The Bench

Graduation season is upon us with all of the excitement and anticipation that graduation brings. For me, it brings an element of melancholy. I love things that are consistent, the same, and yet with the excitement of the future, I grab hold of the past. This week many will end their high school and college careers and begin their futures — the taste of the bitter along with the sweet. Ten years ago this week Evan and his friends walked across the stage at Vacaville Christian Schools setting their sights on the future and what it holds.

A few weeks ago I came across Evan's senior photos. It was always my intention that my kids be able to express themselves within reason, and senior photos were no different. Even now, as a photographer, I so want people that I photograph to be there authentic self. Evan chose a friend, Looking Glass Photographs, to do his senior photo, and I love that she captured him so well.

While looking through the photo, I wanted to find the place where his photos were taken. As I looked through the pictures and as I drove around Vacaville looking for the place that had "The Bench" I realized that I'd lived in Vacaville 30 year and never really saw a bench like the one in the photos. The place that I was looking for had hills, trees, grassy areas, and a baseball diamond, the universal look of nearly every park in the US. But it had some unique things that I knew if I tried hard enough, I could find them.

Last week on my way home from Sacramento I drove through Davis which would have been a place that Evan would have wanted to do photos. He loved Davis, and so much of our time was spent there as a family. I stopped near the park that seemed the most likely, Slide Hill Park. After getting out and looking around, it became clear to me that was not the location. I continued to drive home and passed Community Park and thought maybe but I was hungry and cold, and I need to look again at the photos.

So today after work I picked up my camera and some items that mean something to me; art pieces, photographs, Evan's ashes, and his original draft of "Ley LInes" his first published poem and set out to find "The Bench." After doing some research, I realized that Community Park was probably my best choice, and as I carried my bags towards the skate park in the distance, I saw it...The Bench. Many things about the park have changed, but the overall layout has remained the same. The tree that was in the background of the photo of Evan on the bench has grown, and as I sat and looked around, I felt this genuine connection to this space that once was occupied by my son. It was surreal. I could see him hang on the fence, laying back in the grass, and thinking deeply about life. I set up my makeshift memorial, and I too pondered many things while sitting there.

So much of my grief journey has been about looking back to go forward. It seems to those watching that something is broken if the past is what you cling too. Well, I am broken, but in my brokenness, I see life through a different lens. Not a better lens just different. Ten years ago, Evan graduated from high school. If he had lived, he would have graduated from college Spring of 2017 and who knows what other things he would have accomplished. I say that because he does not have a future here on Earth. Evan’s future is now walking around in the lives of 5 other people who 931 days ago got the heart, lungs, and kidneys of our boy. Our other son, Alex, is raising awareness about organ donations through hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. I say this with all confidence that we (John and I) couldn't be prouder of our sons. Proud of their sacrifice and proud of their decisions.

https://www.gofundme.com/PCT-NDLM

Spring means...New things are coming.

There seems to me that I have so much content in my head but can’t find words to share the impact that grief and loss have had on me during spring this year. The ending of cool weather and the start of warmer weather brings with it an array of different and complicated emotions.

Our son Alex set off on his journey on the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) just as Spring was launching and has been on the trail for over a month so far. Most of our correspondence is via text message with our ability to track him via global navigation. We also have been able to FaceTime with him and that was one of the best gifts my husband received for his birthday. (LOVE TECHNOLOGY) Spring brings with it celebrations of birthdays, Easter, and this year one of the best super blooms in California history. There have been engagements and birth announcements. I’ve been busy with photography and just a feeling of excitement. Yet with those feelings comes the overwhelming sense of what is not…

I recently was reading the results of taking the Enneagram test and although the language is different then other personality tests (I’m a 7) much of the content is the same. I love people, fun, and things that aren’t rote or routine. I love to laugh, meet people, I can be passionate and if not tempered that passion can become a tangent. I’m learning to quiet the busyness in my head to tap into the creative part of me. All this to say not much about me has changed. The only difference is most of those traits are now filtered through grief and loss. I’m feeling like so much of my life has been about others and now that I’m older and possibly wiser I desire to have a purpose. To look at the world through a different lens and to serve my community in ways that make the world a better place.

So part of what spring has done for me is it has helped to shape some of my next steps…these actions look more like a pebble than a stepping stone and they’re the things that are moving me forward. There is still a pause in me…it comes with the territory. My family~John, Alex and Evan have always been the people who’ve propelled me…to hold me…to challenge my thinking when I get to deep into my head. Now I just have to step into what I’m supposed to do. I’m a little scared. I’m actually really petrified, but I’m at a place where as of today I’ve experienced my most significant loss. Loss changes us…well it has changed me. So as I look for those things that inspire me towards purpose I bring along with me the brokenness that is my heart. I look for a way to find comfort in the mission that God is calling me to.

Post Script~Many of you may know that our son Alex is raising money for Donate for Life West as part of his journey on the PCT. In addition to that April is National Donate Life Month and he wants to raise awareness about organ donations. I’ve added the link to the GoFundMe account below. Please donate if you can.

https://www.gofundme.com/PCT-NDLM?sharetype=teams&member=1914332&pc=ot_co_dashboard_a&rcid=009a7141efd04e32b1b79026faa2e765&fbclid=IwAR2b_ZljQYTMg4zIIl8PNeKJZZHOxu-IMH3GAbPP8JoBqQLcKc_FoQwai8s

For now that is enough...

I’ve been away from my blog since before Christmas. Most days are filled with job responsibilities and regular household chores there is something in me that seems different not all together me. I keep thinking that things will get back to how they always were. That life as I’ve known it good or bad will return, and all will feel normal. Then I realize my life isn’t normal. It will never look like it did. My life will never have Evan in the spaces he usually occupied. EVER. I go back to those spaces hoping to find him…to sense his presence. It’s hard to describe to people how your mind works after your child has gone. I look at photos and think to myself it feels like he is here. But there is such an emptiness. There is such emptiness in the spaces he once inhabited. There is an emptiness in the world since he left. My words feel hollow…without real form or bones to help them take shape. I was driving this morning, and I had this feeling of everything continues, but yet my heart wants to go backward. I want to recapture what once was and bring it into the future to live with me here. I want Evan to come home. I’m learning to navigate the parts of me that are healing and the parts that are gaping wounds. I’m trying to find and listen to my voice and yet I want to be a voice for my son too so that he is not forgotten. Saturday mark many anniversaries-it’s my Dad’s 2nd birthday in Heaven. It also is 822 days since Evan was taken off life support to give life to 5 others. As I've walked out my journey, I also realize many parents/siblings that are walking out the same feelings, anniversaries, the same emptiness, the same longing that our family has. I say this for understanding. That I can bring you along with me as a conscientious/thoughtful/ observer.

To be mindful that we miss our person(s). That we want to hear their name. That you can't stop our pain. (IT WILL BE FOREVER) That we're not stuck. We are living each moment of each day with a wound that is healing but will always be there for us. Even if you can't see it. That you can show us love by sharing stories about our person. We're doing our best, and sometimes that may not be enough. For now, my soul is healing along with the soul of our family, and that is enough.