Saturday, March 1, 2014

03/01/2014

     Made it through another February. The only remaining dates of significance on the horizon regarding Curtis is this coming Friday, which marks what would have been his 28th birthday, and March 15th, the day of the Curtis Workman Hoops Classic Basketball Tournament. In the early years, we often commemorated his birthday with pizza and cheesecake (two of Curtis's favorite foods) and visits with many of his friends. As the years have rolled by, our focus has shifted more from the day he died to the day he came into our lives. The pain of losing him has diminished to the point where I'm now able to focus more on the good memories and positive legacy he left behind and less on all that we lost when he was taken from us. There will always be that nagging little ache from the empty spot in my life where Curtis should be physically, but the pain that so often threatened to overwhelm me is mostly gone. It still pops up occasionally, oftentimes unpredictably, especially so during this time of the year, but I've learned to better deal with it. It no longer catches me so much by surprise, threatening to incapacitate me. I'm now better equipped to focus more on the positive memories and that wonderful legacy that has become part of our son's life, and ours, as well.
     The basketball tournament has been a source of great comfort to us through the years, especially since it has usually been held during this time of the year, so closely following all the days when it's impossible for us not to focus on our loss. Curtis played in this same tournament when he was a student at Southridge Middle School. His coach, Dave Gabonay, gave one of the eulogies at Curtis's funeral, and dedicated the 2001 Tournament in Curtis's memory. We kind of believed at the time that that probably marked the end of our association with Southridge and Coach Gabonay, but we were wrong. He kept in touch with us during the early months of our journey, and at one point asked us if it would be ok with us if they renamed the tournament in honor of our son. I was overwhelmed with gratitude. It had never really occurred to me that someone would want to honor our son in such a way. As plans for the 2002 Curtis Workman Hoops Classic began to develop, it occurred to us that this might be a good opportunity to raise some money for the Curtis E. Workman Memorial Scholarship that we'd already set-up at Ontario High School. We decided to run the snack bar at the Tournament as a fundraiser for the Scholarship. With the exception of one year when, due to circumstances beyond anyone's control the Tournament could not be held, we have been doing this ever since. We run the snack bar, we provide Tournament T-shirts to the championship teams, we have a chance to address the crowd during the awards presentations, and we see friends and family who have supported us so much through all these difficult years. It can be exhausting at times, but it has also become an exhilarating time for us every year. I don't think that people who have never lost a child can possibly imagine how much it means to us to have our son's life remembered in this way. It still amazes me that after so many the years the Tournament keeps getting better and better. We owe so much to Coach Gabonay. I know that somewhere Curtis is smiling.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

02/22/2014

   This weekend marks the final two days of this week marking the thirteenth anniversary of our son's death. Thirteen years ago today we said our final goodbyes to Curtis at his funeral and burial services. Tomorrow marks the thirteenth anniversary of the last of the funerals for the three friends that were held on three consecutive days during that terrible week. I don't expect that anything else that ever happens in my life (short of losing my wife or another one of my surviving children, God forbid) will have the far-reaching and devastating impact of those two horrible days-the day we lost our son and the day we had to forever leave his body at the cemetery. As I've stated before, this whole situation just seems to have violated the natural order of things. Oddly enough, I have not really felt much of anything emotionally today. The passing of time has certainly dulled the pain, although my memories of this day 13 years ago are still as vivid as ever. But now I filter them through a different perspective. I'm again able to focus more on all the positives that we have worked so hard to bring to fruition, rather than the pain of what to me remains as a senseless loss for us. Next up on the horizon of my journey will be what would have been Curtis's 28th birthday on March 7th. After that, on March 15, will be the Curtis Workman Hoops Classic Basketball Tournament at Southridge Middle School in Fontana. It has become a wonderful event that serves as an annual memorial to our son. Besides giving us an opportunity to reunite with family and friends, it also serves to let other people know what a remarkable person Curtis really was. We are also able to raise money (through the Tournament snack bar) to sustain The Curtis E. Workman Memorial Scholarship at Ontario High School. It has always been something we look forward to every year. It gives us tremendous joy and inspiration to be able to give back this way to the communities that supported us so much during those dark days 13 years ago. In the meantime, I am grateful to be where I am today. Back in February of 2001, I wasn't sure I could survive what was happening to us. I wasn't even sure back then that I wanted to survive if it truly meant living the rest of my life without my son and being in such constant pain. Time and love have done their work. Curtis will always be a part of my life. The love he left behind will never fade as long as anyone he touched continues to carry that love with them and they pass it on to others. I feel him with me always in so many different ways. I don't think that it was a coincidence that today of all days while I was thinking about what I wanted to write (or if I even did want to write something today) the song Forever Young came on the radio. That was the last song we played for Curtis to close the service at the cemetery. My wife commented that this was Curtis's way of letting me know he was still with me. I believe that. My precious son will always be with me.

