NBOMe

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. 

Birthday wishes, Sammy...

Today is an extremely sad one.  As a parent who has lost a child, I am daily with that loss.  Today, his birthday, is not a memory... not a reminder... not easier than yesterday.  In fact, today is harder because I am always, whether he is with me or not, the same as I was the day my Sammy came into this world nineteen years ago today.  I am his mother.  Life hurts.

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

Labor of love

The day he came into this world, I woke up to a regular work day on June 26, 1997.  I took a shower and got ready for the work day and it was before I left the house that my water broke.  I called Sam’s dad and told him, which at first was of no increased sense of urgency, but then after he repeated what I said, he said, “Oh, okay, I’ll be right there.”  When Sam’s dad arrived back home, off to Noblesville’s Riverview Hospital we went.  It was early morning when we checked in and I intended to go without medication as one of those mothers who could brave it through labor without.  Then as the intense pain continued after showers and endless laps of the delivery ward I caved to have an epideral.  That did not even help the pain that continued until 11:26 that evening when Samuel Xavier Motsay at 7 pounds, 11 ounces arrived into this world.  In the process of the difficult delivery, Sam suffered what his dad so lovingly called a “broken wing” as he had a break above his left elbow and below his left shoulder.  He was not only swaddled but in bandages to hold his left arm in a stable position.  Amazingly, after two weeks, his “broken wing” was completely healed… the miracles of babies.  

That was Sam’s entry into this world and I never anticipated being able to tell of Sam’s exit of this world, much less any thought that I would be here for both.  Sam had a “broken wing” and I now have a “broken heart.”  Some wounds do miraculously heal like Sam’s but as for mine, the tears started hours ago as the clock hour moves closer to the time that Sam left this Earth two years ago.

I know he touched many and that day he came into the world he touched me like I never ever imagined was even possible. I can still see my mom there staying with us and holding, soothing him to sleep in the early days of coming home from the hospital as he had colic.  She was a Godsend.  She now soothes our family as well.  I don’t know where Sam’s story ends.  In my heart, it did not end with his death because I as well as many others carry him with them today.  We are blessed.  #muchlovetosam

It's here

I’ve been limping along through this week to keep up with my second semester grad studies before finals next week. Half the time I’ve had physical symptoms of being under the weather mixed with what is likely anxiousness that this time of year is upon me a second time without Sam. I made it to today, Friday, my free day, but even this day I am imprisoned by my suffering.

I started out at the gym where I was exhausted more from doing less. My trainer looked at me perplexed when we ended the session. I told him it wasn’t a good time for me and as we talked he understood why. He continued to look confused as though there was something he wanted to do yet what was it?

I pulled out of the gym parking lot anticipating that I would go somewhere next or do something. I considered going to Dunkin’ Donuts for a delicious iced coffee that I could already taste and made my mouth water. Then I remembered I don’t go to Dunkin’ Donuts. It’s one of those spots on the places I don’t go since I lost Sam because they are places that we went to that defined who Sam was here on Earth. Missing him in new surroundings is what is currently manageable. That means I haven’t had one of those mocha iced coffees that I was tasting in two years? Two years and I can still taste it.

My eyes welling up with tears that I wiped away so I could continue to see to drive, I went directly back to whence I came. Home. I landed softly on the couch where T-Bone, Sam’s yellow lab rescue dog, licked away as many salty drops as he could while they streamed down my face. I lay there some time and wept. When my eyes were dry, the feeling that my hand was reaching out and touching an electric barb wire fence remained. Even the shocking pain though didn't keep me from drifting off to sleep... With thoughts of all being well with Sam and that through the grace of God and many others here on Earth, I am sustained by faith, hope and love... even now. God's Peace

It happened; his name is Sam

I had heard about it in other families that I have come to know in my parent grief support groups but I didn’t know when or if it would ever happen in mine.  Instead of saying his name so as not to have a crackle in our voice or tears stream down our face, he was the silence that hung in the air after a thought of him came to mind.  

Too soon it will be two years since my son Sammy left this Earth at the tender age of sixteen having unknowingly taken a synthetic hallucinogen drug that killed him overnight.  Here on Earth, we are still in recovery mode; protective mode; don’t let them see you cry mode; can’t stop thinking about him every moment even now mode and all the other modes that try to put into words what is not definable to you as you experience it, let alone enables you to express it to another living soul.

