Diary of a Mother's Mission

My son, Kevin Martin, disappered under mysterious circumstances in the wee hours of July 18, 2004. His partial remains were found on February 1, 2005 in the river. The Des Moines Police have not been helpful and this is my blog to tell what I have done as it's done.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Kevin and Terry

Everything is sort of a jumble at this point. I'm not even sure of what I want to write but I did know that I wanted to show up at the library and do a blog. To write something as I have done on a pretty regular basis for over a year now. Little did I know, then, that I would be including a little bit about another one of my children who died a little over two years after Kevin.

Things are kind of muddled in my thinking right now and, obviously, I have thought a little more about Terry these past few weeks, since his death is so recent. I still think of Kevin ,too, on a daily basis. I wonder how there can be room for any more thoughts, thoughts of the loss of another son, but there is. Perhaps it's a little like having one child and wondering whether you have enough love for a second and a third, and of course you do. It seemed that my thoughts of Kevin were all consuming and yet now my thoughts are split between the two.

A couple of things stick in my mind. The Lord of the Rings came to mind once again. Terry loved the Lord of the Rings as much as Kevin did. In the movie, Elrond is telling Aragorn that his daughter, Arwyn, is dying and that Aragorn has to let her go so that she can return to the Grey Havens with her people to live an immortal life. The time of the elves is over. I can't remember the exact words but Aragorn didn't want to accept the fact that their love would be "nothing more than a memory". In this case, Arwyn chose a mortal life in order to be with Aragorn. Love is eternal, they say, as is my love for Terry and Kevin, and yet there is no choice for me at this time. My love for them is a memory and, yet, memory will keep that love alive. But memory is all I have and faith that I will see them again, although not with these mortal eyes.

The second thing that keeps sticking in my mind is living life to the fullest and what does that really mean. I don't mean quality of life. I've talked about that before, so, not that. So what does it mean to live life to the fullest? Go to as many movies as you can, eat, drink and be merry, etc.? The irony is that I never felt that I lived a "full" life until recently. Now I do, for some strange reason. Is the loss of a loved one living life to the fullest? Maybe it comes closer to it than anything else does. The full realization of love by the loss of it? The full realization of life by death? What could be more living life to the fullest than experiencing the loss of it? Death. (I was just told recently that in another religious culture they celebrate the day the person died, not his or her birth day.)

Another of the many ponderous questions which seem to plague my thinking as I try, very unsuccessfully, to understand why the universe acts as it does and why Kevin and Terry are gone from our lives. I have a sense of peacefullness when I think about Terry and his spirit, free from illness and turmoil. But I don't have that same feeling when it comes to Kevin. There is still only a little closure there; we found his remains. It's not the closure as in Terry's case since there is closure. We don't have that closure in Kevin's case since we don't know what happened... that nagging question. Those nagging doubts.

Saturday, October 21, 2006


Terrence Patrick Gilson, Kevin's older brother died on September 29, 2006. He loved Kevin and was devastated by Kevin's disappearance and subsequent death. The older Kevin became, the better he and Terry got along. Terry visited Des Moines the first time I lived out here, I think in 2002, around May, and then Kevin went to see him in New York after that. Perhaps I have the two events backwards, I'm not sure, but that doesn't matter.

Where to begin? I was going to visit the library last Sunday (as I had been here Friday and Saturday) a couple of days after my return and as I was logging my journey to and from New York, but I didn't make it. I think the words would have flowed more easily then as I was in a different place and frame of mind. Over the past week all the memories of Terry have been flooding in, I guess a normal part of the grieving process, just as they did with Kevin. So now there's so much more to write but wanting to keep it brief since this is Kevin's website. The reality is though that Terry was an integral and important part of Kevin's life, and would have been either way, if he had died before Kevin or after Kevin, as he did. And I guess I will include things that I said at Terry's memorial service, things which I felt strongly about and which could have applied to Kevin as well, although circumstances were different.

I wrote this before; Terry was the sun, Brian my rainbow, Kevin my pot of gold. Terry was sunshine, a sunny disposition, a big smile on his face all the time. He was the little boy that was the envy of all my girlfriends because their husbands wished they had a kid, a son, just like him; all boy! He was a joy. He had just learned to walk and so insisted on going up the stairs himself. Of course I was right behind him but when I tried to take his hand he pushed it out of the way and said "I do, I do". He had no fear. We went to Jones Beach, the first time for him, at age 4 or 5 years. He had never seen the hugh waves before but he charged right into the water with me right behind him! When he was a little older he discovered Terry Bradshaw and the Pittsburgh Steelers and so for the first time in his life had a super role model and with his same name. He was a devout Steeler fan and one of his friends commented to me how this love and devotion wore off on others as well as his family. Brian, Kevin and I also became nothing but Steeler fans. I failed to mention though that he also loved the New York Yankees and was a fan even before their hugh winning streak in more recent years. During Terry's high school years I vividly remember a conversation with his football coach who had called to check up on Terry. He said that Terry was the kind of kid (player) that the scouts would be watching. He was that good!

