What Sam Would Want

If I hear ” your son would want you to be happy” one more time, I think I’m going to scream.

Like, that is going to make me suddenly happy? That’s going to turn my despair around, and make me smile again?

There is just…. no words to answer that.

Tonight, my nerves are raw. My emotions are on edge. The dog is pissing me off. The air is irritating me. The sound of Randy’s voice is grating on my last nerve and I’m feeling completely unsettled and angry that I have to keep waking up day after day. I wish someone else could just live my life out for me for what is left of it, and that I could sit it out. I’d happily lease my body out to someone who wants to live in it and be “happy”. Because, I’m not. I’m sad and I’m broken. Resilience and strength can f— off because where they have always been my go to in life, they are useless to me now.

I’m guess I’m in the thick of it. The darkness comes, and it is relentless. This is what Sam felt that last night I suppose. Except, I have to stay. I have to do it the old fashioned way by letting time take its due course : my family doesn’t deserve to suffer any more than they already are. But I’ll be damned if I am going to be happy because ” that is what Sam would want” . Nobody knows what Sam would want because he isn’t here to tell us.

The Darkness

I’m feeling the darkness tonight. Its strange how it hits without any warning. I was OK earlier: tired, but ok. But now I’m not.

It’s a desperate feeling: A most disconcerting feeling. I don’t want to be. I simply don’t want to continue to feel this pain. And that means, essentially, that I want to close my eyes and start my journey to the other side.

It’s funny how the dark side of the mind can almost convince you, in a matter of hours, that it wouldn’t be that big of a deal to just call it. To just, let go. To just…..go.

But I know it would be a big deal to my children. I know it would be a big deal to Randy. And my dogs Abe and Pete. And my cat Dalilah.

I hate this.

Comparing Apples to Oranges

I belong to a support group for grieving the loss of a child. In fact, I actually belong to a few. But yesterday I saw someone say how angry they get when they see someone post that their dog or cat or any pet for that matter, dies. This person stated that they just wanted to scream at the person who is expressing their sadness, because it doesn’t compare to the loss of a child.

Grief for everyone looks different. I’m a very empathetic person, so when I see someone express sadness, I feel sadness for and with them. Sam’s death didn’t make me angry: of course there are circumstances around it that upset me and I’m setting forth to address those, but it didn’t set off a rage inside of me that I see in others. And for that, I am greatful.

This particular group : this bereavement group , is on Facebook. In a pandemic isolation era, social media has the platform that can bring out the best in people, but it can also bring out the worst. I’m seeing that all over a wide range of groups. This particular woman was using this media to compare her grief , and to tell anyone who would listen that day, that her grief was the worst and that unless yours equals hers ( ie: the loss of a child) you had better not mention it and how dare you if you do. While those were not the words she used; they may as well have been.

Normally, I would have read, and just moved on. But : animals. I love animals. I wrote that there is no comparison and that is true, but it doesn’t mean people don’t feel grief at the loss of a beloved loyal pet, and that they dont have the right to express that. When someone writes about the loss of their dog, it doesn’t mean they are making a comparison. They are merely telling all of their friends of the loss of their dog. But this particular woman thinks that they shouldn’t even mention it because they have no idea how it feels to lose a child. My initial reaction: that’s fukt.

Personally, I wouldn’t want anyone else to have to experience what I am. I hope none of my friends never do. But I’m not going to stack up someone else’s grief up against mine, and minimize theirs because it doesn’t come close. That woman’s post, kind of pissed me off. But then I realized that if I was angry, it meant she was pulling me into her world and i just have no need to go there. Instead, I will use my own compassion towards her, and just be grateful that my grief hasn’t made me angry at the whole world. I have enough on my own plate right now. I don’t need to add anger to the myriad of emotions that already fill me .

Everyone is going through a hard enough time right now, everyone struggles. We can’t decide how badly they are feeling by how it stacks up to our own struggles. Comparison is a tool that should not be used unless you are buying a car and you can’t decide between different models. But on determining how we treat others, comparing our experiences shouldn’t be a thing. Treat everyone with kindness. That’s all. It might have made a difference in Sam’s life.

Grief

I woke up this morning, and rolled over to face Grief. She was laying on the bed with me, propped up on one elbow, smiling sweetly as I opened my eyes. Her silhouette blocked out the sunlight as it streamed into the room.

Good morning she said. I closed my eyes, and sighed. ” Morning” I mumbled. She whispered gently, ” I let you sleep last night”, and I thanked her for the reprieve from the torturous hours of laying there; thoughts racing round and round my head as they often do.

I left my home last week: and flew many long hours alone , back to where Sam lived, and where he died. Grief followed, but she stayed hidden in the shadows mostly, only appearing now and again as a tear running down my face. I tried my hardest to remain stoic, and even cheerful for those 6 days. I had meetings to sit through; family to visit. I wanted them to feel some semblance of normalcy, in a time when normalcy is scarce for my family. I made it through the week. Well, almost. I cried hard into my pillow on my last night. But nobody had to see or hear that. I don’t know why I’m so afraid to show Grief, or why I’m ashamed of losing my composure. But I am: that’s just me. I guess I’ve always felt like I needed to hide Sorrow. Sorrow is a close cousin to Grief. They are similar, but different. It takes more energy to hide Grief though. It’s so unhealthy. But, I really don’t care much about my health these days.

I broke down the night that I got home. Grief brushed the hair off of my face and tried her best to soothe the heart wrenching sobs that started off silent, but quickly turned to a relentless rage of gasps and tears that wracked my body. Randy was cooking me dinner, and quickly crossed the kitchen to hold me tight. I clutched onto him, and felt that if I let go, I would fall into the void and be lost forever. He told me later, that as he started to let go, he felt Sam tighten the embrace and whisper, ” Not yet. Don’t let her go”.

Later that evening as I lay on the couch, I felt my body sink into the softness of the cushions beneath me. My arms and my legs so heavy with sadness and despair and my eyes closed so tightly that I couldn’t open them. I literally couldn’t move. I wondered , ” is this what it feels like to die? “. I waited for my soul to lift herself up and out, but it didn’t happen. Eventually, the paralysis that held my body hostage, released her grip, and I stumbled my way up to bed. Grief kissed me goodnight on the forehead, and told me to get some rest.

