Monday, October 26, 2015

"It must be difficult to talk about your daughter...."

"It must be difficult to talk about your daughter...."

I am told this very frequently after doing a distracted driving presentation and talking about how Casey died.  I think sometimes that's, in part, why folks are so appreciative. And that is true for students as well as adults. Sometimes I do tear up, or my voice catches when I speak of Casey. Not so much when I talk of how she lived, but how she died, what her last words were and that I don't have the solace of knowing she did not suffer. I know she lived after being hit, she spoke and likely was terribly afraid.

It is sometimes emotional for me to speak of those last moments but it would be far worse if I could not remember her in this special way. The tragedy of her death seems just a bit less knowing that telling her story is making a difference and keeping others safe. So most often it is not difficult to talk about Casey at all. I am grateful that I have many opportunities to do so.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Thanksgiving smiles

Before her death I would pick up Casey at the train station coming home from NYC for Thanksgiving. I would park in a spot where I could see the west exit and wait. I would pretty much stare as I wanted to see her as she first appeared. She would walk out and as I was looking at her face she would suddnely see me and she would smile. I knew that smile was reserved for me-her daddy-and I loved it.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Have you forgiven the man who killed your daughter?

After a recent high school distracted driving talk in Colorado a teen age girl asked me if I had forgiven the man who killed Casey. I told her that he had not reached out to me and I have never had a conversation with him. As I said this I felt a little cheap and dishonest-I know that my ability to forgive is not dependent upon the person to whom forgiveness is being granted being present or my having a face to face meeting or conversation with that person. While the other person might benefit from hearing me say "I forgive you"  forgiveness begins  before the actual words are communicated to the other. So  I ducked her question and asked her why she asked. She told me that she has not forgiven the man who shot and killed her little brother and does not know if she will ever be able to do so. I was able to talk with her and let her know that forgiveness does not mean condoning what someone has done, but rather is making a decision to move on, past the anger, hate and bitterness that we feel towards another-that forgiveness can be so cleansing and freeing for those who choose to forgive as well as an incredible gift for the other. I think she is having to think about that a little-I would love to know how it all turns out for her .

 I think I have forgiven the man who killed Casey for the killing but not  for failing to reach out, for failing to try to express how sorry he was, for failing to act human and caring and failing to act how Casey would surely have acted had she killed him.  I have not communicated anything to him.How does this inability to forgive= let that go and move beyond it- hurt me or hold me back? Maybe I don't understand forgiveness as well as I thought.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Seeing others' children live..

With the holiday we spent time with family. Casey's best friend, her cousin  Jamie, was there.I hugged her and was so glad to see her. We talked about her upcoming graduation from law school and that she already had a job for the Fall and her trip to Europe with her boyfriend. She is  kind and sweet and  bright and wants to make a difference in this world-it is such an exciting time in her life and for her parents. I am so proud of my niece but looking at her as she begins her professional life brought into full focus my loss, my family's loss, Casey's loss. Casey should have been there spending time with all of us, with her 5 and 3 year old cousins, laughing and playing with them and telling us all about her exciting job in NYC as a journalist. It is so unfair and I felt angry and jealous of what they had, what I had at one time and what Casey had, and wondered how everyone could be so happy since Casey was not there and Casey was not living and we were having a good time without her.  I hope they all realize or even  think about how lucky and fortunate they are-parents to be able to see their child grow and prosper, a young adult being able to laugh, and cry and experience love and life and all that youthful energy and the promise of a future.

 Did they think of Casey?  Did they also miss her? I did not ask them if they were feeling some of what I was feeling.Do they appreciate more what they have because of what we have all lost- yes they loved Casey and have also lost her. Better question--for me-- do I appreciate now what I have today  -my son and wife and brother and sister and nieces and nephews and in-laws and all of those who so loved Casey? Do I fully appreciate the gift of life and health and the ability to experience joy and sadness and longing for Casey? And that despite all that I have lost that there is promise for  the future?

Friday, March 22, 2013

toffee chocolate chip blondie

I was in the Salt Lake City airport yesterday and as tired as I have been in months. Just finished 15 high school distracted driving presentations, more than 2500 teens,  in 3 states over the last week and not a lot of sleep.I wanted a snack and saw the blondies-I ordered one and as I started to eat it I thought of Casey and how she loved sweets and started to cry. She should be eating these, travelling, laughing and crying and living. I am 58 years old and she would be 25 next month. It is all so wrong , and even almost 4 years later still makes no sense and I wonder if when I do function, and I do function well, whether I am in a dream that allows me to function and then when I get tired and get emotional,  whether I am only then, when my guard is down so to speak, really experiencing life fully,and emotionally, and all the rest of the time it is not real. I thought that perhaps  I did not want to live, that what I do does not mean anything as Casey is not here and should be and that going forward nothing will change. As good as a day gets, as fulfilled as I am on days when I do speak with teens, Casey is still dead and that will never change. It is incredible to me that I am surviving Casey's death and maybe I do so through this dream-like self-protective state?  Looking into the future? I don't-and that is definitely self-protective.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year's Wishes-The Dialogue of Loss

It is New Year's day morning and so many have wished me and my family well for 2013. I have  wished many good health, peace and joy for 2013. But everytime someone wishes me and my family well for the New Year I  mentally rewrite their good wishes -they mean well, really want me to be happy and are not suggesting that I can ever be as happy as I would have been with Casey here, but that to the extent that I am able, really do want me to be happy and do want the best for me given what has happened.

