Finding Self Part 3: Grace

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.

Yes, there is thanksgiving


It was the first semblance of a Thanksgiving Day since my 16-year-old academics-honor son, Sam, died from teen curiosity and unknowingly took a synthetic drug that killed him overnight.  That happened three years ago.  I died three years ago.  I live today in the glory of love.  I had avoided the holiday season in years past like the plague.  This year I thought was different.  Truth be known, I’m still in many ways dead to the world.  I celebrated the holiday for my family that remains post-mortem because they deserve that.  With what they have faced and dealt with in the past three seasons, warrants that they deserve a peaceful heart… if not a peaceful day as well for Thanksgiving.  

What I deserve is not even a question.  I don’t use the same measurement stick.  Instead I lick my pointer finger and raise it to the air and see which way the wind blows, day-by-day. On Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, I was busy with what the holiday provides... love.  I was thankful.  I was prayerful that God watch over those who are not here with us this holiday season except in our hearts… always, in our hearts.

The day after Thanksgiving, I slept through.  What seemed five minutes was actually an hour and by the time I could groggily awaken my spirits the day was over.  I existed that day no other way.  I was thankful.  

I thought I had sufficiently celebrated and survived the holiday until I was in grad school class Monday afternoon.  My professor shared how his mother had been ill and his emotional roller coaster of the Thanksgiving break.  As he concluded, I could empathize with his roller coaster and I felt I could share that my holiday, too, was emotional.  As that led to his questions and my answers I only know to be mine, he shared how a friend of his had experienced loss and in the throes of grief had told him he had laid in the grass for a period of time one day.  I then felt open enough to share that I too, had experienced a time with a blanket laying in my front yard in the late summer grass after my Sammy had died.  As I had laid there, I had fallen asleep and a neighbor had passed by and disturbed my blanket to ask me if I was okay.  I had told them I was.  And I was.  For my okay.  Then as dusk approached, Nick had come out to the front yard and awoken me again.  He helped me up and inside at that point.  My professor then asked me what it was that I was trying to achieve by laying out in the yard like that.  I was trying to achieve surviving I told him.  And I did.  I lived another day of the horror in losing my child.  #muchlovetosam 

To Right Injustice


It was barely one year after the tragic loss of my sweet 16-year-old son, Sam, when I started grad studies, Fall 2015, at Christian Theological Seminary. I was immediately embraced by the community of my CTS cohorts. I felt loved. I was so thankful.  Many of them still remain to provide love and support but they are in other programs now. What I’m left with in my third year of grad school, I felt intensely Monday night. A cohort’s comments provided a trigger for me that reeked with lack of information.  As I provided vehemently some of that information, although hidden until I said it out loud in the room, was my cohort’s agenda of a race issue around the opioid drug epidemic.

He laughed when I voiced, “So is this a race issue?” His laugh continued as he smiled and said, “Yes.” His affect seemed so odd to me. I would never smile about the death of my son from experimenting and unknowingly taking a synthetic hallucinogen drug that killed him overnight, or the sadness and life changing pain I experienced in the devastating aftermath. My cohort’s pain was with race, yet it seemingly allowed him to smile. I was envious. Still I was the one that brought the idea of race into the room and out from the shadows; a single, 50-plus, suburban, white woman.

What he had been commenting on, was that now the “media” as another student cohort chimed in, was talking of treatment for the opioid drug epidemic. I asked where this treatment was in our community. Neither cohort responded. The smiling cohort grinned again and said, “You act like you expect me to know what the treatment is.” Yes, actually, I did. When I go out and speak about my pain, treatment updates are something that I unfortunately consider for passing on to my audience.

The thoughts voiced thereafter by the same and other students, included the preface, “Not to take away from Jeanine’s loss but…” As if my loss could be taken away? No, changing the past was not an option when I was suffering my pain. Death is not temporary. Instead, with no other option, I worked to change the future.

Now, if I am to listen to my cohort, that work that was my pain is not to be recognized either because it came after the past crack and heroin epidemic and injustices. In fact, my work and that of the army of families effected by the opioid crisis, shows what wasn’t done in the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s drug epidemics. But that is precisely why I used my pain for betterment… to right injustice; life is not fair. In grief, I empowered myself. I created a nonprofit. I work painfully as an advocate. I just want to change the world. #muchlovetosam

Happiness be told


My life didn’t turn out.  No life map to be imagined now will paint a pretty picture when a life no longer exists.  What I had to offer the world left me when my 16-year-old academics-honor son, Sam, died three years ago from unknowingly taking a synthetic drug called N-BOMe as a curious teen.  I am not alone in unbelievable devastation of the loss of a child.  “A recent analysis of the CDC data by the New York Times found that the rising death rates of white adults between the ages of 25 and 34 made them "the first generation since the Vietnam War years of the mid 1960's to experience higher death rates in early adulthood than the generation that preceded it." But while the mortality rate for whites has been steadily rising, the death rates of blacks and Hispanics has continued to fall.”

