Tag Archives: dealing with loss

A life worth living.

The husband of one of my Facebook friends passed away this last week from a sudden heart attack. Death happens. It’s an inevitable part of life that we’re known to understand from the very beginning. But when it happens so quickly, it’s a really hard truth to swallow. 

In the case of my FB friend (who I don’t know IRL, but have met through my writing), both she and her husband just celebrated their retirement. Both are teachers, and judging by comments made from students and parents alike, they’re dedicated to what they do. They have two sons, one who graduated from college last year, the other just last week. And after so many years of work, this past week was supposed to be the first of many years of relaxation in their joint retirement. 

It was their first, and last. 

While I don’t personally know this woman, my heart is so heavy for her as she prepares for a memorial for her husband instead of celebrating with him in a time well earned. And as my own life feels incredibly blessed, I can’t help but feel afraid that I, too, could have something this tragic happen to take it all away. 

It’s funny (or not really, maybe just strange), there was a time when I didn’t care about death. Let it come. Life is so hard, and maybe with death things will be easy. But now? Life is good. It’s more than good. And if I think about it too hard, I become fearful that my life will end too early, my children’s and Mr W’s life will come to an end, that God’s purpose and my purpose for life is drastically different, and he’ll take me or the people I love before we’re finished with what we intend to do on earth. 

In the end, life goes on with or without us. And what we do in our lives will determine the mark we leave after we’ve gone. This man touched the lives of many in his teachings and surf-easy lifestyle. He also lived his life knowing he had a limited timeframe to do it in, aware that his heart disease might take him early. So he lived his life to the fullest. 

Am I living my life to the fullest?

Sometimes that answer is ‘yes’. Many times, however, it’s ‘no’. There are things that I keep putting off that I want to accomplish, claiming I just don’t have time. And yet, there are things taking up my time that don’t qualify as worthwhile. While I am watching TV or playing on my phone, I could be talking with a friend, spending time with my kids, or editing my book. 

Because time is precious. 

I am sad for this woman and how suddenly life has changed for her. And I hope the memories of a fulfilling life with her husband will carry her through. But I find hope and inspiration in just the mere glimpse I received of his life to ride the wave upon a life worth living. 

Go with God, Sandy Kronick. 

Imagine a world where children didn’t die.

Imagine there’s no Heaven.
It’s easy if you try.
No hell below us,
Above us only sky.
Imagine all the people
Living for today.
-Imagine, by John Lennon

This was the song that played at the funeral of Jenn Leoy when she died in our 7th grade year. Every time I hear it, I think of her. And it both reminds me how she’s in a place where life is fair and she no longer suffers from the fucked up disease of brain cancer, and that we’re left in a world where awful things happen and children are far from immortal.

I heard this song this morning as I drove from Petaluma to Santa Rosa for my son’s baseball field, the memory of Jenn intermingling with the memory of details Mr. W shared with me about D’s funeral yesterday. I couldn’t be there, but felt as if I were as he let me in on a ceremony that symbolized a sense of closure in 4 years of a beautiful life ended too soon.

The first bit of beauty that came out of such devastation was a family rift mended. D’s father had not seen or spoken to one of his sisters in 25 years. But there she was at the funeral to be a support for her family and her brother. Perhaps this will help them repair the relationship they lost.

D lay in an open casket for the ceremony. Mr. W admitted he’d felt reservations about seeing this child’s body, thinking he couldn’t handle it. I asked him how D looked.

“Peaceful,” he told me.

Frizz, in one of his moments of tenderness, picked up D’s favorite childhood book of “3 Little Monkeys” and read it to D in the casket. The gesture moved everyone around him, and D’s grandmother wanted to be sure that Frizz would read again to him before the day was done. Hearing Mr. W describe this to me, I was glad he could have his son there with him at such an emotional time.

Everyone was having a hard time at D’s funeral. D’s father had many moments of open heartbreak, Mr. W right there with him as he encouraged him to “let it out” as he cried. One of D’s aunts didn’t even harness herself as she let out a flurry of profanities inside the church regarding the unfairness that an innocent child could be murdered. Even the minister appeared uncomposed during portions of his sermon.

After the ceremony, Mr. W and Frizz accompanied the family to the burial. A large pile of dirt lay next to the plot and D’s father was given a shovel. He placed a couple shovelfuls of dirt on top of the tiny casket in the ground before handing it off to the next person. Everyone took turns, suddenly pouring their anger and sadness into each motion of digging the shovel into the dirt and pouring it into the hole in the ground. A call was made and soon shovels were brought for everyone so they could simultaneously get closure.

