Unf#<%ingbelievable!

You guys. Remember when I mentioned that Isaac sends me signs and love from the Great Beyonda?

This year for Mothers Day weekend, he showed up with quite the surprise. So many “gifts” from him are ‘intangible’ and non material, and for any skeptics out there, coincidental acts of nature or serendipity. This one is not like most. It’s taken me a little while to process the information, and I’m still sorta in awe, but here’s the jist of it:

If you read this blog regularly, you might recall in early May my little rant about still getting mail for Isaac. In that post, which was actually about managing crisis/overwhelm/triggers through pranayama, aka breathwork, I wrote two versions of hypothetical letters to hypothetical customer support at companies for things like life insurance, wedding jewelers, universities and the military. In the first letter I demonstrated reactive hostility and my penchant and flair for overthinking. After checking in with myself and breathing deeply for several moments, because the blood boiling didn’t actually feel so hot, I wrote another  pretend letter to these same companies with sincere gratitude for providing evidence that Isaac’s all too brief time as my child was not just a beautiful dream…

Let me pause here by saying that my blog began as a way for me to begin to communicate with my friends and family because I was knocked out of orbit and no longer spoke the language of my home skillets. I hoped my little tribe would see it as an act of love, wanting so desperately to bridge the chasm between us that overwhelming grief produces. It was shared, a lot. To date I’ve had over 60,000 visitors. Which is a little weird but I’m still writing to my peops because it is still not always easy to say it all or to repeat myself.

Some pretty amazing connections have been made with fellow grievers, suicidal people and the loved ones of those who are struggling, so I have continued to write about this winding road. Anyone ever driven from Sedona to Flagstaff, in Arizona? Or Lombard Street in San Francisco? Grief is like that, constantly shifting directions.  And evidently, other grievers relate, find comfort, feel less alone here and my blog has opened doors that I thought were walls. These doors have let the light in and out– and that has always been reason enough to continue, but I never considered or even hoped that my blog could ever materialize into anything else, like a vehicle for miracles!

But then in May, things shifted.

First I must say that I will bring it all back to my Mothers Day gift, I promise.

Second I must say that my family suffered another loss by suicide in April. And it threatened to send each one of us even further out into our own solitary orbits. And for about 36 hrs I was making a plan to run away to my friend The Mink, out west, to try to outrun the tsunami of emotion my sweet cousins death triggered inside of me.

I believed I could not handle another loss like this, I believed I could not escape the shame and overwhelm without actually escaping. I believed I could not hold anymore pain or sympathy.

But then somewhere around bedtime the day after the day of his death, I got the strongest sense of Isaac saying “you can do this mama”. And at that moment it occurred to me that I could survive anything because I have survived, am surviving, the worst pain possible, already.

So I took some deep breaths, as I have come to do. And things began to shift.

And this shift inside was like when Dorothy meets technicolor; everything was infused with this understanding that I could endure pain. Within days I could see it everywhere and that the dialogue in my head had changed direction. I could push myself physically using this new perspective; finally surpassing my excuses for not going to yoga or for a walk. I could also handle following technical directions, which is not a strong suit of mine. I found myself emotionally progressing away from chaotic implosion into step by step stability, recentering, moving forward when I felt ready.

All the things I’ve slowly been learning, were all right here all together like a bouquet of flowers for me to admire, and it was helping with both this new grief as well as my on-going mourning for Isaac (which, my goodness– hits me like a wave so often one might think it wouldn’t startle me so, but fuck. It does.) .

This may sound like badassery but is not intended to be braggadocios, this was a very personal revelation/ revolution. This was a steadying. Anyone who has ever been hammered and had the spins knows how good it feels just to have equilibrium return. You might still feel like shit, but improvement is improvement.

With this growth spurt, I was able to say yes to life in the midst of death. It seems absurd and at the same time inevitable. Nothing is really logical or linear about the self or healing, though– maybe you already know that. I’m still learning.

Any who, it seems impossible to extract its potency with mere words– which is ok for me because I feel it, but I always like to bring you along with me, dear reader!

With my coping skills working (their ass off, to be sure), life is now changing everyday. Where there was almost always no, now there is yes. Or atleast maybe. (But when no shows up with firmness I do try to honor it). One of those yes’s was to an invitation to speak as a panelist at a mental health forum with the Human Rights Commission of Traverse City. I spoke my truth and it resonated with those present, including Mayor Carruthers and others who’s lives have been touched by suicide, mental illness, or addiction, as the forum represented this trifecta. People shared their truths with me, which was harrowing and beautiful and brave and genuinely humbling. I left there thinking “My blog did this. My healing brought more healing into my life and others lives. My breathwork allowed this”. I cannot adequately articulate the heart squeeze I feel about this. Surely, if I could not know this world of pain and joy and hope and recovery existed, that would be my preference. In fact, if theres even an iota of that left as an option, I am ready to beg, just sayin. To have Isaac, radiant and hilarious as ever, here, still– oh man oh man oh man. Of course, that would be the best thing that could happen. But short of that? In THIS reality, honestly, being with those people, my people, people who understand this– who can relate or who can hold space for THIS– that seems like the best thing that could happen in THIS reality. Saying yes led me to them and now I have a fire under my ass about something.

