Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Letters to Henry, Part 3, 12/8/06

Friday, 12/8/06 10:15 p.m.

Dear Henry,

Today Ann told me she thinks you and her dog have hooked up in heaven and are romping around together. She and I exchanged accounts of vision/dreams we had of our mothers coming back to comfort us. Why are you waiting so long to comfort me, Hen Ben? There's so much I don't understand. Understatement of the year.

I finished Pack's scrapbook tonight.

Hard work tomorrow. Better get to sleep.

I love you my BenBridge.

Monday, 12/11/06 8:45 p.m.

Dear Sweetheart,

Today I have some actual good news: Michelle is back and she wants to start working again! That is truly, truly good news. I might be able to go back to my workout class again. (Little scared of that, cause I know I've become out of shape.) At any rate, I will be able to cut back my hours. Whew.

This morning around 3 a.m. your dad felt a strange cold air and felt a distinct shivery hair-raising sensation. It lasted a while. Was that you, honey?

Dad asked me if I believe Ann's vision was really her mom. I do. Then he asked me if just being a nice person is enough to get you into heaven. I don't know. I believe the Bible and I know what it says about wheat and chaff, heaven and hell, etc. But it also says Jesus has compassion and mercy. It says, if you help the least, it's as though you helped Jesus. I bet Ann's mother had a good soul, as Amanda would say. I don't know. It's confusing.

I started listening to the James Earl Jones New Testament on CD that Saul gave your dad. I like it.
I had another one of those upsetting emails from ____ tonight. Between her and Saul, how on earth can I know who's telling the truth? The important thing is, at least as far as I'm concerned, that Saul is OK. He must not lie. He must live an authentic, sincere life and be willing to face his mistakes. He must know that we love him, mistakes and all. I tried calling him, but he didn't answer.
I feel like in the final month that you were with us, we achieved that. At least until the Prozac clouded your thinking.

Karl came into the shop today. He sends his love.

Last night I couldn't sleep AT ALL. I went to bed at eleven and just laid there until 4:15. This often happens to me on Sunday nights. I had to work 5-5 today. I am sleepy.

I think I'll try to call Saul one more time, then go to bed.

Oh yes, your dad is driving to Lebanon so he can take Boyd to the doctor tomorrow. That way Julie can keep Wilda at home and Jim can be there to find out what's really going on. It may be a heart valve problem.

No answer from Saul.

Sleeeeepy me. Tomorrow morning Michelle will surprise Pack by showing up in my place. I get to sleep a little later. Yeah!

I love you, Real Boy. To me you are not a ghost. You are my real, true flesh and blood Henry. One of my boys, the boys I was given to love.

Love, Mama

Wednesday, 12/13/06 10:10 p.m.

Dear Punkin,

Oh Sweetheart, life is tough. I talked to Saul last night. He has come to a crossroads. He is miserable about himself and has decided to see a counselor. I'm glad he's "facing his demons." He is going through some tough times.

I talked to your dad about my worries: you faced your demons too, but look what happened. Dad said even today on NPR he heard a program about Prozac and how they're finding it is causing suicide in young adults too, not just kids. He emphasized to me that your death was an accident. I need to climb all over that word and fully swallow it until I fully believe it.

Tomorrow I get to come home early! Yay! Also Friday. Things are going to be so much easier for me now that Michelle is back.

I figured out tonight that we really can afford our vacation. We'll probably have to use some of our savings, but we can do it. i guess we don't spend all our money these days. I'm not used to that. It feels good.

Tonight on the way home I really did fall asleep at the wheel. I was behind a few cars at a light when I drifted off; when I opened my eyes the car in front of me was 4 or 5 car lengths down the road. So, I guess I'd better go to bed.

Henry, I have to find a way to get used to you being gone. I wish you would visit me in my dreams. I love you so much. I love you like a mother. Ha ha.

Mama PJ

Saturday, 12/16/06 8:45 p.m.

Dear Precious Henry,

The last few days have been kind of dramatic. Ups and downs. I feel better in one way; I have a better sense of integrity because I told ____ in no uncertain terms that I won't tolerate her habit of "telling on" my family anymore. I have felt fakey and dishonest when I haven't expressed how I really feel about this.

