Monday, May 23, 2016


It's sneaky.  Some days I think I am going along just fine and then it hits hard, like a slap in the face.  In those moments I think I'll never know true happiness again.  I don't want to be stuck here, sad and depressed.  I like laughing, I always have.  I like hearing other people laugh and telling stories that make them laugh so hard it causes them to spew drinks. I don't like having people avoid me because they don't know what to say (although truthfully there are some people I don't mind avoiding all together).

My head knows God has a plan, my heart isn't fully there yet and it longs to see Andrew's face, his smile, and hear his laugh.  I want to hug him and tell him I love him.  I want to talk about work and the traumas he has seen coming into the emergency room.  I want to hear about his time at the park with Zeus,  I want to be mad he left dishes in the sink.  I want to be frustrated he'd rather be playing video games than watch a movie with me.  Instead I'm suffering in the silence of the house and mad he isn't here to take out the trash.

Stupid motorcycle.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Returning to Work

I went back to work a couple of weeks A.D. (after Andrew's Death) and the people were remarkable.  The ones I work with every day gave me space when I needed it, hugs when they needed it, and gentle comments like, "I'm glad you're back," and "Nice to see you."  For the record, those are wonderful things to say to someone who is grieving.

Here are two things you should avoid saying:

"I'm glad <insert name> was baptized so they could go to Heaven."  Check your bible - baptism is a symbolic act representing the cleansing of sin by Jesus' death and resurrection - not a ticket to Heaven.  It is the belief in that death and resurrection of Jesus that gives you entry to Heaven.

"Getting back to work will be a good distraction."  What?  No it won't.  When I say nothing, I do mean NOTHING will distract the grief.  It is a process and everyone handles it differently.  In my case I worked with Andrew so if anything, work is a constant reminder of him.  Thoughts of him are always there, even if in the background.  It.Is.Always.There.

For the most part everyone has been fantastic, even if I am sad, grumpy, or irrational.  I have so many good stories to get too but had to post those for advice on what not to say to those who grieve.

The Measure of Time

When I first started writing this blog I wanted to do it chronologically and catch up to current date.  That said, I just can't find the words to post about the service right now, so I am just going to jump ahead and then go back as my heart allows me to recall those details.

Today it has been 8 weeks since Andrew died.  I find myself measuring time much the same way our own date system works with the life and death of Christ.  I do not mean to compare Andrew to Jesus, for Andrew would fall way short.  But I think of events as happening either before the crash (B.C.) or after his death (A.D.).

In many ways I feel like time has stopped because in my mind Andrew will forever be 20 years old.  He will not have a 21st birthday, be allowed to legally drink (although I am not sure he would even care about that as he never showed any inclination to alcohol), go to a bar (even if just for trivia), legally hit the slots in Vegas, get reduced insurance rates, finish college, get married, or have his own children.  His death feels like I was cheated.  That somehow I am being punished and will never get to share those experiences with him.  I am being forced to change my every day normal life and accept the fact that he is gone.  Well nobody asked me if that was okay.  Some days I just want to scream that at the top of my lungs.

I watched a Hallmark movie today (probably shouldn't watch those as they made me cry B.C. but really get the water works going now).  Anyway, there was a great line in the movie.  A girl had lost her mom and people would ask her, "How are you?".  With the passing of time, people expect you to say, "I'm okay," or "I'm fine," but the truth is we aren't okay and we aren't fine but if we say that, then people feel awkward and we somehow end up comforting them.  That's if they even were listening to our answer at all.  Sometimes that is asked just as a point of conversation.  The suggestion was made to give an answer that will make that person stop and really think.  Like if you're happy say, "I'm a sunny day at the beach."  And if you are sad say, "I'm a balloon with no air."  I cannot think of a more fitting description of how I feel, I am a balloon out of air.  The passion I once had for learning is deflated.  The drive I had to finish school is deflated.  The joy I had when seeing Andrew or talking about work is gone.  In the A.D. days, I don't want to get up, get a shower, get dressed, go to work, eat, clean, do laundry,  or anything really.  I don't want to talk to people and put on a brave face.  I don't want to make phone calls or follow up with insurance and bills.  I just want to get to the part where it hurts less and I can once again be a sunny day at the beach.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Visitation

Easter Sunday.  Andrew was spending it with Jesus while I was mourning his death.  The visitation wasn't until 6:00 p.m. so I felt like I had enough time to prepare myself.  I wanted to have a slide show of pictures playing so I was busy gathering those - one of my favorites is below.  Then my scanner stopped working about 5 pictures in and I began to panic.  Fortunately my brothers, Chris and Michael, stepped in and gathered the pictures and we headed to FedEx/Kinko's to scan them.  Then Matt and my sisters, Sara and Carey, helped collect framed pictures and Andrew's lacrosse stick to have at the funeral home.  

