Thursday, November 24, 2016

A different kind of Thankful

Thanksgiving. Normally a day I use to reflect on how many blessings I have and how very grateful I am for the life God has given to me and my family. I don’t just save those sentiments for a single day out of the entire year, but Thanksgiving is that special day when reflection seems to be a given.


Except for this Thanksgiving.
A dear friend saved  this beautifully written post  on my Facebook wall.  I can relate on every level, almost as if I had written it myself. This year is so incredibly painful and sad, but I also have things to still be grateful for. And it’s perfectly okay to be in both of those worlds. But if I’m being honest it’s very difficult to be in the world of thankfulness and gratefulness. I’m not thankful for this heartache. This grief. This sadness. It paralyzes me far more often than I would like, but I can’t hurry it along. I can’t make it go away. I can’t always maneuver through it with grace and gratitude.
And while I sit in tears thinking about the empty chair at the table, my heart is also full from the other chairs that are filled. I’m so incredibly blessed to be in a position with my family to start a business in honor of Cody. To have something wonderful to focus our attention on does not go unappreciated. By any of us.
And so we ARE thankful. Just painfully so.
From the bottom of my heart I extend a sincere and warm “Happy Thanksgiving” to my family and friends near and far. If you find yourself with an empty chair at your table this year, my heart is with you. If it is the first year that chair is empty, my heart is aching for you. If your chairs are all full may the blessings that fill your heart not be taken for granted.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Five Minus One

So we are moving along with the restaurant. We had a major roadblock yesterday (thank you, state of CA and taking forever to get through the application process for a liquor license). Feeling the sting of a potential delay, we decided to focus our attention on the food and quickly (understatement) organized a taste test of various recipes for different items we will be having on the menu. Also included were an array of beers and wines from a vendor. If I'm being honest, I think we wanted to just focus on testing the beer and wine after the bad news we got. But we are forging ahead with FOOD and DELIVERY and if that means we have a soft opening without a liquor license and a huge grand opening once we get it? Then that's what it means.

Welcome to the fun of owning your own business.

Troy and I ran around town getting specific ingredients for pizza dough, wings, sauces, etc. A few invites went out and a small, intimate group gathered in our kitchen. As the beer and wine tasting began, the room was filled with laughter and chattering. The wings came out a couple of samples at a time. The pasta came. The pizza never did. Epic fail not allowing enough time for the dough to rise. But we'll fix that with taste-testing number 2. I think we'll plan it a little further in advance.

The excitement of moving forward with this endeavor was not lost on me. As the evening moved along the laughter got louder, the conversation lighter, the kitchen messier. At one point I looked at my son and daughter, both intently writing and reading something in a journal that documented what each of us liked or didn't like about all the things we were testing. Someone made a comment, to which they both burst out in laughter.

And it hit me. Like a ton of bricks. Like it does without warning.

Cody is not here. My family of five is now a family of four.

Oh, how I longed for him to be there in that wonderfully perfect family moment. To hear his infectious laugh. To read the nonsense he would have written about the taste of the wings or the epic fail of the pizza dough. To see the excitement in his eyes about the family adventure we are on.

Cody loved adventures.

But he is not here. Not in the physical sense, anyway. So I can't see the sparkle in his eyes. I can't hear that perfectly infectious laugh. But like so many other times since July 3, I got a clear sign that my son is here with me. Today as I was navigating through some pictures I came across a folder full of pictures from a vacation that I went on several years ago with my mom and Cody. I looked in this folder a dozen times when I was preparing for his service. But today I noticed there were videos. Several of them. And the first one I clicked on to play was this one.

We were sitting in a hotel room one morning while the staff was unclogging our toilet (that's how things normally go during a Pryor vacation) My mom was always a good sport when it came to my children taking pictures or videos of her. This is no exception....visually annoyed but still humoring Cody.

Humoring Cody.

That laugh.

video

Thank you, God, for giving me this gift today and reminding me that my son is still here. Cody knew exactly what I needed to hear today. I'm forever grateful I have this video so I can listen to his laugh whenever my heart aches to hear it.

We are still five.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Life is a Roller Coaster

To say that my life is a roller coaster is an understatement. And I'm not talking about just the last 2-3 months. It's pretty much been a roller coaster for.....well, a very long time. I think most people would say their life is like that. Some roller coasters are the little dragon coasters in the kiddie section of the county fair. My roller coaster is like the scariest, oldest wooden coaster with lots of big drops and neck-jerking climbs to amazing heights. I'm not complaining about it. It's thrilling. And scary. And heart pounding. And nauseating.