The next two days, leading up to today, have been a blur. I went to work and helped wash our plane. I even greased the nose landing gear. But I moved around in a fog.

Last night, I got lost in a video called ” The Silence” by Manchester Orchestra. If I close my eyes slightly when I watch it, I see Sam in it. I see his silhouette from the lighting backstage in the singer. I see him on the drums. I feel his presence all around me. Everything starts to blur as I drift in and out of the trance-like state that music puts me into. And I cried. I didn’t even realize I was crying until I had to wonder why my face was so wet. I watched it over and over.

Grief gave me those moments with my son last night. As she has done with the rare dreams of him: the ones I don’t want to wake up from.

Grief really is quite beautiful and nurturing: If you can believe that. She comes from a place where the deepest purest love lies within our heart and soul. She wouldn’t be here now if I hadn’t loved my son with everything I had in me. She didn’t take him away…. She is trying to help me. And she is trying to protect me from Depression, who lingers in the darkest corners of my mind, just waiting for the opportunity to sink her grip into me. Depression took Sam from me. Sometimes, I think she wants to take me too.

So this morning when I woke up, I looked at Grief, with the best fake smile I could muster, and I said ” Well I guess we should get on with the day then, right? ” She looked me in the eye as she held my hand and said ” You can do this Judi. I’ve got you. We’ve all got you”.

Closure?

I had a friend say ” I hope this brings you the closure you’re looking for ” when I finished up with my part in the Board of Inquiry yesterday and prepared to catch a flight home this morning.

I can’t get upset. Unless someone has lost their child, there is no way that they could ever understand. And I pray that they never have to.

But closure? No. There is no closure.

When your child dies, there is no closure, there is no comfort, there are no answers. There’s just a void. A big, black void that sucks you in and tells you that this is your place now. This is where you belong now. Settle in and get ready for the ride. Parents who lose the life of one that they brought into the world are faced with trying to make sense of something every day, that will never make sense. Not in this lifetime anyway.

My purpose in attending the inquiry, was to be Sam’s voice. It was to represent my son. My only hope was to maybe say something, that might change some policy, to maybe make a difference for the next guy. I wasn’t looking for closure. You won’t find closure where closure doesn’t exist. You won’t find that in the void.

There are no answers. And there will never be closure.


The ” new normal” that everyone tells me is now mine, I just want to throw it at them. New ” normal”? There’s nothing normal about this. It was 3 months ago yesterday that I lost Sam. The world kept turning but I didn’t. I’m stuck there. And I think I forever will be.  I can’t bare to face a world without my beautiful son.  I literally,  hate my life. As a mom to 3 surviving children, seriously… how do I continue? How would you continue? All I know is that i really don’t want to.

Closure. Stupid words just don’t make sense in a world that doesn’t make sense.

Three Months

Three months ago today that you left us my sweet Sam. You’re on my mind almost every minute of every day. I hope I’m doing you proud as I honor you in my grief. I hope that as I share your story here in Trenton this week, that it is making a difference: I want this to be your legacy. I wish more than I wish for my next breath, that you were still here. But you’re not, so I’m trying to let your death make a difference so that others may live.


A friend of mine passed away yesterday. I hope you are helping him and showing him around on the other side. I wish I could do more to help his family here on this side : all I can offer now is heartfelt words when I know that there are no words that will lessen the pain and grief they are feeling.


I miss you Sam. And I know that time passes in the blink of an eye where you are, but it sure drags out here when we are missing the ones we love. I hope that it isn’t too long until I see you again my sweet sweet son. I love you.

Interview

I’m in Trenton today. I’m surrounded by sights and sounds that bring memories screaming to the forefront for me.

Four times already today, I had to drive past the parking lot where I hugged my boy goodbye, not knowing it would be the last time. It’s brutal.

I flew three quarters of the way across the country yesterday. My first flight was delayed due to the weather hitting the west coast of Canada with as much fierce as Mother Earth could conjure on a Monday morning, which has left my home province in a state of destruction. There is mass flooding, and landslides, and highways washed away. The second flight was delayed by three hours due to a computer glitch that shut the system down for Air Canada nationwide. When we finally boarded, we were left to sit out on the ramp for another hour, with no access to either wifi or cell. But three hours after we were supposed to take off, we were finally in the air on one of the most turbulent flights I’ve ever flown on. Once we landed it only took me three more hours to sort out my car rental and drive to Trenton from Toronto. I finally made it to my son Matt’s house around 1am.

My interview for the Board of Inquiry had been changed from 0830 to 1000. I was grateful for the extra hour and a half of sleep. The line of questioning was not as tough as I thought it was going to be, but the interview started of with ” this Board in Inquiry is into the death of Cpl Samuel James Hills ” and those words were hard to hear.

In the months leading up to his death, my son had fallen victim to bullying and harassment by his supervisor. I don’t understand why she had it out for him, but she did. Sam was such a kind person and most loved him. I could never understand what her issue was.

Many of the questions asked of me pertained to his mental state at the time he died and whether the military had any bearing on his decision to end his life that night. It’s been my belief since this whole nightmare began, that the treatment at the hands of his supervisor played a role. But it wasn’t just that: it was a culmination of things: some related to the military, and some not.

At the beginning of Covid induced isolation, Sam’s wife left him for another man. The marriage had been struggling apparently before that, but with her leaving, and him being forced into strict isolation as all members of the military were, he was thrown into a dark spiraling slide that went on for days, and subsequently weeks. His chain of command didn’t check up on their people often and the loneliness that those who were single played greatly into mental health issues, for many.

By spring things began to ease up on the isolation side of things, but Sam’s wife wasn’t content on just leaving him; she had to” rub his face” in her new found happiness any chance she could get. She also shut off utilities without telling him. She broke into the house one day when he left briefly and took his guitar : one of the few things that kept him entertained during the long hours of isolation. But he managed to get busy with a few small renovations to the home that needed to be sold, and his work paid off in both self pride, and financially.

