Twenty-Three Things Taylor Taught me.
June 17, 2022
On the first anniversary of Taylor’s death, I wrote this list. Twenty-One things Taylor taught me. Today in heaven he is twenty-three. Every day I try to honor him because he’s worth honoring. Hears to twenty-three beautiful boy.
As Taylor’s mom I have learned so many lessons in his life and from his death. When he was young around ten, he had gotten in trouble for something and in one of my finer parenting moments we were talking. I said, “well it’s just one of those life lessons”. He stopped, and you could see the little wheels turning in his head. Then he looked up at me and said, Mom, can you just teach me all the “Life Lessons” so I will know. I smiled and said I wish it worked that way but I’d do my best. Taylor and I both learned a lot of life lessons the hard way and he taught me more than he will ever know.
In honor of Taylor’s 23rd birthday (June 17th), here are 23 things he taught me.
1. It’s worse than I IMAGINED. When you love someone who struggles with addiction you imagine their death because you know that it is within the realm of possibility. You imagine all the moments that you may never get to have, the bad jokes, the hugs, the texts, the sound of his voice when he says” Mom”, the bad rap music, the arguments, the birthdays, wedding, the holidays the vacations and the mundane every day moments that you might miss. In those dark moments when I imagined life without him. Never seeing him, hugging him, hearing his voice again. No more memories, holidays, arguments, laughs. Those thoughts, as heartbreaking as they were, never came close to reality.
2. It’s hard to just breathe. The first few weeks are like a bad dream. Numbness and pain come in waves. It is hard to feel any positive emotion. It is like your emotions got a shot of novocaine. Every single task seems overwhelming. There is no right or wrong way to do this.
3. There is a BEFORE and an AFTER. Grief Splits you. There is a part that carries the pain and loss and a part that functions in the world. The line between them is thin in the beginning and all consuming.
4. I am NOT Strong. People tell me all the time you are strong and we are inspired by you. I never realized the price paid for such comments. I would trade it in a second to have Taylor back. I am just a person like any other with simply no choice. My strength is really the people who love me and hold me together. It is GOD and my son walking with me each day and carrying me more days than not.
5. Being a Parent is the hardest job. No one is prepared for the love they feel as a parent. It is the stuff of super-powers. I think it is the strongest love on the planet and it is hardwired from the moment you know you are having them. I loved Taylor long before I held him that first time. Having people that you love more than you thought humanly possible walking around outside your heart is truly the most humbling, scary thing I know. I am sooo blessed to be a mom of two beautiful kids. The hard part is learning to live with one of them in heaven.
6. PEOPLE have no idea what to say. I know people are trying and I really try to give them grace. Some avoid saying something and those are the hardest. The thing that gives me the most comfort in this are the people who risk saying the wrong thing and decide to try to tell you how much your child and your family are loved. Telling people, they are loved and thought of is what get us through.
7. You see them all around you: I see Taylor all around me. He is in nature, the song that randomly( not really) plays on the radio, a smell, a feeling, a breeze, the night sky. Every new place you go you look for them and every familiar place is full of memories.
8. Be STILL: Taylor’s death stopped me in my tracks and brought me to my knees. There were weeks where I did nothing but listen and look for him in the beauty of the world. My life before that was BUSY, too busy, too full of distractions and things that really didn’t matter. His death changed that for me. I am grateful. It is really only in my own stillness that I find him and that ever present ache is soothed.
9. Love more, Judge LESS: Taylor was the kind of person that loved little kids, all dogs, and saw the big picture in life at an early age. He didn’t care if you had money, what color your skin was and had a gift for seeing “who you really were”. I am so proud of his kindness and his strength in standing up for others who couldn’t stand up for themselves. We try to be more like him each day.
10. HAPPINESS and SADNESS are forever tied together. Every happy moment is laced with sadness because he is not here. I believe it will always be this way. The reverse is also true. Crying and feeling sadness over our loss will have an undertone of happy because it is full of Taylor. What people who haven’t lost someone they love don’t understand is when they say I wish I could take your pain, what they don’t realize is that they would also be taking your love. You can’t have one without the other.
11. The Before is harder than the day. In this year of firsts without Taylor, every single day is really hard. There is a fog that rolls in before those big days. Thanksgiving, first day of school, Christmas, birthdays, graduations… the list goes on. You can feel the heaviness and dread surrounding you. It is often worse than the day itself. I try on the days that are hardest to BE STILL and listen.
12. I WANT TO QUIT. I have a CHOICE in how I spend each day. In the last year, there are so many days where I just seriously wanted to quit life. I don’t want to die, it’s not that, but I really just want to pull the covers up and quit. Usually somewhere in all the “I want to quit talk” I recognize what a gift it is to have another day. What I wouldn’t give for Taylor to have another day. Then I get my butt up and try to honor him.
13. Tears. There are so many tears in missing him and all the strings in life tied to his life and death. As a young person, I would tell myself over and over, “do NOT cry”. How crazy. Crying does not mean you are weak; it means you are human and your bucket of love is overflowing. I miss him so incredibly much and when the tears come, I know how lucky I am to LOVE someone that much.
14. STORMS CHANGE YOU. Losing Taylor and his struggle with addiction has changed me. It has stripped my life to the core of what is most important. I don’t have energy for the bullshit or frivolous in the world. Losing a child brings you to your knees and when you get up off your knees you are a different person. I know I am a lot kinder, less judgmental, more determined and more focused on what is really important: Family, friends and leaving the world a little better than I found it are where I try to focus my energy.
