Mothers. We all have one or had one. Just the word warms our hearts and brings a flood of images and memories of our moms. For me when I think of my mom, I think of her huge smile , contagious laugh and the midwestern warmth she shared with every person she encountered. She was gracious and kind and her life was all about who was in it and who was in front of her. My mom was joyful.
I have been without her now for 15 Mother’s Days. It is just so crazy to think she was only 60 when her life ended so abruptly, a decade from where I am now. Yet, her legacy to me is the reminder of how precious life is, how you never know when your time will come and to live each day with joy and purpose.
She died as she lived, having fun with friends she loved and cherished. Even in the moments before her death, she was living fully with those she was with. It is this gift and reminder that I hold dear, as I celebrate her and Mother’s Day.
Wishing each of you and your mother’s the gifts of joy, presence, and cherished moments with those you love this Sunday.
The second Sunday in December is an international day of remembrance for children that have died. Every year, in the middle of this crazy hectic season, I curse trying to get to this candle lighting event, I am running on empty and overload, a million lists rushing through my head…..and then I walk into the auditorium…..where I am greeted by hundreds of faces, many who are wearing their deceased child’s image on their t-shirt or clinging to a framed photo, as if it is a life raft…and I pause.
It is then, in this moment, that I know what is truly important. It is here, as I begin to hear one parent share the story of their child’s short journey on this earth and the big impact this small life had on so many, that I know what matters. In this room is full of sniffles, tears and broken hearts the traffic is forgotten, the holiday list vanish and all that remains is love and compassion.
The emotion is palpable and the love and connection these people feel for one another, although strangers, is real. For each of them has walked this path, a hellish journey where they never feel whole again because they have lost a child….their child.
Over 40 years ago, in 1969, a chaplain at the Warwickshire Hospital in England brought together two sets of grieving parents, realizing that the understanding and support they could give one another was greater than he could provide. At that kitchen table the Lawley family, Henderson family and chaplain, Simon Stephens created The Society of Compassionate Friends.
Today, The Compassionate Friends has over 700 chapters nationwide to offer friendship, understanding and hope to bereaved parents, siblings, grandparents and family members when a child has died. There are TCF chapters in more than 30 countries around the world, lead by volunteers who are bereaved parents, siblings and grandparents.
This Sunday, December 11th at 7pm, in time zones across the globe, the world’s largest mass candle lighting event will create a 24 hour wave of light in remembrance of a child gone too soon. I will be lighting a candle for so many, gone too soon and once again be grounded in what it is that truly matters…..love.
Today we head to Parent’s Weekend at our son’s college. The weekend will include tailgates, football games and the obligatory fraternity party (parents included). All of it will be fun, nostalgic and take us back to our college days. Thinking of our trip, reminded me that tomorrow marks the 12th year anniversary of Gordie Baily’s death and while I do not typically repost, I have shared his story every September because the lesson is invaluable.
So often we do not make discoveries or connections until it is too late. We do not realize the value of a friend until they have moved away, we do not appreciate our child until they have left for college or we do not know the value of one’s life until it has passed.
Why is it that we wait to make these connections? Why is our hindsight is so crystal clear and our day-to-day vision so clouded? This story is perhaps no different, however, the beauty of it lies in the ability to take that clear vision and create something that matters.
This month thousands of college freshman have left home, including my own son, and many are beginning the process of Rush as they look to make new homes away from home in sororities and fraternities across the country. That is exactly what Gordie Baily did in September 2004, as an 18-year-old freshman at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Gordie, a fun-loving freshman who had been the Co-captain of his varsity high school football team, a drama star, a guitar player and a walk on at Boulder’s lacrosse team was adored by all. He pledged Chi Psi and on the evening of September 16th, Gordie and twenty-six other pledge brothers dressed in coats and ties for “bid night”, were taken blindfolded to the Arapaho Roosevelt National Forest where they were “encouraged” to drink four “handles” of whiskey and six (1.5 liter) bottles of wine.
They were told, “no one is leaving here until these are gone.” When the group returned to the Fraternity house, Gordie was visibly intoxicated and did not drink anymore. He was placed on a couch to “sleep it off” at approximately 11pm. His brothers proceeded to write on his body in another fraternity ritual. Gordie was left to “sleep it off” for 10 hours before he was found dead the next morning, face down on the floor. No one had called for help, he was 18 years old.
The nonprofit Gordie Foundation was founded in Dallas in 2004 by Gordie’s parents as a dedication to his memory. The Gordie foundation creates and distributes educational programs and materials to reduce hazardous drinking and hazing and promote peer intervention among young adults. Their mission is committed to ensuring that Gordie’s story continues to impact students about the true risks of hazing and alcohol use. As Gordie’s mother Leslie said, “Parents more than anything want their dead children to be remembered and for their lives to have mattered.”
In ten years, the Gordie Foundation which is now re-named Gordie.Org has made an enormous impact on hundreds of thousands of students across the country through its programs and educational efforts.
