I put my Starbuck’s coffee in the microwave this morning. Innocent enough. I wanted the taste of a Skinny Mocha Day Two. I began thinking as I set the reheat time and it appeared on the screen in near neon green in front of me. Innocent again. Then the time started to count down on the microwave’s timer. As I saw that time count down in front of me on the microwave screen, my mind drifted a moment to another place and time. I thought of a breakfast bakery item I had put in the microwave almost five years ago, on a morning that was to be my day, Mother’s Day 2014. That morning I never saw the timer expire. I was distracted that morning by a ring at our doorbell that drew me into the foyer hallway, to words I could not imagine I would have heard, and holding my son, Nick, as he descended the stairs into my arms asking what was happening… realizing another son I would never be holding again. Tearless then. Over now, no. #muchlovetosam
I would have loved to fall in love for the billionth time. It hasn’t been that many times actually. I loved a boy. He was my first love. And it ended. I married a love. That brought me two beautiful sons only a year apart. I was blessed. I remain so.
My first son died. Years ago. Today still hard to say out loud. My second son. A sophomore at college, I celebrate each day. Still hard to say out loud. Much love, many years… I look for more love.
As a counselor, today I experienced what I might not have known were Sam alive. Four years later. Yet, it is love all the same.
Much love to Sam…
Five years approaches without you. It happened so fast I have flashes of our memories it seems daily as I intolerably feel how fragile life can be.
You were a child that God took home. I wonder what you would be like as a potential Junior in college at your voiced choice of Indiana University. I know your brother Nick excels in his program at his college choice. You, however, are unknown to me at this point. Hurt, yes it does. Healing is all the same.
When the sun rises, it will be a significant day for us. Grandpa and grandma are enjoying a Hawaiian vacation. Nick is doing amazing at college. Since attending grad school and graduating, I will be moving forward as well.
To have you here, would change everything. To not have you here, changes everything. I work every day to ease my pain. Crying is too easy. As I sat at lunch I looked up and saw a simple, silly claw machine and I was reminded of you. As I continued to gaze, I saw within, “Happy Valentine’s Day.” Yes, Sam, it will be. Before, in between and after, though, there will be you. Always you. #muchlovetosam
To say that I will understand is lost. To say that I’ve tried, is immense. To say that I’ve done the greatest I could, is true. To say that I lost, is the truest of all. I’ve loved having a family. My precious son, Sam, as my first born child, was a central focus of my understanding of family, along with his most lovable brother, Nick. I will never forget the family I formed with Sam and Nick; I’m reminded in ways that are transforming today. I will always be Sam and Nick’s mom and I would want for nothing else in this world. I’ll die that way. In between, there will be bittersweetness. I will pray to embrace and love it all; just like I did in the beginning because I’ve been blessed. #muchlovetosamandnick
Is it that the ending does not change, just the years, or is it truly we must have patience which leads to thoughts of back in the day? Back in the day, going on five years ago, my son Nick told me we would see Sam again; we just needed to have patience. Now Nick is a sophomore in college. As Nick recalls back in the day, it was a time when he spent more time with his brother, Sam, who died of an overdose accidentally when he was 16 and Nick was 15. Nick has struggled in so many ways that I am so amazed by him. He has survived so much that he shows me how to survive. Now, as a mental health therapist, having earned my Masters last year, I’m in career 2.0. I work with teen patients who are experiencing the grief that Nick has experienced. Yes, we only need to have patience.
As a college sophomore, our family has experienced through Nick what we know we did not see Sam achieve. Nick and what he has earned touches us deeply; he is much loved and will be, we pray, for our years to come. Sam is loved much; forever in our hearts. Yes, back in the day and with patience. #muchlovetosam
As a year draws to an end, I’m left where I always am the past four years. Remembering a life that will no longer be as I participate in a world that I never imagined without my son, Sam, who died from an accidental overdose in 2014 after being sold a synthetic drug… thinking all along he was taking Acid, something that would pass through his system before he was possibly subject to a random drug screen at high school being an athlete. Instead, he died overnight. Experimenting? Bad choice? Kid choice? What is my choice four years later? What is his brother’s choice four years later? Our choice is loving someone we lost, a very easy choice actually; a choice that will always be as we know who we’ve lost, what we’ve lost and what will never be again.