“The drug epidemics that devastated minority communities in the '70s, '80s, and '90s created a shared aversion to hardcore drugs like heroin and crack. Marcus Anthony Hunter, an assistant professor of Sociology and African American Studies at UCLA, said minority communities are still feeling the effects of the zero-tolerance response by law enforcement to those drug epidemics.  "Now that the problems of drugs have noticeably reached the vanilla suburbs, questions and claims or morality have been contested in ways often unavailable to urban minority communities," Hunter said. "Where urban minority areas are thought to be amoral breeding grounds, suburban white areas are thought to be upstanding, respectable force fields from the ills of drug use. As it turns out, neither is exactly true.”  

What I offer now.  No, neither is true.  I’ve lived the undeniably, devastating pain to know that it is not.  In the shadow of my darkness with the gallows of my heartache hanging from above; it is the only life I have to live.  Trying to find my survival, my brain has aptly followed my heart at a cautiously, safe and guarded distance as my mind suffers, too; recalls, plots, plans, still dreams and wishes.  Yes, just here to change the world by blazing a trail and finding the way that shows my heart is full; not dead.  I will always love you Sammy; and our sweet, precious, forever memories.  #muchlovetosam

Quoted source: 

What a day

The next few weeks will be the most wonderful and most horrifying moments of my life.  They will be the most wonderful moments for Nick Motsay, my son, a high school senior.  They will be the most horrifying for me, minus Sam Motsay, my son, who died three years ago as a high school sophomore.  No matter the circumstances, we love our children as God loves us.

In the remainder of the month and carrying over into the summer, Nick Motsay will receive many accolades and promising signs of a future that will be fantabulous.  I will celebrate.  He is a beautiful young man with a mind and heart built of love and promise… he is blessed…

Sam Motsay is not a freshman in college amusingly awaiting the arrival of his brother into the same educational status.  Sam is not at Indiana University studying finance.  Nick is going to Purdue studying Chemical Engineering.  The finest line between the unbelievable and a promising future.  How not to take away from promise… how not to deny the have not…

Life sucks.  Life is amazing.  Life cannot take what we don’t allow it to take… life cannot give what we cannot open our heart to receive.  Many promises… many disappointments… life…

Theology this

A long day today with my first theology class; in my fourth semester of grad school and the time has come.  My faith perspective I arrived at early in life but as my boys were born almost 20 years ago, my faith, too, was born anew.  Then my loss of my son, Sam, at sixteen, faith was not shattered, but it was a process in grasping what is most important in my own faith search beyond the unimaginable loss.  Studying at a seminary for my Master’s, I’ve enjoyed the comfort of recognition that we all are broken and we can be in the same room with one another and be who we are; broken.  Being in a room of theologians, especially those in study, I realize faith is not just a personal search but a mission for argument, arguing, debate.  In my role as a mental health professional, my role is compassion, seeking to understand and being present where my patients are so that I might acknowledge with them their pain and suffering.  There is no skin in a fight for my faith; only passion.  Thanks be to God.

Our closing consideration today was 1 Corinthians 13 read aloud four times with reflection in-between readings.  What a wonderful exercise in closing a day of learning God’s will for us, our will for ourselves and the most significant, salvation that Jesus represents as a person and with his works.  In the second reading of 1 Corinthians 13, we were asked to circle a word as it was read that was significant to us.  As we concluded and in reflection, to me it was: angels, nothing, endures, fully.  Third time in reading we were asked to underline one or more words, and in reflection to me it was:  “I am nothing,” “hopes all things,” “I have been fully known.”   

As I saw the sunset tonight, I was able to process that “I am nothing but I hope all things to be fully known” because as “angels exist around us, nothing endures fully.”  #muchlovetosam #muchpeacetoall

I spoke tonight

I spoke to parents and high school students tonight and as I did so, I realized it has been almost a year since I last spoke to an audience for Sam’s Watch. A year is almost half the time that I’ve been without Sam; it’s been not yet three years since he died overnight at sixteen, unknowingly, from a synthetic drug, 25i-NBOMe. That’s when my whirlwind existence began. The world did not stand still when I lost my son. Time did not cease to exist. So I have not been allowed to either. I’m in my second year of grad school now and actually counseling clinical patients under supervision; they come in all reasons and seasons. We all are broken. For me, while grieving is considered an acceptable, healthy reaction to the loss of a loved one, to use Freud’s term, melancholia, is unequivocally the unhealthy as its pathological twin. I’ve spent much time with Melly… with physically ill health symptoms that permeate my skin but are not really originating from my body but my mind and within the tight grasp of emotional conflict that chomps down on me so intently, like a bone that once in her jaws, my new puppy, Jessie, would not let go of. 

In the first year after my son’s death, the mania of melancholia was only experienced slightly as it was tuned out to me personally with the daily dealing of broken heartedness in my grief work. One-by-one memories were stripped from my mind, segregated and reimagined, devastatingly, with the reality of an unhappy ending imposed upon them. One at a time the withdrawal from attachment to the one that I loved and lost occurred: no graduating high school, no attending college, no first job experience, no wedding day happiness. Some of the memories came readily with bursts of tears while others were experienced in silence as I hunkered on the couch watching movies, drove past places we spent time together or bitterly, sweetly saw his year younger brother or his friends reach milestones that my son would not. It was in the manic of this melancholia or Melly, my friendly term of endearment, that I was able to effectively speak to so many thousands of students, parents, communities. It was also the constant feedback loop of my emotionally blocked amygdala, I was able to recount in great detail how my son left this Earth. My amygdala or Migdy, that place in my brain home to my emotional awareness.

