adolescent depression, Blogging, Grief, Inspiration, Moving forward one step at a time, Parenting during grief

Moving hearts one step at a time!

Finding hearts!My husband David wore tennis shoes most of the time. His favorite shoes were his white leather Converse Chuck Taylor high tops with red and blue trim. He wore them to business meetings, work, church, basketball games, and even to his weekly shopping trip to Costco. One day someone asked him, “Why do you always wear your basketball shoes?” He smiled and said, “They remind me to keep moving forward by taking one step at a time.” The woman who asked this question had a puzzled look on her face. Sensing her confusion David explained, “Sometimes it’s hard to get going at all, but when I look at these shoes I’m reminded to put one foot in front of the other and walk.”

Several months later, David wore those infamous Chuck Taylors to play a game of scrimmage on the basketball court with our son Andy at his school. After blocking a shot, he collapsed onto the floor in front of Andy and the other boys. The stillness of this moment traumatized Andy and these young men as they scrambled to get help for David. Although the details are blurry, the memories of witnessing someone suffering a heart attack cannot be easily erased. While waiting for the doctors to tell us more about his condition, I thought about David’s conversation of putting one foot in front of the other. How would I even move one foot if the unthinkable were to occur? Upon learning that the heart attack killed him instantly, we sank into the depths of despair that sent my sons and me in different directions to find solace for our brokenness.

Instead of putting one foot in front of another and walking, I spent most of my time waiting for the other shoe to drop! The trauma of losing someone suddenly, and knowing that Andy couldn’t forget watching his Dad die changed my role as a mother. The more I tried to console him, the more he pulled away. The darkness that engulfed him pointed me towards finding a doctor who could treat depression. Unfortunately it’s difficult to find the right approach or therapy for an adolescent who faces this disease. While the doctors and I sought to strike a balance between counseling and prescriptions for easing his pain, Andy began to look for answers on his own. Much to my surprise, he found remedies in cabinets and closets right in our home. Our lives became very entangled and complicated as we looked for ways to manage our suffering and grief. It seemed like our family was drifting apart instead of moving closer to heal.

Somehow we managed to keep moving forward against many obstacles during those years. There were times when one step forward really took us two steps backward. Time became our friend and constant companion no matter where our feet landed. The people who reached out to help us gave us signs of hope whether we went sideways, backwards, upside down, or forward. Thinking back to David’s words, I longed for a way to avoid taking one step at a time. I wanted our pain to be relieved instantly. Yet, there were no short cuts to our recovery. Each step took us places that would change our outlook on life forever.

During one of Andy’s recent trips home, he asked me to walk with him around the campus of St. Christopher’s School. It seemed like we had the grounds to ourselves, as it was a cloudy and damp Sunday morning. We wove our way towards the new Field House and gym, which was completed after David died. I could feel my body tense as we stopped to peer inside at the newly designed space. I confessed to Andy that even though it had been 13 years since his death, I experienced anxiety whenever I approached this area of the campus. He said, “Mom this is probably where he played basketball the day he died.” Tears spilled down my cheeks as I took in that he had estimated the approximate place where his father had died. He told me that he found comfort in coming here and standing with me in this space.

I felt goose bumps as we turned towards an outdoor basketball court where two basketballs were nestled together on the sidelines.  Andy started to shoot baskets, and I began to rebound for him. So much had changed, but our love for David and one another had remained solid.

Walking further across the soggy grass, we happened to see Charlie Stillwell, the Head Master of St. Christopher’s School, walking his puppy under the tall pines near the cafeteria. It was incredible that we saw him after so many years had passed. After catching up on school news and our families, we talked about our eternal gratitude for his kindness that helped us through some of the most difficult times of our lives. He and the larger community of St. Christopher’s School had given our family guidance, love, support, and stability in extraordinary ways. While looking for a new home after selling ours, Charlie and other colleagues arranged for us to live in a home on campus until we could find a place to call our own. In addition, he helped Andy transition back to campus after leaving for a year spent at another school.  Andy, his brother Ben, and I were fortunate to make friends here that stood beside us over the days, months, and now years since losing David.

As we departed, we heard the flapping of wings and snapping of branches overhead. We peered upward to see a large red-tailed hawk take flight and circle above us. In that moment, I realized that we had come full circle in our healing by taking one step at a time. We walked back to our car in silence knowing that our hearts would always hold the tender memories of David who taught us to remember to move forward one step at a time.



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  • Jen

    You are a gifted writer. I felt like I just walked with you. Love to you and your boys.

  • Denise

    That day will be forever etched in my soul. I remember having to call Steve to deliver that horrific news to him..
    The four of us shared so many fun times together!
    Beautifully written and shows how far you all have come.

  • Reply

    Susan this was just so beautiful !!!

  • Vonnie

    Susan, I have to tell you as I started reading, I cringed at the thought of reliving THAT day and time but I thank you for taking me back to those solemn moments and walking me through your healing as a family. I have watched this process but tonight I FELT the healing through your words. I am very happy for each of you that time and support and faith has put all of you in a better place! I respect your strength! Love you, girly, and cherish our very special friendship!

  • Reply

    Stunning! Your descriptive writing about your love, your loss and ultimate growth is stunning. I love the connection that you made with the red-tail hawk bringing you full circle. You are wise to let such inspiration take hold and fill your heart with gratitude. May the peace of that moment stay with you and your son, always.

    • Reply

      Thank you so much for your encouragement. Our circle will not be unbroken as they say in the song!

    • Reply

      A friend also told me that when a bird of prey realizes that there is movement instead of death, it will take flight. I think that’s an interesting thought. Our moving forward and fully living is symbolized as the hawk circles above! So many wonderful traditions and cultural understandings that guide us!

  • Liz Patton

    Thank you for your strength. You are so special. ❤️

  • Dana Corsello

    Really beautiful Susan. Memories. God is good and so are you and your boys.
    Bless you, Dana

  • Brenda Pleasant

    Susan, I cannot imagine the painful journey you and your sons have taken. Every time I feel the least bit if self-pity, I remind myself of your strength. David was very special….and maybe because Chad was adopted and David knew the gamut of emotions and stages od turmoil Chad would experience in his growing up, David always went out of his way to be kind to him. I pray that you and your boys will always find comfort in your love for one another, and it looks like that is happening. Thank you for sharing. It is a reminder that tomorrow is never promised and we should express our love to family and friends every, every day. You write beautifully.

  • Teresa McRoberts

    Makes me want to go out and get my own Chuck Taylor’s! Thank you for Shari g your pain and your joy.

  • Reply

    Well Done and brings back memories of that night and the days and weeks afterwards. Your healing and adventure makes me appreciate the hurt and suffering and loss of a love one during what he loved in life; playing ball with his son. Thanks for sharing your journey and may you and us continue to move forward one step at a time

  • Ren Butterworth

    Well I was overdue for a good cry. Those days and years have been trying for me too!! The pain I have felt for you and the boys and the loss of my “Big Brother ” was the most difficult I’ve experienced in my life. I’m so proud of all 3 of you and your journeys. Love you so much and miss him every day. Thank you for sharing this! ????

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