When it was done, each person was given a balloon in the shape of a Cars character, D’s favorite cartoon. They all stood back in a line against the fence. In front of them lay the expanse of the entire cemetery. The weather was typically beautiful for southern California, blue skies and a balmy 75 degrees. Because Easter is right around the corner, the grounds were especially beautiful as flowers and balloons decorated the majority of the plots from loved ones remembering those who had passed.

D’s family stood there against the fence, clutching the balloons. And then, in unison, they let go. The foil balloons scattered into the air, sending glimmering wishes and final goodbyes to the little boy that had touched so many lives in so little time. The gesture offered a sense of peace amidst the unfairness that overwhelmed the reality.

I’ve heard that we’re all given a purpose in life, and that we will not leave this world until we’ve fulfilled that purpose.  D must have been pretty important to have completed his mission here on earth in only 4 short years.  What an incredible life he had.

An earlier flight was available for Mr. W to come home, and he had no problem switching his flight. Little shoutout to Southwest for being so cool, fairly affordable, and for getting rid of stupid charges for extra bags and flight changes. Mr. W and Frizz were back home by 10:30pm, both grateful to be back after such an emotionally exhausting day. DQ and I had spent the evening before they arrived making banana bread, and we all dug into the warm loaf ceremoniously, not even letting it have time to cool.

That night I lay against Mr. W, his arms wrapped around me in those few moments of togetherness before we fell asleep. I felt so safe, so lucky, so in love. I am  thankful for the comforts I have in life and all I am trusted with. And I took the moment to silently thank God for everything and everyone he has placed in my life.

We are here on earth for only a blink of an eye. Time is precious and not in our control. But while it’s on our side, our time would be best spent loving everyone in our lives, honoring the blessings we’ve been given, and making the most of our days.

Every day is a gift.

Lucky.

Mr. W and Frizz left on a very expensive plane ride this morning to get to D’s funeral in Burbank this afternoon. How much does a plane ride cost when bought two days beforehand? $400. Each.

Thank goodness for credit cards.

I stayed home, mostly because we just can’t afford to buy that many tickets to go, partly because it’s best if an adult can stay here with the kids, and also because I felt Mr. W needed this time to be there with his friend on his own.

Note: I’m purposely not using D’s real name or his family member’s names because I don’t want to end up as a source of information on this case in Google searches. But if you do a search of a 4-year-old autistic boy murdered by his mother in southern Cali, I’m sure you’ll come up with a ton of information on the case.

The latest is that D’s mother is being held on $10 million dollars bail. I’ve never heard of a bail being set that high for a case like this. But they are afraid that if she were to post bail, she’d jump ship and hide out in Mexico. They also have her on suicide watch. D’s mom pled “not guilty” at her court appearance on April 4th, even though it has been documented that she admitted her part in the killing to the officers on duty when she brought D’s body to the station on March 31st. She had told the sheriff that she didn’t believe her son could have a life or future without her, so she decided to kill him.

D’s father is a wreck. He couldn’t even go to his wife’s arraignment. I don’t know much more than that. I have no idea what’s going on in his head, how he feels about his wife, how he’s coping. I just know he’s a mess, but still responsible for picking up the pieces.

I tried to think about what I would do had this happened to my child. I mentioned in my last post that I felt compassion towards D’s mother. I still do. But what if I had lost my child in such a horrible way? Would I have compassion for the person that cared for my child every moment of the day, giving all their energy towards my child, but then taking my child’s life in a moment of insanity?

No, I would not. I wouldn’t even be able to remember all those other times of that person being a good parent because they had stolen a life that should have gone on living.

How do you live your life when your child has been ripped from your reality? When the one little being that depends on you to survive has been killed, how do you even go on? When your identity is wrapped up in being a parent and then your only child dies, what happens to the person you are?

If I were D’s father, I would waste no good thoughts on the murderer of my child.

Mr. W comes home tonight in his whirlwind trip to visit and support his friend. I can only imagine the emotional storm he’ll have gone through in this. I feel so distant from all this – safe in my little cocoon away from murder, heartache, and pain. My kids are healthy and safe. We have a good support system in our house. My biggest worry is adhering to a busy schedule.  I feel guilty to be surrounded by so much that I take for granted while a father is forced to live the rest of his days without his child.

We’re really lucky, you know.

Stealing sunshine.

Over the summer I met a sweet little autistic boy. We had gone to southern California for my sister’s wedding, and Mr. W was excited for me to meet his old roommate from college and his 3-year-old son.

From the moment I laid eyes on “D”, I couldn’t help but be enamored with him. He was fairly quiet, but had an inquisitive nature. I’m familiar with autism as far as kids who don’t make human interactions and seem really withdrawn, as well as the higher functioning autism of Asperger’s Syndrome that results in poor impulse control and an inability to understand morals or consequences. But this little boy didn’t seem to fit either of these definitions. You could tell he had a sense of confusion about him, but he also seemed incredibly gentle and loving. He was immediately drawn to me, calling me “mama” despite repeated corrections that I was “Crissi”. He stayed by my side the whole afternoon at the beach, letting me take him into the water or dig with him in the sand, or just being content to sit in my lap and lean against me as if I really were his mother. And when we went back to the beach house he continued to try and show me things, my only competition being the cartoon playing on TV.

