Friday, November 29, 2013

It's kind of like a multi-car pile-up.

These milestones are so painful. And to have them piled up against each other, like cars on Highway 99 in Tule fog, is unbearable.

It started with the one-month anniversary of Sam's death on November 20th, quickly followed by John's birthday on the 22nd. Then we had the weekend to breathe before we took our first roadtrip without Little Guy on Monday so the man-child could see Stanford. Two days later Thanksgiving piggy backed on Chanukah.

I had all day Tuesday and Wednesday to decorate for Chanukah, so naturally I got started around 3 o'clock on Wednesday afternoon, racing the sun to get things set up. When it came down to candle-lighting on that first night, the teens were on board with celebrating. If they want to observe Chanukah, then I will too, I decided. I enjoyed their enjoyment. I had purchased a couple of presents for them on a shopping trip a few weeks ago, so I'm not a total slacker. Watching them open presents, and light their menorahs (Abby has taken it upon herself to be the lighter of Sam's menorah) gives me pleasure.

I like the brevity of Chanukah. Yes, I know it's 8 nights, but I mean I like that each night the time dedicated to celebration can be kept quite short. All you need to do is light candles, say prayers, give gifts, and while the candles burn (they are thankfully almost as small as birthday candles, so it takes about 20 minutes)-do no work. We don't need a big family dinner every night surrounding the candle-lighting, and the whole day does not revolve around Chanukah. So right now, when all I can think of is, "Sam should be here." "Sam should be lighting his menorah." "What would Sam have asked for Chanukah this year?" At least the torture is short.

So what are the Holidays like for the bereaved? I can only tell you how it is for me. There's a lot (can I say shit-ton?) of anticipation. The days before John's birthday, Chanukah, and Thanksgiving have been almost sadder than the actual days. I cry a lot. It gets to the point where my head hurts. I think about what was, what should've been, what might've been, and what is. I feel better when I'm walking, but strangely enough yoga brings more tears. I don't feel like doing anything, but I distract myself with mundane household tasks to get a break from the grief. I spend far too much time on Facebook, Twitter, and email, promoting the cause-sharing events, asking for donations, inviting people to "like" a page in hopes more eyes will see it (increase awareness=raise money=research=FIND A CURE).

People are starting to ask, "What are your plans for going back to work?" What? This IS my work right now. I have to make sure Ben and Abby are OK. My straight A students are each failing one class, and getting C's and D's in others. They need me. They need me in the middle of the day still. I get texts that say, "Mommy, I can't find a place to get away from all the people." I will not be unavailable to them. The Cause is my work as well. All this Sharing, Inviting, and Tweeting needs to be backed up with organized events and fundraisers for people to Share, Invite, and Tweet about. I can no longer stand by and let my friends do all of the work. It's time to get cracking.

So I've got a couple of job-things to do right now. I'm going to share three things with you that you can help out with by Sharing, Tweeting, and Blogging about-and if you can afford to-donate. Here we go:

1. There's an online raffle for my Central Coast friends. If you aren't a local, you can still share and donate.You can get there through Facebook:  or . You buy raffle tickets by selecting "Donate," and noting "raffle" in the comments. Event ends December 18th. All money raised goes to Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation

reusable bags, fundraising products

2. Through December 31st, my friend, Sheri Murphy, is selling bags and accessories through Mixed Bag Designs. Sheri will not make any money off of these sales, all proceeds are going to Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation

3. Finally, and this is so exciting, Chris Beland will be contributing to a compilation CD being made by The Ronan Thompson Foundation to benefit childhood cancer research and support. The CD is called Rock for Ronan, and you can get in on this by donating now, here. And if you haven't already "Liked" Chris on Facebook, please take care of that.

That is all. Now get back to work. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Firsts or Chance

I'm sure this is obvious to most of you, but aside from this period of our lives being unbearably sad at times, I am struck by the number of firsts we are racking up. Each one feels like an elephant on my chest. It seems like it's too soon that life goes on, but it has.

There was the first time eating out that I wrote about, which only happened a week after Sam died. Since then there have been many firsts that were expected and dreaded, and many I hadn't considered.

