Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sorry for the delay, computer problems!

I have thought about this post on and off forever, knowing I would have to address this someday but dreading the day I actually had to write it because it brings back so much sadness. ..But this month I have had experiences that brought the topic to my mind and I said to John; " If you don't give my something else to write about this is the month I am telling your story!"...well I had my answer when at school this week I saw a kid wearing a T- Shirt with the exact phrase I was going to use for my blog this month. Do Your Job is something I have never seen on a shirt worn by a teenager before so I did a double take, and figured I had my sign...

The death of your child is one of the few things that every parent can relate don't have to live it to you won't find it hard to believe that we were living in a fog the weekend he went missing... just concentrating on the next breath rather than the horror our life was becoming...but even in the fog I was aware that things were not quite right, I just couldn't muster the energy to do anything beyond asking questions.

The first inkling I had that people weren't doing their job was when they found John's body and they told us that the area was going to be treated like a crime scene, so we might not want to go there. I asked if the house where he was staying was also a crime scene and the police told me that it was not because the kids came from good families...I did think to myself, gee, I think we are a good family, but didn't say anything because I figured I couldn't prove we were nice so why would he believe me?

We also couldn't prove that John hated the ocean to anyone who didn't know him. It was only hearsay and I was afraid we would look like we were trying to make excuses for him. When the State Police tried to tell us that their "marine officer" thought John may have tripped as he walked along the waters edge, got water splashed in his face, seen the lights across the harbor and walked towards them, which made him go deeper into the ocean. Thank God my husband is stronger than I am, he did loose it with that one...I mean ...really....did they think we were complete idiots? John only had 4 beers that night (and believe me, they checked for everything), the water was about 50 degrees, and although he was a great swimmer, he had a fear of sharks and never got his head wet in the ocean during the daytime, so ....really? They wanted us to believe that a kid who graduated Magna Cum Laude from Newhouse School of Communication at Syracuse wouldn't just turn around and look where the shore was as the 50 water got higher and higher on his legs?

I trusted that people were doing their job even though my cousin, who was the funeral director, commented on John's two black eyes and the line across his forehead, and suggested that maybe we should do our own autopsy. My husband asked the state police if they felt they had enough information and trusted them when they said they did...but later tried to explain away those marks by saying that they were made from brushing against the ocean floor...again...really?

As I said, I have always resisted recounting this story in my blog because it is so very painful for us. I feel that I have let John down, I know that people who read about his death think he was probably just another drug using drummer, and that is so unfair to him...but only people who were lucky enough to know him realize (and were pushing us from the start) someone wasn't doing their job.

Now, I can't change my life, I can only go on and do the best I can, maybe my blog is my effort to correct the injustice done to John ....but the fact remains that there are people who don't do their jobs, and sometimes it is devastating to others...So that is my message this month...a new year will soon be upon us and may be a good time to assess yourself...are you doing a good job.??....are you even doing your job at all??? a parent.....a employee.....if not....maybe you have your New Years Resolution!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

November 2010 Full Beaver Moon

Happy Full Beaver Moon! Happy Thanksgiving!
This was the time to set the beaver traps before the swamps froze, to ensure a supply of warm winter furs. Another interpretation suggests that the name Full Beaver Moon comes from the fact that the beavers are now actively preparing for winter
As you know, John’s birthday is also in November and to honor him this month I have tried to do little acts of kindness whenever I can. The other day I was going into Dunkin Donuts and held the door for a man who was coming in right behind me and as he went in he turned to me, looked me right in the eye and thanked me…so I smiled and told him he was certainly welcome! As we stood in the line waiting for our order he turned to me and said, “no one ever does anything courteous anymore!”
That got me thinking about how John … I know he would like that I did that, he would be proud of me. (Funny that now the parent is worried if the child is proud of her? ) I thought that he would like it if I made a habit of it...and then I, he would really like it if everyone just took a minute to do those little things once in a while?
I wish I could count the number of people who have told me that he always spoke to them when he saw them around town. They always sounded surprised…isn’t’ it a shame that he was an abnormality in that regard? Shouldn’t we all be trying to make an effort to surprise someone with a simple act of kindness like that???? It is a sad commentary on the world today if those little acts died with John…
So, today, I am suggesting that you just be thankful that you have the ability to make someone smile…I know you will be surprised at the reception you get! And a great big “Thank you “ for reading my blog…

