There is a trail along Logan River, close to our home there. For me, it is a mystical and powerful trail. I suspect Riley likes to spend time there. It’s not uncommon for me to feel his presence there. Sometimes his words come to me through thoughts that were not my own, lyrics from a song that suddenly offered new meaning, actions of animals or people along the path, or wise, old trees that seem to speak to me. Yesterday, Riley told me I was a champion, I was made for this, I was born to win, and it’s “Go Time”. Riley understands the layers and layers of rubble I’ve been climbing out from under. I understand that Riley knew when he needed to let go and allow Heaven to claim him…. It was “Go Time” for him as well.
Filtering through the millions of lessons learned over the past few years in order to find one worthy of sharing but not too heavy, one tender to my heart, but not too sacred, can be challenging.
To me, it feels like the earth started shaking seven years ago. At first, most things stayed standing, only a few times did things get knocked off a shelf or fall from the wall. As time passed, the intensity grew, but so did the responders. Amidst the shaking, that seemed to be happening only around the parameters of our home, stood an army of loving people, as if hand in hand to protect us from any additional fall out. Last fall, as options ran out, lungs were removed, and hospice delivered oxygen machines, the love and support grew right along with the quakes. I wrote weekly messages in the form of a blog, not only as therapy for myself, but to share the miracles and lessons learned with others, mostly, to testify that God lives and that He loves us, even when we are going through the worst days of our life.
On January 5thour sweet Riley told us he was ready to go home and asked to have his oxygen turned off. He hadn’t eaten for weeks but had managed to hold on through the holidays because of his love for his family and friends.
On January 11th, we held an incredible tribute to Riley. I’m so sad it wasn’t a tribute in the form of a wedding or birth of a child, but it was a beautiful and sacred day that was perfect. He had over 1,500 people come to honor him at his funeral, to hear stories of his life and learn from his example. We felt the earth (literally) shake, as many of his friends with bad-ass cars revved their engines while his pallbearers carried his body from the church to the vehicle he would be transported to his final resting place in. I actually felt Riley walking by my side during this part. He had a great big Riley smile on his face and was SO happy we were able to pull that off. We sat at his graveside and wept as our broken hearts expressed all our love and gratitude to our Riley as we listened to “Where Shall I Turn For Peace” and to his little brother offer the sweetest dedicatory prayer on Riley’s grave. And my most favorite part of that day happened just as we were about to leave. Some of Riley’s brown football friends approached me with more humility and respect than I’ve ever witnessed, and through tears asked if they could do the Haka one more time for Riley. Once again, the earth shook (literally) as these giant hearted men stomped their feet and pounded their chest in a call to God and Riley. I don’t know what the words they said were, but I could feel the intensity of the meaning as I watched tears stream down the cheeks of these fiercely loyal and strong friends of Riley’s.
Weeks passed and the earth seemed to slowly quiet down to almost stillness. Until March 13th, when an insidious virus was reason enough for some, to shut the world down. The responders, our protective love and support, had started to step away slowly following the funeral, but as the threat of a pandemic approached it seemed everyone ran for cover. Levi and I stayed in the protection of our home, Paul worked 19-hour days, and in late March, the earth started shaking again, for real this time. A feeling of “fend for yourself” swept the earth. Shear panic swept the nation, emptied store shelves, caused unemployment, and many people began living in their limbic, or fight or flight brain.
My feeling of paralysis began to wear off and I decided I better start living again. I took a leap of faith and went to the store, alone. I wasn’t there long before I was chased down and kicked out for not wearing a mask. Paul would have to do the grocery shopping . I took my elderly mother to her dental appointment and while waiting in the lobby, read an article about black lives matter, the rioting, statues being torn down, looting, theft, killing, threats of all statues of Christ being torn down…. The earth began to shake, scream, and open up. There was safety nowhere. I had accepted all that I’d needed to surrender over the course of Riley’s diagnosis of cancer, treatment, care-taking, and return home. I had turned my will to God’s and trusted that He needed my son there, more than I needed him here. But now I was being run out of the stores, drs offices and restaraunts, being asked to cover my face. I could no longer go to church or the temple. I watched dear friends lose loved ones and not be able to be by their side or even hold an honorable funeral service for them because somehow the world had been convinced that living in fear over a curable virus was more important than offering love and support to humans.
I was convinced that this earth had become the new Hell. I have worked all my life to gain the courage and confidence to use my voice… and so I did. It lasted about a week before feeling so attacked by not only strangers, but people I love and who loved me, that I shoved all my feelings down, down, down, and capped them off. Some of you may understand that shoving feelings is never a good idea because the only cap that fits on that many emotions, is anger.
Over this time I developed some new beliefs about myself, and the world around me. Here are a few: It doesn’t matter if your child died, you don’t deserve to be loved or spoken kindly to. Shhhhh, be quiet. This world is not a safe place. No one wants to hear you talk about your son, they supported you while he died, but now it’s too painful for them to hear, so they will avoid you. Your kids who are living are sick of hearing you talk about their brother. You are alone in this world. You are stupid and have nothing to offer the world. The only thing people care about is politics. Etc.
Well, Riley did his best before he left to prepare me for what was to come, he left me with his favorite quotes and one in particular … “Never doubt yourself”. Each time Riley was successful in reaching my heart and convincing me that I should in fact share my light with others, one of satans minions shut me down before the words came out.
Sometimes Riley has to go to great lengths to get through my thick skull… sometimes it takes many experiences, in a short period of time, stacked on top of one another, with a finale to get my full attention.
Yesterday afternoon, as I sat looking out the window at the Logan River, all I could think about was one of Riley’s favorite places to eat, “Pretty Bird”. I debated as to whether or not I should drive home that day, or wait until the next, but Pretty Bird was calling me. It was 7:45 when I neared north Salt Lake and entered my order into the app on my phone. If I timed it just right, my order would be ready and I could pick it up without having to park my car a block away. The app wouldn’t work. It had worked a million times. I got to the restaurant and asked the girl outside if I could please order and pay her and she said, “no, you have to use the app, I cannot accept payment from you.” I tried again, with another card. It didn’t work. She took my phone and tried, it didn’t work. She got her manager, he tried, it didn’t work, I offered cash, he couldn’t accept it. The manager looked up and he said, “What did you order?” “A chicken sandwich, mild please.” I responded. “It’s on us”, he said.
Humbly I took the food and walked across the street to my car and as I did, I heard, “dinners on me Mom”. Tears poured from my eyes as I sat in my car ignoring the onlookers. I opened the back hatch of my car and retrieved a piece of paper. I stood and wrote a letter to the kind man at Tasty Bird, thanking him for his kindness and generosity and explained to him that my son, Riley, had died eight months prior but that today I knew I needed to come and eat the sandwich Riley and I used to enjoy together. I explained to the man that I felt this was Riley’s way of buying his Mom dinner and ran the letter across the street to the girl out front. As I drove away, I saw her and her boss standing over the letter together. Two angels who didn’t realize they were working under Riley’s guidance to, once again, let his Mom know he lives and that I should start listening to him.
So thank you Riley. Thanks for your persistence and tenacity in getting your own way. Not much has changed.
Here is me, sharing my light. I’m sure many have felt similar to me in over the course of the past eight months. I’m asking you not to give up. Use your voice, don’t let outside influences suffocate your light. God loves you! There is hope! God has a specific plan for you. Remove the bushel, “let your light so shine and glorify your Father who is in Heaven”.
I love you,