Sick and missing The Boy

Today I’m sick. Just really bad allergy problems but I feel awful. When I’m sick, it’s hard to not really really really miss the boy because I’m already down. Being sick though made this memory come back to me. 

Zachary never like loud environments. When he was at daycare for the six months out of his life he ever attended one, they would test the alarms and it would always upset him.  He didn’t like OU football games, pep assemblies, etc.  Anything loud and chaotic was not his thing (except for the Fun. concert, that was an exception)!  

One year, Jonathan bought Zachary and himself front row seats to the Harlem Globetrotters. Zachary was so super excited to go before they got there. When they got there, Jonathan could see him getting quieter and quieter as the event went on. When it was over, he was more than ready to come home. 

When they got home, we thought he had just gotten overwhelmed. Well turns out, we ended up at the emergency room that night as he started having problems breathing. Zachary was never officially diagnosed with asthma but was labeled an “airway reactive” kid.  We made several trips to the ER or Urgent Care for breathing treatments before he grew out of it.   He actually had pneumonia and ended up in bed for several days.  

When he was a kid, if he got overwhelmed at school, he would end up in Nurse Karen’s office to call us. It got to where we had to tell him he couldn’t go to the nurse unless he was throwing up or she called because he had a fever. I think he was just so incredibly bright that his mind went a million miles a minute and it was easy to get overwhelmed and have a hard time processing everything.  As he got older, he outgrew the going to the nurse phase but he still had a lot of days that he just didn’t want to go to school. 

I guess we all have those days. Today is one of those for me. I don’t want to participate in the day and just want to go back to bed. Today, I know how Zachary felt and I miss him more than ever and just want to sleep. 

This is one our favorite pictures of Zachary. I loved the faux hawk days. 
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Hard to do five days a week 

It’s a hard thing to do to send a grieving little sister to school every day when all she wants is for the school year to be over.  She has gone from loving school to not wanting to go. It’s a struggle in the car to listen to her complain about how much school is left in the school year. Its hard to get calls from the Nurse’s Office that she’s not feeling well and telling the nurse she has to stay as she’s struggling with not wanting to be there. I think in her mind, after summer, she will no longer be “the girl whose brother died” if that makes sense. 

When Zachary passed away, we kept Sarah out of school for the week and a half before Thanksgiving Break. I couldn’t see forcing her to go to school when her Aunt Trish was in town and we were all in such a state of utter shock and disbelief and not functioning. In the time she was gone, a girl at her school started spreading rumors about how Zachary passed away saying her brother saw him get hit by a car while riding his skateboard. Kids have no idea how mean they can be. When Sarah went back to school the same girl tried to apologize to her and in true Sarah fashion, she called her out for spreading lies. 

She is struggling. She is wearing her thumbprint necklace now. I think after getting the all  clear on her heart, she decided it was okay but she hurts. She goes to private grief counseling at a specialized grief center here but she misses her brother. She misses her partner-in-crime, their silliness, their laughter, her secret keeper.  After Zachary passed, there were little videos they had made together on his phone that we never knew they made. He wasn’t always asleep upstairs like we thought.  He was spending time with his sister. 

I didn’t know they listened to music together. I didn’t know they watched a lot of YouTube together. There are special things only she will remember and I pray she hangs onto all of the wonderful memories and not just the pain.  My heart breaks for her so much. 

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Oh the difference a year can make!  

Zachary middle top pic, far right bottom pic.

I attended Bethany Schools when I was in Jr High and High School. It’s a charming small school district so you tend to know everyone. When Zachary was little, we made the decision to transfer him into Bethany and his little sister Sarah followed in his shoes 6 years later. He had wonderful teachers who for the most part “got him” and a few who just didn’t. Zachary was highly intelligent and was known for correcting teachers when they were wrong in front of the entire class. He was also easily bored. Some teachers appreciated it, others not so much.

He played baseball, did karate, soccer, Boy Scouts with his Dad and had kids come to his birthday parties yet, the invitations were not reciprocated most of the time. Especially when Middle School rolled around. You see, when you are a gay teen at a basically Nazarene School even though it’s a public school, kids can be cruel. We didn’t find out till later some of the things kids would say to him even though he wasn’t “out of the closet” yet. This is nothing against Bethany Schools, this is just Zachary’s experience.  We still have friends who have kids who attend there, my nieces go to school there, we still love the staff and our friends. Zachary just didn’t feel like he belonged. We didn’t realize how bad till we moved.

