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love and a few f-words

aMasongrace project

love and a few f-words

I haven’t written in a while because I haven’t been able to put into words the Feelings that have consumed me these past couple of weeks. I am on a journey I never imagined. I have met travelers along the way who have Found themselves on a similar journey. Their Faces tell a story their mouths cannot articulate. Their hearts are open and bleeding, their eyes leaking, their minds numb and struggling. I have embraced these Folks as if they were gifts to me, gently placed in my path, just waiting for a little TLC from someone who knows their pain. I am thankful for each and every one, even though their pain hurts me and their journeys Frighten me and their hearts bleed all over me. They are messy and they mess me up when I get close, but I get soooo close anyway. It is the privilege Mason gave me when he left.

I want to be careful when telling my story and Focus only on the pieces that are mine… but there are so many parts of my story that are shared. How can I tell my story without highlighting the characters that play a part? To that end, I will share bits and pieces of other stories, but will never name names without permission.  I never, ever want to lose the access that people have given me to their hearts and private lives. It is such a gift when someone peels away the layers and sets aside the mask. When a stranger holds my hand and begins to pour out their pain, or a friend-of-a-friend looks at me and tells me they need me. It is scary to be loved before you have even arrived on the scene, but it really shouldn’t be… we love babies before we have even named them. We are loved as we are created, artfully designed, hand crafted by the ultimate designer of all things. We are Fearfully and wonderfully made, n’est ce pas? Why is it so difficult to accept that love once we are here?

I’m exhausted. I have to just admit that up front. I am Friggin exhausted and I have no idea how to recharge my batteries so I just nap when the opportunity arises and hope for the best. I seem to be napping a lot these days.


A Friend messaged me on Facebook, asking for some advice. Her brother attempted suicide. He’s a husband and Father, and thankfully he Failed in his attempt to end his own life. My friend, so new to me yet so precious and dear, looked to me for some guidance, “What do I do?” My mind screamed, “I DON’T KNOWWWWWW!” but my heart started pouring love. I shared what I would do if I had been given the chance. I shared what I would want if I was in her brother’s shoes. I shared what I have learned through this whole experience, what I have gleaned from reading countless posts and articles and websites… “Show love.” When someone attempts to end their own life, they don’t need to be chastised or corrected or punished in any way. They will do that to themselves, you can count on that. From us, they need love. More love. More than you can possibly comprehend. So just love them. Share your heart with them. Tell them how much they matter; tell them how much they would be missed. Listen to them, don’t interrogate. Just show love. Just. Show. Love.  Sounds too simple, but it really is all we can do and the only thing that will penetrate the walls of sadness, anger, and depression that have built up around their hearts. There is no room for anything but Love, so just love them.

My friend has seen her share of challenges. She is good at loving… I’ve seen her in action. She is determined to appreciate the precious moments life offers, and is thankful for each passing day. She gets it. I feel so honored to be a part of her journey and have her as a part of mine. I admire how she cares for others, and tends to the special needs of the ones she loves. I have no doubt she will be a beacon of light and hope for her brother, and her love will help heal his hurts.


Last Monday, someone I love and respect very much called me to ask for help. I consider her my family, and she has become a sister of my heart. There is no one quite like her – she’s a handful, for sure, a Force to be reckoned with. Funny how things can change over time… She didn’t like me at all when we first met. I laugh when I think of those good ole days, when she resented me because I was a strong and dominant presence. I was Fearless back then. Life had only just begun to hurt me. I wasn’t very quick on the uptake and still believed myself to be invincible. I hadn’t Felt the pain of loss yet. I hadn’t learned to Fear consequences. I was relentless in my pursuit of Freedom and was determined to let nothing get in my way. I was a young mother, Fighting to make a life for myself and my son. I knew the sting of rejection from my son’s Father, from my church, from my Family, but it had only scratched the surface of my heart. I just powered on, determined not to be derailed. I can see who I was then and imagine how it must have been to meet me for the first time. It makes me laugh now… really laugh… because life has shown me who is really the boss and it isn’t me. I am not that girl anymore. I am not that young mother. I have learned the ache of loneliness, experienced the pain of loss, and taken a blow to the gut quite a few times by the quick hand of consequence. Yeah, I don’t blame her for not Falling in love with the younger version of me.

Firecrackers we are, this sister of my heart. Forces of nature. Fast and Furious. You see, the young ‘her’ was a lot like the young me. Fiery, passionate, and headstrong. Clash of the Titans could have been the name of our story if maturity and love hadn’t stepped in over the years. Today, we are still all of those things and more. We are also kind, patient, and Forgiving. We are generous and understanding. We are grown women, warriors, with quite a few battle scars. We have been tenderized by the poundings of life and I am thrilled to have a place in her heart. I love this Friend so much she has become my Family.

