Thursday, December 15, 2016

Just the Two of Us

This guy…. 

As of 7:00 p.m. tonight  I’ve spent 32 years as his wife. I’m 51. So, literally more than half of my life. Almost 2/3.  61% of my years on this earth have been as Mrs. Troy Pryor. If you are geeky enough to check my math, don’t tell me if it’s wrong. Because you get the point.

It’s been a long time.

Like every relationship that is worth fighting for, we have had some struggles. Both large and small. Struggles that we created. Struggles that we had no control over. We are currently maneuvering through the largest struggle we’ve had in the past 32 years. We did not create this. We did not want this. Nobody would. But here we are.

We have an anniversary tradition. But like every other tradition we have, this year seems to be difficult to put any of them in to play for the holiday season. But our anniversary is for US. It is about US. We always made sure it was about US. Not our family. Not our kids. Just us. The two of us. So our annual day out in Old Sacramento is being put on hold. Instead we are hosting a private taste-testing at the restaurant (that, by the way, is still not open because of license and permit delays beyond our control). We decided we wanted to focus on something different. We didn’t really verbalize it to each other but because this year is already so different and hard we chose to concentrate on changing it up. A lot

Because let’s face it, our life has changed. A lot. And while today is about us, it’s about a damaged “us”. A wounded “us”. A grieving “us”.

But it’s still us. Still together. Still fighting. Getting through the season. Respecting each other in where we are in our own grieving process. And it is very different for us individually, but we are managing. Day by day.

And today? It’s about us.

Happy Anniversary, Troy. I know we frustrate each other on the daily, but I love you more than words could ever express. Thank you for always being more patient with me than I am with you. And thank you for letting me be where I need to be after losing our son. Our world was changed forever and I have faith that we will pass through this storm with the same perseverance as the other storms.

The sun will shine again. 

And when it does? Let's head to the boat.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The 3rd of Every Month

It’s the 3rd.

I’ve been fiercely trying to shove this day of the month to the back of my mind and not deal with it. But the 3rd of every single month will always and forever bring me to a place that I have to confront. Feelings to deal with. Last month was easier to move through the day as we continued to focus on the restaurant, family birthdays and distractions at work.

But not today. Not December 3rd.

Today marks 5 months since Cody died. (I still can’t write that without staring at it for several minutes, taking in the full impact and feeling my heart hurt). 5 months. It seems so long ago, yet today I got swept right back to that horrible first day. I was trying to figure out why this month is so much more difficult than last month. I have the same distractions. We are SO CLOSE to opening the restaurant and with that comes a million tiny last minute details. I’ve picked up extra shifts at work. I’m busy. Distracted.

Christmas 2003
But it’s December.

I knew it would be hard, this holiday season. But I was expecting it to be difficult closer to Christmas. But Christmas is everywhere already. On houses, in pictures, in stores, on the radio, on tv….everywhere. And each thing is a reminder that I will be missing someone this year. As each day passes I try to plan for a day to haul my decorations out and fill my home with all the things that warm my heart during the holiday season. But my grief tends to paralyze me unexpectedly and without warning. On those days just getting out of bed and being present for whatever I need to do is draining.

Today was one of those days.

But it’s December. Christmas is coming. I can’t stop it from coming. So I’ll keep trying to plan the day for decorating. (Grief, by the way, makes planning things nearly impossible.) My tree always makes me happy, but I’m dreading hanging all the ornaments that were bought for Cody over the years: Baby’s first Christmas, Black Power Ranger, Scooby Doo, a mouse on a skateboard, a few handmade ones from school and many others.  I’m trying to start new traditions that will honor Cody and bring us joy as we remember the 27 Christmases we had with him. So as I browse through the thousands of items on Amazon…the silly, the beautiful, the ridiculous, the amazing….I remember the craziness that was gift giving to Cody: Charlie Brown shirt, Nightmare Before Christmas stuff, 3D printed shirts with hamburgers…then later a matching backpack….beanies of every shape/size/color, beanies with crocheted beards attached to them, moon boots, things related to Bigfoot ("He's real, mom"), any article of clothing from Zumiez, skateboard decks/trucks/wheels in dazzling colors and designs, and always, ALWAYS, some insanely silly t-shirt shoved in his stocking.  

We haven’t talked much, as a family, about how Christmas will look this year. Maybe we are afraid to. Or maybe we are just busy ignoring it. The four of us have been insanely focused on getting this restaurant open for business. It brings a large amount of stress, but at the same time fills us with immense satisfaction as we see it coming to life. It’s been a blessing of sorts to have something else to focus our energy on. We will eventually be able to breathe and I honestly think there may be some tears as we exhale. Opening day will be exciting and happy and filled with a great deal of “WE DID IT” pride, but it doesn’t change the fact that Cody will not be here for opening day. Or for Christmas.