Later in the summer, he moved to Trenton. It was shortly after he moved, that his ex wife’s boyfriend died of a drug overdose. I’m not sure to this day if it was intentional or not. But he was starting off on a new job, in a new city. And he seemed to be doing OK. But, he wasn’t.

I thought things were starting to look up for Sam, but I was wrong. I really didn’t know how much he was struggling at the end. The tension that he felt with his new supervisor was quickly turning into toxicity. When he would come up with alternatives to make the workplace better for all, she would shut him down at every turn. She seemed to look for opportunities to pick on him.

His mental health didn’t seem to be doing to badly, but in those last weeks, it spiraled. He had stopped taking his medications unbeknownst to me. He wasn’t sleeping. He was having nightmares, and he confessed to me, that he was starting to have a hard time telling the difference between reality and fantasy. He feared that he was suffering from psychosis.

A consultation was booked with a psychiatrist which he had only days before he died. The appointment was done over the phone. I still cringe when I think about that: how much did that doctor miss by not seeing Sam’s body language? I just can not believe that someone who expresses a fear of delusional thoughts, would be assessed over a phone. I can’t help but to think he was let down by that psychiatrist. I can’t believe that the military would hire a specialist who can’t be bothered to see a consultation for psychosis, in the office!

Anyway, a lot of the questions pertained to a 4 page statement I had written up just a few days prior to today’s interview. After answering their questions, I read my statement.

On Friday, I will attend the interview of his supervisor. I want to hear what she has to say about herself and the way she treated my son. I want her to answer those questions, with me sitting there in that room.

I’m seriously jetlagged. I need to sleep.

I will not have a sleeve, I will not have a sleeve…..

Prior to losing Sam, I was quite content at staying at the total of 3 small tattoos that I had previously. They were all inconspiculously placed on my body where I didn’t see them unless I looked in a mirror or twisted my body unnaturally, to see them. It’s not that I didn’t love them, or that they didn’t have meaning: I wouldn’t allow someone to permanently change the way my body looked ” just because”. I just preferred to keep the skin that was within my everyday sight : as the plain pasty pale white, skin that I was born with. God knows it already had its share of scars from a life lived.

But that of course changed.

Sam had a rocket on his forearm. It was colorful, and it was big. It pointed to his hand. I asked why one day, it didn’t point upwards. And he looked at me with a big grin, pointed his arm above him to the sky, and declared ” I am Rocketman”.

The song Rocketman by Elton John held an important place in his heart, and he would strum the chords on his guitar and belt out the words like no one else. I would often sing along with him. He once wrote on his IG account, under a video he posted of him playing and singing it, that it was one of the most meaningful songs ever written. I never quite understood why, but I think i get it now.

We had a replica of his rocket tattoo etched into the granite of his urn, with the words” rocketman” and collectively as a family, we all agreed we would get rocket tattoos on our arms. So far, only Randy, Tess ( my daughter ) and I have done it. His obituary starts off making reference to Rocketman as well. One day, I will put a copy of it here. It was beautifully written and doesn’t read like an obituary, but more like a story about his life. Tessa wrote it. Sam would have loved it.

Anyway, my tattoo also has ” The Little Prince” , a book by Antoine De Saint Exupery, sitting on his comet, with his knees bent and his scarf blowing in the wind. In the original movie, made in 1974 , the little prince always reminded me of Sam as a little boy with his curly blonde hair. It was one of his favorite story books, and also mine. When I was looking at rocket tattoos on the internet before getting mine, I saw a picture of a Little Prince tattoo sitting on a comet and thought that I needed that as well as the rocket. It was only days after that Sam’s former girlfriend, on seeing my tattoo, told me how much he loved that story and literally spoke often about it. He loved her little boys so much and I imagine he would have loved to read the story to them when they got older. I sent them a copy of the book shortly after that conversation. Sam was so close to her youngest son Eli. Eli, also reminds me of the little prince, with his curly blonde hair. Hearing from Cait, how significant the story was to Sam, made the tattoo even more meaningful to me than it already was. I actually feel, that Sam pointed it out to me when I was looking at rocketships online, because I didn’t search ” The Little Prince”.

Yesterday I had my tattoo completed. Well, maybe it’s complete : I think that if I was to add anything more to it that it could quickly become a sleeve. Which I never wanted. But then, I never wanted to lose my son either, so.. .

I had a dragonfly added to the artwork by the same amazing artist who did the first two. The dragonfly has become a strong symbol to me and a true sign from my son that he is still around me. There is a story from the night of his funeral that involves the dragonfly. It was so powerful and I definately know that it was Sam . I will write about it in the future.

I also had a raven added to the collage: during his service, there was a raven looking in through the sky light, and as we followed the pall bearers out of the center of worship, a raven flew low over the small crowd, landing on a near by building with two other ravens, and watched as the urn was placed so carefully into the waiting hearst. When we got to his graveside, I couldn’t help but to think of the raven and silently asked him to fly over as we interred him into the ground. He didn’t fail to deliver, as after his brothers and sister placed him in the grave , I looked up to the sky and a lone raven flew over our heads. Shortly after the service, as Randy and I drove away through the cemetery, a raven stood on the ground between two headstones, and as our car approached, the raven hopped towards the farthest stone, and watched us drive away.

There have been so many signs gifted to me since Sam left. I feel blessed by each one. This tattoo could grow to expansive proportions if I’m not careful. The artwork is beautiful. The pain of the needle is a distraction, and as the story grows on my arm , it is a beautiful reminder of my beautiful son who I know watches over me. I wish, however, that it didn’t have to be. I miss him so much.

Time Travelling

I’m waking up this morning, jet lagged, and time confused. We flew to Ontario last Saturday, travelling three hours ahead in time zones, not realizing that the clocks were falling back that night as well. So, when we arrived at my father’s house in Ottawa, I literally, had no idea what time it was: midnight? 1 am? 11pm?