As a mom I was worried about two things heading to the funeral home - would anyone send flowers and would many people come?  I was completely blown away by the time I left that night.  There were plenty of flowers and I almost felt claustrophobic from the number of people who came out.  I got to see people I haven't seen in years and I got to meet many people I never knew, who also loved Andrew.  Hearing the stories people were sharing and remembering all the good times was wonderful and bittersweet.  Once again I was unable to adequately thank my family, friends and Andrew's friends who all showed up and supported us.  

There was also a ton of food coming to my house.  Cindy Finck and Tina Chapman, representing my IT family from the hospital had brought barbecue with all the fixings, Starla Johnson, representing my Revenue Management hospital family had brought ham, breakfast foods, and drinks.  Then Sheila Hall (baseball family) brought ham, turkey, rolls, and my neighbor, Bethany Abraham, brought chili and fudge. We were not going to be hungry.  My brother Michael was so excited he invented what he now refers to as the "perfect bite".  It's a combination of chips, barbecue pork, hot sauce, and cheese. My long-time friend Tami Moore, made the liquor store run the night before so we could have a toast to Andrew.  My brother was pretty excited about that too!

As the visitation was winding down, my boss (and friend), Cynamin Kinard, mentioned her daughter, Charleigh Jo, had written a letter for Andrew but had forgotten it at home.  I had asked for people to share stories or memories of Andrew and if they didn't want to say them then please write them down so I could read and cherish them later.  I asked Charleigh Jo if she would like to write him another letter now.  She said yes so we got her a memorial card and a pen.  Her message was so simple, and so is the path to Heaven.  It's as simple as believing.  Her message was this, "I like Andrew, tell Jesus hello."  She knows, at 6 years old, that Andrew is with Jesus because he believed and so does she.  It was likely the greatest thing anyone said to me that night.  I am grateful I get to work with Cynamin everyday and that she trusts in God as well.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Day After

Friday morning my brother, Michael, arrived from Los Angeles.  He had taken the red eye and got in very early Friday morning.  My sisters and Matt, along with his girlfriend Alex, had spent the night so we were all together.  My brother Chris and his family (Caitriona and Harry) were going to be arriving Saturday night and of course Sunday was Easter.  I had promised to get Harry an Easter basket and Caitriona some wheat-free food, but obviously everything had changed in an instant the day before.

Michael, Sara, and Carey took on the task of getting the Easter basket together while Matt, Alex, Natalia and I went to the funeral home to make arrangements.  I don't think there is anything that can prepare a mother to "make arrangements" for her child's death.  First I had to decide between burial and cremation.  We decided on cremation.  Then we have to decide how to house the ashes.  We decided on a necklace and a heart for Natalia, a heart for me, a small urn for Matt, and the rest were placed in a box.  I plan to have those in the box used in a memorial bench.

Next we have to decide on visitation and service dates and times.  Then we have to write up the obituary for the newspapers and website.  You can see it here:

Then we have to decide on the quote for the memorial cards, which book we want guests to sign, and music for the service.  Of course I never expected Andrew to die when he was only 20, so I had no idea what he would really want.  It became more about what we wanted for him.  I wanted to be certain anything we did was in honor of him.  Andrew was never one for the spotlight and he actually probably hated every time his name was mentioned.  That said, I have come to realize that those who die are fine.  They aren't sad, depressed, or suffering.  It's those who are left behind that suffer, feel lost, are in shock, and are sad.  Andrew is in heaven with Jesus, Nana, Mama Jean and he is fine.  We are the ones who are a mess.  It still doesn't seem fair or right, but I don't recall ever reading or being promised a fair life.  After all, it wasn't fair Jesus died for our sins, but he made it right for Andrew (and all of us) by doing just that.

So many decisions and I made one more that day.  I asked if I could see Andrew one more time before he was sent for cremation.  We did that Saturday morning.  This time it was without the collar and the tube down his throat.  I was surprised he still had such good coloring and wasn't blue like I was expecting.  His head was tilted left, I am certain it was because his neck was broken, but he still looked handsome and completely peaceful.  I had them cut a lock of his beautiful hair and said my final goodbye to his earthly body.  We all went that morning Matt, Michael, Sara, Carey, and Natalia, and it was incredibly emotional seeing him for the final time, but I am really glad we did it and that we all did it together.

My family is amazing, even in the toughest of times we are there for each other.  I am beyond blessed to have these people in my life and I am thankful for them every single day.