Or for his 29th birthday, coming up in February.

February 3rd.

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.

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.

Friday, August 12, 2016

What's In A Name?

Like many Cody stories, I have no idea what the origin of this story is. I can't remember what started it or why, but I can remember how ridiculous it was. It still makes me laugh. Even now. Even in the middle of all these waves of grief crashing down on me, Cody can still make me laugh.


Years ago, in the height of my scrapbooking crop days (I still scrapbook a lot, I just don't travel all over to crops any more), I helped host a crop right here in Sacramento. It was during the time when Troy and Lindsay were living up in Red Bluff. A relocation plan had gone south (I didn't get the job) and our house was practically empty from "staging" when it had been on the market to sell. So in order to lower costs a bit for some of these gals who were traveling from all over the United States I offered up my home as sleeping quarters. I had prearranged for Cody to be a Designated Driver should we need one (ironic since he was the one who needed one most of the time). One guest in particular, Lori, came from Louisiana and had somehow been involved in this silliness.

For whatever reason that I can no longer remember, the subject of Cody's name came up. I vaguely remember something about Lori making some official chauffeur's uniform for him, but I don't remember why he wanted a different name on it. NOT Cody. He wanted Benjamin.

So random, right? When I asked why in the world he would want to be called Benjamin his reply was so typically Cody.

"Because if someone asks what my name is I can tell them Been Jamin'."

Lori ran with it and showed up to the house with this, along with some Mardi Gras beads:

And, of course, Cody embraced it in all its ridiculousness:

In case you were wondering, yes he wore it out of the house.

For years.

Monday, August 8, 2016

It's Just A Shirt

This is the very last picture we took with Cody. We had gone up to Oregon after a wedding to visit him and his girlfriend. I hadn't seen them since January and I was shocked and amused at that beard he grew. Troy was more annoyed than anything. Annoyed because he can't grow a beard like that. Cody grew that in 3 months. Troy has had his for about 7 years and that's as long as it's ever going to get. And Cody's outfit? It's the Cody-version of hipster. Because Cody was NOT a trend setter and would hate to be labeled a hipster. He rolled his eyes at me when I asked if that was the look he was after. He was never after any look. He did what he wanted if he liked it and didn't care what anyone else thought about it. I think he mostly embraced this kind of fashion statement because people stared at him trying to figure the whole thing out.  This is what I wrote in his eulogy about this picture:
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 took THIS picture last week. It's the shirt I was wearing the last time we saw Cody. The last time I hugged Cody goodbye. This shirt had been sitting in this very spot next to my bed where I took it off at the end of that day. Troy and I hadn't even finished unpacking from our trip when we got that horrible call. So it was just sitting there, a sad reminder every time I crawled in to bed. Until last week. When I finally decided to stop staring at it and hang it back up.

I still can't bring myself to wash it. I'm wondering at this point if I will ever feel like wearing it again. It seems like such a simple thing. I mean, it's just a shirt. What's the big deal? I can't answer that question. Not yet. Maybe not ever.

But I hung it up.

Baby steps.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Piano Man

I don't have any pictures to go with this story, but I think it holds its own weight with just words. It is, after all, another Cody story.

My son tried very hard to be an entrepreneur. He failed miserable on several fronts. At one point we had so many bikes parts that our side yard and shed overflowed with crap. He was determined he was going to rebuild bikes and sell them at a premium price. Yeah. That didn't work out so well.

But it didn't end with bikes. There was always something he was going to "fix up" or "modify" or "Cody-fy". So we shouldn't have been surprised when an old, beat up player piano showed up in our driveway. He was walking home one night and saw this sweet gem sitting on the street with a "FREE" sign attached to it.

Best bargain ever.

Cody pushed that piece of crap 2 blocks home. 2 blocks. On the street. Oh, he had grand plans of transforming that piano into a fish tank. Or a cool outdoor planter. Or just a cool conversation piece. The only conversation we ended up having about that thing was when he was getting it out of our side yard. Yes, the same side yard with all the bike parts.

The other conversation we had about it was when it finally got hauled to the dump. During transport it fell over on its side and dented our truck bed. Forever.

Dump run: $25
Gas for dump run: $5
Codyism to retell and laugh about forever: Priceless

Friday, August 5, 2016

Life is puzzling

I like jigsaw puzzles. A lot. Cody used to do them with me. For about 30 minutes. Then he was bored with it, just like every other individual living in my house, but Cody usually held out longer than the other 3. I didn't mind having to go solo with my puzzle fixation. I have always found puzzles relaxing and oddly satisfying.