Once Migdy set its block like a football defensive player, my emotional responding was pure fight or flight reactions rescuing me from my trauma. I know the play where my amygdala was officially, emotionally blocked.; taking me out of the game of life and living more or less on pure adrenaline. It’s me walking in slow motion from my kitchen to my foyer, in my striped pastel colored and cottony soft, almost terry cloth texture, robe, hearing the voice of a man I’ve never met before… then seeing his opened left hand lowering to his left body side, elbow bent in a way to reach in and pull something out of his side jacket pocket; it seemed like it was all happening in slow-motion but it wasn’t. I was just trapped there, in time, before I saw what he was reaching for. Then as close to the second before I saw what he was about to show, I heard my voice say… to myself… “Sam is dead.” Between that inner voice moment and the actual moment I saw the man reveal what was in his pocket which was Sam’s wallet, Migdy did me the greatest favor I could have asked for. It blocked the rest of my brain so as not to be overwhelmed with the tragedy I was faced with. Migdy did what it should have done as far as I’m concerned. I’m thankful. It gave me the resource to turn and see my younger son, Nick, coming down the second floor foyer stairs. To turn towards him with open arms as he came to me and put his head on my shoulder and to then put my arms around him and hold him while speaking softly in his ear with only dry tears as I stroked his curly brown hair and with assured strength in my voice said, “It’s okay, Nick. Moms got you. It’s okay. I've got you.” 

Tonight, I was faced with an audience that I stood before and spoke out loud to with a voice that knew more than ever what I was saying… my son is gone.#muchlovetosam

Love and melancholia

This is my first post in two months; my first of 2017.  I feel as though I’ve been to another indescribable hell and back; I know it now as the holiday season.  It’s been two and a half years… In that time, I’ve grieved the loss of my oldest son, Sam; his forlorn physical absence and my own soul searching for life’s now meaning.  I’ve mourned him with personal challenges to survive his death and move him forward with me as well as perceiving failings to be a good-enough mother to his brother Nick who is now in his Senior high school year.  So too, another loss-season now… melancholia.  Here, I am totally submerged in “my work” at surviving loss.  I don’t even know what “work” I am actually doing though.  I do know it consumes so much of my time and energy so my blank stare, buried face, off-beat chuckle, lost words or too much expression of care, likely gives away that I am not really present where I am.  I also know when it isn't hidden by illogical distraction, loss reveals its never-ending pain; loss hurts so physically, painfully, pit-in-your-stomach, head spinning, acid-in-your-throat, endless tearing, dripping nose, piercing stab-in-your-chest, bad.  In the simplest of thoughts, while the closest to Sam can think or talk of him in the past tense as the smiling, self-knowing teen of 16, to me, Sam is aging and he is now 19.  You see, he’s my first born, the oldest brother and Nick, his younger brother, is now 18.  That’s where my life finds me… still unimaginable.  #muchlovetosam

No contest

Sam Motsay did not vote in Election 2016; his first vote. I could not stand in the voting line with him and share his excitement, answer his last-minute questions before he entered the booth and then be with him after to share more of the same followed by a family dinner where it would have been discussed for more loving group commentary that would have had some part of laughter as chorus throughout. No that didn’t happen.

The thought of standing in line voting alone, without him, was enough to bring choked down cries that became stifled tears that streamed clear down my neck and also dripped off my chin while I soaked my shirt sleeve from wiping away what drops I could. It wasn’t that I couldn’t vote, it was that I just couldn’t. There was no conciliating what could not be.

I’d like to think that my son was not able to vote because of a purely bad decision but how many of those have we all made in our lifetime? My son was with two boys that did the same thing as well and they voted this election. So what else? I terrifyingly understand the new war on drugs. Drugs which we cannot keep from entering our country and harming our children. Last week two 13 year olds died the same as my son two years earlier. Although it’s no cure for what killed my son, the Narcan struggle is real, keeping people alive from heroin epidemic overdoses. We are losing a generation. A family with three sons has now buried all three as young men, with the third last week.

I have been a very private person most of my life. When my son died, yes, I wanted to run in the street shrieking as loud as I possibly could, kicking and hitting whatever I saw. When my son died and media knocked on my door, stood in court room hallways or attended engagements and asked for my comment, did I want to curse about how unfair life is in such devastation? Yes, I did. I think also of one of Sam’s dear friends who walked many times back and forth in front of our house crying that first summer. Lost, like we all were in the shock.

What could I do though? First, I stood on center stage with my son, Nick, beside me and I cried loudly with my words to educate: young people, adults, law enforcement, communities-at-large, then more with media, school administrators, government officials and agencies. With my family and friends, I started a nonprofit for awareness to try and save others from my pain by sharing it for common good. I left Corporate America and went to grad school to be a mental health counselor so I could try and help others whose journey is not what they wanted either. I focused my efforts towards legislative and support groups where I could aid positively.

