shooting stars

I have a final paper that I am working on, due TODAY, for my grief therapy class. So what better time to make a blog post, right?

We can call it procrastinating. We can call it a study break. We can call it thriving under pressure.

In discussing “signs” in my paper, or as Jung would call them, “synchronicities,” I found this piece that I wrote a year and a half ago. In addition to sharing some of it in my paper, I wanted to share it here.

From my writing dated 11/9/15.

Shooting Stars

Shooting stars are one of my “symbols” for Kade; perhaps my most prominent one up to this point. I know exactly the moment that it started.

Kade’s dad, Jon, was saying a few words at the memorial service he had for Kade in Buena Vista a week after the funeral in Highlands Ranch. His brother, David, a pastor, did most of the speaking but Jon wrapped it up. He said, “The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long.” I’ve since looked up that quote several times and it is attributed to Lao Tzu, considered to be the founder of Taoism.

It is so incredibly fitting for Kade. He lived this bright, vibrant life. He was loud. And bold. And adventurous. And did I mention loud? Nineteen years is a laughable age for a life as bright as Kade’s to be extinguished. It’s over? Already? It just started in so many ways! Are you f-ing kidding me? He was just beginning!


The quote Kade’s dad stated reminded me of the image of a shooting star. Everyone loves seeing shooting stars. They add excitement to your night. They’re special. You don’t see something like that every day. You look for them. You seek them out. The shooting stars in my life, as I rumble through the memory box of my mind, have been when I’ve been camping, or up in the mountains away from a town, or upper Michigan near my parents’ cabin on a lake. When the sky is extra dark on a summer night you just have to look up. And with a little stillness and patience, you’re treated to a celestial show. Shooting stars. Satellites. The Milky Way. Even the international space station one remarkably-timed night, in a remarkably lucky clearing in the trees.

Kade’s life is like a shooting star (I still have a hard time writing was). So brilliant, exciting, amazing. Hot, fiery, dangerous. Sometimes shooting stars look like they land in your back yard, when in fact they’re hundreds or thousands of miles away, and most don’t land at all, they disintegrate first.

Here’s probably my most significant shooting star story before Kade died. My cousins and I were out ice skating at my grandparents’ pond. I know this because I remember the heaviness, and cold metal blades against my coat, of the skates hanging around my neck. We were on the steps to go inside. My cousin, otherwise known as my partner in crime, Tonya, and I were the only ones to see a brilliant fireball streak across the sky. It was huge, and visible for what seemed to be a long stretch of time. It appeared to have landed in the field next to Grandma and Grandpa’s. We were dumbfounded—then scared at the possibilities that flooded our brains (was it a meteorite that just landed in the field? was it a bomb? was it an airplane crash? was it a UFO?)—then went screaming into the house. We made a real racket telling everyone what we’d seen. Of course our boy cousins didn’t believe us. But some of the adults must have sensed the truth in our voices and came out into the bitterly cold Michigan night and looked where we thought it must have landed, in the snow-dusted, broken-frozen-corn-stalk-scattered corn field.
Surely there must be a fiery piece of space rock laying in a crater, still smoking. Of course we never found it and I heard later on that it was seen, or even landed, in upper Michigan, so we were way off with our guess of the field next door. But we still talk about that huge white fireball we saw.

The most significant shooting star story I have after Kade died was driving to a Compassionate Friends meeting in winter 2014. After daylight saving time ended, the 6:30 p.m. drive was pitch black, and I cranked the music, taking advantage of being alone in the car. Even music Kade would have HATED can prompt tears. Even bouncy music with no Kade connection whatsoever, that I really like, can bring on tears. Music has that way of touching the soul.

Jimi Hendrix’ Purple Haze came on. I totally lost it because Kade had Hendrix on his playlist, and would have dug that particular song. Purple was his favorite color, he was a guitarist, and, well, it was Jimi Hendrix. Tears gave way to a screaming rant about his death in my car. Kade should be listening to Jimi Hendrix! Tears, and yelling. There really aren’t that many opportunities of solitude to let loose, and it was happening.

