Please use this blog to help us remember Joshua Lee Anderson, who made the tragic and fatal decision to take his life on Wednesday, March 18, 2009. Please post any memories or thoughts you may have in the comments.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Mother's Love - December 31, 2009

It's been my tradition at the end of every year to "take stock" in my journal: highlights, accomplishments, work, family, review of goals, etc. I just can't bring myself to take pen to paper this year as what would I say? Everything pales in comparison to the loss of our beloved Josh. This is not only the event of the year, but of my life. Nothing will be the same for me since that fateful day on March 18, 2009......ever. Why is this?

What was just an intellectual truth to me, has now been lived and experienced. Grief is directly proportional to love. Love much - grieve much.

In the book, Silent Grief: Living in the Wake of Suicide, Christopher Lukas and Henry Selden write: "The guilt and depression among parental survivors does seem to be more intense and longer lasting than among others. Every single parent to whom we talked expressed this same feeling: their "job" had been to protect their child - and they had failed" (127).

One cannot measure the love a parent has for their child - no matter how old that child is. And while a father's love is intense, I still don't think it is the same as a mother's love. And it doesn't matter how many children a mother is blessed to have, as her heart just grows to accommodate the same, intense love for each one.

These thoughts were roaming in my head one night and the next morning, I had to write this poem down. I dedicate this to my fourth son, Joshua Lee Anderson, whom I love with all of my heart and soul and therefore am grieving with all of my heart and soul.

A Mother's Love
by Sue Anderson

A mother's love,
if expressed as hope,
is never ending.

A mother's love,
if expressed as energy,
is boundless.

A mother's love,
if expressed as space,
is immeasurable.

A mother's love,
if expressed as truth,
is irrefutable.

A mother's love,
if expressed as substance,
is indestructible.

A mother's love,
if expressed as understanding,
is unfathomable.

A mother's love,
if expressed as sacrifice,
is unquestionable.

A mother's love,
if expressed as devotion,
is unconditional.

A mother's love,
if expressed as time,
is eternal.

Rest in peace, my dear, beloved son.

God Bless.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas - Then and Now

"Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!!" In a world that seems so far away, yet was only twelve months ago, these words were said with much sincerity and gusto to everyone I knew. Nothing too "merry" or "happy" about it now. Apart from the fact that I love having the girls home, I want it to be over as soon as possible.

I never realized it before, but it takes a lot of energy to have a "merry" christmas or "happy" holiday. Decorating, shopping, wrapping along with the cooking, baking and cleaning. Just don't have what it takes this year and right now, not sure if I ever will have the energy of the past, or "pre-Josh".

Also, it is hard to sit down and think about what to write on this post. Much easier to be mindless and numb while going through the motions of daily activities. Thinking means crying. And anyone who has had a good cry recently knows this activity is an energy drainer.

We have received so many cards with special notes of sympathy. One came from Germany in which a dear friend shared that she reads the blog and has passed it along to others who have lost children to suicide. She says the blog helps them but is sorry that the loss our beloved Josh makes it so. I know what she means. I am glad it helps but wish to God as I know these other mothers do, that we did not have to suffer this tragedy. We wish that our children had survived those dark moments so they could be with us today.

Letters and pictures are often included with the cards. I enjoy looking at the photos as it is amazing to see how quickly children grow, to young adults and then with families of their own. In fact, some of the pictures of my friends are only with their grandchildren, which is very cute. The letters, however, that describe the family highlights of the year, stay in the envelopes for now. I will look at them later, as it is too hard to read about the "normal" lives of so many.

Grieving is a very personal thing. "Everyone grieves differently," all the books say. Having observed our own family on this point, I would agree. What I didn't realize is that it is also lonely. My heart always aches, but there are some moments when the sorrow rises up and needs release. These times may not coincide with what others are feeling so in an effort not to bring anyone else down, I weep alone, as inconspicuously as possible.

I still find myself asking "why?" over and over. "Why did he do this to himself? Why didn't he say something? How long had he been feeling like this? What did we miss?" Sometimes it seems like I have let these unanswerable questions go, and then they pop up again, as if never asked before. It is a mystery which cannot be solved, although it may be that some answers lie in his unused room.

As a huge favor to me, in the week while everyone was home right after his death, Josh's room was cleaned up. His clothes were divided into various piles: keep, give away and throw away. His desk and closet became neat and organized. I wonder if, within the untouched notebooks, are missing clues?