It happened though.  I was at dinner with my son Nick, Sam’s year younger brother. After we had spent the day together at Nick’s AAU basketball games, wrapping the day up by filling our bellies with Nick’s favorite cuisine, Japanese hibachi, seemed appropriate.  We were both laughing as we shared stories back and forth, naturally flowing storytelling between a mother and a son.  I asked him a question.  Then he asked me one.  We laughed some more at each of our responses and how crazy we think the other one is as we clearly established long ago that we don’t beat to the same drum; as well as many moons ago expressing we decidedly like that about each other. 

Another round of questions occurs and with his response I, without hesitation, go on to say something about Sam’s interpretation of the same.  Then Nick, not skipping a beat, grins from ear to ear and in a raised voice laughs and says Sam’s thought on that as well.  It may not happen again soon but it happened.  We didn’t miss a beat together; we missed Sam.  #muchlovetosam 

April showers bring May flowers

I’m exhausted as I have two papers and multiple exams to end my second semester of graduate school by next week.  I go to lay my head down just now and I can’t close my eyes.  I’m afraid of thoughts that haven’t yet come before I’ll find rest.  It’s May 2nd.  Mother’s Day to get through in six days and then three more days until it is May 11th again.  The second time I’ll live through it beyond what my dear, sweet, 16-year-old son, Sammy did, when he died overnight from experimenting with what he thought was LSD but instead a dealer made a synthetic poison concoction, 25i-NBOMe.  After unknowingly taking it, my son went to sleep Mother’s Day Eve 2014 and did not wake up the next day.  I’m crying all the time; sometimes just inside, other times visibly weeping or a tear or two escaping down my cheek.  I feel and it hurts.

Before two years ago, I recall my own pleasant smiles when remembering May was finally arriving.  I would always think of May 1st and say, “Yea, it’s May Basket Day”; the disappearing act ritual of waiting until dusk and hanging on doors those signs of changing seasons to give best wishes.  I was always smiling thinking about May Day Baskets because in the small rural town I grew up in, I had a very pleasing surprise for May Basket Day when I was in about second grade.  One of my favorite boyhood classmates had left May Day flowers at my home’s entry.  He had with care it seemed, crafted a flower vase out of a paper plate with another half paper plate inverse to it and stapled to keep it encapsulated to hold the fresh flowers the “basket” contained.  I imagine my boyhood friend had hand picked the flowers from neighbors’ gardens and bushes on the walk from his house to mine.  The most gorgeous flowers I’ve ever received; I’m not a roses sort-of-girl I guess.  It truly is the thought that counts with me and I was happily surprised.  

May Basket Day now seems more like a forgotten tradition; eventually, like flowers, wilted and drooped, too, I suppose.  For me, May Day Baskets represents a time of innocence.  A good thing.  Like the love for the one I miss heartbreakingly so and cry on for now.  #muchlovetosam

Tidal wave

Friday is my favorite day of the week and what I spiritedly call, “my free day.” It’s to be my day off to do what I haven’t had time to get done during the week. If anyone wants to meet with me or I need to schedule an appointment, I always try and make it on this day because I know I’ll be “free.” This particular Friday, I was free to have lunch with my lifelong friend Robin but it turned out to be a more enjoyable lunch than usual because I beat her at Rummy… twice. After lunch, I lingered at our usual place not wanting to leave for my next scheduled appointment.

 

When I could wait no longer, I finally left, setting my course for Broad Ripple; the place within Indy where old and new meet, commercial and creative, and suitably vibrant. In the buzz of the quaint coffee shop, I met a local author working on her next book; her writing journey of the last two years. Her subject: living beyond what is bearable. As for me, that is living with the loss of my teen son Sam not even two years ago, and which the petite, soft-spoken yet highly inquisitive author said I qualified. I had no energy to wrestle with what her words meant in my mind.

 

She said it would take ninety-minutes and it did. The tears fell like they do all the time but then I am most usually alone whereas today I was not. My thoughts raged at 90 miles per hour about what I would otherwise instantly push away from my thought into the furthest, most darkest crevice, of my mind. This Friday those thoughts were let out of the darkness though, in order to share, yes, what is beyond bearable.

