Love Forever sweet Tyler.
Love Forever sweet Tyler.
I recently read Laura Lynne Jackson’s books, “The Light Between Us” and “Signs, The Secret Language of the Universe”. Laura is a certified Psychic Medium. I found her books, her life, the stories and cases she writes about interesting and some of it down right fascinating.
A couple of weeks ago I was on the elliptical in the Rocky Mount Harrison Family YMCA reading a section in the second book about the different types of signs those who have crossed to the other side use to send us messages to let us know they’re close by, that they are with us. Of course, animals are a very common sign and deer are at the top of the list.
I finish the workout and 30 minutes later take Milly to one of her favorite spots just down the road from the Y and my office: Battle Park. Battle Park runs along the north side of the Tar River. There is an asphalt trail for walking, running and biking that runs along the river east and west. Milly likes to dip in the river and run through the woods. The park is sort of landlocked with Highway 64 to the north, the river to the south and Benvenue Road and Peachtree Street to the west.
We walk the usual half mile or so east and turn around to head back. Milly is romping through the woods, every now and then coming out to make sure I’m around. I turn a corner heading to the straightest section of the path and ahead is a deer standing absolutely still staring right at me. Only her head and neck were visible. I stopped still and we stared at one another about 15 seconds. As I grabbed my phone for a photo, she turned and headed back into the brush. I walked on in that direction and heard some thing or things running around in the woods. I couldn’t see anything because of the thickness of the brush. A moment later Milly came out from the woods. Was this a sign? It felt like it.
Fast forward to today on the 4-year anniversary of Tyler’s accident. As I was leaving the office an hour ago, I go to my truck and there perched on the window is a praying mantis, which just so happens to be another of the signs Laura writes about. Now I have seen praying mantis in my 59 years maybe 10 times. The last time I saw one? I couldn’t say but not in a long, long time.
Another sign? Thank you, Tyler, I need reassurance that you are close by from time to time. Especially today.
In honor and memory of our sweet Tyler, she wishes for all of us a sandpiper on the 4th anniversary of her crossing to the other side.
She was six years old when I first met her on the beach near where I live. I drive to this beach, a distance of three or four miles, whenever the world begins to close in on me. She was building a sandcastle or something and looked up, her eyes as blue as the sea.
“Hello,” she said. I answered with a nod, not really in the mood to bother with a small child. “I’m building,” she said.. “I see that. What is it?” I asked, not really caring. “Oh, I don’t know, I just like the feel of sand.” That sounds good, I thought, and slipped off my shoes. A sandpiper glided by.
“That’s a joy,” the child said. “It’s a what?” “It’s a joy. My mama says sandpipers come to bring us joy…” The bird went gliding down the beach. Good-bye joy, I muttered to myself, hello pain, and turned to walk on. I was depressed, my life seemed completely out of balance. “What’s your name?” She wouldn’t give up. “Robert,” I answered. “I’m Robert Peterson.” “Mine’s Wendy… I’m six.” “Hi, Wendy.” She giggled. “You’re funny,” she said. In spite of my gloom, I laughed too and walked on. Her musical giggle followed me. “Come again, Mr. P,” she called. “We’ll have another happy day.”
The days and weeks that followed belonged to others: Boy Scouts, PTA meetings, and an ailing mother. The sun was shining one morning as I took my hands out of the dishwater. I need a sandpiper, I said to myself, gathering up my coat. The ever-changing balm of the seashore awaited me. The breeze was chilly but I strode along, trying to recapture the serenity I needed.
“Hello, Mr. P,” she said. “Do you want to play?” “What did you have in mind?” I asked, with a twinge of annoyance. “I don’t know, you say.” “How about charades?” I asked sarcastically. “Then let’s just walk.” Looking at her, I noticed the delicate fairness of her face. “Where do you live?” I asked. “Over there.” She pointed toward a row of summer cottages. Strange, I thought, in winter. “Where do you go to school?” “I don’t go to school. Mommy says we’re on vacation.” She chattered little girl talk as we strolled up the beach, but my mind was on other things. When I left for home, Wendy said it had been a happy day. Feeling surprisingly better, I smiled at her and agreed.