Terry wasn't setting the world on fire, though. I'm not either. We all struggle, we all strive, we all have to make a living and put a roof over our heads, in my case it's half a roof. Terry was struggling and those of us who were close to him, recently, were very troubled about him and stuggling right along with him. We all have demons to one extent or another. I'm not just referring to alcohol or drugs. A demon can come in many forms and can be something the person fights all his or her life; weight, insecurity, inferiority, etc. Some of us can overcome our worldly problems, some of us can't. Maybe Terry couldn't. Maybe Kevin couldn't either.

We can never really know, though, what is truly in another's heart or soul or mind. We can never really know what another person is stuggling with or dealing with, not really, not even though they might attempt to tell us. I truly believe that each person does the very best that they are capable of doing at any given time, as I'm sure Terry did, and Kevin did, even though it might not have appeared so to others.

Terry is my child. Kevin is my child. Each of them had to do or be nothing else in my eyes. Their lives were precious. They were both children or manifestations of God. Each one of us has a God given purpose. Maybe it will never be clear to us what those purposes might be. Maybe in time it will be clear but perhaps not for those who mourn his loss, and Kevin's loss, so horribly. We live in this goal oriented, achievement, monied world and so it's hard to remember who we truly are, in my opinion, my belief. But I do believe in the sacredness and uniqueness of each and every life. We are that regardless of what we do or don't do, we are that just because we are born. It has nothing to do with what we achieve or don't achieve... Terry existed and Kevin existed. Just by being who they were they made a contribution to life, perhaps more than we'll ever know. The story isn't finished yet.

A couple of years ago, here, at Christmas time I bought a figurine or collectible from a sports store. It was a young boy 10 or 11 years of age who had fallen asleep in a chair with his Steelers shirt on and helmet right beside him. They had these for the other teams as well. I bought it for Terry for Christmas but couldn't give it to him. It made me so sad. It was this beautiful little kid with all the potential in the world. He was a little devoted Steeler fan having fallen asleep in a perfect world. He had his whole life ahead of him. This was the Terry I knew and this figurine represented him and all my perfect hopes and dreams for him. It never happened. This wasn't Terry's life anymore.

So it's hard for me at times to realize that this world is just a shadow of the real and perfect world to come. Terry is at peace now, free from the turmoil and strife which seemed to dominate his life more recently. And he is with his brothers, Danny and Kevin... and his Pop. He loved his Pop who was like a father to him. (my father)

Terry loved his daughter, Elizabeth, first and foremost, about the only thing he devotedly attended to, he loved his brothers and friends and he loved the Steelers and the Yankees. (I love you, Terry, Love, Mou)

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Journey (Con't)

Last night I was still thinking about my trip, my journey. In a way I'm still on it. I'm still in New York. I'm still in Allentown, Pa., I'm still driving on the interstate although, bodily, I am back here in Des Moines. I don't know whether I adequately got across my feelings on this and so I kept thinking about it. It had become, many years ago a sort of meditative thing. Even if one reads a good book and gets so absorbed in what he is reading so as to completely forget where he is - that is meditation too. So driving has become so much more and peaceful and meditative and relaxing as it was these past couple of weeks as life through me another pass or curve ball. I wish I could think of something more apropo, less trite, since Terry loved the Steelers and the Yankees and so a reference to sports is something he would appreciate.

This time I did take a different route since I stopped in Allentown, Pennsylvania before heading West. It was neat as I had not been in that area for many, many years. I even traveled the Pennsylvania Tnpke for a short distance and went through the Lehigh valley tunnel. I reminised about my family's many trips through Pa. and another portion of the Pa. Tnpke as we went to visit my grandfather and uncle, mid-state and slightly West, around Clearfield. I always looked forward to the tunnels, the Kittatiny, something like Tuscarora, and others. We went through a bunch of them. This time I didn't care for it and so sped faster to get through it quicker! The scenery was beautiful, alot of color change, although I did miss out on the peek leaf changing season in New York as well as Pennsylvania.