As the most sobering of the year’s holidays are behind us, we look to the new year with hope. Hope for continued love. Hope for grace and mercy. And in our darkest hours that still arise, just hope. Life is a blessing.
Love and be loved as freely as the world around us and when the storm comes, hunker down and dare to love some more. #muchlovetosam
I was at a stop light on Keystone Avenue. For the brief time at a stop light, I was transcended to what it was like having a conversation with Sam, and then as quickly, to the moment I knew there would be no more conversations with Sam here on Earth and too way too soon, seeing his body preserved in a casket, and finally, a memory without him here on Earth. All in one stop light. As the light turned green, I pressed on the gas pedal slowly and contemplated what it must be like to experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and ultimately, a flash back. I then thought of how those from wars and foreign missions reach out to those former comrades for like experiences. I contemplated texting one of my “mom” friends, one of those who I identify so closely with that neither time nor distance tears apart from our closeness.
In the end, the light turned green and as I proceeded forward, I wiped the tears away that were falling down my face. Love, I thought; nothing that time erases. #muchlovetosam
I wouldn’t have made it after Sam’s death if it weren’t for the man of the cloth that I knew who came to my house that fateful day and told me “All is well with Sam” and all will be well with us in time, too. I was never in my life more thankful for the words of wisdom that day and in the days that followed where I tried to reason with what was not reasonable. In this time there were those from my church whose efforts spoke loudly in my heart… an amazing young girl singing most beautifully to my heart at Sam’s funeral, a scrumptious chocolate cake especially for Nick from his youth leader’s caring touches, a church funeral dinner and then the numerous times I showed up with questions to be considered, prayed upon and answered through what He provides.
My anchor in the midst of a drastic storm that took Sam from me at 16, overnight in an episode of experimenting with drugs with friends like young minds do albeit it was deadly for my son. Now never to touch or feel him alive again. My pastor was there throughout and made what was unbearable, something beyond my breaking heart could endure, a tiny preview forward one heartache at a time.
I’d like to say that I returned to church regularly but there was nothing regular after I lost my son. Going back to church on Sundays was more like returning back to the scene of where I last left Sam. The church service itself provided memories that tears were easily shed for.
Just like Sam leaving I never imagined, after Sam dying, I never imagined my church would change. But it has. My pastor has retired. Today is the youth leader’s last day. I reflect again that I’ll forever miss what was, be grateful for what shall be and thankful for the light shown to me on this journey.
As I roll into this Thanksgiving week, four years after last seeing Sam, I ponder with sadness what life can mean. Then I look to what is happening around me and I know, even now. The work I am doing in mental health counseling with my patients amazes me daily. What I see so deeply in others, inspires me to know that although I don’t know the answers, there are answers that I am finding with my own life and with my work with patients; my patients are showing me the answers that they find.
Family is a word that has tortured me since Sam died and now that the holiday season approaches I am yet reminded of my torture. I have a beautiful, giving and loving family here on earth, even without Sam; perhaps recognized most cognitively because Sam is not here.
We all love. We all experience loss. We all continue to love again. Blessed.
I wish I could be mad with grief. Every time I think of my 16-year-old son, though, I don’t feel anger. When I think of the then 19-year-old that sold him drugs, I’m not angry. When I think of the then 16-year-old friends that my son was with when they experimented with drugs, I don’t feel anger. When I made my victim’s speech in court for the then 26-year-old man that made the drug that killed my son overnight, I do not feel anger. I wonder what relief I might feel if I could feel anger. Then I know there is no relief from losing a child. The waves of effect go on and on.
