Do It For Brian

The quality of one’s life is not determined by length but by depth…what that person brought to this world while they were here. I can proudly say that in the 17 years that my son Brian was here on earth that he brought so much to so many.

My story began on August 29, 1997, the day I was blessed with this beautiful brown-haired, blue-eyed baby boy…the happiest day of my life. Fast forward 17 years later to November 7, 2014, the day my son was in an auto accident and did not survive. The day my life, as I knew it, would be changed…forever.

The day started off like any other morning. I woke up, got ready for work, and woke up Brian for school. Brian came downstairs while I was drinking coffee, all wet in his towel, asking me to iron his clothes for school that day. I, as usual, said “okay.” As I was ironing his clothes, I had a package sitting on the kitchen counter that was delivered the prior evening. New black boots. I told Brian, as I was ironing, that he could open the box for me. He opened the box and started laughing and says, “Mom, really…these are ugly.” I came into the kitchen and, my God, they were. We are both laughing and I burst out into song and sang, “These boots are made for walking, and that’s just what they’ll do. One of these days these boots are going to walk all over you,” and as I’m singing I’m poking Brian. We’re laughing. As he is laughing, he hugs me and says, “I love you.” Looking back now at that morning, I cherish that hug, as it was the last time I would ever hug my son. I get in my car, Brian gets in his car, and as I look at him he signs, “I love you” with his hands. I signal back. Little did I know that a few hours later Brian would be gone.

The following weeks and months, I just did not know how I was going to do this; how to live my life without him, as if I even wanted to. Each day was filled with endless crying and the why him and how could this happen to such an amazing young man with his entire life in front of him. He was supposed to be getting ready to graduate high school in June, not be gone! Brian is my world…my life…my purpose. What is life without him?

And then it happened about six months later… the first time I laughed. I paused and thought to myself, how can I be laughing? My son is gone and I’m laughing. I felt guilty. But then I realized my laughing didn’t mean I have forgotten he was gone. It didn’t make the pain in my heart hurt any less. It didn’t make me not miss him any less. What it did mean is that I was still alive and that I could miss him, be heartbroken and in pain, but still experience joy. Brian had a mother who was full of life. Who was ditzy, funny and who didn’t take life or herself too seriously. What kind of mother would I be if he was looking down from heaven watching me deteriorate? Brian hated when he saw me upset. I know he would not want me to live the remainder of my life in sorrow, every single day. I had to accept joy and happiness again, just like I had to accept the sadness and pain. I had to accept that while I was sad and crying that at the same time it was okay for me to laugh and enjoy life. Not an easy task to do hand in hand.

It literally is like being on a roller coaster, which is funny because I hate roller coasters. Brian, for years, tried to get me on one, but that’s what this journey is like. One minute I can be laughing having a good time, and a couple hours later be on the couch crying because I miss my son so much. It took time to accept and truly understand that for me, in my life now, that sadness and happiness go hand in hand with each other and that’s okay. It was okay for me to cry, but it was also okay for me to laugh. I wasn’t betraying my son or his memory by still enjoying life. Because of the relationship I have with my son, the opposite would be true. I would be dishonoring him, our relationship, the bond and love we have, if I chose to crawl into a ball, hide in a dark room, and let what is the remainder of my life pass me by.

Our love is too deep for me to allow that to happen. The first day I laughed after Brian’s passing was the day I realized there was HOPE.

I have learned so much about myself, about death and about love. Prior to that horrible day, I had thought I knew all I needed to know about life, love, relationships, and heartbreak. I was wrong. The funny thing about death is that it really does not tear two people apart. It never wins.

Here I am, 28 months later, living this life without Brian physically here with me. For 28 months, I have taken deep breaths, holding onto the strength he left behind for me.

When people ask me how have I made it this long, how have I been able to still be moving forward without Brian, my answer is simple……I don’t know. I know that isn’t the answer they want to hear, but it is the most honest one.

There are no easy answers after we lose our child. There are no simple directions to follow. You do not go through the “stages of grief ” after you lose a child and miraculously wake up after the last one and say, “Hooray, I made it; I am healed.” This will last a lifetime.

What I can tell you is that I have made it 28 months without Brian because I had no other choice. I made a choice to rise. I made a choice to take the tragedy of his death and not have it mean everything. His death shakes me to the core. But his life–his life–brings me so much joy and smiles. Seventeen years of being his mom is the greatest gift I was ever given. The joy he brought to me, the laughs, and the fun memories; the tears, the chats, just everything. There are so many moments that could never be taken away from me; they are what I try to focus on daily.

I have shed tears each day for 28 months. In the midst of my pain, I have learned to laugh again. I have learned to accept joy, in spite of the pain. I am continuously learning how to navigate through this world without my son. I fall…a lot. But I always get back up.

If someone would have told me that I would still be here 28 months later after losing Brian in that car accident I would have told them they were crazy. But I am here. I am living; not just going through the motions each day.

My dad was right, I would find a new purpose. My purpose was Brian when he was alive. My purpose now, funny enough, is still Brian. The greatest lesson that I learned was that I may not be a mom in the typical sense as I was before when Brian was here, but I definitely have not stopped mothering Brian in the spiritual sense. Death could not change that; through me, he lives on…through all that I do for Brian in his name, memory, and honor. This makes me a mom. It makes me Brian’s mom.

Because I am Brian’s mom I choose to embrace the laughing, the smiles, and the joy.

Today, like every day, I choose to #doitforbrian.



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Comments (3)

  • Your story could be my story. I had a Brian. He came to us in January 1975 at three weeks of age. Our adopted son. He left us January 1992 three weeks after his 17th birthday. Like your Brian, it was a car accident with him driving that took his life. I was active in our local TCF chapter in NJ for many years. Early on I too promoted safe driving at his high school. Teenagers think they are invincible and ignore reality. Keep up the good work.

  • Thank you for this, Lisa. It took me about 3 1/2 years to get to this point with my Coty, who came to us in 1993 at age 5 1/2 months old, and left us exactly 2 weeks after his 21st birthday. I still have some crying spells, but I expect that, and recognize it when they’re coming. You’re right on about grief never ending, but we do look at it from a different perspective as as time passes on. Now that we can enter the church doors again, I can go back to the columbarium to “talk to him,” which I had been doing to help myself get through my days after he left us, but had to stop when COVID came to NC. He loved being in church throughout his life, so I know that he is watching from heaven. Two years ago, I started volunteering at what was his middle school, after a push from our pastor, who was not here when Coty was, but has been a good listener. This past year was harder for me since I couldn’t even volunteer at school because our school system went to virtual learning in March 2020. They have just started back to in-person classes, and I re-applied to be a volunteer there, and have been approved to start working with special-needs kids like he was, reading to them, and listening to them reading to me. Now I am just waiting for the volunteer coordinator to call me about when I can start again. Looking forward to it.

    • You give me hope that in another two years maybe I will feel less lost than I do today, 18 months after losing my special needs daughter after her 3 year battle with cancer. She came to me at 18 months of age and passed away dec., 2019 at age 37. But after my husband died when she was nine years old, it was just the two of us. She was my everything and now feels like my everything is gone. Jeanne hardly ever missed church, even when she didn’t feel well. I tried to go after she passed and have stopped on two occasions due to this pandemic. But I probably will start back in a few weeks. However,I have to say, the most alone I feel is sitting in that church. I am just not supposed to be there without her. Anyway, I thank you for hope.

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