We struggled with moving to the Tulsa area because we would be going from a class size of 120 to Zachary graduating with over 1,300 students. We researched and decided to get the kids into Broken Arrow Schools. I was teasing Zachary when we were looking at Schools  because at Broken Arrow, the LGBT+ students have their own GSA (Gay Student Alliance). I told him, “Look, you have your own club” to which I received an “Oh Mommy.”

We moved mid school year in December 2014 after the semester was over. After a little adjustment period, Zachary just blossomed before our eyes. He truly came into himself here at Broken Arrow. He joined the GSA, Men’s Choir, went to a leadership camp with Youth Services of Tulsa for LGBT+ kids where he met his future boyfriend Cedrick, tried out/made show choir, went to competitions in other states, hung out and went to choir banquet and several things with his friend Nik, got his first real job at the Cinemark, participated in the school LipDub, went to his first prom and graduated high school a Tiger. He just truly got happy here. He loved it here.  He loved everything about Broken Arrow and Tulsa. It was truly his home.

You can see from the pics that he got light behind his smile and confidence here. Zachary was a Tulsan and we will forever be Tulsans too.


Zachary upper left in Tiger hood! Zachary is in the upper left in the Tiger hood.

http://bahspulse.com/broken-arrow-high-school-2015-lip-dub/

Zachary is behind the GSA sign about 11:45 in.
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The Weekend

Well it’s Saturday and Zachary would normally be home. He usually spent Saturday night at his boyfriend’s house and the came home Saturday afternoon, spent the night and went back to the dorms Sunday before dinner time was over on campus. A lot of the days he would just get some good sleep. A lot of weekends we would go to the movies, sneak candy in and hang out as a family. 

Last weekend we went and saw Lego Batman with the neighbors. They have three boys who can be a little ornery sometimes, especially the two youngest. This is the second movie we have seen with them. I enjoy going as it gives Sarah some boys to hang out with. It’s also a little bittersweet at times to look down and see the boys in the edge of their seats watching the movie. Zachary used to do that. They also talk during the movie,  just like Zachary. It always brings a little tear to my eyes because that’s one thing we always loved to do as a family was go to the movies. I wish we could always have an empty seat by us so I could look down and pretend he is still sitting there, on the edge of his seat with a smile on his face. His smile lit up his face when he would just let it go. I’ll forever miss it. 


Above is Zachary on his 18th birthday. He wasn’t really expecting anything big since part of his college computer was his birthday present.  Zachary had quite a sweet tooth and would always claim to not get as much cake as every one else even though I know he would come down at night and eat some because I would find plates and forks in his room. 

Miss you buddy and love you. 

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Fourteen Weeks

So I told myself that after three months I was no longer going to count weeks.  That I would move to counting months instead.  So I slept in till noon after some medication last night because I wasn’t feeling that great.  I talked to a friend from my grief group on the phone, got ready for the day, went to the eye doctor, saw my husband,  got back in the car to run some errands and go home.  I was having what for me was a “great” day.  I happened to glance at the clock and it showed 3:40 pm which is around the time  Zachary collapsed on campus.  Then, while listening to Coffee House on the radio, in that same moment, the song “Hallelujah” came on and that was it.  The ugly tears started in the car.  It was like in that moment, I just needed a nudge to let it out and stop putting on a brave face for the day. I was in the car alone and crying.

The car is a hard place to be alone, especially for long trips.  The kids and I spent so much time together in the car driving back and forth to school since they were transferred into Bethany.  For ten and a half years, I drove the kids back and forth to school almost every day.  After moving to Tulsa, Zachary, Sarah and I drove back and forth four hours round trip for six weeks after Jonathan moved to Tulsa and the kids finished out the school semester in OKC.  After moving to Tulsa, Zachary and I drove four hours round trip for two years to the orthodontist as Geoff had treated Zachary since he was in the first grade and we weren’t about to switch.    We have so many of our best memories in the car,  some of the best conversations, listening to books, my favorite of all time singing in the car.  Zachary had this ability to learn lyrics to songs like you could not believe.  My favorite was when he would rap “Fancy” by Iggy Azalea or Nicki Minaj. Needless to say, he and I may have really liked to embarrass Sarah as she is an easy one to embarass and did not like to participate in our singing awesomeness.

I really really really wanted to start counting  months instead.  I think I thought if I did that, it would make the time go by faster without Zachary here.  What a lie I tried to convince myself into.  As soon as the tears started, the panic in my chest started, the hives started to come up, I tried to breathe through it but I had to take some medication to help. It was not going to stop.

