After Chris traveled back to Canada LC and I began to talk again about going back out to Wyoming.
I had decided after my last phone call with Sean that I could not and would not leave him. Only now my child was dead and there was nothing left for me anymore in Tennessee.
I couldn't adjust to the sights and sounds that made up my life in Tennessee any longer. The sun was too bright. The sky was too blue. The traffic was too loud. The people were too loud. The trees in my yard were closing in on me. Everything was too bright, too colorful, too loud. Too much. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't think. I couldn't function. The world that had been my life was now intolerable.
I didn't know where I was supposed to be during that time. I still don't. But sitting underneath the trees in the back yard the compass needle that was my life was spinning freely and out of control. I did not know where I was supposed to be, or even if I was supposed to be. I did not know anything in truth. There was nothing left for me in Tennessee and I told LC that I would move back to Wyoming. If nothing else the move would provide "wide open" instead of the deathly claustrophobia that was choking the life out of me.
A few days after Chris left I angrily pulled pictures off the wall and began to pack them away in a box. I had spent months off and on since we arrived back in Tennessee buying things at yard sales to replace the things we had lost in moves from Tennessee, from Alaska, from Wyoming. I had pulled up carpet and thousands of tack strips and nails. Painted the inside of the house. Helped to build shelves to hold pewter and crocks. I stood in the spare bedroom (that my son and his wife had slept in only a few months before) of our house in Tennessee feeling helpless and lost and angry, wondering "What the hell was the point"? What was the point of everything we had just spent months doing to regain our lives in Tennessee? There was no answer. No answer to those questions and no answer to every other question that burned and churned endlessly over and over again inside the exhausted and rapidly crumbling walls of my brain.
As I packed pictures of me, and my parents, and my children away in a box I broke down, inconsolable. I could not deal with it. In less than two years we had moved from Tennessee to Alaska to Wyoming to Tennessee and were now talking about selling and packing and moving again back to Wyoming. I couldn't do it all again. I couldn't. Couldn't sell and pack and move.............not again. I sat at the table in the yard crying - again crying. Angry at my inability to stop crying, when I knew that crying would neither help anything nor change anything. Angry at my inability to cope. Angry at Chris for leaving. Angry at their father for dishonoring his son. Angry at Sean for leaving me. It was all too much. Just..........too much.
We met with a real estate agent a few days after Sean's funeral, toying with the idea of selling off the house in Tennessee. I couldn't do it. Couldn't consider selling it. We had just moved back into the house 10 months before. My son had been dead less than two weeks. What if I sold the house, we got out to Wyoming and something happened to LC? I would be alone and have nothing. What if we got out to Wyoming and something happened to me? LC would be alone and have nothing. I did not want to stay in Tennessee at that point, was confused and broken hearted and knew that I was not able to think clearly. I needed to be away from this place, but I was not ready to sell the house. Not in the state I was in. Afraid that I would make a decision under duress that I could not take back. No. Selling the house was not an option. No. No. No. Not now. I knew that I needed at least a year to reevaluate and regroup.
If we did not sell, then the only other option was to rent. LC got the very good idea to try and rent the house to a law enforcement officer at a lower rent that we would normally ask for the house. We would not have to go through a property manager (which would have been a good thing after such a negative experience our last go-around). We would have a police vehicle parked in the driveway. We would have someone in the house that had already been background checked. We could help a cop out with cheaper rent for him, or for him and his family. If he stopped paying the rent knowing that the owners were far away in Wyoming we could contact his department directly. We would feel less worried and more confident in the safety and security of our house. We could simply pack only what we needed, store a lot of our belongings in the large attic space above the house, keep the furniture where it was in the house and not have to go through all the selling and packing of past moves. It was a good idea.
LC posted fliers in police departments in our home town as well as in neighboring towns, both local and county. Included pictures. Listed the price. Over the course of the next five or six weeks we thought we had it rented out three times. One cop strung us along for a couple of weeks, ended up giving us a song and dance about getting married and then not getting married and then getting married again - about how great it was that it was furnished and then not wanting it furnished - about moving in in three weeks and then four weeks and then five. We ended up telling him to forget it.
Another young and new officer was commuting from his parents home 40 miles round trip and loved the idea of furnished and close to work. He loved the house, his father loved the house, they both loved the price, his mother talked him into staying at home for another year so he could save money.
And finally a young officer with a young family who thought they had their house sold and wanted to save money through lower rent payments until they had enough put aside to build their own home large enough to accommodate their growing family. Only they didn't. Have their house sold.
While listening to their stories, their changed minds, their women problems and house selling problems and mother problems all I wanted to do was scream for every one of them to shut the hell up and get the hell away from me. Just..............shut the fuck up. I have just lost my son. I don't want to hear it. I don't care about your goddamn fucking problems. I did not need this. Neither did LC. We did not need to have our hopes raised that we could just LEAVE and the house and belongings would be taken care of, only to be continually let down.