My phone will pick up the occasional signal from 34000 ft , changing the time and letting the odd text through as we pass over major cities. Because of this, I’m usually confused as to how far into the flight we actually are. I think I prefer the days before electronics, where I could set my watch ahead to match where we were going, or leave it at the time zone we left behind. It was so much easier. I was a flight attendant and I flew all over Europe, North America and the Middle East this way : sometimes zigzagging across the Atlantic and back, up to 3 times a week and I never struggled from jet lag. But clearly, that is not the case today.

We got back to the west coast last night at supper time, and our bodies had adjusted to eastern Canada time : we were in bed by 7:45, and asleep by 8:30. So of course, it only makes sense that 4 am seemed like the right time to wake up this morning. No matter how hard I tried to go back to sleep and no matter how dark the sky, there was no way I was falling back to sleep.

As I mentioned before, the clocks went back last week. Since we weren’t home, the clocks in the house weren’t changed, so as I was making my tea this morning, the clock on the stove was an hour ahead of what was showing on my watch and my phone since they automatically adjust. Suffice it to say, my brain is in WTF mode.

But I was looking forward to coming home yesterday, as hard as it was to leave Sam’s grave 5000 kms behind me. I’m having my tattoo for Sam finished today and I am excited for it. I’m actually eager for the pain as it’s different than the emotional pain that engulfs my mind day after day. The feeling of the needle tearing through the delicate underside of my wrist, is now my preferred pain. How fucked up is that? This, is where my grief is leading me to today : confusion and pain is my life now.

Randy just came in the door from picking up a weeks worth of mail and there was two packages for me. I often order things online and completely forget about them. Sam once had a good laugh about that when I gave him my password to use my Amazon Prime. He was in shock at how many things I had ordered through Amazon. Sadly, my ADHD makes me impulsive so I have a bit of an issue with buying things that I often really don’t need. I’ve kind of stopped that since Sam died though. Anyway, it was a “little bit” exciting opening two boxes addressed to me: I can not lie. The first one, was a part I ordered eons ago for my vacuum cleaner ( it’s a Dyson so it’s worth fixing) : not so exciting but at least I can stop carrying around duct tape to temp fix it when I want to vacuum. But the second box, was a gift from an organization that works with the military to helps family members after the death of a loved one. They are called HOPE, and they sent me a big thick comfortable blanket and an assortment of knick knacks. The blanket is draped over my legs now, and, it’s thickness and soft texture, is oddly, comforting. I foresee spilling a lot of tears over it as the weeks and months go by.

I have traveled close to 10000 kms in the past week. And I’m home now, resting under this blanket ; sipping my second cup of tea, and thinking about what I’m going to wear today when I go to get my tattoo. My suitcase is sitting behind me in the hallway needing to be unpacked, laundered, and repacked ( yes, I said repacked). The Board of Inquiry interviews take place this week, and although I spent most of my 6 hours of flying yesterday writing out my statement, I need to go over it to check for spelling errors, grammatical errors and just make sure that it flows. I’ve asked Randy and my three surviving children to read over it and they all said it’s good and not to change a thing. Both Matt and Randy commented that it made them feel like they were in Sam’s shoes. And I know it made them cry. I just hope I don’t cry when I stand before the committee and read it.

So on Monday, I fly back to Ontario (Trenton via Toronto). I am flying 3 time zones ahead again. But I’ll have a nice fresh tattoo and I will be taking a stand for my son.

This week,

Abyss

It was 11 weeks ago today that I lost my son to suicide. I am caught in the abyss now and the fear of never finding my way out terrifies me every day. I will carry my son’s pain and that is a burden that I will carry for him so that I can know that he is at peace. But I know that eventually I need to let up on the torment and abuse I impose on myself every day, on what is now hell on earth for me , as I walk this walk of despair and sadness. Our children would not want us to suffer. And it is not that easy…. but with time, I know the grief will change over to something that will be easier to exist with.

Remembrance

Tomorrow is Remembrance Day. It’s a day that has always held a special place in my heart. This year, is extra….as will every Remembrance Day be from here after. My son was a soldier. I buried him 28 Aug, at the National Military Cemetery here in Ottawa, Canada. I flew back here a few days ago so I could stand by my son’s grave during the ceremony. I live 5000 kms away on the west coast. I miss him so much and being so far away from his grave is hard. I realized today what the feeling is that hits me square in the chest every.single.day. It is dread. Every day I dread every moment that he Is gone. I’ve come to realize that I will feel this way for what is left of my life. And I pray, that I don’t have long. I have three surviving children: his brothers and sister. And while I don’t love them any less than I love him…. I feel that the void that his loss has left, will never let me fit back in. I am broken. And I fear that I don’t know how to mother anymore.

My world changed that morning that he decided to leave. It’s not a temporary feeling. It’s not a ” new normal”. It’s not something I feel that I will ever learn to live with.

Next week I will attend the Board of Inquiry into his death. I have done everything to stay strong for that. Afterwards….all bets are off. I don’t know how I will face every day that I wake up.

But tomorrow, I will wear a poppy, and I will remember him as I remember all of those brave souls who chose the calling to defend the rights that I have come to feel, that way too many take for granted. Sam is with the brave. He was brave.

This year is extra for me.

They shall grow not old,
as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them,
nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun
and in the morning,
we will remember them,
we will remember them.

I will remember.

Boarding a plane

We just boarded a plane heading back east. As I stood in line to go through security, memories came rushing back from when Sam and his ex-wife visited me here in Comox four years ago. I remembered standing with them in line as they waited their turn to go through.

Just as I got to the front of the line, of course the tears began to flow. I wonder what people think when they see that happen. Oftentimes, I can’t stop the tears from rolling down my cheeks. It’s when I get outside or in the car that the uncontrollable ” ugly” crying starts.

We left from this same airport the day after Sam died in August. I barely remember that day, or that long flight across the country. At least the Covid complient mask made it easier to hide my face from the crowds of people at Vancouver International Airport, and Toronto as well as we waited for what seemed like eternity for our luggage.

