It is hard to believe that seven weeks have gone by since Josh's passing. Some days are better than others and on the bad days, some hours are better than others. But not a day goes by where I don't shed a few or many tears for him.
What has helped Tim and I (and our family) get through each day is the love and support from so many. We are still receiving cards of sympathy, emails of encouragement, calls of support and even visits from old (time-wise, not age-wise) friends.
One of my best friends from high school left her husband and two kids in Chicago and came for a visit this past weekend. It was great to see her, catch up on life, talk, cry and just be together. We went to the cemetery and behold, Josh's stone that Tim and I had just seen and approved couple of days earlier - which was quite emotional - had already been placed in the ground. Once we saw this, we immediately went to the nearest Safeway where my friend bought the best lilies she could find for him.
Picking this stone for Josh was a family effort - our kids, my parents and close friends all helped as there were numerous decisions to be made: size of stone, lettering type, color, emblems, how the date should be written, etc. We saw designs that were fairly intricate - they can even take a photo of the deceased person and etch it into the stone! In the end, we all decided on something simple as this was the kind of kid that Josh was - nothing elaborate, nothing fancy.
I am happy with how it turned out.
I am getting good advice from my mom; she says that I need to keep some shears in the car with me so that I can trim the grass around the grave stone. I would not have thought about this - so many things that I never imagined myself doing - they are part of my life now. Regular visits to my seventeen year old son's grave, working to change the background of his junior year picture to match the high school graduation pictures of our three older children as all four portraits will hang on the same living room wall, trying to read books on suicide so I can attempt to make sense of what has happened, making contact with other mothers who have lost a child in this way to ask, "how did you deal with this?"
And along with these items that are now on my "to-do" list, I am back to doing what I did before because life goes on - despite feeling like a part of me has died and there is a large empty hole in my heart. One of Gillian's closest friends has been studying in Germany this past year and has invited her to travel around Europe for a few weeks in July. Details for this trip must be discussed and attended to. Lauren is graduating from the University of Virginia in less than two weeks and several family members are coming to celebrate with us. We are happily co-hosting a big graduation party in support of this accomplishment and the move to the "real world". Attention is required for this event. I am fully back to work which is a blessing - to be busy and occupied for 8+ hours is a good thing these days.
However, it is strange to be doing things that I did before, but do so as a completely different person - for Josh's passing has changed and impacted me like no other event could. I do not fully understand it, but I know it is true. I will have to ponder this and see if my mind can make sense of it. Or maybe it "just is" and no amount of analyzing will fully comprehend the impact of his death to my being.
There are other things that help us get through these difficult days. One of the most important things is this very blog. I've said this many times and will probably say it many more - it has been our lifesaver. It is amazing to us that as of today, there have been over 20,000 visits to the blog, 1,129 this past week and 142 today. We have not only been encouraged by the many comments, but also by the numerous emails and card/letters written to us in response to something that has been read.
A few weeks ago, we went to a gathering of Josh's freshman football team and coach. It was a very special Langley team as not only did they have an undefeated season, but handily outscored their opponents by 350 to 57!! (Please scroll down to "LHS Undefeated Season" to see more.) It was so special for Tim and I to be with this great group of guys, Coach Carter and several parents. A heartfelt "thank you" to the Pritchett family for hosting this evening. As Josh's mom, I was presented with a coach's shirt that was signed by all the boys - such a thoughtful momento.
We have also attended a gathering of parents and other adults interested in addressing the Zero Tolerance policy in Fairfax County Public Schools. A group has formed and is getting organized to bring this issue to much broader audience than just those families and students who have been directly impacted. We feel very strongly this is an issue that all FCPS parents need to understand as their own child could be adversely affected - despite all of the love, care, concern and teaching that goes on in the home. Kids will be kids. Stay tuned as a web site is being formed and if you are interested in being an advocate for the rights of your child, there will be ways to get involved.
We had the pleasure of renting a home in a wonderful neighborhood in this area over 10 years ago. There were many moms with young children at the time and it just so happened that a "Mom's Craft Morning" was started. Each week, we rotated who was hosting and while the kids played together, the moms spent time talking, eating, crafting, laughing, eating and talking. Since then, many of us have moved to other neighborhoods and have not really taken the time to get together. Until now. One of my dear friends hosted a dinner at her home and nine of us gathered - we did not do a craft, but we ate, talked, laughed and cried together. I have heard that many survivors of suicide can sometime feel isolated and alone due to a stigma that can be associated with this mode of death. We are so fortunate to not have experienced this in any way for to do so would be an added burden.
And most recently, we attended a fundraiser at the Buffalo Wings Factory in Reston on May 1st - please scroll down to that post for more information. As mentioned, $300 was raised! It was so successful that another night has been planned - Monday, May 18th which is the second anniversary month of "that" day. It will be good to be with others who knew and loved Josh, to tell stories and remember his funny and sometimes quirky ways. We are looking forward to it and hope many of you can come.
I feel I must apologize for the length of this post. It was intended to be fairly short and sweet, but when I sat down at the computer, the words just flowed. In and of itself, this is an interesting phenomenon as I have never considered myself a writer. I guess in this time period, for however long it lasts, it is one way that Josh has changed me.