December 21st has been such an important day in history for thousands of years, the solstice must have been a special moment even in neolithic times. Looking at the remains of archaeological sites like Stonehenge or Newgrange point to the fact that this day was sacred or special. This day is is marked with the shortest period of daylight and the longest night of the year. The sun is at its lowest and weakest point, and from this point forward, the light will grow brighter and stronger. It is the turning point of the year. The Winter Solstice marks a central part of nature’s cycle. It is a time of new growth, rebirth and renewal. It is a reminder that in order to begin anew, the old must end. It is the time of year when we pay homage to the darkness of life’s mysteries, while still keeping our faith. Spring will come again.
A good day for reflecting. This year I’ve been encouraged by my friend and life coach to write a letter to Mom and Dad. He gave me some starters and I filled in the blanks about things I wish I could tell them and I’d like to share it with you.
Dear Mom and Dad,
It’s been four years since the accident and I want to write you this letter because…
A lot has happened in since the accident…
….What I’ve learned about myself is….
That I am stronger than that I ever thought was possible. That old Bob Marley quote that says “you never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice that you have” – is something that has sort of described my life. Sometimes people are amazed or impressed that I even leave the house some days – I don’t think that’s fair. That’s not inspirational. I’m doing what everyone else does daily, surviving. Some days that means going to the grocery store, some days it means having a long day at work, some days it means sitting at home binging on Netflix. What is my strength is my ability to hope. Hope is the belief that circumstances in the future will be better. It’s not a wish that things will get better, but an actual belief, even when there may be no evidence that anything will change. Although I have many days where I am more negatively focused in my head, my overall outlook in life is still positive. I believe that I can make good in this world, I believe there are more people for me to meet. Although my body often feels crumpled and broken, my spirit isn’t. What I’ve learned from myself in these past four years has been extraordinary. I do have days where I am crippled by sadness from the loss of so many things including my independence, my mentors, my job, and the loss of you – I’ve learned that I have such a strong support team that will let me hide under the covers for as long as I need. But when I emerge I do so with more clarity than the day before and knowing that deep down inside I have the strength to carry that sadness and move forward with the life that I have in the hope that I will be happy, prosperous, and productive.
….What you’d be proud of me for is…
I really think that you would both be very proud of me, and my siblings, for how we’ve handled this whole… do we called this a situation? It’s more than that, isn’t it? It’s more than an accident though. I feel like it’s too cliché to call it a life altering event, or the moment where our lives were turned upside down. So let’s just call it the moment we met Frank. To be honest, I look back at the last four years and the composure and the poise of all of us is astonishing. The maturity that we’ve shown I think surprised all of us. I sometimes wonder how we managed to put one foot in front of the other on some days… well for a lot of days we didn’t. But metaphorically – I think we did. I’ve been doing some non fiction reading lately and I’ve learned that childhood plays an important part in the person that you grow up to be. Not all, but many individuals who struggle with crime, some mental disorders, or even poverty grew up with abuse or neglect. It is so unfortunate that there is a correlation between your youth and the tools that you’re equipped with to handle life when you’re an adult. Without us knowing it, you both gave us so many tools to handle Frank. Dad, I hear your voice often when I need to think logically, or remain calm in a situation that could easily escalate to an emergency or a high adrenaline situation. When I know I need to put the work in to get something done, I hear you telling me about the value of hard work. Mom, I hear your voice encouraging me to stay positive and see the best in people, and try to give your best self to them.
Not everything has been sunshine and rainbows, there have been moments and decisions in the last four years that I regret, wish I could have handled differently, or things that I’m not proud of. But I can learn from these, I can try to make things right, and I think you both would be really proud of all of us. When I think about my life, and the decisions that I need to make, the voice in the back my head is always “Will this make them proud of me?”
….What is still very difficult for me is…
Finding success. This probably isn’t unique to my situation at all. I think everybody looks for success in their life, I’m curious how others measure their success. Don’t lie though, everyone compares themselves to each other!
It’s a bit of an elusive concept, that’s why so many people have made millions of dollars writing books on it, because it seems that it is one of the goals that you never quite catch. Sure, you can be successful in one area in life, and then look directly down the rabbit hole and feel like a complete failure. So Mom and Dad, lately I’m feeling like I’ve had some success in my life but it’s not feeling like enough. Yes, I learned to walk! But, some days this doesn’t feel successful at all. If this whole Frank didn’t happen, I wouldn’t even have to deal with learning to walk again.
