My Son


(On October 8th, Andy died after a two year battle with a rare form of pancreatic cancer, leaving behind his beloved wife and four children, his sister and her sons, and Jim and me. This essay was first posted for family and friends on Facebook, but I wanted to share it with my readers now that I can finally take a deep breath. xo )

Today is the one month anniversary of my son’s death. So far, everything they say about grief is true. It definitely comes in cycles. Certain things are helpful, others not so much. I have a pile of sympathy cards that I’ve been stalling opening. It’s extremely helpful getting the cards so I’m not sure what my fear is. My sister is coming from Michigan tomorrow and she promised to help me go through them. I’ve heard from people I was close to at one time, but years and miles separated us. I’ve also received cards and gifts from new friends and friends I didn’t even know were friends. It has all been so helpful through this process. Thank you so much, all of you.

Today for some reason, I want to tell people that my son died. I want to say the words.

Andy died. My son, Andy.

Last night, we were watching The Handmaid’s Tale. Offred was giving birth, and boy, it was so realistic. The actress is amazing. It reminded me of Andy’s birth, forty nine years ago. He was my first born.

I was so young. Jim and I got married at age eighteen. The following year, through fear of the draft, he joined the Air Force. The recruiter said his chances of going to Vietnam were slim. Of course, that wasn’t true. He went.

Orders took us to California and once we were there, my goal was to get pregnant. I wonder what made me think I was mature enough to have a baby at that age.

Nowadays, there’s a chant telling young women they don’t have to have children. I never heard that I had to have a family when I was young. I just wanted my own home and family so badly. I couldn’t wait to be pregnant and have a baby!

I’ll never forget what it was like bringing my baby home from the hospital. The reality was shocking, the responsibility overwhelming. I couldn’t put him in a toy box when I was done playing with him. The baby would be there for the rest of my life. The neighborhood we lived in was just outside of the Air Force Base and less than ideal. I had a plan for me and baby Andy if our house was invaded in the night when Jim was at work. Parenthood meant a cycle of protecting and planning, protecting and planning. That didn’t end when the children became adults, either.

Then, when Andy was five months old, Jim got orders for Vietnam. It was just me and baby Andy. There is nothing good to relate about the nightmarish months Jim was gone. To this day I get a sick feeling inside, remembering how lost I was. I’m just glad we survived until Jim returned home.

Following that time were the happiest years of my life. I had my children up on pedestals. I was such a nerd growing up. Lol! I’m surprised to this day that Jim even looked my way. And to have two, beautiful, intelligent children! Wow. It was the first time in my life that I thought maybe I was okay. I was worthy. I’m smiling thinking of it. There’s nothing bad about it.

When other people would talk about how challenging it was raising teenagers, that wasn’t my experience at all. My kids were a riot. We had so much fun. Our house was the house where the kids congregated. There were some difficult times but we got through them.

As adults, both of them continued to make strides, have successes, deal with disappointments like everyone. We were still having a great time together. Andy’s wife, Sarah is my second daughter. She made a comfortable home for him and for us to enjoy.

Two years and some months ago, at the end of July, my daughter, Jennifer and her children were here in California staying at Andy and Sarah’s house. We were going to celebrate my grandson and Andy’s shared birthdays and a few days later, my little granddaughter’s. Erroneously diagnosed with hepatitis first, Andy didn’t feel wonderful but he was socializing and his usual happy self. Over the weekend, he got worse and took a trip to the emergency room. In a few hours, Andy got the cancer diagnosis that to this day I still can’t believe. I feel sick, like I’m just hearing it for the first time.

The past two years had been so hard in spite of a very early diagnosis. He had a short time of feeling better. I try to focus on those times. My little granddaughter is just six. She’s so wonderful. We were talking about losing her father and she asked me how I was doing. I said I just pretend he’s alive somewhere. She said, “Grandma, don’t do that. He’s dead. Just be sad.”

She has spoken. I’m not going to pretend. I know some of my acquaintances don’t want to hear about it any longer; if I say anything they change the subject. A well meaning friend said I would harm my granddaughter if I grieved a certain way. She was wrong. I have to grieve any way I can. Friends who have suffered a personal battle fighting cancer and those who have lost children have been a great support. It’s unfathomable, the loss.

So I’m going to continue saying it when I need to. My son died. It’s only been a month. We’re still living, working, moving forward. But we will never get over losing Andy.

57 thoughts on “My Son

  1. So sorry to hear of your Andy’s, death. Our son, Jeffrey, died 5 years ago. His daughter is now 8 and she’s so much like her dad. Please grief as you need too, not as others think you should. Find a local chapter of The Compassionate Friends…you need not walk alone. You will find support from other who “really get it”. Sending a hug to you.

