In honor of our sons
My name is Leyla Nickerson – I am the mother of two sons – Nathan and Devon Burgess. I grew up on the Lower Cape and raised my children there. There were many times when life was difficult – hectic, stressful and overwhelming. Like most parents, however, my primary focus and joy of my life were my children. Both of my boys grew up to be outstanding young men and I am immensely proud of them.
Around the time of my 50th birthday I met the love of my life.
For the first time in such a long time, I actually felt joyful. This was a most incredible time of my life – everything seemed so wonderful. Jeff and I started living together and about a year later we bought a house in W. Barnstable. It was with great joy that we worked together to make some renovations to the house along with my son, Devon and his girlfriend. I can honestly say, this was one of the happiest times of my life.
At 3:00 a.m on May 2, 2010, the day I lost my beloved Devon at 27 years old, my world shattered. Devon was a bright light, an adventurer, and a funny, loving, spiritual young man. He was the heart of our family and I miss him every single day.
I was frozen, unable to think at all. Sometimes I would sit for hours just staring into space – I truly was disassociated from myself and everyone around me. For the first time in my life I truly wanted to die – I wanted to be wherever my son was – that was all I could think about.
The thought of continuing my life after losing my son was unimaginable. Everything in my world was painful – the sunshine and blue sky on a beautiful spring day, the change of seasons, the sound of laughter, all felt empty, cold and dark. I walked the beach in Eastham almost every day near where we spread his ashes, just trying to feel his presence in my heart, searching for answers to how and why this happened to us.
Somehow, my husband, my therapist and some very close friends, held onto me and kept me from slipping away into the bottomless deep pit where I wanted to go. The place of total despair that was the only thing that felt right to me.
After many months, I realized that there were people in my life who loved me and didn’t want me to go away. Slowly, I started to spend more time in the world with my family – my loving husband, my son, Nathan and his 4 beautiful children. When I was with the kids, my sadness diminshed. To give up would be to begrudge my son’s life and that was not going to happen.
About a year after Devon died, I met another mom whose son had died in a similar circumstance. We started to spend some time together and we helped each other a great deal. This relationship led me to meet many other mothers who had lost their children. Our deep connection and our capacity to help one another is truly amazing. The strength of these women has been a lifeline. It is this human connection that has helped me live each day and has brought me to realize much about life.
I have come to understand the impermanence of life and to truly know that each day is so precious. I have a much deeper understanding of people’s suffering and my capacity for compassion has developed so much.
Because I have had the benefit of sharing time with other bereaved mothers, my goal is to bring this kinship to all mothers who have lost a child. There is nothing more powerful than being with a person who truly understands the depth of our suffering and can offer hope that we really can find beauty and joy in our lives again.
I will probably never make sense of the loss of my son and some days I am still in shock that this happened, but I do know that because of the people who stood beside me, I will continue to live and find joy in my life. I certainly did not choose this journey, but I am forever grateful that I do not have to walk it alone.
My name is Lori Famigliette. I came to live on this "little slice of heaven," better known as Cape Cod in 1989 along with my husband Gary, and our three young sons, Wes, Nick, and Garrett. We left behind a life of familiar places, steadfast childhood friendships, the comfort and closeness of our extended families, financial security, and the general ease and contentment found in the small hometown we both grew up in. A new chapter in our lives that we looked to with excitement and a bit of angst. We settled in nicely and got busy living life.....a new job for Gary, new schools for the boys, a new house to decorate, new friendships to make, and new vistas to explore. It was a good move for us. The slower pace, the friendly and welcoming people, the abundance of beauty and opportunity found in the various land and sea scapes, and the overall "feel" of the Cape helped to nurture and quickly fill us with a sense of belonging and home. It was all good.....made even better by the addition of our daughter Francesca a few years later. We worked and played hard at creating a welcoming home filled with love, laughter, security, purpose, and strong roots in this special place. For many years we succeeded in just that. Not perfectly mind you, but perfect for us.
That all changed February 12, 2006. Our treasured, beautiful, oldest son Wes was tragically taken from us in a car accident at 24, right here on Cape Cod. In a single moment my life and that of my families completely changed. Nothing would ever be the same. Instantly we were all thrown into the unimaginable depths of darkness and despair. For me the world seemed to cease to exist and certainly didn't make sense anymore. How could I possibly survive.....let alone figure out a way to be a wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend to all who still had expectations of the "old me."
Driven by my sons "indomitable spirit," my faith, and my promise to Wes that I would never give up, I knew that in order to survive and honor his life I had to find a way to LIVE. In the crazy, confusing, mess that grief is, the road back to "some kind of life" is so very difficult. Cluttered with road-blocks (some self-imposed,) deep, dark, ravines, exhausting up-hill climbs, and the ever present uncertainty of "which way to go." There is no GPS for grief. Through lots of hard work.....grief groups, one on one therapy, journaling, gardening, prayer, lots of walking, and sharing this journey with the many bereaved Moms who have crossed my path, I am continuing to evolve and find my way in this "new normal" life. Something I read early on in my grief resonated so clearly for me and truly expresses how I want to live this life. "Whenever someone experiences a major loss, they begin a journey, but it can lead to different destinations. Grief can be a journey to greater brokenness or greater wholeness. I continue to choose greater wholeness, the difficult path, but the only one for me. A way to honor my son, my family, my faith, and all the grieving Moms I have come to know since losing Wes. These Moms have been invaluable in my healing and renewal of spirit. By far the most courageous, amazing women I am privileged to share our collective sufferings, struggles, and yes, even joys with. They inspire me with their willingness to walk with me and others, holding me up and staying the course no matter what should come my way. True friends....."Soul Sista's."
And so the journey continues..... "Once you begin to heal, to hold that "power" you must turn and give it to others. Teach them what you have learned." (Mal Duane) What have I learned? I have learned what Hope looks like. It is an outstretched hand, a warm welcoming heart, an engaged listening ear, a deep understanding, a much needed hug when there are no words, and the ever present kinship found in the company of another bereaved Mom. That is what Hope looks like to me.....providing courage and strength to live with intention after the loss of our beloved children.
Life is possible.....evident in me, Wes's Mom.
You need not walk alone.