GETTING TO 'SEE' THE FACE OF GRIEF.....THE LAST TIME ... THE GAME OF 'LIFE'...
by Gloria Faye Brown Bates
January 12, 2012
As you all know, I lost my son May 29, 2010. His name was Tommy. I've lived with the grief of losing my only child since that day.
I am going to try to talk about it now. The last time I saw my son was on May 28, 2010. That's the last time my eyes looked at Tommy, my arms hugged my son for the last time, the last time I gave him a kiss on his cheek. This is the last time I waved goodbye to him as he drove down the driveway.
It was the last time I got to make his favorite sandwiches, the last time I got to see his golden, sunshine smile and the twinkle in his blue-green eyes.
It hurts now, I feel that pure pain well up from my soul hurting so much that it made my eyes tear up. I feel I may cry now.
I hope I can go alittle farther. This is the first time ever that I could say the things I wrote above. Today is January 12, 2012.
I don't know if I could possibly say these things out loud in a conversation to someone. I don't think I've reached that point in time, yet. Yes, this is the 'first time' I've allowed myself to think of 'The Last Times'...
The day of May 28, 2010..Friday..... when Tommy was at our house was strange. Skip came home very early from work, something he never did, and had to go back later. We've always said we are so thankful 'that' was the day he came home and got to spend 'his last time' with Tommy.
Skip and Tommy were the best of friends, they were very close. Skip loved the ground Tommy walked on... Tommy loved the ground Skip walked on. Tommy thought Skip was the coolest and he loved how quick Skip was on his feet to come back with a joke, or a catchy phrase when they were laughing and talking. They joked all the time... they even pulled jokes on me!
Whenever I would say or do something.. Skip would say 'let me call Tommy and see what he says about that!' It was a game, a fun, happy game! I only had Skip and Tommy and our Pups... they were my whole world.
Everyone always thought Skip was Tommy's son... all those years we never said differently because... why should we? They were father and son... Tommy looked up to Skip. Tommy and Skip would look at each other and smile whenever someone would tell Skip that his son looked 'just like you'. Tommy never forgot his father... but, he never forgot Skip, either.
Skip tried to guide Tommy in the right direction when making decisions. I can honestly say that Skip and Tommy never had an argument or harsh words... never. They were best friends, they were father and son. Tommy loved his father, he also, loved Skip just as much.
Tommy wanted to pressure-wash our home that evening and he did, he also, washed our vehicles and his big white pickup. Later, I'll tell you something funny about when Tommy would 'fix things'... something would always ..happen! :))))
Even this day before he died... Tommy 'fixed things'.... and it took some time before we became aware of it. It made me cry all the harder.... and laugh at the same time! Grief blended with humor! It's a strange mixture, sad but, funny... strange. Can you imagine grief, pain mixed with humor... laughter and tears and pain all at the same time?
Skip and I had bought Black Forest deli meats at Sam's Club, I knew Tommy loved the assorted meats. I made him 2 big, nice sandwiches and brought them to the picnic table for him to eat. I brought him something to drink... to this day, I can't remember if it was a Mountain Dew or not. Tommy loved his Mountain Dews, and really he drank too many of them. Skip and I worried about that.
Tommy came to the picnic table and sat down facing me. He began to eat his sandwiches with such pleasure. He had a smile on his face and he told me several times 'Mama, they are the best sandwiches I've ever eaten'. I will never forget laughing at how happy he was while eating them, and telling him 'Tommy, you know they aren't the best sandwiches you've ever eaten!' He said 'yes, they are, mama, they are the best!' How well I remember this particular moment! In my mind I was wondering 'why' did he think those were the best sandwiches he'd ever eaten? Nevertheless... I was happy he was enjoying them so well!
Tommy told us that he'd fallen a couple of days before he came to our home. He and his wife were at her mother's home, he pressure-washed it. He was up on the high deck and he said he fell off from it. I was alarmed and asked him questions. He made light of it and said he didn't know why he fell. If someone could have known then...................
