A Bereaved Mother's blog
It’s been close to a year since I’ve written a post. I haven’t felt the deep need to write down my feelings, partly because I think I was numb from the Prosac (which I am off of), and partly because I reached a place where I was in the “What can you do?”, you have to keep moving forward. You move forward because you don’t have a choice, and once you realize this…this acceptance of the hand you’ve been dealt…you try to make the best of it, because that’s what he would have wanted.
Richard made the best of every uncomfortable, unfortunate, unexpected situation. Whether it was stuck in traffic, or a broken arm. He always looked on the bright side. I can’t do anything but honor his attitude toward life, so I must look at the bright side. I got to know and love him for 19 years. He changed who I am. He made me a better person. This is my bright side, I loved him, and those not fortunate enough to know Richard must hear about him in the future. This is my mission. If they can look at me and think “How can she do it?”, I can tell everyone “If you knew him, I’m just mirroring who he was, he made the best of everything”. Now that I’ve accepted this new outlook, I’ve changed my goals going forward.
So, if based on the actuarial tables (and family history), I probably have 20 years or less left with my partner and husband. We’ve been married for 25 years, some years took forever, but the last 10 have gone by quickly and I know the next 20 will go by faster. What are we going to do with the time we have remaining?
Everything we’ve always wanted to do, we aren’t waiting for retirement to travel, golf, party with our friends…we are doing that right now.
Jobs? Well, we are fortunate that I can work (from home) and support us, and still work from anywhere in the world. And if you think your life will end earlier than expected, what exactly are you saving all the money for??
Once we (yes my husband shares my views) came to this conclusion, its almost like opportunities presented themselves. We’ve been traveling almost full time since our youngest left for college, with no end it site in the next 6 months. We have our eyes open for opportunities to experience life, through friends, family and work.
When Richard first died, I was convinced I had to finish his mission in life, which was to change the world. He was a big personality and he fully expected to make an indelible change on our society. I considered mission work, full-time fund raising, local volunteering – at the time I was too exhausted to figure out what I would do in his name. Then I realized, I’m setting the example for everyone who knew him – I’m shaping my life the way he would have wanted me too, making the absolute best of the situation. I don’t mean surviving, he never just “made it through” a bad situation – he took misfortune as a personal challenge to change perceptions to something positive – In a BIG way.
I still miss him every minute, and I have tears running down my face as I write this – but “What can you do?” take a deep breath and keep going, because if I ,his mother can’t keep going, how can I expect his father, brothers, family and friends to.
I miss you Richard.
It’s been a long time since I’ve written, I just didn’t have anything profound enough to say. However, since Friday, where 27 sets of parents lost their children I’ve had many phone calls. I haven’t talked to anyone, because how can I discuss the grief these parents are feeling? The unthinkable, unbelievable…there are no words to explain why this happens. I’m devastated, but not outwardly grieving. I’m devastated for these people because they will have to live through what I am living through, the loss of the most precious people in their lives, their children. But I look at this differently now, because I know God has a plan. I know Richard left this earth early for a reason, that I”m not privy to yet, but some day I will be. And I know with complete certainty that there is a reason that God has taken these children. Is it to get our attention? That he surely has. Is it gun control? I think its bigger than that. I don’t know what, but we need to move to another place in consciousness…where we can come together regardless of politics, religion and ridiculousness. These are our children! How can we live in a world where there are vulnerable to this type of tragedy? How can I live in a world where my bright, beautiful, son fell off a balcony during a spitting contest. Where 20 children are murdered by someone who is mentally ill? Life does not make sense, and I’ve got a lot of questions when I finally get to the afterlife. Why? What are we supposed to learn from tragedies like this?
Tonight I felt the need to write, because I need to get off my chest that after 16 months I still don’t know why Richard died, and I won’t for a long time to come…..and I have to live with that because I have to survive for my other sons, Richard’s twin Michael and his younger brother Robert.
I think about him every day, every couple of minutes, every breadth.
It feels like he is part of me now, more than his brothers. I can’t explain that I feel like he is with me all the time. I hear him say “Oh my goodness” about the new puppies. I imagine him watching over me when I travel, helping me to not forget anything, carrying my stuff, like he would if he were with me. I hear his voice in my head saying things he used to say. I laugh to myself sometimes when I’m in a situation I know he would think is funny.
