Monday, July 27, 2009

Ask My Mom How She Is

Sent to me by My dear friend Rachael McLamb..

Ask My Mom How She Is

My Mom, she tells a lot of lies
she never did before
From now until she dies,
she'll tell a whole lot more
Ask my mom how she is
and because she can't explain,
She will tell a little lie
because she can't describe the pain.
Ask my Mom how she is,
She'll say "I'm alright"
If that's the truth, than tell me,
why does she cry each night?
Ask my Mom how she is,
she seems to cope so well.
She didn't have a choice you see,
nor the strength to yell.
Ask my Mom how she is,
"I'm fine, I'm well, I'm coping"
For Gods sake Mom, just tell the truth
just say your heart is broken.
She'll love me all her life,
I loved her all of mine.
But if you ask her how is she
she'll lie and say she's fine
I am here in Heaven.
I cannot hug from here.
If she lies to you don't listen,
Hug her and hold her near.
On the day we meet again,
we'll smile and I'll be bold.
I'll say, "You're lucky to get in here, Mom
with all the lies you told!"
- author unknown

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Talking to Pokey

I woke up late this morning and as I was coming out of my room I heard my youngest son talking away. About the time I was in the hall and about to step into the livingroom where he was I heard him say"Pokey" and I stopped. He was talking to his brother and I didn't want to intrude or embarrass him. I listened as he told his brother about the pictures we have hanging on the wall to remember him. It then got quiet and I stepped into the livingroom.. I should have waited. As I stepped in I saw my youngest standing at Pokey's memory table touching a picture of his brother and telling him quietly he missed him. When he turned and saw me he smiled and tried to act like he was just there. I didn't say anything. I knew I had interrupted a private conversation and I felt bad. And I want him to be comfortable and have these conversations with his brother. If it helps him to talk out loud to Pokey I will not stop him or allow anyone to shame him for doing it.

Micheal and Anthony were buddies. When Micheal was home he would make sure to to take his little brother out to ride go carts, get icees, go to lunch. He always made sure to give Anthony a day of attention. Even on short weekend visit Pokey made time. And Anthony looked up to Pokey and looked forward to their times together. It was amazing how Anthony would light up when Pokey said " Come on Tojo let go do something". Micheal told me to buy a Hi Ho Cherrio game for Anthony for Christmas so they could play when he came home. For a while it was all Anthony would talk about. How he was gonna beat his Pokey at Hi Ho Cherrio. Pokey talked about it too. He would ask if Tojo had been practicing and I would tell him that Anthony cheats.

When Micheal died we weren't quite sure how to explain it to our youngest. He is not your typical kid you see. He is mildly retarded with developmental delays. So at 9 ( when we lost Micheal) it was like trying to explain what had happened to a 4 or 5 yr old. We avoided the usual " He's sleeping" explanation at the advice of a grief expert. We told him that a bomb had gone off and hurt Micheal really bad and that he had died. But that he was in our hearts and always with us. Anthony thought on this for few minutes and then put it together. He told us and others that a bomb had broken Micheal's body and it didn't work anymore. But that Micheal was everywhere now.

Often we forget that no matter how young a child is they hurt and miss those who have died also. It was very important to me that all of Micheal's sibling had a say in the funeral and were allowed to grieve as they needed to. That included the youngest. So when we were driving to the visitation and he started sing a song he made up as he sang about and to his brother we slowed the car down and let him have the time he needed. And when a year and a half later I find him standing in the livingroom talking to a picture of his brother I let him. And I keep in mind it is healthy that he feels he can talk to his brother.

And the occasions when he needs to talk to one of us about Micheal we let him and try to answer his questions honestly but on his level. And I allow him to say what ever it is he feels or thinks. He has said that Pokey being gone "sucks" and he has expressed his anger at the bad guys. Just as there is not right or wrong way for adults to grieve the same is true for children. It's their grief and they get to do it their way. The difference is they need our help because they don't always have the words to express themselves. Sometimes we need to listen to what's not being said. I'm lucky with my youngest though.. he makes it easier to help him because really has very few filters.