But never, ever boring with lots of good character building lessons.

I'm not sure what part of the roller coaster my family has been experiencing the last two months. It could be the end where you are sad it's over. You are looking forward to going on it again and experiencing the thrill, but you have to wait in that ridiculously long line to get there. A horrible, long line. Yeah. That pretty much sums it up. But just 5 short months ago we were starting a steep climb when we started talking to Nathan about a business venture. Troy and I found ourselves with an opportunity to make an investment of some sort. There were several options, but Nathan has been wanting to open a pizza restaurant for a long time. He has researched/learned and even created his very own dough recipe. He bought a small table-top brick oven and had some pizza parties until the fateful day it fell off the table and broke.

I talked privately with Troy a few times and brought up the fact his children (especially Lindsay) have encouraged him FOR YEARS to open some sort of restaurant. Anyone who has had Troy's cooking would say it was a solid idea. But Troy has some physical limitations that would have kept him from working that much. Or not work at all for days after overdoing it one afternoon. So it wasn't very feasible.

Until now.

Nathan and Troy with our newly signed lease.





















We are now the proud owners of a pizza restaurant.

There's a little bit of back story to how we came about this particular place. It's an old Round Table that has changed hands a couple of times but has always remained a pizza place. When we started toying with this idea Nathan and I were scouring pizza restaurants for sale and this one popped up. We went over incognito to have some pizza. Not only was the pizza pretty bad, the restaurant was lack luster and dirty. But it was cheap so we contacted the broker and were ready to get things underway. We were excited to be opening up a family business that ALL THREE of my children could be involved with to varying degrees under Troy's guidance (due to his physical limitations).

Then we got that awful, life-changing call.

The biggest piece of advice that therapists give after such a loss is not to make any big life decisions for a year. So last week our therapist was shocked when we told her this was in the works. Like, eyes-wide shocked. There was a lot of time spent during that session discussing this, as you can imagine. But from mine and Troy's perspective it wasn't a NEW thing we were making a decision on. It was a decision we had already made that we had to put on hold.

I'm a firm believer in God's timing for things in life. Things will happen the way they are supposed to happen in the time frame He wants them to. Or they won't happen. And that's okay, too. So when the broker called as we were driving up to Oregon to bring Cody home, it wasn't the time. I told her that we would have to put this on hold for now. I remember telling Nathan that if the restaurant was still available once we got through what we needed to get through then it was meant to be. If it was gone then God had something bigger and better in mind and we would have to be patient.

Like I said earlier, we signed a lease yesterday. I'm incredibly sad that we didn't even get the chance to tell Cody we had found this place before he died. But God's timing is always perfect, even if it means perfection without our son. We feel so strongly about it that we are naming it CAPs Pizza and Tap House.  CAP:  Cody Allen Pryor.

God is good.

So is pizza. Hope you can join us in December to raise a glass for Cody.

It's going to be a wild ride!


Saturday, September 3, 2016

2 Months

It's September 3. It's been 2 months since Cody died. And no matter how many times I say it/write it/see it, it still seems somewhat surreal. I have caught myself more than a few times thinking, "I should be hearing from Cody." We talked pretty often. Once a week most of the time, but never more than 2 weeks would pass without hearing from him.

But Cody died.

My son died.

I can write that a million times and it still seems strange and weird and like a big lie. But it's not. Because Cody died and I will not be getting a phone call from him. Ever again. Christmas is coming, but I won't be asking him for a Christmas list. I will never get to shop for his list, which would no doubt include some obscure piece of clothing that had food printed on it, or a skateboard, or some new skate shoes, or some ridiculous article of clothing from Good Will. I won't get to fill his Christmas stocking (serious Pryor tradition) with nonsense, practical jokes, a new toothbrush, storybook lifesavers and sour candy. He will never be calling me to tell me what he's been up to, or which song he was learning on his guitar. No more silly stories about his dogs and the cat that decided to love HIM the most even when he was completely irritated with her. I will never get to call him after I have cued up C&C Music Factory's "Everybody Dance Now" and blast it through the phone the moment he answers. Or after I have cued up Shania Twain's "Man, I Feel Like A Woman". We will never again recite lines from Napoleon Dynamite or laugh about Portlandia. No more silly texts or messages to him on Facebook with a bitmoji that looks like me. Entire conversations with him would take place with just the bitmojis. He told me I was lame. Then he would laugh.

I will never get to hear him laugh again.