I can summarize her reply for you: "Dear Patty, I'm sorry I hurt you. I didn't mean it. Go to hell, and never speak to me again. Love, ___"

Here's the good stuff: Saul and Rabecca are working it out. She's leaving for a couple of months, but she tells me she loves Saul and she's definitely coming back. She's endured a lot, and earned some points in my eyes.

The other good stuff is how much I'm enjoying the amount of time off work I now have, and will have in the foreseeable future. I got almost all the Christmas shopping done yesterday. I wrapped little things and filled stockings.

Your stocking is empty.

I haven't cried over you for quite a few days, Henry. Maybe I'm getting used to this. I don't know. I haven't looked at your pictures or listened to your music for a long time. And I haven't visited your grave. It feels a little confusing. How can I actually accept this? How can I?

I kind of feel like I'm waiting for something. Not sure what. Am I still waiting for you to come back?

Love, Mama

Tuesday, 12/19/06 10 p.m.

Hi Sweet Love,

Just wanted to say goodnight and tell you I love you. We have a big day tomorrow - the Neighborhood Christmas Party at Jim and Patty's. You would be so excited about it if you were here. I'll fill you in on the details probably Thursday or Friday. Saturday night Isaac will be staying over! But now, I'd better get to sleep.

Your t-shirt still holds the scent of you. I still hug it at night. But I don't dream of you. Why? I want you to come home.

Kisses and hugs,

Friday, 12/22/06

Hi Sweet Hen Ben,

Gosh, I miss you. As I lay in bed hugging your shirt Wednesday night, I realized that God is the only one who really understands how I feel. I've known this in my head, but it really struck my heart. It made the pain and loneliness a little lighter.

Your brother Saul is really suffering right now. I hope we can help him. He's going to bring Phin to church Sunday and then come over for lunch. Isaac will be with us too. Rabecca left Monday.

I've received a couple of very sweet emails from Courtney. It means a lot to me that she stays in touch.

The party was wonderful. You would have loved it. There were 150 or so people crammed in there, eating your dad's pizza, smoked ham and stuff. They loved it all. And we went out caroling in the cold night. Your name came up many times with love.

Julie called tonight in tears to tell us she's thinking about us. She suffers so much over you. She said today she felt like you were close by.

Why haven't I felt that? I feel distant from you, seems like more all the time. sometimes I think I want to listen to the memorial music, but I shy away. It's so painful. sigh. I go around sighing.

We got our reservation at the River Terrace in Napa Valley - buy 2 nights get the 3rd free. I'm excited.
Your dad and I exchanged Christmas gifts tonight. I got him a towel warmer. He promised to take me to Genoa. Pretty sweet.

I'd better try to get some sleep. I haven't slept well lately.

I love you darling. Be warm and safe and happy. I hug you.


Sunday, Christmas Eve 2006

Dear Henry,
Isaac is here, and he is going to draw a picture for you.

Isaac has so much enthusiasm for everything he does! Phew! He talks loud and plays hard. In other words, he's a BOY.

Now I have to help him get a toy out from under the piano. Later, dude.

10:10 p.m.

Your dad's gone to bed. It's quiet. I'm having a glass of wine and some nuts and popcorn. I feel sort of blank. Not good, not horrible. Except I'm worried about Saul, and that is a scary feeling. It's like I used to worry about you. Actually I still do worry about you. How silly is that? Talk about a waste of time. And I worry about my grandchildren. In short, I guess I'm kind of a mess. Rick Warren said on TV tonight that not worrying is the hardest command of God's to obey. Life has taught me that there is plenty to worry about. Your worst fears can come true.

I should pray about this tonight, but I don't know if I can.

I wish I could hold you and tell you how I love you. Henry.

-Mama Pajama

Wednesday, 12/27/09 10:45 p.m.


My hand is stiff - just wasted several hours playing Snood. They should provide Snood to people in nursing homes. It feels like such a colossal waste of time, and yet, it's so hard to stop.

Today on the way to work I had a moment of panic - I couldn't believe you actually, really fell off that cliff.

Christmas was pretty good. The kids seemed to like their Henry Books. Nobody looked at them much - I suspect they wanted to wait until they were alone. Courtney gave me a super nifty little purse. The food turned out good and the little kids had fun. Saul and Pack were not in very good moods, but all in all, considering the fact that our Henry was missing, it was pretty good.

Yesterday we relaxed, did a little shopping, then went to the exchange party at Meg's. Those are always fun. We added your picture to Mom's, Dad's and Steve's grandma - the missing family. We need one of Andrew there too.

