Video From the Remembrance

Several people have asked me for a link to the video we showed at the remembrance on Monday, so I uploaded it. It also gives those that could not attend a chance to watch it.

As I mentioned before, my wife’s brother created the video, so all credit goes to him. Here you go. For those of you reading from your email subscription, you’ll need to click on the link to the site to view it.

Woody vs. The Lone Ranger

Last week my dad text me a photo he found of me while scouring his garage. It was Christmas, likely around 1983, and I wore The Lone Ranger outfit over my pajamas. This is so Jax, I thought.

Seth Tearz at about 6 years old.

Seth Tearz at about 6 years old.

The big cheeks. The blond hair. The wiry frame and the slightly open mouth with the serious face. And, of course, the costume.

Jax, like a lot of 4-year-olds, I’m sure, loved to dress up. He’d change into his Mr. Fantastic costume (Fantastic Four) at least four times a day. Before he hit his superheroes stage, he dawned Buzz Lightyear and Woody outfits constantly.

Jax as Woody.

Jax as Woody.

The more I look at photos of me as a kid the more I see Jax. My wife agrees. He would’ve loved Disney’s The Lone Ranger. And I’m completely confident he’d throw on a black mask with a white cowboy hat and make Gray play his Tonto.

The Remembrance

I remember the drive home when the blind hope

Turned to crying and screaming, “Why?”
Flowers pile up in the worst way
No one knows what to say about a beautiful boy who died

By Taylor Swift and Maya Thompson

 

Courtesy of Crossroad Photography, Heather Kusunoki

Courtesy of Crossroad Photography, Heather Kusunoki.

Around October of last year, as we approached Halloween, a very difficult time for me as it was right there with Christmas as Jax’s favorite time of year, my mom emailed my wife and I a link to a song Taylor Swift performed about a boy with cancer. Swift wrote the song “Ronan” based on a blog Maya Thompson, the mother of Ronan, created when her 3-year-old son was diagnosed with neuroblastoma in August of 2010. Ronan died in May of 2011 three days before his fourth birthday.

My wife’s brother created a beautiful tribute video that we showed last night at Jax’s Remembrance. I’m guestimating about 100 people came to Mountain Gate Park in Corona to be together as a community to share stories, hug, laugh and cry.

Projected on to a make-shift movie screen (as you can see in the background of the photo above), the video wrapped up with “Ronan” playing as we watched videos of Jax performing for the infant twins and photos as we all last remember seeing him. The song crushes me every time I hear it. I managed to mostly avoid tears throughout the night until that song played. Even though I watched the video earlier in the day and wept alongside my wife, I still lost it at the park, standing in the background and swigging Macallan scotch from a flask while I wiped away tears. (thank you my very kind friend for sharing).

Courtesy of Crossroad Photography, Heather Kusunoki

Courtesy of Crossroad Photography, Heather Kusunoki

The best way to describe last night was beautiful. We gathered beyond the outfield fence since the Corona American Little League all-stars practiced on the large field. Blankets and camping chairs filled the grass area and children played wiffle ball as we listened to some good music and mingled with each other. The way the sun’s glow shined upon us as it set in the crystal blue sky filled me with warmth and peace.

My wife made some keepsakes for people to leave with. Maria, a mother of one of Jax’s t-ball teammates, created this beautiful graphic shortly after the event, displaying and engraved washer and a jack, our symbol for Jax.

Courtesy of Maria McRoberts.

Courtesy of Maria McRoberts.

Several courageous people stood in front of us all and spoke of fond memories, how Jax’s life and death has affected them and the love they have for our family.

Following the multimedia presentation we lit the night up by candle light. Following a moment of remembrance we released balloons. We invited people to write messages on some of the balloons while others came installed with a LED light and glowed red (Jax’s favorite color) deep into the dark sky.

Courtesy of Crossroad Photography, Heather Kusunoki.

Courtesy of Crossroad Photography, Heather Kusunoki.

The day wasn’t without any hiccups and stresses, but the evening came off as well as my wife and I could have hoped. Thank you so much to everyone that attended. We hoped this night would be for you as much as it was for us. We all continue to grieve in our own ways and doing it all together, I think, made it less awful.