I will also never have to worry about Cody again.  I'm a mother. I worry about my children sometimes. I worried a lot about Cody for many different reasons over the years. But he's gone. There is nothing to talk about. Nothing to give him advice about. No long conversations to have about addiction, stress, drinking, money, darkness, or frustrations of being an adult. No help to give and no more lending an ear or a shoulder. The mother-child relationship as I knew it with Cody is gone. Forever. It's probably the hardest of all emotions to NOT have right now...worry....because it means I have this heaviness that isn't associated with the emotion it normally is. It's different. And difficult. And uncomfortable. And painful. I'm left with questions and assumptions and knowledge about things that hurt me deeply. It's the difference between grief  and stress....the absence of worry.

There are many things I will never do again. But I will get to tell Tristan all the wonderful stories I can about his Uncle. The uncle he will never remember, but who adored him beyond words. I will also get to honor Cody's memory by writing stories, and keeping in touch with his friends, making sure they feel his spirit continue to carry them through their own grief.  I get to spread his ashes all over so that his final resting place is the entire world. And I get to hug, kiss, talk and laugh with my other two children as we tell stories and share memories of Cody. I also get to cry with them and wipe away their tears during the times when they miss him terribly.

I will also get to process this devastating loss with my husband, the other person who intimately knows my sorrow. He knows my sadness. He knows my grief. This damn grief that still comes in enormous waves with little warning. Or no warning at all. We are working through it. Talking through it. And I'm writing through it. And putting together 27 puzzles on that stupid app. I've made it through 2 months. Next it will be 3 months. Then 4.

Then it will turn in to 5 months. 5 months from July 3, 2016.

July 3, 2016.

The day Cody died.



Saturday, August 13, 2016

Cody's Eulogy

When Cody died Troy and I were faced with having to make decisions, plans and choices about things we weren't necessarily ready for. My sister and I did some of this for our mom, but that's kind of the way the cycle of life is supposed to happen. It's not something you think you will ever have to do for your child. But, nevertheless, we were catapulted in to this horrible new reality. Grief stricken and still going through shock, we sat at the mortuary wondering how in the world our son's life could have been reduced to a small bag of his belongings. It was so cold, feeling more like a business transaction than anything else. Then we spent the next 3 days waiting in a hotel room so that we could take our son home.

I spent a great deal of time in the hotel room trying to imagine how Troy and I would ever get through a service, listening to a minister talk about grief and sadness and the afterlife as it pertained to our son. Cody was deeply spiritual, looking for meaning in the tiniest things nature and our universe had to say. He believed in God but was completely turned off by organized religion. A conversation I had with him about 2 years ago summed up perfectly why.

"Lots of churches and religions have rules just to be able to walk in the door, Mam. Even if there are no rules, there are still judgments made about people's appearance and actions. Jesus hung around with a bunch of thieves, liars and whores. Do you think those kinds of people are welcomed with no judgments in today's churches? Not likely. So I'll just keep doin' what I do."

Knowing that was how Cody felt made it difficult to plan some kind of service at a church or mortuary where there would be some sort of religious aspect to it. It certainly would be appropriate for ME. But not for CODY.  So after a brief discussion with Troy to see if we were on the same page, my sister and close friends started the process to find the right venue, plan the food and help with logistics. It was the perfect place, right next to the high school where he started 9th grade. In the very park next to the river where he had gone many times with friends.  And none of them had any idea until I walked up to the building in tears and told them all of that. God had His hand in everything that happened that day.

My focus was on setting up the service to honor Cody in just the right Cody-way. I asked a very special friend from work who knew Cody to open the service with a reading and a prayer. I knew I wanted to do a video with pictures and music. I also asked a few friends if they would like to speak.

We were still faced with some sort of Eulogy. I felt very strongly in my heart that specific things needed to be said. So I decided that if I wanted to say specific things, then I needed to be the one to say them. Quite a daunting thought given my frame of mind and I wasn't really sure what Troy would think of it. The only thing he said, with a look of grief-stricken fear, was that there was no way he would be able to speak.

It made it even more important in my mind that I speak for both of us.

So the morning of his service, I sat with my laptop on my back porch at 6:00 a.m. I cried, laughed, sobbed and cried some more as the words poured out of me. I printed it out and read it to myself 3 times. I Read it to Troy to make sure he was okay with the message. I read it to Sydney to make sure she was okay with the message. Then I got in a hot bath to soak and read it about 10 more times, trying to make the words come easier without the tears while also trying not to memorize it and make it sound rehearsed and cold.