Friday, October 22, 2010

October 2010 Hunters Moon

Happy Hunters Moon.
As I listened to the news this morning I was reminded that tonight is the full moon and thought to myself, as I almost always do….what the heck am I going to write about? Following my usual routine, I then said to myself (and to John) … hope you can give me something to work with!
Well, not 5 minutes later it came to me…with the certainty that all my little stories do…and I am telling you this one because I believe (or should I say, I choose to believe) that someone needs to hear this today…so, whoever you are…here goes…
John had many friends who came from different backgrounds and interests…and oddly enough they contact us from time to time (which proves how kind people can be ) telling us that they still think of John or dream of him etc…it is comforting beyond belief!! Well, the other day I got a message from one of his friends who had just found out she was expecting a baby…which was a surprise to her, and I don’t think at the time she considered it a good surprise. Well, John came to her in the dream and told her he had something for her then handed her a beautiful baby boy. Well, come to find out she is, in fact, having a baby boy…which just adds a little drama to the story.
After I got over the WOW factor of her story I started to think of my own life, the trouble I had wrapping my head around the fact that I was going to have two kids 18 months apart. When I found out I was pregnant I thought to myself, well, at least let’s hope it is another girl, I already have the clothes and they could be the best friends, just as my sister and I were when we growing up. It was a blessing that I found out John was a boy, I needed the time to adjust before I had to face him….And he made me earn my money….all I am going to say about his infancy is that we called him “Cryin’ John Ryan” because that is just about all he did for 6 months. I think he would have gone on longer but the cut off for sleeping through the night was 6 months so once I got to that milestone, I put him in the bedroom as far away from us as I could and let him go. It was brutal…
No one who knew him as a teenager or adult would have ever known that part of him…he didn’t even know it himself until he was in high school and we happened to talk about it one day. I never would have brought it up…because the simple fact is. I didn’t have to….once I got him I realized that he was the best gift ever!! And…he actually got better as he got older!!! He was funny, smart, kind, and loving…and added to our family in ways we couldn’t ever count…. Truly….a blessing from heaven. Which is what is going to happen to this girl…she is going to be the best parent ever because she has so much to give!
So, my message this month is to let your life play out the way it was supposed to…sometimes when you think the worst thing has happened to you…it can turn out to be the best when you look back. (ok, I can never think that John’s death was good, but that is the exception and I am trying to keep an open mind on that subject…I certainly got to know his friends in ways I never would have…and they are a reflection of him…really, really, special. I also got the best son in law on the planet because if it…so there are a few good things!)
Have a good month..and “hunt” for the things in your life that are the happy surprises, for they are certainly there if you look.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

September 2010 Harvest Moon

The Super Harvest Moon will rise as the sun sets for the first time in 20 years! (thanks Lil)

It is funny that the moon this month would be called harvest moon because my blog is about just that…harvesting what you can, when you can.

I have recently watched more friends than I should endure the hardships of life…I actually sent one a poem written for parents of disabled children that talks about a woman who thought she was taking a trip to Italy like all her friends, a trip she had planned and prepared for…but when she landed the stewardess said “welcome to Holland!” The woman was very upset because this wasn’t the trip she had booked, and she did not want substitutions.

Well, the woman thought about it for a while…and it occurred to her that while she may not be taking a trip to the most glamorous country in the world this country did have some merits of its own….you just have to take the time to stop and look for them.

I have been thinking about that poem this week and realized that it could have been written for me too…for everyone really…. Because life doesn’t go as planned for anyone, we all have disappointments along the way. None of us get the life we anticipated …We are stuck with the life we get and all we can do is make the best of it. To make it work we need to look at our situation and try to see what is good about it instead of feeling sorry for ourselves…by doing this we won’t miss the gifts we have been given.

Don’t get me wrong..I miss John every single day of my life. I miss the way he made me laugh, …his one of a kind hugs,… his beautiful words, …and being able to be his mom…but in the past three years I have noticed that people can be kind and giving beyond all belief and I now know that the only truly important thing I can do in life is to be kind in return, to make a difference in at least one person’s life…and that is something I would never, ever have realized if I was still caught up in my little family. I loved my life, I hate that I am the visual reminder to everyone that life is short…but that is what I have been dealt, and no one wants to be with a cry baby…so I just have to move on…And that is what I want to pass on you today…harvest all the happiness you can and give in return…because truly…what you have planned may not be what has been planned for you..

Friday, August 27, 2010

August 2010

Full Sturgeon Moon – August The fishing tribes are given credit for the naming of this Moon, since sturgeon, a large fish of the Great Lakes and other major bodies of water, were most readily caught during this month. A few tribes knew it as the Full Red Moon because, as the Moon rises, it appears reddish through any sultry haze. It was also called the Green Corn Moon or Grain Moon.