With the two men who are today in jail from their involvement in my son’s death, I sat in so many court rooms for excruciating hours and over grueling months to see it come to an end. Even then, there was no end. I have forgiven to unbridle my heart; and I continue to when even true apologies never came. I know what happened to my son didn’t just happen to my son though. It happened to the sons and daughters of many; to good kids and good parents. Our rights taken from us overnight.

For reasons I still don’t yet know, I awoke the morning after the election with a hope I have not felt since my son’s death. It is a sense of hope that I have sought since his death though. Hope is organic I now can know. When it comes, I’ll embrace it for whatever possibilities to make this world better than it was for my son, Sam; better than it has turned out for me; better for what it can be for all including my son, Nick. I’ll try and do this while I cherish every memory and love in each moment. #muchlovetosam

Answering the call

Monday night football with my team… the Chicago Bears; I am from Illinois.  Sitting with the someone I was meeting to watch the game with and the conversation turns to friendship.  My someone says that they have many acquaintances but only a few close friends.  Usually ,I have two buckets:  those with so many acquaintances are extroverts and those with only a few close friends are introverts.  I always considered myself an introvert.  Obviously, my someone considered himself both but then my thoughts returned to the conversation and he said, “I have friends that if they called me no matter what time of day it was and asked me to do something I would do it without question.”  I was triggered back to a time and place that I will seemingly not escape.  

I remember making that call he was referring to.  I called her that morning and all I remember saying is that she needed to come now.  She asked, “What happened?”  I said, “It’s Sam.”  She said, “I’ll be right there.”  And she was right there; for that first hour, that first day, the days that followed one into another.  She made the CD play list for the visitation.  She was there for the visitation and she didn’t need to stand beside me because she knew I knew she was there.  Her husband made the video for the funeral.  She was there for the funeral.  She was there for the nights that followed the funeral.  She stayed with me, she went grocery shopping, she made sure Nick’s schedule was maintained.  She made me get out of bed every day when otherwise I would have slept the day away.  The days she was there quickly turned into weeks then into months and finally into a year.  She was still there.  She took my call…

Throw it all away

She asked me what was I throwing up… I understood the metaphor but had no answer.  We talked some more. 

I thought about something I had read that week.  Alone and by ourselves, no one to fight with so who do we fight with?  We fight with our self and for many of us, we tear ourselves to shreds.  I had been alone that whole weekend; on my own accord.  Nick had left for his dad’s that Friday so by nightfall I was left to my own demise. 

By Saturday morning I was not physically well.  From headache, migraine, whatever; by Saturday night fall I was throwing up the only morsels of the day to the point I had dry heaves by the time I laid my head on the pillow.  When I awoke Sunday morning, again I was not well to present myself to the world.  I had solace in the refuge of my home, my place of peace and solitude… not only for Sunday but what carried over into Monday as well.  Monday afternoon brought a new sort of despair that is only explainable to one in grief, their closest support and those with knowledge of grief. 

So again, at the end of my sharing my weekend, again she asked, what were you throwing up?  I was throwing up guilt I said. She said, “Yes, you were.”  #muchlovetosam

No cover

To say life isn’t fair, doesn’t cover it.  My beautiful son, Sam, should be attending college at IU today but instead he died at sweet sixteen the victim of an unknown synthetic drug that was sold to him and two friends who unknowingly took it thinking it was LSD and it was my sweet Sam, that died overnight from poison.  

To say that right now is the first time that I’ve cried today for my loss of Sam, doesn’t cover it. I’ve cried several times today and it’s been over two years.  The loss of a child does not leave you now.

To say that I’m the only one experiencing the loss of Sam, in no way covers it.  Even those who may not have known Sam personally have experienced something by his loss if they’ve touched me or his family and friends in any way.

My mom was here recently.  She loves catering to Nick when she is here and he correspondingly knows this as well.  He text her with today’s modern communication which “grandma” is more than up on and asked that she bring donuts to school for one of his Friday classes.  She, upon receiving the text, at our home, was on it.  She planned what time to stop by Dunkin’ Donuts, a Sam favorite, and what type and how many donuts she would purchase and get to the high school by Nick’s need-it-by-time, and off she was.

When my mom returned instead of the look of accomplishment I expected on her face, she said that she had stopped by Sam’s stone on the way back and there someone had left a 2016 graduation tassel, in Sam’s favorite red along with white.  She tried to stifle but could not, cries, as she told me what she had seen and I cried in response… cries of love… To the friend that left the tassel, Sam loves you… To those of us left behind in Sam’s love, God’s peace.  #muchlovetosam

To tell or not to tell

My divorce is official more than eight months now… another major life change for us all since my teen son, Sam, died overnight two years ago on Mothers’ Day unknowingly taking a synthetic drug. I consider I could be alone the rest of my life and I know, I already am alone except for God’s precious grace upon me. I have extended myself prior to and since my divorce to further understand this world we live in; this world which would allow a drug dealer to sell a poison that my son took and killed him while life in general goes on. I was inspired by one of my mainstays of the past two years. She met her future husband online and they are planning a Labor Day weekend wedding that my son, Nick, and I, will be in attendance for. If she could find her next Mr. Wonderful online, couldn’t I?