My family (specifically Troy) used to find it fun to hide one piece from me. Just one. Anyone who does puzzles knows how crappy that little joke is. It gives a person GREAT PRIDE to slide that final piece in to place, run your hand across the smooth, complete puzzle surface and beam with satisfaction. You can't do that when someone hides the last piece. I have gone DAYS without being able to finish a puzzle because someone hid a piece. A few times they didn't even give me the piece to finish it, they just quietly put the last piece in place. So funny.


I have a strategy when I put puzzles together. First I put the side pieces together, completing the frame. Then I group all the pieces together that will likely go in a specific place by looking at the picture on the box. I'm pretty good at puzzles and have a hard time walking away from one once I've started. The more difficult, the more pieces, the better. Have you ever been in the middle of a puzzle and come to a point that you are tying to find one specific piece to finish off a section that will lead to the next section? I have a bit of OCD when it comes to this and my mind won't allow me to just move on until I find. that. one. piece. Just about the time I'm ready to walk away from the table for a break, I find it. My motivation to press forward skyrockets just from finding that one piece and suddenly the break I needed so badly doesn't seem so important anymore.

After Cody died I downloaded a puzzle app on my phone. It started as a way to distract my mind from the sorrow I felt as I tried desperately to fall asleep each night. This app forced me to change my strategy on how to do only allows you to work on a specific section at a time, not the whole puzzle at once. It bugged me at first. Okay, it kind of pissed me off given my current frame of mind and I almost deleted it. But I pressed on since Solitaire wasn't working anymore. I eventually started to see this app as an analogy of my life right now. I'm being forced to participate in something I once enjoyed in a way that is not comfortable, wanting so badly to look ahead and put the pieces of the frame together and fill the rest in as quickly as possible. And the app itself completely drains my battery. My grief is very much like the struggle with this app. Trying to figure out a new strategy, looking for something familiar but fumbling through the process. Wanting to just put things back together in lightning speed the way I am used to, feeling emotional about the change, and all the while having no energy to do any of it.

Nothing about Cody's death is familiar. It will never be comfortable. But I will keep putting the pieces in their rightful place, watching the bigger picture unfold and make sense again. It seems like a 250 piece puzzle turned in to a 5000 piece solid colored puzzle with no edges that I got at a yard sale with suspicions that there are multiple pieces missing. I know for sure my family will help with this one. It may take months. It may takes years.

But one thing is certain.

I'm going to have to face the reality that one piece of this puzzle will always be missing.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Writing Therapy for a Shattered Heart

Wow. Looks like I was gearing up to start writing again. 18 months ago. Then I had some life-stuff to deal with. My mind was focused on getting through the death of my mom. Sad was an understatement and writing something funny and witty was just not in the cards for awhile. But I started several posts, kept them in a draft form hoping to post them with some fun pictures and updates on what I've been up to all these years.

But life-stuff has happened once again. My heart is so heavy and the grief is so intense that I'm just not sure how my writing will ever be the funny, lighthearted bit of nonsense it once was. But writing has always been therapy for me. Stress therapy. And maybe it's okay that the writing changes. For awhile, anyway. Writing this post will encourage more writing. And more writing. And still more writing....enough writing therapy that perhaps that lighthearted bit of nonsense will return. Eventually. I'm on a mission to get my happy back. It's a lofty goal.

But I need to write this post first, the beginning of some intense writing therapy. Meaningful, deep, emotional writing therapy. Maybe through my own experience I can somehow find the words that will help someone else deal with the grief that I find myself faced with.

On July 3 Troy and I lost our oldest child, Cody, to suicide. I've written about him before here. Words cannot even begin to describe the impact this loss has had on our immediate family, not to mention extended family and the 100+ people that Cody called friends. His personality was as big as his soul. I could go on and on about Cody and the stories from the 28 years he walked this earth. And I will, but not in one single post. You'll learn about him through a series of posts....that writing therapy that I need so very badly....and I know you will discover the amazing person he was as I pour my heart out on this blog in order to help it heal.

As the life of Cody unfolds here, so will the life of my family as I share our journey towards a new "normal" without him. The year of firsts will no doubt be painful and heartbreaking, but as each funny story, picture and memory is shared it will keep his spirit alive and help to heal the wounds that are still so tender and fresh. As that happens, please keep us in your prayers as we navigate through the grief.

Cody Allen Pryor
February 3, 1988 - July 3, 2016
"In the end, it's not the years in your life that count.
It's the life in your years."  Abraham Lincoln

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