Neither of us were sleeping properly. Neither of us were eating properly. Both of us were stressed and stretched to the limit. Neither of us could stand the memories of my child that overwhelmed us every moment of every day that we were in the house. Too many memories. Too much pain. Too many questions. No answers. No son....................
After many weeks of this foolishness we finally came to the realization that we would need to sign our house (again) over to a property manager (again). Which is what we ended up doing after long conversations with the manager about our expectations, what we wanted included in the lease, what he would do and not do, and what our response would be if either the renter or the property manager did not live up to their agreements.
Through all of this I was still trying and failing to cope with the death of my oldest child. Walking through dreaded and dark places inside my own head. Wandering aimlessly in pain through each dark day of my life. Stumbling through a world that seemed detached and unreal.
We sold a lot of our things. Again. We packed. Again. We gave away some things. Again. And then one day the packing and loading was all done, we were both exhausted physically and mentally, but as soon as we were ready, and in the middle of the afternoon, we left Tullahoma in two trucks and a U-Haul and began the journey west.
I remember very little about the entire trip across country. I remember dangerous drives and close calls as we drove through both St Louis and Kansas City. As we drove precariously through St Louis I was consumed with thoughts of Sean and Jessica. They were supposed to have gone to a conference in St Louis in June, and were both excited about their upcoming trip. Neither had ever been, and they had planned on staying for a few days beyond the conference to explore the city. The thought of that had greatly worried both LC and I because it could be a dangerous city for two young people who had little experience with such places. We worried about them going..............
I remember staying in a few Motel 6's because they accept dogs. I don't now even remember the name of the towns or even the states where we stayed overnight.
I remember an endless series of highway gas stations, and stops for coffee, and for bathroom breaks and to let Jamie walk. I remember LC and I crying together as we walked late in the evenings around the parking lot of some motel or other in some state or other.
I remember two phones calls from Tennessee while we were on the road. The first from the property manager letting us know that he had the house rented and that our new tenants were moving in on July 1. The second call was from Jessica who excitedly told me that her baby was a boy. For a second after she told me I was not certain what to say and then realized that I needed to say something. Anything. I tried to sound happy and told Jess what wonderful news that was. That's great Jess. I am so glad that you called me to let me know. Take care of yourself. Take care of your baby. I love you and will talk to you soon.
I had been driving on the interstate when Jessica called and when I hung up the phone I was crying, and struggled to focus on not crying and driving safely even though I felt as though I had been hit extremely hard in the side of the head again with a wrecking ball. My daughter-in-law was happy with the news, and I was happy that she had received good news. She needed it and I needed it FOR her. Anything to hold her together. Anything to move her attention from the death of her husband and allow her to focus on her unborn child. Anything to care about so that she did not fall into the abyss that I was free falling into (don't go there Jess). She needed good news.
I was happy for her. But I could not be happy for me. I did not know how to be happy after the death of my beloved son. It was no longer there. No longer inside me. I was no longer able to feel it. And something else..............I did not know her child. I wanted MY son. The person I had known for 28 years. The person that I had loved for 28 years. I wanted my son. I wanted him alive, smiling, working, playing basketball, watching every sport on TV that he could find, eating, playing with his dogs and my dog, healthy, strong, joking, continuing to build the life he had worked so hard to achieve. I wanted him not to be dead. I wanted my son. I wanted Sean.................
I remember crying often while I was driving, and feeling constantly overwhelmed with thoughts of my child. I felt lost. Completely, absolutely, overwhelmingly lost.
I remember nothing of the scenery across the country aside from flat farmland in Kansas, and the strong wind and mountains in south eastern Wyoming. Jamie, my constant and sweet and watchful traveling companion, excitedly stood up on the console as we drove from Meeteetse to Cody, barking wildly at the first appearance of Heart Mountain across the landscape. Did she remember where we were? How could she? It had been 10 months since we had last seen Heart Mountain and yet my puppy who had sat mostly quietly in the back seat of the truck through our entire journey across the country suddenly seemed to know exactly where she was................
We moved back to the same house that we had rented when we were last in Wyoming. It is small, quiet, reasonably priced, located a few miles outside the town of Cody. The mountains are still beautiful. The people are still open and friendly. The public lands are still quiet and lovely and welcoming. It is good to be in Wyoming.
It is a beautiful open place and here I feel at least a reprieve from the claustrophobia of a world that was closing in on me, as my heart wasted away in Tennessee. But I no longer feel the beauty here. I look out over beautiful every time I walk outside the front door but I see the beauty now through the clouded and horribly dark lens of severe loss.
