LIFE OF THE PARTYIf the party had not yet begun when Cody arrived, it would be swinging and singing within five minutes of his appearance.  With his easy smile and ability to craft lyric and melody on request, playing the guitar that went everywhere with him, my son Cody was the life of the party.  He lived the proverbial “every day of his life as if it was his last”, towing the rest of us right along in his wake.  But our life of the party departed the party at 1:19 a.m., Saturday, March 15, 2008, when he died, one week before he was to be married to the girl he loved, three weeks before his 21st birthday, six months before his son was born, the passenger in a one-vehicle accident.

Cody was a larger-than-life kind of guy.  You know the type.  He didn’t just walk into a room – he owned it; he took up all the space and air in it with nothing more than only the sheer force and size of his personality.  He was a poet, prankster, lyricist, artist, redneck, musician, rebel, story teller and lover of a good time and of people.  Cody had a gift for giving of himself and for drawing people close to him, if for no other reason than to see what would happen next.  He was the luminary in our family.  His younger sister idolized him; his friends called him their own brother and son; his Navy chiefs called him “Rock Star”.  When we lost him, his friends from coast to coast, border to border, even overseas, shared with me how Cody had made their worlds, even Iraq, a bearable place to be, with his guitar (that guitar that went everywhere), songs, jokes and stories.  The story I had anticipated to be at its beginning was abruptly ended, shocking, searing, in one stunning phone call from the DPS, and one unbelievable sight of the men in Navy dress blues approaching me.

Today, at 3½ years, life doesn’t feel particularly easier.  It’s just different.  It’s that “new normal” I hear so much about.  The spring sun is a little less bright, the summer sky a little less blue, the autumn color a little less crisp, the bitter winter wind a little more inviting.  Some days, I’m accepting.  Some days, I’m angry.  Some days, I’m content.  Some days, I’m sad.  Some days I’m happy.  Some days, I’m numb and grief-stricken all over again.  Some days, I’m laughing.  Some days I’m all, some, none or other.  I never know what innocuous comment, or song or smell, or particular green of a blade of grass will set my mind and emotions adrift.  I miss his unique “Iloveyabye” at the end of a conversation.  I miss his hugs, a six-foot, warm, hairy, grown-man-boy-smelling blanket, suffocating me in a bear hug.  And I miss his voice, his cocked-eyebrow Cheshire Cat smirk teasing me, “Hey, Mom, can you still BREATHE?”

Cody’s story didn’t really end; it only changed here on earth.  For some time after he died, I agonized over every day that passed, the world living its own life, my son becoming a distant, fading memory for it.  Then one day, no day in particular, I realized that I looked forward to the days passing,  every day bringing me closer to seeing Cody, not farther from seeing him.  And I CAN see him, curling his toes on the edge of heaven, just as he balanced on the edges of cliffs, grinning his Cody grin, calling, gleeful and daring, “Hey, check this out!”, looking out to the distance that I can’t yet see.  Cody lives here on earth, in the hearts and stories and purpose of all who know him and in the swagger and expressions and flirtations of his little boy, Cody Case.

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV), says, “’For I know the plans I have for you‘, declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”  Interestingly, verse 7 before it advises, “…Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile.  Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” God is telling ME that I am planted in this city even if for a reason I cannot fathom, and that He will sustain and use me just in the very fact that I AM here.

I arrived at HHP’s Journey group on the recommendation of a friend who knew I had absolutely no interest in sitting in a room of strangers, baring my tortured soul, and who also knew I desperately needed just one person who might understand what I had no words to describe.  About being an Aggie, I have heard, “From the outside looking in, there’s no understanding.  From the inside looking out, there’s no explaining.”  For me, HHP is the place where someone understands with no words, when I have no words to bridge the universe between what I feel and what I’m able to express