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meandering thoughts, & my message from mason’s memorial service

meandering thoughts, & my message from mason’s memorial service

Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot of ‘back to school’ ads on the radio and TV. I keep imagining what Mason and I would be doing if he was still here, if he was with me… Seems fitting that I should write something about back to school but the reality is, there is no ‘back to school’ in my house this year.

Mason was going to attend Veteran’s Tribute, a law enforcement prep school.  He was interested in becoming a police officer, and then joining the military. Eventually, he’d become an assassin… well, he’d tease me about that quite a bit. I would tell him to do it for the government so it was legal, and he would tell me there was more money in private work. OMG. The conversations we used to have. Craziness. Pure craziness. He would also assure me that he would be totally prepared for the zombie apocalypse. However, he was not so convinced that I would survive. I’d scream too loudly, or panic. It makes me laugh to think about those conversations… he just loved to shock me, impress me, amuse me, or tease me. (We did finally agree that he could be the “supplies guy” and go on raids to gather food, ammunition, clothing, and other stuff one needs when roaming the land, fighting off the zombies. And yes, I told him I wouldn’t make him be back by a certain time… sigh…)

He was independent, confident, and smarter than I and most of my friends put together (sorry gurrrls). He was a kind, funny, loving, affectionate kid, but he was never easy.

Right about now, we would be shopping for new school clothes. He LOVED to shop… and he was never consumed with having all of the brand name stuff. I liked that about him. (His most recent ‘favorite purchase’ was a tie-dyed tee-shirt from Wal-Mart with a cat on the front. He BEGGED me to buy it for him. hahahahaa! weirdo!) Anyway, for school shopping, I’d give him a budget to work with and he’d decide which stores we would hit, which outfits he would get, and then he’d put some things back in favor of other items. Sometimes he’d go over budget, and I’d cave, but mostly he would nail it. If he was still here, we would be prepping him for high school this week, loading up the cart with school supplies that would undoubtedly get lost within the first month. He’d be asking me for a new backpack even though he has 4 in his closet, in great condition. Dude loved new backpacks. I’d say no, and he’d work on me a little longer, then finally I’d give in and he’d have a brand new backpack to add to the collection. Silly huh? The stuff that you think about when your kid is gone.

This year I won’t be going school shopping. I won’t be buying clothes for my freshman. I won’t be buying jeans all the while wondering how quickly his 6 foot frame would turn into 6′ 1″ then 6′ 2″… I won’t be secretly smiling to myself as I nonchalantly pass the backpack aisle, knowing what was coming. I won’t be watching tv or listening to the radio. I won’t know what fabulous sale Kohl’s is having, or how cheap the mechanical pencils are at Target this year.

Instead, I’m going to Mexico. I’ll be sitting on a beach, staring into the ocean, searching for answers from the waves. I am going to hide. I am hoping to heal, but mostly, I am just going to hide. I’ll be with my sis and brother-of-sorts, working on the aMasongrace website, trying to find a new purpose in life. If I have to, I’ll invent one. I cannot just go through the motions, existing in this non-life, remembering what it meant to love and laugh, and really live. Nope. Not me. I hate this half life. I know I cannot have him back, but I will spend the rest of my life searching for glimpses of him in the faces of students who need love and acceptance, moms who need rest and reassurance, friends who need confidence, and strangers who need second chances.

To survive, I am going to LIVE.

Sooooooooooo, that said, I better get to the blog, eh? Instead of writing something new, I thought I would post a copy of my message from Mason’s Memorial Service. I have been asked by several people to email a copy so they could share it with someone who was also struggling with loss… Maybe this should have been the first blog entry, since it was the first stab I took at writing. I wrote this Friday, June 7th, four days after my son died. I was in shock, but you will still recognize my voice in this message. My faith. My hope. My trust in God. My agony… little did I know, it was just beginning.  As always, feel free to share the blog or this post with anyone if you think it will help them in some small way.


“Thank you for coming today to help me celebrate what a unique and stunning young man Mason was. It’s hard to imagine ever growing accustomed to speaking of Mase in past tense. Right? He’s such an intricate part of every detail of my life, it seems impossible to see how my life continues when his won’t.