Several of you asked about the “Ronan” song, so I’ll end with the lyrics and a link. While it’s written for Ronan, maybe you’ll think of Jax every time you hear it.

Jax – you were my best four years.

I remember your barefeet down the hallway
I remember your little laugh
Race cars on the kitchen floor
Plastic dinosaurs, I love you to the moon and back

I remember your blue eyes looking into mine like we had our own secret club
I remember you dancing before bedtime then jumping on me waking me up
I can still feel you hold my hand
Little man, and even the moment I knew
You fought it hard like an army guy
Remember I leaned in and whispered to you

Come on baby with me
We’re gonna fly away from here
You were my best four years

I remember the drive home when the blind hope
Turned to crying and screaming, “Why?”
Flowers pile up in the worst way
No one knows what to say about a beautiful boy who died

And it’s about to be Halloween
You could be anything you wanted if you were still here
I remember the last day when I kissed your face
And whispered in your ear

Come on baby with me
We’re gonna fly away from here
Out of this curtained room and this hospital gray
We’ll just disappear
Come on baby with me
We’re gonna fly away from here
You were my best four years

What if I’m standing in your closet trying to talk to you?
And what if I kept the hand-me-downs you won’t grow into?
And what if I really thought some miracle would see us through?
But what if the miracle was even getting one moment with you

Come on baby with me
We’re gonna fly away from here
Come on baby with me
We’re gonna fly away from here
You were my best four years

I remember your barefeet down the hallway
I love you to the moon and back

Songwriter(s):Taylor Swift, Maya Maria Thompson
Copyright:Taylor Swift Music, Sony/ATV Tree Publishing

Thank you Heather Kusunoki for the beautiful photos. You can find her work at Crossroad Photography.

One Year Later

For a few days I’ve racked my brain on what to post today. I wanted something special. Something symbolic and fitting of a year that’s passed since Jax died.

But there is no magic idea to make us all feel better today. It’s a day I have to let happen. I can’t just get through it. I have to be present as it takes place. I have to shed the tears, feel my heart squish in my chest and my stomach ache. Numbing the pain with distractions is temporary.

Tonight we’ll come together not just to remember Jax, because we remember him constantly. But to experience today together. To hug, laugh, cry and be present.

One year. It’s been both the shortest and longest year of my life, at the same time. I can’t believe it’s already been a year since it happened. But I feel like it’s been a life time since I heard his voice, gazed into his gorgeous eyes, held him in my arms, kissed his head and jumped in to his infectious passion.

I miss you, Jax.

I LOVE you,

Dad

Below is a slideshow. No idea how this will work for you mobile users.

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Reminder – Jax Remembrance, June 24

I make the same tongue roll at this photo, which is in our bedroom, every time I make eye contact with it.

I make the same tongue roll at this photo, which is in our bedroom, every time I make eye contact with it.

On June 24 we will be gathering at Mountain Gate Park in Corona for a casual time of remembrance to share memories, socialize and just be together. When it gets dark (roughly 8:30 or a little later) we will show a short film of pictures and home movies under the stars, so bring a blanket or some chairs. It will be very informal.

Mountain Gate Park’s Field 1 is where Jax excelled in his year of tee-ball. We think this is a perfect place to remember him.

We would love to have everyone come and celebrate with us what were the best four years of our lives. All are welcome so please pass this along and share with others. If you have any questions you can reach me at seth@smilingthroughtearz.com, or leave a comment.

Jax Remembrance

7:30 p.m – 10 p.m.

Field 1 at Mountain Gate Park

3100 S. Main St, in Corona, 92881


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Father’s Day Edition – How Was Your Weekend?

Friday

We took the twins to their first Angel game of the year. Really all they cared about was seeing fireworks, which they’re kind of obsessed with. Gray found one of Jax’s rubber baseballs in an Angels mini bag from when he was young and asked to bring his glove along. We sat down in our seats in the club section near the left field foul pole in the bottom of the first inning. And we didn’t get up until after the fireworks.