I set up my online profile and stole her Headline or tag line as if I was branding myself… she didn’t need it anymore, right? Besides, it was I and my working spouse at the time that had brainstormed sitting outside of a local pub one night after work to come up with it anyway?! A few winks, likes, faves and emails later, I realized I needed to be a full-time admin to manage this online “stuff.” I adapted and before too long figured out how the actual “meet and greet” occurs. Aziz Ansari, comedian from Parks and Recreation fame and author of “Modern Romance” also helped me out when I listened to him via audio book one trip to visit my parents in East Central Illinois.

I’ve found a few categories for online guys; those I could actually share Sam with and those that I wouldn’t begin to. Not all for the same reasons though. For example, Music Man, my first online date, didn’t even provide me enough picture-wise that I could recognize him in the crowded Rick’s Cafe Boatyard. I enjoyed getting to know him though; unfortunately, when we left two hours later, he really didn’t know me at all. I didn’t tell him about Sam. Then there was Bonefish, an IT executive that I met at the restaurant of the same name. I didn’t tell him about Sam either. The mechanical engineer that I met at Fireside Brewhouse, for some reason, I told about Sam, when we met. I don’t believe it was because I hadn’t told the first two, that I told the mechanical engineer, but despite what I may have told him, I did not want a second date and he had decided the same when he emailed me a few days later.

I met three guys many years younger than me and whether it was our age difference or not, I did not tell them about Sam. A fourth, younger than me, a consultant type, I did share Sam with. It was his Mr. Mom-demeanor coming out that allowed me to feel “safe” I later reflected.

For some reason, there were two guys that I met and after-the-fact told. One, I somehow felt compelled to. “M***hole” was what he called himself. I hadn’t heard the term before but apparently people from Massachusetts are familiar with the term and pride themselves on their up-front expressions that are cuttingly concise, keenly to the point, ripe with opinions and fearlessly full of conflict. I believe I told him in the hopes of somehow striking a human chord in there somewhere. “Nic" with the “k” missing; I told after meeting him, like “M***hole”, with the hopes of finding a human somewhere in the midst. It didn’t work with either one. ’nuff said.

The guy I nicknamed “007”; a former intelligence guy turned entrepreneur, I did tell about Sam. He humbled me when he profoundly responded, “We are all broken.” So there was a second date. It was then that I learned intel entrepreneurs don’t much like conformity, not even of the homeowners association kind. Since I don’t live that far out on a limb, there was no date three.

The guy I nicknamed “Major McHottie” I most easily told about Sam as he had lost a son as well; another military guy turned entrepreneur. Beyond that, I’m not sure we had anything in common although we dated many times.

I’ve thought about it. Why do I tell some and not others? The answer is the same as why here on Earth we fail. Because I’m human. #muchlovetosam

50: Who I am

It is the eve of my 50th birthday.  I just watched what I call “Sam’s video” again: .  I miss Sam.  I cry.  I cry a lot.  The tears do not end.  Tomorrow I will turn 5-0.  I have no choice.  My life is but half what I had expected.  Half of what I had wanted.  Half of what will be.  I am half of what I am... I only have love… #muchlovetosam

To be all right


On Mothers’ Day 2014 as Pastor Dave came into our home after we first learned that Sam had died overnight at just 16, his words were those of comfort… I can close my eyes and here his voice tone, calmingly saying that all is right with Sam and because all is right with Sam we will be all right.  It rang so true because I knew with all my heart that all is right with Sam.  

As I’ve gone on the two years past that day, I have stumbled; I have fallen and I have tried to pick myself up.  I have tried to pick those I love up around me as well.  If I’m honest with myself though, I am still fallen.  We all are.  It’s only been two years.  There is no smile when looking at a picture or remembering a precious moment with Sam.  We love him and he is gone.  We are not all right.  I know Pastor Dave is right though.

Even tonight after a wonderful night with family and friends, Nick and I drove home after to our new residence where Sam is here but Sam has not been here.  The air is thick and it is not all right.  Life is not fair.  Then I look at my phone to check my emails and what do I see but my quote of the day email… “Everything will be all right with you, when you are all right with everything.” - Lorrin L. Lee

It is true.  It will be all right when it is with me.  Today is not that day though.  I am still waiting… #muchlovetosam 

McHottie walks in

When he walked in and said “Hello”, I knew right then I was going to like him. But what I would do from there, I had no idea. I know very little about who I am now after losing my 16-year-old son, Sam, tragically on Mothers’ Day 2014, when he experimented with what he thought was LSD but was a deadly synthetic hallucinogen drug, 25i-NBOMe. My Sammy took the same amount as his two friends who were fine the next morning yet it was Sam that didn’t wake up to celebrate my day.

