Dear Son

Coincidentally, this month I discovered a concept known as Blue Monday. It gained popularity in 2005, after a British travel company played up psychologist Dr. Cliff Arnall’s theory that the third Monday is the most depressing day of the year. He backed his findings with such measurements as weather factors.

Photo by Josh Sorenson on

Other companies followed suit and used the day to sell products to help elevate the Blue Monday mood. Naturally, there was a lot of backlashes in this approach since it minimized the enormity of what it meant to live daily with depression, as well as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which, you knew all too well, is a form of depression that may manifest in certain seasons.

Anyway, Blue Monday is the kind of interesting concept you would have uncovered and brought to my attention. I can only imagine how we might have dove into an esoterically free exchange of ideas about it. I’m not writing to debate Blue Monday. I wanted you to know I took the research one step further in the same manner you would have done. Turns out, on January 18, 1993, you were born on, yes, the third Monday of the month, Blue Monday. Before I conducted the extra search, I already knew the results.

After informing you of this discovery, I pictured your perfect head tilting right and then left, your over-sized eyelashes cast over your eyes as you whispered in defeat, “Figures.”

Anyway, I also wanted to tell you that fresh on the heels of your birthday, one of my dreams of you was that you were a young boy, maybe six. You kept jiggling two of your loose bottom teeth, and with every movement, I felt pins and needles jabbing my body as if I were enduring a full-body tattoo all at once.

I kept pleading, “Marshall, stop doing that. Stop!”

You listened to teachers, friends and the bullies that led you to the grave, but from the moment you were a toddler, I don’t ever remember when you listened to my directives. How I argued with you to come inside for dinner. Leave the house for school or anywhere else. Put on your shoes. Take off your shoes. You name it, whatever my request, you didn’t oblige. As you grew older, it got to a comical point.

On the other hand, you listened for hours when we dove into the most random topics of discussions over the years. In fact, your sister, who happened to be eavesdropping, wrote a note about one such discussion. You were probably around seven, and, ironically, we discussed the “grim reaper.” At the end, Alexandra wrote, “Mom talks him straight.”

“Faith Note”

The note mysteriously turned up shortly after the tragedy. I preserved it in plastic under plexiglass on the nightstand in my bedroom. You wouldn’t think the topic of the grim reaper could warm my soul and help my faith walk, but it does because it gives me a sense of peace: I talked you straight. Do you know how relieved I am to think I managed to do that although it only amounted to a one-time deal?

Looking back, my purpose in life was to be the best mother I could be to you and your sister. I failed forward many times. I’d say I succeeded many times too. It warmed my heart the many times you told me you had “a wonderful childhood.” I hope you knew that I loved parenting both of you. Your sister, for the most part, stayed on the beam. I did keep a close eye on her though, because some of her falls were pretty rough. You, on the other hand, well, it was more like “Where IS the beam?” Man, I felt like I was chasing after a flyaway balloon sometimes. Hell or high water, I resolved to set that balloon “straight” in my hand and never let it go. Thinking about it still energizes me.

Of course, no matter how it seemed that I “talked you straight,” I was never in control of your destiny. In fact, even those big brains at Yale couldn’t get your birthday “straight.” I wonder if you weren’t born on Blue Monday and, instead, in mid-April, maybe then you wouldn’t have been so down.

Anyway, I never told you about the details of the day you were scheduled for open heart surgery at ten months old. Frankly, I didn’t give it one thought before the tragedy. I will tell you now about that day and how your father and I paced slowly down a Yale New Haven Hospital hallway that was marked by a sudden dip in temperature. You felt like fresh-turned butter waddled in the hospital’s plaid checkered blanket in my arms. On route to the operating room, I noticed a heavy-gauge stainless steel gurney. I developed a wild, sudden inclination to secure you on it and wheel you in the opposite direction.

Without incident, we reached our final destination, a large area that reminded me of a hangar for planes. Instead of a turbojet, a nurse, dressed in scrubs with cartoon characters that seemed sickeningly overdone with smiles, appeared. I cannot remember her words, but I remember her reaching out for you to take you into the OR. Instead of handing you to her, my hands became tighter. I froze, resembling the twin sister to the heavy-gauge stainless steel gurney.

“Give her the baby,” your dad said, an unmistakable irritability in his tone. “Give her the baby.”

Instead of complying, I stepped back. The nurse, like a purse snatcher, moved in closer and attempted to pull your angel-like body out of my grasp.

“Give her the baby.”

My stainless-steel hands melted as the authoritative nurse retrieved your sweet, quiet body and disappeared in a huff. I was left behind, feeling as if she had amputated my arms.

