Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tomorrow Is Steven's Birthday

Tomorrow September 23, 2010 is my son Steven's birthday.

He would have been 33 years of age.

I dread the coming of his birthday almost as much as the date of his death. While I don't ever stop thinking about my first born son Steven Nathaniel Wolkoff, my inner pain begins to silently morph upwards in the weeks before both dates.

It has been close to 3 long years since I last hugged and kissed Steven, 2 and a half years since we spoke on the phone,it feels like an eternity because it is. Steven is gone forever, the memories I have of him will always be a part of me, but they fail at making any difference in the reality of his loss.

I am grateful for what I still have in life, yet I can never wish away his death. It has become a part of who I am and is a way to remember Steven not only as he was but how he died. Many of those who love Steven choose to remember him as he was, but I am not comfortable in doing that as his father.

Steven was an amazing human being and his life was filled with many people, events, and wonderful times for all that had the privilege of knowing him. He truly touched those he met in many different ways and is remembered in the hearts and minds of all who loved him.

As his father, I know that Steven was a special man, gifted, compassionate, funny, honest, self taught, he could teach himself and others anything, an oh so skilled at whatever he did. I will always be proud of Steven and who he was in his short time on this earth. A father could not ask for more from such a loving son.

I get stuck on his death part. I cannot seem to even remotely comprehend the reasons of fate, a second here or there would have kept him safe, and the gross negligence on the part of others that unnecessarily killed Steven. I guess what started out for me as a way to just find out the details of how Steven died, to make sure he was not alone, that the causes of his death were clearly understood, was a way for me to try to insure that while I could not as his father keep him from dying, I would at least make certain that all the facts of his death were accurately recorded.

That began my ongoing journey to the discoveries of the real truths that caused his death. The endless calls, communications, and good people who helped me in this quest for Justice and accountability from those entities and individuals who stole Steven's life from him. The evil ones, who to this day try to make it seem that Steven Nathaniel Wolkoff never lived, and never died at their hands. They would sweep his life away in a second to avoid their responsibility if they could, and they may succeed in doing that yet.

I often dwell on the horrific, painful manner in which Steven died, the actual facts, real pictures, and feelings that I imagine he felt as he slowly died for over 45 minutes, during mass confusion. I wonder what he felt in that split nano second just before the collision and then right after, since he was still aware of his surroundings. I wonder about the terrifying fear that he felt while he was being treated, his loneliness, his pain, and I cannot seem to stop thinking about that. I see his grotesquely damaged face and body staring out out me from a body bag, photos seared into my mind, taken by the California Highway Patrol and the Coroners Office. I tremble uncontrollably every time I go near those photos and others like them on my computer, mostly never being able to open those particular picture files after my original 2 or 3 views. I want to, but I can't, they are just too real, too painful, too ugly, no wonder so many people want to only remember Steven in life, as he was, and avoid the details of his death, or their demanding justice for him

I am the keeper of his files, the archivist of his horrible death, who else will do it, who else should do it, this is my responsibility to protect Steven's dignity, the truth, and due process in death. It is the very least I can do for him.

For the last year, in our quest to obtain justice for Steven, we have become part of the extremely dysfunctional legal system as victims. We have highly skilled, very much human, kind, caring, the best of attorneys to represent Steven. Yet it is a legal system that appears to me as having no compassion, few rights, and no sense of basic human respect for victims and their families. A system that appears to me to largely be a well paid industry of posturing actors/actresses, theater of the absurd, and manipulations of legal words to hide the truth. Laws that are meant to protect, to give due process, appear to me as instead being mocked and circumvented, manipulated by those who see themselves as "owning" the system to do with as they wish. Justice and the truth appear to me as almost invisible while bullying, billing hours, out of control egos, legal monetary costs, and untruths at any cost, seem to rule the day.

The pain of losing Steven, my first born son can never be changed, but he lived and his life was stolen from him and our family by those who contributed to his death and continue to try to make believe that there never was a Steven Nathaniel Wolkoff. My son was an amazing person, he did not deserve to die nor be treated in death with such a disrespectful, disgraceful manner.

Steven was our child, our brother, our friend, we will never hug him again, never kiss him or talk to him, his dreams will never be fulfilled, he will never have a family of his own, never have his own children, never be be a father, and never have his chance to change the world in the way only he was capable of doing.

Shouldn't I as a parent, wonder about such things, do the very best of my ability to get him justice, it may not be healthy, but is it that mysterious about why I am stuck here?

