Saturday, July 16, 2016

My ''Montana Moment''

My brother spoke of Montana all of his life, Whitefish in particular. The day he died I made the promise to go for him. There's probably not a lot of people who know me that don't already know that.  I had no idea how much that promise would weigh on me. When you love someone, your love doesn't end when that person takes their last breath. If anything I think that when a person dies, that's when we finally wake up and realize exactly how much that person meant to us.  It makes us appreciate life and not take a single day for granted. There's a constant pain that won't go away no matter how hard we try. Does it get easier? No. I think as humans we just learn to cope with it. Even in death we can still show how much we love someone.

Over the past year I have worked and worked and worked. I picked up shifts, had yard sales. I wasn't doing this for myself, I was doing it for him. I deprived myself of going to the beach or doing anything fun in the sake of saving money. So much to the point I finally just broke down crying one night when my husband was at work and reached out to my best friend KA. I felt guilty, because if I did something that required me to spend money, I would always feel horrible afterwards because its money I could have saved for Montana. She quickly reminded me that it was okay, she made me realize I needed to get out and do something other than work, and I did. It felt so good! It gave me the strength to keep going, and working towards this goal. Sometimes we just need a little reminder.

Jason has been on my mind every SINGLE day since his death. The pain I feel when I think of him is real, and its deep. This promise was by no means a burden, but it weighed me down at times. I felt like no matter how hard I worked and saved it would never be enough. I wanted this trip to be special, one that Jason would have enjoyed. I wanted it to be a trip my children could remember for years to come. I even researched local photographer until I found the most amazing and talented, kind hearted photographer in the whole state of Montana! Photography has always been very important to me. I knew I would want photos to remember this special trip for all the years to come.

I can remember counting down the year, the months, the weeks, and then days, and then down to the very hour we departed for Montana. My husband, kids and I were all packed on Sunday morning, July 3rd and we were on the road and it still just didn't seem real. I was about to keep a promise to my brother. I felt so many emotions. This trip was way bigger than I had imagined, and definitely more rewarding than I could have dreamed of.

My kiddos got to experience seeing parts of their great country in person, which is why we made the decision to drive.   

I was so excited about the fact that they were EXCITED!

Texas sunset 7/3

Rainy  day in Oklahoma 7/4

We stopped to stretch and grab a Colorado geocache! 7/4

Beautiful sunset over the Colorado Rockies! 7/4 

A quick lesson on Wyoming's Wildlife 7/5

My son in particular was especially excited about all the new states we would see. He kept telling me to make sure I told him each time we were about to enter a new state. So I tried to always keep a close eye on the Garmin. There are certain songs that remind me of Jason, and one I particular that I absolutely haven't been able to listen to without crying since his passing, yet on this trip we heard it on the radio numerous times and I managed not to cry.

You can watch a video of Luke Bryan singing the song here.

When I knew we were approaching the Montana state line, I felt myself becoming more emotional and the very second I laid eyes onto that Montana sign, I began crying.

Montana will forever hold a special place in my heart. 7/5
We made it big bro! Thanks for being my guardian angel and watching over us! 7/5
This moment hit me harder than I had ever imagined. I cried more than I thought I would. My husband held me in his arms and reminded me that everything was going to be okay. I knew this was a big deal, I just never fathomed exactly how big of a deal it was. This was one of those moments that almost didn't seem real, it was almost like I was living inside a dream and I didn't want to wake up. I wanted to soak it all up. I wanted to enjoy it and make memories to last the rest of my life.

I felt different. It's hard to explain but I felt like I could finally breathe again, like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. This was my ''Montana Moment'' I felt like I was slowly beginning to heal, but that's still a long road to walk. I felt like he was there with us, and he was, I know without a doubt he was. So many times on the way there we would see a Camaro, and we would just smile and think about him. So many memories of him, and reflecting back onto so many amazing memories he left with us.

We had dinner at an adorable little establishment called Piggy Back BBQ. I tried buffalo for the first time, and it was the best meat I had tried in my entire life! My husband understands me more than I understand myself at times. So he stayed at the hotel at the end of the day, with the kiddos in the pool so that I could venture out on my own. He more than anyone understood that I needed that time alone in Whitefish to reflect and be alone in my thoughts. While I was out I just kinda drove around for  a little while, I managed to grab two geocaches. While I was signing the log at the second geocache I looked up and saw a double rainbow. I couldn't help but smile through all the tears, because I knew he was there with me for every single step of the way.

