Losing anyone we love is heartbreaking. After losing her son Brian in an accident, Lisa thought she’ll never be able to live life again. But somehow, the process of grieving did its work, and she found a new normal, a life that her son would have wanted her to live. Here’s her story, in her own words.
I choose to #doitforbrian
by Lisa Heath (Fayetteville, NC, USA)
The story of us never dies!
Life After the Death of My Son:
What I’m Learning 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 proudly say that my son Brian brought so much to so many the 17 years he was here on earth.
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. That day my life as I knew it would be changed, forever.
Beginning of the day
The day started off like any other morning. I woke up, got ready for work, 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 evening prior. New black boots. I told Brian as I was ironing that he could open the box for me. He opens the box and starts laughing and is like “mom, really these are ugly”. I come into the kitchen and my god they were. We are both laughing and I bust out into song and sing ” these boots are made for walking and that’s just what I’ll do and one of these days these boots will 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.
Life after the death of my son, Brian
In the following weeks and months, I just did not know how I was going to do this. How to live my life without him. If I even wanted to.
Each day was filled with endless crying and the question: 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?
Life goes on…
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 be in pain but yet still experience joy.
Brian had a mother who was full of life. Who was ditsy, 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 it 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 of 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 enjoying life still. Because of the relationship I had 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 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, heartbreak. I was wrong. The funny thing about death is that it really does not tear two people apart. Death never wins.
Here I am 28 months later, living this life without Brian physically here with me.
28 months I have taken deep breathes holding onto the strength he left behind for me.
When people ask me how have I made 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 be like “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 but to. I made a choice to rise. I made a choice to take the tragedy of his death not have it mean everything. His death shakes me to the core.
The gift of life
But his life, oh his life, brings me so much joy and smiles.
17 years of being his mom are the greatest gift I was ever given. The joy he brought to me, the laughs, the fun memories, the tears, the chats, just everything – there are so many moments that could never be taken away from me, that is 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 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
Responses to Lisa’s story
#doitforQuinn by Molly
Hi Lisa, first off thank you for sharing your story and the journey you have been taking since the loss of your son.
I was so surprised to read it and see how similar our stories are. Although our son’s passing is not the same, I think we both experienced a fast and unexpected shock with losing our children.
My Son Quinn went away to basketball camp, it was his first trip outside of the country on his own, and taking a plane. He was nervous but then all went well and he arrived at the camp but due to a heart arrhythmia he collapsed and died right away.
It’s been 6 years now and although I am coping I am not really the person that used to be. Like you and your son me and Quinn had lots of fun and lots of laughs, we played a lot and just always was joyous.
Like you, I laughed maybe a few weeks after Quinn died, and really I didn’t even notice it: a friend of mine commented on it, she said I am so happy to hear you laugh I didn’t think you would ever laugh again.
I too felt guilty, but I also knew that even if I don’t want to laugh or play it’s just a part of me and I can’t change that no matter how much I may want to be different in this aspect. It was never going to happen.
Like your son, Quinn was fun, happy, and playful and he would want me and expect me to be the same so every day this is what I think about and this is what moves me forward, moving, living, playing laughing and just getting up is all for Quinn.
Your post really struck a chord with me as today is one of those challenging ones. I hope you don’t mind me using your # but it really is a great symbol to honor their memory. Thanks again for sharing.
I choose to do it for Brian by Doreen U.K.
Lisa, I am so sorry for your loss of Brian your beloved son.
What a beautiful and well-written tribute to your son Brian. He sounds like an exceptional young man with a very Wise and Mature mother who grasped the meaning of Life, Love, and Loss.
- You are an exceptional woman who put good values in her son and also you lived by a set of values that were positive, and knew how life should be lived.
- You accepted life and death as a package. Because that is what it is.
- You have life and you know that one day you will die. It is what one contributes to the life and to each other that builds character and leaves a legacy that you will be remembered for.
May God Bless you greatly, and Heal you deeply from your loss of Brian and allow you to touch the lives of others in the same way you touched Brian’s life and the lives of those who read the post of your loss of Brian.
Love never ends by Michele
Thank you for the beautiful tribute to your son. Your thoughts and insights are much like my own. I found out last September that my 36-year-old son Jonathan had died in a transient park in Arizona.
He was buried there without our knowledge so we had him exhumed and cremated and sent to us. Our hearts were broken, but were at the same time, relieved because he was a heroin addict and homeless and I no longer worry about him as he is with his Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
It is “hope” that sustains us as we’ll have a sweet reunion again someday. My heart goes out to you and I pray that God will comfort and sustain you daily.