Happy Birthday! Tomorrow would have been your 31st birthday, had you stayed on this earth long enough. I truly wish you had, that we would be celebrating your special day together with a birthday cake (made by me, of course), your favorite meal and maybe a beer to wash it down.
I wonder, had you still been alive, what you would have done with your life in the past nine years since your last birthday on this earth. Would you have survived Iraq? Would you have come home wounded and worn, as so many have? Would you have gone back to finish school? You were so good at working on computers and I know you would have been great doing something related to technology.
Would you have married and had children?
Sometimes, in quiet moments, I imagine I can hear your footsteps walking up the driveway to visit or imagine what it would be like to pick up the phone when it rings and hear your voice on the other end: "Hello, Mother..." as you always did when you called.
I don't cry so much anymore, except on those days like tonight and tomorrow, when I remember your birth. 31 years ago tonight I was in labor with you, my little Thanksgiving baby (because you were born the day after Thanksgiving that year) who stole my heart and wrapped me around your cute little baby fingers. The first chance I had to be alone with you in the hospital, I unwrapped your from your swaddling blankets and counted every single finger and toe and checked over every inch of your body to make sure all the required body parts where there. Then I swaddled you back up and held you close, feeling the baby soft hair on the back of your head on my lips as I softly kissed your head. Your baby smell has stayed with me my whole life.
I miss you, my pain in the ass son who loved to torture and tease me and your sisters. I miss your smile, your laugh, your sense of humor and even arguing with you. I miss those horrible Jenco jeans you loved to wear and that darn Curt Cobain T-shirt you wouldn't take off. I swear, that thing could have gotten up and walked on its own, it was so dirty!
The last time I saw you in my dreams, I asked you what it was like on the other side of this life and you told me "It's just different" then you went away. Come to see me soon, in dreamland, it's been so very long.
Happy Birthday, my darling son.
I love you for ever and ever,
Sunday, May 27, 2012
Sgt. Jeremy R. Smith
US Army Reserves
Nov. 1981 to Feb. 2004
It is Memorial Day weekend and I am thinking about my son. It's been a long time since I wrote about him.
Thoughts of him when he was born, perfect and beautiful, capturing my heart. It was love at first sight. As do most babies, he had day and night mixed up and his exhausted young mama was often in tears. I was just 19. I tried to breastfeed him, but his appetite was so voracious he ended up injuring me, so I had to quit. He was a good, happy baby who smiled and laughed a lot and loved to be silly. When he was learning how to walk, it took him a while to figure out that he didn't have to be holding onto something to walk, he always had a toy in his hand.
When Jeremy was eleven months old, his sister, Danielle, was born. In his limited vocabulary, he couldn't say her name, but he would walk up to her crib and put his little hands through the bars of her crib, touch her, and called her "Sissy", a name that stuck with her for many years.
Later, when his baby sister, Jaime, was born, Jeremy couldn't have been more proud.
My son had a dry, crude sense of humor. He loved to ride his bike and play video games. Jeremy loved baseball with a passion but didn't have the patience to play very well. We collected baseball cards together starting when he was a little boy in the 80's (I still have them). He was smart and often bored at school. He disliked authority and didn't respect teachers who were idiots. I can't count how many times I got called in to his middle school and high school because he was in trouble for something or another. In high school he pissed off the wrong crowd of kids and was afraid to go to school. At home his teenage years were turbulent. He tried drugs and we had to send him to rehab twice. Eventually his dad and I got him into a GED program, which he finished.
Jeremy fought with his sisters and his parents, sometimes violently. It was a hard time for all of us. Looking back, I can see how screwed up all our lives were and that Jeremy was trying to be the adult, the father figure, because the adults in the house weren't very good at being adults. He did his best to protect his sisters and me. If there was just one word I had to pick to describe my son it would be protective.
Jeremy was good with computers and was my "go-to-guy" for computer problems. He loved to build his own. He joined the Army Reserves a few months before 9/11 happened because he wanted to go to school. That was the only way for him to get an education. He went to ITT and excelled.
When his dad and I divorced, shortly after Jeremy turned 18, our own relationship became pretty stormy, but eventually we were able to make amends and become close again. I was surprised at how mature he had become.
Jeremy got his orders to report for active duty just before his 22nd birthday. Two days after his birthday, his stepdad and I drove him to Huntsville to report in. He was going to Iraq. After several months of training, his unit was ready to go in February. When Jeremy came home on leave in December for Christmas, he handed me a folder filled with papers. He gave me power of attorney to take care of his business while he was gone. He had a copy of his will and gave me instructions on what to do if he didn't come home alive. I didn't want to talk about this, but he insisted. I remember that moment all too well.
And then, the very last day I saw my son -- ever. Five days before he died, he'd been home on one last leave of absence and we drove him back to Ft. Hood. I hugged him and kissed him goodbye and told him I loved him and got in the truck, choking back my tears. I didn't want my son to see my fear or my tears, I wanted to be brave for him. Then I ran back to my son and kissed and hugged him again. I knew...somehow I knew down deep inside I would not see him again and I was absolutely helpless to do anything about it. I let my tears fall on his cheek and let him see his mother's emotion. And then I cried most of the way home.
Jeremy died in a car accident just a few days before he was to go to Iraq. He faced his future with courage and bravery and was ready to go and to serve his country. In the end, my son who never expected much out of life, became my hero who met his challenges and conquered them and in the process became this extraordinary young man who loved his family and was fiercely loyal to me, his sisters and his stepfather. I will always be so very, very proud of him and what he accomplished in such a short amount of time.
It's been eight years now and I often search crowds for his face, wish he'd call me on the phone or send me an email. I wish he'd walk up my driveway and say "hello Mother" the way he always did, and tell me he'd been on some secret mission he couldn't tell me about. I wonder what he would have done with his life when he got back from Iraq, if he'd be married and have children. I miss the smile he always tried to hide and how he made me laugh when I felt down. He would have loved that Jaime married Mark (who he knew) and I think he would have loved Misty, Dani's wife. Jeremy would have adored and spoiled his nieces and nephews rotten.
In the end, I am grateful and blessed to have been Jeremy's mother.
Love never dies.
I miss you, my sweet son.
Monday, February 13, 2012
Today is my son's death day. There is no other way to describe what today is. When we are born, we have a birth day, a day to be celebrated. To say that today is the anniversary of the day he died makes it seems so meaningless when that day had a very highly profound impact on my family. So I call it his death day.
There are two days that had the most profound impact on my life -- the day I became a mother through the birth of my son and the day he died.
I don't want his death day to be filled with sadness and sorrow, although I am sad. Time does not heal all wounds, it just covers them up and leaves scars. I am blessed to have been Jeremy's mom and to have had him in my life, if even for a short time. His sisters and I love him and miss him. We remember the good times and the bad. But mostly we just wish he was still here with us to share in our lives and living his own.
And so, today, I remember Jeremy's baby face when he was born, the joy of holding him and counting his fingers and toes for the first time, his baby smell and how he wouldn't go to sleep at night when he was a baby. I remember him fighting with his younger sisters and protecting them at the same time. I remember how he didn't like people to see him smile, so he hid it all the time. He was both a pain in the ass and a sweetheart.
Jeremy would have especially loved that Jaime married Mark. He would have loved his nephews and nieces. He would really love Dani's Misty and her family.
I would give everything I have to have my son back, but that will not happen. I used to listen for his footsteps coming up the sidewalk rush to answer the phone hoping he would be on the other end and search for his face in crowds. Now I see him in my dreams now and then.
Until we meet again the Summerlands, my beloved son...