 

In recent months, I’ve been plagued with thoughts that I most instantly push away about the conversation that took place when plain-clothed law enforcement stepped into our foyer and I first devastatingly came to know that Sam was gone. Just like that, he was gone; there was nothing to do. I replay the details in full for the author today but any other time, I right away try and stop the thought while I’m already feeling like I can’t breathe as I’m choking instead, and my chest is heavy with pressure like weight is on top of me that I can’t get off. I also hear inside myself the terrifying sounds that I cannot let out when I open my mouth. I could not let them out in our foyer that unbearable morning either. Instead, I went towards Nick coming down the stairs and I pushed my thoughts to the side and reached my arms around him, holding him and saying, “I got you, Nick. I’m here. Mom is here, Nick. I got you.” Over and over like waves washing up to the shore and then back out to sea again. Each time, with each wave, into the shore and receding again, taking away my… unheard screams, the pressure on my chest, the choking feeling. All receding away from me like the tidal wave that hits and then goes back to where it once came… the furthest most darkest crevice of my mind. #muchlovetosam

Alleluia

Home is home

When today, Easter, came there were so many emotions that came with it.  They were all unexpected.  Having been through one year without my son Sam, the second year the flow of emotions I realize does not change.  First there is the death anniversary, then his birthday, then the fourth of July… school starting and summer ending; Fall and all that his basketball conditioning provided followed by the holidays:  Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year, Easter… Each time I take the phrase, “Oh, it’s just the time of year…” Why does it take so long to realize my emotions never end but are an ebb and flow and that today was no different?  

I awoke considering that today is my favorite church service of the year; He has risen, he has risen, indeed.  How many services we attended as a family over the years at our church, shouting out that phrase in response to Pastor Dave’s same.  It always felt so good; the fulfilling promise of hope.  

Today, I traveled the ninety minutes back to my home where my mom and dad live in a home on the lake in Illinois, with many thoughts.  I remember Sam and Nick in matching Easter outfits as toddlers at the same home and the Easter egg hunts we had.  They were ecstatic; everyone was happy.  As the years progressed, I remember Sam and Nick being baptized Maundy Thursday at our Indy home church followed by communion confirmation days later.  They were blessed; everyone was ecstatic.  

As Sam and Nick got older, my parents traveled to our home and we attended church and celebrated that He has risen this day.  He has risen, indeed.  All seemed well.  Until 22 months ago when Sam died unknowingly from a synthetic hallucinogen drug, 25i-NBOMe.  Nothing has been the same since.  Everything has changed; it had to in order to survive.  So today, Nick celebrated Easter with his dad while I traveled to Illinois to spend precious time with my parents.  Alleluia, He has risen.  He has risen, indeed.  Alleluia…  

Let it rain

When the tears fall down like rain, you just got to let it go.  Why?  Because I’ll never understand.  As much as I try, even 22 months after my teen son Sam died unknowingly from a synthetic hallucinogen called 25i-NBOMe, it comes on me like a deep, dark thunder cloud of rain.  It’s that unknowingness of “why?” that sharpens the pain.  I didn’t do anything wrong.  We didn’t do anything wrong.  He was a good kid.  I loved him so, so why is he gone?  Why so broken-hearted?  

When I cry, I at some point exhaust all thoughts and when there is nothing, there still yet lies something.  Crying and being so down that you don’t care, if you manage to make it up to the next day, then you have.  There you are for wherever you go.

I thought our loss of Sam might help save others; most of all those whose hearts I still hold close to mine.  This is besides those that did not know Sam that have been impacted by his death of which I have heard from many and can cry out thankfully.  Those who loved Sam directly also had an experience in his loss and no matter what that experience was, it was not a goal that would keep anyone safe from Sam’s fate unless chosen so.  No, mine was not a goal achievement to save others although that has happened with His grace and glory but my purpose was to share my heart, and Sam’s heart, unendlessly, I now realize.

So if I try to save others and if others are not saved, what then?  Have I failed?  In my own soul-searching from there, what is the purpose in life?  What have I fulfilled?  All that is left is all that I had to give to Sam, my heart.  Today by my own hope; by choosing to meet strangers and share my Sammy and by showing love beyond all else in my pain and loss, my soul’s search aligns.

