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.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

October 18, 2015: Six Years and 7 Months Later - Patriots fan

I've been writing faithfully on this blog for the past 6+ years so why has it been three months since the last post?  I guess because it felt like I didn't have anything to say: the glass was empty, the still had run dry, there was nothing within to share.  This blog has been the recipient of enormous feelings that seem to have petered out. That is not to say there aren't moments of intense grief/sorrow that arise without provocation and re-open the still painful wound but they are now far and few between.

I never thought that peace and calm would ever come, not in a million years.  Perhaps it has been a result of an intense, inner spiritual journey that I find myself on and for some reason does not seem appropriate to share on this blog. This journey has led to an acceptance and reconciliation of Josh's actions and our profound loss. My regret now is that I had not found this path while he was alive - would it have helped me to be more in tune with him? More connected? More able to prevent this tragedy? I don't know.

A voice inside (and I believe it to be Josh) says you did the best you could and it is not your fault. I still have a hard time accepting this; I still believe that as a mother, I should've known and prevented his death. In typing these words, I realize there is still more inner work to be done, that I have not fully forgiven myself, that I still hold myself responsible.

Yesterday, I had nothing to write.

This morning, I woke up with memories of Josh as a Patriot's fan - see below. Maybe because it is the 18th which signals the passing of another month and tonight, the Patriots are playing.

Halloween 2002 - Josh is 10 and is being painted as a Patriot's fan by Lauren

Christmas 2003 - Josh (11 years) sporting his Patriot's cap

Christmas 2004 - the boys wearing their new Patriot's jersey's and caps.  I have Josh's Bruschi 54 jersey now. 

Christmas 2005 - Josh (13 years) holding up a Patriot's rug 

Christmas 2008 - our last with Josh (16 years) with his new Seymour jersey

RIP Josh.  Fall and football always reminds us of you. 


Saturday, July 18, 2015

July 18, 2015 - Six Years and Four Months Later

It is the month of summer family vacations - our 7th without Josh.

First, my side of the family gathered for July 4th weekend. Our last summer all together with Josh was in 2007.

Cousins eating together

Josh, being the youngest in our family, enjoyed being looked up to as an older cousin 

Josh and youngest cousin (who remembers playing a lot of video games together) and Benji 

And we just got back from a family summer tradition - a week with Tim's family at Cape Cod. He would've enjoyed this trip: chilling at the beach, playing with the dogs (between all the families, there were 5: Buddy, Benji, Huck, Cooper and Sydney!), nice meals at the club, playing Catan, taking dogs on beach hikes, partaking in a myriad of beers and cocktails - the favorite was the Dark and Stormy, made with ginger beer and dark rum. 

Josh's last trip to the Cape (summer 2008)

RIP Josh - missing you this summer….

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Six Years and 3 Months Later: Thoughts from "Heaven's Coast" by Mark Doty

Mark Doty's work as an award-winning poet and memoirist is impressive (see biography on

His first prose work, Heaven's Coast (1996) is a grief memoir, written after the death of his beloved partner, Wally Roberts.  Having been on my wish list for a long time, I finally ordered from Amazon at the beginning of the year and read it last month.

Heavily dog-eared and underlined, I related to many of his descriptions of death, grief, sorrow and the slow business of recovery.

Wally died in 1994 from AIDS. Mark was with him to the very end and vividly describes the body, post-death:
Without spirit, the body closes back into itself like an old piece of furniture, an armoire whose ancient wood is still fragrant, resinous, whose whorled grains and steady sleep refer back to the living tree. The cabinet is an elegy to the tree from which it arose, the body a brief unkeepable elegy to the quick and shining self.
Apt analogy of the indescribable - the non-living body of a beloved.

While waiting for the ambulance to arrive on that horrible day, Josh's body was more a shell of him. And seeing his body again several days later at the funeral home, I remember thinking is this really my son? It does not look like him.  The essence - that which made the body Josh, was gone.

The funeral director encouraged us to have an open casket saying that it would be better for his friends if they saw his body - a concrete, visual evidence of his passing would help with closure. So we did have a viewing period before the service began. I spent that time in the lobby, accepting condolences but in hindsight, I would rather have been at the casket to see friends and family say good-bye.

