Monday, July 2, 2018

It's July 2....

....which means two years ago I was having the last day of my old life. I was happy. My kids were doing well and everything seemed to be in place. We were getting ready to invest in a family adventure. Life was good.

Then it wasn't.

I miss Cody. Still. After 2 years. My heart still aches to be able to hear that infectious laugh just one more time. To have him bolt through the front door yelling, "Mam!" But if I'm also being honest Cody was an up and down test of my emotions for years. The ups were wonderful. When the sober, clean Cody was around life was balanced. But the downs were serious and during the ups I was constantly worried for his health and safety knowing the downs inevitably would come. He was in rehab twice and struggled with alcohol addiction. But he was happy and sober the last 6 months of his life.

Until he wasn't.

I will never know what thing set him off and sent him down the path of self destruction. Just 4 days before he died by suicide Troy and I had seen him in Oregon. As we hugged and said our goodbyes my heart was calm. He was happy. Seemingly at peace. But that's the lie of depression and mental illness. While Cody was thrilled, happy, and grateful that we made the trip to visit him he was struggling. I'm forever grateful that the last days I had with my son were filled with laughs, good conversation and fun. Certainly the upswing that gave my heart that calmness. That peace that perhaps my son had finally found his inner happiness. That maybe the down wouldn't be so overwhelming for him next time.

Until it was.

The worst kind of down imaginable happened on July 3, 2016. I still remember that call. That horrible, unbelievable call followed by days of horrible, unimaginable grief. A grief that still resides within me but has become something different. My life changed forever that day. I changed forever that day. Some pieces of me have been restored but other parts have been forever altered. I'm still learning which is which and to be okay with all of it. I'm embracing all the good and wonderful changes life has brought since Cody's death. The restaurant we opened to honor him gives our entire family purpose and the strength to push forward. It can be hard and trying....similar to life with Cody for so many it seems appropriate that the very place named after him would have ups and downs. It's stressful. And rewarding. And trying. And fun. And tiring. And fullfilling. But even with the ups of the restaurant and seeing my son's picture everyday I was there, there was still an absence of joy.

Until there wasn't.

I have a new, beautiful granddaughter. A lovely little bundle of joy who shares the initials of the uncle she will never know. Carly Ann Pryor has already wrapped her little soul in all our hearts. She brought joy back to my life and I am forever grateful for God's blessing at just the right time. My sweet grandson is completely enamored with her, too. It is a beautiful thing to see him interact with her, give her kisses and ask to, "hode Cahwe". These tiny humans fill my heart and make me look foward to future events with Pa and Mae. Last week we had Tristan overnight on the boat. Oh, to have such joy in my life over something so simple. It was a treat for sure! The anticipation and excitment of having those grandchildren spend a weekend with us on the water as they grow up truly gives me something to look foward to.

So tomorrow will still be somber. The one day of the year that is the hardest for me. For my family. Life changed that day. But life has continued to change. It gets better. Not easier, but better. Joy has returned. Hope exists. Happiness surrounds me and I don't always struggle to see it.

And that's a very good thing.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Dear Carly,

I was given a writing assignment at work to describe what my life looks like when things are in harmony. Or out of harmony. I had the entire thing written and it was a beautiful piece of editorial genius, perfectly describing how my heart aches when relationships are struggling, both personally and professionally. Or how it sings when my family can spend an afternoon together and laugh and have a good time. Or how easy things flow and creative ideas emerge when working relationships are so in-sync. And how my life hasn't felt in complete harmony with anything since Cody died.

Then you were born. And my words didn’t quite make sense anymore.

Carly Ann Pryor  -  2 hours old
How a tiny precious little life can make my heart sing again is surely a gift from God Himself. The joy that I had been missing since July, 2016 came flooding back the moment I held you. I had been searching for it. Waiting for it. Hoping it would find it's way back to me. There were many happy moments, but the true joy I use to have in every day things was simply absent.

Then you were born.

All of these things I thought described what I needed in order to have harmony made no sense once joy returned. It was joy...the key ingredient for me to feel my life is harmonious. There are so many things that used to bring me joy that were lost once grief took over. But now that I've felt that spark again? The happiness-on-steroids jolt of joy I felt the first time I held you? I realized it was the one thing still missing for complete harmony.

