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.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Our Summer Vacation - Josh is With Us

We are on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, visiting Tim's family - a beautiful, relaxing spot. It was one of Josh's favorite places; in fact, the main picture on the blog was taken here. And while he is always in our hearts, just in case, he has a way of reminding us of his presence.

Tim's parents belong to a country club and on Sunday nights, there is a wonderful buffet dinner. Because we are a big group, we are split between two tables: the adults and "kids". Wouldn't you know, both this year and last year, there was an empty seat at the kids table? It surprised and saddened me last year, but now, I just smile inside, knowing that Josh should have a place with his siblings and cousins.

After dinner, the kids walked down to the beach where Gillian captured a magnificent sunset on her camera. And because it had just started to sprinkle, when they turned back towards the clubhouse, a huge rainbow filled the sky. It may be hard to see, but the last picture actually shows a double rainbow.

I had been asking Josh to show us that he is with us. I believe he has.

We all love and miss you, Josh.
God Bless

Sunday, July 18, 2010

16 months later - July 18, 2010

Yesterday was rough - unexpectedly. Tim and I met with a reporter from the Connection, a chain of local newspapers in our area. She is writing an article about the disciplinary process in Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) and has heard about Josh’s experience and subsequent death.

I was fine at the beginning. We talked about how Josh made a stupid mistake and because of the Zero Tolerance policy in the school system, was treated like he was a threat to the school which meant being sent to another high school for the first offense and most likely expelled completely for the second.

We do not condone what he did. But he was not a threat to the student body, of either school.

The FCPS hearing is a horrible experience, for both child and parents. Due process is non-existent; students are guilty as charged. No decision, upon appeal, has ever been overturned. Our question is this: "If the outcome has already been pre-determined, why go through the hearing process? The student is subject to a highly intimidating environment in which they are expected to answer a barrage of questions. It is a lesson in humiliation. To add insult to injury, there is no support, counseling, or assistance for the child and family, either before the hearing or after.

My words are strong, I know. But until your child gets caught in this net, you cannot even imagine the experience. Our three older children either did not violate school policies or were smart enough not to get caught, so we never had gone through this process. In fact, knowing what I know now, that Josh was not emotionally strong enough to handle the probable expulsion, I wish we decided to forgo the hearing, not even attend. What was the point? I should've protected our son from that type of sanctioned bullying.

We did not do this and the morning before the school board hearing, Josh took his life.

She asked if we received anything from the hearing office after the tragedy - a call, letter, or perfunctory condolence card and was surprised at the answer, "no". And to our knowledge, no study has been done either before Josh's death or afterwards to determine the effectiveness of this policy. This needs to be done. The tax paying parents of the County should demand it.

Then the reporter asked, "Would things have changed if Josh were treated differently?" Wow - that really hit me. My eyes filled with tears immediately. A minute later I replied softly as the answer is too difficult to face, much less hear aloud, "I don't like to think about it because it makes me angry and bitter. But yes, I think things would be different". Left unsaid: "Yes, he would still be alive."

With this next question, she was just trying to understand the timeline of events, not to send me in an emotional tail spin. "Would Josh have graduated this spring?" An innocent question with an easy answer but I had to get up and leave. My hand over my mouth to stop loud sobs escaping my lips, not wanting to make her feel bad. The grief washed over me anew.

It has now been 16 months since Josh's fatal decision. One might think that it has gotten easier with the passing of time. But grief does not travel in a linear fashion. In our experience, the connection between grief and time is better described like an archer's target, with concentric circles around a bulls-eye, representing Josh's death. Each circle around the center corresponds to a period of time, say a year. As time moves on, the distance to the circle increases but not by much. Meaning that any memory, word, song, thought, movie, photo or innocent question can bring back all of the emotions of that time. It is never far away. I know that five, ten or twenty years will bring some distance, but I don't think it will be that much.

I will end this post with two pictures that Gillian found recently. They were taken in 2008 as an assignment for her high school photography class. Any new pictures, especially ones taken when he is older, are priceless treasures.

Josh - we love and miss you.

God Bless

Monday, July 12, 2010

Pictures of Josh - 11 yrs old

It is a good thing that we don't use our dining room for it has been completely taken over by my photo scanning project that I started three months after Josh died (see previous post). I thought it would take a few months - ha! A year later and I am still at it. It is a bit discouraging as it appears as though I have only scratched the surface, but in actual fact, I have accomplished a lot. All of my pictures from the year Josh was born (1992) are digital. Although this was my original goal, it will not feel complete until I scan the rest of my negatives - back to 1983, when Tim and I got married.

I am taking it a little at a time. No rush. No deadlines. No pressure. For I can only do what I want or what feels right. Sometimes it is days or even weeks before I feel like doing something on this project. "Pre-Josh", this would have bothered me. I am a list person - write it down and check it off. A big project like this would've been reduced to manageable chunks, to be tackled every weekend until finished and then onto the next project. I am (or used to be) a goal-oriented person. The more goals, the better. They motivated and energized me. No longer. Strange how a significant personality trait can just dissipate - as if it were never there. That person seems foreign to me now.

So what am I doing with my time - outside of work? I've been reading a lot. I watch Red Sox games while working on my cross stitching project. There is a story about Josh in my head that I've started to put on paper. A little this and a little that. Nothing big, nothing much. But enough to get me through each day and night.

These picture are of Josh in 2003. He was eleven years old and you can see the beginnings of the infamous "smirk".

I love you Josh. I think about you every day and miss you more now than ever before. R.I.P


Saturday, July 3, 2010

Anger and Grief - July 3, 2010

Shortly after Josh died, I read that anger is one of the 5 or 7 stages of grief. Intellectually, this made sense, but it had not been my experience.....until now. Over 15 months later, I feel anger. It is a surprising emotion - after months of sadness, pain, grief and sorrow; followed recently by weeks of feeling numb and empty.

Each weekend, I visit Josh and write him a letter. Today was sunny and hot, but not humid. Flags were everywhere, swaying in the breeze. Other than the chimes in Josh's tree and the occasional bird chirping, it was quiet. I told him I was angry.

I am angry at him for what he did to himself, to me and our family. I am angry at myself for not even thinking that suicide was a possibility, and thus all I asked him was, "You're not thinking of hurting yourself, are you?" at which point, he looked at me like I had green hair and said "no" in a disgusted tone and left the room. Taking him at face value, I thought, "Okay, at least that is not an issue." How wrong I was.

I am angry at God for not intervening. Perhaps one lucid thought in the midst of the irrational mindset could have deterred him from following through on the fatal action. Or maybe Tim or I could have woken up and diverted his plans. I have heard numerous stories of thwarted suicide attempts and think, "Why not Josh?" Why couldn't he be saved too?"

I am angry at the unfairness of it. If suicide, from a purely statistical point of view occurs in x number of teens, or in x number of families, or to x number of parents, why him? Why us? Why me?

There are pictures of Josh all over our house, in every room. When I see these photos or think about him, I do not think of the happy memories. If I am completely honest, I think, "You stupid boy. Why did you do such a dumb thing? Why couldn't you have chosen a non-fatal route? You did something that is irreversible. There is no turning back. We cannot fix this. You are gone and there is nothing we can do to change this."

Then the finality of his death hits me once again. I feel guilty at being angry at Josh, who is after all, the one who is dead, and I weep out of self-pity - for him and for me.

Thanks to those who continue to remember Josh and who keep us in your thoughts and prayers as it is still so hard.

God Bless