In memory of Steven, whenever you read this post, please take a minute to think of the person, Steven Nathaniel Wolkoff.- Jerry

The views and opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of anyone else. The views and opinions expressed on this website, be they in text, pictures or sound, are my own not those of any one else. Any points of information written in this blog should not be considered facts and I will not be held liable were they to be considered as such and subsequently cause issues. While I try and make this blog as accurate to my life as possible some things are deliberately left out or censored and as such my postings are not to be considered in any way a viable method for judging my character or suitableness, doing so will be considered an infringement of my rights. Where possible any infringement of my rights will be pursued using applicable points of law.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Our STEVEN dies a second time,when no one speaks his name


My friend Maxine sent me this article below. Reading it evoked many of the feelings that I experience losing Steven. While you may be able to understand the pain my family has, you can never feel it.

In reading the article below it evoked many of the same feelings that I experience about the loss of Steven. Perhaps it will give you further insight into my world. -Jerry

Now We Are Alone: Living On Without Our Sons by Linton Weeks September 3, 2010

Courtesy of Linton Weeks- Jan and Linton Weeks with their sons Holt (second from right) and Stone (left) who both were killed in a car crash a year ago.

My wife, Jan, and I did not celebrate a damn thing this summer. We didn't take a family vacation or meet up with old friends or invite neighbors to our backyard for a picnic. Instead, we got in the car one morning and drove to the annual national conference of The Compassionate Friends, a support organization for parents who have lost a child.

Or, in our case, children. All of our children.

Just a year earlier, we were very happy and lighthearted. We were content in our work and our marriage, and we had two beautiful, amazing sons — Stone, 24, and Holt, 20.

We spent several wonderful days with them at a family reunion in Nashville on that July weekend in 2009. Stone and Holt had each worked so hard to be at a glorious point in their two lives. And they were finally together, delighted to be living in the same city after spending several years apart.

No matter how your child dies, there is an undeniable sense of failure among bereaved parents. Jan and I are haunted by Stone's and Holt's violent, senseless deaths, and all the wrongs that can never be righted.
The four of us laughed so much. And we had serious discussions, talking history and politics. We listened to music and danced and told stories. As Jan and I said goodbye to them, we gave them hugs.

It was the last time we ever saw them.
Less than two weeks later, on July 23, 2009, as they were driving home to be with us again, they were killed by a massive tractor-trailer truck. It plowed into their car while they were stopped in traffic on a Virginia highway. We received the heart-smashing news on an early Friday morning. Ever since that instant, we have been living in — no, wandering through — a meaningless, joyless, surreal world. And feeling very alone.

Now, a year later, Jan and I were at a hotel in Arlington, Va., with more than 1,400 other people who also have lost a child. We were at the 33rd annual gathering of The Compassionate Friends. It's an organization to which none of its members want to belong. And yet, for scores of people we run into at the conference, The Compassionate Friends is a lifesaver.

'You Are Not Alone'
The three-day event was packed with lectures, sharing sessions and more than 100 workshops that had titles like "Witnessing the Death" and "A Deafening Silence: Communication Issues for Bereaved Families."

The overarching message of the organization: Losing a child is an alienating experience. You are alienated from everything you knew before the event — your friends, your family, your self. Nothing is the same. By gathering together and sharing experiences with others who are alienated in the same way, you may be able to go on living.

Chuck and Kathy Collins lost their daughter Tiffanie to bacterial meningitis in 1996. This summer, they chaired the national conference of The Compassionate Friends. You can read more about the organization here.

Our first stop was the orientation for first-time attendees. There were hundreds of people in the room. David and Peggy Gibson of Nashville — whose 23-year-old daughter, Paige, died of a malignant brain tumor in 1985 — handed out gentle advice. "This is your grief journey — you are not alone," Peggy Gibson said to everyone. "You are a member of this family."

David told about meeting a woman at a previous conference. She had tears in her eyes and she said three things to him: "This has been wonderful. This has saved my life. I do not want to go home."

This year's gathering was organized by Chuck and Kathy Collins of Fairfax, Va., whose daughter, Tiffanie, died in 1996. As the convention began, Kathy led us all in The Compassionate Friends credo: "We reach out to each other in love to share the pain as well as the joy, share the anger as well as the peace, share the faith as well as the doubts, and help each other to grieve as well as to grow. We need not walk alone. We are The Compassionate Friends."

