Excerpt

Here’s a Look Inside the book–a ‘try before you buy’ sneak peek. 

Note: Since I would never want cost to be a barrier for anyone wishing to read the book, you may also want to encourage your local library to carry it so it can be borrowed at no cost in your community. 

Thanks for having a look, and please feel free to share with your circle of friends and family.

Author’s Note

The premise of this book lies in the Laws of Thermodynamics. Specifically, the first law which essentially states that matter (energy being a property of matter) can neither be created nor destroyed. I realize it sounds strange to hear that a book that chronicles a mother’s grief journey ends up resting on a law of physics, but it does. You see, along this unwanted journey I discovered that although my son was no longer physically in my presence, he was still alive and well, and he was letting me know it over and over again. I discovered that there’s so much more to life and death than we learn during our time in school and from our parents and other influencers, and I found that others like me also had their own stories to tell. In that, I realized the greatest gift I could share with the world is Hope. And that’s the purpose of sharing my journey with you.

Prologue

May 31, 2010 – Memorial Day

I woke that morning to hear a soft rain pattering on the roof of our horse trailer. It seemed our long of horse camping would end early. We wouldn’t set out on a ride in the rain. It was always OK if it started raining once we were on the trail, but our mantra was to never deliberately start out in the rain. We’d had a lovely weekend filled with fun rides and good times with our friends, so no matter. I glanced over at Dan still sleeping peacefully and decided I’d go clean the stalls and let him have some rest. When I returned from the barn about 45 minutes later, it was raining harder, and as I stepped into our living quarters, Dan was frantic. He reported that it looked as if he’d had at least 20 calls on his phone and that something must be dreadfully wrong at home. He needed to run up to higher ground to try to get a signal. As he slung on his rain slicker, he told me to hurry and get the trailer buttoned up so we could leave quickly. I did as he asked, and as I worked, I imagined that our house had burned down. I specifically remember thinking of our kids, and assuring myself they were ok and specifically that my son, Aaron, was self-sufficient and was certainly alright. 

Yes, it surely had to be a big problem with the house, but never mind, I knew we could sort those types of things out. Suddenly, the door flung open and Dan’s face was filled with shock. I remember demanding he tell me what was going on, but he simply couldn’t speak. He just shook his head and sank as his legs began to buckle. I have no idea what possessed me to ask this question as I put my hands on his arms, but looking him straight in the eyes, I asked, “Is it Aaron?” He could only shake his head yes. My instant question came out as a whispered hiss, “Is he dead?” Dan nodded his head wordlessly. “Yesssss…”

SILENCE.

There were a few seconds of deafening silence, almost as if all time had simply stopped, and we were in a bubble of nothingness. Utterly devoid of sound, life, and reality. Our eyes were locked and the only thing I can remember saying is, “You can NOT fall apart on me now.” I was too stunned to cry, wail, or even fall over. I went into some sort of automaton mode: all I knew was that I needed him to get us home. I willed Dan—my hero—to come about. And he did. It was a hard load with the horses in the driving rain, and we exchanged very few words as we drove home in stunned silence, each of us wordlessly contemplating a reality without my son in it. A couple hours later, we pulled into our driveway. We left the horses standing on the trailer as people began streaming from the house to meet us. These exchanges still sound like hollow shrieks in my head: Dan’s ex-wife: “An accident on the road in the early morning hours. We came as soon as we got word… No, he didn’t hit anyone else… No, Sam wasn’t with him.” Matthew, Dan’s son, my dear stepson: “It’s my fault, Mary. I’m so sorry. IT’S MY FAULT.” The police officer: “He didn’t look bad, but you shouldn’t go to the morgue to see him… There will be an investigation; we’ll be in touch soon.” Peter, Dan’s son and Aaron’s best friend and co-conspirator in everything fun: “We don’t know where he was going… We don’t know why he left the house.” Me screaming to random kids sitting in my living room: “Get out of my house, all of you.” Dan: “Mary, go lie down.”

DARKNESS

HELPLESSNESS

And finally, RESOLVE. “I’m going to see him,” I announced at the foot of the stairs a few hours after I’d been sent to bed. “I’ll understand if no one wants to come with me. I’ll welcome anyone who does.” Dan, whom I believe wouldn’t leave my side if I jumped into a lake of fire, said he’d drive. Megan, Dan’s daughter, got up and came along. I think she’d jump right into that lake of fire to save me too. We were ushered into a private room (that I now know was not the morgue) where Aaron lay on a metal stretcher draped from the shoulders down in a thickly starched sheet. His shoulders were smooth and toned, and I didn’t see a scratch on him. His eyes were almost shut, but I could still see the expression in them and on his face. Not of shock, horror, or impending doom, but rather one of anticipation. I later realized it was the same look he had on his face every time we were pulling him up out of the water on his wakeboard on a shimmering summer day. Anticipation of a good ride. As much as I could appreciate anything that awful day, I liked that. I kissed his sweet face, Dan did too, and I remember Megan running her fingers gently along the top of his head. I’ve never regretted going to the hospital that day.