15. Silver-linings: Taylor believed that it is only in breaking that the light gets in. It is one of the silver linings to the DARKNESS and STORMS in life. I have always known that life’s worst moments were weed-outs. Those moments help you to separate out/weed out who is and isn’t important in your life. If you want to really find out who your people are look around you in the darkest moments. Those are your people. They are GIFTs. I am so grateful.
16. LIGHT in the darkness. I have always been a spiritual person and believed in GOD. Our family was not one to go to church. Many of my Sundays growing up were spent on the ball field. Taylor’s addiction and death brought me to my knees in surrender to GOD in a way I had never known. One of the reminders that Taylor had set on his laptop was PRAY. IT popped over and over again when I opened his laptop after his death. I know GOD saved me and has my beautiful boy.
17. SIGNS and GOD-WINKS- I have had signs and God-winks from the other side most of my life. I never really stopped to look for them or think about them. When my dad was dying, I got a really big one that logic could not explain. That was when I really started to reflect and think about what it was all about. Since Taylor’s death we have gotten so many signs from him. They come in many different forms: songs, a number, a rainbow, a smell, dragonflies, butterflies, birds, weird things that you can’ t explain. They are gifts from Taylor and the veil between this world and the next is thinner than I thought.
18. COST of KNOWING. There are so many lessons that we pay a price to learn in this life. I never really understood that before and when I meet people that have “that wisdom” or are doing amazing things, I know now, all that comes at a cost. There is no higher price than losing your child. If there is a hell on earth this, is it. I wouldn’t trade the 20 years and 12 days of having Taylor with me for anything. Was is enough? NO. I have learned so much in being his mom through his life and in his death. He is still teaching me.
19. Blessed: Taylor had a tattoo, on his forearm that said blessed. I found it odd at the time because his life seemed very out of control and far from God. I learned that it was to remind him every day how blessed he was to have the family, life, and people he did in his life. It was to remind him to remember all his blessing even though he was struggling and lost sometimes. I find so much comfort in that in my own journey.
20. Listen More. I have been a fixer my whole life. Always trying to help and fix things. It became an obsession at times with Taylor, as his mom. I so wanted to help him, to fix what was wrong. To find the answers, that eluded us all. In the end, I wish I would have listened more. As a parent, we get caught up in the fixing so easily. It is not our journey, it is theirs, and it wasn’t until I really started to LISTEN that I realized all I could do was walk beside him and make sure he knew how loved he was. So parents, if you want some advice: Stop sweating all the small stuff and LISTEN. (Side note: most of it is SMALL stuff).
21. Everyday… there is not a day that goes by that I don’t wish Taylor was here with us or I was there with him. I am not suicidal and I am not done with my time here just yet. Every day I tell myself I am a day closer to being with him again. It gives me peace. The day we lost Taylor I literally felt a piece my heart shatter. I am not strong, I am not inspiring, I am simply just putting one foot in front of the other, like every other parent that has lost a child. It is a shitty club to be part of. The price of membership is high. We are not strong, we simply have no other choice. We are trying to learn to live in this world knowing a piece of our heart lives in heaven. Each night, I talk to Taylor before I go to bed. When it is my time and I get to see him again, I hope what he says is, “Mom I am so proud of what you did in my name”. I have great peace in knowing that one day we will all be together again. Happy 21st Birthday T. love, mom
22. Not Lost. I use to say we lost Taylor when I referred to his death until a friend reminded me, they are not LOST. We know exactly where they are. I think for me, the biggest learn this year has been though Taylor is not physically here, he is not gone or lost. He is in heaven, of that I am sure and he spends a lot of time if I am still enough and open enough to feel, see or hear him giving me signs that he is all around me. The universe is an amazing place and the more I learn the more I realize how much I don’t know and have yet to learn. Earth School is hard and until I see Taylor again, I will keep taking life’s tests and doing my best to honor Taylor and fight for him and all those that struggle. Until then, I will keep LOOKING UP and asking for God and Taylor’s help to live my highest path and leave the world hopefully a little better than I found it. Happy 22nd Birthday my beautiful boy. Love, mom.
23. The Second Mountain, is the name of a book that a dear friend who also lost his son sent me. It’s about how most of us spend our lives climbing the “First Mountain”. The First Mountain is about achievement, climbing the ladder, material things, goals, making it look good, and having it all. It’s what our culture tells us is important. The first mountain is pretty competitive, dog eat dog. For some, tragedy happens and it knocks you off the First Mountain into “The Valley”. The Valley is a dark place full of brokenness and not where any of us ever thought we would be. Some people just wallow in the Valley and never leave, some go back the First Mountain but a few begin to climb a “Second Mountain”. The Second Mountain is not about YOU. It is about OTHERS. It’s about service, purpose and a life that is about helping others and making the world a better place. I spent the better part of 50 years climbing the First Mountain. Caught up in achievement, buying into the lie. Taylor’s death plunged me into the Valley and I did not see it coming. I am grateful to the people who I saw climb out of that Valley. I am grateful to have an opportunity the climb the Second Mountain and in awe of the people I meet there. The cost to be on this Mountain is high and truthfully, I would go back to the First Mountain if I could have Taylor back for even a day, but that’s not the way any of this works. I now recognize Second Mountain people when I meet them and until my last breath I plan to keep looking up and climbing. Happy 23rd Birthday my beautiful boy. Love, mom.