I already had my big sunglasses on from having lasik done last week.  Thank goodness for big sunglasses as the girl at the pharmacy did not know I was crying.  The people in the cars next to me did not know I was crying.  When you feel that vulnerable, in that moment, you feel like the entire world is looking at you even when they are not.  It makes me wonder when I see other people in really big sunglasses, are they hiding the same thing?  Wouldn’t it be nice if being and feeling vulnerable wasn’t such a negative thing?  If you are crying in a store for someone to ask you if you need a hug or just a pat on the back instead of turning their head and looking away.

Below is a pic of Zachary getting ready to sing with the Canterbury Children’s Choir. 


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Always my Valentine 

This has been the first Valentine’s Day without “the boy”. Jonathan always bought Valentines for me and we always bought Sarah Valentines from her brother. This year they were all from Daddy. Sarah did get cat ear headphones to match Zachary’s that he had as an early gift after having some rough days and some flowers and candy today. I used to always get Zachary some of his favorite Strawberry Twizzlers. 

It’s hard to feel in the spirit when part of your heart is missing. The weather has been overcast for the last two days which has matched my spirit and mood. I’m not a cloudy weather girl. I like to feel the sun on my body and feel the warmth in my bones. It gives me a sense of a connection to Heaven to feel the sunbeams coming down.  I can sit inside in the window like the dogs if it’s too cold outside. Now that the gazebo is built, I’ll be able to go outside and take a heated blanket if I want to. I just need to sun.

I always knew the weather affected me.  I just did not realize how bad until the loss of Zachary.  It causes bad grief strikes to hit. I can breathe through the first one but if another one hits its bad. It’s just been a vary rough day all together. This is a rambling post but I had to get it out so it didn’t continue to leak from my eyes. 

Below are some really cute pics. One is  of Zachary around Valentines Day 2000. My Mom took him to Walmart to have some pics made. The other  is of Zach with his cat ear phones and then one of Sarah with hers. I swear sometimes I look over and see soooo much of her brother in her. 

#suddencardiacarrest #cardiacarrhythmia #suddendeath #grief #grieving #mourn #mourning #childloss #lossofchild #mamabear #compassionatefriends #imwithyoumommy 

Monday Blues

Today, I woke up with a heavy heart and the feeling of a boulder sitting on my chest.  I never know what has brought it on when I first wake up.  I just miss my son terribly and wish he were here. I’m usually able to hold the tears till Sarah is off to school and Jonathan is off to work.  Then, they just start to flow and I take a shower and let them out so the water washes them away.  It’s therapeutic to just let them out and not try to put on a such a brave mask all the time when all I want to do some days is curl up into a ball, ignore the world and wallow in my misery.  Some days I just go wail in his closet with the door shut as it is upstairs and feels like a safe space to just let it all go.  We have to feel the pain to get through the pain but it is so hard to lose a child. The pain will never go away.  To no longer be able to hug them, kiss their foreheads, smell their scent, run your hand through their hair, talk to them, text with them, be silly with them, laugh with them, sing in the car with them is torture to a parent’s soul.  So I wail, I let the tears out, I stare at his picture above the mantle, I rub my fingers on his thumbprint on my necklace and breathe.  I stop and take deep breaths, one right after the other and I make sure they are coming from my belly so they are productive breaths.  Then, once the tears stop and the breathing takes over, I make another cup of coffee and I go strip the bed to wash the sheets because life keeps going and we have to keep going.  We have to keep going.  We have to keep going.  We have to keep going.

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Above is a silly video Sarah sent me last night of Zachary.  This was the weekend in October before we went on our first ever family vacation without him.  He came downstairs in his mouse ears and I couldn’t resist a pic.  I printed that pic out and took it on vacation with us and kept it in our hotel room so it felt like he was there.  He chose to have the money towards his computer for college rather than go on vacation which was fine.  He was 18 yrs old and we knew we could only force them to go on vacation with us for so long.  That is why Jonathan and I have never taken a vacation without the kids.  You are not guaranteed any amount of time with your kids so we never wanted  to go without them.

Hi ho..hi ho…to Rogers State we go…

Tomorrow we are trekking out to Claremore to visit what we lovingly call “Zachary’s Tree.”  It is the tree he collapsed under on campus after skateboarding around campus. It is right outside the school library. Rogers State University is going to allow us to place a bench there in his memory. The tree drops pinecones and I want to pick some up before the tree stops dropping them so I can have some at home. 

