Building Jason's Character

“Stop mom, don’t do it. There’s a car beside us!” I was about to change lanes on a busy highway when my son called out the warning. I looked over my left shoulder and sure enough, in my blind spot, a vehicle already held the space I had intended to move into. I was grateful for his awareness that day. My son, Jason, wasn’t one to chat a lot when we were driving so when he did speak, it was easily noticed.

As I look back over Jason’s formative years I find myself smiling. He had an innate understanding of humans and he constantly amazed me with his sense of timing to deliver the right words at just the right time. His sisters were 7 and 12 years old when he arrived on the scene and I thought I was an old hand at child rearing, but Jason came with a guarantee, to teach his mother some new tricks.

During those growing up years he seemed to come up with lines that were show-stoppers. I recall the afternoon Jason and his girlfriend sat me down to inform me of their decision regarding sex. “Regarding sex mom, well we’ve decided we’re waiting until after we’re married.”

Another memorable message he shared one day was conveyed without a word. That day, he’d been bouncing his soccer ball off the walls and the neighbor had already mentioned it was irritating her. Despite my earlier request to stop, he was back at it again; maybe he wanted to see how far he could push. I blew up and started shouting at him. He grinned at me, which further fueled my anger. Then he walked over and picked me up. My skinny kid was now a dashing 6-foot 2-inches tall, muscular, athlete. He had a winning smile and I think God sent him with an extra helping of human kindness, although I don’t think he was practicing it on me that day. I couldn’t escape his embrace, and exasperated I tried to continue my lecture. Suddenly I had a “Kodak” moment as I pondered this question, “What happens to anger as it collides with the human touch?” All my anger evaporated nestled there in his arms where I could feel his love and appreciate his goofy sense of humor.

Then there was the yellow Hoodie” incident. I was definitely on the receiving end of that lesson too.

I’d been given a yellow sweatshirt (referred to as a hoodie) by the staff at Camille School. This was the Catholic Separate school across the street from the public school, Lindsay Thurber, attended by Jason. I’d taught some dance classes for the Catholic school and the new jacket was their thank you gift.

As soon as Jason saw the hoodie, he said, “I hope you’re not planning on wearing that mom!” Did I mention that it featured the rival school’s football team name and logo? I responded with, “I don’t know why not, it’s new and nice looking.”

A few days later I arrived home to find Jason wearing the hoodie. I was surprised and asked, “Surely you didn’t wear that to school today, did you?” “Yes,” he replied, “I did.”

“Oh my goodness,” I said, “What happened?”

“”Well, “ he responded calmly, “they threw me up against the lockers and called me names.”

I commented, “Oh Jason, I guess you won’t be doing that again!” “Yes I will” he promised. “Why not mom, it builds character!”

It was a day like any other, the day that Jason was to compete in a track and field competition. Before leaving for the meet he hugged me. It was to be our last hug. Just an hour later, he lost control of his car and within minutes he was dead.

After his death trying to find balance, meaning and comfort was a slow, arduous and complex process. Five years passed. Out of the blue one day, the pain of missing my son was suddenly so sharp I broke down, sobbing. Between huge gulps I spoke to God in prayer, begging Him to give me a dream where I could once more see my tall, beautiful, blond-haired son. I pleaded. I begged. I cried. “It is very easy for you God. This is so simple. Please, please give me this dream. I miss him so much. All I ask for is a hug. That’s easy for you, just one hug in a dream.” I cried on and begged as if my life depended upon this one thing. In those five years since his death I had dreams every night, but not once was Jason in any dream. I ached with a mother’s heart, yearning to see my son, to hold him, if only in a dream.

God answered my prayers, I indeed got my dream. Strangely though in my dream, Jason was much younger – he might have been seven years old. In the dream I was chastising him for something he had done. I told him, ”Don’t do that. Do you want to get killed?”

He looked at me, then Jason spoke the most compelling words he ever uttered, “But mom, death isn’t forever.”

I awoke and immediately felt upset I’d not received my hug. Then as I became more fully awake, it dawned on me I’d just been given something far better. My son had given me another significant one-liner, in a unique way. A line that filled me with hope and reassurance for tomorrow, a line that left me feeling more than hugged – “Death Isn’t forever.”

Ellie Braun-Haley

Ellie is the author of four books and is working on her fifth. She has short stories published in Chicken Soup for the Soul, Heartwarmers of Spirit and 2theHeart and has been published in a wide variety of s-zines.

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