Another moving part of the book was the search for the right word to describe his feelings - I will quote the whole passage as paraphrasing would not do justice:

Grief is too sharp and immediate; maybe it's the high pitch of the vowel sound, or the monosyllabic impact of the word, as quick a jab as knife or cut.
Sadness is too ephemeral, somehow; it sounds like something that comes and goes, a response to an immediate cause which will pass in a little while as another cause arises to generate a different feeling.
Mourning isn't bad, but there's something a little archaic about it. I think of widows keening, striking themselves, clutching at handfuls of dust - dark-swathed years, a closeting of self away from the world, turned inward toward an interior dark.
Sorrow feels right, for now. Sorrow seems large and inhabitable, an interior season whose vaulted sky's a suitable match for the gray and white tumult arched over these headlands. A sorrow is not to be gotten over or moved through in quite the way that sadness is, yet sorrow is also not as frozen and monochromatic, to my mind, as mourning. Sadness exists inside my sorrow, but it's not as large as sorrow's realm; it comes and goes without really touching the overarching whole. This sorrow is capacious; there's room inside it for the everyday, for going about the workday stuff of life....Sorrow is the cathedral, the immense architecture; in it's interior there's room for almost everything: for desire, for flashes of happiness, for making plans for the future. And for watching all those evidences of ongoing life crumble in the flash of remembering, in the recurring wave of fresh grief.
In this quote, I love the poet in Doty trying to match word to feeling, and the reasons why grief, sadness and mourning are discarded in favor of sorrow.  This rings true and I find comfort in having a word that can encompass all the feelings one may have in a given hour, day, week, month or year(s).

So we are in our 7th summer without Josh. The girls have moved back home and once again, our home is full of energy. And in addition to our two Shih Tzu-poos, Buddy and Benji, we also have Gillian's dog, Huck (formerly Tyler and Em's) and Sydney, Lauren's dog.

We can re-name our home "The Anderson Hotel and Kennel" - which Josh would've loved.

RIP Josh
Love you and miss you....

Monday, May 18, 2015

May 18, 2015 - Six Years and Two Months Later: A Poem by Edward Hirsch

As noted in prior blog posts, poetry has become an unexpected source of comfort. And with a few clicks I recently searched, found and bought a book-length elegy by a grieving poet who lost his twenty-two year old son in August 2011.

I read Gabriel: A Poem by Edward Hirsch in one sitting.

I also found this New Yorker article in which Hirsch speaks about his loss and the genesis of the poem.

The front jacket says this:
Never has there been a book of poems quite like Gabriel, in which a short life, a bewildering death, and the unanswerable sorrow of a father come together in such a sustained elegy. This unabashed sequence speaks directly from Hirsch's heart to our own, without sentimentality....Hirsch's account is poignantly direct and open to the strange vicissitudes and tricks of grief....Hirsch mixes his tale of Gabriel with the stories of other poets through the centuries who have also lost children, and expresses his feelings through theirs. His landmark poem enters the broad stream of human grief and raises in us the strange hope, even consolation, that we find in the writer's act of witnessing and transformation. It will be read and reread.
I agree.

Hirsch chose to write this tribute of his son's life and simultaneous exploration of grief in three-line stanzas without any punctuation, not even a period at the end.  It is highly accessible, even to a poetry novice like me.

While the poem is not divided into sections, it reads as though it were. For example, I did not read the section that went into detail about Gabriel's autopsy report as I could not, and still have not read our son's report.  It stays folded in the envelope from the coroner's office in a large trunk which sits in our family room, holding Josh's keepsakes.

Below are the stanzas that speak to me and why.