The Crash - Continued

My hospital family was really amazing that night.  Those who knew Andrew gathered and recounted stories and memories.  Though we were all in shock we were also all sharing through tears and laughter.  I learned Andrew had brought breakfast for his crew that morning and had been really in a good mood that day.  Normally Andrew was out the door as soon as his shift was over because that meant three things:

  1. He would get to ride his motorcycle
  2. He would get to play with Zeus (his husky)
  3. He would get to play his beloved video games
Because he was always in such a rush to get to the things he loved, he rarely said goodbye, just simply clocked out.  But that day, he went around and said goodbye to everyone, as though God was guiding him and those left behind were going to need that closure and the memory of his smiling face.

As the afternoon turned into night, Jay Dennard, arranged to have Andrew's body moved to the PACU, which was closed for the day, so we could continue to receive family and friends for as long as we wanted.  I wish I could remember everyone who came to comfort us, but I am certain I would forget some.  I do remember many of Matt's fraternity brothers showing up, one of them with Chick-Fil-A for everyone.

I was in and out of the room Andrew was in, as was Natalia, Matt, my sisters Sara and Carey, my dad, my aunts, uncles, and cousins.  I got Andrew's helmet and the clothes they had cut off of him.  His helmet was badly damaged but it did it's job.  Although Andrew some facial trauma (lacerations around his forehead and deep cuts on his mouth and chin area) his actual head looked perfectly fine.  He had no visible skull injuries.  He was in fact still as handsome as ever and looked completely peaceful as though he was in a deep sleep.

Curiosity caused me to pull his gown down around his shoulders to see what injuries he had.  He had bruising on his shoulders and some cuts and scrapes there as well, but to my surprise he also had a tattoo I did not know about.  Natalia told he got if after Spring Break 2014.  We had been in Panama City and they had rented scooters and decided on henna tattoos just for fun.  As they left it began raining and the rain really screwed up Andrew's henna.  He was so mad.  It completely ruined the vacation for him.  So when he got back to Georgia - he got the same tattoo - only permanent one this time.  Apparently he was too afraid to tell me as he thought it would disappoint me.  

We finally let the medical examiner come and get Andrew just after 10:30 that night and headed home.  I was completely overwhelmed with grief and humbled by the outpouring of love of support shown to us by so many at the hospital.  I don't think I can ever truly express my gratitude for all who supported us during that time, but I will always remember how truly wonderful they were.

Many thanks to Gwinnett Medical Center in Lawrenceville.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Crash

When Andrew wasn't home by 4:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 24, 2016, I assumed he was taking the long route home so he would have more time on his motorcycle.  But by 4:30 I knew his life on Earth was done.  I got the call at 4:25 p.m. that he had been in a crash and I needed to get the ER immediately.  On my drive to the ER I called the people I knew and without them telling me he was dead I knew he was gone.  Then I came upon the crash site and I knew.  I saw his bike on the ground and a badly damaged car.  Then I noticed the crosswalk pole was broken in half and was lying next to his bike.  I would later learn he and the bike hit the car, then went airborne where he hit and broke the pole with his body.  When I had to go and release his bike to the insurance company, I took pictures of the damage.  As you can see, it was not good.  No way he would have survived without serious, potentially paralyzing injury.

When I arrived at the hospital and was escorted to his room by his boss and public safety, where the chaplain was waiting, they brought the doctor over to me where he said something along the lines of, "Ms. Carson I am so sorry, when Andrew arrived he had no cardiac activity and we did all we could but he was already gone."  My head knew he was gone but my mother's heart needed to lay eyes on him.  So I responded with a hand slapping, fist-pumping, "Can I see my son?"

I was escorted into his room by a nurse, it was just she and I.  She talked to me softly, with great compassion.  She let me know the tube in his throat and the neck collar could not be removed by them as the medical examiner would need to remove those.  I ran my fingers through his hair, noticing all the scrapes on his face and the blood around his nose and mouth.  I asked if I could hold his hand and she gently pulled it out for me from under the sheet.  I cried soft tears while thinking "what do I do now?" and realizing he was still warm and really just appeared to be sleeping.

Friends and family started arriving but I was mostly concerned with immediate family and Natalia.  I had not yet let Natalia know that Andrew was gone.  I wasn't quite sure how to tell her.  Then there was Matthew.  I had called him on my way to the hospital but wasn't "certain" Andrew was dead then.  How do I tell him his brother is dead?  That it is just us now and our precious Andrew is gone?  I had also called my brothers and sisters when en route and my sisters were on their way and my brothers made travel plans as one is in London and the other in Los Angeles.  Then there was my dad.  Already suffering with heart problems, I had no idea how to tell him his grandson was gone.  Would that lead to a heart attack?  Then I thought of the many others I needed to call and just asked my friends who were there to start making the calls so I could stay with Andrew or talk to people as they arrived.

Recounting this is bringing tears to my eyes and heaviness to my heart at the moment, it's still pretty fresh.  I'm going to end this post here for now, but will post more about this night soon.