The engines are starting, and the safety briefs are being given. I used to be a flight attendant so it’s no big deal for me to ignore them. Sam always hated to fly. I remember once, when he was flying home from a military exercise, I got a hold of a few of my flight attendant colleagues and asked them to make it fun for him. Before the plane took off, a friend called out to Sam over the intercom and said ” don’t be scared Sam. We will take good care of you. Your mama loves you”. ❤ haha. Then they invited him up to the cockpit, where he got to sit for take off. It was an experience of a lifetime for him, and something I was so grateful to my friends for giving him.

We are flying to Ottawa today. I wanted to spend Remembrance Day at Sam’s side. He is buried at the National Military Cemetary in Ottawa: also known as Beechwood Cemetery. Ottawa has the most beautiful service downtown at the National War Memorial, but Beechwood also has a beautiful service that was started when when our country was losing troops in Afghanistan back in 2006. I began attending there in 2007 after a friend was killed in action in Nov 2006. He is buried just up the hill from where Sam is. Until I moved to British Columbia in 2017, I would make the drive to Ottawa every year for Remembrance Day services at Beechwood. It always had such meaning to me. This year, even more so.

Oh great: first delay of a long day : they had to shut down engines to do a reset. I sure hope we don’t miss our connection in Vancouver.

Of Mediums and the Afterlife

Where is heaven exactly?

Is it a state of mind? Is it a place?

Where does our consciousness go when it leaves our body?

Before I lost Sam, I always believed that heaven is just another dimension that it is as close as the next room. I am not religious, but that is an argument that I keep to myself. I believe that we are all created, and therefor, there is a creator. Some call him God. Others call him by other names. But he is all, the same creator.

I often feel my son’s presence. I have long given up trying to explain things as mere coincidence: I know that Sam is around me.

Recently, Cait, his former girlfriend let me listen to part of a recording of a reading with a Medium she had after my son died. He came in loud and strong, but only after stepping to one side first to let another friend of hers who had passed have her visit with Cait. Sam was always considerate in life. I wouldn’t expect any less of him on the other side.

The first thing he did, was apologize. He said he was so sorry for what he had done and the pain he had caused. The medium said he wouldn’t show her his cause of death, other than difficulty breathing. Throughout the reading, Cait never told the medium that he had died by suicide. He spoke of a few other things, and then the Medium suddenly asked Cait if she was still in touch with Sam’s mom. Before she could reply, through the Medium, he said ” tell my mom I love her”. He said to tell me that it was not my fault; it was his own and there was nothing I could have done to stop him. He said, to please, tell her ( me) to stop the ” would haves, and the should haves”, and that he was so sorry.

She told Cait that Sam showed her a picture of him with his arm around Cait in a frame, and that it was on a mantle. Cait told her that she thought I had that picture, which I do. It isn’t on a mantle, but on my piano. She also showed her a table that was set up, with some of Sam’s things on it: like a memorial. Cait didn’t understand, but later I showed her the little table I have here, with some of Sam’s things. It’s a little makeshift memorial that I set up. I live 5000 kms away from Cait, but the medium, was seeing things at my house that Sam was showing her.

The rest of the reading was pretty amazing but was about Cait, and her children that Sam loved as is own.

I listened to that recording for many nights. ” Tell my mom I love her”. That brought me so much comfort.

I reached out to the medium, to ask if she could do readings over video. Which she does. So I set up my own reading.

I had it a week ago. I looked so eagerly towards it. And he didn’t let me down.

The Medium, whose name is Sheila, is a Psychic healer, Medium, and a Minister. She started off our meeting with an energy healing, and when she finished , she told me that she felt so much pain and grief from a very recent loss. I hadn’t told her anything about me or why I had reached out to her.

As she started her reading, Sam came through. Again, she told me that she could feel difficulty breathing. She kept grabbing at her chest saying she felt a real struggle to breathe. I did explain to her that his death was by suicide at that point. This made her sad. But she described Sam, and was pretty key on with his personality. Again, he apologized over and over and told me how much he loves me. He also told her to tell me how proud he was of me ( and she brought up ” something like a tribunal” that he mentioned I was going to be speaking at.) He mentioned ” falling through the cracks “, ( something I have been planning on talking about at the Board of Inquiry in two weeks).

Sheila told me how much he appreciated the funeral we had for him, and she asked if it was a military funeral ( it was). She said Sam showed her me being presented with the flag, and his beret. She also said that I have his hat ( at which point I showed her his baseball hat that I had been holding below the view of the video camera). She described his funeral as if she was watching it on a movie.

She asked if Sam was living with me when he passed: because he was showing her things of his at my house. He wasn’t, but there was the table: the memorial I had set up here with his things that she had seen in Caits reading. She said that he hears me when I sit in front of it and talk to him. How could she have known that I sit and talk to the pictures on this table? We talked about so many things. But near the end of the call, she asked if we had a family dog that had crossed over because Sam had a beige colored dog with him. The night before my reading, when I was asking Sam to please come through the next day, I asked him to bring our old dog Reggie with him. Reggie was our 17 year old Corgi cross that we had lost 9 years ago. He was beige.

My reading with Sheila was truly amazing. I know that there are many skeptics, but I feel that this was a genuine communication with my son. And I feel very fortunate to have been blessed with it.

A week later I was talking to my oldest son. I was telling him about the reading. I forwarded him the recording and about an hour later I noticed the recording was sitting in” draft” of my outlook so I hit send again. He had already received it so I was confused as to why it had been sitting in draft. When I hit send. It went to Sheila. The following morning, Sheila emailed me, saying that it was strange, because for some unknown reason, she had been thinking about Sam and I the night prior and awoke the following morning, to the recording she had sent me a week before sitting in her inbox. She said she had never felt such a strong pull from the other side as she had felt from my son. We have decided to meet, even just to have coffee when I fly to Ontario for the Board of Inquiry in two weeks.

I am keeping an open mind. If I don’t, I feel that I won’t get through this. My mind has undergone such trauma in these few short weeks : the loss of my son is unsurmountable in so many ways. But I know in my heart without a doubt, that my sweet Sammy is still here with me.

The downward slide of Life

Last night, was another Ativan night. I try to avoid that bottle, but sometimes, it just can’t be helped. Sometimes, the unsettled darkness in my head is more than I can deal with alone.