Over the last few days I have asked friends to help me keep track of things I wanted to mention today, little memories, funny comments, crazy stories… but as I opened my laptop to write a few thoughts, nothing came to mind. Absolutely nothing.  Can u imagine a Chamberlain without words? Can you imagine Mason without Holly or Holly without Mason? I feel as though I have been erased, that everything good and wonderful in my life has been wiped away. This is an experience like no other, and I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.

I think I want to address the questions around his death first, because I want it to be crystal clear to everyone here that this was nobody’s fault. When someone takes their own life, it is absolutely natural for everyone around them to question what role they played in that person’s decision. We are tempted to blame ourselves, to question our last conversation, to torment ourselves with questions that begin with the words “what if…” Pay attention to my words right now, I want to be sure that you hear this, if you hear anything at all. THIS was not your fault. You are NOT to blame. You had no role in this. There is nothing you could have done to prevent this. You did not miss any signs. Mason was not depressed. He was full of joy and humor and adventure and mischief. Mason knew he was loved. Mason made a mistake, an impulsive snap decision that had terrible, immense, and irreversible consequences. It is as simple as that.

There is also temptation to speculate on ‘how’ or to point the finger and place blame. I’m going to ask each of you to make me a promise. You will not engage in that and you will put a stop to it if you see it happening. There are no answers to ‘what if’ questions. There are no undo buttons in real life. There is no explanation to be found in a situation like this. Please help me in telling Mason’s story the right way. His death was accidental and tragic. His life was purposeful and beautiful.

I love how so many of you have offered encouragement and kind words like ‘he is an angel now’ or ‘ he is watching over you’ – I love your hearts and your intentions in those words of encouragement. The truth is, he is gone. Absolutely, permanently, and irreversibly gone. He will never call me “shmuvver” again, and my heart has been shattered into a bazillion pieces. I mention this because I think it is so important to address the impact of death. It is so painful because it is so final. It hurts unbearably because it is so permanent. We are foolish to think that we are guaranteed any number of days on this earth.

As you walked in today, you saw a slideshow running with screenshots of some of the facebook posts and texts written by Mason’s friends, family, and acquaintances. I am blown away by the love and support and just had to share those with you. As a mom, I always worried that my son would be accepted, liked, popular (don’t judge me)… and Mason was never concerned with those things. I remember a conversation we had when we were moving from the big house across town to a condo near here… it was such a big move and Mase was king of the old neighborhood. I was worried about him starting a new school and I asked him if he was a little nervous about making friends. He looked at me and said “Ma, it’s what I do!”

This week, you have shown me how very true his statement was. He has more friends than any one person could know what to do with. He is so loved and you know what’s so cool to me…? He knows it. He absolutely knows how loved he is. Just look around. You don’t come to a memorial service for the fun of it. You come to show your love. And my son was clearly loved.

When you’re a mom, you feel as though you are entitled to parent everyone, not just your child. You say things like, “trust me, I’m a mother” or you just offer advice that no one ever asked for or you hug people without asking permission.  You fuss over, pick at, love on, correct, embrace, encourage…the list is endless. In my house, there was a lot of laughter. We teased each other relentlessly. We scared each other mercilessly.  We smothered each other with love. We nicknamed each other and honestly those nicknames could never make sense to anyone but us. Mason loved a good nickname. To him, it represented inclusion. When he was younger, he told me he wanted his Great Uncle Mark to nickname him. He said you knew you were family when you had been given a nickname. He probably nicknamed a few of you out there too… He called me mommy, mama, ma, maaaaf (thanks kimmy…we know that actually stands for a cuss word), and my favorite nickname he gave to me was “shmuvver” cuz I shmuvvered him in love. On the program for this service, you will see some of his nicknames. I know they seem strange, but that’s just who we are as a family. I called him stuff like buns, bunnies, toonces, boondell, but my absolute fave was “shmish.” Ridiculous right?

There are so many stories I want to tell about Mason, but if you’ve met me, you’ve probably already heard them. I loved that boy with my whole heart. He was my family, my friend, my baby boy.  Fourteen years ago, I took a blood test and while waiting for the results, I prayed so hard for God to give me results that read “not pregnant”… He didn’t listen to me. He could have, but he didn’t. I’ll be forever grateful because Mason was the most amazing gift I have ever received. In your messages and posts, you have affirmed that over and over – Mason was an original. He loved to scare people, he loved to laugh, he loved to shock people… he flipped me off DAILY and I loved it.