Today the wave is my dead son’s now 19-year-old brother and his experiences in college as he realizes that his brother has been gone a long time now; 4 years long. The same brother that when we first lost Sam told me that we would see Sam again; we just needed to be patient. Yes. Grief wears at you. It tears at you. It rips you to shreds. Yes. I wish I could be mad. Yes. I’m Sam’s mom. I love him. We always will. #muchlovetosam
It’s been another rewarding day here on Earth. To think that I could of missed it, frightens me. To know that I was here, comforts me. Doing mental health counseling in residency, for my patients, who cried real tears today, I hope I expressed to you that I understand and helped you in some way to heal. As I hear you speak in counseling session, I realize I’m healed from the loss of a love for a child but that it is never really recoverable as you so eloquently show me. For my son who walks this Earth, who inspires and shows me minute-by-minute, how much I mean to him, I’m thankful again today to have been there in some way for you… to love you.
To tomorrow, I hope I rise to the challenges He has provided. Until then, I know what true heartache means, I know what a struggle it is to live each day and I know the hope that He provides us because I experience it every day. Every day. #muchlovetosam
I do wonder. I know what I cannot change but I do wonder… It’s over four years now that Sam is gone and still I want to find in the world a kinder, gentler, better place. I’ve come to find the void in my heart now shows a scar that with time I can talk about. But who can listen with all else of the woes in the world? When the hole in me won’t close, who will save me? I will… because He believes in me… #blessed
I’ve had two boyfriends with the same birth date. What are the chances of that?
When Nick was in third grade and Sam in fourth, I picked them up the last day of school. Nick came to the car carrying a half gallon zip lock bag full of crayons. Upon closer inspection as he got in the car, they all appeared to be orange crayons. As we drove away, my amused questioning began. Nick quickly filled Sam and I in that he had collected orange crayons that year. The year of his first male teacher, Mr. Blackburn, who Nick’s creativity had flourished under. Sam and I laughed in our amusement and our love for the third grader, now fourth grader-to-be. Yes. Nick had an orange crayon collection from third grade. We still have it today; in our memories and in a glass jar as collections should be stored.
I rode the Monon Trail in Indianapolis for the first time this weekend with my friend Chad. We rode four miles to Carmel downtown. There was an arts fair and plenty of activity as we winded our way to The Pint Room. Chad asked for outdoor seating. It was a beautiful night. As our conversation flowed, I glanced down by Chad’s feet and saw an orange crayon. Without conversation interruption, I asked him for the crayon and tucked it in my hand bag.
I’ve known about two occasions with the same color crayon now. What are the chances of that? #muchlovetosamandnick
‘Work me’ wore this regularly, especially when traveling; it was my ‘fat’ dress when I hadn’t had enough time to rid myself of the travel baggage which would include extra pounds. In the past four years, I’ve not worn this dress once. That was over four years ago.
Four years ago, I considered wearing it for Sam’s visitation and again, the day of his funeral which was a warm day for May. I didn’t though because I didn’t want that horrific, heavy memory with that dress.
The picture is from wearing this dress today though; wearing a story I couldn’t say. If it was a story I could tell today… it would be the mess I can be, the unfixable me, the sadness that will never leave. If I said that, would I be loved? If I am that, could I still be loved? I want to be loved any way.
I married my sons’ father 22 years ago today. I thought it would be a love to last a lifetime. We had two beautiful boys. Our first son, Sam, was born ten months after we were married. Nick was born the following year. A mother’s love to last a lifetime.
Sam died sixteen years later after being sold Acid that was really a synthetic drug called 25i-NBOMe. He left behind the love of his father and I and also of his younger brother, Nick, now a college sophomore.
What was once never-ending love of a beautiful baby boy is now intertwined with never-ending pain. Sam didn’t graduate high school. Sam didn’t go to college. Sam wasn’t here to celebrate his 21st birthday this year. Sam isn’t here today. #muchlovetosam
It’s been two months since a Sam’s Mom’s blog; a life changing, kick your ass two months. I finished my Masters’ degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. When I came to Christian Theological Seminary three years ago to start my Masters, I was in search of life purpose and my pursuit was to find “hope” to live beyond my own unimaginable pain. I lost my son Sam overnight on Mother’s Day. It was May 11, 2014. He died overnight at a friend’s house from a synthetic drug he thought was Acid. Our hearts were broken; life did not stop for pain. From the spiritual journey I was on, my meaningful life was a vision to help others to in turn heal my own suffering.