As I tapped just one tablet into my palm, for one brief moment, I looked at the remaining pills in the bottle and thought about how easy it would be to take all of them. I looked at my cabinet and noted how many bottles of unused pills of various kinds there are , and how easy it would be to make a cocktail.

But I closed the bottle, put just one Ativan under my tongue, turned off the kitchen light and went upstairs to bed.

It’s a rare day that passes that the thought of joining my beautiful boy doesn’t cross my mind. I just wish, that I could have the life back that we all had before he left. I wish that there was a way that an alternate could have played out that night, that would have left my perfect little family intact. I wish, that I knew my phone would ring tomorrow and I’d hear his familiar ” hey mam” on the other end. I wish, I could feel joy again.

I’m laying here on the very spot where we spoke our last words to each other. And the same spot where I would wake up to a phone call just hours later telling me that he was gone. I curled up here later that morning: after talking to my ex husband, and each of my surviving children; After talking to my father; After the official military knock at my door where I opened it to greet three offcial men in uniform, one being a Padre: all three of them witnessing me fall to pieces before their eyes. After all of that, I curled up on this spot and I screamed. And as Randy wrapped me tighter into his arms I screamed even louder.

It’s this spot, that I fall asleep on, if I fall asleep that is, at night. And it’s this spot, where I awaken every day to a new day : a day that comes with the re:realization, that Sam died.

So yes, on the inside, to most people who see a much more composed Judi, there is a much darker version of me now that I hide, and that I have to fight against, most days, to stay alive.

To anyone who is thinking of taking their life tonight, I wish you could have seen me earlier when I couldn’t catch my breath as I tried to hold it all in. I wish you could have seen my face twisted in anguish, and in agony. I wish you could hear me begging God, for just one do-over. This… is what you will leave behind. This, is what you will do to those who love you.

And now I, have to remind myself of this, every night.

The Little things

I’m laying in a hot tub, letting the water flow over me, while i watch a bath bomb sizzle as it gets smaller and smaller, changing the water from clear to pink and putting a pleasant aroma into the steam around me . I used to love taking a hot bath after a long day.

The night before Sam died ; just a few hours before he tied whatever it was that he used to hang himself with, he called me. He was in the bath. He didn’t tell me that, but I could hear the water as he moved around in it. That worried me: I knew that he took hot baths when he was feeling particularly vulnerable and sad. He was down that night. I could hear it catching in his voice as he talked to me. He talked about a nightmare he had that was recurring from his childhood. He told me how he was awful to his younger sister when they were young. He told me that he didn’t fit in with his two older brothers: they were friends and he was an outsider. He told me that he felt he wasn’t good enough to be in a relationship with anyone : he was ruined from the two failed relationships ( the second being his marriage) that he had been in when he was younger. He told me how he felt like he had to work harder than anyone to make things happen. And he told me that he was tired, and he didn’t want to do this anymore.

I tried to address all of these things: assuring him that he and his sister fought, like ALL siblings fight when they are young. I pointed out all the good things about him, and how, things would get better. I really felt that by the end of that call, in a better headspace. But I was wrong. And that phone call…. and the sound of the bath water, haunt me. That night, when I should have really heard the things he was trying to say to me: I missed them.

I was worried enough that I thought about calling his brother and his fiance to check on him ( they lived 10 minutes away), but it was late, and I had asked them just a few days before to check up on him and they did, and they said he was fine. I didn’t call because I thought they would be annoyed. But I didn’t think he was going to die that night.

Everyone says not to blame myself. But how can I not? I could have stayed on the phone longer that night. But I was tired after driving for 6 hours to Victoria and back that day. And Randy and I had gotten into an argument when I got home. I was tired and I just wanted to try to sort that out and then get some sleep. I thought he was ok. And I missed it. My last phone call with Sam. I completely missed it.

I’ve taken very few baths to relax since that night, because I hear the water and it takes me back to that phone call. I’m trying to desensitize myself from all the little things, like: listening to his videos of him playing his guitar and singing; listening to music he liked; listening to anyone play guitar; taking a bath.

Two steps forward, five steps back. That is how this works.

I don’t know if I can do this.

Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time, not a long long time ago, there was a girl.

She was happy and found beauty in everything around her. The clouds, the sky, the mountains, the sea, the birds, the glisten of dew on a spider web, and the sounds of this life on a beautiful earth that we are blessed to walk for such a short time.

Time. What is time? It is a concept of human-kind: invented to make our lives easier. But there is no such thing as time.

We are here but for a blink of an eye, and then we are gone. We return to energy and this life is a lesson for the soul to evolve.

But, for me, the earth has both sped up and slowed down. The days and weeks have passed at a dizzying speed. But the moments of my grief linger and move in slow motion. The hours of longing for what has been lost: a constant struggle.

There is still beauty all around me. That hasn’t changed, nor how I see it hasn’t changed. But everything feels different for me now. There is a void: an emptiness that will remain with me as I finish this lesson, and move on to the next.

Sam is still with me. I know he is. I see him in the beauty that is all around me. He rides the currents in the blue skies above; he dances in the dragonfly as it swoops and dives on a beautiful summers day. He is in the sound of the echo of the eagle as it soars overhead. He is in the energy of this life: of this earth. As we all are. And one day, he will meet me with open arms and an unconditional love that awaits all of us when this journey is done.

That girl is still here. But she is different. She is just facing the hardest lesson that she was sent here to learn.

What Doesn’t Kill You, Makes You Stronger

You know, one of things I have hated hearing on this journey is ” you’re so strong”. I think most parents who have lost a child to suicide….for that matter ANYONE who has lost a loved one no matter what the cause of death is, those words make us cringe.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate that someone cares enough to reach out and offer their support and comfort. And I know that if the shoe was on the other foot, I would struggle to find the right words to say too.

But those words ” you’re so strong” , and they are usually followed by ” you will get through this” : I just hate them .