I think of Michael and Robert, but they seem separate somehow, their own people. Not integrated into my soul like Richard.
Richard is with me. Is it because his soul is watching over me all the time? Is he closer to my soul because he is in heaven, and we are one again? I would really like to understand these questions, so it can give me some solace while I live the rest of my life.
I had a vision of the moment of my death, I’m very old laying flat, and he is holding my head looking over me with a big smile on his face, the same age he was this past summer. And I feel his love and I’m so happy to be with him again. And he is happy to be able to finally explain why he died at 19, and why I had to live a life without him.
I want someone to explain why our lives have turned out this way, why people who have so much promise die young. Why people who create havoc in the world live long unproductive lives. I just want someone to make sense out of this for me.
I never imagined there is a level of exhaustion that is beyond anything I’ve ever experienced.
Exhaustion in my bones
Exhaustion I can’t catch up on
Exhaustion 8 hours of sleep doesn’t even put a dent in
Exhaustion that gives new meaning to the word exhaustion for me.
When my kids where young I used to say I could have an” all nighter” (sick kids up all night) if I had 30 days of rest. If I had 30 days of good sleep I could miss a full night and not miss a beat, but I was in my 30’s.
I never imagined I could be knocked to my knees to the point of complete exhaustion. Complete and utter physical exhaustion.
I realize that the last 6 months of my life have been exhausting, but when do I start to feel “not tired”.
I’ve tried coffee, and I can get my brain moving, but not my body. I can’t get motivated to start exercising again, I just want to stay in bed as long as possible.
I realize it will take a long time to adjust to my life without Richard, and the stress of this tragedy and transition to my new life is taking its toll on me. I just never imagined anyone could get to this point, and still function.
I look at people now and think about what they are suffering, and are they living through something that is putting them in place of exhaustion? I was blissfully unaware of the pain in the world, and the toll it takes on you physically. Unfortunately I now am experiencing this, I would give anything to go back in time prior to August 30,2011, to remember what it feels like to be happy, healthy and well-slept again. I miss my son.
Have you ever woke up and wondered “Is this really my life? It must be a bad dream that I can’t wake up from”.
Really?? WTF? My life used to be so boring. I had an average, very blessed life. Married 23 years, three sons, good jobs, nice house.
Now, I live in a parallel universe where I look at everyone and think; “How much is this person suffering?” “Have they lived through what I’ve lived through?” “Do they understand the depth of pain that exists in the world?” “Will there ever be joy again?” “What is the meaning of life?”
Just when I think I can’t take it anymore, something else happens, and I momentarily collapse, cry, sob and then pick myself up and go into auto-pilot. I have to take it, who else is going to? I don’t have a choice but to deal with everything that life throws at me. I can’t crawl in a hole and forget this is happening….life goes on and I don’t have a choice but to go on and keep living the best I can – day by day.
I look at the world and realize I’m only here for a short time. Someday I’ll see my son, my dad, my father-in-law again…. someday…..but I want to feel, hear and touch them now. I have to believe they are here with me now, but I’m so entrenched in this world that I can’t feel theirs. As much as I want to, I just can’t feel them the way I did when they were here with me.
I wish I had appreciated more every minute I spent with Richard – I loved every minute, but it was like air, you take it for granted. You think the air you breath will be there until your dying breath, and in an instant its not anymore and you can’t believe you have to learn to live without breathing….you have to live with a big void in your chest, in your heart, in your family, in your very DNA that has been forever altered without your son…and sometimes I wake up and think “this must be a bad dream”.
When I realize this is my new life, I keep going forward trying to figure out how I can live in my new world….
We made it through our first big milestone, the holidays without Richard. I can say we survived, but that’s about it. We didn’t decorate, put up a tree, see family, go to parties – we just ignored that the rest of the world was celebrating birth and life.
The hardest days were Christmas Eve, when we opened some presents with our sons and the last day of the year, the year in which my son died. Life keeps moving forward, but I’m stuck reliving 8/30/11, the day he died.
There were some good things that happened. Richard’s friends were (and are) home from school, so they stopped over or helped us work on the scholarship (www.rjhollandscholarship.org). It made everyone feel better to be together and talk about him. It helped me to realize his friends are also grieving, like we are. Everyone loved him, not just his family.