When she calls me, I roll my eyes. She knows I hate the phone. I detest it. Yet she insists on calling me instead of texting and I always try to find a way to let her know how much it gags me to be trapped on the phone. Sometimes it’s just an elongated sigh of super dramatic proportions. Then we laugh our heads off! However, there was no laughing on Monday when she called. Her niece had just attempted suicide and was hospitalized with a 72 hour hold. I asked my praying friends to say a prayer for her, this beautiful 19 year old girl who had just Failed her third suicide attempt. Thank God for Failed attempts. My heart Flipped and my head sprang into action. The sister of my heart and longtime friend asked, “What do I do?” That question comes up so often, and I honestly do not have the answer. I simply do not know. We love, that’s the only answer, the only action I can come up with. We love.

I listened to my friend pour her heart out, I heard her words and felt the anxiety and concern behind them. Her sister is one of her best friends and this woman would do anything to take away the pain that her sister was feeling. “What do I do?” Oh lovey, I just don’t know. This little girl has attempted three times?!?!? She is hurting. She has deep issues that need to be addressed. She needs to know she matters. She needs love, sooooo much love. That’s not to say she isn’t loved already… she just needs more. It is true that some of us can survive on a little bit of love, and others of us need huge truckloads of it. Some of us see the love around us and accept it as it is offered, others of us Fight it and refuse it and wrestle with it. This little precious woman-child just needs another truckload, to start, and maybe even some medication. But we start with love.

I went to the hospital Tuesday night. I watched a mama break down and sob. I watched an auntie crack jokes and try to lighten the mood. I watched a young girl’s pain leak out of her eyes, her shame linger on her quivering chin, her desperate need for acceptance hover like a thick cloud all around her. This mama would do anything for her daughter, yet time and time again the girl has pushed her away. “Ah, she’s a wrestler,” I thought. She needs truckloads of love but when it arrives she turns her back and refuses delivery. So heartbreaking to see. I may have been that girl once… tough to love. I sat with her and we talked about things so private, so sacred. I thanked God and the universe and all things good and wonderful for giving me the opportunity to have a moment with this beautiful girl. As her mama and auntie read every sign on the wall, trying to give us some privacy, she poured her heart out. She cried tears of humiliation. She expressed regret, Fear, loneliness, remorse. “What do I do” when Faced with that raw expression of the heart? Show love. It’s really that simple.


We don’t attend Funerals for a good time. We go because we love. Funerals suck. I hate them. I have attended a handful in my time, and I promise I have never liked a single one. In fact, I’d rather not go. There are a few people whose Funeral I am already planning to ditch. My own, maybe. I hate Funerals that much. Sadness so thick you could slice it and serve it as cake, if the taste weren’t so bitter.

When I received an invitation to attend the Funeral of a gorgeous, twenty six year old girl I had never met, I didn’t hesitate. I said yes immediately. I didn’t know her and I had no business being there, but her mother invited me and I couldn’t say no, no matter how much Funerals repulse me. Funny thing is, I didn’t know her mother either. Yet here she was, in her grief and despair, asking me to come say goodbye to her beautiful baby girl. Of course I would go. Of course I would meet this mama at her daughter’s Funeral, and say goodbye to a girl without ever having said hello. “What do we do?” We love. Just. Show. Love.

So I’m there, on Thursday evening, waiting to meet this mama who has read my blog from the beginning and has taken time out of her own life to encourage me along the way. She didn’t know me, but she knew my story.  I have shared so many private details, she knew my heart too. She loved me before she had even met me and it was such an honor to share her pain and be invited into her life. Who knew that she would end up losing her own child too? When she arrived, she hugged me tightly and cried. Her heart poured out, through her eyes, and onto my shoulder. My heart ripped just a little more. Two mamas who had never met, saw each other for the first time in a park, near a tree dedicated to the memory of one special girl who left too soon. Dear sweet baby Jesus, who am I to deserve such a special moment? I am thankful. Exhausted, but thankful.

While there, I crossed paths with a pastor from my earlier years. A man of honor, an incredibly charismatic, kind, genuine person who humbly and gently leads. I was surprised to see him and so very happy to have a few moments to speak with him. He and his wife and three daughters hold a special place in my heart. Their kindness to my dysFunctional family over the years will never be forgotten. When I think of this pastor, I am inspired. He is Faithful to his calling, to his Family, to his church. He is the real deal, and always finds a way to make me feel supported and accepted. Then this happened: he mentioned my blog, and complimented my writing. He likened it to that of one of my Favorite authors! I awkwardly joked about her use of the F word and how I’d have to step up my game to even be in her league (there I go, refusing buckets of love).  He also brought up a moment of my life that was shocking and devastating to me. He acknowledged an event so painful, and offered his support. He recognized the craziness of that experience and expressed his and his wife’s affection for me. I was so moved, so thankful. My heart started to leak out of my eyes, as it so often does these days. This pastor knows what to do at Funerals. He knows what to do when he sees people hurting. He has made it his life’s work… He pastors a church, leads a family, and is no stranger to Feelings. He gets it. He knows. Just. Show. Love.