When I was accepted and started school, I left my full-time Corporate America executive career. I met the most beautiful people at CTS. I honestly didn’t expect that I would leave CTS. I thought my suffering would end with my death. I didn’t want to live with so much pain. That didn’t happen though. As my studies continued, I thought when I graduated I would move to French Lick, a place of solace that I share with Sam experiences there. I thought I would be a counselor at the school Larry Bird attended or do something in the health care community in Jasper, Indiana. Alone.
Today I defended my thesis and of course, it included my experience with my boys, Sam and Nick. As I jumped in the car to head home after, Stevie Nick’s “Landslide” played. I chuckled. I recall years ago playing the CD over and over in the car and singing every word… over and over. After about a dozen times, Sam sitting in the passenger seat said, “Wow, mom, you really like that song don’t you.” “Yes, I do,” I said.
An hour later, I’m seated at dinner celebrating my victory lap of completing the last two months and I hear Stevie Nick’s again: “Oh, mirror in the sky. What is love? Can the child within my heart rise above? Can I sail through the changing ocean tides? Can I handle the seasons of my life? Well, I've been afraid of changin’. 'Cause I built my life around you. But time makes you bolder. Children get older. I'm getting older too.”
Yes, I’ve been afraid of changing. I came to CTS three years ago struggling to find my purpose. Through my learning at seminary, I discovered parts of myself that I hadn’t known. I came with an identity of being broken. Now I recognize the psychology and theological underpinnings of my work in mental health counseling. I graduate identifying broken as a condition endured. What I possess is what God has provided me. Instead of moving to French Lick, I moved this Spring to Noblesville. Instead of dying, I lived. #muchlovetosam
Sam would wear a big grin when he wore the Monopoly Mr. Money Bags t-shirt claiming “Stacks on Deck.” I can only imagine now the meaning behind his liking of the t-shirt. If I once knew, the four years that have screeched by since his death have left me unknowing.
I wasn’t smiling today as I sat across from my new financial advisor. Tears streamed down both cheeks as I continuously wiped them away and expressed words emotionlessly that Sam was dead; the money in his account was not going to be used by him. Money from stock dividends for his high school grades from an above 4.0 GPA. As a sophomore, he died unknowingly taking a dangerous synthetic drug called N-BOMe.
The ache in my heart that accompanied the tears silently screamed “don’t close another door.” The look from the lady across the desk was compassionate and her eyes expressed care… as a mom, I imagine. Behind her on the credenza were nicely framed pictures of two likely-middle school boys not more than a year or two apart in age. Both boys wore navy short-sleeved polos. I noticed the boys had similar sun shades of blonde hair with summer crew cuts, freckles on their cheeks and big grins. I can only imagine now…
I’d like to think that Grace is where I live now; to me, that is living in love. Provided for us in 1 Corinthians 13:13 "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." Again, I didn’t realize it at the time I did the “thank you letter” but I chose words to put as the letterhead. I’ve continued with them and formalized them as my faith core claims because they showed for me when it came down to what truly does remain after sudden, tragic loss. There were two other core claims that I added: Faith, Hope, Love, Courage, Peace. I added them because they provide comfort for me although the greatest always will be and is love. Steadfast and by my side for what is left of my searching.
My initial pursuit after my loss was to find real Hope in living beyond pain. I left Corporate America, began graduate studies to eventually establish my own clinical practice after my only living son, Nick, goes to college, graduates and I become an “empty nester”. Having hope, by getting back to my educational roots and my early perspectives and leveraging my business career along with my very painful personal loss of my son, Sam, to help others which in turn, helps me. I arrived at this essential component of my own healing, i.e., my own salvation here on Earth from a sermon of my beloved Pastor on a Sunday with a date I do not know. He concluded with the question of are there only two types of people in the world? One, those who need help and care. And two, those who need to serve, to care for and help those in need. Or, he posed, is there a third type? That being, those who serve and help others and then in turn heal or help themselves. From the spiritual journey I am on, there are three types of people in this world. The third became my meaningful purpose and it is wrought with love.
