A few months ago during a drive to southern Indiana to speak to high school students, I glanced in my rearview mirror and gasped at an incredible autumn sunrise. It was just so beautiful that it took my breath away… one of those experiences that made me feel as though it was meant for me to see. I snapped a quick picture because I wanted to hang on to that moment. Sometimes we look at the sky differently – especially sunrises and sunsets – when we know we have someone up there. I felt the message that morning.
I had a similar “goosebumps” kind of feeling over the summer. I’d just left a Youth Summit at the convention center in our hometown, where I spoke with hundreds of kids about Nick and Jack; and why I encourage kids and parents to talk openly with one another, educate themselves and put an exit plan in place. As I drove home, I was having a woe is me moment… really, really missing my boys, when suddenly I was cut off by another car. At first I was mad, but then I noticed the vehicle. It was a blue Jeep!
A chill ran through my body. Nick and Jack drove a blue Jeep – same make, model and color. For a split second, my mind played a trick on me. I thought it was my boys. But then reality set in and I knew they were not behind the wheel of that blue Jeep. I smiled because I knew they were trying to get my attention, waving their arms from Heaven, trying to tell me to snap out of my funk and “Suck it Up, Buttercup – we’ve still got work to do.”
As I’ve shared before, moving forward has been a progress over perfection kind of thing. These moments happen from time to time and I’m getting better at embracing and leaning into them. These days, I find myself smiling more than crying when I can feel my boys speak to me. Those little reminders help me realize Nick and Jack are with us every single day, even if they are not in my arms where I want them to be.
Just the other day, an Eric Church song came on the radio while I was driving to an appointment. Similarly to the way I’ve reacted to every Eric Church song for the past four-and-a-half years, I lifted my hand to change the station.
Then I froze.
Eric Church. The last concert I saw with my boys, three weeks before Nick and Jack passed. I’d played his songs dozens of times before in my car with not so much as a head bob from my eldest teenage son; but after that concert with Kenney Chesney, Eric Church and other performers in 2015, Nick spent the next three weeks downloading and blasting every Church song he could find. He learned the words. He sang along. It spoke to him. I loved to watch my shy, smart kid connect with music, especially music that I loved!
After the boys died though, I couldn’t listen to Eric Church without breaking down. Too many memories. Too painful. So I simply changed the station.
But this time was different. As I went to change the channel, I paused. And then I cranked the volume. I sang as loud as I could… for my boys, for the ways we’re changing lives by continuing to share their story, for the ways they show me they’re proud and for the immense love I will always have for them!
What I wouldn’t give to hear Nick say, “Play that back one more time!” to an Eric Church song on my radio.
Today is Thanksgiving, and it’s also Nick’s birthday. It’s a monumental day for our family. He would be 24. Thinking about what he would be doing in life right now brings mixed emotions. We miss him and his brother so, so much.
I am thankful for so many things... especially my family, friends and my life.
I am thankful for the 19 years of memories with Nick and Jack.
I am thankful for pumpkin pie – what Nick always requested on his birthday – with an extra dollop of Cool Whip, of course.
I am thankful for moving forward, even if it’s at a slow and steady pace. Especially if it means leaning into gorgeous sunrises, smiling when I see blue Jeeps and being able to say, ‘I’ve got this’ when a song comes on the radio.
As you enjoy Thanksgiving with friends and family, please remember to be thankful for your blessings. Soak it in. And add that extra dollop of Cool Whip… for Nick.
Happy Birthday, Buddy!
Becky Savage’s two teenage sons – Nick and Jack – accidentally overdosed on a deadly cocktail of alcohol and prescription drugs on the same night in June 2015. Becky and her husband Mike turned their unimaginable grief into a powerful message: educating students, parents, lawmakers and anyone else who will listen about the dangers of prescription drugs. The couple created 525 Foundation (the boys’ hockey numbers were 5 and 25) with a goal of preventing another family from experiencing the pain the Savage family still struggles with every day. To date, Becky has bravely shared her story with more than 60,000 high school students from Indiana to Texas to Oregon and presented at conferences across the country. She’s spoken to members of a United States Senate opioid crisis committee, serves as an ambassador for the Walgreens #ItEndsWithUs campaign and participated in countless interviews for podcasts and news media.