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.