About A Son’s Death


Jimbo 3 months

This past week I discovered yet another link to my mother.  In the space of a few months she buried her two adult sons. As her oldest child I worked with her to move through her grief. So did the rest of her family and her small group of remaining friends. My mother was in her 80s when this happened and her circle of friends, siblings, and cousins had diminished.

Five years prior to these deaths, my second son (age 37) had died right before Christmas. She often told me at that time she didn’t know how I could stand the pain, but I should be strong and pray to the Lord. I would find the courage to accept. I repeated those words many times to her as she mourned them. And she prayed I would never have to bury another child in my life.

This past Wednesday during the worst blizzard our area has encountered in many years, my third son suffered a cardiac event. I got a call from the ICU doctors who asked about instructions and fortunately, I had Health Care Power of Attorney and his written end of life requests should those ever be needed. I certainly couldn’t get out in the storm but the wonders of technology allowed me to fax the information.

My son survived the next 24 hours which allowed the storm to eventually leave our area and for us to (sort of) get dug out. Putting my SUV into 4-wheel drive I gunned through the 4 foot drift slammed up against the garage door and headed off to the hospital despite the dangerous conditions on the road. You do not keep a mother long from her critically ill child—no matter what his/her age.

When his nurse and doctor walked into his room with me on Thursday, I spotted my son on the bed, all hooked up to various machines, busy bleeping, blipping, and flashing. I went over to him, took his hand in mine, touched his cheek, spoke his name, talked with him a bit, squeezed his hand several times—and got no response at all. In my heart I knew my son with the gentlest of hearts, a sensitive soul, beautiful hazel eyes, had lost his battle. He really wasn’t there.

Winter 2003

Then the doctors and nurses talked with me and explained their findings. They didn’t have to tell me. I knew. He was gone. To be with the grandparents he loved, his brother, his uncles and great-aunts.

I’m glad I gunned my SUV that morning. I had some hours with my son. To sit and watch as he moved into another realm. To talk to him of those waiting for him. To tell him how I loved him—as we all did.

His name was Jim, but he preferred Jimbo—a nickname his father gave him the day he was born. It stuck. He was my beautiful, big, onyx-haired baby boy who grew into a man who worked hard all his life and watched out for others. He had his demon—alcohol. In the last few years of his life that demon took Jimbo from us, his family and friends, the healthy, happy, dry-witted man he had been.

My mother and I once again have a connection. I will have buried two adult sons. Right now I’d love to have my mother’s arms around me, whispering her encouraging words. I give thanks for all those around me who are reaching out in comfort. I can use it. My mother is not here any longer.

I will get through this.

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29 Comments on “About A Son’s Death”

  1. Edie Ramer Says:

    Mary Jo, I have tears in my eyes. You will get through it, but it doesn’t make it easy. I’m sending you comfort and love and prayers and hugs.

  2. carmelderwin Says:

    I have just read your story, and know that someone in Ireland is thinking of you and your family at this time..

  3. caseyclifford Says:

    Edie,

    Thank you. I have to put my sorrow in words. That eases me.

  4. caseyclifford Says:

    Carmel,

    Thank you for posting. You’re right about Ireland. Our ancestors came from there and the thought that this reached to you there makes me so happy. 🙂


  5. Mary Jo, my heart aches for you and I wish so much I could be there right now to take you in my arms. I’m so sorry about Jimbo, I can’t even imagine what you are going through. Our children are supposed to bury us, not the other way around. My brother passed when he was 35 (a few years back) and my mom has never been the same. If there is anything you need, please don’t hesitate to let me know. I love you.

  6. Deb Maher Says:

    There’s tremendous power in the written word, both for the reader and the writer. It is evident from this heartfelt post that the wonder of your son will live on in your work.

    Please know that although I can’t be with you physically at this time, I am with you in spirit. Wishing you peace, my dear friend.

  7. caseyclifford Says:

    Ah Donna, my heart aches also, but the words you’ve given me ease my ache. I’m glad this post touched you as it helped me. And knowing you’re on my side helps, too.

  8. caseyclifford Says:

    Deb,
    We’ve shared our woes and joys and we both know that words drive us. As I started the process of going through photos today and prepare to write his obit for the paper, I was reminded again of the boy who loved going to visit people in the nursing home, took care of all the frail neighors’ yards and shoveling, loved to fish and garden and always was a hard worker.

    And talk to your sons today in Jimbo’s memory. I know you are always with me in spirit.


  9. I cried for you and with you as I read this. I don’t know how you were able to write it, and so eloquently. It’s a small comfort in the midst of grief to know that our loved ones are with other loved ones who’ve passed, but sometimes it’s all we have. I hope Jimbo is smiling down on you from heaven. Love you!

  10. caseyclifford Says:

    Stacey,

    WEll, Jimbo’s probably trying to land that huge musky that got away. Then he’ll smile down on me.

