Life in General

Life Moments #70 — Not Everyone is Oblivious to Their Surroundings

I admit it. I am totally not a detail person most of the time. My husband pays attention to E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G.

And I am simply not like that. I am very detailed when I am planning something or when it comes to specific things that I am focused on. Nothing specific at the moment, but specific in the moment, if that makes any sense..,,,

Anywho, I have my son’s name on my license plate. I have never been one to really care much for vanity plates, but when he died, it was something that was important to me. So, DARREN is my license plate.

Just recently, I was visiting a friend and a friend of my friend came up and said, “Who’s Darren? You’re not Darren….”

My friend told his friend who it was just as I turned away with tears rolling down my cheeks. Not offended or angry about the question, it was quite literally a harmless question, but I was stunned. When he asked, it threw me for a loop. I totally was not expecting the question. I mean, it came out of nowhere. After he was told who Darren was, he gave his condolences and I accepted as we most often do. Again, I was not offended in any way, just caught way off guard.

I’ve had the plates on my van for a little while now and I am just so used to it being that way so I don’t really think much about it. I did the vanity plates for me, as a memorial to my son. I didn’t do it for anyone else.

Either way, the question stunned me, but at the same time, made me feel …….good?!? I will never forget my son. It’s a big fear of mine that other people will, that other people will move on in their lives like he never existed. And I expect that they will eventually, if not already, but not me. I am glad someone noticed the license plate for no reason at all other than paying attention.

The question stunned me, completely threw me off kilter, but I appreciate that I was asked.

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Life in General

Life Moments #69 – The Blink of an Eye

Life can change in the blink of an eye. We all know that. All that we hold dear today could all be gone tomorrow. A lesson I learned the hard way, a lesson we should all be taught from very young so we can understand the impact it can make on our lives. It’s simple, really.

Everything we take for granted in the morning could be yanked from us by nightfall or vice versa.

Every single day something happens to a loved one of somebody’s. Job loss, divorce, abuse, death……it’s inevitable, I suppose, but these events carry with them lasting affects that will stay with us for the rest of our lives. These events will change us, will help us to see life in a completely different way than before the event. Sometimes, these changes are positive, but sometimes, they are negative. Either way, the end result is the same…..Change.

My family has had our share of accidents, mishaps, job loss, etc.

And each one I have encountered has changed me a little bit more. My outlook has changed. My perspectives have changed. What I hold dear in my heart has changed. My beliefs have shifted and my reactions to events have been altered.

When my daughter was around 2, we – along with my older children – were at the river on a warm spring day. The river was high with the snow melt and rushing by us much quicker than it looked. Thankfully, it was a smaller river and not one of the major big rivers. We were sitting along the bank. My eyes alert for each of my children, watching their distance to the water and the quickness of getting there. I had my eyes on my two year old. I was calling her to back away from the water. Just as I went to stand up to go after her, she disappeared into the swiftly moving water. I ran to her, I put my hands in the water to grab her, but felt the water being sucked through a culvert that I didn’t realize was there because the water was so high. As soon as I felt that, I panicked and I went in after her. I went through that culvert to save her. My older kids were running down river to help get her. My 10 year old son was able to get to her as she floated down out of the culvert. By the grace of God, she was perfectly fine. Neither one of us got hung up in that culvert. Neither one of us drowned. But it scared the crap out of all of us. To this day, I never take my kids near water without a life jacket.

This incident changed me.

And this is only one incident that my family has faced. The most dramatic and tragic event we have faced is my son’s death 16 months ago and that changed me in a big way.

Recently, I received another such notification. My son had been in a car/scooter collision and he was on the scooter. He was alert, able to walk and able to call me, but still a heart-stopping moment in which I did not know what to expect when I arrived. On my way to the hospital, I just kept imagining what I was going to see/learn upon my arrival. By the grace of God, my son was okay. Bumps, scrapes and bruises were about the extent of his injuries. As I sat in the ER, fretting over him and crying over what could have been, I began to think of my son who passed away. After I calmed down and I knew my son was okay, the memories of the tragic loss of my older son came rushing back to me.

Time stood still in those moments. Time I wanted to get back. Time I knew could have been spent more wisely. Time. Time to spend with my deceased son. Time I could choose to use more wisely from the point of that particular ER visit forward. Time I wanted to change, but can’t undo. Time flashed forward to what I want in the future with my children and time flashed backwards for what I missed or wanted to redo in the past.

