This past Monday, September 11th, our nation observed the events of the hideous attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001 in our country. Memorial services were being held at the different sites of the attacks. The families and friends who lost loved ones gathered to honor those who were killed on that horrendous day. Each year, the family members stand and read the names of the loved ones that they have lost. Media coverage was on and off at the ceremonies. The media would focus in on the moments of silence and would listen in on some of the names that were read. Each year, the friends and families of those who were killed say or listen for their loved ones name. This is an important part of the memorial service each year. Much of our nation pauses for the moments of silence. Some people do take the time to listen to the reading of 2753 names that are read at the twin towers memorial site. However, each name that is read is important to their family and friends. Each name that is read symbolizes a precious life that was stolen from those left behind.
It is unbelievable to think that out of the 2753 who were killed at the site of the twin towers that only 60% of families have had remains to bury of their loved ones. For 40% of the families, the memorial site where the twin towers stood is the burial site of their family member and/or friend. They gather each year on the anniversary of the death of their loved one to honor those who were taken from us. They say and/or listen for their loved ones name. Their loved ones name is inscribed on the wall that surrounds the memorial. When someone who we love has died, then remembering them and honoring them is so important to those of us who have been left behind. Saying their name and seeing their name are such important parts of healing for the grievers. This helps those who are hurting to see that others recognize the value of their life and how much they meant to each one that their life touched. Saying their name, hearing their name, and being able to talk about the loved one who has died is such an important part of grieving and in continuing to live for those who are in pain.
Recently, I was heading home and was driving through the downtown area of our hometown. The car in front of me immediately caught my attention. I did not recognize the vehicle but I immediately recognized the sticker in the back window. It was a heart sticker with my son’s name and number, “PK 34.” Tears immediately filled my eyes. My thoughts were filled with thank yous to this person who was driving this vehicle. I was not sure of who it was, but what I was sure of was that they had just touched my heart in ways that they would not understand. I kept thinking, “Thank you for remembering my son. Thank you for remembering that he lived. Thank you for displaying his name and showing that his life meant something to you.” What a gift that they had given to my heart as I miss my son so incredibly much.
On Friday night, I was selling tickets for the quilt raffle before the football game. Each year, my incredible mom and several friends make a quilt that is made of our school’s team’s tee shirts, and the quilt is raffled off at the end of basketball season. After my son was tragically killed at the age of 18, people in our community set up two scholarship funds. One fund is at the high school administrative office and one is at the bank. After the first year that my son had been killed then there was enough money to give three $1000 scholarships to three of our seniors. The next year I needed to fund the scholarships myself; however, as a single mom with daughters approaching college age then I asked our family members to help fund the scholarships in the coming years. My mom had this wonderful idea of making this memorial quilt. I know in my heart that it is a labor of love from her heart for her oldest and first grandchild. PK was my parents’ first grandchild. They have mourned his loss deeply, and they miss him very much. Creating this quilt each year is something that my mom does to honor her grandson who died four years ago when he was only 18. This also helps me to be able to continue to fund part of the scholarships. We have continued to give out 3 annual $1000 scholarships in his name.
When I stand before each group of seniors and am able to present these scholarships in loving memory of my son then my heart is touched in ways that I don’t know how to describe. For me, to be able to give these scholarships in PK’s name and memory are tributes to his life. His life was cut way too short. His life ended at the age of 18 four years ago. His life did not present him the opportunity to be a senior or to go to college. Therefore, the fact that so far, we have been able to give $12,000 worth of scholarships in his name means the world to my heart. Each year as I read his name to give out athletic awards and these scholarships, my heart shouts, Yes, PK lived! Yes, his life meant something! Yes, his life made a difference. Just as it means so much to each family member of the victims of the twin towers horrendous attacks, for me to hear and say my son’s name means more than words are adequately able to describe.
Each night before the games when I sell tickets then I try to always bring some of my “No excuses No regrets. PK 34” bracelets to give away. I love watching the kids. They will walk by the table and eye the bracelets. I make sure that I loudly say “The bracelets are free”. The kids return with big smiles. “Is it ok if I take one?” they often ask with a grin. I tell them of course and return the smiles right back. Often, they will come back with friends and will show their friends that they can also have a free bracelet. I love each time I see someone wearing one of these bracelets that has my son’s name on it. It fills my heart with thankfulness as I smile and think “Thank you for remembering my son. Thank you for showing that his life meant something.”
On Friday night before the game then I had the blessing of experiencing something that happens every once in awhile. A young elementary school age boy approached me to get a bracelet. He was looking at it and saw my son’s name on it. He looked at me with wide eyes, “Did you know PK?” he asked. “Yes. I am PK’s mom.” I stated. He looked at me with such an incredulous expression. “Wow,” he said. I smiled at him. I could tell that at this point he was trying to figure out what he wanted to say. As I often do, then I tried to help him as he searched for words. I said to him, “I think it is really special that you want to wear a bracelet with my son’s name on it. I hope you live with no excuses and no regrets.” As he walked away, I smiled with my teary eyes. This young boy does not understand the gift that he just gave to this grieving mom. A priceless gift. He had heard about my son. He was impressed that I was PK’s mom. Moments like this mean so much to someone who is grieving. Moments like this mean so much to this mom who misses her son with every part of me. This past Friday night, I actually had the privilege of having this experience occurring twice.
At one point on Friday night when I was sitting there, Brooklyne came to talk to me and to get a new bracelet. Every time I see this sweet junior high girl then I am thankful. Brooklyne is a beautiful young lady who exudes sweetness. Her older brother, Austin, was one of PK’s good buddies in elementary school and they were on the same traveling baseball teams together. Brooklyne knew her big brother’s buddy PK and always said his name as pancake when she was little. PK and I would giggle every time little Brooklyne would smile at him and say hi pancake. Every time I see Brooklyne she gives me a sweet smile and says something to show she cares. I know Brooklyne remembers my son and was another person who was touched by his short life.
Each of these experiences helps a grieving person. A grieving person desperately misses those who have died. A grieving person is touched to hear of how their loved one touched and affected others’ lives. Anytime you share those experiences and memories, then you are giving a grieving person a priceless gift. I encourage each of you to continue telling PK and Kirk stories to my girls and I. Since my husband Kirk died 6 years ago then the girls and I spend a lot of time talking about their dad. They want to know as much as they can about him. They long to have their daddy still in their lives. It is so good for our hearts to hear their names.
Often when we are around someone who has been grieving then we are worried that we might upset them if we bring up the name or memories of the loved one that has died. We think that we may upset them or remind them that person has died. However as one of my favorite quotes by an unknown author states,
“If you know someone who has lost a very important person in their life and you’re afraid to mention them because you think you may make them sad by reminding them that they died- you’re not reminding them, they didn’t forget that they died. What you’re reminding them of is that you remembered that they lived. And that is a great, great gift.” Author UnKnown
This is such a true picture of grief. So often people worry about what to say. People worry about saying the name of the one who has died thinking that they will upset those who are grieving. Those who are grieving are already in pain. However, each time that you show them that you remember that their loved one lived and that their life meant something to you, then you are giving them a priceless gift. If you have people in your life that are grieving then please keep giving them this gift. Keep showing them that you remember their loved one who died and that their life meant so much and truly touched yours.
To each sweet person in my life who continues to show me the impact that my son’s and my husband’s life had means more to my heart then I can ever express. Thank you with all of my heart.