The first time anyone saw the memorial the students had made for him it was dorm cleaning out day. Zachary passed away on a Thursday and Jonathan, Papa Airplane, and Cedrick his boyfriend went and cleaned out his dorm room on the following Sunday as we just wanted all of his stuff home. When they were leaving, they spotted the memorial out of the corner of their eyes. 

Some student took their time to make a skateboard with a Zachary’s favorite cartoon on it with a lantern and his name on a bucket with flowers. Jonathan fell to his knees the same way I did when he took me later to see it. When the two of us went together to return his books, I got to see it myself. Considering Zachary had only lived away from home for three months, he must have made an impact as some students knew what he liked. 

While I was on my knees, a student walked by and asked if we needed a hug. I, of course, said yes and stood up to hug her. I don’t know who that angel was that day but she was an angel. Jonathan made a cross out of pine cones and placed them in front of the memorial. The last time a friend sent a pic, the memorial was a little tattered from the Oklahoma wind. We don’t know if it will still be there but we know where he was. We will make sure the area is tidy and make another pinecone cross. 

His little sister wants to go as she hasn’t been yet. She wants to see where his bench is going to go. She aspires to be a Hillcat so she can study and eat lunch on her brothers bench.  

Below is a pic of the students’ memorial and the pic of the tree. It’s a beautiful spot on campus. The day you move your kid into the dorms you never imagine they will pass away of natural causes.

I’ll admit it. I used to be one of those people who thought it was weird when people put memorials on the side of the road where a loved one passed. I am no longer one of those people. There’s something comforting about being there. There’s something about knowing that is the last spot he remembered seeing, feeling, smelling, etc. He was just a college kid enjoying his afternoon doing what he loved, skateboarding and listening to his phone. 


#suddendeath #cardiacarrhythmia #mamabear #grief #grieving #mourn #mourning #childloss 

Rambling, rambling, rambling, Goodnight. 

So as I sit here with 45 min left in the three month mark of Zachary’s death, I just still cannot believe he is gone. Three months makes it feel concrete but it’s still not believable. How does an 18yr old’s heart just go into cardiac arrhythmia and he die from it while riding his skateboard around campus?  The ME said it was cardiac arrhythmia from lipotamous hypertrophy of the interatrial of his heart which doesn’t really seem to make sense to anyone. How does an underweight 18yr old kid develop a fatty tumor in his heart that is typically found in old overweight people during necropsy?  It just doesn’t make any sense. And if he was that sure, why list the other things at the bottom of his ME report?  It’s hard to make sense of any of it. 

Three of my dear girlfriends took me out to lunch which I really needed. It felt good to have some giggles on such a hard day. 

I had my first bawl after Jonathan left for work. I lost it in the afternoon when my husband could sense I needed a phone call from him in the middle of the frozen food section at Target, and I cried watching a movie when the PowerPuff Girls popped up out of nowhere. See crying in public is just a norm for me now. I’ve cried because I had to buy three pizzas instead of four one time. I’ve cried because I had to buy one box of fish instead of two. It’s the little sneaky grief that gets you and it can hit anywhere, in the car, store,doctors office, etc. 

Side story, Zachary loved the PowerPuff girls when he was little. So much so, that we bought him the DVDs and the dolls. That’s one thing I have always loved about my husband. His son wanted PowerPuff Girl dolls and he bought him PowerPuff Girl dolls without a second thought.  Zachary loved those dolls and loved those movies. I still like to see the show on TV. It takes me back to little Zach. 

A good thing today was Sarah got her heart monitor off after wearing it for 30 days. Poor thing had a constant reminder of her brothers death strapped around her for 30 days.  We had her really rough days with it and had to have a discussion about two weeks in about how she better not complain about it because it’s very important we find out if anything is wrong with her.  After that, she wore it like a champ. I bought her a bath bomb to use afterwards to get some oil back in her poor skin. We hope to find out next week where we go from here. 

Anyway, I saw a lovely sunset and saw Zach’s spirit in how beautiful it was.  A picture of it is below. I think when you lose a child, you try to see beauty anywhere you can because the world feels like a lonely place. Rambling, rambling, rambling, Goodnight. 


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Three Months

Rather than post my real feelings today, I wanted to go back and share pics of some of my journal entries before I started this blog. They are just as true then as they are today. I can’t emotionally type a lot today so I’ll let them speak for me.

I do write letters to Zachary in a separate journal but those will remain between us. Zachary was super private so I don’t want to share my letters to him.

The entries start at the bottom and go up. They are hard to read but they are honest.

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Faux-Hawk Days. One of our all time fav pics.