Memorial Day

A day for remembering. A day for cherishing. A day for gratitude for the memories, the love, the laughter and the tears. God Bless not only all those here with us but also those gone, missed and still loved, honoring and holding them forever in our hearts.


Further Reading (Books on Transplant, Grief, etc.)

I’ve done a lot of reading to help understand the meaning of my experiences with Josh. Some, in fact many, are about reincarnation, some about healing after the loss, much about the spirituality experience that I have grown to accept and celebrate. These have been the most helpful and emotionally supportive while attempting to move forward in life and gain an understanding of why things happen as they do.

I’m not going to say any of it was easy. My life throughout the past 20-some years has been an ever-evolving process of mind and spirit. Challenging, but well worth the effort, as I have learned to accept my personal history and be grateful for all that has unfolded. Yes, all, good, bad, and everything in between because I believe there are lessons in our experiences. The challenge is just to recognize them.

Ode to Josh

“The “Ode to Josh” blossomed into existence in March 1998. Apparently therapy of my own making, I have written poetry and letters to Josh and my favorite, the “Ode”, may be seen in a later chapter. One dark night I could hear rhyming verses in my head which literally woke me up out of a sound sleep. I felt compelled to go to the computer and get it down on “paper”. I feared that I would forget the words and consequently lose a priceless gift, one I now believe had sent to me by Spirit. Why else would this message come to me in my sleep? I had never written poetry before, but for the next months, my aching soul spilled out onto paper into a lengthy, cathartic poem. I worked on it for almost six months. The ode was the beginning of my return to any semblance of normality.”

Here it is in its entirety:

It’s been almost a year, I’ve been thinking of you,
It hurts as much now as when my loss was new.
I remember that day, the terror, the pain,
The weight on my chest, in that ER again.

When they felt for a pulse but could not find one,
They made me leave that room; then I knew I was done.
My heart, how it pounded; I screamed in my head,
“I can’t lose this boy, who’ll care for me?” I said.

“IT DOESN’T LOOK GOOD”… chilling words that will forever
Sound in my mind, allow my poor heart to never
Forget the worst thing ever said to a mom or a dad;
I can’t imagine anything else ever being so sad.

“Sensei Rick” was there too, trying, despite his own grief
To console us, our loss, so enormously deep.
A loss, I’ve learned, from talking with so many
Is shared by all who knew you, even just barely.

I felt the wrench in my gut, the spin in my head,
The grip on my heart, and wished I were dead.
I knew for weeks after, this was only a dream,
Surely, I’d wake up soon; all was not what it seemed.

How do YOU spell F-R-E-E-D-O-M?

It seems pretty silly to be excited about playing golf, but at this point, it is fantastic freedom. Last week my partner (in two different golf leagues) and I wanted to play a practice rounds (practicing both golf and Social Distancing). The weather, however, was very uncooperative, being in the low 40’s (and probably 5 degrees colder way up on the hill course) and accumulating some snow overnight. We opted out for both days. For me, cold can be only so much fun when golfing. My most comfortable cold is about 66 degrees. So much for last week’s foray into freedom!
So, back to F-R-E-E-D-O-M. What we used to consider regular, everyday life now seems a rare gift. How will we interact in the future? Will we be distrustful, wondering who is carrying an illness that could possibly sicken or kill us? Will we ever again be comfortable to hug each other again? Will we experience freedom from worry, be as carefree and trusting as we once were a few short months ago?
I’ve just now realized that we have taken so much for granted. My husband and I used to do “Friday night Dinner & a Movie” – during non-golf season. Even back then we unknowingly practiced Social Distancing, as we went for the matinee: sometimes there were as many as six of us in the theater at 4:30 p.m. This would get us out of the theater and into our choice of a restaurant before most of the crowd arrived. We could then arrive back home before eight o’clock and fall asleep in front of the TV before nine. Hmm…are we getting old?
Well, the point is, what will we be doing in the future as we wait for the “Second Wave”? Have friends in, instead of going out? But only after we take their temperature out in the driveway? Sorry, a little sarcasm there. How are our freedoms being affected, at least for the wiser of us? Yes, I suspect our way of life will change and perhaps not so subtly or temporarily.
Freedom may just take on a slightly different meaning. Again, this will be a reinventing of ourselves and our environment. I’ll tell you what, I’m so glad I’m not 25. What a strange world these people are going to have to monitor for decades to come. Will it eventually settle into something do-able for everyone? And our parents thought it was bad back in the 50’s and 60’s? My goodness, what would they be thinking now?


Well, as we’re contemplating perhaps winding this isolation down (I have to admit that I’m just a touch hesitant about this), I’m thinking of the beginning of golf season and getting back outside in the – at long last – warmer weather. It reminds me of when Josh and I were learning to golf, back in the mid-nineties. We just whacked at the ball, trying to coax it forward, mere feet at a time. We had fun, laughed at each other a lot and cheered each other on when one of us had a good shot. In retrospect, it was wonderful just to have him outside being active and having fun.

