Our Story of Loss
Grieving for Billy
Our names are Guy & Jo-Anne. On a beautiful Sunday morning at around 10 a.m., our lives changed forever. The date was June 27th, 2004. On that day we got the most devastating news any parent could ever receive, that one of their children has died. Our son, Billy was killed when his ATV he was riding at night hit a tree. He died instantly. He was found by passers by who were on their way to breakfast. About twenty feet from the road. He spent the night there because no one saw him, it was too dark.
We had gone out to breakfast with some family members, we went to my parents house to say good-bye to my sister who was going back to Georgia. Another one of my sisters who had not come to have breakfast with us met us there. She told us that she had heard that a cousin of ours had been killed the night before on his ATV, while at a pig roast.
My wife said that our son owned an ATV and that our son had been at a party the night before where there was a pig roast. We tried calling our son on his cell phone, we were so nervous that none of us could remember his number. My wife called his best friend's house and was confronted by a very emotional man then I got on the phone and he said it was our son. I did not want to believe this, I felt extreme pain and shock. That is when I lost control of my emotions and started running. I kept on running until I ended up in a hallway with no way out. My sister and sister-in-law caught up with me here.
To me it was impossible, to have my son die before me. This is not supposed to happen.... to any parent! That was something that never crossed my mind, not ever. We all gathered outside to find out what to do next. It was so unreal, like a nightmare and you're in it. With no direction, we headed to the fire department to find out if in fact this was really true and to make sure it was in fact our son. We have another son who was also at the party the night before. He was supposed to be at work and my wife was very concerned about him hearing the news and having to travel home under duress. But he did not end up going to work after all. He decided to stay home that day. He had to identify his brother, since the accident happened just down the road from where he lived. Their mutual friend called Bobby to break the news. So Bobby went right over. Before we found out that our son had gone to the scene, I was hoping that it had been a mistake, and someone else had taken the ATV. Even after the fire department told us that indeed it was Billy, I knew that my wife and I had to see him for ourselves to believe anything.
The ride home was extremely long. It was the longest three hours of my life to wait and see my sons body. When we first saw our son Bobby, we hugged and cried. No one else seemed to matter. All the people at our house, it was exactly what we needed. They probably will never know how important they all were to us. Even my brother from St. Louis made it home. Of course my sister never left for home. She stayed until after the funeral. I was in such a state of shock. I had family and friends coming up to me and asking if I needed anything, I just rocked back and forth in shock. Sitting on the steps in the back yard I shut everything out. No one could say anything that would bring my son back, so I did not want to hear anything.
The next journey would be to to Springvale to claim his body.
My gut feeling was, this must be real. We had to call the Springvale Funeral home. That is where they took him since he died in Lyman. We had to wait what seemed an eternity to go there. The ride was long and quiet. Both our parents were in the car behind while we drove there with my brother and his wife. The funeral director met us at the door. Billy was in the other room, so my wife and I started for this room. I asked that we be allowed to go in by ourselves first.
Your first reaction is to pick him up and bring him home, or that somehow he would wake up. My wife would not leave his side. She just stood there, rubbing his head and kissing his face. I broke down and my brother had to help me sit down since I was on the verge of falling. It was all a blur. Our sister-in-law, Donna, had to make all the arrangements from this moment on. We were able to talk to our youngest son before we went to the funeral parlor. He did not want to go, he just wanted to remember Billy the way he had seen him the night before. He also did not go in the room where his brother was being shown. He could not and would not see his brother like that.
I cannot remember anything after we got home until I was asked if I could handle going to the funeral parlor that evening. We needed to make arrangements for his funeral. We were very firm on getting him back to Biddeford as soon as possible. When we left for the Springvale funeral home, our house was full of relatives who had heard the news. When we returned, there were twice as many people. Pete and Donna drove us to the home to make the arrangements for Billy.
Arriving at the funeral parlor in Biddeford was an experience in itself. Driving up, you know why you are here and it just does not seem real. We were met by a very nice man, his name was Mr. Martel. My wife and I were escorted into his office with Pete and Donna. I started to sit and listen to the arrangements, but it was more than I could take. I started feeling very sick. I got cold, then the shaking started. My teeth were chattering. I thought I was going to pass out. I asked if I could lay on the floor. I laid there moaning. My wife said it was a sad sound. The plans had to be made with or without me. My wife was stronger than I am, I was a complete basket case. She had to take care of me and our sons. After the arrangements were taken care of, we went home to more family and friends. Knowing me as well as my wife does, she made sure that people stayed as long as they could since she was uncertain what I would do if left alone. I might take the house apart since I was in a very destructive mood.
June 27th became the longest day. Going to bed was no picnic. We had no drugs to calm us down. Our doctors were on vacation so we relied on relatives to help us out with tranquilizers. Although my wife took no drugs to get through this, I needed something to help me to get through the emotions I was going through. After a sleepless night, we awoke to relatives and friends coming over. Flowers started showing up here. Under my wife's urging, we were to have the funeral right away. I could not take many days of showing and or waitings.
