The sign came when I was in a Goodwill store looking for cheap pictures to cover my bare walls. I downsized from a four bedroom two-car garage house, that was no longer a home, in a typical grass-groomed suburbia neighborhood to a two bedroom apartment in middle one of the busiest tech centers in the country a few time zones away. When I moved, I crammed what I could in the back of my Subaru. If the stuff didn’t fit, I tossed it, sold it or gave it away. Ruthless purging. What did it matter. I lost so much.
I became so distracted with the material aspect of my grief journey, that I failed to take the time to be with Logan. To grieve. I escaped into the frenzy of getting rid of everything, changing jobs, moving on, driving away and leaving my entire life behind. Friends wished me well. Some said I was making the right move to start a new life. To reset after a year of utter loss.
My sister died from excruciating burn injuries after her house caught on fire. Just two months later, my son, Logan, died in a truck crash – less than a half-mile from what was our home. That was July 22, 2016.
Signs of Logan
Fast-forward to eight months later and I am walking through dense aisles packed with an assortment of broken lamps, plastic Santa’s, tired furniture and a sea of throw-away stuff. I fit right in.
In the back corner of a huge Goodwill store, I am looking for a picture to put on my living room wall. Something big, colorful but meaningless and cheap to cover up white space. Something I can easily throw away or give away without a second thought when I move again in a few months.
I look through piles of frames, stacked a few feet deep against the back wall. As I flip through a blur of images encased in cheap, chipped frames, a flash of red letters skip by the corner of my eye. I go back to that frame. It is new, still in its original plastic. The words LOGAN are printed on the paper encased behind the glass.
There is nothing mystical about this. There happens to be a branded line of “Logan” frames and it wouldn’t be unusual to find such a toss-away frame in a Goodwill. But it is a sign I needed to see, to break me out of my mindless distraction.
And then the grief comes crashing down on me where discarded things are temporarily housed.
I clutch the frame and hold it close, walking in a daze around the store and lose focus on my mission to find a picture. I keep back the tears, feeling that familiar pressure on my breathing when I can’t think the tears away. I place the frame on a chair and promptly leave the store. I can’t handle the emotion. I must escape.
Accepting the sign
Days went by and then weeks. Every hour I am reminded of the picture with Logan’s name in it. I decided to take it as a sign. Nothing particularly profound about it. No thundering words of God echoing in my mind, or a perfect rainbow with humming birds surrounding me on a soft summer’s day. No dragonflies fluttering about or other creatures that carry Logan’s presence.
While I believe in God, faith, love, forgiveness and living by Jesus’ example, I am fairly certain none of us have a clue as to what the after-life is. Logan knows. My sister knows. Logan’s Dad knows and so do my parents, and countless others who have moved on.
Maybe, they have to hit us upside the head every now and then with a sign. For me, it had to be real obvious. Like Logan’s name…large print in red…one of his favorite colors.
Being in grief
It was a sign for me to pause from the “busy-ness” of life and “be” with the grief. Here is what “being” in grief means to me – It’s allowing the sadness to come, the tears to flow (or not), the anger to surge (don’t hurt anyone or break things) so the contemplation can occur.
Grief is NOT: depression, anxiety and mental illness. There is no pill or therapy that works. Grief is not a problem to be solved. The grief of your child’s death is called traumatic grief because it is completely unnatural for a child to die before his mother who gave birth to him, nursed him, reared him and fought for him. It is a profound loss that shakes you to your core FOREVER (in this life anyways). No getting over it. No reset. No moving on. No starting over.
It helps to be with other bereaved parents who understand you. It helps to be with loved ones who walk with you quietly and not try to chase the grief away, who understand that when you cry, it’s ok and not to keep asking – What’s wrong?!
Grief is communication
For me, after the tears…after the deep waves of sadness…after the horrific moments of despair (the moments pass)…grief clears the deck for communication. It’s the only channel I have to communicate with my child, to visit with him in sadness and thought. It is not all bad.
When I allow myself to grieve, I feel Logan working through me. I know where ever he is, it is a good place. Then I can hear him (sense him) telling his friends that regardless of their perceived problems, they each have a purpose – to live their dream and to always know they are beautiful inside and out. Logan did not see external flaws like most of us do. He didn’t see his friends’ extra weight or lack of it, the pimples, the scars, the disabilities, the awkwardness, the struggles (for he had many) …Logan could see the soul. That’s what really mattered to him.
During times of grief, I hear in my mind’s-eye …. Mom, mom….I am ok. Sometimes I have to be reminded of that.