So I’ll cry, if it eases the pain.  And if there is another tomorrow, I’ll be here.  #muchlovetosam

Every time

I was blessed to be with loving spirits last night at the FACE THE MUSIC fundraiser in Noblesville.  I was there amidst the soulful music and wonderful performers and appreciative audience as well as those newly formed friendships I have in the loss of my 16-year-old son Sam from a deadly synthetic drug, 25i-NBOMe, still just 21 months ago.  I knew that my love when Sam was on this Earth was expressed most immediately with my family as a mother’s love.  I now express my mother’s love for Sam most immediately to those that I have never met before and may never know in combination with those who know what loss and pain means and I remain in contact with many. 

I was to speak for only a brief time last night in between band sets with two fellow mothers championing causes for heroin recovery and the dangers of teen alcohol use.  Mothers I know so well now from the pain we have endured and continue to in order to somehow, in what ever way might be possible, make this world we live in a better place than when our son’s left it.  Still as I arrived last night and felt the comfort of those around me in common goals and heart, I quietly asked myself, “Why do this?  Why speak?”  These are the questions I ask myself moments before each chance I have to share publicly my beautiful Sammy.  And I never really know the outcome of what I might say about Sam because it is intangible. It just is.  So still the questions come.  Last night was no different.  

After I speak, what happens is honestly, what keeps me doing it again.  It doesn’t ease my pain or take it away but it does let the rest of the world know that exists.  Many of us live with pain that cannot be seen on the outside; I talk about my pain so that everyone may know. That is my life now after my son was unknowingly given a drug made by a dealer that was basically poison; it hurts.

The other thing that happens when I speak is always some sort of unknown.  This past Thursday, speaking at the Kiwanis luncheon in Bloomington, my lifelong friend Robin and I sitting at a stoplight and she glances over and sees written in graffiti on a nearby utility platform, Motz.  One of Sam’s endearing nicknames short for Motsay.  Sam’s brother, Nick’s as well since they share that last name.  Last night in leaving the reception hall something similar happened as I weaved through the tremendous number of people gathered.  There seemed to be a clear pathway amidst those standing and sitting at tables so that I could exit with ease except as I did so there in the passage way was a penny on the floor that blended in with the floor tile color.  A glimmer of it caught my eye though, so I had to stop and so I did what we do according to the rhyme, “Find a penny, pick it up…”  Until I speak again next week and far beyond… #muchlovetosam 

Busy is the new happy

Weeks ago someone special was telling me how busy they were. “Super, super busy,” they told me. I wasn’t super, super busy or even a little busy as far as I could tell. I shared with a friend how “super busy” this special person was and my friend told me, “Oh, yeah, haven’t you heard? Busy is the new happy.” Well, I hadn’t heard. My first thought was oh, maybe all I need to do is be busy after losing my 16-year-old son, Sam, nearly 21 months ago, then I, too, could have some form of happiness since his death. I started to “get busy.”

First, I considered my “to do” list which is really just a mental list of my known priorities to be addressed over the next several weeks. First on the list, was to follow up on what was needed for Sam’s tribute page in this year’s high school yearbook. A very thoughtful and wonderful undertaking by the school and staff to remember Sam in what would have been his Senior year. I put that activity in motion by setting a meeting with the yearbook sponsor and set aside time to research beforehand what a tribute page looks like. I knew this would mean finding pictures of Sam for the yearbook. Another busy task that I could be busy with pulling together. I decided okay, if I am busy with the tribute page then what else could I get busy with?

I was already doing daily outreach for Sam’s Watch with schools for participation in National Drug & Alcohol Facts Week so I continued with that, arranging to speak and signing up schools with a total of over 34,000 students to participate this year. Over 1,000 more Hoosier students than participated via Sam's Watch last year. Plus there were registrations from Michigan and Tennessee as the awareness of Sam’s Watch participation has grown. I was also busy with Kelly Wallace of CNN for her awesome article. I was working with NIDA for their excellent Drugs & Health blog on Sam’s Watch, too. Last for media, I talked with the local paper, the Daily Journal, who was promoting the upcoming SWaP Meet (Sam’s Watch & Parents Meeting).

On the home front, I had cleaned out one of Sam’s closet so I needed to continue with cleaning out his room. I set a date during this time to tackle his second closet. After completing that in the morning that worked, the rest of my day I couldn’t be busy. I was left useless afterwards as I tried to process the memories, hopes and pain of loss generated from that one activity. I could not “get busy” the rest of the day.

