Five Years

5 years later

A couple of weekends ago I was driving all three kids home from an over-night stay at their great grandpa’s with their cousins. They conked out about five minutes after getting on the freeway, exhaused from staying up late and suffering from excessive sugar hang overs.

I was somewhere between Cerritos and Buena Park on the 91 East when it hit me, hard, like a punch in the gut from late-80s Mike Tyson. Jax has been gone longer than he was here.

That’s fucked. Lonliness filled me with despair. For whatever reason, a quiet car has been a magnet of super shitty thoughts for me since Jax died. In that moment, all those feelings came rushing back. It only lasted for 10 minutes, but it left its mark. Then, as I do, I crammed those feelings way down deep. And now, here we are. Five years that I last rubbed my fingers through his hair, heard his voice, made him smile and gazed in to his gorgeous eyes.

Saturday, the day of the remembrance, was rough. It was the hardest remembrance for me emotionally since the first year. The lack of booze didn’t help. At least at the Angel games I can numb myself up some. Disney’s El Capitan Theater offered no such relief. I didn’t want to be in my own skin. Acting natural felt forced, and I had trouble relaxing and just being.

Kristina missed most of the movie as Phoenix, who was missing his nap time, didn’t want to sit quietly. She was having a hard time Saturday, too, and this didn’t help.

The movie experience itself was terrific. Jax would’ve loved this so much. El Capitan is beatiful and the preshow, which I can only describe as a 13-year-old’s idea of a fun day on acid, was pretty cool. And the movie, Cars 3, was a fitting end to the franchise. Garvey, who is slightly older than Jax, said it was the best movie in the trilogy. I think Jax might’ve agreed, especially with the emergence of namesake Jackson Storm. It was an apt way to honor our missed little boy.

After the movie we gathered in the lobby, trying to catch up and say hello to those that joined us. At one point I looked out to the front on Hollywood Blvd, and what do you know, a fire truck inched its way along traffic. That’s our boy for us. Much needed. A few minutes went by and I couldn’t hold my emotions in check any further. Hugs made my eyes swell and at some point I lost it, breaking out in a hard, loud, ugly cry. The climax of my awkwardness.

I’m pretty sure we held the El Capitan crew up from opening doors for the next show time, but they never asked us to leave and were very courteous. We headed back to the parking structure and began our voyage out of Los Angeles, stuck in 101 traffic. We ate lunch with friends at an Island’s in Long Beach and then went home.

Kristina crashed on the couch. She didn’t sleep well the night before, with the day looming. Gray pulled out his Cars toys to play with, so we raced together while he recreated the movie on our living room floor. At night, my mother-in-law picked up balloons and we wrote notes to Jax and released them.

Then Kristina and I headed back to the theaters to catch a 10:30 PM showing of Cars 3. We weren’t the only ones in the theater, but it was pretty bare. No baby to hold or kids to rush to the bathroom, so Kristina could an enjoy an uninterruped viewing. I tagged along mainly for security. I didn’t feel great about her going to the movies late by herself. When we walked out back to our cars after midnight, I asked her thoughts, and she said it was cute. And agreed Jax would’ve loved it.

Saturday is a reminder that none of this gets easier. Some days are just shitty. And it’s normal, even after a string of non-shitty days, no matter how many years after the fact.

Thank you to those that joined us Saturday and those that couldn’t, who continue to honor our missed little boy and support our family with love and kindness. Sometimes, because of my own shit, I’m not able to express it. But it does mean so, so much to us. We love you.

Remembrance Photos & Thank You

When people ask me how Tuesday I went, my answer is “As well as we could’ve hoped for.” It’s not a great night or a fun night because of why we’re all gathering. But the entire day went as well as possible, considering.

Below you’ll find some photos taken before, at and after the game along with a slide show courtesy of our good friend Heather. But first…

Thank you. Thank you to everyone that came. It means so much to us to have so many people come to honor and remember Jax and support our family.

Thank you to those that continue to pray for us, think of us, try to shoot positive energy towards us. Keep doing it. We need it.

And thank you to those of you that speak his name. That talk about him, share stories, share memories and wonder, along with us, what he’d be like today. It means more than you can imagine.

Next week I’ll shoot out an update about CHOC Walk 2014. CHOC sent registration emails Tuesday (ironically) I believe (I didn’t get one. WTH CHOC?!). I think we need to set up team Iron Jax before you start to register, so I’ll update you on that.

Enjoy the photos.

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Two Years Later

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It’s been just over a million minutes since I last saw Jax smile. Two years today. He still hasn’t walked out of his room, like I keep hoping. Maybe someday I’ll stop.

We only visited two grieving parents support meetings. They said the second year is harder. So did a lot of things I read online. Having finished the second year, I can definitely see that. It’s been a lonely year. Two miscarriages. More loss. More pain. And more dreams crushed like the spider in my bathroom. It’s easy for me to hate. To withdraw. To say fuck it about everything. It’s harder to climb out of that sand trap.

Jax should be wrapping up All-Stars in baseball. Starting first grade in August. Bossing around the twins, who ache for a big brother, to be the villains to his Iron Man. This is all fucked.