In reading Paul Tillich’s Dynamics of Faith, I became more identified with my meaning of Courage. My line of thought now includes Tillich’s that of the threats to "being" there is loss of meaning and rejection of self for not reaching one’s full destiny… what we all hope to do in a transformed world. I confront my despair, and do so ongoing, by reaffirming my meaningful purpose and the hope for a new destiny to fulfill. This was and is my step of courage.
From Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki’s Divinity & Diversity: A Christian Affirmation of Religious Pluralism, therein lies my fifth claim of Peace on page 121: “Being most deeply who we are, we are open to God’s transformative call toward how we might yet be.” Through hope, faith, love and all the courage I have, I hope to eventually arrive at peace; a beloved being of God, on a reconciling journey to even greater love as "Nothing in life will call upon us to be more courageous than facing the fact that it ends. But on the other side of heartbreak is wisdom.” (Wish I Was Here, 2014) That wisdom to me represents peace. I hope to know yet more when I find it; now nearing four years since Sam died I realize I am closer than I have ever been to peace and I’m living drenched in love. God is good.
It was Mother’s Day morning, May 11, 2014. My husband and I were preparing for a day’s activities and the doorbell rang. Sam was to be home any time from spending the night at a long-time friend’s house down the street. When the front door was opened, it wasn’t Sam arriving home as I thought it was going to be. Instead, it was devastation. Sam, sixteen, was dead.
In the days following Sam’s death, we learned Sam and two of his basketball friends took the chance of their lives. They tried what they thought was LSD or Acid and would pass quickly through their system avoiding detection from random drug testing that they were subject to as athletes. Later, I learned instead of LSD or Acid, dangerous enough, Sam was unknowingly the victim of a deadly synthetic drug called 25I-NBOMe. Three boys took it. Sam did not wake up.
I experienced complicated grief; running the mood race between major depressive disorder and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). My sadness: waking up every morning realizing my first born is gone and further heightened by his physical belongings that seemingly still remain. My flashbacks: random thoughts once considered joyful memories, visioning Sam’s death, recalling a lengthy visitation, funeral and my boy in a coffin, a song that held meaning playing in my car, at a store, anywhere. There are more descriptions of the saddening despair and the physical pain of a broken heart and pandering presence to not even exist.
By high school, Sam had shelves full of trophies from nearly a decade of playing basketball. It was his sport with a year-round routine that occurred so much that it was ingrained in his being. In regard to what I’m sharing, at that time of year, his day involved morning power endurance and after school basketball practice. I was picking him up at the high school gym entrance. Sam walked to my SUV, opened the front passenger door, climbed in with his tall lankiness and casually tossed his heavy-burdened school bag in the back seat, It was a routine ingrained into my being as well. I started the car, put it in drive and Sam buckled his seat belt. I took off heading out of the school parking lot towards home. It was sunny and still light out as I recall. I guess there was more silence in the car than usual as Sam’s first words after we exited the parking lot was, “Did you have a bad day, mom?” I was caught off-guard by his question so I had to let the question settle a moment. I remember thinking, it wasn’t a bad day necessarily. It was a trying day but nothing of the sort that a teen might identify with perhaps. Yet there was something about me that he was picking up that gave him the idea that I wasn’t my usual self. I remember thinking how this was a moment to bring Sam into my life and share with him some of my day. As I started though, I told him “No, it wasn’t a bad day. I had an unusual day at work. Let me tell you about it.” He listened intently; he always did. He asked a few questions and after I was finished he adjusted his red basketball shorts, pulling them downward at his thighs with his large, thin hands. Then he started another subject about current events. He seemed content as he relaxed his posture. I recall this moment clear as day; I see it visually. Maybe because not much more than a year later, I knew what a bad day really was. Sam wasn’t there to tell.