Gray and Ellie hug at Yankees/Angels Friday night.

Gray and Ellie hug at Yankees/Angels Friday night.

Gray loved the entire thing. Imagine being able to scream to your heart’s content and finally not get in trouble for it. When he wasn’t eating, he had that ball or glove, if not both, in his hands. He watched Mike Trout get a base hit (a phrase he now loves) and that 20-something drunk guy almost fall into my wife’s lap every time he climbed the stairs.

Ellie, however, was nervous from the start. She made me hold her as we walked into Angel Stadium and to our seats. After the sample fireworks shot up in the fourth inning, she asked to leave, and for “no more fireworks.”

Led by Villa Park native Mark Trumbo and his 3-for-4 night with two runs and a run batted in, the Angels clipped the Yankees 5-2.

As the fireworks show began, Gray jumped on to my lap in fright while Ellie rested in her mom’s arms. Both pulled their sweatshirt hoods over their ears to soften the sound. Ellie held up nicely and after Gray’s early jitters, he came around and enjoyed the finale, as I recorded here.

My wife changed the twins into pajamas in our minivan as we waited for the packed parking lot to empty out. Ellie told me she didn’t want to go to another Angel game. Even if there weren’t any fireworks. Which crushed my soul. Gray loved it and wants to go back.

Red tail lights filled the lot so we hung out in the van as Gray and Ellie goofed off. I snapped this strange image of Ellie and made a gif of it. I think she looks possessed, but my wife disagrees. Click on the image to view.

Ellie getting weird in Angel Stadium parking lot.

Ellie getting weird in Angel Stadium parking lot.

Saturday

The wife and I apparently felt a little profuse with the twins after she found a 20 percent coupon in her email inbox, so we went to Toys R Us. It’s fun to let the rugrats run around the store to see what interests them.

Gray happened upon an aisle of board games, stopped at this one and said “Hi, Sheldon.”

Big Bang Theory board game at Toys R Us.

Big Bang Theory board game at Toys R Us.

When I met back up with my wife I told her that he’s probably watching The Big Bang Theory too much. She smiled and said he and Ellie ask to watch the show every morning, and know most of the characters.

My cousin Sean graduated from Sonora High School. In the afternoon we went to his grad party at my aunt and uncle’s house, caught up with family and enjoyed some tacos.

From there we sped over to Long Beach State to catch a dance recital in the Carpenter Performing Arts Center for our friends’ three girls and their dance academy. We sat towards the back in case we had to sneak out with one of the twins. But that wasn’t needed. The music, lighting and dancers enthralled Gray and Ellie. And they each got to sit in their own seat, which they loved. I peeked over at Gray and occasionally found him rocking out.

The kids got a little restless during the 90-plus minutes we watched, but just changed seats or sat on someone else’s lap and read the program. Intermission hit and while we wrestled with the idea of going home the people in front of us commented on how well-behaved Gray and Ellie were, and thanked us for letting them enjoy the performance.

Since it was after 9 p.m. and the babies hadn’t eaten dinner yet, we decided to leave, grab some In ‘N Out and Yogurtland (my wife’s addicted) and head home.

Sunday

When I woke up I knew exactly what I wanted to do today. Try not to make anything of it being Father’s Day, get the kids to my parents for regular bi-weekly babysitting, go home and get blotto.

My wife had to work tonight. After two super late nights for the babies, they slept in until 10:15 a.m. She scored us a late breakfast from Burger Basket and otherwise I wanted to just forget that this was my first Father’s Day since Jax died. But a loving wife and two 2-year-olds that memorized “Happy Father’s Day, daddy,” ruined my plans. And I love them for it.

I watched baseball and opened gifts. Once I started to break out these engraved pint glasses I lost it. I cried as I first removed Presley’s glass. Fittingly, Jaxson’s was the last I removed from the bag and tissue paper. I sobbed.

Father's Day gift, all four of my childrens' names.

Father’s Day gift, all four of my children’s names.

My dad’s sister (my aunt, because that’s how these things work) was visiting from Northern California so my dad grilled some burgers and Mahi Mahi. The twins and I celebrated my dad while my wife worked at the hospital. My plan to make my liver work over time was on pause.