I like how he describes certain memories of Gabriel....
When he learned to crawl he pulled himself
Forward on his arms a little at a time
As if he were climbing Arizona Beach on D-day
When he colored his hair blue
The sink was covered with blue dye
As if the sky was turned upside down in a bowl
Gabriel was not an easy child to raise which Hirsch acknowledged...
Chaotic wind of the gods
He was trouble
But he was our trouble
Some nights I could not tell
If he was the wrecking ball
Or the building it crashed into
Getting ready for the funeral....
Not knowing who I am
I was lying beside him
In the coffin I still couldn't breathe 
And so I woke up in the shadow
Of morning black light
And put on my mourning clothes 
His mother also slipped into black
Treachery of the parents
Who outlive their son
How I felt when viewing my own son...
The funeral director opened the coffin
And there he was alone
From the waist up 
I peered down into his face
And for a moment I was taken aback
Because it was not Gabriel 
It was just some poor kid
Whose face looked like a room
That had been vacated
I leaned over and kissed him
On the forehead
It was chilly and hard 
I kissed him on the lips
They were stone cold
It was like kissing a corpse 
I started keening and wailing
A sob came out of my body
A sound I had never heard before 
It was animalistic primal
The wailing the terrible keen
Kept bursting out of me
On grief and mourning....
Grief broke down in phrases
And extrapolated lines
From me without myself
I did not know the work of the mourning
Is like carrying a bag of cement
Up a mountain at night 
The mountaintop is not in sight
Because there is no mountaintop
Poor Sisyphus grief
Look closely and you will see
Almost everyone carrying bags
Of cement on their shoulders 
That's why it take courage
To get out of bed in the morning
And climb into the day
Lord Nothingness
When my son's suffering ended
My own began
He ends with a question that echoes in my heart...
It was Gabriel it was not Gabriel
Wild spirit beloved son
Where have you fled

RIP Josh and Gabriel

Saturday, April 18, 2015

April 18,2015: Six Years and One Month Later

We are now in our 7th year sans Josh. His absence is in the fabric of our lives, felt every day.

Today I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to get my hair cut. I told the receptionist to give me anyone who was available. When I walked in, a tall young girl met me. After chatting the usual, "how did I want my hair done?"etc., I sat down at her station and she asked about my T-shirt.

On the 18th of every month, it is my practice to wear a Josh shirt.  Today, I wore the black one that Gillian designed within a few months of his passing.

It turns out, she went to high school with Josh! And while she did not know him personally, she knew of him. After saying I was his mother, the compassion just poured out.

In my weekly letter to him, this is what I wrote:

She said you were a well-like boy and rattled off all the reasons why someone like you would NOT take his life: popular, good student, had everything going for him. And as I sit and write, it begs the question - the unanswerable question - of "why?"  
Why did you take THE route of no return? And as I look at your pictures, you were...are....a special soul, one that others do not forget. Why deprive the world of your light?  
I don't probably don't know..... 
Of all days, it was an unexpected blessing to meet someone who remembered Josh. I take it as another sign that he still lives.  

RIP beloved son

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

March 18, 2015 - Six Years Later

Our son Josh, died by his own hand 6 years ago. It was a Wednesday, just like today and just like any other day. It is 7am now and six years ago, I awoke, showered, was in my office preparing for a client meeting, saw Tim leave for his own meeting; naive and oblivious to what I would find three short hours later.

Anyone close to Josh can probably think back and remember exactly where they were, what they were doing and what they felt upon hearing the tragic news.

Death, grief, sorrow, pain, heartache, memories, living with loss, living in spite of loss are very difficult to navigate early on and even six years later. Emotions are unpredictable as I do not know how I will feel or react today. I know there is numbness as last night, I heard of another teenage suicide in our area which could've put me in a tailspin but instead, I felt nothing except sorrow for the grieving family.

I want to share another "blessing" from John O'Donohue's book, To Bless The Space Between Us which has been a recent source of comfort to me.

For The Family and Friends of a Suicide
by John O'Donohue

As you huddle around the torn silence, 
Each by this lonely deed exiled,
To a solitary confinement of soul,
May some small glow from what has been lost
Return like the kindness of candlelight.

As your eyes strain to sift
This sudden wall of dark
And no one can say why
In such a forsaken, secret way,
This death was sent for...
May one of the lovely hours
Of memory return
Like a field of ease
Among these graveled days.

May the Angel of Wisdom
Enter this ruin of absence
And guide your minds
To receive this bitter chalice
So that you do not damage yourselves
By attending only at the hungry alter
Of regret and anger and guilt.