Double rainbow in Whitefish, MT 7/5
This was the view from our hotel window at 10:00 pm! We were so thrown off by it still being daylight! 7/5
On Thursday 7/6 we spent most of the day at Glacier National Park. It's by far one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. Well worth the $30 we had to pay to enter the park!
I never knew the mountains could be so beautiful.
Heavens Peak 8,987ft
The clearest, most beautiful water I've ever seen.
During our drive the closer we got to Whitefish the more and more yellow fields we would see. We had no idea what it was. It was during our photoshoot that our photographer told us they were canola fields. They were absolutely stunning!
He was with me every step of the way.
After a long day at GNP and having our family photos made for the first time in over seven years we took the kiddos back to the hotel. Again my husband stayed with them while I spent some time alone. I saw a female deer as I approached Whitefish Beach, several of the locals referred to them as being like cockroaches because they are everywhere. I cant imagine being so use to such beautiful creatures that we would begin to think of them that way.
We had met a local police officer earlier in the day. He was extremely nice as he chatted with my husband about police work. They exchanged patches and business cards. I asked him if he knew where a pier was that I could easily access. He recommended the one at the public beach.
 ''Can't believe you're really gone don't feel like going home so I'm gonna sit right here on the edge of this pier watch the sunset disappear and drink a beer''
I walked out onto the edge of the pier, I sat there talking to his photo and telling him how much I wish he could be there with me. Even though I know he was there with me as much as he could be. I turned my iTunes on and listened to the song I couldn't stand to hear for more than a year. I sobbed. I sipped on a beer despite the fact the nearby no alcohol sign and my disliking beer. I never bend the rules like that, and this was the one time in my life that I didn't care about it. Anyone who knew Jason knew that Budweiser was his beer, what I didn't drink I poured into the lake.  {which was almost the whole can} Almost as if I was pouring a beer for him.
I took a drive around Whitefish Lake and visited downtown. I listened to songs that made me think of him, I laughed and I cried and a very small part of me healed that day.
#Montana4Jason 7/7
Our time in Montana may have been short lived, but one thing is for sure is the fact that I'll be back again someday.

On the way home we visited the Crazy Horse Monument in South Dakota. I hope that they are able to complete it someday.
Our 9 year old son is the reason we visited Mount Rushmore. We went home a different route just so he could see it. He's a special kid, not many 9 year olds would ask to go see it in person.
World's only Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota

7/10 Missouri God blessed us with another beautiful sunset.
Psalm 65:8
They who dwell in the ends of the earth stand in awe of Your signs; You make the dawn and the sunset shout for joy.

 In the end we traveled 5,375 miles and then we were home. It seemed as though this trip went by far too fast.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A letter for Jason

When I went home for my brothers funeral, I stayed with our older brother John and his family. I knew I had to write something to read at Jason's funeral. I knew exactly where I wanted to go to do that. I went to Wal-Mart with my husband to purchase a notebook. I ended up picking out one that had a bright yellow Camaro on the cover, Jason would have approved of that.
We went back to John's house, but it didn't feel right. I wanted to be alone with my thoughts. I got into my Tahoe and drove out into the woods. The same woods where my two brothers and I grew up hunting in, cutting fire wood, and playing army. I sat there in my truck with the heat turned on, and the music turned off. It was just me and my thoughts on that cold night, and a sky filled with millions of beautiful stars. They seemed to shine so much brighter with tears in my eyes. Looking back now, there are things I wish I had said, or things I would have worded differently, but in retrospect I believe I did the best I could at the time.
Saturday February 14th; the day of his funeral, was also our nieces birthday. It still breaks my heart that we had to bury him on her birthday.
I was a total train wreck. I walked up to his casket, and I held his hand.
I didn't want to let go.
I didn't want to say goodbye.
I don't even remember how long I stood there talking to him, holding his hand but I know it wasn't near long enough. I could have stood there holding onto his hand for a hundred years and I still wouldn't have wanted to let go. I never wanted to let go, but I knew I had to. Watching my brother being lowered into the ground was by far the hardest day of my life.
So many times I had been to that church, so many important lessons learned there. So many joyous occasions that have left me with great memories.
I've tried to go back inside that church since his funeral, but I just can't.
During his service, they got to the part where I was supposed to stand up and read the letter I had written to my brother. In that moment there was no possible way I could find enough composure to stand in that church, with everyone and even be able to read one sentence. So my brave husband offered to go up and read it for me.
He stood up there in his uniform, and when he spoke it made it so much harder for me. His strong, brave, confident voice was so shaky, he had tears. My husband and my brother thought the world of each other, and that was always so important to me. Words cannot describe how extermly proud I am of my husband. He was strong when I was weak. He started by saying ''You may want to get your tissues ready''
The following was written by me on Friday  February 13th 2015
''I'm not sure where to begin or what to say. How does a little sister compress three decades into a few words?