That is what I do today three and one-half years after Casey's death-mentally rewrite others' statements to supply a "missing ingedient" so I do not question their compassion and ability to empathize.

 I remember closer to Casey's death being  angry at those who would wish me well, for how could I be well, or how could I want to be well, without Casey here. Didn't they understand that? Did they even try to understand how every day  was filled with such pain, anger,sadness and just feeling so different from almost everyone else?  What was wrong with them! Contemplating being happy with my child dead was not conceivable.

So that was a while ago and things are a little easier now as I have learned to do the mental rewrite which supplies a "missing ingredient" in others' messages. But is that fair of me-to judge anothers' statement as missing something because it did not satisfy my needs? Sometimes I feel like I am entitled to some leeway because of what I have suffered, i.e. "cut me some slack." But that is not at all  helpful when it comes to improving the dialogue of loss-how we  think, feel, communicate, comfort, understand and try to empathize following terrible losses, for that is a two-way dialogue and requires me, as someone who has suffered a loss, to also be understanding of those who do not know what to do or say to comfort those who have suffered such losses. So in response to genuine New Year's good wishes I have responded with anger, by mentally rewriting and supplying missing ingredients, by not being sensitive enough to just how difficult it can be to comfort others, and by silently being critical of attempts to comfort that did not meet my standard.

Could it  be my responsibilty now, afer several years of mourning, to help others understand how their statements may be less than helpful in an attempt to improve the dialogue of loss, but also to suggest what might be helpful from my perspective? If so...

  I am thinking of you and Casey as this new year begins, knowing that I can not understand how difficult it is for you and your family. I am not sure of what to do or say to help so please tell me-I am willing to listen and learn. Allow me to help. It is my hope that when you think of  Casey,  those memories may bring a smile or even a laugh.  Know that as a result being witness to your suffering and your family's suffering, I am trying to value family and friendships more and not take for granted the precious gifts of  friendship, love, health, and life.

Friday, December 14, 2012

20 Elementary School Children In Connecticut....

If The Parents of The Children Killed in Connecticut Are Fortunate…

"Parents will go home today and hold and hug their children a little closer tonight-and tell them how much we love them," President Obama said during a press conference. I have heard several reporters and others interviewed express similar sentiments since the tragedy in Connecticut.

I was driving when I heard the news. At first I guess I just did not believe what I had heard and continued driving. Then I needed to pull over and just sat in my car and cried - for the children, their parents and families, and for those loving and caring teachers who tried to protect the children; and for their community and for the world which is a much darker place today. And of course I cried because I was flooded with three and one-half year old memories from those minutes , days and weeks after my daughter Casey died. I felt, sensed, imagined the collective grief of those who were now suffering and would suffer for the rest of their lives. The magnitude of my families’ grief somehow magnified twenty fold. It is utterly overwhelming and incomprehensible. So why will we hug our living children more and hold them closer tonight? Is it because we still have our children and other parents do not? Is it because for at least a part of today, and maybe for the next several days or weeks, we will allow ourselves as parents to imagine the unimaginable? Is it because we realize that the beliefs we have about the natural progression of life, children surviving parents, beliefs which allow us to function, now are threatened? Is it because we realize that with respect to what is most important to us, the health and life of those we love, we have so very little control? These thoughts and fears are primal and come from deep within, but ultimately are selfish and self-focused. What about these parents?

If the parents of the children killed in Connecticut are fortunate they will find comfort from friends and family and will have at least someone who will listen for as long as it is necessary- listen as they sob, moan, cry, scream, blame, deny, question, regret, plead, shut-down; listen as they tell the story of their loss, and tell it over and over again, as they must; listen as they anguish over whether their child suffered in those last few moments ; listen as they question whether they loved their child enough, or were good enough parents; listen as they question whether their child was happy and felt loved; listen as they question whether they did anything to bring this misfortune upon themselves and their child; listen as they question their faith and how a supreme being could have allowed this to happen; listen as they wish they were the ones killed instead of their child; listen as they question how they can go on living now that their child is dead; listen as they blame themselves for not being able to protect their child and not being there to hold and comfort their child in his or her last moments. And this is just the beginning for these parents .