Three more days and we're off on our vacation! Waaaaahgggghhh!

I got a nice photo album at the exchange party. i plan to fill it up with pictures of you.

Did I tell you Courtney's buying a house? Your dream is coming true. It's a three bedroom built in the late 90's, around 185th and Baseline. She's sharing it with her friend Amanda and her husband. It closes on the 20th, and she moves, then leaves on the cruise on the 21st. She really knows how to pack her schedule.

Today I didn't have to leave for work until noon, so I was able to get the apartment cleaned up, most of the Christmas stuff put away. Tomorrow we need to get chains and whatever else is necessary for safe driving.

I have a big basket and box of material for your scrapbooks and photo album and memory book, but I'm still waiting for those drawings Courtney says she has that you did for Isaac. Maybe when she packs...

I'm rambling. Why should you be interested in all this stuff? I'm only your mother, and you're a grown boy. You have no need of me now.

Love, Your Sad Faced Mama

Thursday, 12/28/09 9:15 p.m.

Dear Henry,

I feel sort of out of it tonight. I haven't done anything useful after getting home except shower, eat dinner and do dishes. Just blanking out in front of the TV.

After we get back from vacation I want to start on your photo and scrapbooks.

It feels funny to say "back from vacation." What an unheard-of event.

Michelle had some bad news today - came to work in tears. Her father is suing her and her sister for their grandmother's inheritance. Made me realize how fortunate we are to have such a loving family.

I should write a thank you email to Paula and get to bed. Didn't sleep much last night, and I should get to work early, because I spaced out this afternoon and forgot to do the cinnamon rolls. So Jim will have to work them into his morning baking. Can't believe I did that.

When are you going to come? I think about your walk - so cute and kind of off-kilter. I think about your tenderness. "I love you my friend," you wrote to your father. How many boys do that? God gave us such an irreplaceable unique gift in you.

I was looking at the tip log on Tuesday. A lot of history shows up in those numbers. The days you worked full time for us, the days you moved to part time and went back to CFO. The days near the end that you missed. And I saw where Pack called you "Rarah" and himself "Packah." Brothers and buddies.

God, please hold my Henry tenderly and keep him safe. Please let us be together again and feel the joy of your restoration. Please.

Hen Ben, I love you, my friend.
-Mama Pajama

Tuesday, 1/2/07 5:45 a.m.

Dear Henry,

I'm writing this in bed, in our room at River Terrace Inn, Napa, California. Room 323. Your pop has gone to the store to get some spoons - we got granola yesterday but forgot we'd need spoons to eat it.

It is nice here.

We are done with 2006, the last year in which you were alive.

I continue to feel sad, damaged. i don't seem to have much to say today. I'll write more later when I feel more chatty. Don't worry, though. I'm ok. Just wanted to tell you I love you. I miss you. I ache for you still.

Love, Lady Mama

Sunday, 1/7/07 8:30 p.m.

Dear Henry,

I'll have to get to bed soon - opening shift, back to work tomorrow. We had such a nice break. Feels like more than a week to me.

Today we celebrated Saul's birthday at Amalfi's, spending the gift card two of our nice customers gave us. There were 10 of us: me and Jim, the Wolfes, Pack and Tessa, and Saul and Phin. It was fun - I hope Saul enjoyed it. We talked about trying to make 2007 a good year.

I finally dreamed about you a couple of nights ago. It didn't feel like a "vision" dream, but it was good anyway. I was walking through a crowd of people coming toward me. I could tell that you were there. I could see little flashes of you, a shoulder, a leg..then your face came into view. You were looking for me! Our eyes met. Yes, it's Henry! You smiled, your eyes danced. We pushed past everyone and hugged each other. A voice inside me kept whispering, "it's not real, it's not real, it's just a dream. Henry's still dead." But I didn't care. I loved it anyway.

When we were on our trip I escaped my grief somewhat. It was still there, but less so. I didn't know I could "take a break" like that.

I thought of an image that describes my relationship with the fact of your death. Remember those giant screw things you bury in the ground and hook your dog's chain to? The dog can go around and around, but they can't escape that center, that place. It's like that for me. Your death is the center, it's always there. I can't get away. But I keep tugging at it, worrying it. Someday it might work loose. Then I'll be free to move about, but I'll always drag it behind me.