When I was born I instantly had two brothers who would forever be my best friends.

Over the years we have had our highs, and we have had our lows. We made incredible memories, and we had epic fights. Still we grew stronger and closer. ...

Jason taught me how to fight, and how to forgive. I'm going to miss his blonde jokes. I'll miss him calling me Sasquatch. I'll miss him towering over me, looking down with that smile as he made fun of my height. I will miss his voice, his laughter and his amazing hugs.

I will never wonder if he loved me because he told me all the time.

You brought joy and laughter to everyone who had the privilege of knowing you. You were the best friend anyone could ask for. You were everything a father should be. You worked so hard to provide for your little family. You were an amazing husband to Joanna.

Joanna, please always remember the good times, and never forget that he was madly in love with you.

Cameron, please know your Daddy worshiped you. You were his little buddy. Aunt Jen loves you more than you can ever imagine. I'll always be there for you, no matter what.

Right now my heart is shattered into a billion pieces. I know that someday in the unforeseeable future God will give me peace with this.

From this day forward I will thrive to be a better person because of you.

One day I'll be able to look at a sunset and see you there.

I'll walk on the beach. I'll feel the sand and the waves. I'll think of our beach days together.

I'll take a breath of fresh air and feel you there.

I will laugh for you, and I'll cry for you.

I will live each day as if I'm living it for you.

I'll see a Camaro drive down the road, and I'll smile and think of you.

I'll hear a song and I'll think of you. I will sing along and dance so you can laugh at me in Heaven.

There's so much more I could say, but I'll leave you with two last promises.

The first being that I'll always be there for Cameron.

Second; I know your life long dream was to visit Montana. Someday I'll go there for you. I'll breathe in the fresh air, and stand on that Montana mountainside and just for you I'll yell out one heck of a ROLL TIDE!

Rest in peace my angel, my hero. You have your sisters heart forever.''
Little did I know at that time, but he really is with me still. I think of him when I'm at the beach. I still want to pick up the phone and call him just to hear his voice. I hear certain songs and I have to immediately change the radio otherwise I will uncontrollably cry. I see Camaro's as I drive and I think of him. I see him in my dreams, and for that I am so very thankful.
As much as my heart was broken and still is very much broken because of his death I still have such a deep love for him, I am so very grateful for the 30 years that God allowed him to be in my life.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The day my brother died....

The day my brother died was by far one of the darkest days I've ever experienced. Words simply cannot describe the gut wrenching emotional pain I felt. It's the kind of pain that hits not only your heart but your soul, your entire being.

I remember the exact moment and the exact location when I got the call, and to this day I still can't drive past it without getting a lump in my throat. 

It's the kind of phone call no one on earth should ever get. I was driving on Moffett Road, and I can remember screaming and I swerved in front of a semi truck into a parking lot. Somehow by a miracle I made it to that parking lot without being in an accident. Your brain simply cannot process things or properly function at that moment. It's like your whole entire body is consumed by the pain. I never knew what a broken heart was until this day. 

I remember flinging off my seat belt, and swinging the door open. I immediately felt my knees hit the asphalt of that parking lot. I cried out to  God. I begged him to not take my brother, I begged him to let him stay with us here on Earth. I remember reaching across the edge of the asphalt and just grabbing my fingers into the grass as I screamed.  I was shaking uncontrollably, I began to throw up. I could literally feel my heart breaking, and I don’t know that it will ever be the same again. 