Why is it that we wait to make these connections? Why is our hindsight is so crystal clear and our day-to-day vision so clouded? Why is it that we do not know the value of one’s life until it has passed? Perhaps more than a decade later, our vision is becoming clearer and we realize just how much precious each life is……
It is that time of year again, the house that was once full of noise and chaos, begins to empty out as the kids pack up and head back to school, in our case off to college. Something I’m not sure I will ever really get used too. Last year when we went from one gone to two, it nearly took me down.
People like to ask, “Have you worked through it all?” Or “Once they leave it will be easier, you’ll be on the other side of it.” What does that mean, “the other side?” Maybe, I’m an exception here…and by all means, feel free to tell me if I am. I don’t think loss, grief, sadness is something that you “just get through.”
It is not like a marathon with a finish line and once you have run your race, there is a solid line to cross that signals the end and you cross under “the other side” banner. Rather, its feels more like walking with a heavy bag of stones and each day you can drop one and eventually the bag is lighter but somehow it doesn’t seem to ever leave, just get lighter.
Of course, there are a million moments of joy, fun, laughs and life in between. But those moments when you are alone and begin to think….you realize that the bag is still there. For me that is what loss has felt like. The loss of my mom and the loss of my children leaving the nest.
It is life, it is a part of the journey but I’m really not so sure about this other side…but I promise to let you know when I get there.
In almost five years of blogging, I have rarely re-posted previous work. Last Saturday, I wrote a post about the Year of Magical thinking and loss. Little did I know that an earthquake of loss would hit our community within hours of writing it. Sadly, with a heavy heart, I am reposting this from a few years back…because there simply are no words…
Twelve years ago I had a phone call that changed my life, a car accident, a death and nothing was simply ever the same after that call. A dear friend just received that same call and so it all comes flooding back…the pain, the loss, the heart-break that feels like it will never end….it is simply too much. There are simply no words….
As I struggle with how to hold up my friend, I find myself thinking about loss and growth. I think many of us feel that growth comes in tiny layers added up over time and that each day’s journey gets us a little closer to inner-growth. I have a different theory.
I believe life is like an earthquakes where huge jolts cause cataclysmic shifts like tectonic plates to our souls. In nature these shifts result in mountains. Inside each of us is a similar experience. When the rocking stops we somehow come out shifted. Our vision becomes clearer, we see what is important for the first time, we learn gratitude in everything and the growth is as monumental as a mountain. It is the growth of our soul.
When I sat down to write this week about soul, I had no idea how I would conclude. I certainly didn’t envision this, but as I struggle and question why? I know that why an earthquake has leveled a family, I can only pray that the shift will bring the strength, foundation, and the beauty of a mountain to each of them.
These are simply words, when there really are none…
The day after the Super Bowl we put our dog down, her name was Lucy. I have not been able to write about this, much less even process the loss until now. However, every time I walk in the door and there is no one to greet me, wag their tail and beam full of love, I feel the most horrible loss.
She came to us via the pound, 13 years ago as mutt, on death row at the Humane Society. She had been adopted twice and not picked up, but when we saw her, we knew she belonged to us. My youngest son’s first memory was having a playdate at the pound with Lucy to make sure we were a “match” and never had there been a better one.
She was needy, I’m sure from being abandoned at 6 months old. All Lucy wanted was love. She didn’t jump or lick all over you but she just smiled wagged her tail and made you feel as if you were the center of her world. She loved our three sons and was crazy protective of all of us. Sure, in the early days, she ate a lot of furniture, she loved cushions and upholstery, but after that…she was as great of a dog as anyone could ever ask for.
A week before Christmas, when we were days from our move, she didn’t seem right, so we took her to the vet. They told us she needed spinal surgery and put her on cortisone. Shortly after, she bounced back and seemed almost herself. In reality, I think she knew it was her time and just held on a little longer because of the move. She always thought about everyone but herself.
Almost a month from the move, things suddenly were not ok. The vet said it was time to say goodbye to Lucy and came to the house for us. The boys faced timed the dog from college to say goodbye and she just kept looking for them. The three of us sat around her and told her we loved her and it was ok to go.
Old Yeller wasn’t half as sad as this moment. She kept trying to get one last look, not wanting to leave us, our protector until the end. Saying goodbye is never easy but saying goodbye to a member of your family whose sole mission was to provide love, is impossible.
Thank you sweet Lucy for showing us that love is boundless and forever. I loved you so Lucy.
There are times when there are just not words. One of those times is the loss of a child. There is nothing that can be said that heals the empty place left behind by one you loved so deeply.
Yet, families have to begin to pick up the pieces of their lives and try to find a place of hope when it seems there isn’t any. That place is Faith’s Lodge.Org. Faith’s Lodge was started by Mark and Susan Laceck who lost their infant daughter and were determined to help others with her legacy.
What they created was a beautiful lodge where families who have lost children can go together to relax, create new memories, reflect, grieve and heal.
Faith’s Lodge is a place where hope grows. Anytime there is hope there is a beginning.