in my heart. Always.