Monday, February 17, 2014

02/17/2014

     Well, we made it through another February 15th. It actually turned out to be an OK day. My wife and I went to the cemetery to put flowers on the kids' graves and to clean their headstones. In the evening we built a fire in the portable fire pit, set it out in the driveway, and spent about four hours around the flames. This was one of the things the kids enjoyed doing when they were alive, and we've tried to continue the tradition as a way of remembrance whenever we can. A couple of our dearest and most supportive friends came by to spent part of the evening with us. It was a very positive time. We received many messages of remembrance and support through social media and phone calls during the day. It's still amazing to realize in how many different ways people were connected to Curtis. Even after all this time we are still learning about new connections people had with our son, and what a positive impact he continues to have on the lives of so many. It's also amazing to me that while many of the milestones that have come and gone during my grief journey are somewhat jumbled to me as to what happened when, the events of that terrible first week are indelibly seared into my memory. Of course, there was the first night when the accident occurred. The following day was when we went to the mortuary and cemetery to make arrangements, and the memorial prayer service was held that evening. The next day was Saturday when the nurse came by our house to tell us she had stopped at the scene to try to help. This was also the day when the parents who had been driving the car that night were released from the hospital and came back to the neighborhood. Sunday was when we first contacted the minister at the Methodist Church about having Curtis's service at his church. We also went back to the cemetery to see if it would be possible to have the children buried together. Tuesday night was the viewing service for the first of the kids, and we met with the minister to discuss details of Curtis's service. Wednesday afternoon was the first of the funerals, and Curtis's viewing service was that evening. Curtis's funeral was Thursday, one week to the day since the accident. The final funeral was the next day, Friday. I think I remember more details, with greater clarity, from that first week than from all the rest of my journey combined. But while I remember so much from that horrible time, I don't find myself dwelling on those details like I did before. When I do think of that week, I no longer feel the burning pain that so often threatened to overwhelm me. I'm now able to focus more on the positive aspects of those days: how so many people provided us with unconditional love and support, how kind and generous people were, how I began to realize, in a very real sense for the first time, how incredibly special our son really was to so many different kinds of people. As I continue my journey through this anniversary week of our loss, I'm able to find comfort and warmth in the thought that Curtis is still loved and missed by so many people. That brings true joy to my heart.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

02/15/2014

     Today is the 13th anniversary of Curtis's passing out of this life. For a long time I thought of this day as his death day, the day he was stolen from us for no good reason, and I anticipated its annual arrival with a sense of dread and foreboding. The numbing sorrow, anger, and pain I felt during all the rest of the year was magnified a thousand times during these horrible days in February. I especially remember how on the first anniversary in 2002, there must have been well over a hundred people come by the house to remember and honor him and show their love and support to us. We had two barbecues going cooking up hot dogs for everyone. We had a fire going in the fire pit. For several hours people shared with us again their memories of Curtis and how he had so positively impacted their lives. It was wonderful to hear such touching things about our son, but I was not yet in a place where I could fully appreciate them. I had not yet completely accepted that my son was gone forever. I could not yet accept that there could possibly be anything good come out of this situation. I could not yet believe I could even survive something like this, let alone find anything truly positive about it.
     As the years have come and gone, however, I've noticed a change in myself in how I feel about things during this time of the year. I can't pinpoint any particular time when it happened, but gradually I became aware that enormous healing has taken place in my life. As I sit here today, on the 13th anniversary, looking down the street from our front porch at a block so different from what it was 13 years ago, I realize that I no longer feel the gut-wrenching, debilitating, frightening pain that marked the first few anniversaries. While February 15th will never be "just another day",  I'm now able to more clearly appreciate the wonderful things that have taken place in our lives since Curtis left us. Don't misunderstand me. I still tremendously, and on some days, desperately miss my son. I still question why he had to die so young. I still often wonder what his life would be like today. I wonder what great things he would have accomplished by now. When I get to Heaven I still expect God to have some good answers to my questions. I still have moments of anger that my family had to suffer such an agonizing loss.
     But I also can focus more now on the 14 years that were given to us to be Curtis's parents. We were not perfect parents, nor was Curtis a perfect child. When I think of his time with us I'm able to remember the entire package, good and not so good. I can revel in the wonderful things about him and take joy in all the memories of his life with us. I can also now more completely appreciate the positive impact he had on so many people's lives. From time to time even today, we still are hearing new stories about the positive legacy he left behind. The Curtis Workman Hoops Classic Basketball Tournament at Southridge Middle School is still going strong after all these years, as is the Curtis Ethan Workman Memorial Scholarship at Ontario High School. At least two of Curtis's friends have honored his memory by giving their sons his name as part of their names. Most touching of all, perhaps, is that so many of his friends and family still remember this day after all these years. It means so much to us that Curtis's life and legacy live on in the lives of so many people he touched. I will never be glad my son was taken from us, and February 15th will never be an ordinary day, but I no longer think of it as a day of death. I can rest in the knowledge that, in a very real way, he is with us still. I love you, Curtis, always and forever.