Some of the seemingly blank books were taken by Gillian to use. While at school, she found something and emailed the following to me:

I'm using one of Josh's old composition books for school and while I was mindlessly flipping through the pages, I spotted some ink. My heart sped up as I slowly sifted through the notebook, trying to find the page. I kept thinking, "please let it not be angry, please let it not be angry, please let it not be angry." I didn't want to see the hate and despair he might have felt about the world and himself. What I found was more comforting than anything I could have imagined:

Josh Anderson

Got up today like it was any other day,
Thing is, I didn't know that I'd have to pay
For the series of events that would change my ways,
But still I know everything'll be okay.

When I read it, I felt like he was telling us that "everything'll be okay." He said it again through me in my Mother's Day poem. I don't think it's a coincidence that both poems share the same ending. On the previous page, you can see his formation process of the poem:

My dad came back just the other day, (crossed out)
And he came back from work in the (crossed out)

How come things ... (crossed out)
My dad came home just the other day
Another long day of school ahead (crossed out)

Got up today like it was any other day

-respect your parents (crossed out)
-try hard in school (crossed out)
-everything'll be alright (circled)
-to get over it (crossed out)

Got up today like it was any other day
Thing is, couldn't have known what was destined to come (crossed out)
Thing is, I didn't know that I would have to pay
For the series of events that would change my ways
But still I know everything'll be okay.

Now I know that he had a much deeper understanding of what was going on and how he was trying to cope with it. That's what I found most heartening. He WAS trying to cope with it. And he wanted so much to be respectful to you and do well in school and so many other things, but in the end, he realized that everything would, eventually, be okay. Which gives me more hope than I've ever had before, even a shred of certainty, that wherever he is now- he is better. He is happy. He is telling us that everything is okay. That everything will be okay.

I hope you can find the same comfort in his words as I have. I love you and he loves you.
Reading this poem, while comforting, raised other questions. Unfortunately, there was no date so I don't know when he wrote it. After the first time he got in trouble in March, 08 or this recent time, which led to his fatal action? Are there other writings in his room, waiting to be discovered? One would think, with all the questions in my head, that I would have torn through every book, nook and cranny to uncover something that might help me understand. But for reasons that are unbeknownst to me, I have not done so. Am I afraid of what might be found? Or afraid of the disappointment if nothing is found? I guess for right now, it is better to flirt with the possibility than to know for sure.

I end this post with the photo we sent last year in our card as well as the only two pictures of Josh last Christmas.

"Merry Christmas, dear Josh. We love and miss you so much."

God Bless

Friday, December 18, 2009

"Remember Me" - Nine Months Later

Books can be found in the most interesting places. While shopping for groceries in California last October, I came across a book called The Angel's Game from an unknown author - at least to me: Carlos Ruiz Zafon. After finishing this book, I had to read his first book, The Shadow of the Wind. Not only are they well written, but the protagonist in both stories are book lovers and authors. And right now, my favorite hobby is reading and favorite place to spend an hour or two: the bookstore.

In The Shadow of the Wind, I was struck by a few sentences written in a letter to the main character - by one who knew their death was imminent.
So long as we are being remembered, we remain alive.
Remember me, even if it's only in a corner and secretly.
Don't let me go.
I have underlined this quote, written it in my journal and have thought about how true these words are. Even in the past week, I've heard stories of loss and what actions the living undertake to remember their loved one and in doing so, keep them alive.

Someone from my cycle class shared about losing a brother many years ago due to a heart attack. He was only four years older than her and they were very close. "His pictures are everywhere. In my bedroom, my office, my home. He is with me all of the time. I will never forget him."

Another situation touched me deeply. A mother whose son was one of Josh's good friends, recounted losing a child several years ago due to health issues. She said the pain does lessen over time, but never goes away. And her child will forever be in her heart. In fact, their Christmas decorations this year will reflect something special about this child and she was so kind to say that an ornament will be put on their tree in memory of Josh.

It is hard to explain, but it helps me tremendously to know that Josh is being remembered not only in our family, for that is expected, but with so many others. I like hearing people say his name. I may cry but that is okay. I want to hear stories about what others remember most about him. I would never tire of listening; even if it is the same one over and over.

One of Josh's friends emailed me recently and said he used to spend hours and hours playing video games with Josh. And it was hard to do so after his death because of the memories. However, he is playing them again and has found that this is his own way of spending time with Josh and remembering him.

Another friend is a starting player on the high school basketball team and is wearing Josh's number, 33, in memory of him.

And while Josh had many close friends, there is one who was like a brother to him, Bryce. Our first introduction to his family was when the boys were about 6-8 weeks old so when I say they have known each other all of their lives, it is not an exaggeration.

Josh was part of their family and Bryce was part of ours. Even though many miles separated them during the last few years, their friendship never suffered. I recently received a most beautiful gift from his mother - a photo album of our families. It arrived in the afternoon but I had to wait until the work day was over to open it for I knew what would happen. I don't think I've cried that hard since the first days after Josh's death. To see picture after picture of the two boys and know that there will be no more just breaks my heart. I feel for this young man who has lost a true best friend. This album is a precious gift, made with love and tears.

