Signs of You

Last night I laid in bed and my stomach itched. I went to scratch it and for the first time since you died I touched the stretch mark I got when I was pregnant with you. With each one of your brothers and your sister it got bigger but it started when I was about eight months pregnant with you. I looked in the mirror at my 16 year old body and saw it. I was mortified. A STRETCHMARK!

I remember the feel of your knobby baby knees scraping against the inside of my body. I would watch you flip around in there for hours. I had never felt less alone in my entire life. I would talk to you and tell you about my day even though you were with me the whole time so you already knew what had happened. I could also tell when the body part that was making an appearance was your tiny butt because it had a certain look to it that was different than your knees. It would make me laugh. I was st my absolute happiest when I was pregnant with you. You saved my life. I told you that a million times while you were alive and I never really could tell you why I felt that way because the words would escape me. But you made me a mom and you also became my side kick. I had been so alone before you came along.

I sit here thinking about your entire life. I do not just mourn the man you were the day you died, I mourn the baby in my womb. I mourn the newborn who was so tiny I could lay you in the space made when I sat indian style. I mourn the six month old who I would put in a car seat and take driving around to show everyone how cute my baby was. I mourn the adventurous you, the you that hated my boyfriend and threw away my cell phone. The you that shaved off your eyebrows and got your brother to do it too. I mourn the you that was strong and encouraging. Maybe I depended on that you too much and that’s what made you sick.

I mostly mourn the you that lit up when you looked at your children. The dad you was by far the best version of you.

I love you so much Anthony. I will miss you forever.

Love,

Mom

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Grief

I watched part of Beth Chapman’s memorial service on YouTube. If you don’t know who that is, I’ll tell you briefly. Beth and her husband Duane “Dog” Chapman are bounty hunters with a famous TV show. When I moved to the suburbs and became a stay at home mom I would watch hours and hours of their show because I had hours and hours empty during the day when my kids were in school. I had no idea how to be a stay at home mother. I knew how to live in chaos and how to go in and out of jail. One thing I learned shortly after moving to the burbs is that knowing how to bail someone out of jail isn’t something everyone knows how to do. I remember the first time I met someone who didn’t know what “the procedure” was to get someone out of jail was. I laugh snorted so loud.

I worked for a bail bond woman once. It was by far my favorite job. I loved helping people get out of jail, lecturing them when they came to sign papers and my boss was a heavy smoker so we could smoke at work. Plus I had my own desk and endless office supplies. I lost that job when I was arrested for traffic tickets. You can’t be a bondsman and also keep getting arrested apparently.

So when I watched Beth and Dog Chapman chase down people who jumped bail and catch them, all while giving them advice on how life can be better if they got their shit together, as I myself was working to pull myself out of a life where going in and out of jail was the norm, I saw hope. I saw good people. I saw Beth as a mother and fierce wife. I also saw a good marriage. Something I didn’t see much of in my life and something I wanted badly.

Watching her memorial was hard though because it reminded me about how grief works. Grief is so so weird and it is like a person hiding in the bushes waiting for random moments to jump out and punch you in the face. One moment you are remembering the dead person and laughing at something funny they said and they next you are wondering how the fuck any of this is real. How is it real that they are dead and you are standing in front of all these people saying “Anthony WAS” instead of “is” and you’re reeling. It is like driving on a winding West Virginia Highway. Ups and downs and spiraling around and then just as you get used to that it gets worse until your finally in a state that doesn’t have death traps for highways. I haven’t reached that part of grief yet though.

Grief is universal but also, not all grief is the same. I think everyone has that one loss that takes them out. The one that changes everything. Not every spouse who loses the other spouse goes through The One Person kind of grief. That isn’t good nor bad, it just is. Not every child lost is The One Person loss for the parents. Again, not good nor bad, just how it goes.

The One Person loss comes with shock and trauma. It comes with nightmares and the inability to focus. It comes with depression and the lack of motivation. It comes with rage anytime the suggestion of “one day it will get better” is made because you do not want things to get better what you want is for your One Person to not be fucking dead. It comes with no peace in the idea that your One Person is with God. I mean, you’re thankful for that faith but really, God really should have just kept them alive because that is the only thing that would make sense to you. The One Person grief comes with guilt. Why didn’t you just spend every second you could with them? Why didn’t you do better? Why didn’t you appreciate life before their death? All of these things and more come in waves. It is exhausting and also so so infuriating. You want to sleep but then people will start asking you if you think maybe you should get on meds for depression as if it is not normal to be freakin’ sad when someone you love dies suddenly.

They think that would help because they have not had their One Person kind of Grief in life yet. Also, my son died by suicide so everyone was so scared I was going to kill myself too.

That they haven’t faced this kind of loss should make you happy for them, but it doesn’t. It makes you hate them. Oh, the hatred of people who try to comfort you verses the hatred for those who won’t come near you (because you’re kind of an asshole) part of grief. Nobody warns you about that. Because you “know their intentions are good” and should be “grateful”. Let me tell you, you do not have to be grateful for shit. You are grieving, you are shattered, your person is dead and you get to be an asshole. When you stop being one, you can appreciate the people who stuck it out and if there aren’t any then you can build a new tribe. Trust me. There are a lot of people who understand the Asshole stage of grief. They are your people now.

You get to be selfish when you are facing the worst thing to happen to you. I’ve talked to God about this and He agrees with me. In fact being selfish is the best way to heal. It’s also a good way to weed out fake friends. Or weak friendships. All of which take up time you don’t have once you are spending 24/7 grieving.

