I chose Day 24, Christams Eve, to honor Roby's mom, Shirlee.
I have known Shirlee since I was a junior in high school and she was just "Roby's Mom". The year after we graduated from high school was the last Thanksgiving I spent solely with my family. After that, every year, without fail, Shirlee insisted that I come to celebrate Thanksgiving and Roby's birthday with their family. While Roby was alive, I never missed. Once he died, I wondered how the family would respond to me. I desperately wanted to be with them - they understood the grief and pain in a way that no one else I knew did.
Shirlee and I are friends now - bonded by the life and death of her son. The Thanksgiving after Roby died, I wasn't sure how to proceed..."normal" was going over there, but I wondered how that would work. When I hadn't shown at a certain point in the day, Shirlee called me. "Where are you? Are you coming?" We have this dance that we do where I don't want to assume and she worries that I am "busy".
One of the special things about Shirlee has been that she understood that Roby and I were soul-mates - not just friends. She trusted her son to me when he was in the hospital at night - she would only leave when she knew I would stay with him until she returned. She allowed me to help take care of him when he came home from the hospital. She asked me to come help plan the memorial (although it didn't turn out quite the way I would have wanted it). At the memorial service, I didn't know where I belonged... Where should I sit? Shirlee said, "You are family. You sit with us." She asked me to read Roby's favorite poem of mine at the memorial - he would have wanted that, she said, and she was too overcome with grief and knew she couldn't speak. I wasn't sure that I could, but I was so honored to be asked that I was determined to do so. I asked if I could plan the music and she let me. We went to the cemetary together and separately and processed our grief together.
Even now, we only see each other a few times a year, but we are friends now. She is no longer just "Roby's mom" - she hasn't been that for a long time. We get together every year to recognize Roby's birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas holidays (either Christmas Eve or Day) and the anniversary of his death. This year will be the 13th year...as long as I knew him, he has been gone from me. We go up to the cemetary together and always have.
We don't just come together to talk about Roby or the loss of Roby - we just know that the other person understands. We talk and laugh, go to the movies, go shopping, whatever friends do. And we just know that the other one knows.
All this is behind the abiding love and respect that I have for Shirlee. She is an amazing woman who has been through a lot. She is spry and witty and funny. Shirlee is so dear to me - she is my second mom...and if any of you know how I feel about my mom, you know that says a lot.
Shirlee, thank you for sharing you son with me. Thank you for welcoming me into your family. I love you dearly and I don't know what I would do without you.