Coping with community deaths


Death …

I don’t even know where to start.

But I do know this … while searching the Internet, scrolling for the right inspirational quotes to help me get my start, I came across two.

The first one read: “Keep your head up. God gives his hardest battles to his strongest soldiers.”

The other read: “Today only comes once.”

Well, in our tiny village, we must be the BEST strongest soldiers because within the past five days, we have endured two life-altering battles.

And we are still here for one another, holding each other up through all the pain.

We will not break, oh no … but we are allowed to hurt.

And we are.

On Saturday, a mom whose children once attended the Keystone Schools, passed away. She was 36; and left behind two children. Her smile was infectious and her hair, stunning.

While parents were left wondering “Why?” and “How did this happen?” all while trying to explain to our children that Jessica is “in a better place” we are really trying to understand … is she really? Is there a better place other than being here on Earth with her two little ones?

So, for five days, parents living and working in the same community that Jessica once did, did the best we could to enjoy the Christmas holiday with our loved ones, all while trying to cope with our own grief.

We put on smiles, ate too much and watched as our kiddos opened presents on Christmas morning.

I’d like to say we were slowly coming to realize our worst fear had come true – Jessica was indeed gone too soon – but I still think most of us are in a state of denial.

Then, just as we began to piece our lives back together, our community and spirits came crashing down.

On Wednesday morning, the word that a 17-year-old Keystone High School student died from injuries sustained in a single car crash spread through the LaGrange and Elyria communities like wildfire.

Kayden Williams – a football player with a heart of gold who was loved by all families in the area – will never step on the football field again. He will never walk the halls of Keystone High. He will never live the life his parents dreamed of for him.

The worst part of Kayden’s death? I had to tell my son, a freshman at the same school, that a fellow student who he saw on a daily basis, died. How does a parent even do that? There isn’t a book, outlining the steps on how to tell your son that someone who had his entire future ahead of him has died. That there is no rhyme or reason why Kayden is no longer spending the holiday break with his parents and siblings.

My 9-year-old daughter said it best … “I know he’s in Heaven with Jesus, but Mom, he didn’t even get to play with his presents from Santa.”

So, on this Thursday – a day when I will be paying my respects to the York family – I will keep my head up.

I will be a soldier for my children, to let them know that bad things happen to good people, and there really is no explanation.

And then, then I will remind them to live each day like it is their last … because TODAY only comes ONCE.

RIP Jessica and RIP Kayden



Hey you there: Are you stressed?

My mom broke the unspoken rule of motherhood the other day.

She asked me if I was stressed.

I lied and told her everything was fine.

She didn’t need to know that I can’t even go to the bathroom without someone screaming, “MOOOOMMMM!!!” Most summer days, I don’t shower until 10 p.m. My husband comes home to a ragged, dark-circles-under-eyes, exhausted as hell wife with her dirty hair in a clip, pulling her bangs away from her face. The days I do appear showered and put together, he wants to know where we are going that night.

She doesn’t need to know that every day my kids fight, whine and argue like they are trying to set a world record for “Aggravating Mom the Most.”

She doesn’t need to know that me working from home when my kids are home is getting increasingly more difficult as my kids age. I thought it would be easier, but it’s because my children no longer take naps. Back, long, long ago, I had two to three hours of peace and quiet during the day. That was MY time. A time when if I needed to nap, I could grab 20 minutes and feel rested. If I needed to work, I could. Now, my kids surround me like a bee to a flower. Buzzing, buzzing … all the time.

She doesn’t need to know that rather than be a mom to my 14-year-old son, I am now his personal taxi service for all high school sporting events. Who has practice at 5 p.m. on the weekdays? Answer … my son.

She wanted to know what she could do help ease my stress. She let me know that she is there for me if I needed to talk. I actually told her I have no time to talk – that is what talk-to-texting is for where I don’t need to have a conversation for 20 minutes, explaining why I am stressed.

Besides, no one cares!

A day later, I confessed I was stressed. Who isn’t?

Moms are all in the same boat – making our way through muddied waters called Motherhood. Day in and day out, we experience the same problems. And it doesn’t matter if you are a stay-at-home mom, working-mom or whatever-type-of mom.

Being a mom is stressful enough without adding all the extras – like laundry, cleaning, cooking, dishes and sleeping (if we are lucky).

To know that we are responsible for our children is an insane amount of stress – especially if we don’t want our kids turning into Neanderhtals later in life.

We have to dole out the chores, the punishments, the rewards, the explanations. We have to set good examples.

We have to make sure they are associating themselves with the right kind of people.

We have to make sure they receive proper nutrition and the right amount of sleep.

We have to control how much screen time they have on a daily basis.

The list is endless.

And it’s not just moms … this goes for dads too. Parenthood is the hardest job I have ever had in my life. Some days, I yearn for my college days where the only person who I was in charge of was me. I’d give anything to pull an all-nighter, cramming for an exam. I’d give anything to have two days to write a 10-page-double-spaced paper on revolution. I’d give anything to live in dorm with 200 other people.

This isn’t saying I don’t wish I was 19 years old again. Because, I don’t. I don’t miss my teens, 20s or what’s left of my 30s (which is six months). Those years are who made me the crazy, loud, fun-loving, honest, hard-working mom I am today.

So, yes, I will continue to pretend everything is fine; and that I am not stressed because no one wants to be weighed down by my problems because we all have them – it’s just how we deal with them that makes us … us.

Life BEFORE my life

I was chatting with a friend the other day and she said to me, “I never thought my life would be like this.”
I said, “What do you mean? You mean, like driving your kids everywhere … being a mom?”
Yup, that was exactly what she meant.
The mom saw herself working in a New York hospital as a nurse.
I think most of us “moms” had a different view of what our lives would be like after we graduated from high school or college.
Before I declared journalism as my major, I was taking criminal justice courses.
Yes, my first plan was to “Save the Children” as a probation officer. I wanted to live in an inner-city and work with at-risk children.
About half-way into Criminal Justice 101 we had an FBI agent give a presentation. I learned most law enforcement agents had to carry an extra 30 pounds of gear on their bodies when patrolling the streets.
I thought to myself, “No way! There is no way I can carry 30 pounds of gear and run after a criminal or delinquent!” (Little did I know that a pregnancy would allow you to carry 30 pounds of “gear” … but at least I no longer have to lug that around!)
So, I chose a “less physical demanding” career – journalism.
Yes, it’s not physically demanding. It’s more of a mental challenge. Speaking and dealing with the public – at times – can be exhausting. The constant games of phone-tag/text-tag/email-tag are never-ending. The complaints are constant.
But, again, I thought, I would live in New York City and my byline would be read by millions of readers. I thought I would work for a big newspaper, chasing down story leads and frantically working on deadline while bosses breathed down my neck.
Some days, I do think my “dream” life would be easier than my real life.
Some days, I would give anything to be chasing down a story.
Yet, I do have the best of both worlds as I freelance for a local newspaper. I still get that little thrill when I see several law enforcement vehicles driving in one direction – oh, to chase them and find out what is going on … YES, PLEASE! And, to be able to say, “Hi, is Mrs. Smith available … this is Melissa with The Chronicle-Telegram …” – that still makes me smile.
True, most days now I am chasing around the 4-year-old twins instead of a story. Or around 4:30 p.m., you can find me telling my 9-year-old to finish his homework – so I guess I am like the editor breathing down his back on deadline.
But no, I don’t think I would necessarily wish for a different life – yet it would be kind of fun to have one day where I could time-travel somewhere and be a different “Melissa” for a day.