If you are a mother, wife and/or matriarch of your family and the dead person is a kid you carried in your womb, let me tell you, you need a therapist and a priest (or some kind of spiritual guide). You need a list of things that you enjoy doing by yourself and you need that list posted in a lot of places where you can see it a lot. You need to live a life where you have access to the things on that list regularly. Even if it means telling people to fend for themselves for two or three hours. Or taking little kids to daycare. Because you will grieve like nobody else does but you will also have to love grieving people like nobody else will. At the same time. It’s a real biatch to juggle. But you will have to do it for your family to find its way. I’m sure this works for grieving fathers too but fathers who lose a child have no clue what it is like to have had that child live inside their body. Again, this doesn’t mean the loss any less painful but it is different and that is just a fact. Being a mother who loses a child you have carried and birthed is a very lonely place. Nobody else in the entire world knows that bond you had with that person who lived under your ribs. It is why Mary’s relationship with Jesus was different than His relationship with everyone else.

Grief makes me ramble. Even more so than I did before. Watching Dog give his speech at Beth’s memorial, I realized that rambling is also a part of grief and it happens because that’s what is going on in the brain. My brain goes from coherent thoughts to “oh look a squirrel!” thinking in two seconds. It makes it difficult to write because I just lose track of what I’m saying or why I’m saying it.

For instance I forgot exactly why I thought writing this post was a good idea. At the end of it all, my whole point is that grief is so weird and so hard and such a disturbance of life as you knew it. It is like being in the ocean. The waves crash against you and you’re not sure if you’re gonna get stung by a jellyfish or eaten by a shark, but you just gotta keep swimming.

Take care of yourself, give yourself permission to feel what you feel without apology. Go to therapy. Go sit in an empty church. Go to the library. Get some coffee. Binge Netflix. Whatever. Give yourself space to be sad your person is gone because if you’re not sad, you’re not healing. Or you’re a psychopath. Could be either one, I don’t know your life.

*all of this is my personal opinion. If you have any issues with any of it, just don’t read it. Don’t send me emails telling me how wrong I am. I concede that I could very well be the wrongest person alive. And goodnight.

The Terrorists Have Won

The terrorists have won. Don’t believe me? Just wait, I’m sure it will take less than an hour for someone full of fear masked as anger to comment on this post without reading it all the way to the end or not grasping what I wrote even if they do because fear makes us incapable of thinking. Our lizard brain goes right to work and we make no sense but we are very very angry. We read things that aren’t there and freak the fuck out. I know this because I operate from a place of fear the majority of the time.

We are scared and we are making choices from that place of fear. We are scared of change, of death, of judgement, of God, of there being no God, of mass shootings, of being kidnapped, of human trafficking, of evil and so many other things. We are also scared of the evil in our own minds and the fact that we know, no matter what we show the outside world on Instagram or Facebook, that we are depraved human beings. Alone in our thoughts and dreams, we hear the things our minds come up with and it is not cute which is why we walk around marinating in shame even as we smile and say all the right things about “those people” to make ourselves feel better. As long as we aren’t “like them” we are fine.

That is a lie.

The entire point of taking down those planes on 9/11 was to create such a level of fear that we destroy ourselves.

Looking around at the justifications people make for taking children away from their mothers at the border, the justifications people make for why a mother can pay $400 to have her child’s life ended in her womb, the justifications of why a living wage and healthcare are socialist policies and not just policies that improve everyone’s quality of life. Looking around at what is happening in the world and watching videos of white supremacy and chants of sending American citizens back to where they came from because they dare to have an opinion that differs from the opinion of the President, it is obvious that Bin Laden’s mission of making us so terrified that we destroy all of our values has been accomplished.

Thank God that the story of humanity does not end with terrorists accomplishing their goals or we would all be totally screwed.

The men who killed Jesus had the same goal to terrify people so much they would destroy themselves and the people in power could stay in power. Same story. The devil has no new tricks.

The spirit behind the crucifixion is a spirit of fear. It’s the same spirit that told Eve that God is a liar and that she would not die if she ate fruit from the tree of knowledge.

The fear that God did not want what was best for her, that God was keeping something from her and the fear that God was not who He said He was, all led to Eve disobeying God’s commandment which would have kept her and her children and all of humanity safe. But no, she was scared and so she disobeyed which led to all of us being in danger all the time and easily led to fear based choices.

It was Mary’s Fiat that brought God Incarnate into the world to save us from this spirit of fear and bring us back into a relationship with God. It was her love that countered Eve’s fear. Her love for God and then her mother’s love for Jesus, the child she carried in her womb and gave birth to. She raised Him and then watched Him die. She loved His lifeless body and laid Him in the tomb. And then waited. That love didn’t have any room for fear.

Mary said yes even though she was scared. Her choice was based on courage and on faith, even though she was terrified and did not understand how God was going to make it all happen. She had no idea what the future held for her but she said “yes” anyway. She did not let her fear answer for her. Not one single time.

To be like Mary. To be like Joseph. To be like the Saints, we have to say “yes” out of love for Jesus and not let our fear speak for us in our words and actions and in our choices. Because when we do allow our fear to speak for us, we allow that spirit of fear and destruction win.

Loving Jesus is about way more than just checking off boxes on a list. It means suffering with and for Him. There is no room for the spirit of fear in that. The opposite of fear is love. To love someone is to suffer with or for them.

Saints are the only way back from the place we find ourselves in now. Saints are the only answer in every point in history, now is no different. Saints are the opposite of terrorists. To be saints means to make choices rooted in love and not fear.