I was having a “good” day today. Work in the morning, lunch with Nick, a little nap. When dinner was in the oven I headed out to mow the lawn, rushing out the door so I could have most of the lawn done before my husband came home for dinner. While starting the push mower, I remembered my daughter telling me when she’d called me on the 4th of July that I should move down south where it’s warm because “you’re a different person when you’re working outside, Mom”. I’ve always loved to work outside, so I knew she was comparing the me of this summer with the me of last summer….right after Ben died when I couldn’t and didn’t do much of anything. I know it gives her comfort to see me functioning. Doing. So, I was a bit upbeat and energetic as I started to mow the lawn, thinking “Gina’s right. This feels good.”

I did several passes in my front yard and then I saw it. A dead bird on the pathway next to the garage. I was instantly taken back to the “orange circle” I had seen painted on that lonely road in Kansas where Ben had taken his last breath. Like that bird. Was this a mama bird? Or her son? Do birds grieve? Was a mama missing her baby as much as I’m missing Ben? I avoided looking at the bird again. I couldn’t look at it. But I knew it was there. Like my grief. There. It never leaves me. With me every second. I mowed around the flower garden I had put in last summer…..Ben’s Garden….the spot where I was standing when the words “love you” and “love you too” were last spoken between Ben and me as we ended our phone conversation less than 24 hours before he died. Sacred ground.

I got on the riding mower to mow the field behind our house. And that bird made me see it all back there in my backyard. Me putting Ben’s 5-month old butt on our ground for the first time ever…in the early spring with our elderly neighbor telling me, “Don’t put him down. The ground’s too cold.” The fire pit and bonfires and  marshmallows on sticks. Ben and his teenage friends ending their “party”–running out of the woods when Mom and Dad came home unexpectedly. 2-year old Ben in our swimming pool with his daddy.  Endless summer days playing in the sandbox and swimming in the pool with friends. The holes in the tree used for target practice. That rusty 55-gallon drum that Ben and his buddy Matt had to “get off” someone’s property so they put it in our woods, promising they would remove it. The barrel is still here. Ben is not. The two new huge flower pots that Ben helped me fill with dirt. Ben laying in the grass by the back deck sleeping. My husband and me building the wooden play set for the boys when Ben was about 7. Torture, torture, torture every which way I turned the lawn mower. Snapshots of 27 years with Ben. Sobbing and talking to myself out loud. Mopping my tears with my t-shirt. Thinking I can’t do this. I can’t do this any more. I hate it. I want to die! I hate being sad. I hate knowing I’m going to be sad every day for the rest of my life. Varying degrees, I know, as time goes on, but every day. Sad every day for the rest of my life! Why Ben? I shut off the lawn mower thinking, “People are crazy if they can’t see that I’m crazy. I’m a crazy mother.” I went into the house and got my dinner out of the oven and set our table.

The dead bird did it today.  That’s all it took….a dead bird trigger.




  1. We are moving into a new house and last night while at the old house packing some odds and ends, I found a birthday banner that we had hung for Richie’s 14th birthday. I just froze. Holding this Kung Fu Panda banner that we had bought as a joke. I knew it was silly to hold onto but I couldn’t throw it away. I just held it staring blankly. Jeff knew I hit a trigger. He folded it put in a box and we left. I cried all the way to the new home and all night. I have hit trigger central with this move. Memories are wonderful to have but haunting at times. I pray for you to find some peace in your triggers.

    1. I can only imagine how difficult it is to move from your house, have an item jump out at you unexpectedly and have it flip that trigger. I have difficulty with an occasional picture or something that Ben wrote that I find in a drawer. Bittersweet for you , I’m guessing. I am so sorry for your loss.

  2. Nope. It’s not easy…the triggers get farther removed as one walks farther along this path, but they never quit popping up at times, I have found. We learn to be aware of the times when we know there will be triggers – holidays, birthdays, death anniversaries – but there are still those unexpected triggers that hit us right in the heart.

    1. Thank you, Rebecca, for your insight, as always. Writing is becoming so therapeutic for me even though I usually tend to ramble on, unable to make my thoughts cohesive. I’m realizing how important it is for me to connect with other mothers who are suffering, as I regularly feel as though I live on a different planet than most of the people around me. I am in awe of the ability of others to share their stories, you included, and find I do connect with you and many others in your pain as I read your blogs. I then feel less alone. Thank you.

  3. Indeed, it is an awful “knowing”…and anything can set of the grief that is already there as if it were new again. You will find that inch by inch, moment by moment,,,it will be possible to get back into “ordinary” but nothing will be back to “what used to be” or “what could have been” ….our whole way of thinking and being has changed.

    I am an outdoor person who loves to garden and mow and make things nice out in our yard. Your post has brought back so many memories of how my son would help me. I find that some times being on the mower, my mind thinks too much. Sad. Happy. Everything in between.

    You have so many memories of Ben where you are. It is a bittersweetness that can hardly be explained to others who have not lost a precious being from their lives.

    God be with you as you try to adapt to a life that is so much different now, yet the same…a paradox of life ..sort of.

    1. Dale, I’ve not been able to get your last line out of my head today…..”so much different now, yet the same……” Life without our sons….I still can’t put my head around how I am to live without Ben. I am so, so sorry for your loss as you are forced to learn to live a different life without Brandon.

  4. I hate it too.. I understand. I recently walked into a store and the manikin was wearing a gym outfit similar to one Amy wore. And before I knew it the room was spinning and I was weeping and I bolted out the door. I was trying to be ordinary that day … I am so sorry for your loss. Truly sorry.

    1. “Trying to be ordinary…” If people only knew what it takes for us to give a semblance of ordinary as we face triggers in places we never gave a second thought to before. They are everywhere for me. I am so sorry for your loss of Amy. I wish I had more adequate words to convey that to you.

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