I'm reading A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis. Talk about recognition. It's like he read my mind.

We took roses to Nanny and Papa's graves on Friday morning. I don't want our dead to be forgotten.

Adam has a new baby. Abigail Mae Foss was born on Thursday. She was premature, only weighed 5 pounds something. But I guess she's ok. Adam is working, trying to make a go of things. They're going to live with Amanda's sister.

I guess I'd better go to sleep. Time to really get on with the new year. I love you, precious boy. Please come see me, tell me you're ok, give me assurance. God, please bless my Hen Ben.

Love, Mama

Wednesday, 1/10/07 7:15 a.m.

Dear Henry,

I don't have to be at work until 1:00 today, so I have a little rare morning of alone-ness. I ate toast, drank OJ. I had the radio on, but it's annoying, so I turned it off. Quiet, a cup of coffee, writing to you.

Your Grandad is amazing. Here's what's happened..we got a call Monday night that Boyd has a rupturded aorta. He can die at any second and won't last more than a day or two. Nightmare. Boyd wanted your dad to come down and help him deal with things- funeral, financial stuff, etc.. So Jim left around 6. About mid-day they went to a new doctor. This one said it looks like the rupture may have happened a month ago. He said people rarely survive the initial event, but when they do, they can go on living out the rest of their life. Incredible, huh? So your dad had a good visit, got everyone settled down and came home.

Such is the nature of my faith nowadays that I don't think this is a God Deal I think it just happened. With God all things are possible, but that doesn't mean he's gonna do it. Why should he? He has his own agenda, unfathomable to us.

C.S. Lewis said that after his wife died God slammed the door shut right in his face. I feel that way. Or maybe I slammed it shut. I don't even want to go near the door.

Your t-shirt still holds your scent. How could it last so long? I hold it close almost every night. Am I maudlin and creepy to still be doing this?

We finally, finally connected with the stone guy. Here's what your marker will look like:

Yesterday our neighbor on Fremont, Al, (Mexican hot chocolate) gave us a one-year old hemlock tree in honor of you. We can plant it after the freeze is past. Our little plot of ground where we laid your body is going to be a tiny garden for you. I have a water tight jar to hold a guest/log book, pictures, etc. It will be a good place to grieve and remember you. I suppose as the years pass we won't go there so much. That scares me. I resist that. Why would I ever want to forget you? Maybe it's possible to remember you someday without grieving. I guess that's how I am with Mom and Dad. But with you it's much much harder to imagine.

Patrick went to your cliff last week. He said it was so cold and windy that he couldn't think about you much. He had to get outta there. What if the weather had been bad that day you were there? Well, who knows. You might have found another way. From what I've read, once the Prozac puts that thought in your head, nothing and no one can stop you.

Here's my "must do" list this morning: laundry, trash, make bed, shred giant bag of mail. Maybe vacuum. Clean myself up and get to work.

Better get on with it.
Love, Lady Mama

Friday, 1/12/06 8:45 p.m.

Dear Hen Ben,

I had a happy afternoon today. Home by 3 p.m., and your pop fixed such a beautiful dinner: poached salmon, vegetables, salad. I felt so happy and content, but I told Jim, a shadow passed and I felt equally sad. I'm haunted by what you said in your note: "you will get over this." Whenever I am happy I want to yell, "I'm NOT getting over it!" I don't want what you said to ever come true. I talked to your dad (as usual!). He is so very passionate about us remembering that the real you was not the one who slipped or jumped off that cliff. Not the one who wrote that note. The last 3 weeks after you started taking Prozac do not define your life. So, he begged me not to let that last day color my memory of who you are. And we will never get over losing you. But we will want to learn to live with it. We want to be happy. You want us to be happy, don't you?

So, I'm going to allow my mental image of you to be the happy Henry, the struggling Henry - the REAL Henry, not the tragic one who haunts me so much from that day in June.

OK, Rahrah?
I love you,
:) Mama Pajama

Sunday, 1/14/06 8 p.m.

