It takes a village to survive loss of a child. Unfortunately, I know. Dylan, my son, my only child, the light of my life, died in a car accident at the gate of his apartment complex on May 22, 2006. Dylan is forever 19 years old. My life became two parts – before May 22, 2006, and after May 22, 2006. I can’t even think about the actual day. I also can’t believe that it has been five years, and this is Village #5.
The year began with tubing on the Guadalupe River in New Braunfels on May 22, 2010. This is the third trip to celebrate Dylan’s life. Anyone who knew Dylan knows he would rather have us do something fun to remember him – instead of being sad. We rented a house for two nights again, but this house was on the Guadalupe River so we could sit in the river or by the river whenever we wanted. Eleven of us tubed – Dylan’s friends and my friends. I have to say the water was the roughest this year. Pam had fixed muffaletta sandwiches for us, and at Nancy’s request, Pam made some kind of trash mix (not really trash) that was a big hit last year. We had the food in the ice chest for about two minutes. We went over the first waterfall, and the food was gone, and so was Pam. Pam didn’t drown, but she got out of the river and swore she would never tube again. The water was so rough we couldn’t stay together like we had the previous two years. One of our tubers lost two false teeth in the river, and the rest of us got banged up. I’m sure Dylan was laughing at us the entire day.
This year we wore Dylan Day tee-shirts. Nancy’s nephew goes to Westlake High School, so he got us the shirts. The shirts were really made for Dylan Day (Bob Dylan) at the high school, but it’s spelled like Dylan so what the hell. The quote on the back of the shirt says “I’ll let you in my dreams if I can be in yours.” The shirts were great!
Four other For the Love of Christi (FLOC) friends came to eat with us that night. We enjoyed a lot of good food, good drinks, and good memories of Dylan. Dylan’s first real girlfriend, Joannah, was on the trip and she shared some Dylan memories that I hadn’t heard. Before leaving New Braunfels, Nancy, Deana, and I went to eat at the Gristmill. We all had chicken fried steak for Dylan. And his vegetable of choice – French fried potatoes or mashed potatoes.
Elizabeth, a friend from FLOC, had a dream about Dylan. In the dream, she was planning a camping trip with me, Deana, and Dylan. She said we were talking about the food we were going to eat, and she said Dylan was laughing and smiling and was so excited about the camping trip. Elizabeth has never met Dylan, and only knows about him from FLOC. The day she told me about the dream, I had on my Dylan Day tee-shirt. I turned around and showed her the back – “I’ll let you in my dreams if I can be in yours.” We were both crying by the time she finished telling me about her dream.
On my birthday, the Young Life kids left for camp. Dylan’s fund sent two boys from Burnet, Texas. I know one of them, Joe. He’s the first person that I know personally that has gone to camp using Dylan’s fund. It was emotional being at the bus watching all of the kids being dropped off by their parents – remembering the two times that I had taken Dylan to catch the bus to Young Life camp. It was also hot as hell that day! Joe called me the day he returned from camp and told me what an awesome and meaningful time he and Richard had at camp. Joe and Richard, and all of the Young Life staff, know that Dylan’s fund sent them to camp, so Dylan is still touching lives.
My good friends from Chicago, Diane and Steve, came to New Braunfels to see their daughter Hilary. I stayed with them for three days and three nights, and we had a great time. Diane has been my good friend for as long as I can remember – I think I was in the third grade and she was in the second grade when we became good friends. My Dad and her Mom were PTA officers at Cherokee Park Elementary School. We went through elementary, junior high, high school, and college together, our marriages, the birth of Dylan and her five children, and my divorce. But more important, we have been through deaths together – my mother, her mother, Dylan, and my dad. After being in New Braunfels with them, I know Diane’s memory is a hell of a lot better than mine – she remembered things I had totally forgotten about.
I met my cousins Bonnie and Brooke at David’s condo in Blue Mountain, Florida. It was my first trip to his condo and I hope it won’t be the last. The condo is beautiful, right on the beach, overlooking the beach and the swimming pool. There’s nothing as relaxing as sitting on those white beaches and watching the waves come in! When I was trying to catch fish by hand, they figured out my blood sugar was low and got me to shore. It was truly a wonderful time and David was an excellent host. I was introduced to a new drink – the Drunk Pineapple.