Three weeks later, I rushed to my beach in a state of near panic. I was in no mood to even greet Wendy. I thought I saw her mother on the porch and felt like demanding she keep her child at home. “Look, if you don’t mind,” I said crossly when Wendy caught up with me, “I’d rather be alone today.” She seemed unusually pale and out of breath. “Why?” she asked. I turned to her and shouted, “Because my mother died!” and thought, My God, why was I saying this to a little child? “Oh,” she said quietly, “then this is a bad day.” “Yes,” I said, “and yesterday and the day before and — oh, go away!” “Did it hurt?” she inquired. “Did what hurt?” I was exasperated with her, with myself. “When she died?” “Of course it hurt!” I snapped, misunderstanding, wrapped up in myself. I strode off.
A month or so after that, when I next went to the beach, she wasn’t there. Feeling guilty, ashamed, and admitting to myself I missed her, I went up to the cottage after my walk and knocked at the door. A drawn looking young woman with honey-colored hair opened the door. “Hello,” I said, “I’m Robert Peterson. I missed your little girl today and wondered where she was.” “Oh yes, Mr. Peterson, please come in. Wendy spoke of you so much. I’m afraid I allowed her to bother you. If she was a nuisance, please, accept my apologies.” “Not at all — she’s a delightful child.” I said, suddenly realizing that I meant what I had just said.
“Wendy died last week, Mr. Peterson. She had leukemia. Maybe she didn’t tell you.” Struck dumb, I groped for a chair. I had to catch my breath. “She loved this beach so when she asked to come, we couldn’t say no. She seemed so much better here and had a lot of what she called happy days. But the last few weeks, she declined rapidly . . .” Her voice faltered, “She left something for you . . . if only I can find it. Could you wait a moment while I look?” I nodded stupidly, my mind racing for something to say to this lovely young woman. She handed me a smeared envelope with “MR. P” printed in bold childish letters. Inside was a drawing in bright crayon hues — a yellow beach, a blue sea, and a brown bird. Underneath was carefully printed:
A SANDPIPER TO BRING YOU JOY.
Tears welled up in my eyes and a heart that had almost forgotten to love opened wide. I took Wendy’s mother in my arms. “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry,” I muttered over and over, and we wept together. The precious little picture is framed now and hangs in my study. Six words — one for each year of her life — that speak to me of harmony, courage, and undemanding love. A gift from a child with sea blue eyes and hair the color of sand — who taught me the gift of love.
August 22, 2015 started out as a normal Saturday. I was the only provider working at the urgent care clinic that day, so it had been a non-stop shift of treating sick and injured patients. I typically leave my phone on my desk on silent, so it was only by chance that I happened to see my phone light up as I was working on patient’s charts. Someone was calling me with a 307 area code. I knew that meant Jackson and therefore probably my sister Tyler.
“Is this Bear?” a childlike voice asked.
I instantly smiled. Tyler, being notorious for prank calls, must have gotten one of the kids she worked with to call me. Bear was her nickname for me.
My smile was short-lived. As she continued speaking, I realized this was not a child’s voice, but the voice of an utterly terrified adult giving me information that would change my life forever in the worst way possible.
“There’s been an accident.”
Tyler Nix Rebecca
I know they took helmets
No cell service
Search and rescue
Waiting to hear
It was not unusual to get a call from Tyler to tell us how she injured herself while jogging in the snow, skiing in the backcountry, or mountain biking. Describing her lifestyle as “active’ is a vast understatement. This is just another one of those calls, I told myself. Meredith, a friend and colleague of Tyler’s, had tracked down my phone number through friends of friends, and she told me all that she knew.