But as the new year begins, its time to get back to work full-time and learning how to live with this tragedy. Learning how to keep searching, and not finding the answer to “Why?”. “Why Richard, why someone who was so full of life, so loving, kind and passionate?”. This tragedy doesn’t make sense it me, so I must keep searching for an answer.
I will spend the remainder of my life searching for this answer, knowing I won’t really know until I’ve joined him on the other side in heaven, but to give up searching is to believe that life is complete chaos, our time here on earth doesn’t have meaning. I cannot accept this, so I keep searching.
Today I thought of a fun day I had with Richard, and his younger brother Robert. I miss Richard every day, today I was able to smile remembering this time we spent together. He always made the time together fun, no matter what or where it was.
Last January 7th 2011, Robert was invited to the Texas A&M High School Indoor Track meet. This if for Texas High School students who are part of a private track team, its considered the “winter” season. Robert is a pole vaulter, and he was making his debut as a sophomore at Texas A&M.
Richard was home from UT for winter break, he was and is Robert’s #1 Fan. He always called himself Robert’s agent, cheering him on in everthing from sports, art and school.
Richard drove from our home to College Station, TX in my car, while I sat in the back on my air card and worked on the way down. We left mid morning and arrived in College Station before lunch. None of us had ever been to Aggieland. As we drove onto campus Richard said his skin began to crawl, “I’m behind enemy lines, don’t tell anyone I’m from UT”. He literally was shivering looking at the size of the campus, he felt he was behind the enemy lines.
We went to Subway for lunch, we passed a couple of guys who look like they just rolled out of bed or went to an all night party. Richard made some comment like,”Aggie’s don’t know how hang”. He viewed everything there as second rate, second class and below anything from Austin. In one semester he had been entrenched in the UT culture, which included a deep rivalry with Texas A&M.
We arrived at the Indoor Track arena, which is incredible. I have never seen a facility so impressive in my life, of course Texas A&M has the NCAA #1 Men’s and Women’s track teams, so I can see why they would need this type of indoor facility. It is a full indoor track arena!
We met Robert’s coach in the parking lot, and helped him bring the poles into the warm-up arena. The warm- up arena was a full indoor arena!
We left Robert and walked back to the front of the arena to get our tickets. There were long lines for tickets – a VERY long line. Keep in mind this is a Friday afternoon, during a school day, and its a High School meet. So, we got in line, and we waited and waited and waited, for probably 45 minutes.
You need to know, in my professional life, I’m an organizational change manager. I fix process, get involved in “improvement” projects all the time. So whenever our family gets stuck in a long line, I’m always looking at the issues with the process and why the line is long.
Richard, knowing this long line is driving me crazy, starts with comments like ” Some process is wrong here Mom”, or “This is an Aggie line, get used to it”, ” These are Aggie parents selling tickets, they move slower than UT parents”. All of these Aggie comments are under his breadth of course, because he is afraid to caught behind enemy lines. When we got to the front of line there was a sweet older women who gave us a big spiel on everywhere we could sit, we could choose our seats (like going to a theater), and what was the best for the event we were watching. It took so long because she was making sure everyone was happy with their seats!
Of course Richard made friends with the family behind us, who did not have a college student, yet, but by the time we bought tickets their son was going to UT.
We drove home three hours home that evening, I sat in the back again. I remember how dark it was and looking up at the stars, I never imagined I would now be looking up and wondering what Richard is doing right now.
We stopped in West, Texas for dinner (Pizza). It was a great day.
I loved that day, I miss you honey, more than you can imagine…..
Most days now I am just “filling the hours” with distractions, work, chores, whatever, to keep myself busy until I am finally called to the other side. Life seem meaningless to me now, so I’m just waiting for the day when I can go home. I just don’t see purpose in anything. How could I have been blind to the suffering in the world. People lose children, every day all over the world. I was blissfully ignorant, and blindly complacent that it could ever happen to my family. So now, with so much pain in the my world, I just try to fill the time. Watch TV, read books, distract myself from the pain of losing Richard.