I asked my father-in-law to be on standby in case I couldn't get all the way through it. But sheer exhaustion and reading it 5 more times before I left helped and I managed to deliver the entire message myself. The video with music and many pictures of Cody's life played just before I spoke. A video clip of Cody with Nathan talking in the background was at the very end.

And then I spoke:
“Why are you always taking pictures” was the question Nathan asked in the background of that video. I’m not sure if I was trying to capture moments in time for my children to look back on later in life or if it was simply for my own amusement. Today clarifies why. Why every picture I took….regardless of how blurry or silly or posed or random….was for a bigger purpose that was not revealed until this week. As I started the process of planning how to honor Cody in just the right “Cody-Way” I knew that his very essence…his very spirit….was captured in every picture taken of him, regardless of whether I took it, a friend took it, or JC Penny took it. That smile. Those beautiful blue eyes. That goofy smile. That shitty grin.
Cody was a beautiful pain the in butt from the moment he was born. Quite literally because I almost tore my sphincter muscle in half delivering him. In retrospect I see his birth as the definition of what it meant to be his mother: A journey filled with moments of indescribable pain that, for however brief or long the pain lasted, could be overcome with hard work, focus, love, determination and the momentary cry out to God to please make the pain go away….but in the end was a beautiful, heartwarming, enduring love that filled me to the brim.
I remember when we brought Cody home from the hospital. Troy and I were so amazed at this tiny little human with all his perfect little fingers and toes. We would lay on the bed with him between us, silent, and just stare at him. Every yawn, every stretch, every sigh was something worthy of acknowledgement from my dog to God Himself. As he continued to grow each milestone was monumental to this first time mom….but his first laugh was particularly wonderful. It was a full belly laugh that happened when my dog jumped up in my lap and scared me a little. It’s interesting that that’s what made him laugh because when he was older one of his favorite things to do was scare the crap out of me at the top of our staircase. It was a fun little game that he got his brother and sister to do, too. Everyone laughed every. Single. Time. Except me. But eventually my heart would start beating again and I would chuckle a little.
My children have always been pretty good at getting me to laugh. But in particular Cody. Every person in this room knows what I mean, even if it was my retelling of some story about him. His sense of humor was silly and sarcastic and sometimes completely irritating. He was a goofball. A comedic force to be reckoned with, whether it was some random stupid delivery of nonsense or dancing his way in to a room when no music was playing. Or dancing his way out of a room when no music was playing. Or dancing to every type of music imaginable. His humor sustained him. It was the biggest part of his personality and undoubtedly one of the reasons each person in this room wanted to be around him. He was infectious. At his best, Cody was someone who could make your darkest day brighter by just simply being himself and allowing you to be yourself with him. No judgments and no agenda.
When you have a personality with a spirit to match that is that big, who do you turn to when your own life just seems too intense? In grammar school one of Cody’s best friends died under horribly tragic circumstances. It crushed him. His spirit and humor were still present but were forever altered. And his heart was altered, too. His relationships were more intense for him, more meaningful and more passionate. He cared about people with his entire soul. He lived for the day. He learned at a very young and tender age that you don’t know if you are going to have a tomorrow so he lived in the moment. Sometimes the moment was dark and difficult and self-medicating with some sort of substance became the norm. It hurt Troy and I to see him struggle. I prayed for him daily, but my prayers during those times were filled with a mother’s desperation to see her child happy and healthy again. Then my prayers were simple requests to keep him safe. Eventually he entered rehab and kicked the bad stuff to the curb. 
But once you struggle through darkness with that taste of relief it hangs around like an old friend waiting to comfort you. So Cody surrounded himself with human friends from every corner imaginable. Look around you. Some of you had only known Cody for a short time. Some had known him since high school. Some had known him since grammar school. Some had known him his entire life. But his dedication to his family, friends and relationships was intense. He was loyal to a fault. Even those friendships that seemed toxic were the ones he clung to the tightest, not because he could self-medicate with them, but because they were the ones he wanted to save and deliver from their darkness, too. He needed a partner to save and keep himself on track. But keeping himself clean became the focus and he ended up leaving Sacramento. With a backpack filled with a few necessities, he took off one July morning in 2013 on an adventure of self-discovery. He was in search of something that would truly bring meaning to his life and make him happy. It was a hard day for me, letting him walk out that door with no real destination in mind, toward a world that had been particularly hard for him the previous 3 years. But he had that sparkle back in his eyes and I knew this was a journey that would deliver both of us from heartache in the long run.