Sometimes do you have to think hard just to find something to be grateful for? As I look back, how wonderful it was to have Josh feeling well, joking and finding the humor in life. His dad Jan and I took Josh to a local restaurant to enjoy someone else’s cooking (as that has always been a challenge for me). When we were done with our meal, Jan pulled out money from his wallet. Teasing, he told Josh, “If you can tell me which president is on a fifty-dollar bill, you can have it.” Josh promptly responded, “Grant”. At first, for a moment we were silently in awe, then we just roared because he was right! The money was his! I still wonder at how he knew that bit of trivia. Silly thing to be grateful for, huh? Nah, not at all. It truly is the little things that count and are supremely important.

This is a picture of Josh with his friend and classmate, Joey. They’re the same age, but such a great difference in size, but his friends didn’t see or care about that. I am so thankful that he had such wonderful group of friends and that he could fish, hunt, bowl and enjoy so many other fun activities with them. I would drop him off at a park in town so he could play touch football with friends and not have mom “hovering”. Not that I wasn’t tempted, but he needed time alone with the guys to be independent. I’m not sure how the football went. He probably wasn’t able to run as they did, but the important thing was that he was there with his buddies, involved, included, laughing and talking. God Bless all his loyal ‘buds’.

Corona Wonderings, written on April 5, 2020

As I sit here at my keyboard this beautiful sunny morning, I see a normal Spring day outside my window. I wear earphones as I listen to “God’s Healing Frequencies” on YouTube. The neighborhood seems so green and beautiful, yet strangely barren to me. It makes me wonder what it was like for my mom and her family all those years ago, going through the Great Depression. Was her world a lonely, sad and angry place then? How did that change the population as a whole?

The Loss of a Child, the Overwhelming Grief; Surviving Afterwards

The first thing I have to say is that a parent can have no expectations as to how much time your recovery will take. You’ll hear things all over the board. For me, two years seemed to generally be the beginning of my turn-around time, but everyone is going to be different. I certainly don’t want to sound callous. That was my perception of another bereaved mom’s statement when all this was fresh and excruciating in my life. At that time, I could not imagine that this unbearable ache would ever subside. Hearing her words, I squirmed uncomfortably in my seat as unbearable emotions began to bubble up. I had thought her comments were absolutely heartless, yet her statement that after two years, she was so much better, echoed for years in my head. At that time, only four months after his death, I was just not ready to receive that message.

Well, all I can tell you is what my own experience was and continues to be. You follow no one’s rules but your own in your “return trip” following the loss of a child. It comes down to taking it one day at a time and many times one hour or even one minute at a time.

Expect that you will never be exactly the same person you were before. I eventually got to the point after several months when I recognized that I needed to “reinvent” myself. And that came only after I accepted that I should stay on this Earth. How to do that was the real challenge. With the help of a wonderful and compassionate friend, I created the “Close to the Heart” Transplant Support Group locally.

The group was intended to support others who were anywhere on the organ or tissue transplant spectrum. This included patients just learning from their physician that a transplant may be necessary. It also consisted of those who have already been evaluated and those listed for transplant. Of course, it was also for those who already had a transplant and provided a platform for common conversation of all these people and, just as importantly, their families, who are their greatest support.

Awaiting Transplant

The wait for transplant was a very difficult and emotional phase of our experience. It began in August of 1994 with one of our regular Pulmonary Clinic recheck appointments. This was when we learned that the transplant could wait no longer. Josh was running out of time and time was not on our side when it came to waiting for a donor. The wait for lungs, we were told, could be up to two years.

The Inspiration

I want to talk to you about the inspiration for my memoir, “Taming Josh’s Dragon.” Fearing judgment (well, perhaps fear is not an accurate adjective, but certainly, it was a real concern), I wasn’t sure whether I should include this part of my story, more fully explained in the Acknowledgement section. Yes, I went to a local medium seeking some peace and to hopefully dispel some of the intense pain and grief from losing an only child. For years, I worried about what people would think and say of me if they knew I was into that stuff?

Would family and friends reject me, learning that I believed in reincarnation? It took me quite a while to come to the realization that this was our journey and I had to tell it honestly, how it had actually unfolded in my life. People would have to accept or reject me for being honest. Whatever the outcome, I would receive that and deal with it as it came. No, I could not deny who and what I am. I respect others’ beliefs and had to trust that they would do the same for me. This was a big part of how I survived this traumatic and debilitating loss.

Welcome to My New Blog!

Welcome. My name is Debbie Sumner, author of Taming Josh’s Dragon: A mother’s tale of a life too brief. I’m so happy to have you as a visitor to my blog about my new book. This project is very special to me, and I hope to share some of that excitement with you here.

I’ll be using this blog to interact with you about Taming Josh’s Dragon: A mother’s tale of a life too brief, expanding on some of the topics in it and blogging on some of the ideas related to my book. This is a great place for you to get to know me, and I’m looking forward to getting to know you, too. What did you think of Taming Josh’s Dragon: A mother’s tale of a life too brief? What questions do you have for me? How do you relate to my book?

I’ll be returning here frequently with new posts and responses to feedback from you. Until next time, tell me a little bit about yourself.