But, nothing can be undone. The future will be what it is, but living in this moment with and loving the people who God has given me is a lesson I have learned through the many trials my family has faced. I’m sure we will face many more, but with each one we face, we grow stronger individually and as a family. We grow closer to one another and in our faith, what little or lot we may have.

In the blink of an eye, I could have lost another of my children, but thankfully he survived. In the blink of an eye, something changed me, yet again.

It all happens………in the blink of an eye.

Life in General

Life Moments #68 – Going Backwards…Defeat

Feeling pretty low the last couple of weeks. Feeling defeated. It has settled into my bones like some damn winter cold at a most inconvenient, worrisome time!

For every step I take forward, I seem to get knocked back by two.

I was having conversation with my husband the other day and I said that everyone just seems to me moving forward in their lives as if Darren never even existed. At first he was offended because he thought I was talking about him so he asked me, “Don’t you think I ever think about him?” My response was, “Of course I do. I wasn’t speaking about you, but others. So, what kinds of things do you think about when you think about him?” He thought for a moment and then said very softy, “Things we didn’t get to do and things I wanted to do with him.” I watched his face fall a little. I looked at him…..really looked at him and saw a man rather than my husband. I saw a man with stress lines on his face, crinkles at the corners of his eyes, the weathered look of a man used to working hard and being outdoors. I noticed his hair thinning on top of his head with a few gray hairs here and there, signs of stress, they say. I also noticed his hands, hands toughened by laborious work. The years of hard work and stress are starting to catch.

This man who I love with all my heart, but can drive me absolutely mad at the same time just had his 39th birthday. Sometimes, I believe he feels defeated as well.

Life sure does have a way of showing us how small we really are in the grand scheme of things. Amidst all the chaos of this crazy ride we call life, I want to give up. I want to give up and bury my head in the sand. Darren was a joy to have for all of us who knew him and for him to leave this world so young has almost destroyed me. It has weakened me so much that I don’t have the strength to fight any of the other battles of life and I feel myself succumbing to nothingness, if that makes any sense. Some days are worse than others in a way that all I can or want to do it stay holed up in my room. I can’t do that, but I want to.

~ Trying Not to Give Up – Shannon

Life in General

Life Moments #67 – Chaos Called Life

My oldest son and his girlfriend have a very beautiful baby girl who is almost 7 months old. She doesn’t have much hair, but what she does have looks reddish in color. Right now her eyes are blue, but that may change. It doesn’t matter what color her eyes end up being, she will always be a beautiful girl.

To help my son and his girlfriend out, I watch their little sweetheart at least three days a week while they are at work so I get to spend quite a bit of time with her. One day when I took her home, I watched her and my son together. He’s so good with her. He makes her laugh and he cuddles her. He talks to her and plays with her. He’s a good little daddy. He takes an active part in raising her and caring for her throughout the day (or evening when he’s not at work).

As I watched them, it took me back a few years — when my son was a baby and he’s 20 now. All the memories of his childhood came flooding back which brought back all the memories of his brother, Darren. When I see my oldest son with my granddaughter, it’s beautifully amazing. Babies always bring such joy to our lives and he is a wonderful father. When I first found out I was pregnant with my oldest son, it changed my whole life, but I knew he was what I wanted.

Ever since I could remember, all I ever wanted to be was a wife and mom…mothering came a few years before the wife part, but all these years later, I can say that I am happy being both. Dylan was the start of my mothering journey. It changed me. Being a mom changed me.

And now, 20 years later, I find myself in another place of change, but this change I would rather do without. Now, I am a still a wife, a mother, but also a mother who has lost a child. However, I find myself focusing on watching Dylan raising his daughter as well as being an active presence in her life. And as I will be doing for the next sixteen years, my husband and I are raising our brood who still live at home.

It’s a beautiful, crazy busy, but sometimes sad life that we must make the most of every day.

And, still, none of it makes sense.

Life in General

Life Moments #66 – He’s Everywhere, but Here with Us

It’s that time of year again….

That time we all wait for, long for, get impatient for…..

Summer.

Bikes and ballgames.

Campfires and carnival rides.

4th of July and fireworks….

So much entertainment in the summer.

So many more activities to enjoy.

And what’s a favorite among the summer season…

Motorcycles.