As I met with the yearbook sponsor, all seemed well with that busy-ness until I had to find pictures. I began to feel like I was moving in slow motion in a direction that I did not want to go because of the pain and suffering that was happening with each picture I saw and that generated again memories, hopes and more realization of loss. I looked on Sam’s phone for pictures that he might have wanted included; it took me days to get busy enough to hook his phone up to the charger so I could turn it on. Once on, it took many outbreaks into tears to reconcile that the so, so handsome young man in the pictures was no longer here with us. I couldn’t be busy.

I ordered the free materials from NIDA for drug facts week and thought about what I would share with students this year in the four assemblies for this week. Then I considered what I could share with parents now that might make a difference at the Feb. 1 SWaP Meet. In the midst of the speaking prep, I found it almost impossible to be busy.

These three main areas were focus above and beyond the quality time with Nick, meeting his needs and participating in his activities as well as the current events of playoff games and planned personal engagements. Those are the high points of what I was caught up in to “get busy.” The low point was I couldn’t be busy, the new happy, with what my life daily has in store for me. I had to take my time, going very slowly, planning appropriately so as not to be tipped out-of-balance, and making very precise baby steps in order to meet what I believe Sam would want, how he can be remembered now and how I can share my mother’s love for him with others. I continue to find myself not knowing what to do; I just know I can’t be busy. #muchlovetosam

Prescription

I want to say it is a tough week but then it sounds like all the other weeks I’ve had since losing my son, Sam, at the tender age of sixteen.  Sam died overnight from a little-known synthetic drug, 25i-NBOMe, just 21 months ago.  Sam’s year-younger brother and my son, Nick, knows what tough weeks are like.  He’s witnessed firsthand.  What I wouldn’t give to take that vantage point away from him.  I know I can’t.

That doesn’t stop Nick.  When I picked him up from his ski trip last weekend and began to update him on what he had missed in the week he was away, he asked me for a piece of paper.  As the tears were streaming down my face and blurring my vision, I searched through my purse.  I searched past the black t-shirt I’m carrying that was Sam’s that I found under his bed while Nick was away.  Past Sam’s basketball picture button which is right beside the pistachio nut that I found out in the yard after Sam died.  I had bought the nuts at the store and Sam had helped carry in the groceries, grabbed the nuts and went outside to shoot hoops on what ended up being his last day on this Earth.  I remember backing out of the driveway to go buy hanging flower pots for the porch and seeing Sam throwing the nut shells in the grass and picking up the basketball and shooting.  Later, Sam carried the hanging flower pots and put them on the porch; an advantage he had at 6’2” to not need any assistance with. Next to the pistachio nut was the mother’s charm bracelet that Sam and Nick gave me; the countless pennies, dimes and quarters that I’ve found on the ground and never pass without picking up; the Sam’s Watch pen and finally, the small notebook pad for Nick.  I hand it to him.  

Nick takes the small note pad and on a blank page writes something and then hands it to me.  As he hands it to me, he says, “Here, do this.”  As I look at the opened page on the notepad that Nick has written on and handed to me I see the following:  “Not give a shit 2x/day for one month” and a messy signature of“Dr N Motsay”.  I smile in amazement at my young son and his old soul.  Then I look out the car window as Nick puts the car in drive and heads toward home.  A smirk appears on my face as I think about my young son with the old soul.  I look to the sky as I consider how I’ll follow his prescription.  Then I think to myself, “Thank you Jesus… for your sign today.”  #muchlovetosamandnick #missyousammy

Dilemma brought me to knees

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It comes up from time to time since my son Sam passed away so today when it did I should not have been taken aback.  But I was.  My breath was knocked out of me as I reasoned with just my own thoughts.  

When Sam died overnight from a relatively unknown synthetic drug, NBOMe, he was a Sophomore and played basketball on the school team.  He had a school gym locker in the boys’ locker room.  After Sam died, I wanted to clean out his locker.  I wanted to go after school, when relatively no one would see, and get the items myself out of Sam’s locker.  As Sam’s mother, with my love for him, I wanted to do that for Sam.  I even made arrangements with Sam’s basketball coach in the few short weeks after Sam’s death to go and clean out his locker.  His coach was so generous and kind with a mourning mother’s wishes.  When it came time to go and get Sam’s things out of his locker, I couldn’t leave the house though.  I was frozen by time’s now past; no longer present.  So instead of going into the locker room and getting Sam’s stuff, the coach gathered the items.  I imagined that he must have had to have the lock cut off in order to open the locker.  I had actually just bought the new lock for Sam.  It was red; Sam’s favorite color.  I had bought Sam a new lock as something had happened that the lock he had been using no longer worked.  What had happened to the old lock is something I don’t now remember.  At the time, it seemed so trivial that it didn’t seem that I needed to remember.  I wish I could will myself to remember now.

