Today marks one year since we lost Jesse. So much has happened in the one year that is positive. It has made me realize the amazing friends I have in this world. It has brought people together that wouldn't have (Sean and Mollie). It has changed the course of people's lives. It has made me realize that I didn't have a CLUE what real grief was and that I never really did completely understand the loss of a child for others until my own loss. I wish I didn't know or understand what they feel. But I do. I stand in awe thinking of how many people rushed to be my side - people I didn't expect to help, helped. And sadly, a few people I thought would be there to hold me up, failed the most. Sad but true, but as Jesse reminds me - I cannot expect some people to be capable of something they are incapable of. It is their loss.
I have spent the last year continuing to advocate in Jesse's honor. Today I announced the 2nd Annual rockfest - Jessepalooza - taking place on Saturday 8/6 in Madison Wisconsin (jessepalooza.org). Its a positive vibe on a day that is very hard for us - the one year anniversary of his death.
I have watched others this year lose their children to type 1 diabetes. So many that I sometimes even forget their names. Some of them (those who have lost) have become some of my closest and dearest friends and today I also think of them. My text messages, emails and facebook has been an outpouring of love and support. And instead of crying most of the day I have looked at the messages and realize how many people Jesse touched in his lifetime - and now beyond.
Jesse is a testament that death does not silence the soul.
I have spent the last year writing a book on grief called "More Lasagna Please." The lasagna represents all the love that pours into your house when you lose someone. They bring you lasagna (love) and your freezer is full. It is to remind people that we do not need a freezer full of lasagna, we need lasagna brought to us for the rest of our lives. It is about the real grieving process not so much about God or life after death, but about tying your shoes, people who tick you off when they mean well, and just getting through Tuesday. It is meant to be read by the person who just experienced a significant loss AND the person trying to help them. I wrote my last chapter today and I leave you with my last chapter rough draft:
Wednesday is Just Wednesday – 1 year later
When I started this book a year ago it always occurred to me that while I really wanted to focus on the first six months of grief, I would want to follow up on the exact date of our first anniversary. I know when this was all happening to me I wanted someone – anyone – to tell me that I would feel something other than pain.
I hope some of you have skipped ahead to this chapter to see that indeed there is some relief.
As I write this today there are reminders everywhere of that fateful day. I had wondered how horrifying this day would be, how I would spend it, who would I spend it with. I knew I would not be spending today reliving that horrible nightmare. No, that slideshow still resides in the back of my mind trying to ooze out throughout my days but today cannot be a day to torture oneself or torture those around me. And strangely I find today nowhere near as bad as the hellish month between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Interesting to me – and surprising.
Instead I spent the day reflecting. In the past year I discovered the color blue is the color of God. Oh, man, did you just wince? Don’t wince! I’m not a person all wrapped up in bible thumps. I’m a person who on this one year of journey has discovered little touches of beauty. When referring to blue I recall thinking at one time stating that grief is like going through your whole life without seeing the color blue but now blue is everywhere. When I said that I meant metaphorically that blue is everywhere – grief is everywhere – but until you truly have to fathom the unimaginable, you can’t possibly understand other people’s grief. Not really. You can try but I’m here to tell those of you who are helping others through their grief that you are right when you wonder if you know what we are feeling – no way. And God help you, I hope you never do. But later I was interviewing a wonderful woman from a national radio show who remembered seeing my story time and again on the news and while telling her my blue reference she said, “You know Michelle, blue is a reference to God.” So is it ok for me – and you – to see a little bit of God over this last year? For me that is ok. For you it can be whatever you need – I don’t judge!
I want to remind you, my dear friend the reader that as you get through your first days, first weeks, first months and you wonder, “Will I ever breathe again?” I’m here to tell you that unfortunately, your breaths are still sharp with pain and reminders of your loss are everywhere. That is a harsh reality. But I can tell you that while those first weeks I couldn’t get through “Wednesday” because “Wednesday” was a deafening reminder that my son died a week ago, two weeks ago, 3 weeks ago. And now? Wednesday to me is just a Wednesday. So I’m here to tell you that after a year there IS relief even if it is in small steps.
My friend Laura who you learned about so early in this book who’s words and guidance got me through those first days, those first months and this first year just popped up on my facebook with the words, “I love you Michelle who sees Blue now and is beautiful and loving and full of light!” It makes me reflect that just like as he did in life, in death he brought me beautiful people, amazing growth and a year more of my journey. If Jesse were here physically there would be no Laura in my life and she is a gift. I think about the other families I have met this year who lost their children to diabetes. These parents are strong fighters filled with so much love that I can’t imagine my life without them. The community that I was once part of – the huge diabetes community – embraced me rather than discarding me when I thought most I no longer fit. Instead I became someone they came to for advice no matter how strange I thought they would want advice from the woman who’s son died, not who lived. A gift from them.
The odd moments continue but they are easier to handle. Today I had a new intern start at the magazine under my guidance. Jesse’s death remains an awkward thing, I mean, am I supposed to fully disclose his death right away? Do I not mention it? What’s the right etiquette? In this situation my intern popped in today and we were talking about event planning. We started talking about kids and what kind of music they listen to. I started to talk about how my daughter prefers new music and that my teenage son “liked” heavy metal and that my youngest son was still forming an opinion. It lured us into a discussion of video games while I sat uncomfortably feeling almost as if I was lying to her by not telling her that my son had died. She was after all standing across from me listening to me detail all three of my children’s musical taste and now video gaming. I said, “I have this event in the summer in honor of my son called Jessepalooza. We gave away a private tour of Raven Software.” Without a blink but with quite a bit of obvious misunderstanding she said, “I bet he just died when he got that!” I knew this moment was going to be more painful for her than me. Split second thinking and me blurting, “I’m so sorry, and please do not feel horrified, you couldn’t know, but my son Jesse died a year ago today.” Horrified she was. I’m afraid our uncomfortable moments will continue until someone writes more clearly about death etiquette.
I think of my family. His death brought us together, tore us apart and today I am happy to tell you that my family is intact once more. We realized through this year that we needed each other and no matter what you have to stick together. I’m grateful for them.
My kids. What can I say here without choking up? My 17 year old daughter has shown so much grace, strength and love that I am in awe of her. Don’t get me wrong I don’t want to ever portray a teenager as perfect, I think that might be against the law, but her view on the world overwhelms me sometimes – not jaded and sad, but full of life and memories of Jesse. My 10 year old son who has gone through so much in this year, my silent one who held all that pain inside. I hope he continues to journey in the right direction and hope that he continues to remember his brother through stories, videos and good times. Maybe you are reading this early in your grief and I hope this brings you some comfort as you look at your children and worry about their future and immediate pain. You will help get them through, keep trudging.
I wish I could tell you that you’ll be truly ok. I do. But I’ve learned that grief is a son of a bitch. It bites you right in the ass when you least expect it and sometimes you will have to keep it in line all by yourself despite all the best intentions by friends and family because only you, my friend, stand in those shoes. I’m still healing every day and I wish you the same healing strength. Who knows, maybe we’ll meet again in 5 years? I’ll bring the garlic bread – you bring the wine."
Love to you all, and thanks for sticking with me.