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.
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…..
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.
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?