On July 18, 2003, four months after the final payment on John's gravestone, it finally arrived and was placed on his
grave. I cannot begin to find the words to describe the pain I felt upon seeing my son's name written on that stone. I had
waited on the stone for so long, it took me a year to pay it off, and another four months after that to get it. It had been
so important to me to get that stone for him, and I focused so much on that task, that I never once stopped to think about
how painful it was going to be to actually see it. Donnie and I went to the cemetary to proof read the stone, make sure all
the information was correct so it could be placed on his grave. As I approached the stone, my feet started slowing down, and
I remembered how physically hard it was to walk into the chapel the day my son was buried. You know where you are going, but
your feet just don't want to cooperate. My feet felt like they had lead weights in them, and as I was approaching my son's
stone, that same feeling returned.
I reached the stone, with a cardboard lid on it. I picked up the cardboard and pulled it back, and a million shock waves
went through my heart. Wave after wave after wave of pain, and I lost my voice. I couldn't speak, I couldn't move for what
seemed like forever. From what seemed to be a long distance away, I heard Donnie's voice saying, "It's beautiful." All I can
think is, it is final, it is written in stone. Those words played over and over in my mind. I finally felt like I could move,
and I walked to the truck, opened the door and collapsed in the seat. Then the tears and sobs came. I tried so hard to stop,
to hold it in, but sobs wracked my body, and I couldn't stop it. After about ten minutes, Donnie walked over to the truck,
and asked me what was wrong, was something spelled wrong on the stone? Why was I so upset? All I could do was just look at
him, and wonder why in the world he would even have to ask. He walked away.
After a few more minutes I was able to pull my self together, and we rode in the truck to John's grave, and I sat on
a bench and watched while Donnie and the caretaker set the stone. My heart was so heavy, my son is really gone, I know this
because it is written in stone.
September 22, 2003
I sit here, praying to be numb, to stop feeling,
For my world to stop reeling.
I have come to the conclusion that I will never recover,
That this grief forever over me will hover.
I miss him so much, I want to touch him so badly,
I realize I can't, and hang my head sadly.
The last time I touched him, his hand was so cold,
That's when I knew without having to be told,
he was gone from my world, my little boy, my young man,
God, this was not in the plan!
Why did it happen, why couldn't it have been me?
Why did you leave me here in agony?
I have tried so hard to move on from this pain,
Tried to see the sunshine after the rain,
Tried to feel comfort in the fact that he is at peace,
but I always end back up at this place.
This place of loneliness, sorrow, and despair,
A place I live, knowing he is not there.
For every step forward, I go ten steps back,
I live in the night time, forever black.
I am falling into a bottomless pit, with no light,
Even as I tell everyone that I am alright.
I keep seeing him lying there, cold as a stone,
And I am here feeling utterly alone.
He loved me so deeply, and needed me so much,
And I desperately miss the feel of his touch.
I miss my son, my child, my friend,
On me, he should have been able to depend.
I am his mother, his protector, his guide,
And I let him die, and the fairy tale lied.
February 29, 2004
Well, tomorrow it will be here..........March. That dreaded month. The month that I lost my son. March. The word sounds
so harsh to me now. I don't think I will ever be able to hear it spoken without cringing.
I have recieved alot of emails letting me know that my poem "Written In Stone", has helped alot of people. One of the
feelings after losing a child is that we suffer alone. It is through talking to other bereaved parents that we find out that
we feel almost exactly the same way. No matter the cause of death, the pain is the same. You will never be the same person
again. Yes, there are days when you feel almost 'normal', but the pain is always there. Sometimes it overwhelms you, other
times it is in the background. Never the less, it is always present in one form or another. I am so thankful that my poem
was able to help other parents realize that what they are feeling is their new 'normal'.
Outside of the shock of seeing John's stone, I think the worst was touching him for the first time while he was lying
in the casket. I had to wait two days after learning that he died to see him. He died five hundred miles from home, and his
body had to be flown to Virginia. The wait was horrible. I just kept thinking, "I've got to get him home!".
When the funeral home finally called and said he was here, and we could come view him, it was a relief. Relief that he
was home, and I could go and say goodbye to him, to touch him, and give him a kiss.
My utmost concern at that point was to be strong so I could help Jill, his fiance, and Shelly, his sister. Looking back,
I realize that I should have given myself 'permission' to deal with my feelings. I more or less put myself into a numb place,
not dealing with my grief, but postponing it. I have often reflected, very briefly, on how horrible it felt to touch my son's
hand, and feel how cold and hard it was. It is not until this very moment, sitting at my computer in the middle of the night,
that I am truly facing that moment for the first time.
We arrived at the funeral home, and the funeral director led us to the door where my son was lying in his casket. To
back track for a minute, I hadn't even seen the casket. While we were making funeral arrangements, I was unable to pick out
the casket or the vault. My husband and father had to do it. There was no way in this world I wanted to see a room full of
caskets, much less chose one to bury my only son in!