One might conclude that is quite a lot and quite enough goodness to come from this old blog…

But then Mother’s Day Weekend came and I came home from an outing with my dog to some local greenhouses, salt stains running down my cheeks from crying in the sun. On my door was a notice from UPS that a pkg for “Stolz” from “Gerber” needed a signature. I wasn’t expecting anything so I assumed it was for Josh and thought nothing more of it. The weekend passed and another notice from UPS came about the pkg, I left a note for our UPS guy Steve that we were at Grow Benzie and also which Stoltz is this for? The new notice said C Stolz. I thought it was odd because it was spelled incorrectly. I needed to know if I needed to make alternative arrangements for pick up during working hours so I called UPS. They had no contact info for sender. I was confused– I asked “do you think it’s like Gerber the baby company or someone with the last name of Gerber”. The person didn’t know. I was now intrigued, what could require a signature? Am I in collections for anything? (It’s been awhile but…Been there). Am I in trouble? (A middle child always wonders this). I had no idea but plenty of other things to think about after a busy Monday. But I couldn’t let it rest so I googled Gerber for a phone number, and after some uncertainties, the guy finally looks up my name and places me on a brief hold, returns and then says, “ma’am I’ve been instructed to say nothing further and also to ask for your contact info”. I’m pretty sure now that this is not good and I dont want to give them anything! He says “ma’am we are a respected and reputable company and I can say this is not bad news”. Um… ok. Let me just say here that a slight hunch starts forming at this point but I won’t ruin the story by stating my hunch because it turns out my hunch was right.

Josh worked late that night. He came home with the package because Steve our UPS man is the shit and also because we live in a small town where sometimes you can tell your UPS man where to find you. I open the pkg, which is a letter. The letterhead looks legit. But right out of the gates, the letter starts rather informally by saying “We read your recent post ‘Respirations and Ruminations and are sorry for your tremendous loss”. I do a double take & some deep breathing thinking first about my hunch but then, in a panic, I remember that in the aforementioned blog post, I referred to this company with the word “fucking” preceding its name. As in “the fucking Gerber Life Grow Up Plan”. Yeah.

So I am now convinced that I am being sued. In milliseconds I determine that my blog is the dumbest thing I’ve ever done and this is surely my sign to stop writing.

But then I read the next paragraph.

“While removing Isaac’s name from our database we discovered an active policy naming you and his father as the beneficiaries”, “please provide us with a birth and death certificate to proceed with this claim”.

What. The. Fuck?!?!

I can’t sleep that night. In my non sleep induced anxiety, I’m convinced this Sherri person, the letters author, didn’t read that the death was 2.5 yrs ago by suicide and there will be some awkward moment where she says “oops, my bad”. I’m also convinced that I will unload some pent up angst on her for triggering me WAY MORE THAN THE MAIL DID by having to look at that fucking death certificate. It’s horrible– that’s all I will say.

Needless to say when 9:05 am rolls around and I know Sherri will be in her office, I call and I am prepared to be the me that shows up when, say…my internet goes out for the third time in 2 months and the operator is difficult to understand and I’m hangry or premenstrual. Yeah. That girl. She is just waiting to let Sherri have it.

But instead I breathe while the call to her is ringing. I breathe in knowing whatever happens on this call I will be ok, I can endure, and this person, whoever she is and whatever she says, has her entire workday in front of her and deserves kindness and respect.

Sherri is warm and apologizes for the mail we’ve been receiving and empathizes with how that must have felt. She also knows the death was in 2014 by suicide. She tells me that the policy, started by me, lapsed in 2004 but was paid enough to keep it active until 2024. I tell her “I only know about life insurance policies from movies” (and, I don’t say, from murderous news stories where people are killed for the money!!! and by the way, this is not that kind of money, by any means– it is truly a modest amount.  Though immediately impactful for Josh and I and for Philly, it is less about the money than the incredulousness of the story of how it came to us).

Suddenly I remember signing up for the Gerber Life Grow Up Plan as a young mama. Thinking it was like college money or something and also maybe getting Dr Suess books with it? A young mama, I remember thinking this is what good mama’s do! And it was affordable!
And 2004? That was the year Isaacs daddy and I finally called it quits on our On Again Off Again relationship, and I was broke AF and though I don’t recall making the decision, by then I knew that the plan was Life Insurance and not college money, and who needs life insurance for a child? So I’m sure I just stopped paying (and was not placed into collections!). I never opened another piece of mail from Gerber Life Insurance. Perhaps if I had I would have known about the active status of the policy in Isaac’s name.