I feel difficulty finding success in the relationship department, I’m 31, super easy to compare myself to others and see what they have and what I don’t. And you know what sucks? I can’t even play it off like I don’t want it – I do! I feel difficulty finding success in my career, and some days I just feel difficulty finding an achievable goal. I could use a serious pep talk!
I am reminded that you both had a lot of wisdom about this though. I think I remember mom talking to me about trying not to become a person of success, but trying to become a person of value. I tell you what, that seems like a much more attainable lifestyle.
…What I miss most about you both since the accident is…
This is difficult because I miss so many things about you both. But I would have to say that I am mostly missing what I’m going to call my foundation. I miss having someone be so proud of me. I could do the silliest little thing but it would feel so good to know that both of you were watching my life, and are proud. I went to a kids production of the Nutcracker over the weekend and I think I can draw a good parallel. A bunch of kids were doing their dancing, and the entire theater was full, probably 500 seats! But I caught myself thinking that if I were on that stage the only people I would really want in the audience is you. Of course I don’t want to make a fool of myself in front of others, and I know that everyone in the audience wants to see success, but no one in the audience is invested in me as you. No one wants to see me perform the way you do. I miss being able to call you and tell you I got a front row parking spot at Nordstrom. I miss sharing my classroom with you, I miss being able to call with questions, I miss the advice. I miss someone caring that much about me.
…What I desperately wish I could hear you say to me today is…
You’re doing the right thing and I’m so proud of you.
So today was special, I went up to visit them at Purdy & Walters (where their ashes are) and chatted with them for a bit.
I wasn’t there five minutes before Kathy, Heather, Deanna, Christy, and a couple of the kiddos were right there beside me. We reminisced a bit inside the mausoleum building (is that what it’s called?), gave them some flowers then together we walked down to the fountain where Liana, Rowan, and Hudson threw flower pedals in. Watching that happen was almost like looking through a window. It was beautiful, watching my parents’ other children hold the hands of their babies and talk to them about how important Tim and Cheryl were to them. I know my mom and dad would both have been touched by the gesture. I was really touched.
This felt right, to be surrounded by people who loved them and by people who love me, I left feeling warm and happy and although I miss mom and dad desperately I know that I have people in my life who I can hold just as dearly. It felt equally perfect to end my evening with Kelly and Katie drinking wine on the couch and “cheersing” to Tim and Cher.
5 thoughts on “The Four Year”
Thank you for sharing your story, celebrations, wishes, and, heartache. I enjoy how your words are so honest, vulnerable and real. The short time I was at Frank Love I very much enjoyed seeing you in the classrooms and interacting with my kiddos. Specifically, my little man who walked with you and Gambit.
Hugs and cheers to renewal in the light.
You are the epitome of a remarkable daughter and I can promise you, by all that is holy, your mom and dad are BURSTING with pride in you.
Much love to you and yours on this day and always.
Jessie, I remember 4 years ago being so scared that you wouldn’t make it. Watching you struggle and grow, struggle and grow, struggle and grow has been an inspiration. You have a purpose and a reason for being here. You may never know the true value that your life has, but I can assure you that your honesty and willingness to share your struggles lights a fire in myself (and others, I’m sure) that is contagious. All the little things you do to make yourself and the world better, actually turn out to be pretty great. I’m excited to see what the future holds for you and privileged to call you a friend. Love you!
I have not been able to get to know you very well this past year, but have been impressed with your attitude, clarity of purpose and ability to engage life with such enthusiasm. I think that you are a person of value.
Your words, Jess, are almost too much for me to take in at one time. I’ll have to read and re-read. Your head explodes with thoughts and feelings and you’ve always had an incredible way of expressing yourself on paper (like Mom!!) Yes, the lucky one, having had the firm foundation of your childhood, that moral compass (as Dr. Phil says!). You’ll always have that, despite that damned Frank trying to mess with you. Your life has such incredible purpose. You’re a guidepost and motivator for others, although you probably don’t realize this…at least not right now! You live your life with purpose and that innate drive of an Owen. Jessie, you know me, I’m asking very politely, PLEASE WRITE THAT BOOK!!! I want to be the first to buy it. Lots of love to you, Sue