Me, in mental health counseling


Being in residency as a mental health counselor…

I left tonight.

He watched me.

From his second story apartment.

The screen window was open.

He said, “I see you, Miss Jeanine.”

I peered upwards then.

I saw his five-year old innocence 

Looking down at me.

I said, “I’ll see you Billie.”

He said, “See you next time, 

Miss Jeanine.”

I looked upward 

to his preciousness.

Towards the sky.

I said, “Okay.”

It was moments before, 

I had been standing 

in the threshold, 

of his inner city apartment. 

Then he had said, calmly,

“Can you give me a high-five, 

Miss Jeanine,

and a hug?”

His vision 

in my mind.

Not to forget.

His precious face.

“Of course,” I said.

A high-five slap.

Not a slap at all,

with his tenderness.

A hug he gave

while standing,


Pajama pants and white tee.

“Good bye, Miss Jeanine.”

“Good bye, Billie.”

“See you next time, Miss Jeanine.”

“Yes, next time, Billie.”

I love you, Sam.

And the so many next times

that we now

will never have.

Sweetness as fine


Could I have ever,

not loved you?

With your sweetness to me,

so fine?

Grief is a ritual 

hanging outside my balance.

Motherhood, unforeseen to hope,

makes me old as time.

If hope,

is a thing with feathers,

My love for my lost son,

is utmost devine.

A thing with feathers,

A darkness unknown.

Take me today,

or take me tomorrow.

For I am ‘ever unknown,

as motherhood is

as old as time.

On my 53rd birthday


We can say your name now without tears. Now searchingly, I can grasp to relearn who you were as my mind has stood still from thoughts of you while my heart, torn open by your young death, still struggles to produce a beating heart, without missing a beat. To carry on. I can smile.

As I have sought to change nearly every aspect of my life in order to still exist without you, I cannot hide from my love for you. You are missed Sam. Beyond measure. Beyond my love. Beyond my grasp. #muchlovetosam

Free Friday

Since Sam’s death, my Friday has been for me… for me to meet my dear friend Robin for lunch and play Rummy… for me to have no obligations… Friday has been for me… for Sam.  Today, my Friday involved meeting with my psychiatrist who has provided me with an antidepressant to deal with the depression it takes for me to deal with my loss of Sam.  Today, as in the last three sessions over the past year, involved the conversation about me no longer taking the antidepressant.  I recalled for him a session recently with my psychotherapist.  If I no longer take an antidepressant what does that say about my loss?  I’ve recovered!?  I have a “new” normal!?  Those thoughts I could not fathom… instead my therapist in her way, put it in a way that I could digest: I will always experience loss, I am no longer depressed.  Sounds so easy; so simple.  Albeit the most painful experience for a parent.  

So today I begin the journey away from taking antidepressants.  Something I’ve relied on the past five years to help me get through a day, a day to a week, a week to a month, then months, months to years… five years now.  I love you, Sam… I always will…    #muchlovetosam

Love all around


I’ve taken my time to contemplate what this year means to me. and it is beyond words to convey.

The first year waking up to go through my mind with the realization that you are gone every day… unbelievable.  

The second year to walk by your room and feel the unimaginable pain each day…

Now five years… five years… where did the time go? It went to discovering who I could in the utmost possibility be without you, Samuel.  You were my everything… you still are… love remains. If I could change things, I would have long ago.  If I could save myself, I would have known how.  In the midst, I enrolled in graduate school and grieved… and grieved… I would have loved to have graduated as I did last summer with the wherewithal to take away my misery.  Instead, I struggled to find, post-graduate school, what would save me?  Although I have denied it so many times since your death it does still remain… love.  I wish it were for you here on Earth. Instead, it is uplifted to me day in and day out in who I experience in my life.  I love you, Sam.  There is so much of it to go around. In year five since the loss of you, I hope to share the love I have to spare since losing you.  #muchlovetosam

Over now


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

Love all the same


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…

Love again


Dear 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   



In the beginning

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

Back in the day


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     

Goodbye 2018


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

Back in Time


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

Finding a way

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.   


I am a spark.jpg

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.

Where would we be?


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

Earth rewards


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

He believes


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

Orange crayons


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

Working me


‘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.