May you be given some inkling
That there could be something else at work
And that what to you now seems
Dark, destructive, and forlorn,
Might be a destiny that looks different 
From inside the eternal script.

May vision be granted to you
To see this with the eyes of providence.
May your loss become a sanctuary
Where new presence will dwell
To refine and enrich
The rest of your life
With courage and compassion.

And may your lost loved one
Enter into the beauty of eternal tranquility,
In that place where there is no more sorrow
Or separation or mourning or tears.

RIP Josh
January 16, 1992 - March 18, 2009

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

5 Years and 11 Months Later - "For Grief" by John O'Donohue

I recently read Tara Brach's book, True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart and was intrigued by some quotes by John O'Donohue, an Irish teacher and poet.  I bought two of his books: To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings and Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom.

This "blessing" really resonates....  

For Grief 
by John O'Donohue

When you lose someone you love,
Your life becomes strange,
The ground beneath you gets fragile,
Your thoughts make your eyes unsure;
And some dead echo drags your voice down
Where words have no confidence.

Your heart has grown heavy with loss;
And though this loss has wounded others too,
No one knows what has been taken from you
When the silence of absence deepens.

Flickers of guilt kindle regret
For all that was left unsaid or undone.

There are days when you wake up happy;
Again inside the fullness of life,
Until the moment breaks
And you are thrown back
Onto the black tide of loss.

Days when you have your heart back,
You are able to function well
Until in the middle of work or encounter,
Suddenly with no warning,
You are ambushed by grief.

It becomes hard to trust yourself.
All you can depend on now is that 
Sorrow will remain faithful to itself.
More than you, it knows its way
And will find the right time
To pull and pull the rope of grief
Until that coiled hill of tears
Has reduced to its last drop.

Gradually, you will learn acquaintance
With the invisible form of your departed;
And when the work of grief is done,
The wound of loss will heal
And you will have learned
To wean your eyes
From that gap in the air
And be able to enter the hearth
In your soul where your loved one
Has awaited your return
All the time.

RIP Josh

Friday, January 16, 2015

Happy 23rd Birthday Josh!

Sad today as it would've been Josh's 23rd birthday. My parents went with me to the park to put some balloons on his stone.

Today hits home (yet again) why the loss of the child is so devastating for it is not only the physical absence a mother grieves but the loss of everything in the future. Birthdays are an especially painful reminder of what should be but isn't.

Josh should be in his early 20's, figuring out who he is and what he wants to do with his life.

He should've been with us at our Thanksgiving holiday in Asheville, NC - eating, chilling, playing Cataan and poker, watching sports with Tim and Tyler - everything a kid would do during a week with the family.

He should've been home with us over Christmas and New Years.

He should've come with us to NYC this week to see Gillian perform with her new band of which she is the lead vocalist and Uncle Steve (my brother) is the guitarist. He would've been amazed and proud.

He should be his little cousin Keilani's # 1 fan - and vice versa. There are times when she smiles that she reminds us of Josh.

Tears have flowed intermittently as I remember the day he was born and the joy he brought to our family. 

Happy to have a healthy baby boy - a little surprised too as the doc said he was supposed to be a she!

Poor Tim - so tired taking care of the other three at home and getting ready for our arrival....

Josh completed our family....

RIP Josh.
Happy Birthday.
Love you and miss you.

Monday, January 5, 2015

For A Parent On the Death of a Child - by John O'Donohue

For the Parent on the Death of a Child
 To Bless the Space Between Us

No one knows the wonder
Your child awoke in you,
Your heart a perfect cradle
To hold its presence.
Inside and outside became one
As new waves of love
kept surprising your soul.

Now you sit bereft
Inside a nightmare,
Your eyes numbed
By the sight of a grave
No parent should ever see.

You will wear this absence
Like a secret locket,
Always wondering why
Such a new soul
Was taken home so soon.

Let the silent tears flow
And when your eyes clear
Perhaps you will glimpse
How your eternal child
Has become the unseen angel
Who parents your heart
And persuades the moon
To send new gifts ashore.

RIP Josh