Tears, filled  my eyes as I type this, because I'm reliving that moment.........

I don't know how long I was there crying, screaming, praying..... 

I remember hearing a soft voice saying "ma'am are you okay?" 

I couldn't speak, I couldn't breath, and I couldn't move. It was like I was paralyzed. 

All I could do was hand the woman my phone, and when she looked in my phone somehow she knew exactly who she needed to call.

Not long after that she got into my Tahoe,and moved it.

I was so glad to hear my husbands voice when he got there to pick me up.

It felt like I was there for a hundred years, living that moment in slow motion.

Suicide isn't a selfish act. It's an act carried out by someone who has been consumed by an illness. An illness that often goes unnoticed until its too late. Suicide is no different than any other death. Nobody wakes up and says they want to die in a car accident, nobody wakes up and says they want to die of cancer. I know my brother did not wake up that day and think he would die that day. I think it started off like any other normal work day. He got up, got ready and drove to work and started his normal work routine just like any other day. Not once did I ever think something was off with him, not for a single second. He was always joking, he was always making everyone around him laugh.

Taking his burial clothes to the funeral home.
In the car, on the way to my little hometown it seemed like the longest trip I had ever been on, but it wasn't. It dragged on and on and on. It was the longest four hours of my life. In the car on the way there, I told my husband I was going to fulfill Jason's lifelong dream and go to Whitefish, Montana for him. He said ''whatever you want, we will do''. He has held me at my weakest, loved me at my darkest and supported me every single step of the way.

As a little sister I always imagined growing old with my two older brothers, I never imagined one of us would be gone at such a young age. I never imagined I would be the one to choose his casket, I never dreamed I would be the one to decided the clothes he wore for his burial. NEVER.

I cried so much that my eyelids were swollen, I didn't even know that was possible.

These past several weeks and months have been purely exhausting for me. I've worked double shifts without a break. I've worked overtime. I've picked up extra shifts. I've worked on my off days. I've sacrifieced time with my husband, and our children. All so that I can keep my promise to him, and now we are less than 100 days away from beginning our trip and keeping my promise. This trip is mostly about keeping that promise, but I also feel that it will provide me with a small amout of closure. I know he will be with us every step of the way.

I'll see you in Montana Jason. . . .

Tuesday, March 22, 2016


Yesterday I met up with one of my best friends in Mobile to see a movie.  After that I had to pick up some stuff to prepare dinner. I walked into Target and the amazing aroma lingering from Starbucks was so overwhelming that I thought '' I deserve it''. So I grabbed my favorite, and enjoyed it as I made my way through each aisle of Target. I paid for my items, and went to my truck. I made it to the first red light before I started crying. I had an overwhelming feeling of guilt.

Why? I had a great time with Katieanne, and I totally enjoyed every sip of my coffee. I didn't deserve to spend any money, I didn't deserve that coffee or that movie. That's money that I could have saved for our trip in July. A trip we are making so that I can keep my promise to my brother Jason. A promise I made to him just two hours after his death, and again at his funeral.

I snapchatted Katieanne and she told me I did deserve it, I work hard and I of all people deserve a little something for myself. She is by far one of the greatest friends I have ever had. She's been there for me through so much over the past year, and I am beyond grateful to call her my friend.

I came home and my husband was getting ready for his shift at work. I walked into our bedroom and told him and started crying again. He held me and told me how silly I was being. Truth is nobody will ever realize how much keeping this promise means to me. Yes, he's gone, but he will be with me every step, every mile of this trip. I absolutely cannot wait to stand on that Montana mountain side and take in the view that my brother had always wanted to see.

I've thought about blogging about his death for a while. I've typed it all out, read it and then hit the delete button. Truth is I've finally realized it may actually help me and get some of it off of my mind. People may read it, they may not. Either way I don't care because I'm doing this for me.

I have worked every shift possible, I have picked up extra shifts. I have gone almost two weeks without an off day.

Today I felt the love and support of my Husband and one of my best friends. This is going to be an amazing journey. A journey of love and hopefully healing.