Then the direction on the highway I was heading, with the curves and the hills just right, enabled me to see a giant star lit up in the foothills. It quieted me. I pondered whether seeing it right then, at a painfully raw moment, was a sign from Kade, or God, and how I should take it. As I was wondering, and still crying (because a new song had come on prompting new tears), I turned onto Wadsworth and headed north.

Still ruminating on whether the lit-up star was a sign, and from whom, I SAW A REAL SHOOTING STAR, in perfect view through my windshield. That shut me up. OK, Kade, I saw it. I smiled. I laughed. I am so thick that it took two, not just one, stars for me to understand that Kade (or some power) was shooting a sign my way. He was OK. It was OK. It was going to be OK.

I’ve had a lot of star and shooting star signs thrown my way, at just the right times, where I am left smiling and thanking Kade.

Having a symbol or symbols for your deceased child can be an expensive endeavor. I’ve scoured my favorite clothing websites for items with stars. I have star shirts from Express, Loft, H & M, and probably more places I’m forgetting. I have homemade jewelry and home décor from Etsy, an artisan website. I’ve ordered a large, colorful, hanging paper star for Kade’s room. Some of the baby gifts I’ve bought for others have been star-themed. And of course, a shooting star is incorporated in my tattoo.

I stop people wearing stars. I make Brian drive me to the middle of nowhere to get away from the town lights whenever we’re in the mountains, and I stand outside, usually in the cold, and lean back over the hood of my car taking in the whole sky for shooting stars.

The shooting star pendant I wear, that contains some of Kade’s cremains, is one I had custom-designed to represent him, when the ones in the funeral home catalog did not do him justice. No thank you to the plain vial. Thank goodness my online search led me to Starseed Gems and Lynn, a bereaved mom who helps design the perfect, colorful, expressive piece. She told me that blue stars are the hottest, but burn out the soonest. Blue it was. She mixes the cremains with luminescent powder, so it faintly glows in the dark, and puts it in the colored resin, so Kade is in the gem. The StarSeed gem. All elements in our bodies come from stars. We are all stardust. I love the piece and wear it almost every day. It is the perfect perfect piece I was looking for, to wear close to my heart.

blogging a – z challenge – “z”


Z’s kind of a hard one.

Because his love of animals and trips to the zoo were such big parts of Kade’s childhood, my Z word is zoo. Not terribly creative, but it fits.

I have memories of taking my toddler to the zoo when we lived in Fort Collins, about an hour north of the Denver Zoo. Sometimes we would go with our friends, Mark and Tracy, and Kade’s pal Chloe. Sometimes with another family, Jay and Lucy, and Kade’s buddy Amber. And sometimes with my mom visiting from MI.

The Denver Zoo has special spots in addition to the animals: large metallic animal statues to climb on, an old frontier wagon to get up on and for photo ops, and a place to measure how far you can jump in relation to different animals, like a frog, a hare, and a kangaroo. It was bittersweet to revisit those spots with Asher.

This story is part of Kade Folklore, helped kept alive by my mom: Kade was a good mimic, and would call to the free-roaming peacocks. One time he made his peacock call as we made our way all the way through the parking lot to our car…with a peacock calling back at him, “answering” each call.

blogging a – z – “r”






These are the first R words that came to mind. Now to pick one…

Remembering might be too broad. Rambunctious or rascal, heh heh, those could be fun. I could write about his room that I fixed up after he died…and its new purpose I am contemplating. Since that’s timely, I’ll go with room.

After Kade died, his bedroom had started to become a catch-all for things we wanted out of sight. Empty boxes, seasonal clothes, things we didn’t quite have a place for. I HATED that.