Fast Forward

I am overwhelmed at the events of the past week. So many highs and lows and moments of raw emotion. I feel privileged to be walking this walk, and thankful for the woman I am becoming as a result of this journey. Make no mistake, I would give it back if I could or pawn it off on someone better equipped, but that isn’t an option. Mason gave this life to me. Sometimes I imagine the moment when he closed his eyes on this earth and opened them in the presence of God. I believe in God, and as such I believe to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. I often think of that millisecond of time when Mason left. I was supposed to go First. I’m the mama. It’s my job to pave the way, to protect my baby boy. He left this world so fast, I didn’t get to do my whole job. I didn’t get to go first or pave the way or protect him from the unknown. What is on the other side? Who was there to greet him? Was he afraid? Did he cry? Did he think of me? Was someone there for him? He’s my baby, for Fuck’s sake. HE IS MY BABY!!!

“What do I do?”

I think of his eyes closing here… he was killed instantly. I think of his eyes opening there. I imagine God greeting him, welcoming him, opening His arms and enfolding Mason in a ginormous hug (the kind Mason gave everyone without reservation). I imagine them talking about what to do next. My heart was shredded when I realized God didn’t intervene; He didn’t save my boy. He didn’t protect me from the most devastating event of my whole life. Mason didn’t get a second chance, or a third.  It helps me to imagine he gave Mason the choice. Maybe God told Mason he could send him back. Or maybe he showed Mason what his mama would do after his death. Maybe Mason chose to stay (there, not here). I think about that a lot when I am unable to move, when my body refuses to leave the bed, when my heart leaks out of my eyes, blinding me. I think about my future without Mason. I ache for some sort of answer. I receive truckloads of love, every single day, and still need more. I see the signs, have the god moments, and still beg for more, more, more.

I still ask, “”What do I do?” and the answer always comes. Just show love, Holly.  

Just. Show. Love.

aMasongrace project

  • Laura Renstrom
    Posted at 07:31h, 24 February Reply

    Another raw, honest and eloquent pouring out of your soul. I don’t know how you do it. But I thank you.
    I wonder every single day what I can do to make life even just a tiny bit more bearable for you.
    I guess I have my answer.
    I will show you love, in any which way I can. Because Holly, I love you so damn much, more than you could ever know.
    I love, love, love you my dear friend. Xo

    • its just me
      Posted at 15:36h, 24 February Reply

      thank you laura… for everything you did that day and everything you have done since to show me love. you are truly an amazing friend.

  • Carmel
    Posted at 08:06h, 24 February Reply

    You have such a gift. Thank you for sharing it. <3

    • its just me
      Posted at 15:37h, 24 February Reply

      thank you for reading, carmel. xoxo

  • Briana
    Posted at 18:30h, 24 February Reply

    As always, thank you for stirring my heart with your words. I am choosy about the words I read, but I always make time for yours because I know I will always be moved to new places in my heart. Keep doing what you’re doing, my brave friend. You matter!

    • its just me
      Posted at 01:06h, 25 February Reply

      thank you, briana! i feel the same way about you.

  • Christy
    Posted at 21:00h, 24 February Reply

    Holly, although you don’t know me, I have been reading your posts from the beginning, and so many times I have started to write a comment and then, for reasons I can’t explain, I just couldn’t post it. I’m sorry for that. My heart has hurt for you since I first read about you & your amazing son! I have cried many times while reading your posts as well as cheered for you as you amazingly turn such a tragic even into helping others. I am truly in awe of your strength and willingness to reach out and help others, all while going through your own personal hell.

    Your story touches my heart in many ways, including triggering my deepest fears about loss. As a single mother of a young man who has been my entire world for the past 19 years, I cannot even begin to fathom the pain your heart must be enduring. You are an amazingly strong woman & I have the utmost respect for you and all that you do with the amasongrace project. I hope you know that by sharing your experience, you ARE making a difference. Both directly, with those who you personally reach out to, and also indirectly, with people like me. You see, I am not only a mother, but an ER nurse and sadly have been there for far too many suicides and attempts. I often am at a loss for what to say to the families or the patient. Anything I could possibly think to say seems so small in the face of such great pain and/or loss. But I want you to know, that just last week as I took care of a young teenager who had attempted to take her life (and thank God had failed), I thought about you and Mason. I sat with the young girl’s mother and held her hand & cried with her. I didn’t worry about what I should or shouldn’t say. I just made a conscious effort to be there for both of them and to truly be present. When the young girl regained consciousness, I held her hand and spoke to her and reminded her that “you matter” and that she was loved.

