Saturday, April 8, 2017

Heartbreak at the Cross

Sometime today (April 8, 2017) between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. someone vandalized the cross Andrew’s friends put up after he died.  This is at the intersection of Duluth Hwy 120 and Boggs Road. The gas station’s cameras don’t cover the area so we could not get any video and the workers didn’t recall seeing anything unusual.  They probably thought anyone there had reason to be there.  If you saw anything, heard anything, or know anything, please let me, Matt, or Natalia know.   

We have taken down the cross, I have sanded off the lipstick markings and we are planning to make it even better before putting it back up.  To those of you who have shown support, thank you so much. 

To the person(s) who did this:

               I am very sorry for your loss of Fred Bowens.  I don’t know if he was your dad, son, brother, or friend but I am intimately familiar with the pain of losing someone you love.  That said, your disrespect for my pain is heartbreaking.  I would never defile something done in memorial for someone.  My son, Andrew, was deeply loved by many and those people often visit his cross, some even having a chat with him while they are there.  He died March 24, 2016 in a motorcycle accident at that intersection.  I drive through that intersection every single day on my way to and from work.  Each day I look at that cross and say a little prayer and am reminded of how much he is loved.  You might be able to mar the cross but you can never mar the memories or my love for him.  His cross has been taken down for the moment, so it can be repaired – and in fact, upgraded.  So, thank you for the opportunity to make it even better and more representative of him.  I hope you can find peace with your loss.  I have peace, because I know Jesus, as did Andrew, and therefore, I will see him again one day.  Until then, I’ll continue to say a prayer each day and remember how much he is loved.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Gut Punch

So memories are a wonderful thing...they remind you of the hilarious times you had with family and friends.  They can take you back to a point in time when you were happy.  They can also take you right back to the darkest days of your life.  That's what happened to me today.  I woke up feeling fine, headed to my first day back to work since returning from Orlando, where Matt and I (along with Alex and Starla) went to escape being in Georgia on the day Andrew died.  I should have taken one more day of vacation.  It didn't occur to me when planning that this day would actually be much harder to "remember".  This is the day that one year I spoke at Andrew's memorial service.  I was reminded of this with Facebook memories.

No parent should ever have to memorialize their child.  That said, it was also my greatest honor.  To share thoughts, memories, and the hopes and dreams about Andrew was also a blessing.  I got to brag on him without anyone rolling their eyes.  But it was, without question, the most difficult day of my life.  To recall it today and remember the pain I was feeling brought me right back to the sadness and grief.  I cried as I thought about how the day played out.  I remember being so frustrated I couldn't get it together to get to the funeral home ahead of the other guests.  I had to send Matt to get some cash to pay people because I had not done that prior.  I guess I just had too much going on and I just didn't really want to have to do any of it.

Today these came up in my Facebook memories and while I would have preferred to never have to speak at a service for my son, I am so thankful for my friends who celebrated Andrew with me and continue to do so.


I feel compelled to tell you about my friend Lori Carson. She is lots of things, sarcastic, hilarious, kind, gentle and loving. Today she had to put her 20 year old son Andrew to rest, he was killed in an accident on Thursday. Today the chapel was filled to the brim with people who love her and her boys. Today, as sad and heartbreaking as this loss is, my friend was AMAZING! She made everyone laugh, cry, sob and laugh again. She held it together like a champ and I know Andrew was so proud of her. Today she portrayed strength and honor. She stood up there in front of a room full of mourners and made everyone feel Gods peace and love. I am in awe and am honored to call her my friend....I love you Lori!

Lori Carson I am truly in awe of the strength you showed today. You are a very strong woman. I am blessed to know you.


Today I witnessed the real and true strength of mother. God Bless you Lori Lori Carson


Then, the other memories on this day, all seemed to be about Andrew as well.

From 2012 - I posted about falling and busting my already bad knee just as Andrew and I were set to leave for London(spring break) to visit my brother and his family.

From 2013 - My car turned 100,000 miles on the way to Andrew's lacrosse game.

From 2014 - I posted about his new furniture because he was graduating high school and would eventually be moving to his first apartment.

From 2015 - I was an empty nester, he had officially moved out.

Then the dreaded March 28, 2016, when I had my final goodbye speech to Andrew. Rough day then, rough today.  But the difference with today - I don't feel the same hopelessness I remember this time last year.  I know I will see him again, I just miss him now.  I know he is with God and I know God is with me.

Thank you to everyone for continuing to love and support me...and letting my cry or ramble when I need too.


Friday, March 24, 2017

Remembering Andrew

It's been a year.  I thought today would be really difficult and I would spend most of it being sad, depressed, teary-eyed, and sullen.  Instead, the sun was shining, the breeze was refreshing, and the atmosphere almost intoxicating.  Plus, the people I was with (Matt, Alex, and Starla) made me laugh and smile all day long. 