I lost track of the moon cycle this month because we had so much rain in the days prior to it…sorry! And I had my story all set last week when I attended a fund-raiser that one of John’s friends had for him…where wonderful friends of ours served as bartenders … which was sooo much fun! The only, and I do mean only good thing about losing John is the realization that we are blessed beyond what we deserve in the friends department.
And my story this month came from that night…the head of the drama department came to this event and kindly told me that he has been teaching for 23 years and of all the students he had..John was really special; and he said he knew it even then. This surprised me because I know that the rest of the teaching staff at Hamilton Wenham Regional High School didn’t like him at all (see previous story about the National Honor Society) AND I had heard the story from John’s friend Matt (who was hosting the event) several days before when he informed me that John almost caused the play HMS Pinafore to be canceled because he was constantly dragging the “sailors” ( of which he was one) off to the music room to play music instead of practicing!!! Matt was the poor kid who had the he had to learn lines and songs and here was John…just goofing around and getting the rest of the gang to follow …throwing the serious actors into fits!!! They told me that they figured the solution was to just let John adlib every night…he was given some loose parameters and he was to just do his thing…and …as Matt reported…he stole the show!!! Well, I went to every one of the performances and he really did not steal the show but those sailors were very funny and it was clear that they were having fun…which is what you want to see in a play…but until just now I had no idea he was such a pain in the neck!
The funny thing is…Matt still had a fundraiser for him…all on his own! And his teacher still came to it!!! On a Thursday night!!! You really have to wonder how John did it…how he got everyone to love him in spite of all his antics!! I have decided that somehow John just knew what was important in life and didn’t worry about the little things…but you really have to admire the people who just knew he was worth the trouble…I am so happy he had those people in his life…kids deserve that…and those people have the gift of his story to tell now…and they were a part of it…and can take credit for making him the superstar he became. The one that record company executives and recording artists loved too…the one who could inspire someone to drive from Ohio to his funeral because “he was so kind to take the time to make me feel what it was to be part of his world.” I have many more stories but will save them for future blogs…my point this month is to take the time to try to see beyond the actions of people…you just may be surprised at what you find!! I wish you luck on this…cause if you find someone special – it is so worth the ride…and you will be laughing all the way !

Monday, July 26, 2010

July 2010

Today is a Full Thunder Moon, for the reason that thunderstorms are most frequent during this time, which is certainly what we have experienced this summer! For me, it has been a full thunder moon both literally and figuratively because, like a bolt of thunder, I have heard this month of the death of a friend’s young daughter and another’s husband. If only I could tell others of the feeling you have when you realize that the sadness will never really go away, or how silly you feel when you think back to realize that you woke up that morning thinking it was just another day… only to find out that the universe had other plans.

I choose now to believe in an afterlife in the hope that I will see John again…read all kinds of books on the subject; searching for a way to make sure that someday I will have my happy little family together again…I just bought a clothes line and drive a hybrid car; two things I would never do before John died -but I am not taking chances … need to have as many points in the “good” column as possible and just being a nice person is really difficult for me…so I try to find other ways to get there (not going to lie to you…being “good “to the earth is a much easier day to day commitment for me than being “good” to others !) I am certain that the rest of my family will make it to wherever John is…it is me I am nervous about…

And that’s the funny thing about buying into an afterlife, I just can’t believe that the John’s job was over…that he was finished with his life’s work. At his wake I heard so many kids tell me wonderful stories about the kind things he had done…it took my breath away..I only wished I thought to start asking stories at the beginning of the wake…I am certain I missed some …and those acts need to be told - to let others know that kindness DOES matter…

In my mind, John should be here…still being his nice self! And I should be over with the big part of my job…I should be sitting around, admiring the good job I did (ha ha), not writing blogs as a way to keep the “spirit” of his kindness going…HE should be doing it…

And that is the way I feel about the other people that have joined him … I can’t believe that their job was finished…when you hear about really truly good and kind people who die you say to the universe…REALLY??? You don’t think we need MORE of these types of people???? I don’t get it…and doubt I ever will….

So, today…try to think about this…what if this was your last moment…have you measured up??? Would news of your passing hit others like thunder???? If not, this is a good time to get going…

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Full Strawberry Moon – June

The relatively short season for harvesting strawberries comes each year during the month of June . . . so the full Moon that occurs during that month was christened for the strawberry!

It is 9:45 and I actually had to hop out of bed to write this blog…as I left the room my husband asked me …do you have anything to write which I shook my head “no”…but I wasn’t worried because I knew that the minute I sat at this computer something would come to me. I have great faith in John’s help..our family gives him so much credit that Lauren often says that no one in our will ever get credit for a good idea again!

Anyway…my first job every month is to search for the meaning of the full moon and … I had it….the strawberry moon…Perfect!

I am very “crafty”…I must have had many odd jobs in a past life because not only do I like working with my hands.. I find comfort in doing so…but it has always bothered me that my kids didn’t seem to have the interest in acquiring skills in this area. I have given every single niece and many of my children’s friends kits to learn how to knit…and the lessons to go with it…shown countless people how to make pickles etc…but it really never caught on with Lauren….my daughter….the one I would have thought would get into it…I think she realized that I was pinning my hopes on her and tried to let me know that she was not going to be the one to carry on the torch when she told me that her goal in life was to make enough money to hire someone to do these things…and I had to admit … that wasn’t a bad goal to have!