Harmony can be described in many ways, but the most common definition is relative to music and the combination of pitches and tones to form a pleasing musical sound. Your sighs and gurgles in harmony with my son's goo-goo noises and baby talk is filling my heart with joy and it is truly the best music in my life right now. You have changed his whole world, his perspective, his priorities, his definition of love. I watched your daddy melt as the nurse put your tiny self in to his arms. My heart was full.

Is my life in perfect harmony? No. Is anyone's? No. But now that a sense of it has returned, however brief, I have hope that it will come around more often. And now that you are finally here I sense "more often"  is an understatement.

Thank you for filling my heart with joy and giving me hope that the days ahead will fill the voids from grief. They are already filled with love, laughter, goo-goo noises, hope and excitement as we watch you grow and wrap us all up in your cuteness. I love you to the moon and back, my sweet granddaughter. 


Friday, February 2, 2018

Another Birthday...forever 28....

It seems like I wrote about celebrating the first birthday without Cody yesterday. I just finished rereading it and as tears stream down my face I can't help but think about how different every February 3 will be from now on. A celebration, yes. But a celebration of the life already lived and not the life left to live. I also shed some tears for the mom who wrote that a year ago. She sounds like she was in a much different place than today. More sadness. More despair. Less hope. It was, strangely enough, a bit peaceful.

As I move further and further away in time from July 3, 2016 I find the smiles come easier. There are things to laugh about again. Things to look forward to and hope for. But there are other factors that start coming in to play in this grief journey. A journey that, quite frankly, sucks with all the hit-by-a-brick moments that launch me in to more reality that my son is no longer here but life continues.

Cody would have turned 30 tomorrow. A new decade. A decade that he will not be here for. A birthday that I may have purchased a cane, adult diapers and denture cream as a gift along with something practical. A birthday that we would have, no doubt, celebrated with gusto and fanfare. And as I see posts from his friends and others on Facebook talking about turning 30 it makes my heart hurt. But not quite as much as my heart hurts thinking about how my middle child will turn 28 this year.

Cody died when he was 28.

And why should that matter?  Nathan needs to be celebrated and lifted up and talked about because I'm so very proud of him.Why can't I just celebrate Nathan turning 28 without relating/comparing/thinking about Cody never being older than 28?  Because, grief.

Stupid grief.

And I'm sure it will hit hard again in 2 years when my youngest turns 28. Or not. Grief is unpredictable so who knows what will happen to me on February 3, 2020....when Lindsay turns 28 and Nathan turns 30. 30. The number that is hitting me so hard this year.

Stupid grief. So tired of it hanging around. *sigh*

I've written before about God's timing being perfect in every way and February 3 is no exception. After all the physical/mental/emotional work we were finally able to open the restaurant last year. The timing of being able to have our Grand Opening on Cody's birthday is still not lost on me. I truly believe it was God's perfectly timed gift for this grieving mom. A way for me to remember and celebrate the life Cody lived on the very day set aside just for him when he was still here. A day to continue celebrating instead of thinking about what I've lost. What we all lost. Who we lost.

So tomorrow on the day that we would have celebrated turning 30, we instead celebrate turning 1, a number that represents youth and joy and hope for the future. 1 year behind us with many ahead of us. 1 year of hosting parties and celebrations and first dates and family holiday dinners. 1 year of smiles and laughs and love.

Happy Birthday, Cody. CAP's is turning 1! Here's to 29 more.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

So Grateful....

The last 16 months have been both a blur and a slow-moving progression. I've spent many days/weeks/months processing grief and trying to live my new reality. I could never have done any of it without the help of my family and friends.

Troy and I decided that this year's Thanksgiving should be one of gratitude and love for those who have helped the Pryors maneuver through all the things nobody should have to maneuver through. Since the very first day of Cody's passing they all scooped us up in their arms and carried us through some pretty difficult days with love, patience and compassion. My own children have been stoic around Troy and I for the most part, but I know they have had their own grief to struggle with. So this year Thanksgiving was for them, too.

We hosted a big dinner at the restaurant. Fitting, we thought, since the very place we gathered at was born out of the tragedy that they all helped us through...are still helping us through...will forever help us through as the 4 of us continue processing this new normal. It was a feast to behold! As I walked around snapping pictures my heart was full, my eyes watery, and my spirit renewed.