We struggle to understand God’s love in times like this because our nature is to become angry. I would have given my life for Mason. I would have given YOUR life for Mason. My primary role in life was his protector. I was strict as many of you ladies know… :0) I established boundaries and if someone didn’t toe the line, they heard about it. I had high standards because he was a treasure to be guarded. I would never have let him be hurt.

I prayed so hard for God to save my boy. I prayed for him to breathe life into Mason’s body. I prayed for him to give me back my baby boy, my shmish. I’ve heard God can raise the dead. I’ve heard God can raise them even after they’ve been dead three days… God could have saved my boy. He chose not to. Who am I to question that? Who am I to tell HIM what to do or to be angry when he doesn’t do things my way? God has proven to me over and over that, like Mason Justice Chamberlain, “he does what he wants.”

I want to share something with you that very few people have heard me say before: getting pregnant was the biggest mistake of my life. I was young and dumb; I was selfish and wild. I wasn’t prepared for the huge, life changing, consequences of my actions.  I had an ENORMOUS baby (9lbs 14 oz… thank you very much) and, more importantly, an enormous responsibility for which I was completely unprepared and unqualified. But a funny thing happened… God turned the biggest mistake of my life into the best blessing of my life. That’s what God does. He makes all things work for good for those who love him and who are called according to his purpose.

Today we are here because Mason made a mistake. A HUGE, life changing mistake, with no plan and with no understanding of consequence.  Believe me when I tell you this. God will make this good. If I can say that as his mother, in my grief and bewilderment, you can believe it is true.

(Insert NV Donor information: Mason donated both corneas, and as a result, TWO people will now have sight. He donated bones from his legs and feet and arms and hands. He donated skin which will help burn victims. His heart valves will be used to save babies born w/ heart defects.)

Mason was here for 5,221days and he impacted so many.  It’s only been 5 days since he left and look what God is already doing. Lives impacted, beliefs changed, enemies forgiven, relationships renewed.  Imagine what He can do in the next 5,221 days….

Thank you for coming. I hope you enjoy the rest of this service.”


  • valerie hennessey
    Posted at 22:31h, 16 August Reply

    Live on Hailey
    Just beautiful xxx

  • Stacey
    Posted at 23:35h, 16 August Reply

    Thank you for posting your amazing message from Mason’s memorial. ♥ So powerful, insightful and uplifting.

  • Holly, fellow Mom
    Posted at 06:46h, 17 August Reply

    Beautiful child, Mother, and relationship. Thank you for sharing your beautiful world with us. God bless and may you find peace in Mexico. p.s. you are a wonderful writer. keep doing it.

  • Juli Curtin
    Posted at 13:04h, 17 August Reply

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful memorial service message. I wish for you that Mexico brings you peace, clarity, hope and more love. XO

  • Joleen
    Posted at 21:35h, 17 August Reply

    How beautiful it is to be a donor! When my dearest cousin took his own life when we were both 25… I wanted so badly to get up and speak at his service but I couldn’t find the courage. The words you shared with Mason’s friends and loved ones are so comforting. There’s something extra painful about suicide that fortunately not everyone will know -but your message is exactly what needs to be heard by those who have that misfortune. And you were right, he is gone. And he isnt with you in the way you need him to be. But parts of him live through others who were blessed because of Mason’s untimely death… like so many people clearly were blessed because of his wonderful life! God Bless you for allowing him to be a donor! ! You are inspiring. I I hope your Mexican hideaway brings you closer to healing and closer to your new start and new life. I wish you safe travels and keep you and Mason’s Foundation in my prayers ♥

  • Sarah
    Posted at 09:49h, 18 August Reply

    My oh my, your words are laden with hope and love. From the moment I heard them in your living room, then again at the service, and every time I have read them since, I knew they were destined to give hope to countless others. I know they already have. Stunning post. Your resolution to ‘LIVE’ is beyond inspiring. Now come hide with me!!!!

    • it's just me
      Posted at 17:48h, 18 August Reply

      12 hours til boarding time, lil-sis-o-mine! cannot wait.

  • Naomi Altman
    Posted at 20:21h, 20 August Reply


    I have been following your blog from the start and I end every entry with tears streaming down my face. Like others have said, it’s raw, it’s real and it’s painful. The other day I screamed for you, cried and cursed for you. I think I was hoping to take some of your reality away. Doubtful it worked, but know this…that almighty up there sure as shit heard me!