I realize I have to keep going forward for my family, to have another tragic death in our home would be – I don’t know what word to use here – cruel, unbearable, unimagineable. I have to stick around for my living sons, and share their lives with them. Even though I can’t imagine being happy or even content ever again. Everything will be overshadowed with the fact that Richard died, and he is no longer with us. That my sweet boy is gone and I won’t see him on this earth every again.
Everday I say to myself, “How could this have happened? Not Richard. Something like this would never have happened to Richard.” It incomprehensible to me. And if logically this has happened, even to someone has kind, pure, honest and talented as Richard – What does that mean for the rest of us?
I have always taken good care of myself, wanting to live toattend my youngest son’s 5oth Birthday party, which will be 1/23/45. We all joked how 82 year old Mom would be dancing with her grandkids, and celebrating Robert’s 50th. It was my goal, to live to 82, and I didn’t think that was unreasonable. My grandmother lived to be 86, and she was lifetime smoker. My mother is 75 with no end in sight. But now, to think of having to endure this pain for another 34 years in unbearable.
But yet, I want to see my son turn 50.
How am I going to distract myself for the next 34 years, a lifetime until I can meet with Richard again?
As much as I miss him, and everyday grieve his loss, I ask myself – If I knew that I would only have 20 years would I have done it again? Would I have willingly parented this wonderful man if I knew I would have the survive the pain of losing him? I can only answer yes.
Thinking back to all the years of joy he brought me, from his first days and months as an infant. To his endless energy as a toddler, his pre-school years of riding bikes, climbing trees, and loving life. He loved that he could run fast, and ride his bike fast, and wrestle with his friends. He took so much joy in being physical – running, jumping, sports, wrestling, punching his brothers. And he had so much energy, he was always “up”, ready to go. Sometimes it was exhausting living with him, but I miss the noise, the excitement, the passion for life he had.
He could make a game out of anything. Racing to the next telephone poll, finding money in pay phones, creating games with just a ball or frisbee in an airport. If there was a time he was bored he would drag his brothers into a game he created, and change the rules as they went.
I loved every minute of being his mother, which is why it is excruciating to realize I have to live the rest of my life here without him.
I know he is in heaven, the afterlife, the other side, in the light…but now I have to figure out how to go on without him. To find joy in my family, my friends, my life.
I know we’ll be together again someday, which could be 40 years, but how do I go on without him here?
I’m grateful for the time I got to spend with him, I just want more time! I don’t want it to end this way.
If you ask me if I’d do it again, knowing I’d lose him. I’d said yes, because I got to spend the best 20 years of my life with him. Now I have to figure out how to life the remaining 40 without him.
It’s been almost 90 days since Richard’s death. His death has changed my entire paradigm of life here on Earth. Why am I working hard, making good decisions (in my view), saving money, being a good parent and role model, helping people – essentially leading a morale life, if something as castrophic and tragic is going to occur to my family?
What exactly is the point?
My life hasn’t been an easy,bump free kinda of life. My parents divorced when I was 13, I now realized I probably grieved for 10 years following this event, at the time I was just an angry teenager. The attitude I had during that time in my life led me into situations I’m not very proud of, including a sexaul assualt. My Dad died when I was 39, which sent me on a journey to question my choices in life, my marriage, my career choices, etc. Finally after 48 years, I can say my life was perfect. I have three beautiful boys, my 23 year marriage was finally in a place of bliss, I had reached a point in my career where I was satisifed and passionate about my work. I was completely content and looking forward to retirement, weddings, grandchildren.
What took 48 years to perfect, took only seconds to shatter. In an instance my life has changed forever. The rest of my life will be framed around this event. My pure, honest, passionate son lost his balance in a spitting contest of the 5th floor balcony at his apartment at University of Texas, he would have been 20 years old on September 5, 1991. He died 6 days before his birthday.
Now my husband and I are left with -Why have we worked so hard at life (marriage, family, work) to have it end it up like this?
I can’t even describe the pain we are in. The word pain doesn’t even begin to express the magnitude of what we are feeling. Imagine the worst thing that has ever happened to you and mutiply it by 100. The death of a parent, which most of us experience by the time we are 48 doesn’t even touch this pain. The loss of a friend, a spouse, divorce doesn’t even begin to touch this pain we are feeling. It is catastrophic.
Our very belief in everything is questioned. Everything!