A few weeks after we found our way back to Wyoming I dreamed of Sean. It was night time and we were in the suburbs somewhere - darkness, homes, residential streets, street lights, lots of trees in people's yards. I was standing next to a small group of people who were talking but I was not engaged with them. I looked over to my right and saw my grown son standing under a street light, illuminated in the darkness. Next to him was a structure slightly taller than he was. It was grey and shaped like a giant mailbox - the square sides, the rounded top, the big pull-down flap in the front. My son was standing next to it and as I watched him standing there I knew that he had already died twice and that he was preparing to die a third time. He turned to look at me and we stood silently looking at each other for a short while.
I looked away for a moment and when I looked back Sean was gone. I frantically scanned the area around me but could not see him. Walking over to the giant mailbox I stood in front of the pull-down. It slowly fell open and as I stood beside the open space I could see Sean at the back of the mailbox. He was laying on his side and with his back to me, and I looked at the muscles of his strong back for a moment, that were clearly outlined in the grey t-shirt that he was wearing. He was wearing black basketball shorts with a white stripe down each side. Typical dress for my son when he was not working.
I softly called his name. Sean. He partially sat up, turned to look at me and smiled. And then slowly scooted forward until he was sitting directly in front of me at the front of the giant mailbox. I wordlessly stretched out my arm towards him, and he grabbed my hand with both of his. He looked at me with that beautiful open face that he had and that small wry smile he had and those shining eyes that he had and he quietly and calmly said "It'll be alright". In that moment I woke up crying. No. It would not be alright. It would never be alright. It would never be alright. It is the only time I have dreamt about Sean since he died..
My children were the north on my internal compass. The loss of someone that I love so much is unbearable sometimes and every moment I am awake I can feel my internal compass spinning freely and unendingly. No it won't be alright.
Many times every single day of my life now my brain slowly and calmly speaks quiet and sweet and gentle and sad and loving words to my son. The words are barely a whisper. So quiet that they are barely able to be heard even inside the confines of this mothers' tired and hurting mind. "Sean..............my child...............Can you hear me my son?...............Do you know how much I loved you?.................How much I love you...............I miss you my child..................I love you my son.- my child - my beautiful child................I have always loved you.............I will always love you.....................Sean................My child..................Can you hear me?................."
The quiet and loving and gentle and sad song of a mother pleading for her child to hear her words and to feel her love always ends the same way. The song inevitably changes to the screams of horror and outrage inside the same brain of the same mother who hurts beyond her ability to cope with the loss of her child. Screams so loud that they pound so loudly and so violently against the walls of her head that it feels as though it will explode. "SEAN!!!! WHY????? WHY?????? NO!!!!!!!! PLEASE NO!!!!!!!!!!! PLEASE........DON'T BE DEAD!!!!!!!!! COME BACK TO ME!!!!!!!!! COME BACK TO ME GODDAMMIT!!!! DON'T YOU BE DEAD........DON'T YOU DARE BE FUCKING DEAD!!!!!!! SEAN..........NO!!!!!!!!!! NO!!!!!!!!!!!"
It should have been me. Not Sean. It should have been me. Not Sean. It should have been me not Sean it should have been me not Sean it should have been me not Sean. it should have been me not Sean it should have been me not Sean. It - should - have - been - me - not - my - son.
LC and I have been back in Wyoming for a while now. I don't know if I am supposed to be in Wyoming. I don't know if I am supposed to be in Tennessee or somewhere else. I don't know if I am supposed to be anywhere.
I apply for jobs I have no interest in. I toyed with the idea while in Tennessee of starting my own business. Now I toy with the same idea for the same business in Wyoming. I don't know if I have the strength or the focus or the ability or even the will to do such a thing. I sit here not really sure where I am supposed to be or what I am supposed to be doing. The compass needle refuses to stop rotating, and I feel as though I am quietly and irrevocably going just a little mad.
I have not worked out since Sean died. I cannot bring myself to get geared up, to head outside, to just do it. I can't just do it.
Every single moment of every single day is difficult to get through, and Thursdays are unbearable. Sean was born on December 30 and every December 30 for the past 28 years I have joyfully spent the day consumed with thoughts of my child. Reliving the experience of labor and delivery, and the remembrance of how he looked when I first realized that he was a boy, that he was healthy, that I had safely brought him into the world, and that he was mine. I can still remember exactly how he looked the very first moment that I saw him. The very first moment.
And now I meticulously count off the weeks, remembering the Thursday that he died. Darkly reliving that day and darkly acknowledging that my son has been dead for a week, two weeks, three weeks, seven weeks, twelve weeks, fourteen weeks, on the day I am writing this paragraph 15 weeks exactly. Endlessly counting off each morbid weekly anniversary.
LC is broken hearted. He spent five years trying to find some kind of common ground with my oldest boy. LC and Chris hit it off right from the get-go. but LC and Sean were too different from each other and these two men metaphorically circled each other whenever they were together for years, trying to figure each other out. Not certain how to take each other or how to feel about each other. Spending time together simply because I was their common bond.