Bryce's sister is remembering Josh in a most special way. She is due to have a baby girl early next year and along with the father, has decided to name her HaiLee. The "Lee" is in honor of Josh for that is his middle name. As this child goes through life, she herself, will keep his memory alive. I am amazed. Josh would be too.

All of this is summed up in a card received this week by a work colleague.
Those whom we have loved never really leave us. They live on forever in our hearts and cast their radiant light onto our every shadow.
The holidays are difficult but what helps us through these hard days is knowing that our beloved Josh has not been forgotten. He still lives in all of our hearts.

I will end this post with a slide show of Josh as a happy, nine year old boy in 2001.

God Bless

Saturday, December 12, 2009

New Holiday Traditions

The holidays would be easier to bear if it were limited to one or two days - like Thanksgiving. The day would come and go, along with the heightened grief and sadness felt from Josh's passing.

But no, the "Christmas season" or "holiday season" is four weeks or longer. In the past, or "pre-Josh", I enjoyed the holidays. I looked forward to the family traditions and most of all, the time together.

These days, I take inventory in my head. Examining each tradition or action associated with this "festive" time to determine if I can or want to do it. Am I motivated? Do I have the energy? Will it be too sad or will it help?

In speaking about this with our girls at Thanksgiving, I said it wasn't clear to me what I would be able to do. They understood but hoped that we could, at the very least, still have a tree. I didn't make any promises, but over time, after seeing our neighbor's trees in the windows, I came to want one too. But I couldn't bear pulling out the same decorations as years past.

You see, this was one of our traditions. I always got an ornament for each child complete with their initials and the year. When it came time to decorate, the Christmas music played, a plate of cookies were out and the kids put their ornaments on the tree. It would be too sad to look at Josh's ornaments - each one a reminder of our loss.

So this year, we have an all white tree. White lights, ribbon, flowers, ornaments and snowflakes. In memory of Josh. It is absolutely beautiful - exactly what I pictured. Tim took special care in picking out the tree - it is perfect. I don't think the picture does it justice, but I have posted it below.

Another tradition at this time is to put candles in each of the upstairs windows. I like the simplicity of this and it reminds me of being in New England during Christmas. This year, I decided to put one candle up - in Josh's room. Again, in memory of him.

Then something new to consider. What to do about decorating his grave site? I wanted to put a wreath by his stone, but what kind? How big? Where do I get the wreath holder? Should I make it? Or buy it? Real or artificial? These questions occupied my mind for a few days. Having never thought of such things before, and wanting it to be perfect for our beloved Josh, made this seemingly simple task, a bit overwhelming.

In the end, I went to a craft store to look around. I found the wreath holder - a simple stand that can be pushed into the ground. And the perfect wreath - beautifully decorated with bright green ornaments (for Langley) and one bright blue ornament (for South Lakes). I could not have made a better one. So I took it out the day after the first snow fall of the season, set it up and had a good cry. No one was around. A little breeze made Josh's chimes ring softly. The snow, unmarked by footprints, was beautiful.

The holidays are hard and without the continued love, support and encouragement from family and friends, I don't think we could bear it. Not a day goes by, where we don't get something - either a call, an email, card or letter which lets us know that our Josh is loved and missed. This lifts our hearts, like nothing else can.

Thank you and God Bless

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Another Sign?

While in Florida for Thanksgiving, we took advantage of the beautiful beach scenery to take our annual Christmas photo - in our "Josh" T-shirts, of course.

After taking the picture, Lauren, Gillian and I decided to stay and watch the sunset since we were leaving in the morning. In my heart, I am always hoping to see a sign that Josh is okay. While we were waiting for the sun to go down, all three of us saw something most unusual. In the sky, were two short vertical lines that were brilliant orange-red and blue-purple. It was striking in its beauty. Gillian immediately took a picture.

Then we saw something more amazing. The same two vertical lines were on the other side of the sinking sun. Yet there was not a hint of rain or any type of precipitation that would warrant what resembled the beginning of a rainbow. Gillian snapped several pictures as none of us had seen anything like it before. Was this a sign? We all hoped it was - something to say that Josh is always with us - like a guardian angel.

Other pictures of the gorgeous sunset.

A photo of our whole family - honoring and remembering Josh. As we were walking to the beach, my nephew said it looked like we were on a field trip due to our matching shirts. I guess we were pretty conspicuous.

Josh - we miss you. Not only on this vacation, but each and every day. You are in our heart always. Rest in peace, my dear, sweet boy.

God Bless