If I decided by choice to do something difficult : like when I decided to move more than half of the continent away after the breakup of a toxic relationship, yeah, those three words might have fit ( they actually didn’t : I didn’t leave because I was strong . I was a mess and I was just running away from my problems …but that’s a long story I’m not getting into). I have no choice in this. There is no strength involved at all. It’s not something I chose. Most days I just want to put my head under the covers and hide. Most days I don’t want to face at all. But no matter what : the sun rises every morning and I have to wake up and do….whatever the hell it is that I do. There’s no strength involved. Not at all. If I had any say in it, I wouldn’t do.

The truth of it is : I’m tired. And I’m weak. I have had to be strong and resilient all of my life and there just isn’t anything left. The slight gust of wind might send me tumbling to the floor now.

My life has not been easy. My youth was a turbulent one. My father was an alcoholic. And he was a violent and angry one. I remember when I was three, hiding in the locked bathroom with my mom and my big sister, while he went on a rampage. I remember my mom washing the blood from her face. This was a regular occurrence. And I remember always being afraid.

I was a mom for the first time at 20. And a mom, five and a half years later, to 4. I was married to a career soldier who was always away. I raised those 4 beautiful children mostly by myself. But the 5 of us were a team. My children were my best friends and my most proud accomplishment of my life. I made a lot of mistakes while growing up. But the 4 children I brought into this world were just beautiful. They were a true blessing. We moved on average every 2.5 years. It felt like we were having to start fresh more than most as my ex husband chased career dreams that took us to the arctic; to the east coast; to the UK and back; crisscrossing provinces and cities : my children always having to start new schools, and I: new jobs.

The kids grew up as kids do. The two oldest were close. Sam was the 3rd boy, followed by his sister. She was ” daddies little girl”. She could do no wrong in her father’s eyes. And she was a great kid. But Sam always seemed to be the odd man out. He never really found a place to fit in with his siblings. And as he grew older, he and his father fought. Alot.

We almost lost him when he was 17. No matter what he did, it always seemed to piss his dad off. Where his sister could do no wrong, he could do no right. One summer, it got particularly bad and he begged me to let him spend a week with his old friends 5 hours away in a small town where we used to live. I felt hesitant, but he and his dad really needed a break from each other. I drove him out, with the intent of going back 5 days later to pick him up. I had reservations about it, but I trusted him when he said he would stay out of trouble. I didn’t make it home that night. I got a call from his father when I was on the highway, telling me Sam had been rushed to the hospital. He was unconscious and unresponsive. He and his friends had polished off a bottle of Jack Daniel’s shortly after I left him. When he lost consciousness, his friends put him in a bath of cold water. Thank God whoever’s house they were at, the father came home and found him before he drowned. But Sam’s alcohol/blood level was enough alone to kill him. By the time I got to the hospital, he had been there for two hours, was wrapped in a foil blanket: was hypothermic, and was in an alcohol induced coma. He did survive the ordeal, and never really drank after that. What was really sad about that night, is that when his father called me to tell me I had to go back: he was annoyed at his son: no, he was angry at his son because it was an inconvenience that he was hospitalized. That poor kid could never win.

I spent 25 years in that marriage. I spent most of those years acting as a buffer between Sam and his father. When I was 42, I joined the military. I went through basic training with 20 year olds. I trained as an aviation technician and 4 years later, his father and I separated. Sam moved in with me.

I feel like I have always had to be strong to get through this life. Tonight, I spent 3 hours writing out a testimony in a class action lawsuit against the military for sexual harrassment. I’ve known for months that the due date for this was coming up. But what happened to me, was emotionally difficult to deal with and having to write out an account of what happened, was something I just kept putting off. And then in August, Sam died. I got a call from the law office dealing with the lawsuit today telling me they needed the details asap so that they could proceed as the due date was nearing. Today, was a particularly emotionally hard day: my grief was just bursting at the seams to escape, I worked late, and then I had to spend 3 hours on the lawsuit.

I am done. If I had nothing in me before, I definitely am running on a deficit of ” strong” now. I feel raw. I wish I felt nothing, because then I would be dead. What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. Right. What doesn’t kill me leaves me exposed and vulnerable to the next blow.

No. I am not strong. Far from it.

Depression vs Grief

I’m not depressed. I can get up in the morning. I shower. I get dressed. I eat. I sleep….well, sometimes i sleep. I don’t have a ” foreboding sense of doom”. I don’t feel like I need to stay in bed all day. I’m not suicidal.

But; sometimes I want to die.

I have suffered from depression on an off throughout my life. I’ve been treated for depression. I’ve even been suicidal.

But; I’m not depressed.

I’m not suicidal.

Sometimes I just want to die.

Grief is different than depression. And I can see how quickly it can turn to depression. Who knows: mine just might if I don’t stop forgetting to take my meds. Or, maybe my meds are why I’m not suffering from depression now.

Grief is different. Or at least mine is: I can’t speak for others. It comes in waves. I’ve had people comment that I am grieving well: whatever that is supposed to mean. Of course, my neurodivergent brain ( I have ADHD) will run rampant with rumination on those words, for hours and even days. I grieve well? What should grief look like to an onlooker? Should I be disheveled? Should I have greasy hair and pillow creases on my face from lying in bed for days? Should I have sunken eyes and have to be gently reminded that I need to shower? I’m really not sure how I am supposed to look.

Sometimes I worry that if I’m “grieving well” it means that I couldn’t have loved my son as much as I was supposed to. I worry that I wasn’t a good enough mother. But I know that is not what they mean. I still wonder if I am wrong . Should I be depressed?

The logical me knows that’s not true. I love my son beyond measure. My heart is beyond shattered and the thought of moving on with life without him, is incomprehensible. Most people don’t see me laying on the bathroom floor hugging my dog tight as I bury my face into his fur and bawl my eyes out. No one saw me crying in the shower this morning when I was getting ready for work. People dont see me or hear my heart wrenching sobs when I’m driving my car or walking deep in the woods with my dogs, where I think no one will hear me. Sometimes, I feel like grief is going to suffocate me.

I’m not depressed. I’m grieving. I’m not suicidal but I want to be dead more often than I care to admit to. I want to die, but I don’t want to kill myself.