After a couple of months, I heard it. That familiar sound. The voice of a happier, enthusiastic Cody who had fallen smitten. I listened to him as he described this person who had filled his soul and lifted his spirit in ways I hadn’t heard in years. I laughed as he told me stories of his adventures on the road. I cringed as he told me most of them happened as he hitch-hiked and trekked his way through the western states. But mostly I just listened, my heart happy because the sound of his voice was something I hadn’t heard in so long. I knew his eyes were the brightest of blues, beaming with hope and peace and adventure.
His silly, wonderfully annoying spirit had returned.
I’m not going to stand here and tell you that Cody didn’t struggle sometimes after that. People like Cody shouldn’t be expected to conform to what society deems “normal” and “acceptable”. He was a free spirt who needed to live by his own rules. And I was okay with that as long as the rules were safe and legal. I raised my children to be good people. I raised them to be respectful and kind and generous to others as well as to themselves. Cody took that goodness and lived his life in a way I certainly didn’t understand. He went on a permanent camping trip for 2 years to spread that infectious spirit of his around. He traveled on a bus with a dozen other people and just as many dogs. I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand it. But he found a soulmate who perfectly understood that.
Sydney was his everything. She made him want to be a better person. Everything he did and tried to do was for her happiness. Every conversation I had with him the last 3 years was about treating her right, taking care of her and being the kind of man he would want his own sister taking off on a stinky bus with. They loved each other unconditionally and at the end of every day were grateful they had found their own spirit in each other.
The last time Troy and I saw Cody was just 5 short days before he died. We had a wonderful visit, full of laughs and good conversation with a bit of fun thrown in for good measure. He was happy. Peaceful. Full of plans for the future. We had breakfast before we headed home that morning. I asked Sydney to take a picture of us before we left. I begged him, like countless times before, to just give me one nice smile for just ONE good picture. He teased me incessantly with that stupid serious crap until I gave up. Little did I know it would be the very last picture. A moment of his silliness and ability to make me laugh and frustrate me all at the same time frozen forever in that last picture.
I posted on FB that we refuse to believe he purposely took his own life so I will not talk about how he died. The circumstances were unfortunate and we are convinced that it was an accident, not because it is how we want to deal with the grief, but because of our last visit with him. I don’t need more proof than seeing that sparkle in his eye, that sound of happiness in his voice and the spirit of Cody that seemed to have returned. He was living life on his terms and he was becoming a better man because of it. So to his friends I say take that with you. Keep his spirit in your heart, know that he had found happiness. Be like Cody in wanting to rescue people. If you need to do that by starting with yourself first, do it. Find someone to talk to. To relate to. Someone who will listen. Someone who will help you on the road to being the best version of yourself possible. If you are the person someone wants to talk to, feel privileged you are the one being confided in and take the role seriously. Find the grace and compassion needed to help someone through their struggles, even if that means finding them the help you cannot provide.
Cody talked a lot about his adventures the last 3 years. He wanted to travel even more, to see places right within our own borders and beyond. You don’t cage a spirit as big as Cody’s or try to make it normal with some desk job or traditional living space. And so in death this will continue. We will take a piece of him wherever we may travel, whatever journey we embark on. He wanted to see the world so we will make sure that happens. If you ever go to the Oregon Coast, he will be there. If you decide to hike to a mountaintop overlooking Lake Tahoe, he will be there. He will be in New Orleans, the gulf coast, Florida and the Caribbean Islands before the year is over. Pictures will be taken at every location so that we can share Cody’s eternal scenic view. This entire world will be his final resting place.
My final words are for Nathan and Lindsay. Your dad and I love you more than can be expressed here. Those 3 simple words have deeper meaning now, something that once seemed impossible. You’ll understand when we hug you a little tighter, linger with the hug a little longer. As your mom I will try my hardest not to worry to levels beyond how I previously worried. It may take some time. Be patient with me. Don’t get so caught up in your lives that you don’t stop by or call just to say hello. Come for dinner and stay for conversation. We want to hear about all the mundane, seemingly unimportant things you are doing. I asked your dad if there was something specific he wanted me to say to you, and in his ever-eloquent don’t candy-coat-life he said, “Let life’s bullshit go”. So talk with each other. Hug each other. Support each other in the way only two siblings who have just lost one CAN support each other. We love you.
Thank you to each and every one of you for being here to support our family. Cody cast his net far and wide and that is evident here. The outpouring of love and prayers brings great comfort…..not only from those who walk through our front door but also the ones from halfway across the globe.
God bless you all.

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