Instead the unbelievable walked into my life and I have changed nearly every aspect of my life since to survive and find my soul. Once broken, always broke? Indeed we all are broken I now know. So, too, was Major McHottie as we talked for hours that first night we met. He had experienced the loss of a child which comforted me yet I know too well I cannot grieve like any other and no one can experience my grief except me. That is one way we travel alone in life’s journey but Hottie’s conversation helped ease the pain of the ride or so it seemed.

What transpired over the next two weeks after meeting Hottie, is still a puzzle to me. It seems like a writing from “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” except the script was what my heart and mind naturally improvised, not a 2003 film with “alright, alright, alright” Matthew McConaughey and the beauty Kate Hudson that ends in a love ever after way. I learned as much about myself as Kate’s character, Andie Anderson, did in that same time frame. McConaughey’s character, Benjamin Barry, was instead my Major McHottie, nicknamed so because of his initial military career and his obvious attraction level with the added “Mc” to note the heartthrob “Grey’s Anatomy” t.v. series characters, Dr. McDreamy and Dr. McSteamy, all rolled into one and on display by Hottie’s imminent words and actions.

What did I do with Major McHottie? Our second date was a few days later on Friday night. I called him a “player” a total of 11 times he told me. I also threw the book at him when it comes to reading between the lines of anything he tried to say to me so I could get to know him more, or even if he tried to compliment me. I preferred to cast whatever came out of his mouth or by his manner in a negative light for my own self comfort. When the second date was over, I thought I had done well; I wouldn’t hear from him.

The door had been left slightly open it appeared. I had a Sam’s Watch speaking engagement the next night and although I had time free, I was not committed in trying to meet up with McHottie after. He apparently was. When I got Hottie’s call later that night asking me where I was and what was happening, I had nowhere to hide from how I ran from a possible third encounter. In that bareness though, I thought that was it and I went back to my single person’s way of life. I planned to go to the movies alone on Sunday evening. I’m still not quite sure why he reached out to me that day or how we ended up with a dozen other people in the darkened movie theatre but Hottie was insistent that we wear the dorky 3-D glasses for the full screen effect. It was a good movie, too. The amused smile on my face was hidden in the darkness so no one could see.

The next day I got 100% on my first paper for the second semester and shared the news with my text contacts of which Major McHottie was one. Everyone’s kind replies were encouraging; Hottie’s reply was that we needed to celebrate. My thought: that’s strange. In celebration, Cooper’s Hawk, always nice, was with Hottie a time like I had not had before. I was still as obstinate as possible, even when acting coy as he surprised me with a bottle of my favorite from the wine tasting. It was truly the dessert that melted me; sharing together that irresistible s’mores deliciousness layered with light creamy vanilla pudding, smoothly crushed graham crackers, luscious gooey chocolate-ness and topped with warm marshmallow creme toasted just like it had been made by putting a marshmallow on a stick over an open heat-flaming bonfire. Oh, how my mouth watered with thoughts of it after, as also my thoughts softened and my heart went on defrost.

What happened next appears to be a set up of unknown sorts. I had wanted to attend a high school sporting event on Friday which would require a short work day on Hottie’s part. Hard work is what Hottie knows and is what he can throw himself into consistently while all else around him blurs into oblivion. I talked to him by phone about it the next afternoon after our evening at Cooper’s Hawk. Not one to make promises he can’t keep, his response was only that he would try. I was in grad class that evening and did not expect to hear from him. I drove home after class thinking how I hadn’t heard from him and maybe all my defense mechanisms might have worked in my favor after all. Then I woke up Friday morning a little disappointed that I had not heard from him but telling myself it’s a free world and if he wanted to move on, that is always an option, and why wouldn’t he after how terribly I had treated him?

It was just before noon on Friday that I got an instant message from Hottie on Facebook which was surprising to me. He was wanting to know why I wasn’t answering his calls or responding to his texts. I immediately replied that I had not heard from him. He asked that I call him. On the phone he said how he had worked the night before until 9:00 p.m. so that he could rearrange scheduling and take me to the sporting event I wanted to go to. He had text and tried to call me the night before but I didn’t respond. He had also tried to call me several times that morning and I didn’t answer the phone. I was adamant. I told him that I had no texts from him and no missed calls or voice mails from him either. He was adamant in response although he had a call come in that he was waiting for and had to call me back. “Huh” I thought as we disconnected. I looked again. No texts. No calls.

A friend called me then and I explained it all in exasperation and our thoughts conspired that he must be lying. I hung up balanced again after my friend conversation. Then he instant messaged me again to call him. I did. He then proceeded to tell me he had tried to call me just then and left two voice mail messages and that I needed to check my messages. I assured him that my phone showed no messages from him and in the midst of that he had another call come in and gone he was. Never one to leave room for doubt I went back to the old fashion voice mail access where you call and enter your password. When I did, I found my liar wasn’t lying. There were two messages from him. At that point, I was bewildered. Realizing I was within blocks from the geeks of where I purchase my cell phones, I pulled in and entered the mobile store.