I still miss my son so very much. Not a single day has passed that he is not the last thing on my mind as I lay down each night. My other two children carry his spirit without even realizing it when they talk about a memory, use some silly childhood phrase, or gesture in some of the sames ways he did. Genetics are a fascinating thing and I have a new appreciation for them as I watch my other two children live their lives.

Cody is always here, living through them.

To all of our family and friends, thank you. We are so grateful for your love and support. To everyone else, make sure this holiday season is filled with grace, love and compassion for those around you. The holidays can be a lonely time for some so if you know someone who has struggled in the past or may be struggling now, reach out. Talk. Support. Love. It's always about love.

May your holiday season be filled with blessings!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

359 Days

Exactly that many days ago Troy and I were spending time with Cody and Sydney in Oregon after celebrating a beautiful wedding of a close friend. Exactly that many days ago at this exact time I was taking these selfies, filled with joy at getting to see my son that I hadn't seen in more than 6 months.

These pictures make my heart hurt. I miss him so much. At times it seems unbearable. And as we approach that horrible 1 year mark it becomes all too real all over again. It seems so long ago. Because it was 359 days ago, after all. A long time. But in the same breath I remind myself, "It's only been a year." It seems like Cody is just on some bus somewhere, traveling with his wayward friends and enjoying life the way he needed to. 

But he's not traveling. He's not out of cell service range and can't call me.

He's just gone. He will never be calling me again. Not in 10 days when my birthday rolls around. Not on Troy's birthday. Never. And the longer I go without hearing his voice, the more I feel his absence.

There are many things in my life that are difficult since Cody died. Simple things. Things that defined me as a person before July 3, 2016. I just don't have the energy for most of them. My brain just has a difficult time processing things like it used to and it's draining...and physically tiring. So execution of the smallest of tasks seems like a monumental undertaking. But how am I still working? Good question, but the answer probably lies in the fact that I have nothing left once I leave work. I'm forgetful, I'm tired. I'm kind of numb with spurts of sporadic energy usually reserved for my husband, children and grandson. I don't have much patience and I really use to have a boatload. It's hard for me to smile and be polite with strangers when I want to tell them why I'm not happy and overshare my entire life because I think they need to know I'm not normally like this. Over analyzing what people might be thinking about my frown is another of my favorite pastimes lately. It shouldn't matter what they think. I need to just BE however it is I need to BE.

I also have all these things rolling around in my brain that I want to do but can't actually follow through with. Mailing a pile of gifts to people around the world that I've gathered up along the year to show my appreciation for those that have reached out to my family. Mailing just one of them. Mailing a damn birthday card. Buying a birthday card. Getting dressed to go get the birthday card. Getting dressed. Getting out of bed.

Execution - 0; Grief - 9,284,760.

So getting back to the gym seems pretty much impossible right now. So impossible I don't even put it on the list of short-term goals. It's on the list of things I use to do. With about 98 other things.

I would love to scrapbook again, but my scrap supplies haven't really been touched since I was planning Cody's service. It's a disaster in there, with reminders piled everywhere of the last big project I did. So then motivation quickly dies.

Execution - 0; Grief - 9,284,761.

There was one aspect in my life that I just could not look at anymore. This is a great illustration of my brain, actually. If you are of a certain age you can remember the drug-awareness campaign that quoted, "This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs." with a picture of an egg cracked open in to a frying pan.

This is my brain on grief. My side of the bed looked like this for about 11 months.

This is my brain trying to find a version of its formal self. And looking to make my bedroom a more peaceful, restful place in an effort to find some of that elusive sleep. From the time I decided it needed to be done to full execution - 6 weeks. It took me just a day from start to finish.

Execution - 1. And the rest of that score doesn't matter because I've got 1. It's a start.

I'm a long way from being okay, from feeling truly okay. I think each of the Pryors have some really good days and we are each battling in our own ways to keep life moving forward and not let Cody's absence overcome us. We are working through all of it and each day gets better. But we also have our bad days. And the grief doesn't always show up in tears. Sometimes it's laughter. Sometimes it's forgetfulness. Sometimes it's temperament. Sometimes it's a burst of motivation. Sometimes it's procrastination. Sometimes it's fatigue. Sometimes it's anxiety. Sometimes it's IDGAF. And sometimes it's every single one of those things in a single day.

But it's always grief in some form because we lost a member of our family. Troy and I lost a child. Nathan and Lindsay each lost a brother AND their best friend. It's going to take a long time to be "okay". Truly okay.

Much longer than 359 days.

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