I had always wanted to fix up Kade’s room in our new house with him. Have him pick out his furniture, wall color, and décor, go shopping together, and make his room really cool. Well, we never did that. Kade wasn’t residing at home at the precise time that we moved into this house, so I picked out his furniture set, myself. We didn’t paint his walls. We never had the shopping trip for cool accessories.

I had an urge to make it a nice room for him after he died. I painted a couple walls purple, color-matched to his favorite shirt, and a couple walls grey. The purple is actually called “Kade Purple” at our Ace Hardware. I spent many a day and night in there by myself, painting, with music…with him.

Now I have a warm place to display his things, and the items I’ve collected in his memory. It’s no longer a catch-all, and a real-estate-white-walled stark reminder that we never fixed up his room together. Honestly, it’s the best decorated room in the house.

I start graduate school on Monday, May 1st. I need a quiet place to study and write papers. I am thinking of pulling a desk into his room for that purpose. Being surrounded by his things, while I work toward my goal of becoming a grief counselor, a goal inspired by his life and death, might be the perfect study nook. And if it isn’t, I can always try another spot. But I think I’ll try it out.

Just what every young man wants to hear, I’m sure: Kade, make room, your mom’s movin’ in for a while!

blogging a – z challenge – “o”


Kade ate baby octopuses.

Did that get your attention? At one of our neighborhood grocery stores (the King Soopers on County Line and Holly–I didn’t see them at their other locations), were whole baby octopuses in the seafood case. For Kade, an irresistible sight to behold. I believe they were pickled and they were bright red. He always wanted one. I always got him one.

“I’ll have one baby octopus, please.”

“Mom, can I eat it right now, pleeeease?

I never had a desire to try one, myself; no thank you. I love sushi but pushed any octopus pieces that came across our table Kade’s direction. It’s a chewy, rubbery, texture thing. That Kade really enjoyed, evidently.

a – z blogging challenge – “j”


I had real trouble thinking of a J-word. I even sought out my in-house ABC consultant, Asher, on this one. His answer was an immediate, “Jingshanosaurus.” Duh. So I will tell a story about Kade’s love of dinosaurs linking with Asher’s.

I went on a mother/daughter trip to China with my mom, her friend, Ann, and her daughter, Mandy, in April of 2012. In a bookstore in Shanghai we found children’s books with the Mandarin word phonetically written in English. I had fun picking up a few of these books for one-and-a-half-year-old Asher and his buddies from our play group.

There was one, a dinosaur picture book, that didn’t have the English word, only the Mandarin word written out.

How would I ever know what these different dinosaurs were if their names weren’t written in English? I knew just the nineteen-year-old dinosaur expert to ask.

He enjoyed it. Kade liked putting his mark, literally, in fat black permanent marker in Asher’s dinosaur book. On each page, in Kade’s handwriting, is the English name for the corresponding dinosaur. He even displayed his dinosaur snobbery when he got to the drawing that wasn’t quite scientifically accurate. He said, “That’s not right! That’s a _____ head with a _____ body!,” and shook his head.

It was just one of those things that Kade knew and I didn’t question. Much the same as when a bird soaring overhead was not a golden eagle, but a red-tailed hawk because of the shape of the wings. Or was it the tail? I often wish I remembered all of his lessons.

blogging a – z – “h”



One of the first h-words that came to my mind concerning Kade was…ham.

Kade was nothing if not a ham. As a little kid he loved making his friends…and adults…laugh. As an older kid he loved to make his friends…and adults…laugh.

He was really good at imitating people. Back when Maroon 5 was first big I played their CD in my car all the time. (I just looked up that album. It released in 2002 so Kade would have been nine or ten). Kade had Adam Levine’s nasally high notes down perfectly. Evidently he had his bus driver down pretty well, too. His friends loved it.