We started with bowling at The Main Event (we are in Orlando).  They asked for the names for the scoreboard, so we went with variations to honor Andrew.  I was Andrew, Starla was Carson, Alex was Drew, and Matt was Justin.  If you ever played Halo with Andrew you would understand the Justin name.  When he was younger he liked that name, even asked me if he could change his to Justin, and that was his screen name for his entire Halo career.  For the record – I won the first round of bowling – and was the only one to break 100.  The second game, well I came in dead last with only Matt breaking 100 that time.

Matt and Alex played billiards and Starla and I played shuffleboard.  Then we had sushi.  Those who know Andrew well, know he didn’t like sushi and probably would not even have gone in the restaurant.  But, Matt said we had to mix it up, so we did.  We walked around a bit, bought a few souvenirs, then headed for dessert.  On the way to the car we had to get some mini doughnuts from the food truck – and they were delicious, Andrew would have approved.  Then Cold Stone Creamery provided another opportunity to enjoy something Andrew did – ice cream.  I’m pretty sure we were going whether he approved or not, since Starla had mentioned Cold Stone no less than 5 times today.

Afterwards we came back to the condo and played games, laughing much of the time.  Many thanks to these goofballs for keeping me smiling today and enjoying happy memories of Andrew instead of a day filled with sadness.

I was also the recipient of many texts, messages, and posts from friends and family who were thinking of Andrew, Matt and me today.  I’m so fortunate to have such incredible people in my life.  Thank you to everyone for remembering Andrew today.  I want to share some of these stories with you.

First, Cindy Finck, placed flowers at the cross where the accident happened.  They are beautiful.  She told Matt and me that she had a chat with Andrew while she was there and told him to watch over us.  She also said that just then she felt a breeze and knew it was him assuring her he was watching over us.  Thank you Cindy – I really appreciate it.


Next, Sherri Creech and Detrick Johnson (Andrew’s Director and Supervisor) met at his cross and placed a bow tie on it.  You see, Detrick loved for the men to wear ties at work and Andrew said he liked bow ties and if Sherri bought him one he would wear it.  She kept her promise, despite his passing, and placed it on the cross.  Love it!


At the hospital today, many folks emailed me to share that they were remembering Andrew.  Becky and Kim from the ED clinical staff presented a basket of goodies to the registration staff, which Andrew was a part of, because they had remembered and loved and missed Andrew too.  I was really touched by this sentiment as it was totally unexpected.  As a mom, hearing how much others love your child is truly precious.  Thank you Gwinnett Medical Center, for loving Andrew and remembering him in such a special way.


My sister-in-law, Caitriona, sent a picture of the tree we planted in their London garden last year on Memorial Day.  As she put it, “it was just coming in to leaf today”.  I talked with Chris, my brother, by phone a bit later, and he said within a few more weeks it should be blooming as well.


My friend, Tami Richards, was at the Georgia Swarm game tonight.  For those who don’t know, that’s the professional lacrosse team, a sport Andrew loved.  She remembered him and posted about it on Facebook.

The future family of my other brother, Michael, who lives in Los Angeles, sent thoughts, prayers, and love our way too.  This made me realize that Andrew was being remembered from London to Los Angeles today.  How awesome is that?  How could I not be happy today?  Andrew’s memory is still alive and he is well with his Nana, Mama Jean, and Jesus.

Thank you to everyone who reached out to us today in some way.  We are very appreciative and we are doing well thanks to all the love and support you give us.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Worst Year is (Almost) Over

Well, it's been almost a year since Andrew's crash.  Friday will mark the 365th day without him.  Over the past year I have experienced much sadness and truly gut-wrenching grief.  My heart has literally hurt and I've cried gallons of tears.  I've experience some of the darkest days that I could have never imagined before his death.  I lost my youngest, my baby, my friend, my son.  Matt lost his brother, my siblings lost a nephew, my dad lost a grandson, my aunts and uncles lost a great-nephew, others lost a friend, and the world lost an amazingly brilliant young man.  Heaven gained an angel.

Through all the sadness, pain, grief, guilt, ugly crying, and sorrow there were many things I didn't lose.  From family and friends came an abundance of support and love.  Because of these people I made it through this first year.  These are the ones who stuck with me and let me talk endlessly and tell the same stories or share the same memories over and over again.  They called, sent cards, stopped by, invited me places, donated for the trauma room dedication, and most importantly prayed for me.  In short, I found the truest love from people when I needed it most.  This was a God "thing".  I'm always amazed at how he works.

As this next year without Andrew begins, I am going to try and focus on being more grateful, finding the blessings, and restoring joy in my life.  I'll still share memories of Andrew and invite you to do the same, but I also want to share how my hope and joy have been restored.  I am reconnecting with my faith and while I have a long way to go it is thrilling and I get excited and want to tell everyone I know when God shows me something new.

So in losing Andrew I am also Finding God...again.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

What I AM Learning

It's funny that my post title includes I AM because that is exactly what I've been finding and learning.  I know I haven't posted much lately and I think it is because I feel like people might be tired of me talking about Andrew. I worry they think I should just get over it and move on.  That's what led me to what I want to share now.