While he was at our home, I walked outside and I saw Tommy sitting on the ground... like anyone would do up where we lived at the time.. it's like a small mountain and you could look around while sitting and feel and see how pretty it was. If I could have just known............................
I asked Tommy why he was sitting there, and he said he fell. I looked closely at him and he seemed to be alright. I asked him what made him fall. Tommy said he didn't know. I asked him if he wanted us to take him to the hospital. He said no, he was alright. I remember looking at him closely... in my mind now, I still can't see a clue that would have told me.....
If you knew Tommy, you would see this tall guy ...6'3" tall... golden- blonde hair that had turned darker because he'd been driving a truck and was inside alot. He was handsome with his blue-green eyes and soft, gentle smile. He also, had a soft, gentle voice he spoke in. Tommy was a very strong guy, and muscular.
To be truthful............. women liked him, he liked women. From the time he was very young.. older girls liked Tommy ... alot. Older women liked Tommy... alot. Tommy was very respectful and caring and soft-spoken.... women like that. Men respect that. Being a 'big' man, he carried himself well.
Tommy drove a big truck for a living. He'd been driving for years. He was looking forward to going back to school. He wanted to be in law enforcement.
He had come home to stay... weeks before he died. He was going to go to school to be a parole officer... and was already preparing, and had talked to people who were important to helping lead him to accomplishing what he wanted to do.
We were so proud of his decision, and his wife was attending nursing school to be an RN nurse. I was happy that Taban would have parents who would be professionals at their jobs. I was excited for both of them. I was proud.
Tommy had introduced me to a game online that I play now, to this day. I would have never thought 'I would play a game online' as I'd always thought they were so silly.
This game became so, so important to me then... and now. I will have to tell you 'why'.......... it's a long sad, tragic story and one that hurts me to this day.... but, nowhere like the pain Tommy suffered.
I will stop now and write later about this... just alittle later. I find myself being very upset as I get close to this subject. My son suffered greatly and this helped to lead up to his death...Tommy died with 2 blockages in his heart, he was just 40 years old!
I will tell you how the symptoms were hidden from us, we didn't see or realize how sick he was.... because of what happened exactly one year........ before.
Something touched his life in such a tragic way that he could never get over it..... it wasn't his fault. It happened out of the blue in Tennessee on a bridge that Skip and I traveled over many, many times when trucking 'out west', and on private vehicle.
So unexpected.... so lifechanging in Tommy's life... so tragic that at this very moment.. I feel the crying inside myself building up to make me sob aloud... I feel the tears in my eyes and if I looked into the mirror now... I would see the 'Face of Grief'. I know that face so well now... it has aged me and helped to make me an 'older woman'.
I 'see' for the moment that I will have to stop writing... I came quite a way this morning to begin 'Painting Tommy' into the person he was ..with my words. Tommy was a colorful character, a funny and fun person... always joking and laughing.
Tommy loved his mama, and he loved Skip. Tommy loved his wife and Taban, and McKenzie. There's a tragic story there... too. Tommy had so much pain inside of him when he died... so many sad things happened to him during the year that lead up to him dying.
The pain is always there ..ready to strike at me just as a Cobra snake strikes forcefully and viciously if it's threatened. It's so much more powerful than I am... and this is my weakness, the one thing that can bring me to my knees almost instantly. I can hardly bare such pain... but, I know that I will. I am so strong.
I notice that if I 'skirt' around going into the grief that Tommy carried in his heart while he lived... and 'skirt' around all that led up to him dying.. I stay calmer.
I will stop now and continue alittle later. I will write about Tommy's Grief Before He Died. It involved many things, including wanting to see his daughter and how he was fought every step of the way. It involved death. It involved many things that weren't right in his life and he was aware of it.
I asked Tommy to come home to live, he wouldn't. Skip and I worried so much about him, and his well-being... both emotionally and physically. Tommy was always so strong and hid things well. He did talk to us often, we knew how he really felt.
I will tell you the name of the game Tommy introduced to me.. and since March or April of 2010... I have played that game faithfully.