My car buddy
For example, I knew that my children would return to school and that John would return to work, but I didn't anticipate how the silence of the car after I dropped off the teens would feel. The teens and Sam always
shared their good-byes, and then Sam and I would chatter on the way to his school/my work, or later I would just chatter to Sam as we headed home because he was no longer in school/I was no longer working. I found myself just losing it-crying all the way home because he is no longer in the back seat.

After a few days of that, the dog did something strange. He's never been a go-for-a-ride kind of mutt. In fact, the first few times he rode in the car after we adopted him I had to pick him up and put him in. If you've ever met Chance, I know you're pretty impressed with me right now-he's a big boy. So Chance only went for car rides when he absolutely had to-to go to the vet, to get his nails trimmed. When we'd had him about a month we began to do some fun outings (dog park, beach, hiking trails) so that he would get the idea that the car didn't always mean torture was coming (in the form of the slick floors of the veterinary office or grooming salon, but that's another of his many quirks and so another post). But still, when I would leave the house he didn't stand and beg and look at me with those eyes and ask to go.

Around the 4th or so morning back to school, as the teens and I were leaving, Chance got up from his doggie bed to stand in the living room and watch us leave. He cocked his head to the side, and gave me the puppy-dog eyes (you know the look), and whined. So I said, "Oh, OK, boy. You want to go to school?" He left the living room rug so fast it curled up beneath his feet as he raced across it to the front door. He trotted down the sidewalk with us, leapt gracefully into the hatchback, and sat. I'm not alone anymore. Whoever sits in the back seat gets drooled on and snuffled (that's what I call it when a dog puts its wet nose on you) in the ear. The teens have someone (something?) to say good bye to. And I have a listener for my chatter all the way home. He's not Sam. I still wish it was Sam who is back there. Sam is irreplaceable. But Chance is comforting. I'll take what I can get.

Ok. So that turned into a post about Chance the Empathy Dog, instead of a post about firsts. That tells me that Chance has done his job well.

We adopted him this past March. You would think that a family in the midst of dealing with their youngest child's cancer treatment would not want to take on one more responsibility. We wanted him because we missed having a dog. The Best Dog in the World, AKA Scarlett, died in June 2010, and it wasn't until about 2 years later that we were ready to take a chance on another dog. I knew our next dog would always be compared to her. She was beautiful, gentle, and smart. She was a tough act to follow. In the Spring of this year we decided that not only were we ready, but that we needed a dog. We needed a little levity, and something positive to pull our focus from our fears about Sam's future.

We keep a list
Chance is a pretty good mutt. He's handsome, he's gentle...that's all I've got. I can't call him smart. He's eaten too many non-food items to wear that label. He digs. He won't walk on wood/tile/linoleum floors. He nudges my forearm with his nose in order to solicit pats regardless of what I'm holding in my hand (nothing, a full and open water bottle, hot coffee). He barks incessantly at visitors and sniffs their crotches. When we walk he must turn and attempt to sniff every butt-human and canine-that passes. OK, not all the canines. He's frightened of many of them, and tries to hide behind me. You know that lady on the beach with her dog's leash wrapped around her legs several times because her enormous fraidy-cat of a dog is trying desperately to get away from the miniature poodle that is obviously trying to eat it alive? Yeah, that's me. But he makes us laugh. He vocalizes like Chewbacca (you can hear him on the Rocketship video), he prances like a miniature pony all by himself in the backyard, he snores, and when he cocks that gigantic head of his to the side, I feel like we could have a conversation.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A different kind of package

Back in the good old days when I would hear the UPS truck pull up in front of our house, I couldn't help but feel a small surge of excited hopefulness. Lately, though the packages have been related to Sam's death-sympathy gifts, flowers-so I'm less excited. Today I felt that old familiar feeling at the sound of the unwieldy truck outside our home. Not so much excited anymore, but still hopeful for a sign of compassion.

Boy was I wrong.

The package was merely an envelope. The envelope was addressed to John-"Work," I thought. I squinted at the return address in fine print: Los Osos Valley Mortuary.