This weekend Nick was playing backyard football with friends.  In what he describes with excitement in his voice and a beaming smile,  a fabulous play occurred and he hurt his knee.  Nick’s injured knee seems minor at this point but a knee brace would be helpful for playing basketball.  I had bought a knee brace for Sam his last basketball season when he had a minor knee injury.  I had asked Sam where the brace was when I noticed after many weeks that he stopped wearing it in games because his knee was better; he had actually done weeks of therapy as well so I wanted to make sure he was confident that he didn’t need to wear it rather than didn’t want to wear it.  Sam told me then it was in his gym locker if he ever needed to wear it again.  He didn’t.

Sam didn’t need to wear the knee brace again so I know where one is for Nick right now.  Yet, just like I couldn’t go to get Sam’s things out of his locker, I too, cannot look in his school gym bag that contains all the items the coach gathered.  If I say I’m just not ready, that likely doesn’t make sense.  Sam left this Earth 20 months ago now.  What I’m not ready for are the emotionally gripping, stab-like spikes of hurt to my body that will come in opening his gym bag.  The hurt will not heal but instead will be like what I imagine from a movie scene where someone is being shot at and hit, not once, but continuously as they continue to pick themselves back up and try to run as fast as they can away from the source of where the targeting shots are coming from.  I already know opening that gym bag will be like running as fast and as far away from the source of the pain as I possibly can while at the same time being shot down with gripping pain.

I can, however, with no agony, drive myself to the corner drug store and buy a knee brace for Nick so my question to myself about the gym bag is, why go there?  My grief counselor tells me I may never go there.  When he first told me that, I looked at him wide-eyed and open-mouthed with exasperation as though to express to him without words how unreal that seemed to me.  Never?  At this time in my grieving, I know my counselor is right though.  I may never go there.  It’s all too real.  #muchlovetosam

Last of the last, 2015

The week before Christmas was my last work week with Corporate America.  It was the final step for me in letting go of who I was after losing my teen son, Sam, overnight to a synthetic drug, and finding anew, who I am.  I will miss not having regular trips to our state’s government center at 402 West Washington; a familiar location to me for almost ten years now with the contracts I worked on to serve the neediest of Hoosiers.  My last work day happened in the midst of the holiday season.  As a full-time grad student, it also happened just as I was finishing my first semester exams.  Still, I felt the relief that I had come full circle.  Everything was different:  who I am, where I live, what I do.

The next week went on to be the Christmas holiday.  The week was very emotional still working to get cartons of memories packed from the old house where Ed, Sam, Nick and I lived and into the much smaller, new home, for just Nick and I.  Space issues are easily resolved compared to the emotions which seemingly cannot be stifled.  The holiday itself was one of the better times in recent past, spending it tranquilly with family and priceless quality time with my teen son, Nick, in celebration of the true spirit of the season.  Yes, everything was different.

For New Year’s Eve, I had my first online dating experience.  I was apprehensive even initially and then as the week progressed even more so.  I spent a day in angst over how I would cope with even the simplest of questions: “How many children do you have?”, “What are their ages?”, etc.  Questions with answers for me that are like opening war wounds and exposing flesh and not simple at all.  The trepidations I had were more easily resolved that evening at dinner, thankfully to dear girlfriends who have also lost a child, and laughter.  The “date” itself was an endless conversation that I could write about.  In the end though, I’m not ready for online dating; a quarry of friends though, I always am.  

So as 2015 came to an end, I realized with:  who I am, where I live, what I do, space issues, emotions, intermittent tranquility and laughter; yes, everything is different.

Peace on Earth

I recall it was another of my heartbroken meltdowns after losing my first born son, Sam, at the tender age of sixteen. I was outside and it was daylight but my skin felt no heat of the day as it appeared to be almost dusk.  Still, I was without need for a jacket. The grass I was laying on was the true green of late summer. Nick, my second born son, knelt down and helped me to my feet. I had been laying in the yard looking at the sky, yet searching with my mind's eye for something that I knew I could not see.