Where I live, there is a lot of road construction in progress.

A much needed, but very frustrating improvement.

It’s a pain, to say the least.

So, while driving recently, I was driving in a non-congested area where the double-lane highway was actually still usable. I went to switch lanes, but as I checked my mirrors, I saw the motorcycle cross into my lane to pass the vehicle in front of him and if I moved over I would end of hitting him so I reduced my speed and let him pass and switch lanes before me. As he passed me into the other lane, a distressing thought occurred to me…..what if I’d hit the motorcyclist?

I get frustrated with motorcyclists, not because I have an issue with sharing the road with them – I love motorcycles! I get frustrated because of how everyone jumps on the bandwagon about watching for motorcyclists. Mind you, we should keep our eyes peeled for two-wheeled transportation. However, sometimes these motorcyclists are just as, if not more so, reckless than drivers in four-wheeled vehicles. Motorcyclists have just as much responsibility to be attentive drivers as any other driver.

It doesn’t always seem as such, unfortunately.

So that’s my rant of the day..and it’s over.

Back to the motorcycle…..after the motorcyclists passed me and got back into the other lane, I proceeded to make my lane switch. After the initial distressing question that popped into my mind, my next thought was Darren – my son who passed away last spring/summer.

Darren, shortly after he got his bike.

When I thought of him, my next reaction/thought was — I’m glad I saw the motorcycle well ahead of time because had I hit him, his family would have been in the place I’m in now…pure and utter darkness, confusion and heartbreak. And then I thought that it could have been Darren. Yes, Darren is already gone, but a motorcycle/car collision could have happened to him at anytime while he was riding his bike.

It doesn’t seem to matter what I am doing, thoughts of Darren can pop up at anytime.

I miss him a ton.

My son didn’t die in a motorcycle accident, but with summer here, let’s watch out for motorcyclists as each one is someone else’s father, mother, son, daughter, or sibling.

And loss is loss. It’s not something I wish on even my worst enemy.

Life in General

Life Moments #65 – She is Strength

Every woman…..

I know a young woman who is the epitome of strength.

She has endured much in her life. First, she got pregnant at a young age and the father didn’t step up. Then a few years later, she met a man who she married and had a child with, but soon he began stepping out on her. Through all of that, he had her completely convinced that his family was part of the mafia and could have her or her family (parents, siblings) killed at any time. Eventually, she got the courage to end that relationship. When that happened, he skipped out on child support and their daughter. Some years later, she met a man who she made a life with. He was ex-military, a decent provider and decent father to one of her daughters. They eventually had a child and to stabilize their income, he re-enlisted in the military.

At this point, their marriage began to decline. With him being out of the country on assignment, their disagreements began to get very frequent. Their marriage weathered that storm until his military commitment was complete. He soon enough had a decent job with decent money and they moved so he could take the job. Within a short amount of time, their relationship became violent – he had PTSD. They tried hard to make it through the storms, but it soon became to violent so the relationship ended. At this point, she had all three children with her and none of the fathers paying child support. She lost their home and moved in with family. Through all the emotional abuse, physical abuse, and psychological abuse, she wasn’t quite the same person. Whatever happened while she was living with her family, something went wrong and she got evicted. She moved to a different town where she would have more opportunity for employment. She and her children stayed in a homeless shelter and she was applying for jobs every day. The shelter she was staying in had a curfew and one evening she was 20 minutes past curfew getting back to the shelter. When she arrived, they wouldn’t let her in and told her she shouldn’t have been late because she had kids. In the same breath, they kicked her out of the shelter with her kids.

I recently had a chance to visit with her. While visiting with her she told me, ‘You don’t know how lucky you are to not be so lost and broken. You are lucky to have someone in your life.’ She is right. I am blessed. I don’t think I could keep it together as well as she has, even if it’s not that well according to some people’s standards. I told her as much, but I also told her that I, too, am lost and broken in a different way due to the loss of my son.

She lives every day, afraid to be around people she loves due the shame she feels for her circumstances. She lives every day in constant apology for whatever she thinks she’s done to offend someone else. Every time I see her, she is smiling. She isn’t feeling sorry for herself. She feels too ashamed to ask for anything, but she has found the strength to wake up each day and continue on.