One of Kade’s best friends, Patrick’s, mom used to say that Kade would host the Tonight Show one day. Speaking of Patrick’s mom, Kade did a pretty good impression of her heavy New York accent. Of course I wasn’t lucky enough to escape Kade’s impersonations. But somehow his impression of me wasn’t as funny…

Noises. He made a lot of crazy random noises. Here’s one. It’s not so much him being a ham, but has to do with imitating. Kade could whistle a particular bird call perfectly. I’m sure you’ve heard the bird. It goes something like, weeee-hoooo (does anyone know what bird that is?). They seem to be emerging for spring now because I’ve heard them a lot lately. When Kade was at Synergy he made people think there was a bird in the house. When he told me that it cracked me up.

Of course being a ham and his antics got him in heaps of trouble at school. More trouble than you can imagine. If only we could have channeled that haminess. I always strongly encouraged drama but he never wanted to pursue it.

I miss Kade’s humor, sarcasm, and laugh. I hope I never forget his laugh.

blogging a – z – “g”


Tonight I’m writing about games.

When Kade was at Synergy, a residential adolescent treatment center for close to a year, we got to visit him on Sundays. We could stay as long as we wanted during visiting time. So naturally we got there just about when it started and stayed until it was about over. We spent two or three straight hours with him.

We played games. We brought games from home, and played some of the well-worn games that were there. We played Scrabble, Scattegories, Balderdash, and Cranium. One of the times we played Scrabble he saved up his tiles for one long word. He kept trading them in until he got the word that emptied his tray, and left us in his Scrabble dust.


We played different card games. Evidently the kids played a lot of Hearts there because that was Kade’s game of choice. He was adept at shuffling the deck and put his flair into it.

We brought him lunch. Tokyo Joe’s, subs from a NY sub shop, and Noodles and Co. were favorites. I remember bringing tiny gourmet ice creams for us. I think Haagen Dazs brand single serves. I got so excited when I saw the little containers at the store, and that they had green tea-flavored. Kade used to like green tea mochi ice cream from Japanese restaurants. Brian got vanilla, Kade got green tea, and I either got green tea or coffee.

We all hated that he was at Synergy. It wasn’t a pleasant place. But perhaps it wasn’t bad in every way. We each looked forward to our visits. We appreciated the limited time we got to spend together.

Oh what I wouldn’t give for a game of Scrabble with that boy.

blogging a – z challenge – “f”


I explained the blogging A-Z Challenge, what a blog is in general, and my blog to my five-and-a-half-year-old in the simplest terms possible today. I asked him what my letter “f” word should be. He said, “fish.” So here goes.

Kade was a fisherman. His dad lived in a mountain town and there literally was a babbling brook in their back yard. When I’ve been up there I’ve seen lawn chairs set up creek-side. He was probably in his glory to be able to walk a few paces and go fishing all the weekends he spent up there.

My favorite fishing story of Kade is when he was ten or eleven and my step-dad (and I believe my brother) took him ice fishing in Michigan.

Have you ever seen a pike? They’re ug-ly. Long scary snout-looking head filled with sharp teeth. No wonder Kade wanted to catch one.

Here is how I remember it (I’m sure Marv and Andy have a better recollection because they were actually there):

Kade talked and talked about how he was going to catch a pike. Marv prepared him that you don’t always get any fish, much less the type you want to catch. But the glorious moment arrived, and Kade caught and reeled in…a pike! He hollered, “I caught a pike! I caught a pike!”

Later he casually sauntered around the other fishing holes to strike up conversation. He tried to look and sound nonchalant.

“Having any luck? I caught a pike.”

“I know. I heard.”

He helped Marv clean it (probably totally enamored with that process), Grandma fried it up, and we all had a little piece of Kade’s pike with breakfast.

who knew old navy was a house of horrors?