    I thank you for being the sweetie you are. I couldn’t get along without my GB daughters.

  11. shelley host Says:

    As I read this…I realized how lucky I am to have a sister like you. What a wonderful testimonial you wrote to our Jimbo. Yes, there was that demon….but we knew that he would be there if we needed him. I can see him now looking down on all of us, dressed in those baggy, saggy sweats with that shaggy beard…yelling GO PACK GO!!!! Miss him….love you.

  12. Casey Says:

    Shelley,

    I’m very fortunate to have a little sister like you. You were and are a great person and you helped me raise our Jimbo. GO PACK!

  13. Paula Says:

    Mary Jo
    A beautifully written piece. My heart goes out to you, dear lady. I am praying that God’s love and peace surround you as you walk through your days.
    I am Deb’s sister and she wanted to share your blog with me. I am glad she did. May God comfort you in the way that only He can.

  14. Brenda Says:

    I can’t even begin to tell you how sorry I am to hear that your son passed away. He is with his grandparents in heaven now. God has great plans for him and he will be another guardian angel watching over you. Please know, you and your family are in my prayers. No parent should ever have to bury a child. I am so very sorry for your loss. God will help you through this time. Please take care!

    Love and a HUGE hug,

    Brenda

  15. Casey Says:

    Paula,

    Deb talks so much about you and I’ve seen photos. I know what your do with your life and I admire it. Thank you so much for reading this blog post and offering your kind words.

  16. Casey Says:

    Oh Brenda,

    If we were still working together, I know you’d give me a hug and make me smile. But your words did the same. Miles may separate us but the friendship and caring never fades. Thank you.

  17. Elle J Rossi Says:

    MJ,

    My heart goes out to you. There are no comforting words, yet please know that my shoulders and my ears are here should you need them.

    I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers.

    Love,
    Elle

  18. caseyclifford Says:

    Elle,

    I appreciate your shoulders and your ears, your good thoughts and prayers. You also understand my sorrow.

  19. lori Says:

    Dear Mary Jo. These words seem so very small next to your grief: but I am SO sorry to learn of this loss in your life…in our family.
    I remember Jimbo…mostly as a little guy in the years we would stay with your mom and you lived next door…I did not have the privilege of knowing him as a grown man. But family is always family…

    Love to you and all.

    Lori

  20. Kate Bowman Says:

    Mary Jo,

    Reading your beautiful post brought back memories of my own brother, also a Jim, that we lost at the age of 41. It’s those gentle, caring souls who seem to have the hardest time navigating through this life.
    My prayer for you is that you find the peace and acceptance necessary to continue being the wonderful woman you are. We all need people like you for guidance.
    Kate

  21. caseyclifford Says:

    Lori,

    Thank you so much for checking in. Jimbo was named for your dad and Grampa Dieter. I wish he would have also inherited their drinking habits, though he did inherit their wonderful caring natures and dry kind of humor.

    You’re right, family is family, always.

  22. caseyclifford Says:

    Kate,

    Thank you for your kind words. And I will get through this. Too many people love me to not be there for them. Hope all is well with your grand-daughter.

  23. Laurel Bradley Says:

    Dear Mary Jo,
    My heart bleeds for you. You are a remarkable lady, to suffer through this tragedy and still shine. Jimbo was blessed to have you as his mother. The rest of us are blessed to have you as a friend. Keeping you in my prayers. Laurel

  24. Claudia Says:

    Dear Mary Jo, My deepest sympathies go out to you & Steve. I too remember Jimbo as a little guy when we would stay at your mom’s during visits to Kenosha. His beautiful dark eyes come to mind when I think of him. You held him at birth and you held him at death – may you find comfort in the memories.

    Love to you and Steve,
    Claudia

  25. caseyclifford Says:

    Laurel,

    I’m about to once again wade through photos to put together his life in them. This brings so many memories to mind and then my muse wanders a bit to wonder how this whole experience will fuel the rest of my life in some meaningful way. I know it must. Thank you for expressing your thoughts.

  26. caseyclifford Says:

    Claudia,

    Steve will be flying in to O’Hare Thursday morning and I’ll be so much more content when he arrives. I’ll be sure to extend your thoughts to him as this death is also hitting him very hard though he tries to be tough about it. I loved your image of holding Jimbo in birth and in death. Thank you.

  27. Claudia Jean Says:

    Thinking of you today. But I can’t think of a thing to write other than that.

  28. Catherine Clark Says:

    Your last hours with your Jim reminded me of my last hours with mine. It was also February. My Jim was also gone before his body gave up. I hope neither of us has to lose a loved one for a long, long time.

  29. A grieving Mom Says:

    Sorry for your loss.Your story brought tears to my eyes knowing your pain.


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