Since last week, I’ve been replaying that moment over and over. Letting you go, over and over.

So, as it turns out, yesterday was the third Monday of January, Blue Monday and Martin Luther King’s birthday too. Today, you, our “miracle baby,” would have turned 29. If someone gave me a choice between being a famous billionaire or watching you grow into the incredible man you had become, the choice would be a no-brainer.

Marshall’s 24th and FINAL, birthday celebration together. Last week, I came across this photo, only to realize that the shirt Marshall would be buried in was the one my partner, Mark, wore that evening in 2017. In 2019, four days after our tragedy, I frantically looked for the “right” shirt for Marshall to wear in his coffin. I came across this blue striped shirt and mistakenly thought it was Marshall’s, and he was laid to rest in it.

What I don’t think you also never knew was that after they successfully repaired your heart, I felt as if I had won the biggest lotto sweepstakes of all time. Actually, thinking back, I did. There was no room for Blue Mondays back then, the odds were in our favor — until they weren’t.

Now, the remembrance of our winner’s circle is in full view in a little note of faith waddled in plastic under plexiglass.

Blow out the candles, sweet, quiet son …. I love you with every bit of my broken heart and grief-scarred soul.


Faith Muscle

12 thoughts on “Dear Son

  1. Oh, Stacy, once again your words are arrows that pierce my heart and capture the anguish so vividly. I related well to the moment before heart surgery with my son. I saw the orderlies as “angels of death” and would never forget those last moments with my son.
    How tragic that you were granted a reprieve only to have your son snatched from your grasp years later. Senseless, tragic and horrible. How could you not replay so many moments leading up to that? His whole life is a replay of moments and the note you saved is incredibly prophetic. I hope you do remind yourself that you could not have known this outcome; you loved Marshall and did everything you could.
    I used to call replays of my son’s last moments as “the opera of his death.” That went on for a long time, but one day it finally released its grip. It’s still very early in your grief journey. Hold onto your hope that it will one day – the torment will lighten. I always found birthdays so much sadder than death days. They represent what “could have been.” Instead, the sadness is overwhelming because they never grow older. I am sending you big hugs.

    • So true, Judy, every WORD you write is so true. Yes, the note is “incredibly prophetic.” I have a few others that are also “incredibly prophetic.” Maybe one day I will share them too. In addition, birthdays are definitely beyond tortuous. What could have been versus What really is. It’s been a tough, tough time, and it feels tougher as I go along because, yes, he never grows older. Thank you so much, as always, for your love and support. 🤍

      • My truth might not be your truth, but I share it – if only to give you hope. 🙏
        It did feel tougher for me as it went along those first seven years. But eventually the birthdays became less torturous. Sending you big hugs and lots of love and support, Stacy. 😘💕

  2. blimey Stacy, I’m in a flood of tears here, even so though I feel as though a Happy Mother’s Day is in order too…. there’s a lot of love living on, one feels it in your words and how…I wasn’t the greatest of son’s although I don’t, genuinely, know how it could’ve been different in real time and my Mam never knew just how much I loved her and circumstances contrived to keep it that way too…I am reminded of your Turner Tales too and had I gone down the roads he’d travelled I would have had an “ordinary” relationship with Mam and the rest of the family for that matter, but I never…. wow, trigger, trigger, trigger… anyways, as I said Happy Mothers Day Stacy for that obviously special day but also for all the other days too… btw your daughter sounds ace rather like an earth angel who keeps you straight too… precious

    sending hugs 💞💪😊

    • Thanks so much, Alec. I’m in a flood of tears on this side of the word too, but as they flow, I feel the load lighten and the gratitude heighten. You are not only brilliant, but kind, compassionate and intuitive too. All I can say, Alec, is, yes, there’s A LOT of love living on, and you are part of that circle. 🤍

  3. HI Stacy,
    This is such beautiful and painful writing, beautiful and painful memories intertwined! I don’t cry easily and this one brought loads of tears.
    How great that you keep finding little notes and such that brings you fun memories of such a wonderful time.
    What a handsome young man he was! May he be shining and happy at this moment.
    I can’t help but imagine that there is a special meaning by the shirt you accidently chose for him to wear.
    I am so glad you have your beautiful daughter!
    Many blessings, hugs and love to you! ♥♥

  4. What a beautiful letter to your son! I’m so sorry for your loss. I can imagine your terror at handing over a 10 month old for open heart surgery. Even though you feel he never followed your directives, it is clear he felt your love and support throughout his life.

    Thanks for following my blog. I appreciate it. My intention for it is to support others and inspire them in some small way.

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