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

On this Day....One year ago

Today November 9th, 2017 is the 365th day of not having you on the planet.  As I look back over the days leading up to this I'm amazed at how the Lord prepared me. Our community would spend days petitioning God for a miracle...to give you life but instead the miracle was that you would give life to others. That selfless act is so much a part of who you are and of the people that you associate with. I remember the hours and moments as they ticked away and we waited for them to come and take you to the operating room. They came to your room at 2:14am and I see so vividly all of us walking you to the door of the operating room and of us standing in a huddled clump, Dad, Alex and I.... with all of our friends watching us watching you. What I remember the most is the silence. Almost as if at that moment the world had forgotten it's voice. A silent cry. Not a sound was made. All I could hear were our tears. We asked Dr. Gaborko if he would go with you...as a prayer covering and a witness that you would be watched over. I can honestly say that knowing he was going in with you gave us peace.  Jeff's kindness to us was a selfless act and one we can never repay. The other thing I remember is looking back at all of the people who stayed till the end and seeing their faces. Such brokenness. So many tears. I shall not forget those moments...never ever. Letting you go was so, so hard. Even to write this brings great big tears.

Oh, how we miss you. The thing that is hardest is your voice. I can't hear it. Your ridiculous laughter is silent. Your words live on only to be read in a voice that is not yours. Most days we do what we have always done. We wake up, drink coffee, go to work, come home, eat, go to bed. Time has marched on and the seasons have changed and the world has not stopped. We have not stopped. I'm one year older, we still wonder about the holidays and what we will do, we still talk about life and truly most days I still feel your presence. Maybe it's the familiar things that make you seem close...my daily journeys to Peet's where I keep expecting you in the afternoon to come up behind me and say "Hey! Mom!"...maybe it's driving by Best Buy and thinking of all the time you spent there and the holidays you missed because of the craziness of the seasons...maybe it's the train at the Nut Tree that for years we spent EVERY WEEKEND during your train faze as a young child...maybe it's the sound of your friends at our house to commemorate a birthday or to just play a card game...or maybe it's what I see through my lens that brings me into close proximity to your presence...the more familiar the location the closer you are to me....I'm learning to look for the things that the Lord is showing me because that's where you are....with that said you're missed...every day by us. 

I know you would be proud of us for putting one foot in front of the other....for pressing forward. Looking back only to remember with fondness and a little bit of angst. Today we will celebrate you with the thing you loved most....A Poetry Slam! to honor you and to keep a bit of who you are alive in our hearts. To celebrate a life lived and loved well and one that gave the gift of life to others. 

 

Mother's Day for those who are bereaved.....

Today is International Bereaved Mother's Day https://goodmenproject.com/families/the-importance-of-international-bereaved-mothers-day-bbab/ 

As I think about Evan and the loss of him I can't help but think of all the other parents but especially Mom's who have lost a child. It is never easy..it continues to hurt...but we keep moving inch by inch..moment by moment. The immense love that we felt is only made harder but the immeasurable sadness we feel with our loss. 

Yesterday when I got home from work we had received a letter from the Donor Network. The folks who connect donor families to the people who have received their loved one's organs. In God's great mercy and because of His great love for us...this letter arrived this week. The great excitement that this recipient has experienced from receiving Evan's heart....that it has brought him back from the brink of death has made it is so very bittersweet for me. I'm so glad that he felt safe enough to contact us. That he has shared how his life has been immediately changed. How he is doing all that he can to live a health life and use the gift that he received to tell other to give the same gift. I can't help but be so overwhelmingly mournful of our great loss. 

With that said...We would not change the course that has taken place with Evan doing what was in his heart....and that was to be an organ donor. I'm proud of him and his very clear and direct decision to donate his organs. We continue to see God's hand in all of it and never once have thought this was not what Evan would have wanted. So as I close out this blog on this day that many are struggling to understand why and what can this all mean...let me encourage you. Hold your head up as well as you can...I know from experience it is not always easy...be present in the everyday...and if you can, think about giving the gift of life through being an organ donor. You could change the course of someones life. I know that it did for Lee.  https://www.donornetworkwest.org