Nick has been there at my side when the pain of grief has raged at its worst. He’s been there when I have spoken publicly about Sam’s experience and our experience in losing him, and in that, we have shared so much love to help others.

I always consider Nick to have an "old soul" as his words are far more mature than his age. This was apparent to me in this moment when my pain of the loss of Sam was flowing so strongly through my veins causing my heart to race and my thoughts to run wild. In the midst of this meltdown when even my hope seemed lost, Nick helped me to my feet and as he did so, in earnest he said, “Mom, we’ll see Sam again. We just have to be patient.”

I actually felt a sense of amazement in Nick’s words, spoken in his solemn and believing voice, at his then, sweet age of sixteen. Nick's commitment to patience would need to be far stronger and longstanding than my own would need to be yet he said it to me with simplicity and such faith. All he said is true to me. All that was unsaid between us is the many moments that will occur here on Earth, for each of us, before that will happen.

My patience will be expressed in how my heart carries love for Sam, my son who I physically no longer see, his overuse of wearing Axe body spray I no longer smell, and his friendly touch I no longer feel. More than ever though, a longing for his presence that is no longer met. Our love for Sam will never end and with it, neither will the pain of his loss. Yes, Nick, we do just have to be patient. For me, that is patience with my neverending pain for peace on Earth. #muchlovetosamandnick

It's over; is it ever truly over?

Friday Ed and I signed divorce papers that ended just more than a decade long marriage that encompassed most of Sam and Nicks’ life to date.  We married when Sam was in kindergarten and Nick in pre-school and had been together for more than a year before that.  Sam walked me down the aisle of the outdoor deck at the Danville Boat Club and Nick stood as Ed’s best man. In all, it was a family marriage with each of the boys focal to not only the ceremony but in what would be beyond that.  It was such a happy time.  On Friday, it seemed a far away time and place.

As I drove myself to the attorney’s office on Friday to sign the papers, I thought it would be a quick stop with a signature and I’d be on my way.  When I arrived, I instantly recognized Ed’s car in the parking lot.   I thought about leaving at that point and returning later but with my schedule of activities for the day I would not have time to return later and the agreement needed to be signed that day as far as I thought.  So I parked and grabbed my bag out of the passenger seat and it seemed heavier than it ever did before.  

As I entered the attorney's office lobby, Ed was just leaving and we met as though to pass but how do you pass more than a decade of your life without acknowledgement?  You don’t.  We hugged as though comforting one another in another loss and the words that came to me were, “take care.”  

In the face of yet another loss, my marriage this time, for that brief moment in the lobby, I wanted to shout, “STOP” but as soon as I thought it and before the words escaped my mouth I realized that was not possible.  As a year and a half ago now, I realized the world does not stop when devastation knocks at your door and my beautiful son, Sam, left this world.  I tried to stop and stand still then but the world did not.  It would keep going and I in my daily muster of strength over the past 18 months have done the same.  Some days I don’t know how.  Some days I don’t know why.  In the end, I know I do make it past each day.  And each day I make it past, I know why… #muchlovetosamandnick

Halloween's Past

It came again this year.  Last year, our first Halloween without Sammy, it actually snowed.  I was amazed that it snowed and I was creative in expressing my love for Sam, with a little help from my friend, Robin.  We made a Jack O’Lantern with Sam’s name on it and in place of the “A” in “SAM” we had a heart symbol for the love of the one we so adore and miss.  That evening several of us played Euchre and Rummy in the company of family and friends as we cherished our love for our son and brother who by sign of a vacant seat at the table was not here.  And a year later, he still isn’t here.

This Halloween, at our new home called “heaven’s view” in another language, Nick was off to work at his first part-time job while only yet a Junior in high school.  He really enjoys it.  I experienced the joy of seeing him hard at work while he didn’t notice I was there not too many days ago and he’s such a good boy.  The same as his brother but in a totally different way.  I was there to drop off his cell phone which he had forgotten at home in his haste to get to work after school and on time.  I walked in to where he works and recognized the one who looks like he belongs with me, immediately.  I stood there to watch him until he had a break in his activity and we could make eye contact.  As I waited, another, obviously more senior, likely Nick’s supervisor I quickly surmised,  employee, asked if I needed help.  I explained to her that I had something for Nick and was just waiting for the moment when I wouldn’t interrupt him.  She smiled and past me by.  Nick and I then made contact and I quickly gave him his phone so I wouldn’t interrupt him and get him off the obvious routine he was in and seemingly knew well after working there for nearly four months.  My second-born son gave me that smile that melts my heart as I envision it coming from one of the deepest places from within him and then I left; with a smile on my face.