Back at the beginning of January, Natalia and I joined a bible study led by my awesome friend, Sarah Holley, who is a gifted speaker and writer.  The study is called Finding I AM, written by Lysa TerKeurst, and it is about the seven I AM statements Jesus makes during his ministry as recorded in the book of John.  When I got the invitation from Sarah I immediately thought Yes! I was searching for something, feeling a bit lost in my faith, and thought this might be the perfect answer.  As the first day drew closer I started imaging reasons I would have to cancel.  I could have come up with a dozen reasons why I couldn't make it after all, but I am really glad I joined. There are five of us in the group and I fully believe this was God's perfect plan as the more intimate group allowed me to open up with my grief.  These women have been amazing in letting me say whatever I wanted and would listen to my story with compassionate hearts.  I am truly blessed to have been included.

Now, for what I have learned.  The theme of the bible study is how Jesus is the only one who can fully satisfy the cry of your heart.  In examining the cry of my heart, I really just want to understand why Andrew died.  What is my lesson in all of it?  I realize now that I might never know, but I have to trust that God is at work.  Faith.  Yep, that is what it takes.

This week Sarah and Katherine taught me something I had long forgotten and presented it in a way I really understood.  Prepare for mind blow here (though you may already know this story):

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were brought before King Nebuchadnezzar because they would not bow down to worship his god or idols of gold.  The King told them if they did not worship they would be thrown into the fire and then he asked what god could save them then.  The three replied they did not need to defend their God to the King, that he was mighty and could save them from the fire if He wanted too.  But then here it is, the best part and only two simple words...even if.  Daniel, chapter 3, verse 18, "but even if he does not...,".  So they knew God could rescue them from the fire but told the King that even if God didn't rescue them they would still not worship the King.

Wow, powerful, right?  I am learning that even if I never understand I must trust God is at work, even in what I perceive to be silence or unanswered prayer.

To learn more about Lysa and her teachings, you can check out her Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/OfficialLysa/


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Trauma Room Dedication

If you ever talked to Andrew about his position as a Patient Access Specialist at Gwinnett Medical Center, then you knew how much he loved traumas.  He would get excited when they arrived, not because people were injured or sick, but because he loved the excitement and fast pace of the trauma team.  He told me about a young man his age that came in from a motorcycle wreck and lost his leg.  I asked if his mother was there and he said yes, rather sheepishly, knowing where that was headed.  He saw stab wounds, gunshot victims, overdoses, and many motor vehicle accidents, but he always talked about how they survived - a testament to the trauma team and how they respond.

On Monday, November 21st, Trauma Room 1 was dedicated, in loving memory, to Andrew Carson.  This was made possible by the Gwinnett Medical Center Foundation and 18 people who made donations or pledges through the STARS program.  I was completely overwhelmed, when I learned what they had done, and equally thrilled it would Trauma Room 1 - Andrew's favorite place to do his work.

The Gwinnett Daily Post covered the dedication and you can read the article here. The pictures below are in the article as well and courtesy of Gwinnett Daily Post Staff Writer, Erika Wells.

I'm honored this was done for Andrew and unable to adequately express my gratitude.  Thanks doesn't seem to cover how much I love this and knowing that all who enter this room will now have the spirit of Andrew with them.

 



 A few of the folks who made it possible, from left to right, Lana Craddock, Lee Rodney, Detrick Johnson, Kristen Johnson-Ohlin, Sherri Creech, Cindy Finck, Deborah Hensley, and Starla Johnson.  Missing: Cathy Dougherty, Jay Dennard, Jason Chandler, Patty Lavely, Carol Fowler, Sue Troccia, Kelly Hurdt, Rebecca Lulusa, Tina Chapman, Sara Keegan, Jamie Lloyd, and Jill Smolarsky.  If others donated I am simply unaware - so please accept my apologies and gratitude!


 Thomas Shepherd (far left) opened the dedicated and Chuck Christie (far right) led the blessing.  Sherri Creech (center right) organized the donations with Foundation Director, Ginger Powell (not pictured).


Andrew's family that was able to attend, from left to right: Natalia Tsacheva (girlfriend), Matt Carson (brother), Wyatt Robinson (cousin), Sara Carson (aunt), Carey Robinson (aunt), Don Carson (grandfather), Lori Carson (mother), Sandi Swygert (great aunt), Becky Greene (great aunt), Mike Greene (great uncle) and Lindsay Robinson (cousin).

And I couldn't resist adding these pictures of me with Matt, Natalia, and then my sisters Carey and Sara.  It was an emotional day so forgive my appearance, I had too many tears and no make-up team!





Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Andrew's First Grade Journal

I had to go through some old photos today for a work thing...anyway, I found Andrew's Journal from 1st grade at Chattahoochee Elementary.  As I was flipping through it, wiping back tears as I recalled his sweet face, I found this entry:


Hard to read his handwriting and clearly he was not the spelling bee champion, but what it says is:
"If I could have any toy in the world I would have a motor bike."  At 7 years old he wanted a motor bike.  Guess some things were meant to be.