Tommy played that game up until the day before he died... he would call me and get me to go online to play.... I would hold the phone for long periods of time and let him talk when 'he felt like talking'... I 'felt' Tommy needing a connection to his mama. I was there for him. I didn't have to say a word.. I just had to be 'there'.
While we played his favorite game of many colors and gifts and being able to design dream farms... I held the phone to my ear to 'hear' my son... though not always did he talk.... but, I could 'hear' his life, and know he was there.
His mama 'being there' meant so much to him... Tommy was going through so much in his life, his home, his very existence. He reached out to the one thing in his life he was certain of.... my love for my son... his mama.
He knew at any moment he could call me, and his mama would be there, Skip would be there for him. He did many, many times through the years... every day.
Can you even imagine ... how many times I've thanked God ... that I had that to comfort me during my walk on the path of grief? Can you imagine how thankful I've been when I look back and know Tommy knew his mother loved him... he never had to wonder? I would always tell him when he called me while thousands of miles were between us... I would say 'you know your 'ole mama' loves you, Son'. He would laugh his happy laugh, making me smile. He 'knew' his mother loved the ground he walked on.
We weren't perfect at all, but.. as mother and son... we were 'perfect enough'. Tommy and I had many things in our life that hurt us deeply... that should have never happened to a mother and child. I see on the news everyday at how children disappear and mothers are crying for their babies to come back home. I know how that feels when I watch such.... my heart is crying for her baby to be brought back home and to be alright.
Before I stop writing for this morning, I am going to tell you the name of that game... you can see that it's so important to me now. I, the person, who is too serious to play 'silly' games, the person who loves serious games such as Scrabble, Mahjongg and word games.
Sometime when I write in the future, I will describe exactly how it felt when sitting there 'listening to my son's life, no words just breathing... sometimes I wondered if he was crying'. For now, I can't... I see I'm crying again.. I'm crying myself.
Yes, I feel that one tear slowly sliding down my cheek. I feel that pain inside again.
I try to describe 'true grief' to you... so, you can know what people you love go through when they lose someone, or lose... you. I will tell you honestly how 'it really feels'... so, you won't have to wonder.
While I heal 'inside'... you can share the journey with me... I invite you to ...it would mean the world to me. While I heal... you can 'see' and 'feel' and 'learn' what grief can do when you or your loved ones ...lose the very people they love in life. Especially when the people you lose... are all you got.
I feel that 'grief' threatening to overwhelm me again... it's the Cobra snake in my life... it's threatening to strike me down on the ground again... for me to painfully get back up again to dust my pants ... and go on with my life. I'm strong enough... it's just that sometimes, it's a little harder than other times to get back up... it's that pain, you know. It's called ...grief.
Oh... the name of this game is ............ Farmville by Zynga. This one game has become so special to me... it means the world to me. It was what Tommy was playing and where his thoughts and pain were at ..until he died. This game helped him to be connected to others, to his mama for many hours when he came home those weeks up until the day before he died.
I'm so thankful for this one game... it will be important to me until the day I die. It's one of the 'Tommy' things to me. I'm so thankful that somehow... I 'knew' it was important to play this 'silly'......... (I did think that! It's not silly, it's a wonderful game to sit and arrange and rearrange 'life on the farm')........ game. I just knew it was very important to him... and somehow I 'knew'.... right. Thank-God.
Farmville.... it's so strange how important this one game has become to me. I still try to play Tommy's Farmville game now... but, I have to stop and only play mine. That's because where we moved to.... one can't get 'normal' internet... all the data is 'pre-measured' and if I go over the data usage.. I will have to pay out lots of money. When I first learned that.... it was the hard way. Our Sprint phone bill was $474.00 ... $300.00 for internet for one (1) month! I won't forget that... shock.
I wish so much for Centurylink internet again... it's the best in my book. We still have home phone service with them... but, their internet isn't here. I keep hoping and I call every several months to check if they are here.. yet. Other people are getting it out in the countryside where they live... we live only 4 miles out of town.
I have talked this long... and now, I've become aware that my grief is like the tide of the ocean.... it receded back again. I can go from my computer now... feeling good again, and even smile. I know everything really is going to be alright. I 'know' this.