My Letter

When I think about death, I think of my favorite quotation about death:

"Death is nothing at all. It does not count. I have only slipped away into the next room. Call me by my old familiar name. Speak of me in the easy way you always used to. Put no difference in your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me, pray for me... I am but waiting for you for an interval, somewhere very near, just around the corner. All is well."

~ Henry Scott Holland at age 22.

I lost my beloved only child, Andy, in 2011. It was unexpected and devastating. I can only describe it as a nightmare. I became an empty shell, looking alive, but just pretending, for I was dead on the inside.

I lost all sense of self. Who was I if not Andy's Mom? It was all I ever dreamed of - being a mom. All gone. No attending his wedding, no grandchildren, no watching him take off on his own grown up life, no one to watch over me in my elderly years.

It took a few years to move beyond this grief, but at a certain point I realized I had to decided if I was going to grieve the rest of my life away, or was I going to take my pain and use it for good? I chose the latter. I decided to give my son the legacy helping others through me.

I think the biggest factors in my healing were 3 specific things:

1.) For many months I kept finding pennies all the time... on Andy's bedroom floor where it hadn't been before, seemingly dropping in my lap while I was driving, under my pillow. I came to believe they were pennies from heaven. I saved them all. After a while, they stopped appearing, and I think it's because he knew when I was OK and believed he was still watching over me, so I didn't need the sign anymore.

2.) One particulary sad night, I asked him to send me a hummingbird as a sign. That night I dreamed of hundreds of hummingbirds all around me. I woke up laughing. It was a huge turning point for me.

3.) Shortly after Andy's death, we went to the mountains to rest and heal. I went to a craft fair and was admiring some earrings when a lady walked up to me and asked me if I had a son. I said, "Yes." Not "Yes, and he just died." Only "Yes." And she replied, "He's standing right next to you." I wasn't from that town and the woman was a complete stranger. It was a profound moment for me and I am so grateful for that gift she gave me.

I have learned that it is possible to go on despite unimaginable loss. Life is never the same, but it can still be good. I don't want to waste the life I have that my boy was denied.

I believe I will see him again, and I want him to be proud of his mom. It will be the most wonderful day seeing him again! The sorrow of losing him on earth will be replaced with ten-fold joy at being reunited. I look forward to it.

Life is a gift, and I do my best to appreciate every day. So many don't get the privilege of living a long life, and so life is to be cherished.

Thank you, Andy, for teaching me that. As I said in his eulogy... "See you soon little Bear!"

- Pam Katchuk

Pamela Katchuk, Mother

This letter is part of the Death Letter Project - North Carolina, a means to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Historic Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh, NC.


Michael Palko