The biggest thing that happened this year was that I had total knee replacement on both of my knees in November. I was in the hospital for four days and in a rehabilitation facility for 13 days. I must have been crazy, plum out of my mind because I thought I was going to read books and write in my journal. You would not believe how many books I took – and I didn’t even open one. The surgery was more painful and much harder than I imagined it would be! In four hours I went from being totally independent to being hooked to five machines and incapable of doing anything myself. All five machines had to be plugged in to an electrical outlet – I felt like a stereo system! Since I was given the Carter Cocktail during surgery, my legs were numb and I wasn’t in pain when I woke up. But when the cocktail wore off, the pain began. My friend Billie drove me to the hospital at 4:30 am the morning of surgery, and visited me in the hospital many times. She also visited Dewey and Dutchess at home many times. My friend Joanne was also at the hospital the day of my surgery, although she had to leave before the surgery was over. My neighbor Michelle, who told me about Dr. Carter’s surgical skills, is a nurse in the operating room. She was in the operating room for my surgery, and she gave Billie and Joanne reports during the surgery. In her spare time, she re-circulated blood that I lost during the operation back into my body. Thank goodness Billie was there when the surgery was over and Dr. Carter called for the McDonald family. It would have been awful if no one was there for notification that I survived.
After I was released from the rehabilitation hospital, I went to physical therapy three times a week until the middle of March. Many friends visited me, drove me to physical therapy, and brought me food (and drinks) in the hospital and at home. The village came through again!
I cried more during my recovery than I have since Dylan died. I think it’s because that’s the first time I was forced to stop and be still since Dylan died, and I couldn’t run from his loss any longer. Dutchess and Dewey were my constant companions while I was home recovering. A new friend, Sandi, cared for them while I was in the hospital and rehabilitation, and continued to walk them until March. Dutchess and Dewey love Sandi, and I will be forever grateful to the care she provided my precious dogs.
For Dylan’s birthday, my FLOC friends had happy hour to celebrate Dylan’s, Hayley’s, and Dee Ann’s birthdays. On February 12, Dylan’s actual birth date, Billie and I went to a University of Texas men’s basketball game, then went to eat at Texas Roadhouse. I chose Texas Roadhouse because Dylan and I ate several times at the one in College Station. As usual, I ate Dylan’s favorites – chicken fried steak, French fries, and mashed potatoes. The next day, Susan and Don took me to Pecan Street Café – I ate chicken parmesan, another one of Dylan’s favorites. I received many nice cards and emails. I was especially touched by the emails I received from Young Life parents and counselors. None of them had known Dylan, but they are still impacted by his story. Young Life also sent me a beautiful plant. A friend of Dylan’s, Erin, heard “Good to Go” on the radio.
Some things that happened this year for the first time included dancing at Gruene Hall, participating in a panel presentation on grief at the University of Texas School of Social Work, being in a magazine article with other FLOC women with tattoos, and enjoying a visit with my cousin Raymond and my friend Eric – who finally got to Austin to see me. Raymond still can’t believe that our family forgot to tell him they were coming to Austin for Dylan’s funeral. But he and Eric got to see all my Dylan items when they visited.
I went to another FLOC Mothers Retreat at Charlie’s Place, owned by Dave and Lou and built in memory of their son Charlie. Twenty-six women attended. It’s still hard for me to believe that I know so many people whose children aren’t on Earth anymore. I consider them some of my closest friends. I still volunteer and facilitate meetings at FLOC. And I got another tattoo for Dylan – I’m up to six now. David – don’t have a heart attack! I still need you in my village.
Two things touched my heart this year. Walking in the hall at work, a lady I didn’t know stopped me and said that she sees Dylan’s picture in the paper every year. She said she can see the light in his eye, and she can tell what a special person he was. She said she sees me all the time, but has never had the courage to talk to me. I was glad she told me about seeing Dylan’s picture because Dylan’s memory lives on. The other thing happened at lunch. My friends from work took me to lunch because I got my 30-year certificate. Denise made my picture with her cell phone. There was a heart-shaped white light in the picture with me! I know that was Dylan, and I’m not surprised he made an appearance at a work event. As I’ve said before, my bosses and coworkers have been with me every step of the way these last five years, and remain a big part of the village. I think Dylan was thanking them for being here for me.
A good friend, Tommy, died this year. I hadn’t seen him in a while, and I feel bad that I hadn’t contacted him. So I’ve learned – make an extra effort to keep your friends close. Tommy was a big help to me when I first went to FLOC. He always wanted to hear stories about Dylan. Tommy and Dylan both loved baseball, so I’m sure Tommy and Dylan have met and discussed baseball. I hope they talk about me in their conversations. I know for sure that Tommy and Dylan are thanking God that I finally found a version of the Bible that I can understand – “The Message.” A FLOC friend told me about that version. My plan is to read it this year. Hopefully I will have more answers and a greater understanding of my purpose when the next Village comes around.
Read Marianne’s annual reflections beginning with “It Takes a Village,“ written less than a year after the death of Marianne’s son, Dylan. Marianne has generously shared her journey with us. Her subsequent annual updates are, “The Village Minus Two,” “The Village Retires,” “Dutch and Dutchess,” “Minus Old Knees” and “The Bible”.