I’ve always been glad and grateful that Dan and Megan came too. I wasn’t OK. But I was resolved. Resolved to somehow get
this right. This experience I never wanted to have—I somehow needed to honor him by getting it right. And getting it right meant doing it my way and on my terms. I don’t know how or why I knew that, but I didn’t deny any of my early thoughts or revelations. In fact, I resolved to experience it honestly and truthfully. Later on, I finally could cry. My beautiful, funny, smart boy was gone from my time. My unwanted grief journey was underway. I have refused to live locked in the orderly house of reasons and proofs. The world I live in and believe in is wider than that. And anyway, What’s wrong with Maybe? You wouldn’t believe what once or twice I have seen. I’ll just tell you this: only if there are angels in your head will you ever, possibly, see one.
~Mary Oliver (The World I Live In)

In my own words, penned a couple years after Aaron’s death, I wrote this in the rapidly filling journal I was keeping:

“This journal is filled with instances where I felt Aaron was nudging us from heaven—to let us know he was alive and well. I jotted them down because I never wanted to later on second guess that they really never happened just the way that I wrote them down.”

Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.

~Mary Oliver (“The Uses of Sorrow,” Thirst)

 

Firsts

Take one day at a time; one moment at a time. Sometimes just one breath at a time. This was advice given to me by a complete stranger that in the weeks following Aaron’s passing (I hate using the word death) that I leaned on and lived by. It made sense to me to not try to think further ahead than the next place I’d set down my foot or inhale my next breath. I didn’t have anything else in me that could even operate beyond those steps and those individual breaths.

I allowed that to be OK.

At the same time, I marveled that the sun still came up every morning. The sky was blue, sometimes it rained; and everyone else was going about their business. But my world had just collapsed. Yet I could see no one else felt that crushing, overbearing, awful despair that infiltrated my very soul. For some reason, I marveled at that too.

Micro-awareness, and all-consuming grief: my new, unwavering, unwanted companions in those dark first days.

Isn’t that what hope is?
Not a wish, not a specific thing that you pray will be delivered to you, but merely an expectation that whatever dark, sleety side of the road you might find yourself on will not last forever .
~Elizabeth Letts (The Ride of Her Life: The True Story of a Woman, Her Horse, and Their Last Chance Journey Across America)

Survival

I had a lot of random thoughts early on. I interacted with very few people, but some of them gave me words I could cling to. Some thoughts came from what I read or heard, and some came from that reservoir none of us are really aware of deep inside of our own beings.

Life sometimes gives you second chances. When you decide something with an open heart, you usually make the right decision.
Even amongst the hurts of life, love prevails.
~Maya Angelou

This verse gave me some solace: “Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.” Psalm 143:8.

Sam, Aaron’s dog, said through an animal communicator: “Maternal love is like a soft breeze over the heart.” The communicator indicated that Sam felt it from me towards her and it was also very connected to Aaron. I was hunting for tiny blotches of sunshine to bring a small measure of warmth to a heart that felt like it had all but stopped beating. This could be the most raw and innate definition of optimism. At the very least, it was survival. So, I allowed those words, “Take one day at a time; one moment at a time; sometimes just one breath at a time,” to give me comfort. They were the tiniest filament of a lifeline, but a lifeline, nonetheless. They made me realize that even when our world closes in on us, there is still something tethering us to love, hope, truth, courage, and strength.

Journaling

I took to journaling my thoughts early on. Friends and family insisted I go to grief counseling, go to church, see a psychologist, read certain books, and perform certain behaviors to rid myself of the sadness and prevent me from sinking into an unrecoverable depression. None of the ideas sounded like anything I wanted to do. I spotted an empty journal someone had once given me as a gift. I’d never made so much as a scratch in it. But I picked it up and began pouring my thoughts, feelings, and experiences into it. Sometimes I wrote about how I was feeling that day, some‐ times I wrote about experiences that seemed impossibly surreal, yet they happened just exactly as I recorded them in the journal. Thirteen years hence, I’m still writing in the second volume of my journal. Not quite as often as in those early days, but when something happens or when a thought strikes me as important.

Many of the experiences that I had, especially in those first few years, defy logic, science, and common sensibility. I was grateful for what happened because I believed it was a nudge from the other side—Aaron letting me know he was alive and well and that he wanted me to know it and feel at peace. As the years wore on, I began collecting other people’s stories that were equally as uncommon, surprising, and heartwarming. No one whom I’ve asked if I could include their story in my book has ever turned me down.

I’m really glad that I took the path I did because not only did the journaling give me an outlet and a measure of comfort in the moment, but it chronicled instances I may have forgot‐ ten, or even worse, things I may have second-guessed as fantasies I created. But in fact, all of this is real—it happened just as I recorded it—and my desire is that it brings peace, hope, and comfort to those who need it most.

As you read through the following pages, note that italicized entries are taken word for word from my journals. You’ll note that I often wrote directly to Aaron, and at times in the third person. Aaron was constantly on my mind, and I still keep a dialogue with him today, albeit not so frequently as in those first dark days and years.

The quotes I share herein are things I’ve come across that were extremely comforting and helpful to me. Many of them completely gripped my heart with the synchronicity they paralleled to my own thoughts and experience. I’ve indicated instances where I have not been able to determine who the author is. All other unitalicized entries are my narration and are intended to provide additional detail to augment the journal entries.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
~Psalm 34:18