Minutes crept by, turning into several excruciating hours. I called both of my parents to give them what limited details I had. I continued to see patients. I looked up airfare to Jackson. I called Tyler’s phone over and over again, telling myself my efforts weren’t futile. She would eventually get cell service and answer, eager to tell me all about her latest adventure. She would laugh when she heard my worried voice.
Eventually my phone did ring, but it was my dad. Between hysterical wails, he choked out two words that I will never ever forget.
I don’t remember driving myself home. I don’t remember calling my husband and telling him. I don’t remember calling my little sister and telling her. The rest of that day is a complete blur of unimaginable pain and total shock. Without a doubt, it was the worst shock of my life.
There is no need to revisit the other dark details of that day, instead I will fast-forward three years, when I received the second biggest shock of my life, but this time a happy one.
At this point, life was pretty good. Our son Jack was four months old. We had survived the sleep-deprived what-are-we-doing early days and were enjoying our easy, happy baby.
On my way out of work one night, I decided to grab a pregnancy test on a whim. Without going into TMI details (because I know my grandparents are reading this), I was certain my delayed cycle was due to post-partum hormonal changes. I figured I would take a test just to give myself peace of mind. I started the test, waited five minutes before checking it, and saw that it was indeed negative. So I went to sleep.
I woke up the next morning, on August 22, 2018. I glanced down in the trash can as I was brushing my teeth and noticed that the test now had two pink lines.
Trust me- I have been asked “don’t you know how it works” and every other question in the book. I am certainly not claiming this was an immaculate conception, but as far as science goes, there should have been a less than 4% chance that I was pregnant. As someone who typically cannot stand surprises, this surprise was the best one ever (once we got past the confusion, shock, guilt and fear of having two under two).
Four months ago today, on April 22, 2019 we welcomed James Tyler Tomlinson, three weeks after his big brother turned one. We call him Ty and he has been the absolute greatest addition to our family.
It is so hard to believe that I have been grieving Tyler for four years, because in all that time, it hasn’t gotten one bit less painful. It is still hard to say her name out loud (which was why it took me a long time to decide on baby Ty’s name). Don’t get me wrong, the two incredible blessings I have been given have made my life (and all of our lives) SO much brighter. But at every birth, baptism, birthday, first word, first step- as full as my heart may be, it is still missing an important piece. Even the happiest of moments are still a little bittersweet. One of the hardest parts of grief is knowing that it is forever. Even when I’m 90 years old probably blind and senile, I’ll still be missing Tyler.
I think back at the posts I wrote on this blog in the days soon after her death and it seems like a completely different person wrote them. At some point it became too hard to even read them anymore, let alone write new ones. We have all grieved her in our own ways, and for me- it was easier to not talk about her, not look at pictures, not dwell on old memories and “what ifs”. It became easier for me to try to ignore my grief than to embrace it. I stopped obsessively searching for “signs” because it would be too disappointing when the signs stopped coming.
But when I looked at that double pink line on this day last year, I knew it was a sign from Tyler. My sister, born only 21 months before me, was going to make sure my children also experienced the intense bond that only siblings have. I call it “intense” bond instead of “loving” bond because although there was a lot of love and loyalty, there were quite a bit of fights too. Nobody will tell you the truth like a sibling will, even if it makes you want to punch them in the face. Nobody else knows every random memory and inside joke from your childhood like a sibling. Nobody can make you laugh, make you cry, read your mind, call out your lie like the person that was your roommate for nearly 18 years.
When people see my little boys, they first love to tell me “You’ve got your hands full!” followed by “They’re going to be best friends.” And that is one piece of unsolicited advice that I can agree with.
Our family is beyond grateful for all of those who have contributed to Tyler’s foundation over the past four years. We are committed to keeping her spirit alive and are working on a new website coming soon that will detail how we are using her foundation to benefit others.
In the meantime, to read about Tyler’s friend Meredith and what she has recently done in memory of both Tyler and Nix, check this out.