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.

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