This past month, I’ve remained largely silent–screening phone calls from friends and well-wishers, avoiding any substantive posts on Facebook, and laying low in general. We anticipated that this month, which really started in May, would be hard but underestimated the emotion of experiencing and reliving it all.
Graduation season. All year I’ve known it was coming and I sat not-so-quietly in anticipation of how hard it would be to watch his friends graduate. I am happy for all of them, truly. But at the same time with every senior function posted on the school’s billboard, every family on Facebook with their graduate, every tribute to Noah’s memory, every scholarship, every yearbook, we felt a loss. Gratitude has been mixed with grief, happiness for others mixed with a longing for what might have been. His friends have helped me through it. Their outpouring of love was unexpected, both for each other and Noah and by staying in touch with me. They are my last connection to Noah–to his hopes and dreams–and I’m blessed that they are still with us. It was only fitting that we wrapped the season with Hailee, my niece’s, graduation. Born just two-and-a-half months after Noah and more like a daughter than a niece, we traveled to my hometown, to my high school, and to where we lost Noah to celebrate Hailee and all she has in front of her. I am inexplicably proud of how hard she has worked and the wonderful young woman she has become. We take comfort in knowing that she is going to go on to do amazing things. As she said goodbye to her high school days and looked to the future, we were also able to put to rest what might have been and focus on what’s in front of us.
Noah’s 18th birthday. For Noah’s day, the three of us decided to travel to where it all started: Pismo Beach. We thought it was fitting that on his 18th birthday, the day he would have become an adult, that we return to the place where he came to be–a place where we share years of family memories. The morning of his birthday, we woke up to hike at Montana De Oro State Park, undoubtedly one of our favorite places on earth. We were not expecting to wake up to texts and Facebook posts from friends and family sending blue balloons to the heavens to remind us that Noah is not forgotten. (We did the same at the lake after Noah’s celebration of life.)
We stopped at a cupcake shop on the way to the park. I told the woman behind the counter that I wanted to pay for someone’s cupcakes. She cried when I told her why. She said a mom was coming to pick up a package of cupcakes for her son’s high school graduation. Fitting. On the card, I wrote, “Have a blessed graduation and best wishes for your future. Love, Noah and his mom.” I’m pretty sure it was the hardest thing I’ve ever written. That night after dinner, we walked into the fog at Morro Bay and let our own balloon go. We sang Happy Birthday and ate cupcakes, remembering Noah’s spirit and reminding him that we are still here and that we will never forget.
Tiff’s crapiversary. This month has been filled with “on this day last year.” On this day last year, I got a phone call that two of Tiff’s kids were gone. Like everyone else, I was in shock for one of my best friends. I sent a text to Charles, her husband, “We love you.” The reply, “Thank you.” Words can’t explain their loss. I knew I was getting on a plane. Tiff and I talked about that day and what we remember. Life in slow motion. Bits and pieces of the hours and days to come. I was making arrangements to travel to North Carolina. I was balancing my perfect life. I had no idea what was coming.
Accident day. On this day a year ago, I woke up grieving and exhausted in my childhood home. I let Noah sleep in. Dad and Gavin were on a field trip to the lake. Noah and I had lunch together. We sat on the couch together. I let him get in the car. I did everything a mom was supposed to do. The safety brief. The I love yous. The worry. But I let him go and I’ll live with that forever. An hour later, I was in the car, praying with every ounce of my soul that God would protect our family, that he wouldn’t let Noah suffer. Three, four, six, twelve hours later–we were waiting. And our life was never the same.
On this day, I sat at work, had a few panic attacks in the bathroom, but decided it was better to keep busy than to go home to an empty house while Dan and Gavin were gone. I went to dinner with a friend. I overshared. I relived everything right there at the dinner table. And she was simply amazing. Thank you–so much–for just letting me get it out.
Camp scholarship. Shawn Glyde sent me a note that they had picked a scholarship winner for the System Blue Drum Clinic, where Noah would have been that day. Students were asked to share what they thought drumming meant to Noah. The winner said this:
After reading Noah Grainger’s story, I couldn’t help but feel respect towards him. Drumming to Noah, must have been his entire life. Even from reading such a small excerpt of his life, I could tell that there was nothing he wouldn’t do to pursue his drumming career. Due to his excitement, it showed how much drumming can change someone’s life, and I believe when Noah passed away, he was looking down on System Blue, and showing how powerful and truly life-changing it can be to some people. After reading this, it inspires me to try and chase and reach my dreams, even if you die trying.
She gets it.
Father’s Day and our crapiversary. Some of you may not know that Noah died on Father’s Day. On the way home from the hospital, we had In and Out at 1 a.m. and we started the rest of our lives without him. The hubby will have many, happy Father’s Days to come, but we will always know that on this day last year he and Noah shared his last breath together. He was the first person to welcome Noah into the world and the last to say goodbye.
Donor Network West. In the mail this week, we received our last update. One of Noah’s kidneys and his liver continue to give life. One kidney has failed, which was like losing him all over again. That’s all I have to say about that.
How we will celebrate his life. This week marks one year since we gathered in my hometown to say goodbye. Dan and I have talked a lot this month about how we plan to get through this month in the future. We’ve decided not to focus on the bad days–to know those days in our hearts, but nor share them with the world. Instead, every June, we will celebrate Noah’s birthday. We will honor and remember everything he brought to our lives. We will continue to buy birthday cakes, or cupcakes, or whatever seems right. But we won’t dwell on this month as if it were the worst. Because in this month, in 1998, we became a family. It’s when we welcomed a perfect, 7 pound, 13 ounce, screaming gift into the world. And we will always know that it’s also when we said goodbye. But #thebeatgoeson. Just like us. Just like Noah. Just like life. And we will never forget.