I pulled back the tab on the envelope a couple of inches and saw the familiar pattern of a county certificate. I didn't have to open the envelope the rest of the way. I have several county certificates in my possession-a marriage certificate, 3 birth certificates.

Sam's death certificate has arrived. It stays in the envelope. I don't need to see it. I don't need it.

Please go to the Sam's blog and show that family some love. Superman Sam's AML is back. It's not good. Another family is at the end of the road. I am so sad.

Saturday, November 2, 2013


The last few days have been so heavy. I should have seen it coming, what with Halloween and people participating in Celebrate Sammy today. 

So Halloween, when your only child of dressing up and trick-or-treating age is dead, is not fun. Yes, it was lovely to see all of the children, especially former students. And I was touched that so many friends who do not live in my neighborhood stopped by to make sure things weren't too quiet here. 

I anticipate that no matter how many costumed children ring the bell, no matter how cute they are, and how kind and sympathetic their parents are, it will never be enough to fill the void that Sammy left when he died far too young and our Halloweens came abruptly to a stop. I've always thought unkindly of those people whose lights were out on Halloween. Unless you have a religious edict that prevents you from celebrating, why would you not do it for the children? I'm afraid our house may be one of those dark houses next year. We may have to build a new Jeffers' Family Halloween tradition. I polled the Jeffers on what they might like to do next year, but no one had an answer. They were silent.

The days following Halloween were rough too. First there are the scores of Facebook postings of adorable, complete sibling groups in costume, and then there was the, necessary for our purposes, scouting through every photo from 2005 until almost 2 weeks ago for pictures of Sammy. 

My belly, bursting with Sammy, with Ben and Abby lovingly leaning. Newborn Sammy, so small for weeks he had only one outfit that fit him-a preemie outfit. Baby Sammy, chubby, gorgeous, kissable and moist. Toddler Sammy, tugging on Jigsy or Scarlett's fur (all gone now). Preschool Sammy, with that purposefully, squinty-eyed grin, or falling asleep in the strangest places and positions. School-aged Sammy, smiling, smiling, smiling. Sick Sammy. 

There were many happy memories in those photos. In fact, at times I laughed out loud and called John over to the computer, "Look at this one!" Every few minutes reality would interrupt to remind me that there would be no more photos, but I still had a job to do-find photos of Sam. Reality offered one closing sucker punch to the gut when the last folder was searched, the final photo was copied, and the concluding disc was burned. I was done. I finished looking at all the photos of Sam I will ever have. There will be no more.

I feel sad, exhausted, and distracted, and I've been crying so much not only have I stopped wearing make-up, but I've stopped wearing moisturizer too. It just gets in my eyes and stings. So not only do I look sad and tired, but I probably look a good bit older too thanks to the wrinkles not getting all plumped out with skin cream. When I want to feel better I read your messages, walk with friends who don't mind me talking about Sammy, and I read the writings of other mothers who have lost children. It helps me to feel less alone.In particular I am comforted by the writings of Angela Miller who you can find on Still Standing Magazine, and Facebook . She is coming out with a book soon, if she can raise the funds. Guess what? You can help. You can buy a book before it comes out to help in the publishing, or you can give a single dollar, or if you really want to be a hero, you can give even more. Please check out her book out on and Pubslush. Please and thank you.

The photos we have will be used in a slideshow at Sam's memorial. All who knew Sam, all who know his family, all who prayed and hoped and wished for better for Sam are welcome at his memorial. The focus will be on remembering a sweet and joyful boy who loved the color sky blue, all things camo, art, animals, and imagination. If you have sky blue, camo or gold clothing to wear, do so-it will help to keep the mood sweet and joyful, like he was.

Celebrate Sammy, Again
Sunday, November 10th at 3pm
10180 Los Osos Valley Rd.
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401

This Friday you have an opportunity to make a difference. Help us raise money for research by eating BBQ at Best Lovin' BBQ in Arroyo Grande from 3 to 9. Follow this link for details. I still believe we can change the future. Do it for kids like my Sammy (our Sammy), and do it for kids like Sammy Sommer (who by the way is doing well. Check it out for yourself here.)