But as the kids got older I realized that I was looking in the wrong direction … it was John who was going to be my apprentice!! Of course it would be him…he found everything interesting and fun!!! He, who couldn’t ever master cursive writing well enough to use it effectively would learn to knit (we needed lots of verbal cues for that one but he did make Mary a boiled wool bag!) and cook…and once, the summer before he died…asked me to teach him how to make jelly and jam…We had so much fun that day…just the two of us…talking about the difference between making jam and jelly, when you can make each one as the fruit comes into season…how to pick and clean the berries and the importance of every ingredient in the “jelling” process…it made me feel like I was helping him become a better and more prepared adult…and I got to talk about other things in his life too..little incidental things that I can’t even remember now…I just remember the totality of the day and how much fun it was…and he was so happy with his product…I still have a few jars with the label “strawberry jam” in his little hen scratching … looking at makes me smile to think how lucky I was to have that day… how much I wish I could have more of them…but so very thankful I had the ones I did…and that is what I wish for you all…to take hold of the moments you get like that even though you are tired or busy or just feel like you need your own minute … cause you will have a lifetime of minutes to yourself once they leave you… and really….the minutes you have alone are not the gifts of life at all…so, this week….try to make time for a chat….maybe over tea and toast with strawberry jam…to tell the ones you love how lucky you are to know them…happy Strawberry Moon!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Full Flower Moon – not that you wouldn’t have guesses but it is called this because in most areas, flowers are abundant everywhere during this time.
I have been anxious to write my blog this month because I have been thinking about the topic for weeks!!! Everyone who knew John would agree that he was special in many ways…well beyond his musical ability. And I have tried to document his gifts as I write …but as the third anniversary of his death approaches I have had the opportunity to notice that probably his most special talent was picking friends…
It goes without saying that I miss him every day..but it is astounding how many other people still think of him. I have noticed that a friend of John’s may make a comment on Facebook about him and immediately others will respond… and it has made me think…wow… these kids still think of lucky was he to have found these people…
And that led me to wonder just what would make people feel that way about you…because it is incredible the number of them who find the time to help the foundation…when it would be so easy not to…but they either come, or donate, or help…they never forget…always there for special as he was.
So that is my message this month…to really think about that…what would people think about you when you are gone…would they be there…forever…as John’s friend s are? When I think about his life I remember my mother’s expressions: “Water seeks its own level “and “You are judged by the company you keep”. This has proven true year after year for John…he was so extraordinary and he attracted people who were just as try to seek out people like this to surround yourself with this month and see what good comes of it…
Good luck and hope to see you June 4th or 5th !!!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

April - Full Pink Moon

This name came from the herb moss pink, or wild ground phlox, which is one of the earliest widespread flowers of the spring.

I actually wrote this before I knew the name of this months moon!! It is spring and as the trees start to bud I think back to the conversations I would have with John at this time of year when he was at Syracuse. Naturally we would be discussing finals and his arrival home for the summer and every single year he would want to know if the trees had started to bud..he loved the bright green that colors the world now…when the leaves are young. I never noticed the color before he made me look. And I have never looked at trees the same since.
John brought so much joy to our lives…we were either laughing at the crazy things he did or listening to his beautiful lyrics and melodies, or learning from all the interests he had. He was a truly a gift to me and I often force myself to think of the gifts he is still giving to me. It makes life easier to hang onto…
I think of the many good and wonderful friends I have … so many directly from him…most of my adult friends are parents of his friends . I recount on a regular basis the kindness extended to us after he died…from a community that he just loved…I don’t think he would have moved from Hamilton no matter how famous he became…somehow he knew these people are special. He gave us the gift of the best son in law ever!!! Lauren actually went to school with Tom but it was through John that the connection was made that led to their meeting! And last week we had the honor of taking Lauren and Tom to Granville MA, the home of Noble and Cooley to pick up a drum set that was made from the specs that John had ordered when they agreed to sponsor him. I am going to tell this story so you will know just how wonderful people can be… we don’t hear enough about the acts of kindness done by others …just because…and I am lucky enough to experience it all the time…
When John’s band first became popular he was very busy…traveling around the country night after night, lugging the drum set we bought him for Christmas when he was in the 5th grade…one certainly not made to be played by a “professional”…and it was showing the wear. Once we wanted to meet him for dinner when they played in Boston and he was late because he was driving around looking for parts to keep it together…duct tape didn’t always work. I wanted to buy him a new set and he kept putting me off saying he would be sponsored soon and the manager of the band was working on it. Well, (and he would be mad that I am telling this part) I got to read one of the letters that the manager sent out which began with “hey…” and was horrified, and told him so…and he replied as he often did…”mom, don’t get will be fine” During this conversation he told me that he was hoping that Noble and Cooley would sponsor him. We got a kick out of it because not only was this company was from Massachusetts (oldest drum company in the US) BUT they made the very first drum set we bought him when he was 2!!! Well, I just had to look it up on the internet and discovered they had a phone number right there…so you just know I had to call to inquire about sponsorship…and didn’t I get one of the owners!! And she was a mom of a drummer too…the rest is history…I got to call him and let him know that he was sponsored …and he was funny..he said, I know I told you not to do it …but I’m glad you did!! We drove out to Granville several weeks later to take a tour of this magical place and John was like a little kid…a twenty three year old guy asking “are we there yet” over and over is funny…We met the most wonderful family who run this incredible company…they took us to see every aspect of the making of the drums and explained their history of making toy drums. We heard about their plans to make a museum in part of the building and took much too much of their time learning about the area and the history of this remarkable family…and when we went to dinner on the way home John told us it was the best day of his life…which turned out to be true because he died one month later…
Now I know that his drum set was already started but I never heard about it…they just dealt with the setback themselves and didn’t bother us…I always wondered about John’s set…and what became of it but it was too hard to do anything else…way too painful to ask (even to this day..I just don’t want to really know) But I did get to see what it looked like, and what it sounded like because Lauren and Tom gave each other the drum set for their wedding gift…it will be the centerpiece of the foundation that they have set up in his honor. Noble and Cooley sent the snare drum for John’s friend to play as Lauren walked down the aisle on her wedding day…his beautiful maple drum was there…made by a beautiful family for our beautiful day…and I just know that they probably didn’t make one penny on that set…which is just another example of how wonderful they are…and kind…and special…another gift that John has given me…
So my message this month is that if you look around you will probably see gifts you have been given too…although I will admit that sometimes you really have to look hard to find them… but they are there…to be cherished and treasured and appreciated … while you have the opportunity.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

