A week ago, I posted a Happy Heavenly Birthday for our son, Wil. He would be 38 years-old. I received two comments on the post that caused me to reflect deeply on the journey my family has been on since July 2014.
The first came from Tamara, one of Wil’s former teachers. She wrote: “Perhaps you might blog how you have coped with the injustice of his death. I’ve had to navigate that territory, and I’m sure you must have also.” When I read this, the first thought that popped into my head was, “Not well!” I mean, it will be eight years come this July, and honestly, I’m not “over” it. Further, no one gets “over” any loss, much less losing someone you love. At best, one learns to “live with it.”
I joke it is like Marty Feldman’s hump in Young Frankenstein. Something to be dealt with. If one knows trauma and has studied it (as a counselor, I did, and currently, our youngest, Emily, has studied and worked with it in her MSW program), 8 years is fairly recent. It’s still fresh. Regardless of the eight years, it is still “new” and has barely scabbed over.
Memories pop up. Songs play on the radio that remind us of “that time.” During holidays, there is the proverbial “empty chair.” It isn’t spoken of. Wil is not mentioned, or if so, fleetingly, because we don’t want to dampen the spirit of the holiday. But he looms large in our thoughts simply because he isn’t with us.
For his birthday, our routine is to have a piece of cheesecake. He loved it. Hannah hates it. This last birthday, she had a beer. I remember one year recently, Hannah had a piece of cheesecake. She sat in the chair I’m sitting in as I write this and suddenly, she began to weep. That happens. That happens to all of us.
We see something on TV or read something, and tears happen. That’s grief. Nothing to be ashamed of. It’s a sign of love. I’ve learned long ago that tears reflect what is in the heart when words don’t suffice. Remember that, please! I will repeat, tears and weeping are nothing to be ashamed of. They come by way of intense emotion.
The year Wil died, there were four deaths that hit our family hard. Yes, four. In October 2013, my nephew, Jared, died in an auto accident. He was still in college, and no, it was not his fault. On April 1st, 2014, my mom passed away. She was 99 years-old. Then, in July 2014, one day after Kim’s and my anniversary, Wil was shot and killed. In August 2014, one month after Wil, one of our very best friends, Tom, passed away. Four deaths in less than one year.
One month after Wil died, I gave a short eulogy for one of my teachers, Carolyn, who passed away after battling cancer. One teacher remarked that I must have buried my feelings so deep, she didn’t know how I could give Carolyn a eulogy. I don’t know either. My feelings weren’t and aren’t buried. They are right there and they bubble to the surface in unexpected ways and at unexpected times.
It’s just that I am Dad. I was Principal. I had no time to grieve. Sounds stupid, perhaps selfish, but there simply was no time. I had to care for my family: Kim, Hannah, and Emily. I had to take care of my school: 200 staff members and almost 2,000 students. I had to. There was no time for me to grieve. Did I feel Wil’s loss? Did I feel the loss of my family and friend, Tom? Did I feel Carolyn’s loss? Absolutely! I still do. Every day. At odd times. Many times. We all do. And I’m sure many of you who have suffered loss do, too. Sometimes, we don’t have the words to express, so we weep. Mostly in private. Sometimes, not.
To answer Tamara’s question about how I’ve handled the injustice surrounding Wil’s loss, my answer is still, not well.
The other comment on the post came from Sharon, who has suffered much, and is still suffering. I won’t go into it, because it’s Sharon’s story, not mine. But she wrote, “What is one thing that you can share to help others have a better understanding of your experience with such a tragic loss of life of your son, Will?”
My answer to Sharon is the same as it was when I spoke at the Celebration of Wil’s Life, and at Carolyn’s and Tom’s service. My answer is this:
One thing I urge all to do is don’t wait: don’t wait to share a kind word; don’t wait to tell someone how much they mean to you; don’t wait to rest, to enjoy a sunrise or sunset. If we wait, we might never have that moment again. Time, and life, move forward. We cannot put some things off until tomorrow. They can’t, and they shouldn’t. Because tomorrow might not be there. And, I urge you to live your life! Not someone else’s life, and not someone else’s idea of what your life should be. Live your life.
Last, and it’s something I end all my posts with: Make a Positive Difference in the Lives of Others. If not you, then who? Each day, life gives us unique moments to give to someone else, whether it’s time, presence, a kind word, or a touch. Live in these moments and do for others. Because something I’ve learned along the way is when you do something for others, you actually do for yourself, too.
As always, something to think about . . .
Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!
To My Readers:
I am pleased to announce that I will be interviewed on a radio show about my writing and my newest book, Blaze In, Blaze Out on Sunday, March 20 at 8:30 AM EST and then repeated on Sunday, April 24 at 8:30 AM EST. I hope you give it a listen!
If you have read one of my books, I would like to ask a favor. If you could go online and write a review or, at the least, give a rating on the book, it would be of great help. Both a review and a rating would be wonderful. The review could be one or two lines. It doesn’t have to be long. Just let others know you read it and hopefully, enjoyed it. Obviously, 4s and 5s are the best. Thanks for this consideration.