Regardless, Sherri told me how Tanya works to field and investigate all the flags on the company from the Internet. (So let’s all say Hi Tanya!!!). I’m sure my expletive preceding their company name got me right up there at a priority level like saying bomb or terrorist will with NSA (let’s all say “Hi Big Brother!”). {and hey, while we are at it, like my sister in law said today, maybe this is a good time to see if we can flag Ellen DeGeneres and have her do something fabulous for these two women who went above and beyond!} Anyway, Tanya read my blog, and was touched– and wanted to be sure they removed us from the mailing list so I never had to be triggered again. And to her and Sherri’s wonder and surprise, they discovered the policy. An unusual means– most people know they have life insurance and make a claim, I guess.
It honestly felt conceivable that Ashton Kutcher was on standby– and the thought occurred to me how Isaac could be giggling about Punking me from his celestial post. I just could not stop saying “Oh My Gosh! This is incredible! This is unfuckingbelievable.

Clearly Sherri knew my fondness for this word. Sherri endured my long winded disbelief and graciously helped me navigate the pathway to completing the claim. I shared the good news with Phillip who said “thanks mama, you were such a good mama!” And we sat in my car together in disbelief while he signed papers.

I call my bestie who also happens to work where I have my mortgage. She says it first-“how’s that for a happy Mother’s Day, mama”. And I close my eyes and feel the truth; remembering the moments leading up to getting that first UPS notification on Friday after I had been out shopping for the mama’s in my family. I also take in how often I would tell Isaac that I would be debt free by 40 (a completely ludicrous concept but my goal nonetheless, which was definitely thwarted by my taking a year and a half off from work after losing Isaac…) and then this reminds me that I was literally just discussing this in April while catching up with a family member after my cousin’s death, that I would now be 41 but was still on track).

There would be enough to pay off our mortgage 7 months early and my massage school student loans 12 months early with 2 months remaining as a 40 yr old…

When the check comes I cry. Hard. The stub has all the technical and formal details relevant to the source of this”windfall”. There’s never what I might call a moment of wahoofulness about this. There’s awe and gratitude and humor and wonder, there’s a lot of WHOA!!!! but it’s root ball, it’s source, is humility and deep sadness. I cry for that little mama who filled out that postcard from Mothering magazine. I cry for all the scarcity we felt, financially, for a good long while in Isaacs lifetime and how that has changed enough now that I have a very short list of things to pay off with this money instead of an endless list of needs. I cry for that sweet and gentle boy who had the world waiting on baited breath for him to blossom in it. I cry for his daddy who is alone in a way I cannot fathom, having lost his son, grandmother and mother in 2 yrs time who was my partner when I started this policy, I cry for that little family we three made, and the dreams that never came true for us. I cry for my husband who spent half of Isaacs life with him and surrendered his whole self to being a father to Isaac, who, without taking anything away from Phil for even a moment, considered Isaac his son and treated him as such, but would not technically be considered/called a beneficiary in the policy and is not named as a parent on the death certificate. I cry for my sister Jenn who burst into tears when I told her this story and said “you deserve every good thing that comes, Christina”,who not only mastered the fine art of Aunting, but set the standard, elevated the game, who Aunts like a mama, I cry for all of us who loved– who just fucking adored and cherished and cared so deeply for Isaac.

But I would miss out on the wonderment of this gift if I could not acknowledge all the conspiring of good will at work in my life. How the gift comes from a broken place, like sunshine after rain. So right alongside the somber,  you will find me taking deep breaths, face and chest lifted toward the sky, in this microcosm of good fortune as well as in the macrocosm of my ongoing journey through loss. Knowing in my heart, Isaac’s place, beside me and all around me, in my ongoing story of survival and surrender.


In my sadness over this whole sitch, Joshua encouraged me to consider what Isaac would think about me being so responsible. I knew he would want me to do something fun/less lame than only paying bills bills bills. So I thought about what I would love to have but probably never actually get for myself OR what I would ask for as a Mothers Day gift if money wasn’t a limitation and this adorkable pink kayak was my answer.

Listen: Beyond the Beyonda

Thank you, Isaac.

And Sherri & Tonya.

And Philly and Joshua.

And Granny & Grandpa and Jenn & Jess.

And Grandma & Grandpa Mac.

And everyone who helped me as a mama.

I am so so so so so so so grateful.

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Published by: christinaryanstoltz

I write to touch the supple center of unguarded ache~ To release myself from the pressure of not knowing how to move forward from the unfathomable loss of my beloved son, my beautiful boy Isaac, to suicide, of not knowing how to release my grip on of the past, both the worshipping of it as well as the beating myself up for it, and letting go of the need to know what I could’ve done or what on earth I will do now. I write to heal.

4 Comments

4 thoughts on “Unf#<%ingbelievable!”

  1. Dear Christina, Thank you for sharing this lovely story! I think of you often and pray for sweetness in your life. Love, Marti

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Like

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