I want to commend this young woman. And I want to say, we all have our crosses to bear and none of us know anyone else’s cross they are carrying so rather than judge and condemn, we should be encouraging and uplifting. Not one single person can save the world, but one single person can be a blessing to someone.

And remember:

She is clothed with strength & dignity and she laughs without fear of the future…..Proverbs 31:25

I will be the first to admit that I am sorely lacking in the faith department since the death of my son, but I believe this verse fits her perfectly at this time in her life……maybe for all of her life.

Let’s be the strength and love that others need in their time of need rather than the judgers and haters that they don’t need in their time of need.

Kindness Matters.

Make it count.

For purposes of privacy, names have been withheld.

Life in General

Life Moments # 64 – Time Doesn’t Stand Still, Although I Might…..

I recently went to the place where Darren took his life. i went there and just sat, then walked all around the area. As I walked, all I could think of is receiving the news that awful evening and then later on when I received the police and autopsy report.

Walking around there, I thought of every detail in both reports and how, almost a year later, it still doesn’t make sense…the whole day, the evening, when I was awakened in the wee hours of the morning, the timeline between what’s in the report, what I’ve heard from other people and text messages that somewhat detail his last evening. Mind you, I don’t have all the text messages, but I have some from him to a certain someone and certain someone’s replies. That whole first week continues to play on repeat in my head. The weeks after and then the months that followed until we are here.

It’s a day that I will never forget. Like his birth, it is a day etched into my brain. Time has continued to go by since his death, but I feel I am standing still. My faith is darn near nonexistent these days. I don’t really know what I believe anymore. My conversations with God are all that sweet, but chock full of anger and questions. Someone recently told me that he would like to pray with me. Hmm…..not so sure about that. I mean, I’m not so sure prayer helps. You see, I prayed the day before Darren died. I prayed for him to have strength to get through what he was going through. I prayed for his safety. I prayed for his present and for his future. The next day, he died. Prayer killed my son. So, no, I don’t trust prayer.

And so, here I am. One year later and still just as lost as I was that first week. Time has not stood still. Time has not changed anything. But I have stood still, lost. I may have changed, but my grief has not. We may go through every day in the here and now, but my heart is stuck and my mind is confused. My questions have only increased and I am in limbo.

What now?

~ Shannon

Life in General

Life Moments #63 – Feelings of Guilt, Loneliness, Anger, Fear, and Confusion

Where do I even begin? I am almost a year into the grief of losing my son and my emotions are all over the map.

I have this theory.

I’ve heard a million times since Darren died that time will heal. My theory is: That’s a damn lie. Time does not heal anything. In place of the healing that time is supposed to do, time is only making the loss more bearable. Maybe! Time buries the pain of the loss, the broken heart, the memories. Time is a thief that doesn’t heal anything.

You know what I have felt over the last year?

Guilt.

Loneliness.

Anger – a lot of anger!

Fear – of everything.

And confusion. I can’t focus on anything. I can’t remember anything.

I am trying to keep my marriage together, trying to keep my sanity, trying to ‘heal,’ striving to be the best mom I can be and I am convinced I am failing at it all.

I cry and I get angry.

People tell me don’t bury your feelings. Let yourself feel whatever it is that you feel. All the while, they sit back and judge for every feeling that you have. In this world, society is convinced that feelings are wrong. We can’t feel this or that because if that feeling just so happens to go against what another holds to be true or against another in any way, we are condemned for feelings. Feelings are used against you. Feelings are used to hurt you. Your feelings are someone’s weapon against you.

My son, Darren, had written some ‘suicide’ notes a year prior to his death. His dad and his dad’s useless girlfriend knew of these letters, but kept it from me. The letters were ignored. When I found the letters, I informed his dad and his dad’s useless girlfriend and asked her about them. She told me she already knew of the letters. Okay, right now none of that matters, but in the grand scheme of things, it matters very much. But, anyway, the letters. In the letters, my son mentions his feelings. He mentions he doesn’t talk about his feelings because he doesn’t want to be some ’emotional freakshow‘ and that he doesn’t talk about his feelings because he doesn’t want someone to use his feelings against him. How true it is! People will use whatever they can to hurt another.

And that’s why people don’t talk about their feelings. That’s why people begin to feel ashamed or embarassed about their feelings. That’s why people keep their feelings bottled deep inside until the feelings are destroying the individual.

And right now, my feelings are guilt, loneliness, anger, fear and confusion.