March 30, 2010 Full Worm Moon

As the temperature begins to warm and the ground begins to thaw, earthworm casts appear, heralding the return of the robins. The more northern tribes knew this Moon as the Full Crow Moon, when the cawing of crows signaled the end of winter; or the Full Crust Moon, because the snow cover becomes crusted from thawing by day and freezing at night. The Full Sap Moon, marking the time of tapping maple trees, is another variation. To the settlers, it was also known as the Lenten Moon, and was considered to be the last full Moon of winter.

This month I have had the opportunity to witness how often people still think of John…his uncle had a benefit concert in his honor and people were just soo generous…it really took my breath away! In the course of the evening I spent time with lots of young moms and they told me that they liked my blog…especially when things got “tough” with their kids…so I decided I need to tell more stories about John…he was funny but he did drive me crazy…and I always thought that it was a reflection on me as a mom if he screwed up…which of course I now know couldn’t be more wrong…kids are suppose to screw up..that is their job….and our job is to help them work through the mistakes, to learn from them and move on…somehow Johnny turned out to be a sweetie in spite of how often I called me a “loser” (and I did it so many times that his friends from high school also called him that…should have been a clue to me to stop…but he just plain drove me nuts sometimes!!) And this is one of those times…

He waited until the last minute to get his college applications out…he told me that he had until the Wednesday of Christmas vacation to get them into the guidance department. I found out that he supposed to have them in BEFORE vacation and his guidance counselor was coming in on Wednesday especially to get his stuff ready…and that set me off right there….it went downhill from then on…

So, on Monday I told him I would help by typing the essential information into one application on my computer while he wrote the essay to another college on his computer…then we would swap. He agreed and while I was typing away, looking for social security numbers for every family member, etc. etc, I started hearing music…I honestly couldn’t believe my ears…no, he couldn’t be…yes,,, yes,,, he was! OH …. MY….GOD…( I can still get myself worked up just thinking of it) I ran upstairs to see if the essay was finished…trying to give him the benefit of the doubt…and nothing…I mean nothing …was on the screen…

I ran to the basement stairs and started flicking the lights on and off…that was the signal that I needed him..he couldn’t hear you if you yelled (although, as I think if it…he may have been able to hear me that day) Anyway, after a few vicious flicks of the lights he came sauntering around the corner to look up at me…very casual…not a worry in the world…and the first thing that came to my mind was “I am very glad that I bought you a hard case for your guitar because you will be playing it on street corners the rest of your life!!! Now, get up these stairs and get to work!”

I think I had a sore throat for three weeks I was yelling so loud…and he just walked by me as if I wasn’t even there…went back to work, finished the essays and brought them to the school….

Post Script…of course, he got into all the schools he applied to …who wouldn’t want the president of his class with good grades and so many awards…he knew that…he must have just had a song come into his head and he had to play it…and aren’t I glad now that he did…

The message was, and is, do not, I mean do not, sweat the small stuff…they do turn out ok…really they do …and if you are lucky enough to have one that can give you the funny memories that I have received along the way…Bonus!!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Full Snow Moon

Since the heaviest snow usually falls during this month, native tribes of the north and east most often called February's full Moon the Full Snow Moon. Some tribes also referred to this Moon as the Full Hunger Moon, since harsh weather conditions in their areas made hunting very difficult.