  2. Suzzane I am so sorry to hear about your son. I am reading your post on my son’s 30th birthday and I cannot begin to imagine your pain. I just lost my mother to Alzheimer’s and liver disease. It has been very difficult but it doesn’t compare to losing a child. I don’t really know you but I want you to know that I look forward to your emails and many free books you have shared. I hope writing will help with your grieving process and knowing there are real people out here that feel for you. I will be praying for you and your family.
    Barbie ❤️

    • Barbie thank you so much. I’m so sorry about your mother. Grief is grief. It was awful when my parents died. I’m so sad about my son. I don’t want anyone to forget him, that’s my biggest fear. We both wake up first thing thinking of him and during the night it can be rough. It’s easier right now because my daughter is with her two boys from the east coast at my daughter in law’s house and all the six grandkids are together. Thank you so much for your kind words Barbie, they mean so much to me. xo

  3. So sorry to hear of your loss. People grieve in different ways; there’s no right or wrong way or how long it takes. You do what’s best for you and no matter what, Andy will always be with you in your heart. Thank you for reposting this for those of of you didn’t know.

  4. I am so sorry. Your friends and acquaintances may not want to hear about it any more but your granddaughter always will. It will help keep his memory alive for her.
    And you have given us so much during this difficult period. Readers need to remember that authors have lives.
    Please keep us updated on how you are doing. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

  5. I am so sorry for your loss.My husband died of lung and brain cancer 14 years ago and I had stage 3 ovarian cancer 5 years ago.It’s a journey no one such have to take.Prayers to your sons family and to your family.It did get easier,but the pain is still there.God Bless you and yours.

  6. You will never get over the loss of a relative you were super close to but you don’t need to. They will always be there just in a different way. I’ve missed my Mom for over 20 years and I just lost my sister almost a month ago but my life is so enriched from the memories and the things I learned from them that I know they will always be a part of me! The grieving is never really over but I live life and try to help others because of the extremely close relatives I’ve lost. God bless you and never stop sharing!

  7. I’m so sorry for your family’s loss of Andy. Thank you for sharing your grief. While there are no words to take away the pain know that others care. Take the time to grieve any way that feels right to you. Many may tell you how to grieve but you do it your way. There will come a time when your memories bring more smiles than pain. Hugs…

  8. So sorry for the loss of your son, but grieve your way, in your time. There are no set rules or timetables for grief. My husband passed March 27, 2019 after a 2 year battle with stage 4 oral cancer, as well as COPD. It gets a little easier day-to-day, but, so often I think “I need to tell Johnny about this” or I think I hear him in the other room. So far those are comforting instances, tho. Good thoughts and prayers for your peace and comfort.

  9. There are no words to ease your pain, only time can change the ache to bittersweet memories. When my dad died suddenly of a massive heart attack, just two weeks after Christmas, I thought my heart had seriously burst apart- it hurt so bad. It still does sometimes and he passed away nineteen years ago this holiday, but that’s okay. I think love is meant to make us feel; sometimes it’s wonderful, and other times it’s a deep empty hole in our chests. It ALL means we care, and that’s what counts.
    My peace comes from knowing one day I will see him again, and until then he’s probably fishing 🙂

  10. I have to answer when asked how many children I have “ three living”. My firstborn, my red haired daughter died at age 4 1/2 in1969. My last born son only took a few feeble breaths at 1lb. 5 oz. in 1978. But I never forget the love

  11. I am so sorry to hear about Andy. That type of cancer is so deadly. They do say when one soul leaves this earth another new soul arrives. I do believe this.
    You will never get over it. It will get better and you will move on. I believe that when the pain lessons, acceptance begins. I believe that Andy is now watching over you and your family. His pain is gone.
    Anyway you have our thoughts and prayers and keep writing those wonderful books.

    Jann Forrest

  12. Suzanne, I understand your loss and want you to know it is okay to grieve and not feel like yourself. I have been in your shoes by losing my 49 yr old daughter, my oldest child, seven years ago this month. Unexpectedly. Continue to surround yourself with close family and friends as they will support you in all the stages of grief you will go through. Continue to talk about your son and the joy he gave you. The sharing of your memories with his wife and children will keep his memory alive allow them share back with you. You will go through different stages of grieving and I do hope your support system are as loving to you as mine are to me, even to this day. God Bless You.

  13. It is wrong to ‘like’ this, so I won’t.

    I am so sorry for your loss. I’m told the pain never really goes away – you just get numb.You and your family are in my prayers.

  14. I’m so very sorry for your loss. Embrace the grief for now, but be open to the happy memories that will follow. He’ll live in your heart for always.

  15. I am so sorry for your loss. I know the words sound hollow, but I think by sharing your story, you have helped yourself and helped others. We should be able to talk about hard things if it helps. May your find comfort and peace

  16. Grief takes many forms and takes as long as it takes….your granddaughter is very wise….you are loved and supported, even by those misspeaking well meaning friends….my husband is six years gone, coming seven soon and I still miss him daily….