Written November 15, 2015

I went shopping two days ago with Asher. It seems I’m on a never-ending quest for everyday jeans, since that’s my wardrobe…every day. Dropping Asher off at kindergarten? Jeans. Nannying? Jeans. Coffee with a friend? Errands? Writer’s group? Jeans jeans jeans. We were waiting for work to be finished on our car so we basically killed time running errands in the loaner, not wanting to go all the way home when we’d be called back any time. We went to Krispy Kreme for a special mid-afternoon treat. And then to Old Navy in hopes that the roof would hinge open, and a ray from the heavens would shine onto my perfect jeans that fit like a comfortable glove.

The jeans shopping went fine. There was a decent sale and selection, and I settled on a pair I like. Not heavens-parting-perfect, but good enough. Asher was reasonably cooperative to allow me to get my necessary item picked out and even tried on, so after that chore we had time to browse around the store.

Brian’s latest quest is casual-dressy shirts (is that a thing?) that he can wear out. Out for a date night, out to dinner with friends, out to a friends’ house, maybe even suitable for work. But being in the men’s section was also loaded. Loaded to the brim with memories of picking up things for Kade. Though I hadn’t been to Old Navy all that recently, it’s been a favorite place of mine in all his years of growing up.

We strolled our cart past boxers, socks, PJ bottoms, t-shirts. The basics, as well as the more fun stuff: shirts, flannels (twist a dagger in my heart, they had nice prints of soft and bright flannels! I would have totally looked for his size: Large, XL, or XXL, depending on which magnitude of over-sized he was in to at the time).

I was hit with an almost primitive urge to know what he needed and stock him up. Instantaneously I got a jolt of: Oh my gosh, why has it been so long since I’ve bought these necessities for Kade?! I need to find out what he’s low on! I wanted to call him. “Kade, there’s a great sale at Old Navy. Can you use any shirts? Flannels, or those thermal ones with a few buttons at the top? They have some nice colors right now. How are you doing on socks? Could you use a hoodie? Do you have something warm to wear outside?”

It was an old familiar maternal feeling being triggered that logic didn’t seem to turn off. Being sure he had enough. Socks? Boxers? T-shirts? I felt it. I knew he was gone, and had no need for clothing, and still I felt it. My brain kept going back to it. What does he need? What is he low on?

I could not cry and let loose in Old Navy, so I plastered on a smile, or at least a shopping face. I even played a short game of fast-walking tag because Asher asked me to, he’d been shopping for a long time, and no one else was in that section. But I was feeling sad, so sad. So tangibly, soft flannel, teal-blue thermal crew neck with flecks that would bring out his brown eyes, sad.

No, I couldn’t let loose and cry then, but I am now. Why some things are such triggers and others are not, I can’t figure out. Why some memories are so sensitive and others are not, is a mystery. I now feel less selfish about the clothes that I buy for myself vs. Brian, though. I didn’t put words or logic to it before, but the men’s section is a sad, longing place for me to be. Two days ago it was beyond a wistful place. It was a maternal, primal, compulsion-to-provide-for-my-son place. I knew he didn’t need the clothes, but the hard-wired memories of clothing him all of his life haven’t died. (What’s a word between memory and feeling? More than a memory, and entering into the realm of an emotional, and even physical, feeling. We need to find a word for that.)

Queue the angry part: I swear, I get sick of mourning every last piece of my life with Kade. It’s not a one-time thing. It’s a life-time thing, reliving each tiny piece as it presents itself. They all get re-examined, one by one, as I live my life: each bit that made up the mosaic of our lives together.

shooting star mosaic

Queue the questioning part: The men’s department was another part of that mosaic. Will it ever be done? Will the last piece, one day be placed, and mosaic be finished? I doubt it, because then another will disclose itself in a slightly different way. Two days ago it was boxers and socks at Old Navy. Maybe another day it will be skate shoes at BC Surf and Sport. I sure get tired of the mourning and the remembering and even the honoring.

Queue the wishing part: I wish a trip to Old Navy could be a simple matter of stocking stuffing (Yay, penguin boxers!), or checking boxes off my Christmas list (Gee, Mom, thanks for my thousandth flannel!).


