Hey, It’s Me
You’re moving again?! This is what people said when we announced two years ago that we were downsizing, for the last time. It was going to be our eighth move since 2000. People have labeled me a professional organizer and mover. Bottom line, it was time to clean out again. Our prior move included lots of boxes filled with old business files and documents that we needed to hold on to for a specific period of time. As business owners, not only did we have boxes of our own, but we had those of my parents who had been business owners as well. As Executor of the estate, I had the fine privilege of storing all the files. This was becoming a challenge each time we moved because each time we moved, we were accompanied by “the boxes.”
To decrease the number of boxes that would have to move with us, we searched for boxes that held files old enough to eliminate. When these files reached a discardable age, my husband would bring them to a local shredding facility. As he picked up one of the boxes, I said, “Wait – I just want to look through it quickly – just in case there’s something in there we need to keep.” It was more of a gut feeling. I didn’t want to hold my husband up from doing his errands that day, so I quickly thumbed through the files in the box. As I thumbed through, I saw the corner of a piece of wrinkled, yellow-lined paper sticking up out of one of the files. There was something familiar about it.
As I pulled it out of the file, I at once recognized the writing. My heart started beating a little faster when I realized it was a letter from my son Nick. How it ended up in that box is beyond me. I was so happy. Going through the files that day paid off! What was it doing in that box though? How could it have fallen into a random file? No one would have placed it there. There were no logical reasons for it to appear that day in that box. Immediately, I thought – it’s a sign from Nick. He was always good at giving advice, whether you wanted it or not – Ha! His advice to me that day in spirit was slow down, take a break, breathe! I admit that I was a little stressed about being ready for the upcoming move. That letter was a much-needed message, a reminder that Nick was still watching out for me.
The letter started with, “Hey, it’s me.” It was written on four by seven sheets of yellow-lined paper. It was a four-page letter about nothing. In fact, in the middle of the letter, he wrote, “Who the hell am I talking to, I make no sense, why do I write like this, this is more like a talk-to-myself session here, and you’re just listening in.”
I loved Nick’s sense of humor, and I loved that it was so easy for him to express it in writing. One of the greeting cards he sent my mother had a letter written inside the card. He started his letter “Dear Gram,” but WHERE he started the letter was the funniest part. He started his writing upside down at the bottom edge of the card. It was difficult to find the beginning of his writing. He always loved to challenge people. As his writing got close to the left edge of the card, he turned the card so he could write along the left edge, up the left side of the card, and then on to the top of the card. He continued around the right corner of the card down the right edge, all this time careful to round out the corners of his writing. The entire letter was written in an unperfect circle. When you read it, it had a kaleidoscope feel to it. You had to keep turning the card around and around to continue reading unless you were talented enough to read upside down. This was so Nick, writing a letter to his grandmother that started upside down and ended in the middle of the page with something that actually made sense. He was stationed in Pearl Harbor at the time. So far away from home. He wrote about his shipmates, his roommates, and his two trucks. Originally this treasure was found when we were cleaning out my mother’s house. I was so sure I had put it away in a safe place. This is why I think twice and three times as to why things appear to me when they do.
At the time I received my “Hey It’s Me” letter, Nick hadn’t written in a while. He was a busy sailor taking a few minutes to write something to his mom basically just to say “Hi” and “I’m okay.” I could picture him looking for something to write the letter on. I’m pretty sure he found the small yellow-lined pad of paper in the house that he shared with three other sailors and simply just absconded with it. I had a chance to visit this house when I was in Hawaii. There was “stuff” everywhere. They were respectful of each other’s rooms, but a pad of paper on the kitchen counter would have been free game. I could easily imagine this happening because when he was in his tweener ages, he would sit at my home office desk and search for something that inspired him. One of his endeavors included taking a post-it note pad out of my desk drawer and making a cartoon flip movie out of it. The first time this happened, I found that after removing the top post-it, there was a stick figure cartoon on the next page. Flipping through the next few post-its I found the same stick figure man jumping off a dock into the water, but as he was falling towards the water, a huge shark with its sharp tooth lined mouth, wide open, came up out of the water, grabbed the stick figure man who now had a shocked look on his face and dove back into the water. This was a prime example of Nick’s focus and mindfulness. He amazed me with his ability at such an early age to sit and draw those cartoons on each post-it page creating a cartoon movie.
Another time, sitting at the same desk, I reached into the top drawer to get a paperclip. I pulled one out of the drawer and at least fifty more paperclips followed – all connected to each other. He would giggle when I discovered his activities. Little did he know that these stories would become some of my favorite memories. Every once in a while, I will reach for a paperclip and because it’s connected to other paperclips, pull more than one out of the drawer. When this happens, I will stop and think. Is there something happening that is worthy of a sign from Nick? Maybe the sign is for me to simply stop and think, slow down, and enjoy life.
Back to my letter. I know in my heart that I was supposed to find that treasured piece of mail that day – a letter that was written at least ten years earlier. I was so excited to find it. You would think I had received it that day. My emotions went from excitement to sadness and then to smiles. I took the time to read the letter as if it were my first time reading it. Going through those files that day in April provided me with a reminder of Nick’s humor and love. After April comes May, the anniversary month of his death by suicide. Finding the letter in April was significant to me. His letter letting me know years ago that he was okay became another message to me that he is still okay.
Losing a child to suicide is devastating. Ten years have passed, and it still feels like it happened yesterday. The fact he died the day after Mother’s Day makes it even more memorable. It is the memories, the memorabilia, and my writing that carries me through each day. It is also having a husband by my side who shares the deep feelings of loss of our person. People will ask, “Does it ever get easier?” My answer is no, it doesn’t get easier, it just changes.” The grieving is ongoing, but I find it is lightened when I find the occasional treasure or sign that I can share with others.
Wendy lives in Norton, MA, is married, has two children (one living and one deceased), and two grandchildren. She is very proud of her two sons, who both joined the military out of high school and during their enlistment became non-commissioned officers. In May of 2012, Wendy lost her youngest son to suicide. She’s had many personal challenges in her life, but the suicide has been the most extraordinary.
For over 18 years, Wendy has worked with a nutritional supplement company that uses the direct sales business model. Also 18 years ago, she and her husband founded a more traditional company - a septic pumping company that they called Pump Grump. The company’s tagline was “you’ll be happy with the grump.” She believes they reached excellence in branding with that name.
Wendy’s specialties include sales, networking, training, team building, speaking, writing, and editing. Upholding the importance of integrity and using humor are her two mainstays.
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