As I left, the senior employee past me again, and I recognized then even more so that she was obviously in charge of the evening’s activities that included my son’s paid role.  She asked me, “Are you Nick’s mom?”  I shook my head and proudly said, “Yes, I am.”  She then proceeded to tell me what a great work ethic he had and how he was a real rock star and that she treasured having him work with her.  I smiled and said, “Yes, I think he is pretty special myself.”  Then she most seriously looked at me and she said, “Mom, you did a great job.”  I know it came from her lips and it was her tone of voice but for me, I heard my Sammy and I heard an answer to so many questions I have asked myself over the past year since losing him.

So this Halloween, in our new place, there were some decorations but it wasn’t the years past usual Halloween decoration fare inside or out.  And rather than be at home on Halloween, which was a Saturday night this year, I went out to BJ’s.  That too, was a mild celebration, in that BJ’s was a place that Sam and I went on our own for dinner on many nights as he loved the BBQ Chicken Pizza.  I can remember many engaging conversations there with just Sam and I; talks that will last me my lifetime now.  So that is where I was on Halloween.

The last time Sam truly dressed up for Halloween, he and his probably longest-time friend other than Nick, dressed up as the opposite sex.  Sam thought that was so funny.  I helped him pick out one of my skirts, he chose a black one, and he wore a matching purple sweater set.  His hair was fixed and his jewelry was a necklace of mine he chose.  I didn’t realize it until coming across the picture but it was the same necklace that I actually wore this year Halloween evening.  I don’t often wear it and at the time I wore it that evening it matched the shirt I was wearing nicely so I chose it to wear.  At that time, I didn’t recall that Sam had worn it too, on the same holiday, several years earlier.  

Nonetheless, there I was with the necklace on in a place that I shared with one of the most beautiful inside-and-out human beings that I will ever love and only one of two people on this Earth that I will call my son; with my mother’s undying love.  And then arriving back home from BJ’s Halloween evening, the snow from the year past, this year, turned into rain. #muchlovetosam

Here and now

Sam’s tragic death on Mothers’ Day 2014 was from teen curiosity with drug experimentation that ended with the drug dealers who made and then sold a synthetic drug, 25i-NBOMe, in lieu of what was to be Acid for the teens to avoid detection from random school drug testing.  The death of a child is a traumatic event that can have long-term effects on the lives of parents.  It has for me and for my husband Ed.  The ending of a marriage is never an easy path to take and the decisions involved are innumerable and unexplainable except to the parties involved and even then maybe only to one and not the other.  

Seeing where my marriage is now, it isn’t as difficult compared to the day that Sam died.  That doesn’t mean after losing Sam it’s easy.  It means it is all varying degrees of pain every day.  Sixteen months after Sam’s death, I am now truly on my own with Sam’s teen brother, Nick.  I no longer live in the house that Sam made the tune to remember the address “Fourteen-O-Four, fourteen-O-four…”  A house that before Sam died, I could not really have cared whether I lived in another year or not and then after his death at the age of 16, a house that I thought I would never be able to leave.  It involves what do not even seem like choices as now I live in a world that just is and go from there.

Here and now, I live with Nick, now 16, in an out-of-the-way every day life, in a secluded smaller neighborhood with similar cheerful, chatty, and complimentary neighbors; on a street that in another language means “heaven’s view.”  When I look out my back yard or rest in the lounge chair on the back patio, I look up to the sky and see layers upon layers of clouds that remind me how close I truly am to heaven, and Sam.  The past two weeks I have slept in my new “heaven’s view” place and I have slept through the night and awoken like a “normal” person in the morning; no longer awakening in the middle of the night for hours of restlessness and wondering; overcome by tears and torrid thoughts.  The search for peace continues… hope continues… love for Sam continues…

I know now there’s no question that a marriage can end after the death of a child.  The shattering experience changes everyone in an instant and in total.  Just like Humpty Dumpty had a great fall and all could not put back together again.  

The loss of a child is the hardest thing a parent, and a couple, can go through.  It is really hard.  Oh, so hard. #muchlovetosam #missyousammy