I am letting my daughter Lauren have a go at this blog of her good friends lost her brother this month and it brought everything back to her...I think that she has such good ideas to here is her email to all her friends ..(with minor changes to protect those who are grieving)

I think that maybe this would help people who are depressed, to know that this heartache goes on and on for those who are left...and I wish that whoever hurt John could read this and know that we will be sad forever...Maybe if enough people read this BEFORE the actions they take change others lives they may think...and make a different choice.

Hi guys…. I obviously have not stopped thinking about this tragedy today. I wish more than anything there were no new members of my particular club, you wouldn’t wish this pain on your worst enemy, let alone one of your closest friends; and I’m pretty pissed that it has, (God may actually not want to let me in someday because my “Beef List” with him is getting pretty long).

When my brother died I first thought… how does this happen; we were a good family, I didn’t need to lose him to know how lucky I was, I always knew it. But you lose them anyway,,, then I thought ,well, ok, at least I’ve taken the “tragedy” statistic off the table… & I thought for sure I had at secured my friend's, my friend's families, the rest of my family at least, a little peace from loosing anyone else until we were nice and old… but then someone close to you loses someone they love, and another, and you realize just because you know exactly where the “death and dying” books are in Borders doesn’t mean your friends never will…

With that said I’ve been sitting here thinking what the hell is the point, we get it, we know how short life is, we know to cherish one another, our families… to live in the moment & be sooo incredibly thankful for those people who surround us; to say I love you & to say it again & again & again… you really can’t say it enough!

As I sit here consumed of these thoughts it occurred to me that maybe we experience these events & suffer sadness not so that you take the statistic off the table but so that you are better able to help your friends put their lives back together… so I thought I could share some things I have found that made it suck a little bit less and may actually help.

When I spoke with (my friend) this morning something she said really struck home for me… “ I get it now, what you’ve been saying, I get it; I’m alone”. It made me want to throw up actually and I figure if I just kept this to myself there really was no sense in experiencing it at all….so I thought I’d just share a few things about losing your brother and only sibling & maybe it may help any friends you may know in the future… I LOVE YOU all very much, you’re all beautiful woman & I’m extremely lucky to know you!