Hi Punkin,

This was a pretty excellent day. For starters, I was so happy this morning! I looked around at our apartment (kinda messy, but oh well), eating the nice breakfast that your pop made me. Stacks of great books, pictures of all my family - I felt so happy. Your dad and I spent hours researching iPods, thinking about getting one. In fact, we were late for church because we weren't noticing the time. I was on the section leaders today and one of the songs was "Shine On Us." Lord, let your light, light of your face shine on us, that we may be saved, that we may have light to find our way in the darkest night. Let your light shine on us. I can't sing that song without crying. I got a Christmas napkin from someone to dry my eyes. i got hugs and pats from the singers around me. So it was good.
Then we went to Costco and bought an iPod!! Wow. It's so high tech, as you would say. you would love it. Your pop worked on learning to use it all afternoon while I did some housework.

I have to get something off my chest. When I read the prayer requests on the daily email prayer chain, sometimes people report a good result - a test that turned out good, or a job they found, etc. Then they say, "God is so good!" Well, is he also good when things don't turn out right? I prayed hard for you while you were yet at the top of the cliff. I prayed hard for you when you were lying broken on the rocks in the middle of the night. No one knew you were there but God. We prayed, not knowing. But once we knew, I understood that God had denied my request. I don't know what I'm trying to say. It shouldn't bother me that people call God good when they like what happens to them. Hi IS good. He is good either way. His goodness is not contingent.

I started working on your Remembrance book today..just a few entries here and there. I haven't begun to paste any photos or mementos. But I bought a Costco-sized pack of glue sticks today, so I'm ready! Some of the written entries will take a lot of thought, like, "describe your personality." Whatever I write will be there forever! Maybe I can find one of those profile things - I'm sure you did one at some point. Otherwise I'll just have to say how delightful and precious you are. I can be biased, yes? I have a right.

When I think now of "my children" and I mentally count them off, it seems so confusing, so sparse. What a giant hole you left.

Your birthday is coming soon. Last year I bought you a blue dress shirt. I didn't know I was buying the shirt you would wear in your grave. Life is not predictable, except in the most fundamental ways.

Patrick is trying hard to stop drinking. Can you help him somehow? I remember you came to us to tell us how worried you were about Patrick, in early June.

God bless you and hold you close, my sweetheart.
I love you,

Wednesday, 1/1/07 6:30 p.m.

Hello Sweetheart,

We've had some eventful days since Sunday. Tuesday morning it started snowing, like around 6 a.m., during workout class. Oh yes, let's back up to Monday. _____ dumped Patrick Monday night. Since his car is still in the shop, that meant I had to pick him up at 4:30 Tuesday morning (no girl, no car). It kept snowing, an inch an hour for 3 hours. About 7:30 we decided Jim should try to get home. He left and got stuck for three hours on I-84. Pack and I were alone - no one else could make it to work until 11:00 - and we were slammed. We closed the shop at noon, cleaned up and borrowed some chains from Ron Joy; left about 2 p.m. We made it home ok.

I'm leaving out some things here. Some family trauma that left me very shaken...

I still can't pray like I used to. Just little phrases like, take care of Saul, take care of Patrick, take care of Henry, take care of Myra....I repeat the Lord's Prayer. It is amazingly suitable to almost any situation. I repeat Psalm 139. Yes, I still know it. I remember when I recited it at LIFE group, how you followed along in the text, and you acted proud of me. I treasure that memory.

I told Patrick that maybe he keeps having trouble with girls because he isn't obeying God's law regarding fornication. If he found a girl who wanted to wait until marriage for sex, maybe she'd be a different sort of girl, one who wouldn't break his heart so violently.

I hope it didn't come off as self-righteousness.

So, we will go on, day by day, trying to keep it together, trying to love each other and love God. I don't know how it will all end up.

Oh yes, one more thing. I emailed Courtney inviting her to dinner to commemorate your birthday. I said, maybe you don't want to come. We want to keep Henry's memory alive, but maybe you want to forget him. One day you'll remarry and move on. She wrote back that she never wants to forget you, that even though you were getting a divorce, she still loved you as a friend. You were her first love, and Isaac's daddy, never to be replaced. So, you see, you didn't entirely lose Courtney's love. But I think you know that.

I see I'm getting about 2/3 of the way through this book. I wonder if I'll get another one? How long will I keep writing to you? Right now I'm afraid to stop. It would be one more way that you would slip away from me. Well, no one's holding a gun to my head. I guess I can write to you as long as I want to. I'll stuff your heavenly mailbox!

Love, love, love...I love you, Hen-Ben

P.S. Your dad says Isaac is the real victim in all this. I think he's right.