I believe Richard’s soul, his essense, his energy exist somewhere. Whether you call it Heaven, afterlife, the other side, the light – I know he is there. I have felt him- I feel his love, I know he is watching over me. I have seen him in dreams, out of the corner of his eye, heard his voice in my head. “Mom!”.
Knowing, and truly believing he is on the other side, leads me to ask so many questions.
If he has been taken so young, was this the plan all along? And who would create such a plan that involves so much pain? Are we here to learn some lesson, and the only way to do it is live through something that makes you question the life you have built? Is this the only way to get our attention? Pain? This doesn’t make sense to me, it just can’t be.
If he is there, and I am here, what am I doing here and why can’t I go there without inflicting so much pain. Why does so much love involve so much pain?
What exactly am I supposed to do now?
I realize I have all the responsibilities I did before this happened. I have two living wonderful sons. Truly amazing men, who want me to be a part of their life, who I need to help with this grief, who know Richard as well as I do. I have a husband who loves me and who still expects us to fulfill our life promise to each other. Richard was my husband’s best friend, his golf partner, shared his love of sports and the Cleveland Indians. Ed was looking forward to a life with Richard, sharing all the things they loved together. Don’t I need to be here for my husband?
I have read, and people tell me some day it will become clear why this has happened. Maybe some day I’ll be able to say “If Richard hadn’t died, this would not have happened”. I hope when I realize what “it” is, its something beyond comprehension of amazing, because that is how my son was. I can’t imagine anything could be as great as his life would have been. He was an amazing kid who would have been successful at anything he chose. He wanted to do something that would help people, and so we much continue his goal.
We have started a scholarship and foundation in Richard’s name, we will award this every year for the rest our lives so he is memorialized. I hope this scholarship will help individuals, and help remember Richard. I know there is something else I’m supposed to do, but I don’t know what. You have my attention now.
Please explain to me “What is the meaning of my life here on Earth?”.
Friend and Teammates,
I will be returning to work tomorrow, working from home part-time a couple hours each day. I’d ask for you to give me space and privacy during this difficult time.
I feel your thoughts and prayers, and know you offer me your condolences.
If you ask If I’m ok, or how I am – I’m heartbroken, I will grieve for my son every day for the rest of my life and no words can change this.
When you see me, don’t hug me, this will only bring me to tears. As parents you can only imagine the agony I am in and I know you want take on some of my burden, but this unfortunately is mine alone to bear. Please just say “Hey” and look me in the eye, your presence alone makes me feel better and communicates the kindness you feel for me.
If you ask if there is anything you can do for me or my family, please donate to the scholarship fund we have created in Richard’s name. The scholarship will be given to a college bound debate student who exemplifies Richard’s spirit and academic excellence.
I’d love to sit and share with you stories of Richard, he was the kind of kid every mother wishes for in a son. Pure, honest, never a problem, he always said to me “Don’t worry Mom” – but it’s too painful for me now, maybe in a year from now I’ll be able to tell you how wonderful he was. Today I only grieve his death. If you watch his recorded memorial service on the scholarship website you’ll be able to hear his brothers, friends and even Richard himself, to know who he was.
As a team we have a lot of work to accomplish, and Richard would have wanted me to keep going. He wrote a paper about EMC and cloud computing, he was proud that I work somewhere that was changing the way the world thinks about compute and data, I need to continue to be a part of that future.
Tonight will be two weeks since he’s fallen, I miss him so much. The sound of his voice, the feel of his skin. I want him to come home and say “Don’t worry Mom”, which is what he always said to me. I never worried about him, he was so responsible about everything. I’ve never lost sleep over Richard.
How could this happen? We are the most responsible people in the world, and yet even after all of our discipline our wonderful, careful boy does something stupid.
I’m so MAD at him, ANGRY…how could he be so careless with his life?
Does he realized what he has done? He would have been successful at anything he chose. He would have been a great husband and father who would given us beautiful grandchildren.
I am just so ANGRY, because I’ve been cheated out of my life’s hopes and dreams. I will never meet my red-headed granddaughter or grandson. I won’t go to his college graduation, his wedding, my grandchildren’s baptism. Why would his put his life at risk like this? WHY? I will ask this question over and over for the rest of my life.