The keynote speaker was former Sen. Gordon Smith of Oregon, whose son, Garrett, committed suicide in 2003 at age 22 after battling bipolar disorder and depression. Gordon Smith told the audience that he learned the news from police officers. "As the door closed, shock and numbness held me for a moment above what looked like the blackest depths of sorrow and failure. Joy vanished," he said.

Stone And Holt Weeks: Brothers, Best Friends

Stone and Holt Weeks were both working as researchers at Rice University in Houston at the time of their deaths.

Stone, 24, was the research assistant for historian Douglas Brinkley, having worked most recently on a book about Theodore Roosevelt and the environmental movement. Holt, 20, was in his second summer as an intern at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy. He was to start his junior year of college at Rice in the fall.

The brothers were killed on July 23, 2009, while stopped in highway traffic, heading home to Washington, D.C., to visit their parents and attend a publication event for the Roosevelt book.
(You can read more about the Weeks brothers at

"Years of striving and achieving now appeared as ashes to me," he continued. "Success in business, service in church, even election to the United States Senate — in an instant, it all seemed meaningless, even vain. I had failed to save my own son and I felt I had failed at my most important and lasting responsibility: that of family, that of fatherhood."

No matter how your child dies, there is an undeniable sense of failure among bereaved parents. Jan and I are haunted by Stone's and Holt's violent, senseless deaths, and all of the wrongs that can never be righted. Including the biggest of them all — we could not save our sons from death. We should have been the ones who died first, not our precious boys.

We carry that guilt in our already shattered hearts, and we relearn every morning when we wake up that the loss of our children is something we will never get over. Or past. Or through.

At the conference luncheon, Maria Housden, whose daughter Hannah died of cancer at age 3 — nearly 16 years ago — spoke of the challenges: "I am profoundly grateful for gatherings like this one where we can be together, share our stories, our loved ones' names, our memories, our grief. We need to come together to support one another because our culture does so little to prepare us for death, especially the death of a child."

The pain we feel following the death of a child, Maria said, is compounded by our inexperience and the inexperience of those around us. We feel isolated from our culture. From our friends, our families, our work.

And so The Compassionate Friends conference brought together all of us isolates.

To Bond And To Cry

Here was a vast collection of painful, tragic stories. Every person was there because of unspeakable sorrow. Yet the protocol of the gathering is to speak of that sorrow when you meet someone.

Courtesy of Mitch Carmody
Mitch Carmody with his son Kelly,who died of cancer at the age of 9.

His daughter was killed in a motorcycle crash; her son was murdered; their baby died just after being born.

The Compassionate Friends embraces us all. With more than 600 local chapters and regular chapter meetings, it is several support groups rolled into one — a suicide prevention hot line, a forum for patients with incurable heart disease, and a rehab clinic for people who are likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.

We had been in deep grief for slightly less than a year, but we were struck that many conference-goers had been coming back year after year. For years — to bond, and to cry with old friends and new friends over children lost long ago or more recently.

Because of our extreme circumstances, Jan and I were especially interested in about a half-dozen panel discussions, including "Sudden Death — Vehicular" and "Hope for Bereaved Parents with No Surviving Children." We attended a "Multiple Loss" workshop for parents who have lost more than one child.

Our child dies a second time when no one speaks their name.

During one break, we browsed in the gift shop. People were buying ornaments, jewelry, knitted things, teddy bears and memory bracelets. Many sported those secret symbols of eternal love: butterflies, dragonflies, sunflowers. Jan, who has read many books about grief already, bought more books.

In the afternoon, she sat in on a session called "Whispers of Love: Signs from Our Children" led by Mitch Carmody of Minnesota, whose 9-year-old son, Kelly, died of cancer in 1987. Mitch said he felt burdened by the pressure to get over the death of his son for 10 years, until one day he looked at a photo of Kelly and fell to his knees and wept. "Our child dies a second time," Mitch said, "when no one speaks their name."

Another Day
At the end of the first day, Jan and I were exhausted. We didn't have the stamina to stay for the evening sharing sessions. We heard that they often go on for hours.

Instead, we drove home. And went to bed, not really sure if we had the energy to go through another day of workshops and panel discussions.

But the next morning, for more than one reason, we were in the car again, two sorrow-filled parents driving through Washington to go back to the conference. For another day, in a place where we did not feel quite so all alone.