On Monday the 28th it did not take long for people to arrive. By noon the house was full again. We were having his showing that night. Even though we were having the arrangements right away, the home was full of people wishing to make their last respects. He had many friends and we come from big families. I was only able to sit outside the room where Billy was and just rock. My wife never left Billy's casket. She greeted everyone at the head of it. Constantly rubbing his face, his head and always kissing him. To her this was all the time she had left to be near him physically.
I stayed with Bobby, and I had my brothers and friend Dave who never left me alone. I don't remember much at all, but the relatives and friends made sure that they came over to pay their respects to me and to see if I was okay; I just felt numb. We had so many flowers there and even more people. My brother Gary spent the night at our house. My good friend, Dave stayed after everyone left and made us some hamburgers which we tried to eat.
The next day was a tough one. We could not even eat a single piece of toast. Neither one of us had eaten much since Sunday morning. Billy had a beautiful service, his best friend, Justin and my wife's brother, Jim spoke about Billy. When the service was over, the family said their good-byes. I stopped crying long enough to kiss his face, touch him and talk to him. Jo-Anne just knelt there beside me, rubbing his body and telling him how much we loved him and would miss him. My wife said we were to have everyone at the house; she knew I needed a place to be able to escape to that was familiar. No hall would do so we had everyone to our house.
When we returned home, the street was full of cars and the house was full. And I became angry when I saw that everyone was eating and laughing. How could they? My son is dead. We just came from his funeral. But with the same thought, I started to think about the times I had gone to funerals, then went over to a hall or home so we can all be together and talk and eat. I did the same thing. Only when it hit home did I realize what it was like for those people who had lost a loved one. The pain felt like someone took a knife to my insides and the numbing feeling of what happened to Billy. I had no clue what losing a child could do to you until it happened to us. I know I took life for granted, everyone in my family is still alive. I always assumed we would grow old then die, then our boys would grow old and then they would die. But life doesn't happen that way. Billy was the first to die. So for all of us it was extremely hard to deal with.
Billy was a great person. He had many friends and even more girlfriends. He was laid back, easy going and fun to be with. Of course he wasn't perfect; no one is. His love for the outdoors was evident in the toys he owned. All were for outdoor activities, year-round. He enjoyed sports. Even with his old man. I had the pleasure of playing flag football with him and his brother. Eventually he and his brother played on my team where we won several championships. My wife was always there to cheer us on and to take pictures. I am glad she took so many photos of us together.
Billy also worked with me doing Masonry and was working on becoming his own boss. He worked with me, my brother Pete and my Dad. We worked together as a team and got along really well. We were complimented on how great we did. No bickering, just working and having a good time. It made going to work fun - something to look forward to. Of course I was privileged to buy him his lunch on a regular basis. We were able to do our job and have fun while doing it. Many customers commented on how well we all got along. This is a nice compliment for any parent.
That is why I was having such a hard time. I not only lost my son, I also lost my best friend at the same time. I miss him everyday at work. I used to sing to him a song at work called "On The Good Ship Lollypop", well, I wouldn't call it singing. He would then tell me to shut up because I could not sing, but if I went 4 or 5 weeks without singing the song he would say, "Dad, it's been a while since you sang that song". I would then start to sing the song when he would them tell me to shut up because I couldn't sing, but he just didn't want to break my routine. I really miss that.
I wrote Billy a letter and nailed it to a tree where he died. Part of it says this, "It's not the same without you. I looked forward everyday for you to show up to work mostly 5 minutes late. I knew when you drove up in your pickup it would be a good day, but when you got our of your truck with your coffee and that smile, I knew it would be a great day". Sometimes at work, I would stop working and just watch him work. I would just enjoy the moment. I miss him dearly, it hurts. His brother lost his best friend since he and Billy did a lot together. They were always together when not working.
If you ask my wife, I was here in body only. I had a hard time coping with everyday things. I would go to bed at night sometimes right after supper was over. I stopped doing everyday things except going to work and stopping by his site. I started to cope with Bill's death by going to the site with my brother and a baseball bat. I had no clue where the site was, so Pete had to bring me. I needed to see where he died to make sense of the whole thing. My wife did not want to go, she did not want to picture her son laying there. She eventually ended up going with me at a later time. I used the bat on the rock where he hit with his four wheeler. I kept hitting the rock. When the bat broke, I threw it into the woods. My brother said that I screamed the whole time I was doing this. It felt good, but only momentarily.
We had people who were hearing of our loss for the first time and were having flowers sent to the house. We had so many beautiful arrangements. We did keep a lot of them but a lot were taken to the site. Some even left trinkets. One of his girlfriends left him some beautiful vines that will come up every year. When I saw how it looked with all the flowers and notes, I got an idea of planting perennials that would come up every year. I planted day lilies, hosta's, bleeding hearts, daisies. I also planted annuals. For me it was a way of dealing with what happened. Because for me that was the last place that he was alive, his last heart beat, his last breath, his last thoughts. I wish I could have been there for him but life doesn't work that way. I made sure that the site was kept clean and neat. When it became dry, I brought water everyday to keep the plants moist. I always talked to Billy in my head, sometimes aloud, while I was doing this.