My grief is not a mental illness. It’s a profound sadness that sometimes will let me walk amongst my peers undetected. It let’s me smile, and it let’s me laugh. It allows me to shower, and dress and carry on a conversation. It actually fools others into thinking I’m doing well. It even fools me: until it gets me alone and then it unleashes its power that sometimes feels, like it will destroy me. It’s in those moments when I want to die. It’s those moments, that I’m not grieving well at all.

I’m really not sure what people expect to see when they see me. Maybe that is the problem: I worry too much that I will make them uncomfortable, when I am the one who is uncomfortable. I need to let them, let me grieve.

Grief, is not the same thing as depression. But they can both make you want to die.

There is no word

A friend recently posted a meme on my Facebook, that said something along the lines of ” when a husband or wife loses their spouse, they are called a widow. When a child loses their parents they are called an orphan. But there is no name for a parent who has lost a child”.

I thought about this for a while, and tried to come up with something appropriate.

The word ” dead” was on the tip of my tongue, but that was just the negative energy I’m feeling today leaking out of me. While I don’t deny there have been many moments that I have felt that being dead might not be a bad thing under the circumstances, I know that my living children, my spouse, my parents and sisters, my friends and my dog and cat might not agree. So the word ” dead”, did not make the cut.

A “shell” might be an appropriate moniker. Many days I feel that the very essence of who I once was before all of this, is gone and all that remains is an exoskeleton that once protected the soul that lived inside. But I’m neither a snail nor a lobster and my skeleton lies beneath my skin. So ” shell” doesn’t work.

I do feel like a ghost at times. I feel like I’m not fully in this realm of the Living. But I’m not fully in the realm of the Dead either. The part of my heart that went with Sam is there with him ; and the part that belongs to my other children is here. Does that put me in pergatory? Am I a ghost trapped between two worlds?

There really is no word for us: just as there are no words that comfort us. There are many words to describe how we feel: broken; shattered; fragmented; lost; numb; destroyed come to mind. It is unfathomable to any parent that they would ever face the day that their child would not be in. And when that child chooses the day? Well that just puts us into a whole new category. If we can’t come up with a name for a parent who has lost a child, we definitely can’t come up with a name for a parent who has lost a child to suicide.

So who are we then?

Many have said to me when offering their condolences that ” there are just no words”. And they are right. There really are no words for this. There is no real defining title to give to us. None of this should be real. This is what nightmares are made of. I think that there is no name for a parent who has lost a child, because it’s something that no one wants to ever even think about. No one wants to write down, or come up with a word for something that is too terrifying to even consider. It’s the last thing that anyone wants to allow to cross their mind.

I am Judi. And I am still Sam’s Mom and I forever will be. Thats the only name I need. I am still the mother of four beautiful children. The difference now, is that one of them lives in heaven. That is all that I need to define who, or what I am.

Rage

I had a rough night. I’m never sure what triggers these, aside from the obvious… but most days I can get through hiding much of what I’m feeling from the world. This ” bomb cyclone” weather we were hit with over the past two days was great weather for walking the dogs as my tears just blended into the rain.

I was informed yesterday of the date I am required to be in Trenton for the Board of Inquiry. I lay awake most of the night thinking about what to expect and what I am going to say in my testimony. Lack of sleep; a constant cycle of rumination led to a pretty rough go at 5 am.

I’m, so tired. 😦

Dear Universe

Dear Universe,

Fuck you. I am not ok.

I spin round and round in a cesspool of darkness.

I hold my breath but you force me to breathe. And I don’t want to. I feel like I’ll choke on my tears. But you won’t let that happen either. I feel like I am being punished.

I’m supposed to learn something from this? Like what? Pain? How cruel life is? Tell me ! So that it makes sense to me.

There’s a big storm blowing in: they are calling it a” bomb cyclone” . Could I hitchhike on a gust of wind to heaven?

Abe

This is my dog Abram. Or, Abe for short.

Abe grounds me. He found me 5 years ago, and saw me through what I thought was the biggest crisis of my life ( at that time). Abe kept me alive in return for a roof over his head, a full belly, lots of walks, and love. Lots of love. Dogs give us so much and expect so little in return.

He was a ” lost” dog : found wandering with a thick chain around his neck, dragging a couple feet of the same behind him. Animal Control had to use bolt cutters to take it off. No one ever claimed him.

I foster failed, after I took in this bedraggled, crazy, terrified, hungry brute of fur and kisses. I nursed him back to health and some semblance of normalcy ( he is still crazy); while he in turn, saved my life.

There are moments in this pit of grief where I find myself, longing to cross to the other side. But there is Abe….looking up at me with the most innocent look in his eyes ( as he trashes the room since he is like a bull in a China shop), pleading with me to stay. Who would take care of him if I was gone? So Abe, once again, has the burden of keeping me alive for my loved ones. They alone are more than enough reason to stay. But at times, the grief is so intense; the world so dark; and the black hole so deep, that it is not hard to lose sight of what is right, and what is so, so wrong.

Sam had a deep love for animals. Buddy and Theo were his pride and joy. He would stop at Dairy Queen on his way home from work, to buy his boys ice cream as a treat. Buddy, a Terrier mix, is nearly 19. He had spent all but the first 11 weeks of his life as Sam’s best friend. Theo, is a 3 year old Australian shepard mix. He had some reactivity issues and that was a little isolating for Sam and his dogs. But they were ” The Three Amigos”. I never thought I would see the day that my son would leave those two dogs behind. Depression knows no boundaries though. The last words of the note he left asked us to take care of his boys.

On a different note, I’ve decided to make kindness and paying it forward Sam’s legacy. I’ve had cards printed, and I will start, with an act of kindness with his card attached, asking that the kindness and his card, be carried forward. I think I will also look into either a bursary or maybe purchase a guitar or other musical instrument once a year on Sam’s birthday, and gift it to an underprivileged youth who has an interest in music. I know that Sam found so much comfort in his music and his guitar. The donations I make to animal charity’s, are now always, in memory of Sam.

It’s dark and dreary today. There is a storm warning as I lay here in bed looking at the sky, listening to the rain through my window. I have to be at work in 3 hours and I welcome the rain. It’s the sunny and bright days that I find the hardest.

Gonna go hang with my doggo now for a bit.