Each Star Hold a Story

That day is a blur.  I recall  bits and pieces…some more vividly than others.  As I walked to where he laid, it felt as if the room circled around me.  Each leg felt as if they bore the weight of the world.   My body was fighting me.  My heart was screaming out in anguish, my soul crumbling with each step I took.  This is not a walk I ever want to take again….this not not a walk any parent should take.

Though  I didn’t want to look at him, that is not the way I wished to remember him,  I do recall gently and so lovingly caressing his face.  I  was thinking that it really didn’t look like him…this was only a pretend shell…a doll of sorts.  Yet, I knew this was all that was left of my baby.  I gently laid my head on his chest.  My husband put his hand gently on my back, bent over and whispered in my ear  not to press too hard.   He mumbled an explanation as to why but I refuse to remember what he said.  As I turned and walked away to my seat, my gaze slowly took in the football jersey and helmet which were proudly displayed in his honor.  Football was his life!  He ate, breathed, sweated football!  That’s is all he wanted to do…play ball.  He was the high school  quarterback, the captain, the star.  You couldn’t turn on the TV or opened the sports section on Saturday with out seeing his face or name.  I recall going for the first time to a new dentist.   As he introduced himself, he gazed at my chart, smiled and asked “Are you related to Joey Palacio?”  “I’m his mom” I answered.  With a huge grin he said “WOW, I feel like  I am working on a movie star’s mom’s mouth!”  We laughed.  He continued to talk to me about the upcoming Friday night game and how much in awe he was of Joey’s talents.  He vividly, and animatedly, recalled a recent play that led to a win.  He asked about his future plans and gave advice as to where he should attend college.  I just laid back in the chair,  my heart swelling with pride.  My son is a star, I thought, yup, a star!   I knew in that he would continue to be a shining star.

Now, as I gaze out at the night sky, I look for him…the brightest star I can find.

 

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Music Is The Prayer The Heart Sings

Arrangements were made throughout the week leading up to the service.  As I was sitting at the kitchen table, I started writing the piece that would go in the paper.  I then had the difficult task of picking a picture of his handsome face that would accompany it.   It wasn’t that there weren’t any, it was because there were so many  to pick from.  He was SUCH a handsome guy!!  How could I pick just one?  I asked my son and daughter if they wanted to speak at the service.  His best friend would speak and my son’s baby dog, a sweet loving pit bull name Leo, would be there as well.  I would have it no other way.   His girlfriend would pick his clothes and make sure that a piece of everything he loved and cherished would be with him…a smoke, his favorite cologne, a few dollars, his designer wallet and a love letter from her.  My husband and my brothers would have the daunting task of going to the the funeral home.  My job was not to fall apart.

The kids, my husband and my brother Mark,  began working on a video slideshow of my son’s life. Pictures were gathered, videos were downloaded, songs were chosen.  Memories of days gone by flooded our home and the sorrow of memories never to be, pierced through my heart like a jagged knife.  Everyday, they gathered in the upstairs office, huddled around the computer.  Every so often, the sound of laughter would trickle down the stairs.  I would close my eyes, smile and let the laughter engulf me as a if my life depended on it.   Sadly, the laughter was always short lived.  It would quickly subside and the sound of heartbreak,  grief and sorrow would overpower each of us, savagely bringing us to our knees.

I let each of them pick what they wanted to show on the video.  This, after all, would be the last thing they would do for their beloved brother, nephew, son, love of her life….a tribute to someone who was selfishly torn away from them without a chance to say goodbye.  I had nothing else to give them, no other comfort to offer them.  All I asked was that they included the song Blessing’s by Laura Story.  So often,I would turn to this song when I needed comfort, guidance or just a good cry.  The lyrics always seemed to offer me hope…light…peace..there had never been a time when I needed these things more than during those days.

…”what if your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise”…

I haven’t played it since that day.  I hope that maybe one day, I will find comfort in the words again.  For now, it reminds me of a time I never want to relive.  How foolish I feel that I ever thought that my tears were blessings.  What blessings are to come from the millions of tears I have shed from the loss of my firs born!?   Incredibly, there is an irony to it.  The last time I did hear it, could very easily be called a blessing by many.

We had around 25 songs playing in the foreground inside the chapel.  Family and close friends gathered outside, waiting for the private viewing.   I stood right outside the entry doors, trying to muster up  the courage to enter the parish.  I didn’t know what would be awaiting me on the other side. A few of my dear friends were surrounding me as I prepared myself to walk in.  “Would you like to go in?” I asked a dear friend and her husband.    I needed as much support as possible.  As someone opened the doors for me and I stepped in,  my heart stopped,  my mind raced, yet time stood still.  What was playing??? None other than Blessings!

“She’s going down!  Catch her!” That is the all I remember.

Thank you, God…thank you son

The Best Laid Plans

Rosie and I held hands as walked from the house to her car.  She opened the passenger door and helped me get. She hurried to her side of the car, slipped into the drivers seat and asked if I was ready.  I took a deep breath and nodded.  I reached for her hand and asked her the same question. She smiled weakly and said “No…I don’t think I ever would be.”  I saw her trying to be strong for me…as only a best friend could be, but I know she was frightened.  Not for what had happened or what was about to take place, but for what, in a blink of an eye, COULD happen to anyone…to her.