The lady who offered to assist me from behind the store counter, developed a frozen smirk on her face as I explained what was happening with my phone. Then she asked to look at it. “Which contact is it?” she inquired with her eyes dancing. When I pointed to it, her eyes lit up and her smirk turned to a huge smile she could not hide as much as she tried. In a high pitch voice she noted, “Oh, Major McHottie, well let me see here.” She looked at call history and scrolled through his contact listing and she suddenly exploded in laughter to the point that she had to bend over to try and maintain herself from her outburst that must have been causing her stomach to ache. I was entirely absent of her expressed amusement. She stood back up and barely through her chuckles explained to me that I had blocked him on my contact list. Apparently blocking is an option on your contact page and by doing this you no longer receive any phone calls or texts from the contact that you blocked. If I was as technology savvy as the lady behind the counter, I suppose I would have figured that out without her. I, on the other hand, am not that. How I would have blocked Hottie I have no idea either. So despite what she was telling me, I really hadn’t done that but whatever. So to Hottie I did eat crow and somehow that was alright with him.

Hottie was alright, too, when he saw the “me” that is the mother who lost her son and still has so many questions and thoughts to work through. The first of my deeper sorrow for him to experience was when the applications arrived for high school scholarships in Sam’s memory. Instead of Sam graduating, one or more of his classmates would receive a monetary gift towards the bright college future that awaits them beyond the high school walls where they’ve already made recognizable accomplishments; a place my Sammy will not leave as he is forever a Trojan. Hottie’s response as my confusion, heartache and unanswered despair leaked out in my telling him about my day; “I’m sorry. If you want, I could be there…”

The 10 days to lose a guy came and went so many times over despite my defenses, floundering and blunders. I don’t know that I’ll ever shake the denseness of darkness since losing my Sammy, but besides coming into the light from God’s grace and my mother’s love for both my sons, maybe I’m closer to understanding I have not been cast into the shadow away from the warmth of lasting sunshine. Just maybe… #muchlovetosam


This is the thing about life. No matter how hard you try and try as hard as you might, but you cannot control life's affects on you. Why? Because life is full of moments far beyond what we can anticipate.

When that moment of sudden, stop-you-in-your-tracks impact occurred for me… my son, Sam, died, and my feelings, being, and thinking… everything… it all changed. There were crashing moments of the past relived back to the earliest memory I have, colliding into the generation of a new outcome from what had already taken place. While other thoughts of love, loss, and “who am I now” was spinning in my head repelling me to places I never would have been, instances of what someone should not ever have to be blended with instances of pure joy and peace of what could not have been known before one tragic moment had occurred… that moment that ripped my son, Sam, at only sixteen, from my world.

What happens when those moments change our lives forever. What if, one day, there’s that moment and its presence changes not only everything that happens at that point in time and going forward but also changes the moments that already happened before… Changing them just like being sent back in time to relive them with new actions and different endings. It is with awe that moments in our life can change what the impact is of those moments that already took place. Where does that leave you? Where will it take you? Where do you go? Because now your past is not in the past but instead a ripple effect towards the future that was to be and now will be a future of something else totally unexpected.

"Who am I now?" I’m weightless just as though I was traveling in outer space; floating with no sense of gravity to pull me back down. No obligation, guilt or burdens to be bared as they are smothered by stifling, sharpened painfulness, that as a mother who has lost a child, should not ever be expected to go away while here on earth. I do what I want. Say what I want. I have no boundaries. Have no excuses; sometimes have no words. My life is my own now; no one else would want. My endless pain has set me free. #muchlovetosam

It's Independence Day

I was just going to go to bed early tonight after a day filled with activities that got me through this holiday… another holiday without my dear Sam, who died at 16 unknowingly taking a synthetic drug as a curious teen in initial exposure to our drug using culture.  I have an early shift at the hospital tomorrow so I wanted a good night sleep.  

After lying in my bed listening to the myriad of fireworks outside as the same myriad of loud bursts of thoughts occurred in my mind, I could not drift off to sleep.  So I am up now in front of my laptop to write what I don’t want to think about.  

As a family, we spent most of our fourth of Julys’ when we were together, on Lake Vermillion, where my parents have a lake home.  I remember the one in particular where we got to see all the air balloons going over head during day light and then at night fall saw fireworks from the Danville Boat Club.  The stuff that traditions are made of.  That particular July 4th, Sam brushed his knee on part of the boat and ended up with a cut that for him was incredibly painful.  He was 3 and he cried a lot as the fireworks were going off… so much so that his voice was heard more than the “oohs” and “aahs” of the exclamations from the visual bursts of light and sound.  I held him and talked to him and couldn’t imagine how it could hurt as much as his tears were showing.  

Fast forward to Sam’s sophomore year playing Center Grove High School team basketball.  Mid-season he sprained his ankle.  I took him to the ortho med center and he got the ankle support equipment that he needed, some physical therapy and attention from the team trainer and he didn’t miss a game… didn’t express any amount of pain.