D’s father repeatedly mentioned how he was happy to be spending some time with D, as well as giving his wife a break. He explained how he worked all day, and she was left to stay home with D all day long, every day. He recognized that she could use some time off, and I got the sense that she was overwhelmed with the burden of being the caregiver for a special needs child who probably took up a lot of her energy. Remembering what it was like being a mother of young children, where the majority of the care landed on my shoulders, I had the utmost understanding for what this woman was going through.

It was Sunday morning, April 1st, when Mr. W got a phone call from his old college roommate. The answering machine woke him up. He brought me a cup of coffee in bed and told me he really needed to call his friend because it sounded urgent. He left me in the bedroom and went downstairs so he could talk. Moments later I heard a loud wail coming from the living room. I paused, listening again, hoping it was laughter instead. But what I heard was a cry of distress.

Immediately I thought of D. I knew something had happened. What else could it be? I figured that somehow his handicap had maybe caused him to die in his sleep, or have an accident. We had just been talking about D the day before. I don’t remember what it was about, but I remember his name had come up in conversation. I was immediately filled with fear about what could have happened.

I pulled on my robe and came downstairs where I found Mr. W with the phone to his ear, his face a mess.

“She drowned him,” he said. “She drowned D.”

Nothing prepared me for this. The image of this sweet little boy held under water by his own mother haunted every corner of my mind. I curled up next to Mr. W and held him while he continued talking with his friend. When he hung up, we just held onto each other for a few moments; numb in the news and grateful we had each other and our children. We sleepwalked through most of our day, feeling the need to be close to each other all day.  Eventually this turned into a petty game of nitpicking at each other until we realized that we were just too overcome with emotion to even know how to handle the day-to-day.  We came to our senses, understanding that loving each other was more important than being right.

Two days later, and it still doesn’t seem and more real.

My thoughts are with Mr. W’s friend who was at work when this happened. He lost his wife and his son in the very same day. I am thinking of both of their families who are also mourning the loss of this little boy.

But my thoughts also rest with this mother.

From several news stories, it is reported that after she drowned D, she attempted to drown herself. When that didn’t work, she brought D to the police station with hopes they could revive him. An officer on duty performed CPR on the boy, as did paramedics. But it was no use – he had already died. The mother was arrested at the scene.

I cannot comprehend killing my own child. And I do believe this mother will have to answer to a higher power for what she did. But I can’t help but feel compassion for this mother as well. She was overwhelmed with a special-needs child. But there’s more to the story than that. She was originally from Mexico, where all her family lives. She learned the language and culture here in the short time she’s lived here. But from what I knew of her, she was alone. When her husband went to work, she stayed behind in the house. She didn’t have any friends. She didn’t have anything except for D. More than that, she also suffered from OCD. Everything had to be perfect. It’s questioned why she didn’t seek out help with D, but the truth is, she couldn’t let anyone care for him when she knew how to do it right. The only way I can explain what happened was that this mother suffered from a lapse of sanity. How else could you kill the very person you spent so much time and energy caring for? She had to have snapped, suddenly overwhelmed with the huge burden on her shoulders.

What is she thinking now as she sits in a cold jail cell, realizing that her son is gone, her whole life is gone, because of one moment when she chose not to walk away and take a breather when caring for D got to be too much?

The comments on the news story want to point fingers at who’s to blame.  Persecute the mother!  Where was the father?!?  Why didn’t the community know?!?  But the cold truth is that a mother is in jail, a father lost his wife and son on the same day, the community feels betrayed, an extended family has no explanation, friends don’t know what to say or do – and a sweet little boy is gone forever and no amount of finger-pointing is going to bring him back.

And that’s devastating.

This week has been burdened with sorrowful news. On Friday I learned that my friend’s mother, a woman I considered as my second mother growing up, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Sunday we got the call about D. And yesterday I learned that another friend’s mother, who I had been close to in my childhood, took her own life.

I feel like the sunshine has been stolen from the sky, from my life. So much loss. So I stole a little bit of sunshine from my kitchen table to help make up for the cloudy day – a jar of daffodils to look at on my office desk as I muddle through the day. And yet, my heart just isn’t into work. What’s the point? What difference does it make?

My heart is heavy.

Life is precious. Hold those you love close. Keep your eyes open for those who need your help. And if you have too much weight on your shoulders, don’t bottle it up – let others help you.

xoxo