Our entire lives had been so parallel of each others.  We married young,  had our children around the same time, moved around California with our former spouses, and became stay at home mom’s.  When we were teenagers, we would stay up late in to the night, eating ham sandwiches while planning out our adult lives.   We would get married ( she wanted to marry Prince, I was going to be Mrs. Donny Osmond),  buy houses next to each other, have coffee and gossip about the neighbors.  We would go on family vacations, go to each others houses for BBQ’s , and watch our babies grow up as best friends!  But, as it  happens at times, life gets in the way, and we never became neighbors. But no matter where it took us, we never once lost touch of each other.  Rosie and I could go months without speaking to one another but the moment we connected, it was as if time stood still.  We watched each other share vows as we thought we had found what we thought would  be our “forever” love then sadly watched those marriages fall apart.  We encouraged each other to stay strong and held each other up when we could no longer carry the weight of the world. We  shared in the joyous wonder of falling in love again and giggled at the thought of starting over.   We cried  when life seemed to cave in around us and we squealed with excitement when we shared the news of  impending grand baby births!  We have been each others secret keepers, gossip partners but most importantly, each others life line.

As we sat in the car that morning, I am certain that memories of how eerily our lives mirrored each other, and the harrowing thought of “This could be me” crossed her mind.  Selfishly, I wondered why it was me….just as I’m sure  she thought…’Thank you God, this isn’t me.’ I don’t blame her or anyone else that had those thoughts..How could I?  I honestly would think the same thing.

I think about all those years ago, as we methodically planned our adult lives, and the lives of our future children.  How naive and innocent we were.  Never once did we incorporate any agonizing,  gut wrenching, tortuous life events that could touch our lives, into the design of what we assumed would be our perfect lives.

I want to turn back time…I want to be a teenager again, eating ham sandwiches and planning out my perfect life.

 

 

 

What Does One Wear to Their Child’s Funeral?

The house was eerily quiet that Saturday morning.  It was a drastic change from the days before.  Between visitors, food deliveries, flowers being delivered, there was never any silence to escape to.

Everyone had left to the church.  My husband and my other children had to be there early to make sure everything was set perfectly in place.  He left instructions with my best friend to make sure she kept a watchful eye on me.  There would be no one better, besides him, to make sure that I didn’t fall apart.  I heard them whispering in the hallway.  “Don’t leave her alone too long.” “Hold her hand while you walk.” “Call me immediately if anything happens.” “Make sure  she knows, she  won’t be alone.”

I sat on the edge of the bed until I heard the front door close.  Rosie came in to the room to check on me.  “You OK, Mamash?” (our nickname for each  other for close to 40 years) . “You need anything?”  “Do you want me to bring you something to eat?” “No” I told her.  “I’m ok.  I just need a minute.  I promise I won’t do anything stupid.  Just let me catch my breath.  If I need anything I’ll get you.”  She smiled at me, walked over and caressed my cheek.  A tear started rolling down my face.  I managed a smile back.  “I love you”, she said. “I know” I replied.

After a few minutes of solitude, my mind started to race.  I didn’t even know what I was going to wear.  I wish I could just stay in the tear stained t-shirt and sweats I had been wearing all week. Who would care anyway?!  Who would bother  judging a mother who was about to bury her child?!  People would probably look at me somberly.  They would whisper among themselves: “Poor thing.  She looks terrible… frail almost.” Looks like she hasn’t slept in days!”  “Who would blame her?” They would come up, hug me, whisper “I am sorry for your loss” as they try to tame my unruly hair and wipe toast crumbs off of my shirt.

As I stood in the middle of my closet, looking over my wardrobe, I recalled my daughter saying that everyone should  wear blue.  My son adamantly agreed. That was Joey’s favorite color…Dodger blue.  No black they said.  Joey would not want that.  Now, as I stood in my closet, that conversation went through my head over and over again.    I began pulling out the blue pieces that I owned, but they were TOO”blue”.  Too bright.  Too cheerful….something I would wear out to dinner and drinks with our rowdy friends.  A mom doesn’t wear blue to their son’s funeral!  Mom’s don’t wear bright colors or white t-shirts with a  picture that say R.I.P.! We wear black! Black is the color of mourning, not blue, not red, not a screen printed t-shirt! I wanted to wear black! I wanted a color that represent my dark, empty, ugly, broken soul!   I am mourning the loss of my first born!  Blue would not adequately describe the dark, ugly, pit hole that I was currently in!  I am living in the valley of darkness.

As I was scolding myself for not having appropriate blue clothing, I heard my daughter’s words come back flowing back to me again.  It’s as if the conversation was just taking place. I finally understood.  She didn’t want today to be a day of mourning.  She wanted it to be a bright beautiful day.  A day like her brother’s spirit.  One that represented his beautiful bright soul.  I stood there and looked around my closet once again.  I composed myself, took a deep breath and decided to compromise.  I  pulled out a black top that had pictures of beautiful red, yellow and blue colored flowers.  I slipped it over my head, tucked it neatly into my black skirt.  I slipped on my black heels and took a deep breath I stepped out and took a look at myself in the mirror.  I started to cry.

So this is what a mom’s wears  to her son’s funeral.

What is Grief

I am standing on a beautiful beach, watching the ocean water creep up to my toes. I feel the warmth of the sun on my face.  I stand in silence and hear the music of the waves surround me, serenading me like an old friend.  I slowly close my eyes and take in the peace and calm I am finally feeling.  I start to open my eyes and out of no where,  I see it coming at me with full force!  The ocean water has turned black and the waves are starting to grow to full fury.  I try to run but I can’t. A wave catches me and takes me under.  I can’t see, I can’t scream, I can’t breath! I go deeper and deeper. I fight with all my might.  I kick, I scream, I cry out!   I grasp at anything I can to hold on to.  I think ‘Oh God, this is it.  This is the one that I will not come out of.”  Then, just as I think I can’t​ go on,  I see a glimmer of light… a beautiful and calming light.  The waves are getting calmer and smaller.  I can finally touch the bottom.  My heart is no longer racing.   I can feel the sun beaming on my face once again.  The noise has silenced.  I can breath again….for now…until the next wave