I'm glad Anthony talks to his brother.. it breaks my heart but I'm glad he has found a way to keep Micheal with him.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

People Come and Go

When we lost Micheal we were flooded with people coming with comfort and offers of help. The day after the funeral though the house was quiet. No more visitors or calls. My husband called it the vacuum. And I understood to some extent. Grief is a messy business. People don't know what to say so they say nothing. Just so you know saying the wrong thing is not nearly as bad as saying nothing. Unless you say something really stupid like " It could have been worse" and yes I have had that said to me.

Over time the very few people who stuck around are still here. And I do mean very few, as I can count them on one hand and have most of my fingers left over. All of them were my husband's friends from before who include me now too. I have manage to meet new people. Some who have been through the lose of a loved one. Some who are military and get it a little better than most. I allowed myself to become attached to a few of them but suddenly a few months ago they just up and stopped contact. Now knowing I was a mess I didn't really blame them. But then again I do. I was awaking up and thrashing about in pain and no one seemed to care. Oh I had my family but everyone else shut me off and went on about their lives. I know now I can't trust or depend on anyone. People have proven once again it's about what I can do for them. When I came very close to a nervous break down and was barely functioning and couldn't do for people they were suddenly too busy for me. When I was alone in a hotel room in Chicago there was no one answered my call. When I spent days wondering aimlessly there was no one responded to my IMs. I was not worth their time or trouble. I was an option. And better yet a used up option. People I had thought were my friends were gone.

So now weeks later I have a clearer view of where I stand. I stand firmly with my family. I have a lot of acquaintances and a very very select few friends that I share with my husband. I know I won't be getting a "how's it going?" or "Let's do lunch" call. And I know it will be a very long time before I allow anyone in my life again.

I have to admit this is a hard path.. and one no one should have to walk alone. I know I'm not truly alone. I have my husband and kids. But honestly there are times when I wish I could pick up the phone and call someone who is there for me to BS with, bounce ideas off of or cry on their shoulder. We don't always get what we want though. Even my husband get that there is family and then there is true friends. And sometimes you need a friend over family.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Waking up...

I was out running errands this morning and the John Mayer song “Dreaming with a Broken Heart” came on. Now I have heard this song 100s of times but today the words hit me different. “When you’re dreaming with a broken heart the waking up is the hardest part.” Never have truer words been spoken. When Micheal was killed my heart broke. It’s not the kind of broken heart you recover from either. And mentally and emotionally we all sort of shut down and went into a numb dreamlike state in a self defense survival mode. Over time the numbness wears off and you begin to wake up. It’s hard to explain but you know that twilight place between asleep and awake.. where you are aware of everything going on but you don’t really comprehend it fully and you can’t react to any of it??? That is almost what it was like emotionally for me when I heard Micheal had been killed. I understood what had happened. I knew what it meant but I couldn’t deal with all the emotions involved with it. When you’re in the emotional sleep you don’t want to wake up because even though you are aware of what is happening, you know waking up means fully comprehending and having to deal with it. You fight waking up because it’s safer and easier to roll back over and sleep.
I am finally waking up and the full impact of all of this is hitting me. My broken heart is now shattering and all the emotions I was aware of but could not fully comprehend are now flooding through me. I managed to stay in the twilight by working on one project after another. I now know that no matter how many projects I work on, no matter how many words I type… I can’t sleep any longer. This is not a sudden thing.. it’s been happening for a couple of months now. And for people in my life it was quite confusing because my responses to things changed. I was lashing out in stupid ways because I didn’t want to wake up. I am just not myself. Even though a part of me realized what was/is going on and tried to explain it I couldn’t because although I knew I was not being myself, I really didn’t know why until my husband pointed out I was waking up. I will get back to some kind of ok and normal again I’m sure. But for now I’m learning all over again how to do this while emotionally awake.
Waking up with a broken heart truly is one of the hardest parts of this path.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


Everyone has a habit that is a little different or strange. That little thing that they do that make people wonder why they do it. Pokey always wore a rubberband on his wrist. Not sure why or how it started. It was just something he had done since early high school. About the same time he became "Pokey". He would say it was lucky and a handy weapon. He could be in a tux and have a rubberband on his wrist. The first box i sent him in Iraq I asked his brothers and sister if they wanted to add anything. Pokey's youngest brother handed me a rubberband. "He needs his rubberband". So I wrote on it.. " from Tojo for luck" (Tojo is the nickname Pokey called his youngest brother) I look at videos and pictures of Pokey in Iraq and sure enough he has that rubberband on his wrist. In January he asked me to have Tojo send him another one cause the one he had was wearing out. So I bought a bag of rubberbands and decided to send him a bunch.. all with messages written on them from his friends and family. I remember the day he got them. Said they made him smile but he would only wear the one from Tojo.