Connect with me on Social Media:
Author Website: www.jrlewisauthor.blog/
Twitter at @jrlewisauthor
Facebook at: www.facebook.com/Joseph.Lewis.Author
Amazon at: www.amazon.com/Joseph-Lewis/e/B01FWB9AOI /
Blaze In, Blaze Out: A Literary Titan Gold Book Award Winner! A Reader’s Ready Recommended Read! A BestThriller’s Editor’s Pick!
Eiselmann and O’Connor thought the conviction of Dmitry Andruko, the head of a Ukrainian crime family, meant the end. It was only the beginning. They forgot that revenge knows no boundaries, vindictiveness knows no restraints, and ruthlessness never worries about collateral damage. Andruko hired contract killers to go after and kill O’Connor and Eiselmann. The killers can be anyone and be anywhere. They can strike at any time. They care nothing of collateral damage. Andruko believes a target is a target, and in the end, the target must die. https://amzn.to/34lNllP
Betrayed: A PenCraft 1st Place Winner for Thriller-Fiction! A Maxy Award Runner-Up for Mystery/Suspense! A Literary Titan Silver Book Award Winner! A Reader’s Ready Recommended Read Award Winner! A Reader’s Favorite Honorable Mention Award Winner for Fiction-Crime-Mystery!
Betrayed is Now Available in Audio Book, Kindle and Paperback! https://amzn.to/3AfUUpS
late-night phone call, a missing kid, a murdered family, but no one is talking.
A promise is made and kept, but it could mean the death of a fifteen-year-old
boy. Greed can be all-consuming, and seeing is not believing. No one can be
trusted, and the hunters become the hunted. https://amzn.to/2EKHudx
Spiral Into Darkness: Named a Recommended Read in the Author Shout Reader Awards!
He blends in. He is successful, intelligent, and methodical. So far, he has murdered eight people. There is no discernible pattern. There are no clues. There are no leads. The only thing the FBI and local police have to go on is the method of death: two bullets to the face- gruesome and meant to send a message. But it’s difficult to understand any message coming from a dark and damaged mind. Two adopted boys, struggling in their own world, do not know they are the next targets. Neither does their family. And neither does local law enforcement. https://amzn.to/2RBWvTm
Caught in a Web: A PenCraft Literary Award Winner! Named “One of the Best Thrillers of 2018!” by BestThrillers.com
Caught in a Web is also Available in Audio Book, Kindle and Paperback! http://bit.ly/2WO3kka
found the bodies of high school and middle school kids dead from an overdose of
heroin and fentanyl. A violent gang, MS-13, controls the drug trade along the
I-94 and I-43 corridors. They send Ricardo Fuentes to find out who is cutting
in on their business, shut it down and teach them a lesson. But he has an
ulterior motive: find and kill a fifteen-year-old boy, George Tokay. Detectives
Jamie Graff, Pat O’Connor and Paul Eiselmann race to find the source of the
drugs, shut down the ring, and find Fuentes before he kills anyone else. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CKF7696
The Lives Trilogy Prequel, Taking Lives:
FBI Agent Pete Kelliher and his partner search for the clues behind the bodies of six boys left in various and remote parts of the country. Even though they live in separate parts of the country, the lives of Kelliher, 11-year-old Brett McGovern, and 11-year-old George Tokay are separate pieces of a puzzle. The two boys become interwoven with the same thread Kelliher holds in his hand. The three of them are on a collision course and when that happens, their futures grow dark as each search for a way out. https://amzn.to/34nXBH5
Book One, Stolen Lives: Editor’s Pick by BestThrillers! Literary Titan Gold Book Award Winner! A Crime Thriller finalist in the 2021 Best Thriller Book Awards!
Two thirteen-year-old boys are abducted off a safe suburban street. Kelliher and his team of FBI agents have 24 hours to find them or they will end up like the other kids they found- dead! They have no leads, no clues, and nothing to go on. To make the investigation that much tougher, Kelliher suspects that one of his team members might be involved. https://amzn.to/3oMo4qZ
Book Two of the Lives Trilogy, Shattered Lives:
The boys are home, but now they have to fit back in with their families and friends. Their parents and the FBI thought the boys were safe. They were until people began dying. Now the hunt is on for six dangerous and desperate men who vow revenge. With no leads and nothing to go on, the FBI can only sit back and wait. A dangerous game that threatens not only the boys, but their families. https://amzn.to/2RAYIk2
Book Three of the Lives Trilogy, Splintered Lives:
Three dangerous men with nothing to lose offer a handsome reward to anyone willing to kill fourteen-year-old Brett McGovern. He does not know that he, his younger brother, and a friend are targets. More than anyone, these three men vow to kill George, whom they blame for forcing them to run and hide. A fun vacation turns into a nightmare and ends where it started, back on the Navajo Nation Reservation, high on a mesa held sacred by George and his grandfather. Outnumbered and outgunned, George will make the ultimate sacrifice to protect his adoptive father and his adoptive brothers- but can he? Without knowing who these men are? Or where they are? Without knowing whom to trust? Is he prepared for betrayal that leads to his heartbreak and death? http://bit.ly/SplinteredLives
Photo Courtesy of Nick Fewings and Unsplash.