After some quality family time I drove home, alone. I stopped by Albertson’s and picked up a bottle of Avion Silver Tequila and a 12-pack of Bud Light Platinum to fulfill my plan. While the Avion chilled I poured myself some Glenlivet on the rocks and watched the season premier of True Blood. A second glass followed by the Platinum and I was in to the latest Mad Men episode.

At some point I decided my pain didn’t need booze to wash it away. The love from my wife, Gray and Ellie, along with my family and many messages from caring friends throughout the day did that. The belly aching I imagined I’d feel never came. I kind of just felt numb all day. More drinks wouldn’t result in more numbness. I’d just pass out and feel like super shit the next day.

Today sucked. Don’t get me wrong. But it didn’t suck as much as I was afraid it would. Thank you to everyone that thought of me and reached out to me today. You help to keep me “strong,” as some of you see me. Keep doing so. A week from now, I’ll need every ounce of strength I can get.

How It Feels After the Death of a Child

Soon after Jax died I dove into the Internet for comfort. A few people told me about The Compassionate Friends, a national organization aimed at helping parents and grandparents grieve the death of a child naturally and without isolation to heal and find hope again. One evening my wife came to check on me in the office and found my red, puffy face soaked with tears. I joined a chat room at the website of The Compassionate Friends and explained to strangers for the first time Jax’s death.

The Compassionate Friends

The Compassionate Friends

“Why would you even want to do that to yourself?” she asked with a compassionate smirk. I laughed back. “I don’t know,” I answered.

That same night I found a section of the site for “To the Newly Bereaved.” I read it and realized I wasn’t alone. My wife dealt with everything differently than I did. She didn’t want to deal with any of it. So the ability to identify with countless others that already experienced and came through this hell was a big deal for me.

The “To the Newly Bereaved” lists emotions and feelings that parents, grandparents and siblings might feel shortly after the loss of a child. It’s divided into psychological, emotional, physical and family/social categories. If you know of anyone suffering through grief, this may be of help to them. They’re not alone. Below I’ve listed what I remember feeling and struggling with, and often still do.

Psychological

  • You wonder how someone can feel this much pain and survive.
  • Thoughts of suicide briefly enter your mind. You tell yourself you want to die—and yet you want to live to take care of your family and honor your child’s memory.
  • You are no longer afraid of death as each day that passes puts you one day closer to being with your child.
  • Thoughts of “what ifs” enter your mind as you play out scenarios that you believe would have saved your child.
  • Your memory has suddenly become clouded. You’re shrouded in forgetfulness. You’ll be driving down the road and not know where you are or remember where you’re going. As you walk, you may find yourself involved in “little accidents” because you’re in a haze.
  • You find there’s a videotape that constantly plays in an endless loop in your mind, running through what happened.

Emotional

  • You rail against the injustice of not being allowed the choice to die instead of your child.
  • You yearn to have five minutes, an hour, a day back with your child so you can tell your child of your love or thoughts left unsaid.
  • Guilt becomes a powerful companion as you blame yourself for the death of your child. Rationally you know that you were not to blame—you most certainly would have saved your child if you’d been given the chance.

Physical

  • You no longer care about your health and taking care of yourself—it just doesn’t seem that important anymore.
  • The tears come when you least expect them.
  • Your appetite is either gone or you find yourself overeating.

Family & Social

  • Things you liked to do which seemed so important before now seem meaningless.
  • If you have surviving children, you find yourself suddenly overprotective, not wanting to allow them out of your sight. Yet you feel like a bad parent because it’s so difficult to focus on their needs when you’re hurting so bad yourself.
  • Others say you’ll someday find “closure,” not understanding that closure never applies when it is the death of your child.

One of my goals of this blog is for it to be a resource for the newly bereaved. My vision is to create a section that parents can click on and find anything and everything to help them realize that they’re not alone, that they have the strength to get through this and to keep breathing as the sun will rise tomorrow. A link to “To the Newly Bereaved” will be the first thing someone will read in that section, when I can get that up.