Thank you to everyone that is coming out tonight to remember Jax at Angel Stadium. It mean so much to us that we continue to receive your support. When I bought the tickets I told the group sales guy I expected around 50 people. Instead, we’ll have about 160. And thank you to others that can’t make it tonight but continue to think of us, pray for us, cry with us. Just because it’s two years later doesn’t mean it gets easier. Or that we can ever start to move on. Some days the pain is just as deep as it was two years ago. We need your love, your support, your prayers.

And thank you for helping us to keep Jax alive in all of our hearts. Whether it’s the Iron Jax shirt you wear on a random Tuesday, $20 you donated at the CHOC Walk for team Iron Jax or just mentioning his name to us in a funny story or cute memory you have of him, it’s all very meaningful to us.

I’ll leave you with a link and a video. But first…

We will always remember you, Jax. 

Always.

Last year’s Remembrance.

Video montage of Jax, thanks to Uncle Tommy.

Jax Remembrance Update

With Jax’s Remembrance two weeks away, I figured I should get some details up. First, let’s start with meeting areas.

As the image below indicates, we’ll meet in the parking lot around 5-5:30ish. Come hang out, bring some dinner or drinks and whatever else you’d like. The key is, bring your own stuff. I picked this spot as it’s far enough away from most everyone else. And, if you want a legendary Dragon Dog, it’s just across the street (Orangewood).

Our seats are in left field, so keep this in mind when you decide where you want to park if you’re not going to meet us early.

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At 6:30 we’ll start to meet in between the two large Angel helmets. Jax’s brick is over there. Hopefully at that time we’ll be able to walk in together. The goal is to walk in at about 6:45. So if you’re NOT going to be there by then, let us know. More importantly, please arrange to get your ticket before the game if you can’t meet us before it starts. 

Our family is wearing our Iron Jax t-shirts. If you have one, maybe you want to wear it, too. If you don’t, wear what you’d like.

If you haven’t paid, here are your options:

  • Mail us a check. Email, Facebook message, text or call one of us if you need our address. I don’t want to post it on here. There are some freaky deaks that end up on this site from Google searches.
  • Paypal. This is the easiest method for everyone involved, once you’re signed up. My account is austin5377 at aol dot com (spelling it out to avoid getting even more spam than I currently get….type it in normal in Paypal).
  • In Person. If you’re going to see us, or want to see us, hit us up and let’s schedule something. We’ll bring the ticket, you bring the cash.
  • At the game. If we can’t work anything out, just bring the money on the day of the game. Check is preferred.

To arrange anything with us, Facebook, text or email one of us. We’re pretty flexible. This includes getting the tickets before hand.

Our seats are in sections 301, 302 and 303. We couldn’t get them all together, so Kristina created a seating chart. There are 165 of us, so in order to maximize the experience for everyone, we wanted to make sure people sat next to others they knew. I’m sure we’ll all be mingling about anyway, but at least it’s somewhat structured to start.

We don’t get handed the goofy 1960s Angel hat as we walk through the gates. Instead, we get a voucher to go redeem at the Stadium during the game. So you’ll get a ticket and a voucher, which looks like a ticket.

For those keeping score, the scoreboard message for Jax will run in the middle of the fourth inning.

If you have any ideas, suggestions, thoughts, please comment below. Questions, too, as I’m sure another person might have your same question.

Thank you so much for this fantastic showing of support. It means more than you’ll ever know.

Jax Remembrance 2014 Details

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAThis year’s Remembrance for Jax will be at an Angel game on Tuesday, June 24. The Angels host the Minnesota Twins, tickets are $14 and you get a nifty vintage baseball hat thrown in.

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If you’d like to join us in remembering our boy, his love for baseball and the Angels, and being together as a community to cry and laugh and hug, let us know. We will buy group tickets so we can all sit together.

Some other ideas we’re kicking around:

– If you have an Iron Jax t-shirt, wear it.

– Tailgate before the game. If you have the time, join us for some pregame community. If we have enough people, maybe we can carve out a portion of the Angel Stadium parking lot to play catch, let some of the little kids take some swings and munch on snacks or a meal, whatever you wish.

– We can meet in front of Angel Stadium at Jax’s brick. It’s hard to find alone, but together, we can accomplish anything. Maybe we’ll even find that missing Malaysian airliner. AS A GROUP WE’RE INVINCIBLE.

– Scoreboard message. We’ll get a message up on the scoreboard so we can cheer, snap pics and celebrate Jax.

– Any other ideas? We’re open to ideas. Pitch ‘em to us.

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If you want a ticket, please let me know immediately. We should buy tickets within the next 10-14 days. But please don’t wait that long to tell us. If you’re on the fence, let us know that too. You can comment below, reply on Facebook, email me, text me, email or text Kristina, give us a call like in the old-fashioned days, stripper gram (females only, please)….carrier pigeon. Just let us know. Once we get an idea of how many tickets to buy, we’ll finalize the details of where to meet, how to pay for the ticket, etc. Right now we just need a head count.

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We hope you can all join us in remembering, honoring and celebrating our little hero.

What: Jax Remembrance

When: Tuesday, June 24 meeting between 5 – 6:30 p.m.

Where: Angel Stadium, either in the parking lot to tailgate or in front of Angel Stadium, between the hats.

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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.