Kade’s 999th flannel

true halloween confessions

I can’t believe I’m sitting here about to post to my blog, after more than three months since my last posting, during NaNoWriMo. That’s National Novel Writing Month. I have pledged to write around 1,667 words per day (about four pages) throughout November. I’m not writing a novel, or story, but working on my Kade writing. Will it be a Kade memoir? Will it be a Jenny memoir? Will it be something else? That remains to be seen. I’m sitting down and doing the writing (the most important part I’m told) and hoping it will reveal itself.

I’m actually meeting my daily goals. Perhaps the idea of posting to my blog during NaNoWriMo is not so outlandish after all, as I’m already doing the writing. Here’s a piece from today, fitting for the Halloween season:

True Halloween Confessions

I’m afraid to delve into writing about the topic of Halloween, as I am about a lot of topics. I think I’m afraid I won’t be able to remember all the Halloweens past. What he dressed up as, at what age. That I won’t be able to summon all the memories. A good mom should be able to bring them to mind, right?

I’m also afraid of the pain. Which is why I haven’t written yet about the day Kade died. Writing about the day he was born conjured tears. The hopes, the dreams, the promises of protection, the absolute falling in love. The ignorance that he would only live to be a teenager. That each day was a ticking clock, and I didn’t know.

Alongside the pain, I’m afraid of the remorse. That I didn’t do more. That we didn’t do more fun activities. That I was a busy single mom. That I missed out. (But if I missed out, who really missed out?) “You want to go trick-or-treating with Grant? Sure, have fun!”

Now that I identified some of my fears and vulnerabilities around writing about Halloween, I’ll dive right in with probably the biggest of my True Halloween Confessions.

I grounded Kade from trick-or-treating WITH HIS BEST FRIEND, BEAU. I could just sink into a hole right now thinking of that most harsh repercussion.

Kade and Beau were…active…at their after-school daycare called Adventure Club. Oh boy, please take this as a lesson not to threaten a consequence that you might have a real problem following through with.

Halloween fell on a school night. Kade had had some trouble at Adventure Club that week. I can barely get my fingers to type the letters to formulate the words: I told him that if he misbehaved that afternoon, he would not be able to go trick-or-treating with Beau that night (I’m sorry Kade, I’m sorry Kade, I’m sorry Kade). I remember approaching the director and hoping with all my might that she had a good report for me.

Nope. There were some poor choices made, I don’t remember what they were, but I do remember that they were topped off with the boys belligerently telling staff, “You can’t tell us what to do. We’re trick-or-treating together no matter what we do here. You can’t do anything about it,” or something along those lines.

I seriously felt like I had no choice. Though it broke my heart (and his—the tears!), I felt that to be a good mom I had to be consistent. I had to follow through. It was awful. I remember the phone call to Beau’s mom. I remember feeling horrible to disappoint not only Kade but his friend.

He and I trick-or-treated at Cherry Hills Church. We tried to make the best of it, but when I look at pictures of Blue Ninja Kade sitting alone on the haystack, I feel nauseous. Those chubby cheeks. Those big light-brown eyes, behind which, the idea of holidays, trick-or-treating, candy, and best friends meant more than we hardened adults cared to understand.

The straight smile of Kade’s senior picture hanging across the kitchen table from me doesn’t look like he’s holding it against me. I only wish he was here, paying me a visit this afternoon, maybe to ransack our post-Halloween candy abundance, so I could say I’m sorry in person. So he could give me a hard time and tell me how emotionally scarred he and Beau remain to this day. And then play-punch me with a silly self-conscious sound effect to show me I was ridiculous for feeling sad about it after all these years. Kade, it’s Halloween-time. Asher is watching a Casper movie for goodness sake. Can’t you at least come and haunt me or something?





Halloween in Ft. Collins with his friend, Amber. I think he was four years old.