Things that make you feel a little less Shitty; when things are pretty f-ing Shitty….
Cards & Letters: -
BAD-I beg you no “Memory Quotes” Seriously though, these are THE WORST for a “sibling loss”…there should be a disclaimer on the back of these hallmark babies! (Ex. “at least you have the memories”, “find comfort in the memories” etc). when you’ve lost your sibling & only sibling at that… it just reminds you that your “lifetime backup memory” is gone; you know the one who can help retell the story of the worst Christmas gift you got & who gave it to you, who can remind you of the name of that kid you hated in 2nd grade…where you used to hide your blanket, (you get the idea)… when you lose your sibling you’re now responsible for EVERY minor memory you thought wasn’t important to retain because you virtually had a “second memory”. NOT to mention the enormous pressure of knowing you’re going to be the only one now making the plans for your parents future “Would mom have liked this nursing home? She hates purple” - these kind of questions occur to you over time & it gets REALLY LONELY!
GOOD -“F - This SUCKS”… THIS should be a hallmark card! Put this in a blank card & call it a day! Frankly there are no words when you lose anyone, especially your sibling. This is the person who you’re supposed to know the longest! It’s pretty difficult to wrap your head around the fact that at some point you will have a husband, friends & even children who you will have known longer than your own brother or sister, it kind of still makes me sick to my stomach! WTF right? So my advice … “F- This sucks” in a card will pretty much cover it. I really liked hearing this, it was refreshing & honest & it really summed up how I felt! – to each his own I suppose, but really… has a lovey dovey sympathy card ever made you “Feel good”? Get serious!
GOOD - Sending Food / Other items: -For the Friends of the Family: Send anything… even paper goods… there are a lot of people coming in and out of the house you’d be surprised how you need things like toilet paper, paper towels & hello, TISSUES!! -no one’s eating, but fruit baskets as lame as they sound… AWESOME! It was the only thing I could keep down & the juice felt really good on my throat which was pretty sore from crying… Also, fruit hydrates which is really good when you literally run out of tears- I know right, who knew it really happens!
To Say & Not to Say at a Wake / Memorial Service of a Kid (doesn’t matter how old… keep in mind if their parents are still alive, this is someone’s baby): -
BAD: Anything that reiterates “You’re alone” - “It’s just you now, you’ve got to be strong for your parents”… it’s seems obvious; but you’d be surprised the amount of people who say this! -Equally Bad: “He’d want you to be happy” – ok… well good luck with that then because I’m miserable… & who are you to tell me what he wants? -
Also Bad: “I’m sorry for your loss “ , I know this is a standard and if you like it, stick with it… but being on the other end, you really not feeling to “grateful” for your current situation & really don’t want to be “thanking” anyone. Don’t get me wrong, of course you will, we all do… it’s habit, but if you’ve got other options, give ‘em a whirl…
Pretty Bad: “How are you?” “How are you holding up” … Holy Cow; this should be a no-no at any wake or memorial service or for anyone who’s lost someone… how do you possible answer this? What sad person wants to say “Ok” … shocker, they’re not… OR what if they’re honest and say “Shitty” (Good for them by the way! ) … but seriously, that’s just awkward. Go with something someone can actually answer & feel good about themselves answering… such as…- GOOD: “On a scale of Terrible, how are you?”; “Pretty”, “Well that sounds about right, we Love you so much” (Insert Big Hug here) Come on who doesn’t like an I love you & a big hug.
Really Good: Share a memory ( is in fact different than reminding the person of their memories ) or a story…Any memory or story, good or bad. It doesn’t even have to be your memory… It could be a story you remember hearing. It could be so simple like “ He had the best laugh”.-
Excellent: Tell the story / memory you have and write it down in a card or letter! The person you’re telling probably isn’t in a position to remember the story long term. They’ll love hearing it but will most definitely want to read it & reread it & reread it… and then read it again to their kids someday (I’ve got quite the collection of “Kiddos , meet your Uncle” stories)!
After & Way After: -
GOOD: I read A LOT of “death and dying” books (this we know) and while a lot of you may not have “believed” in life after death or mediums you listened, you asked questions & you never led on that you might think it was totally whacked (thanks!). The most helpful was that you let me do was talk & talk & talk & talk …and when I thought I had talked enough… you asked more questions (troopers you were! ). Now I realize that I’m stating something you guys already do but does it hurt to know, “YAY You?!” I didn’t think so…- way after: I think this applies to anyone who’s lost anyone, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to reiterate… after the initial shock, the services etc… everyone goes home & you’re supposed to get back to “your life” (whatever the hell that is) … it gets VERY VERY quiet…. A random email, or text message, a phone call…just to say I’m thinking about you goes A LONG WAY! Or a hey “I saw this today & it made me think of you “ I still get those & you’d be surprise you usually get them on the days you most need it… they days when the one your missing is REALLY on your mind… so if someone randomly crosses your mind… let them know, they might need a little pick me up! One of the best I ever got was MONTHS after my brother’s service and it said “ I’m having a really bad day today thinking about John, but it’s ok because if it means that I’ve taken one ounce of what you’re going through for a day it’s worth it. “-
Just be around: People say that when a loved one dies it creates a hole…true; but not entirely, it’s a series of little holes. You might not think that you can help, you might not think you have something to contribute, you’d be surprised what hole you can fill. It might have been days, months, even years since you last spoke to someone, but when you lose someone you love like a sibling and especially your only sibling… you are alone; alone with your thoughts, with your grief, with your memories. Suddenly trying to remember who your neighbor was when you were little or what that snack was that they served in kindergarten becomes SOO important & that person you would ask those quick questions to isn’t here anymore. That person who would send a quick text message back answering your silly questions without having to get into a “how have you been, it’s been so long”… & so, no matter how long it’s been since you’ve spoken, no matter what your last encounter was… you can be that quick text message, you can remember that punch line of a joke, just be around and available to be whatever you’re needed to be… Of course ( & come on I know) you’ll never be complete, or replace the love but when enough people start filling all the holes that are left in your life; that’s when it starts to get a little bit better… So, for Alison or others you know who may be suffering, just be around. Think about if you lost your brother or sister, what’s a really small thing in your routine you would miss? Are they a great hugger? You can do that! Do they sing happy birthday on a voicemail instead of just wishing it? Yup, another thing you can do… We all have these routines; I’m pretty sure whatever yours is it doesn’t have anything to do with being related…and I’m pretty sure you could do it for someone / anyone you loved & I’m positive there’s someone out there missing it now!
I hope that if anything I’ve just shared has somehow helped or will help a friend of yours someday or that the sadness I’ve incurred has made me a better friend, then I can say it’s been worth it. Thank you for letting me pay it forward.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Full Wolf Moon

I am so lucky to have people who are always looking out for me…and today I got a great piece of information from my husband’s nephew’s wife (thanks Beckie !) about the full moon tonight.

Tonight's full moon will be the biggest and brightest full moon of the year. It offers anyone with clear skies an opportunity to identify easy-to-see features on the moon. This being the first full moon of 2010, it is also known as the wolf moon, a moniker dating back to Native American culture and the notion that hungry wolves howled at the full moon on cold winter nights.

The idea of tonight’s moon being the brightest of the year made me think of John…he was such a bright light in the life of everyone who took the time to know him. I hear from his friends all the time that they think back to how funny was, or how talented, or what a good listener he was..etc…etc..etc..