Friday, February 14, 2014

02/14/2014

     I've mentioned several times in these postings about the impossibility of regaining my "normal" life following the death of my son. Well, today is the 13th anniversary of the last normal day of my life-Valentine's Day 2001. I didn't realize it at the time, but it would prove to also be the last time I would really be able to fully appreciate and celebrate Valentine's Day.
     February 14, 2001, was a very pleasant day. My wife and I spent it together just enjoying breakfast out and doing some shopping for a new dresser for Curtis's bedroom. I remember how good it felt to just enjoy my wife's company for the day without having anything really planned out or scheduled. We just kind of let the day flow. Life felt so good. Our kids were all doing well in school. We were all healthy and well. Casey, our oldest son, was a junior in high school and beginning to map out his college options. Curtis was a freshman, just beginning his trip through high school. Carly was still in elementary school, but already anxious to follow her brothers to middle school and high school. We were all active and busy in a variety of areas. I remember thinking more than once during that day how blessed we were to have such a wonderful family. What happened the next night shattered all of that forever. That's not to say that nothing good has happened in these last 13 years. There have been innumerable things that have happened to us that have been nothing short of wonderful, many of which only occurred because of Curtis's death. But the normalcy of my life ended when my son's life ended. My normal life would no longer exist. How could it? My normal life included my beautiful son, and he was now gone for good. Of the nearly 5,000 days I've lived without my son not a one has been normal. However many more days I'm granted on this earth, none of them will be normal. Normal would mean that Curtis was still with us. I realize that if someone just beginning their own journey on this road of grief were to be reading this, they would probably think, "Wow! What a depressing thought! My life will never be the same again?"  To be brutally honest, no, it won't ever be the same. It can't be. But that doesn't mean that you can't find your way through to a new normal. We (and thousands of parents like us) are living proof that it can, indeed, be done. It has taken much time, effort, love, and support to get to where I am today. Just where is that? Well, some days I'm really not sure, but at least today I can finally again feel some sense of the joy and love represented by Valentine's Day. My son may be gone, for the time being, from my physical life, but I've reached a point in my journey where I can celebrate the love he left behind and share that again with others.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

02/01/2014

     Ah, February has come again. I have come to hate this month. It is true that the passage of time has diminished the painful memories, but I still usually wish that I could go to sleep on January 31st and not wake up until March 1st. Sometimes it seems that nothing good for me has ever happened in February, although I know that is not really true. It's just that the last 13 Februarys have been so filled with painful, incomprehensible memories that it is difficult to remember there was ever anything else good about this month. Even Valentine's Day is bittersweet since it's always the day before my son was taken from us. It's still hard to see the store displays, the commercials, etc. and realize that while much of the rest of the world is celebrating the spirit of love, I often have found myself transported back in time to that horrible February of 2001. I remember that this side-by-side existence of people going about their normal lives while I was melting into a puddle of unrelenting pain and anguish was one of the first and most difficult aspects of those early days of my journey. How was it possible that the rest of the world could just go merrily on while my world was crumbling? I still find that question bubbling to the surface during these days leading up to Valentine's Day. I realize that there's never a good time for someone to die, but it somehow seems worse when it comes tied to some significant national or global date that never changes from year to year. It's just another aspect of this whole situation that we obviously have no control over. Through the years we have found ourselves dwelling less on the day Curtis was taken from us and thinking more about the day he came into our lives and all the marvelous, amazing, common, normal, frustrating, wondrous days in between. Yes, time has dimmed the pain of our loss and helped me focus on and appreciate the positive presence Curtis was in our lives and the lives of everyone who knew him. We are all richer for having known him.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

1/19/2014

It's been exactly one month to the day since my last posting. This is my first post of the new year. Happy New Year to all. We have just gone through our 13th holiday season without Curtis being physically present. We had him for 15 holiday seasons before he was taken from us. This time of year has gotten decidedly easier as time has passed, but the holidays will never be what they once were. We have tried hard to keep some traditions alive and added some new ones along the way, but there will always be an empty spot where Curtis should be. Time has most assuredly eased the intensity of the pain, but even the passage of the years cannot dim it entirely. I think that's why I haven't been able to blog lately. Curtis loved the holidays-all the way from Halloween through New Year's-and it is still a difficult time of year for me to face. Coming on the horizon is the 13th anniversary of his death on February 15th. I never know how I will feel until the day arrives. Their have been years where I felt strong and in control in the days leading up to Feb. 15th only to fall apart when the day actually came.
There have been other years where I would be extremely agitated and practically non-functioning on the days prior to the 15th, only to feel an almost miraculous sense of peace and tranquillity on the actual day. I do know, however, that, generally speaking, time has worked its magic in this area as well. After having endured those first few anniversary dates I was not sure I could face that situation once a year, every year, for the rest of my life without losing my mind. Of course, I hadn't been sure I could face any of this without going crazy, but over time, with the support and love of my wonderful wife, my family and friends, a sensitive counselor, and a lot of hard, painful, one-step-at-a-time work, I found myself recovering some semblance of my "normal" self. It was, however, a self that had been so greatly changed that it would become necessary to reacquaint myself with this new person I had become.