This list will grow over time, because I have new “what ifs” all the time
He went to another school
He lived in the dorm
There was no balcony
Ali had gone there that night
If I never drank and was a different role model, the non-drinking kind
He wasn’t so competitive
I called him that night
I had taught him a little fear, so he didn’t think he was invincible
Richard called me in Washington D.C. to talk about school and my upcoming visit on Labor Day weekend. I was on my way to the airport in IAD, so I said I would call him later. I talked to him about 10 PM on my drive home, it last the entire drive and until I was in the house. He loved his classes. His accounting teacher was the person who had $50M donated to UT to start the business school; Richard wanted to do well in his class so he could get a recommendation. He said Chemistry would be hard, since he hadn’t had any since 10th grade. The class was large but he had lots of friends with him. Communications would be easy; I had Samantha Subar tell me at the viewing she had seen Richard give an “elevator” speech on class Monday 8/29. Why he was qualified or the CEO of EXXON. He had dropped fencing, not because of the subject, but because he didn’t want to pay $300 for equipment and spend 3 hours a week for 1 credit. I can’t remember what he said about mechanical engineering but I knew he thought his semester would be harder. I don’t remember what he said about math either, but I think he was registered for linear algebra. We talked about the things we would do together when I arrived on Sunday 9/4. He was going to stay with me at the Hilton, we were going to buy a suit at Men’s Warehouse, go to a consignment store he heard about and to BBB to buy new sheets. As well as go to dinner somewhere. I told him I wouldn’t drive down until after church because I knew he’d want to sleep in. It was going to be a birthday celebration, since his 20th Birthday was 9/5/11.
This was a 30 minute conversation, I could hear in his voice that he was happy to talk to me, but I can’t remember exactly what we said for 30 minutes.
I know I said “I love you, and he always said “I love you too”. But I can’t remember at this minute what the sound of his voice saying this to me.
Its very important for me to write down as many things as I can remember about the last summer with him, because I know over time I’ll forget or my memory will change the specifics. I will write them here in this blog, where they won’t get lost in a hand written journal or lost on a crashed hard drive. Here on the internet words live forever.
I realized with Richard’s death my very core has been shaken. Let me explain what I mean by this, I had a fulfilled life, a good job, a healthy family, a solid faith. At the base of my very existence is my family, they are part of my conscious and subconscious. Not one thought goes by without the knowledge of the love I feel for my family. It’s what allows me to successful in life, knowing I have the love of my family has given me the confidence to do great things, travel many places and overcome many challenges. My work may come and go, friends I’ve known over the years may drift apart, but I always have the love of my husband and children. They are the very fabric of my being. When one of my family is suddenly taken from my physical presence my very being is rocked to the core, to the very essence of who I am. I have described this as my DNA changing, being ripped from me and put back with a new genetic code. How can I look at the world the same when the foundation is cracked? When the very essence has changed? I’ve lost trust in God, in fate, in life.
Something this catastrophic is forcing a change in me I neither sought nor want. God Damn it! I want Richard back; I want my old perfect life back. I don’t want to learn to live in this new world, but I have no choice because I have two living sons and a husband that I must live for. I have to find a way to understand my own grief and heal, while I help everyone else heal. Isn’t that what Mother’s do? Take care of their families?
It’s been more than two months since Richard has passed, taken from us tragically. I am now realizing my thoughts and feelings need to be written down. Not because I need to get them on paper, but because there are many people praying for me, wanting to reach out and help. I’m not capable of putting my jumbled thoughts into a conversation, because a conversation is two way, and I’m not ready for the words that come from the other side of the conversation. I thought it would help if I could write them down, for people to read, so they know I feel their love, I just can’t interact right now.
I also have a new realization of how precious life is, and how it can be taken from you in an instance when you least expect it. If I am taken suddenly, or even if live another 50 years I want my children and grandchildren to understand who I am, and what I have experienced.
Richard has left us several journals from his childhood that I will treasure forever. They have brought me closer to him because I get to read his inner most thoughts, which I was unaware of at the time they were written. I wish while he was living I would have found those journals, and been able to talk about them with him.
Finally, I need to write because I know it will help me heal. I don’t have a choice but to move forward, I know that, what my new life looks like, I still don’t know, I just need to write what I am feeling now so I can start to figure out- What am I suppose to do with my life?