When we heard the news one of the first things we did was put a rubberband on our wrists. All of us. Everyone that knew and loved him. No one had to explain it. When his friends came to see us they were wearing them. It was too soon to have the memorial bracelets to wear so instead we wore the rubberbands and checkerboard vans. Another of Pokeys "things" If he wasn't wearing combat boots he was wearing checkerboard vans. I bought a pair for every member of the family to wear to the funeral. Anyway back to the rubberbands... We made sure a rubberband was placed on his wrist before he went to his final resting place. We also asked friends over the internet to wear one the day of his funeral in memory.. I got a lot of pictures of rubberbands on wrist. It was very comforting.

A few weeks after the funeral his things arrived from Iraq. In them was a baggie full of the rubberbands I had sent in January. Among them was the first one Tojo had sent.. stretched and dirty. He had kept it. and now I have it with his things.

To this day everyone in the family still wears a rubberband on our wrist along with the black memorial bracelets that bare his name. Every once in awhile someone will ask about it.

When they unveiled the Memorial at Ft. Campbell each family had the opportunity to place something at it in memory... you got it, I placed a rubberband. My escort, Sgt Ritter, smiled and said " He always wore a rubberband. I never knew what that was about." And I told him about his habit and Tojo sending one for luck. I found out recently that every Sunday no matter what Sgt Ritter makes sure there is a rubberband placed on that memorial at Ft. Campbell for me. One of his brothers told on him. What he doesn't know is how much that small act means to me. He knows I can't go and do it so he does it for me. And he remembers and honors Micheal with that small act once a week. How does a mother repay this act? It seems so small but it is so large. And because only those who truly knew my son would understand it, it means all the more that this young man thought enough of my son to go to this trouble... to place a rubberband for him once a week.

Funny how something so simple and common can hold so much meaning.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Gold Star in the Window...

@RTRViews: Have I told you lately what an incredible person you are? I'm praying for the 7 families. You are my inspiration.

I received this message on twitter from a very kind man who I admire and respect a great deal. I have heard similar things from others and every time I do I want to say: No I'm not special. I'm not incredible, I'm just a mom taking care of my son by taking care of his brothers. It's my son and the men who served with him and others like him who should inspire you. The men who volunteer to go fight a soulless enemy and sacrifice time with loved ones, risk injury and life to better the world and free people to live without fear that should inspire all of us. It's men who come home with life changing injuries and keep trying and accomplishing so much that should inspire every single person in world.

My message has not changed. I have always supported our military. I have always done things beyond a bumper sticker to show that support. I've always encouraged others to do one act of substance , like senidng a box, to show they care about our troops. The only difference is now people listen to me. They listen because now I have a Gold Star hung in my window. I have said that it hurts to think that Taps had to be played for my son before people saw him as the hero he was. before they realized the courage and honor it took for this young man to dedicate his life, even a small part of his life to military service during wartime. But he believed in his mission and it was something he saw great value in. So as I said in my first blog here.. he invested his coin of life in it. I realized I had a voice of a Gold Star mom and was listened to months after my son died. I also realized that it comes with great responsiblity. My voice has changed but not my message.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy 4th of July

Just like most Americans we are planning a BBQ and a trip out this evening to watch the fireworks. But I want to stop for a moment and remind everyone why we celebrate this day. Independence Day.. On July 4th 1776 the first Continental Congress drafted the Declaration of Independence. It would be several more years of fighting before we become an independent Nation. But many felt it was of such value to fight for our freedom and independence. And just as our military members and their families make sacrifices today to secure our freedom and freedom of others around the world our forefathers did.

When I sit and look at the fireworks tonight and in years past I am always reminded of the line from the Star Spangle Banner " The rocket red glare and bombs bursting in air gave proof through the night that our flag was still there" and I am remind of all the men who have fought for our Independence and freedom in this country. And I am grateful.

Now I don't want to be a downer on this day of celebration. Because today truly is a day to celebrate and be joyous. So please go out.. celebrate the birth of this great Nation but do with a little humbleness for all those who provided and maintain it.

Be Safe.. Be Happy.. Take Luck