    Holly, I pray for you often. I pray that God will bring comfort to you during your times of sorrow. I pray that you feel Mason’s presence surrounding you always, as I know he must be so proud of his mama. You are walking a path that no mother should have to walk, but you are making a difference in the lives of others. I hope you know that “you matter” too! Sending positive thoughts and hugs your way… thank you for sharing with all of us. I have been touched by your experience, and will reach out to other’s who are suffering in your son’s honor.

    • its just me
      Posted at 01:08h, 25 February Reply

      thank you so much, christy. i am so glad you chose to comment today and share with me the impact this is having on you. thank you soooo much for making yourself available to those who are hurting… for holding their hands… for telling them how much they matter.

  • Pam
    Posted at 04:36h, 25 February Reply

    Dear Sweet Holly,
    Once again you have moved me. Thank you for walking thru your pain and opening yourself up for the world to see. You are a rock star.

  • Karrah
    Posted at 03:35h, 26 February Reply

    I wish I could take away your pain, as I say so often. You are such an amazing person and what you are doing IS making a difference. Just look at the lives you are touching! Your tragedy may not make sense now, or ever, but Mase knew you would take this adventure head on. I am so proud of you and the person you are becoming….and how you are affecting so many people. Sending you LOVE, LOVE, and more LOVE (and hugs)!!!

  • Julie
    Posted at 05:57h, 26 February Reply


    Thank you for sharing your heart wrenching journey with us. I cannot even imagine having a fraction of your strength. Just as God had a plan for Mason at that terrible tragic instant, I think God also had a plan for you. And despite how terribly difficult it is, you are living that plan by sharing your story and your pain. You are helping so, so many people whom you don’t even know in so many ways. You have touched me and changed me by your writings. You have softened my hardened heart and made me more patient and more open to love. And I believe it is a domino effect. Maybe because you have touched me so and caused me to show love to someone, maybe that person will that be able to show love to someone else and so on and so on. Thank you for listening to God’s call to you and despite the unfairness of it all, for helping others. I wish I could say or do something to take away the pain, but as a single mother, I know there is no way to erase your pain. So please just take some confort in knowing you are making a difference and the world is a better place because of you and Mason. And in the words of my dear sweet father, just “one day at a time.” God bless you Holly and I pray for your comfort and peace.

  • Sarah
    Posted at 16:19h, 26 February Reply

    You are amazing. The way you channel your love for Mason toward others is simply something to behold. Lives ARE being saved, because of Mason, because of you. I love the idea that he had a choice. It makes sense to me and gives me hope that things are the way they are for a reason, even though that reason may be so hard to understand. Love you xoxo

  • Tracy
    Posted at 01:25h, 27 February Reply

    Holly, I want to thank you so much for coming to Jenna’s memorial service. I didn’t think of how it might effect you and for that I am sorry but I knew I needed to hug you and to share that moment with someone who knew what I was feeling. Looking into your eyes I felt as if we had been friends forever and receiving that hug which was like no other hug I received that day brought a sense of relief to me because I could see a little bit of what my future was to bring. I must go on for I also have a 15 year old son Josh at home who heard me scream for Jenna to breathe, to not leave me. I am walking in your footsteps and looking for answers in your past posts to find My way to carry on.
    I am also so HAPPY that you got to connect with your old pastor. Let me tell you those two men who showed up for a farewell to my daughter are Amazing as I had just met them through a friend. I pray they continue to be a large part of my life in the future as I pray that we become closer friends.
    When I say I Love You, you can bet everything on my statement because that’s who I am, I’m a person who loves with all my being and you are a part of my family now.

  • Debbie
    Posted at 23:44h, 27 February Reply

    It amazes me how you can still love so wholeheartedly. Amazing that you aren’t bitter & angry all the time. You continue to put yourself out there in order to help so many. You continue to sacrifice your heart in order to build others up. I won’t lie…I worry about you some days. Worry that when other people are experiencing what you are going through & reach out for your help that they’ll drain you. I can’t begin to imagine what your life is like now. Can’t imagine your depth of pain. I’m so sorry Holly. I talk to Mason sometimes when I’m walking my dog. I know he can hear me. I pray for him. I’ve asked my mom & dad to look after him. I’ve asked my grandparents & in laws to do the same. I’ve asked them all to look after you too, Holly. To be there for you on those days when you find it hard to even breathe. I send you so much love energetically hoping it will help fill the space where you have given out love to the one’s you support. I just love, Holly, because it really is all I can do. I know on some microscopic level it makes a difference. I believe. I. Believe.

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