I know I talk all the time about trying to be like John. To really listen to others, to take the time to “be in the moment” but today I want to take a minute to remind people to also share something of themselves with others…thereby helping others in a completely different way.

Everyone who knows me for even a day know I talk about John…I tell stories about how terrible his teachers in high school were to him and how he overcame it when he met some wonderful , “real” teachers at Syracuse. Ones who knew enough to look beyond the surface and see how smart he was, what a fabulous and persuasive writer he could be…and took the time to tell him so. And guess what..he graduated Magna Cum Laude from Newhouse School of Communication..quite a feat for a kid who couldn’t even get his high school teachers to induct him into the National Honor Society. (he was too unorganized) Even though he was the President of his class and constantly asked by those very teachers to help out with all their events… I use this example when I teach my graduate classes or the professional development I do in the hope that John’s story may help teachers become child centered. And I teach at Lesley University and work for Teachers 21…so I tell his story often…

But it is what happened last week during a workshop that has made me think all week…that I never knew I would be helping others when I tell that he died! I always tell teachers at my workshops my story, because I think it is important for them to know my credentials, and I always have to tell about was a major factor in the choice of the job I have now. Well, after the workshop was over a young girl came up to me as they often do…but this time it wasn’t to ask questions about the presentation, it was to tell me that her husband had just died and she thought she could talk to me…and talk we did…about how we feel, how hard it is…and all I could think of the whole way home was how much like Mary and Lauren she was…but at least my girls had each other..this poor thing was alone…I thought about how many nights they sat on our porch drinking wine, smoking cigarettes (they have quit, thank God) and talking about what a mess their life had become. Now, Lauren has Tom and Mary has a career but this poor kid is alone…no one to talk to while she surely is doing exactly what my girls did…and I worried how is she going to move on? She really, truly, needs some “peeps”.

The really strange piece of this story is that the last course I taught had a woman in it that I had met at the only meeting of Compassionate Friends I ever attended. She lost both her daughters and not only did I connect with her at the meeting…we spent every break during the course talking about our situation..sharing strategies and feelings that only someone who has gone through this loss would understand…it was so nice to be able to say something that wouldn’t be perceived as weird ! So I had someone…and again…that poor kid is alone…sometimes John really has to hit me over the head with an idea!!

Anyway, my message to know how sharing a piece of yourself will help others. Will give them the courage to come to you to talk…to feel they are not alone…it is such a powerful gift to give to people…and something you would not be able to know about unless you take the first step and be honest and open. Good luck and I hope that you get to experience all the wonderful, kind, and generous people I have in the process!everyone this month is: Don’t be afraid to share yourself with others…you just never

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Full Blue Moon

Happy Blue Moon! Happy New Year!! The blue moon is the second full moon of the month and my daughter and her new husband picked that day to be married because they found the love that only comes once in a blue moon so couldn't resist the date (also, of course, as a nod to John)

I am so sorry that this post is so late...I did think I could squeeze it in on the 31st but that just didn't happen. I now realize there was a reason for inspiration for the post didn't really come to me until about 9 PM...when I heard the song that my daughter and her new husband chose for their first song as husband and wife! I only cried twice that night..once when I heard John's beloved Mary sing the Ave Maria in church (not only was her voice beyond anything you have ever heard I knew that if he were here with us he would have been the one to play a song written especially for his sister, just as he did for his "adopted" sister Katie, when she was married in the same church. I was happy that Mary could stand in for him...

Then we got to the reception and Lauren and Tom began their first dance...I was expecting the song about loving you more than ice cream (Tom's family owns a driving range and an ice cream stand) but I was hearing one of my favorite songs that John wrote! And then I looked at the band and noticed that all of John's friends from Syracuse and Hamilton went behind the instruments and singing!! All of John's life Lauren and I got to listen to his first takes ... and every time he would ask us to listen she would ask this the one about me?? Well, little did we know that the song he wrote about another would also be for her!! The song's title was "love is a sweet surprise" and it is so beautiful...I have been searching for the lyrics today but can't find them...guess he doesn't want to share just yet. It is a lovely piece about a boy who "never was, and never will be a guy who gets girls with lines" and that is just what her Tom much like John...funny, smart, sensitive and genuine. They are so much in love...something she thought would never happen to her...a sweet surprise.

so, my thoughts for this new year are to never, ever, give up hope...and trust that there is someone always looking after you. It is a very difficult thing to do...believe me....but I know that it is true...John gave us a beautiful boy who loves our daughter, a wonderful family for her to belong to, and a unforgettable night with all our friends by our side to celebrate with...
I know that life has more difficulties ahead for me...but I am going to hold on to wonderful moments that are given and think of them as just what they keep you going when you are down and out...that is my wish for you...not just once in a blue moon...but every moon.
Happy New Year!