And they are destroying me. I am really hoping the grief counseling will work soon enough.

I know, I know….Life is NOT about feelings!

~ Shannon ~

Life in General

Life Moments #62 – T – 9 days Until the Day My World Changed….Forever

May 17, 2018 – The day my world changed in a terrible way.

We are 9 days shy of the day Darren passed away. This past year has been hard, to say the least. We lost someone dear to us, but we also gained someone dear to us. It’s been a year of a thousand tears, bad dreams, unanswered questions, and memories flooding my mind.

Remember, a while back I posted that I have 17 years worth of photographs of Darren that I couldn’t bear to look at. My heart just couldn’t take it. Well, I still have yet to look at them. I have the ones in my room (where I spend a majority of my time) that I see daily and the ones that pop up in my newsfeed on FB and the ones I keep reposting because I can’t bear to add new ones, but I cannot look at my photo albums. I look at the photographs in my room only to see what will never be, the life that he should have lived as an adult that will never come to fruition. Don’t get me wrong, those photos present a ton of good memories of him, but they are also testament that his life will never proceed past the age of 17. We were robbed of that!

Now, almost a year later, I look at how much has changed, how much I have changed. Of course, we have the physical changes in our environment, the changes in which we cannot see him, we can no longer hear his voice, or witness his beautiful smile. Then there are the changes within myself. The lack of sleep. The constant dreams. The plaguing unanswered questions. The uncertainties about life and what it all means. The lack of trust that has invaded my mind concerning his father, most certainly law enforcement and especially the court system (family court as well as juvenile court) — those him failed my son.

However, the change that I hope will have the most impact was taking the giant leap out of my comfort zone and into the nonprofit world. For many years, I wanted to do something with my life that went beyond myself and my family. However, my family always came first. Sure I delved into one fleeting interest after another, but – for the most part – I repeated the same interests in intermittent spurts. These interests have included quilting, photography, scrap-booking and spur-of-the-moment day trips here or there (this always included the kiddos). After losing Darren to suicide, suicide prevention became my passion, my cause. A friend and I founded DJW Life Project, a suicide prevention nonprofit organization. Much of my son is incorporated throughout the organization from the name we chose to the logo we use to represent who we are and to some of the images we use as well as the slogan we attach to just about everything.

Changes have always been hard for me, but this was one change I needed to make and jumped into with both feet. Failure is not an option because no matter how far we go (in number of years or money raised) we will have accomplished the thing we are trying to accomplish – To help at least one family to not have to go through the tragedy that mine has gone through. if we can help just one family then we will have succeeded.

So, the next biggest part of May 17th is the Darren’s Voice event that we are hosting. It will be a hard day all around, but hopefully there will be joy as well. If you’re out and about, we hope you will join us at Christ the King for an evening of fun for the whole family beginning at 4:30pm. Bring yourselves, your children, your family and your friends to enjoy the evening, but also to support suicide prevention in the small community that we live in.

Be the change you want to see in the world.

– Mahatma Ghandi

~ Shannon ~

Life in General

Life Moments #61 – Everybody Makes Mistakes

Have you ever made a mistake…..a gigantic, screw-up that just cannot be forgotten?

I have.

Okay, I have made many mistakes. After all, I am only human and nowhere near perfect.

I am the kind of person who, when I make a mistake, I apologize to those it may have hurt and then move on. I don’t carry regrets because living with regrets just plays with a person’s mind. I do, however, learn from my mistakes and carry on. Sometimes, I might even make the same mistake again. And yet again….before I finally learn.

I know some people who carry their regrets around like a monkey on their back, never to be forgotten. They learn from the mistake (the regret), but those regrets are always lurking, always at the forefront of their brains to discourage them. Their lives are guided by these regrets, present in their every thought, helping them to make a decision when one is needed to be made.

To me, these people seemed to be trapped inside their heads. How does one function like that?

One of the most aggravating things for me is when someone won’t let you live down your mistakes. It’s frustrating to be in a conversation with someone (discussion, disagreement, argument..whatever) who is insistent on reminding you of every mistake, every bad decision, etc you’ve ever made.

And when you’ve made a mistake that people don’t let you live down, they stay inside your head. Every time you turn around, this person (or more) is hovering over you, making you question your every word after. So, now not only is this person trapped in their own head, but you somehow have become trapped in yours.

It’s a relentless cycle…….