The last time they were together was the last time LC and I saw Sean alive. 11 days before he died LC, Jessica, Sean and I ate lunch at a restaurant in Manchester and then we went to the gun range. We spent a couple of hours at the range and every one of us shot that day. Sean and LC went through hundreds of rounds together, and as I watched these two men talking and shooting and laughing and smiling and learning and teaching I knew. I looked at their faces and LC was loving it. I looked at their faces and Sean was loving it as well. After five years they had finally found something that they could do and an enjoy together.
His stomach was bothering him. Had been bothering him for a couple of weeks and before we went to the range we stopped at a pharmacy so that Sean could buy some Ibuprofen..............
Jessica and I talk often. She had been in the hospital for a number of weeks, and will remain in the hospital until the baby is born. Her son. My son's son. It is too soon for the baby to be born, and Jessica and the doctors are fighting hard to get the baby to stay put. For a little while longer at least. He is ready and wants to be born now but it will be much much too early. This early will mean disabilities. Perhaps death. He has to stay inside his mother at least for a while longer. For his sake. For her sake. He is all that remains of Sean. So he has to stay inside his mother for my sake as well.
I thought back recently to the day that Sean and Jessica were married. Jessica had just graduated from college and would be quickly starting a teaching career. Sean had just graduated with his bachelors and was getting ready to spend another eighteen months in school to get his masters. They were so very young. So very beautiful. So very happy. So enthusiastic about the lives that they would share together. Their whole lives were happily layed out in front of them, just waiting for them both to grab a hold of it.
Their fifth wedding anniversary was not long ago. I sent Jessica an email on that day simply to let her know that I was thinking of her, and that my heart was with her. There was nothing else to say. Nothing that I could say that would make anything better or easier for her. She was in pain and I was in pain, and it was their wedding anniversary and there was nothing else to say other than "I know".
My heart aches and my heart breaks for Jessica. She lost her husband. She lost the father of her child. The house that she loved will be sold. She will have to start all over again and rebuild her life all over again.
Sean died from an enlarged heart. A symptom of a condition that we did not know existed and a condition that will never be identified. He had Cardiomegaly. Sean went to the doctor only the day before he died, was treated for an ulcer and did not have an ulcer.
I have many questions regarding my sons' death that I want answered. Too many things that do not make sense to either me or to Sean's wife.
Sean's father never called me to find out how his own son died.
I had planned on trying to make this blog about Sean short. I wasn't writing a novel, I was writing a blog. But it developed into what this looks like now and I suppose that is OK. I had plans to include pictures of my son and I may add them later on. But right now I cannot bring myself to go out to the barn, dig through plastic storage bins, uwrap and look at pictures of my child.
I can see Sean inside my head as a baby, as a boy, as a man. I can picture him at so many ages and in so many places that we shared together as mother and son. Our lives were intertwined with each other for so long, and we were bonded together.
I can see the pictures in his home - the poster sized wedding pictures of Sean and Jessica in the hallway leading up the stairs of their home. I can see the pictures that were used in the slide show at Sean's funeral. I can see his beautiful face inside my head and seeing him rips my heart completely to shreds. And so pictures will have to wait for some other time because now is not the right time.
It has taken me two months to write this blog. Sometimes I would log in and write a few paragraphs. Sometimes only one paragraph. Sometimes only a sentence. Sometimes I would log in only to realize that I could not face it in that moment, so would just log out again.
In those first moments after I answered Jessica's phone call while driving back from Manchester, and through the initial shock and the pain of Jess' news, I realized something for the very first time. I realized that mothers unconsciously and without ever realizing it, silently pray and beg and plead every single day of their lives after they give birth to their child. Please keep my child safe. Please - please - don't let anything happen to him. Keep him safe. Please keep him safe.
One day Sean's home will be sold. His belongings will be sold and given away. His wife will remarry and his son will call somebody else daddy. One day it will be as though my precious child was never even here.
Only he was. Here.
I get out of bed every day wondering "what the hell is the point?". I go to bed every night thinking "there WAS no point."
I try to be OK because LC and Chris need me to be OK. I try to be OK because they are hurting as well and I don't want to cause them more worry, more hurt, more pain. Chris and I speak often but he is not here in front of me, and in truth I do not really know how he is doing. I asked him to go for a physical and at least physically I know that he is fine. But my stoic and strong son has lost the only brother he ever had. For so many years there was always just the three of us. Just me and the boys.
The world is too dark and too hard and too painful and too sad. I don't know what to do from here. And so I continue to walk the stone hallways of my brain (that come from nowhere and lead to nowhere) - safe for now in the isolation inside my head.
I miss him every moment of every day. Sean. My son. My sweet child..........