Looking back now, the brush with the metal guard on the boat must have been painful.  I’m glad I was there for him whenever he needed me.  I now miss not being there.  In the time following his death, I needed others there for me instead.  I remember the first year, just months after Sam’s passing, and I had stayed a week at my parents and then we were all sitting at the boat club for the fourth of July “celebration.”  I remember looking down at my phone and going back through my text messages and seeing a group text that included my mom, Nick and Sam, etc.  Even though I knew Sam would not get my text, I text in that message that I missed him and loved him.  I don’t know why I did it.  

Then I walked the short distance from the boat club back to my parents and when in the house, had my personal melt down.  As I thought in the house, I got up and walked outside just to be walking.  My dad, always the observant, must have seen me leave the boat club and followed me home as when I walked outside there he was sitting in his usual lawn chair.  He held me as I cried and that was the best that I could do at that time.  I had been comatose most of the week reading books that I had gotten in Danville about a mother that lost three daughters all in one accident and her struggle back to the living in the year that followed, plus there was the mother who lost her son to an uncommon cancer that allowed them time to say good-bye before he died.  Then there was the two families where each lost their spouse and the two families joined into one.  Happy endings?  

Mr. Big; what happens in the storm

I’ve been divorced more than six months now.  My dear son Sammy died over two years ago from unknowingly taking a synthetic drug that killed him overnight.  Even now it is all too unimaginable…  

I met Mr. Big in still yet a stormy time of my life and he somehow, unknowingly, made it all seem better.  He was my Mr. Big with the charisma and sex appeal of the same character by that name that Carrie Bradshaw fell madly in love with in the t.v. series, “Sex and the City”.  He said “Yes, dear” oh so sweetly, that it made the biggest smile appear on my face.  A wide-mouthed grinning smile that I hadn’t recalled having since way before my son, Sam, died. 

I had a sense of peacefulness knowing he was in my life.  When we were together, peace was overtaken by his reaching for my hand or sideway glance which brought out the same in me.  Our feelings for one another grew with the passing days.  What was happening between us brought me an insight as to how I might still be able to live with the loss of Sam.  I’d be the best that I could be and that seemed good enough.  I could smile.  I could laugh.  I could live; at least for a little while.

Just like it went in the t.v. series for Mr. Big and Carrie in “Sex and the City”, so too, goes for me and my Mr. Big:  what seemed good in theory, didn’t work.  After many promising months of peacefulness, I was thrown back into feelings of more loss and more grief on top of what I carry with me daily with the loss of my child.  In the simplest example of another overnight change in my life, what was once “Good morning”, “Smile for me” and “Good night” was instead a blank text screen staring back at me. 

That’s when I realized he was the true-to-life Mr. Big character; the tumultuous kind who leaves others in tears as he goes off into the sunset for his next adventure without further ado.  “He” was the kind of Mr. Big that left Carrie behind time and time again.  I wasn’t Carrie though and my life, especially my already broken heart from my loss of Sam, wasn’t made for t.v.  

What I hope for from my Mr. Big experience is the same as when we found each other; one day I will turn around and unexpectedly find what I was no longer looking for. 

May 11, 2016: What to do

It’s been two years… it’s only been two years… Oh, what the mind ponders when dealing with grief post-year one and now marking the end of year two.  Different? Yes.  Less painful?  No.  Resigned?  Maybe.  

The beautiful boy embedded in my heart is still there.  In the outside world, he is now safe from all harm.  In reflection, I see the power of light from my broken heart but it is dim in the darkest of places we walk with ourselves alone.  People exclaim, “I don’t know how you do it.”, “I couldn’t be as strong as you.”  No one told me I had a choice… to walk on Earth with the joy that my son, Nick, brings to my life, or to pass on to Heaven and be reunited with my son, Sam, who died on Mothers’ Day 2014 from unknowingly taking a synthetic drug.  I didn’t know I had a choice because I don’t.  We mourned Sam this Mothers’ Day, the day he died and again we mourned him this May 11, the actual date he died.  Whether a holiday or a date on the calendar, we are always in mourning, even now; even behind what we do, be it bowling, golf, etc.  

This anniversary I managed myself enough not to melt down in public… not to hurt those I love by revealing the most complicated grief in my soul.  It’s there.  It does no one good on display; not even me, but it is who I am now.  Everything in my life has changed in two years.  Losing Sam; losing sense of family.  Experiencing God’s grace and mercy through loving thoughts, prayers and acts of kindness so many time over to sustain me during a long time for which I could not make it on my own any given day. Starting graduate school in clinical mental health counseling with wonderful, kind souls that speak to me in such positive and loving ways whether they say something or not.  Moving from the family home that I couldn’t care less whether I lived in before Sam died, then couldn’t imagine ever leaving, to having to leave to be able to breathe.  Leaving a healthcare business career I cultivated over a decade and starting a new career in order to save myself, by helping others in a way that also helps heal me.  That’s what’s different.

I still think about him night and day.  Not with precious memories that bring a smile to my face but by reliving memories that were to have happy endings that no longer will.  I don’t love Sam less; I love him more.  No, it’s not less painful.

Today as I realized where I am in making a difference in this world with my pain, it is because of Sam living, not because of Sam dying.   There is no rest because this current life was not what was to be.  But it is. #muchlovetosam