We went into the room, and I walked up to the casket. There lay my son, and I may as well have ripped the heart from
my chest and put it in there with him. I was dreading the first moment I saw him dead, yet couldn't wait to see him all at
the same time. I was struck by just how very handsome he was. I had often heard people say after viewing a loved one
that had died how unlike themselves they looked. This was not the case with John, as he looked exactly like he was just lying
there asleep. Then I saw through the shirt I had bought for him to be buried in, gauze. That really hurt, because it brought
images of my son during the autopsy. Why, oh why, did I not think to get him a t-shirt! They cut my poor son, and I could
visualize the Y cut that was on his chest and abdomen. I shook that off quickly, not wanting to dwell on that image. I stood
there quietly for a few minutes, silently telling my son how much I love him. I tried a few times to get my hand to move,
it was frozen by my side. Then, finally, I raised my hand to the casket, reached inside, and laid my hand upon the folded
hands of my son. Shock. Disbelief. My God, his hand shouldn't be cold! It was so hard, so cold. This is the hand of my son,
the hand I held so many times, the hand I held when I was guiding him across the street, to school, through a store, when
he needed comfort, or just because........This hand shouldn't be cold and hard. I could feel myself starting to lose it right
then and there, then I sharply brought myself back, knowing that Shelly and Jill were there, and they would be needing me.
I reached up to his forehead, and kissed him, and once again was struck by just how cold and hard he was. This is not right,
this is my son.
I Offered My Hand
When you were born, I held your hand.
Here lies my son, my little man!
You stole my heart, right then and there,
All I could do was sit and stare.
When you learned to walk, I held your hand.
And you learned by yourself to firmly stand.
Wherever we went, your hand was in mine,
And I knew as long as I held you, you would be fine.
When you would fall down, I would hold my hand out,
You would place your hand in mine, without a doubt.
When your feelings had been hurt, as they so often were,
You would hold my hand, and instant cure.
Now as I stand over you in your casket, lying so still,
I reach for your hand, but movement is nill.
"Momma is here, John", I say as I reach for your hand,
But it is hard and cold, and I struggle to understand.
Cold. Hard. This should not be!
I should be taking my son home with me!
His hand is not moving underneath my own,
His hand, is so so cold, and hard as stone.
I reached to place a kiss upon his brow,
Then through my despair, I managed somehow,
To pull myself together, to be there for Shelly and Jill,
They would surely need me to lead them up this hill.
Sitting here now, I search for words to express
How I felt during that time of duress.
The words are not possible, the pen cannot convey
The absolute horror, the utter dismay.
Here lies my son, beside him my heart,
From this day forward, forever apart.
I gave him my hand, like so many times before,
Only now it is different, he will feel it no more.
Part of me wishes I hadn't touched his hand,
As he was on his way to the promised land.
But part of me is thankful, and I know he understands,
That I was there, to offer my hand.
When you died, I held your hand,
There lies my son, my grown man..................
The next day was the funeral. I don't remember very many details. I couldn't even begin to tell you what the preacher
said. I have no idea. One of the few things I remember of the funeral was how hard it was to walk into the chapel. I have
heard the expression before, 'feet of lead', but until that day I never really understood it. I do now. I can remember getting
out of the truck, and immediately my daughter, Shelly was at my side. I don't think I ever told her how much that meant to
me. As I walked toward the chapel, I guess I must have stopped, I really don't remember, but my husband was on one side of
me and Shelly was on the other. I never could have walked if they had not led me. My feet, 'feet of lead', would not move.
It took tremendous effort to put one in front of the other. As I took each step, each foot felt as if it must have weighed
at least one hundred pounds. It took so much physical effort to pick one up to take another step.
When I finally reached my seat, I looked toward the coffin. It was closed, and I realized that as I had kissed my son
goodbye at the funeral home, that was truly the last time I would ever see him. I wanted to run over to the casket, open it
up, and hold on to my son and never let go. I heard the voice of the preacher, but I have no idea what he was saying. I only
know that my son's body was lying so close to me, but he was gone. He was lying there with his body so cold, his life gone,
and at that moment, I wanted nothing more than to crawl up into that casket with him, to lay down beside him and die.
Now, almost two years later, I sometimes feel that I haven't come any further than that day. There is not one single
day of my life, that I do not miss my son, that I don't think about him and wish he were still here. So many things happen
that I want to tell him about, and realize that I can't. So many days I hurt so bad I don't think I can make it through. But
there are days when I can remember him fondly, or days that someone will share a memory of him with me, that I know I can
go on. I know that the pain of losing him will be with me forever, but I know that there will be days of sunshine mixed in
with the rain. If you are reading this, and you have lost a child, I hope I have been able to help you understand that everything
you are feeling is our 'new normal'. Everyone may not grieve in the same way, but the grief, the cause of our sorrow is the
same. The myriad of emotions that we go through are normal for us. And through it all, know that they are with us, they live
in our hearts, until we are with them again.
March 02, 2004
I would like to use this space to say a heartfelt thank you to my sister, Janet Bradshaw. Janet has been a huge source
of comfort to me while dealing with the death of my son. I wouldn't have made it this far without her love and support.
It is so very rare that someone that has never lost a child can offer the magnitude of support that Janet has to me, it is
almost as if she understands, as so few do unless they have lost a child of their own. She never hesitates to say his name,
and is the only other member of the family that visits his gravesite often, and outside of my daughter Shelly, the only one
that even took the time to go see his gravestone. She helps me keep John's memory alive, often sharing funny or touching
memories of him with me. Thank you is inadequate, and I will forever be thankful to her for walking this path with me.
I love you, sis!