People would stop by and talk. I don't know who most of them are, but they came to give their condolences. They would encourage me to hang in there. I was in their prayers. Notes were left telling me what a nice job I was doing with the site and how much it meant to them to see a father who cared so much. One man brought his son. They read the short letter I had written to Billy telling him how much I miss him. It made his son swell up with tears. He wanted to let his son know that when you die, you leave behind people who love and will miss you. People toot their horns when going by giving me the thumbs up sign. Always encouragement.
I cut a piece of plexiglass into a half moon. My wife took some recent pictures of him doing what he loved best (fishing) and I attached them to it. My niece gave us a cross. My wife painted it white with the day he was born and the day he died. I attached the plexiglas to it. It looks quite nice amongst the flowers I planted. That was one of the ways of dealing with his passing. Another was medications and another was to sleep. I wanted to go to sleep as soon as possible so that I could awake and hope it was all a dream. I also wear the necklace he had on when he died. Every morning I would touch my neck to see if I still had the necklace. I knew that if I did, this was not a dream.
My wife and I cried all the time on our way to work, during work, after work, at home and at night. No matter how hard you would try to hold the tears back. You could feel the tears building up and they would come and there was nothing you could do about it. I would cry on my way to work and before I would get out of the truck I would make sure that I looked alright so no one would notice. This is how I lived for seven months. The medications helped me to get through the days and the long nights. Even with medication I always had pain from the loss of Billy. Also the weight was still coming off since I had no appetite. I had to go back to work, the bills were still coming in and needed to be paid.
Working was an experience in itself because Billy and I worked together. The anxiety I felt at work was overwhelming at times. Somedays I would scope out the job site to see if I could hide when this sense of grief started coming on. When it started, you had to let it run it's course. It makes people uncomfortable, so breaking down in front of people is not an easy thing to do. I kept to myself, not wanting to converse with people, just waiting for the work day to end. Not being able to do the things I used to do, go to the places I used to go. Sending my father or brother to do errands for me because I was not up to seeing people or explaining the loss of my son.
But the main reason I kept from going into a deep depression was I knew in my heart that there was more going on than most people believed. From the day Billy died, I tried to find a way to talk to him, to find out what happened. Was he happy, safe, and could I find a way to talk to him? I read books on mediums and afterlife and tried to meditate, but I could not reach him. I was consumed by trying to reach Billy. Then one day my wife mentioned to me about her friend who lost her daughter in an accident. She said she had gone to see a medium, her name was Vicki Monroe, and after that she and her husband both started on the road to recovery. My wife told me about how depressed her husband was and how long it took him to recover. I knew it would not take me that long - boy was I wrong.
I remember making deals with God. Take my life for his, just let him live; please give him back to us, we weren't ready to let him go - and so on. What about marriage and giving us grandchildren? He was such a pleasure to be with; his brother misses him so. I was spiraling down and fast. I was falling into a deeper depression, sleeping 11 to 12 hours a day. My wife asked me if I would like to see Vicki Monroe, I wanted to go and see her as soon as possible. But we had to wait our turn. It seemed like it took forever for February 16, 2005 to come.
It changed everything instantly. We met with Vicki for just over an hour. She let us know up front that there is no guarantee that the one you want to speak to will show up. But our son is very a strong-willed spirit. He showed up and stayed. He told us about the accident, assured his mother and I that he is happy, safe, healthy. How much he loves us and his brother, and that we will be together again. Leaving the reading we were overwhelmed with what Bill had to say.
Within days I was no longer depressed or having to take medication to get through the day. I was eating normal meals and sleeping normal hours. I'm not saying that it's for everyone but for me all of my questions were answered. The biggest question was could we make contact with Billy. YES we could. That, for me, made all the difference. Everyone who sees me comments on the changes in me. It still hurts that he is gone physically, to see his smile only in pictures, or to not be able to hug him. I still have down days but they'll be surrounded by many better days. And knowing that he can hear us, and at anytime that we can contact him, is a great medicine.
The one thing I could say is that when people tell you it's time to let go - don't. We loved and missed Billy so much, we couldn't let go. We can now let go of Billy physically, and thanks to Vicki Monroe, we were able to reach Billy spiritually. Getting a website up and running was Billy's idea. He said it will be a great healing for his father to put his feelings on paper. But he also wanted others to be able to share what we have gone through and the miracle of how knowing that your loved one is okay can bring to you. We have photos to share with you as well. His site will be an ongoing project for us. It is good therapy. I would to thank everyone who helped us get through these past 8 months - and a special thanks to Vicki Monroe and Billy.
BILLY - WE LOVE YOU,
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