  17. I am so very, very sorry for your loss. I agree, grieve how you must. Your granddaughter sounds like a smart cookie too. Love, love, love your way for you and your family

  18. Suzanne, I feel your pain and loss, sadly we also lost our 43 year old son to Pancreatic Cancer in May 2017 after a grueling 10 month fight. It is so hard as a parent to loose a child at any age so grieve as you need to and don’t let people tell you any different. It will never go away but it will change with time.
    You are lucky to have his four beautiful children that you can continue to enjoy and although in one way they will be a constant reminder that he is no longer here I am sure that as time goes by they will be and are, a great comfort to you, your husband, daughter and daughter-in-law.
    Sadly our son did not children so it feels in some ways that he no longer exists anywhere except in our memories.
    One of the ways that has helped me with my grief was to make a photobook of his life for my eldest son and his children so that I know he will not be forgotten. Although I cried over every photograph and memory, and there are days when I still do, it was a great help at the time. Perhaps in time it is something you could do with your Grandchildren.

    I hope you do not feel that my post all about me, but I was just trying to give you the comfort of knowing that there are those of us who know some of how you are feeling.
    Sending love and hugs to you are your family.

    • Oh Lesley, I’m so sorry. I’m crying right now. I will definitely do the photo book. Andy went into the hospital the weekend before he died thinking they were going to “fix” something and he said to me, Mom, we’ll reminisce when I get home. On Monday he was home and told his wife he couldn’t understand why he wasn’t feeling better. He didn’t really get it until the end that he was dying. I long to reminisce! No one is doing well enough yet to go through the boxes of photos with me. Thank you again so much for writing. I’m so sad you had to go through this. xo

      • My dearest Suzanne, there are no words to express just how heartbroken I am for you. I wish there was a way to ease your deep sorrow. I know there isnt, a parent never stops grieving their child. It makes no difference their age. My sister says eventually your mind forces you to function even though it seems impossible. One day at a time, eventually it will become bearable she says. Let the tears fall. You will heal in your own way and in your own time. Speak of Andy with all the love, pride and sorrow in your heart. He deserves this special time of love and rememberence, as do you.

  19. Thank you for sharing this Suzanne. I can’t begin to imagine your pain but my heart still breaks for you. ❤️ Your friend Ann Campbell

  20. Thank you for sharing your story, sorry for your precious loss.
    I’m praying for you and your family.
    It takes a village to raise them and a village to grieve them also, so don’t forget others care.

  21. That was beautiful Suz. I’m so sad and sorry that Andy died. I just knew with every beat of my heart that you could not lose Andy. I feel like I lied to you and I’m sorry. To this day, I cannot say that Corey “died”, I can only say “lost”.

    How smart of Bekah to advise you to admit to the reality of the situation. Bekah’s concern for you is absolutely adoring.

    I think about you everyday, 100 times a day. Thank God we have our beautiful grandchildren and our wonderful memories.

    My heart goes out to you all. I’m so sorry you have to endure such a devastating loss.


    • Oh Cindy I’m so sorry you lost Corey. I remember when he was born. I remember you told me your wrecked your couch and they had to throw it to the curb. I’m crying and laughing right now and I rarely laugh anymore. One of the last things Andy said to me which is making me laugh was that he didn’t think he’d live to see Trump get impeached. I just don’t know how we are going to survive this but I see your beautiful life and you’ve managed to move forward somehow. How did you do it? I can focus on Jeni and the grandkids but right now it feels like it won’t be enough. I really wish I was dead. Love you Cindy. xo

  22. Such a powerful piece, Suzanne. As a writer, we have the gift of spilling it all out on the page, and in your case, quite beautifully. Thank you. No one else can tell you how to mourn or how long it should take. There will always be those who like to tell us it’s time to get over it or tell us that’s not productive to healing. It’s your grief. Go through it in your own way and in your own time. This essay is a tribute to your son and the grieving process. Thank you for sharing it.

  23. I am heartbroken for you. So very sorry. I lost my mother 5 yrs ago and the pain was unimaginable. Don’t want to think about losing a child, regardless of age.
    You are in my prayers. Praying for comfort, calmness, and strength to help your family.
    And much more.

  24. Suzanne,
    My heart is broken for you. The thought of managing what you and your family went through boggles my mind. My daughter was six when my husband passed away. The absolute honesty that comes out of their precious mouth humbles you.
    My sympathy to you and your family.

  25. Oh my gosh! I am so sorry for you! I cannot even begin to understand what you are going through. I lost my mother in March and it was so hard but to lose your child ( no matter how old they are) has to be some of the worst pain in the world. Feel free to send me an email whenever you want to talk about him. I know I always feel better when I can talk about my mom.

    • Oh Pam I’m so sorry. Losing our mothers is the worst. I know you are still mourning. I think of my mother everyday and she’s been gone for almost nine years. Thank you so much for writing me and for all your support over the years. xo

  26. I’m so sorry for y’all’s loss. Sending hugs and prayers y’all’s way. Take all the time you need and mourn anyway you want.

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