    A year and a half ago, my 20 year old niece tried to take her life. I stress TRIED..she was not successful. At the time, she lived in LA and I got a frantic call from my sister in the middle of the night..Valentine’s Day, one day before my daughter’s 5th birthday and on the anniversary of my father’s death. Triple-threat I suppose. I raced to the hospital..she was so groggy and just “didn’t understand why it didn’t work.” Thank god it didn’t. Oh, and it was also the day before our business review with Desmond!

    She was hospitalized for 2 weeks and I’m happy to report that she is doing really well. At least that’s what she tells me. But I really believe her. And I believe IN her.

    Only 2 ppl from work know about it, now maybe countless do. I don’t really care. I hope you keep writing, keep helping and maybe a smidge of healing for good measure. Who really knows about that. Your bathroom blog made me laugh. As I’ve been so frustrated that my 4 year old WILL NOT poop on the potty, I also find solace in the bathroom. I even have an extra pair of my old lady reading glasses in there just for the occasion.

    I am having a tree planted for Mason at Tree People here in Los Angeles. I know you love California (well the OC anyway!) There’s a certificate to go along with it and I will figure out a way to get that to you.

    Keep up your writing, it’s great for all of us.


  • Mieke
    Posted at 21:04h, 21 August Reply

    Your words wow me. I lost my mom to suicide in December. Each day is hard. No one can say anything to make it better. Surround yourself with those that you love and remember to give yourself a break. Even though it feels like you are alone, you aren’t. Hugs to you.

  • Rhonda
    Posted at 07:55h, 23 August Reply

    I heard your story, and Masons’, through Sarah’s site and I just wanted to express my deepest sympathy. No parent should have to go through what you are going through but your words and strength are an inspiration to everyone who has had a loss in their lives.

  • Darlene Taylor
    Posted at 13:40h, 23 August Reply

    I am so glad you posted this. you are absolutely amazing in your ability to put into words your grief, your heart and your love for this boy. You have a talent you probably never knew you had! I think of you and pray for your more often that you could know. I am sorry for your sadness and the loss you feel every moment. But as you said, all things work together for good… finding that good will be your life’s purpose. I love you, Holly and will continue to pray for you and the days ahead as your forge a new and a different life outside of your son. Much love, Darlene

  • Carmel
    Posted at 13:27h, 25 August Reply

    Holly, thank you again for sharing your thoughts and being so open. Sometimes we do things to help heal ourselves and have no idea how much it touches others. Today, with my mom, sister, husband and my brother’s favorite uncle, we spread my brother’s ashes on Priest Lake. I’ve been burying so many of these still very raw emotions I have in order to deal with the planning of our upcoming RTW trip. Today, I couldn’t hold them back any longer. And you know what? It hurt, but it felt good. It hurts because it’s real and painful and I miss him even more after 18 months, but good because I’m letting it out. I’m letting it go. Your words have helped my mom so very much because, as you said, you’re a mother. You just know. She says she’s laughed and cried in recognition reading your words. Thank you and I hope you’ll continue to share.

    • it's just me
      Posted at 03:34h, 27 August Reply

      oh carmel- i’m so glad u were able to release some of that emotion! you worded it so perfectly. it IS painful
      to go thru, but it feels good to let it out! i will keep u in my prayers, as well as your mom. we all grieve differently and none of us is able to say we understand exactly… but it sure helps to know someone sort of gets it, eh? much love to u and your fam. xoxox

  • Naomi Altman
    Posted at 05:41h, 29 August Reply

    Well, thank YOU for writing, listening and sharing. I’m keeping my eye on you girlie:)

  • Sam
    Posted at 17:16h, 18 March Reply

    I cannot believe how Awesome you are! I am so humbled and grateful to you for first of all being such a loving and devoted mother, then in the midst of your incomprehensible pain you are reaching out to HELP other people that you don’t even know! I don’t know you, but what I do know about you is that you are one selfless, caring, loving, compassionate, smart and strong mother of a no doubt special boy that obviously got all of his extraordinary qualities from you. I know you have said this before but I want to second the fact that this was an accident and no one is to blame, kids/teens just don’t have the capacity to think rationally all the time and especially consider consequences. My hurt aches for you, and all I can say is that from reading this blog I will always remember your son, and I am forever inspired to be on the lookout to help others.

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