Leaving from Pa. I was way ahead of schedule and so even made it all the way into Indiana before pulling over to sleep. I had gotten so accustomed to the rest stops in Ohio, and it seemed to be midway, that I always stopped there to rest. The Indiana rest stops aren't as conducive to sleeping in the car but this time it was okay. There aren't as many travelers on the road at this time of year and so I pulled to the end of the parking area for a little more privacy and distance from the main entrance. I was on the road again by 1:00 a.m. so as to make it through the Chicago area before rush hour traffic, the real worry of my whole trip. I made it through at 3:00 a.m. in the morning, the perfect time, I think, and was so early I even pulled over a second time somewhere in Illinois at a gas station. I got the biggest kick at 4:00 a.m. The station-mart had, over in the corner and, obviously, closed off at this time of day, a Jimmy-John's gourmet sandwich shop! Kevin and his friends and Brian, too, loved Jimmy-John's. I did and still do as Brian and I went there a couple of times.

Iowa looked different this time. It seemed that most of the time when I crossed the Mississippi, that final leg of my journey, it was sunny and very warm, a couple of times very hot as the sun was lowering in the sky and so comming in my driver's side window. Wednesday morning it was overcast as it was the night before. Normally the clouds make me more gloomy but, at least, this time, it was much easier to drive as I was driving West into the setting sun. The grasses were very green as most of Iowa has gotten more rain this year. The corn husks were still standing and so you saw all the patches of brown or tan interspersed amongst the green. The skies were those of a Winter sky which technically isn't due to arrive for a couple of months yet. I went from Summer in Allentown to Winter here in Des Moines in 24 hours!

I have become so familiar with this travel route that it brings me comfort as I go by certain places, landmarks, the rest areas where I'ved stopped so many times. I wonder about all the people along the way. What it's like to live in Ohio or Indiana, although I really think people are the same everywhere. And then I think and contemplate life and death issues because death has brought me over these highways more than anything else, but these highways have also provided me with consolation and comfort as well - as strange as that may seem.

I use to tell people that I wished I could run my life as I drive a car. I always thought I was a good driver (I even fantisized about being the next Cha Cha Muldowney, race car driver from Schenectady) but at least I always drove with confidence. Now it seems that all I do is drive! I drive for a living, I drive for fun and relaxation, and yes, it seems that driving brings me peace and serenity, too, on my life's journey of which this most recent trip was a small but significant chapter.

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Journey Home

Another journey home it seems. I just returned from a very unexpected trip to New York. I had put in for vacation time at the end of October, beginning of November, a time when I thought the gas prices would reach their lowest (you know, right before the elections)point and so favorable for my drive back to Upstate New York to visit my roots and friends.

I had two messages waiting for me when I arrived home from work on Friday evening, September 29th. I returned one of the calls only to learn that my son, Terry, had died that day, that very morning. I immediately started to plan for my return to New York, the only option I had, and as soon as possible. Things are more complicated now, it seems, since I have to leave a house, not an apartment. A little tiny house but none-the-less a house and so I took the necessary steps to make things more safe while I was gone as I guess that's what one is suppose to do.

This is another journey. A part of an even larger journey. I kind of like the idea of thinking of life as being a road trip to various destinations and ultimately back to the One source. And some say that it is the process and the journey inbetween, not the final destination, which is the most important; that being life and how we live it. We all die and return to God in the end but it is our experience and how we live life from day to day that matters. Joseph Campbell, sociologist,anthropologist says that life is a tragedy and that our purpose here is to "experience" life.

This journey home was special as my many journeys back and forth between New York and Des Moines have been. Seven times I drove back and forth because of Kevin's disappearance. This time I reversed the order and returned to New York from Des Moines to honor Terry, this time, to say goodbye to him. But my drives back and forth have always been more, meant more, as I traveled along Interstate 80 predominantly, then 90, and usually the Southern Tier of New York. On occasion I would try a different route but most of the time by roate and on automatic pilot I followed the same route.

Many years ago my journey was shorter from Upstate to Long Island. Terry was always with me on those trips, back and forth almost every weekend for awhile there, and on occasion twice in a week. That is when these trips became something more as I seemed to work out my life and hopes and sorrows in the wee hours of the morning as I returned to Schenectady once again and time and time again. I've always gone somewhere. To Rutland Vermont, to Utica, Kingston, points inbetween and it always helped as my trips back and forth between New York and Des Moines have always helped and taken on major significance. I always used to tell people that I was at peace with the world when I was on the road going somewhere, anywhere, and preferably in the opposite direction from where I lived at the time.

It was hard to return to Des Moines this time. Is this my home? When I visited Des Moines regarding Kevin, I didn't want to leave because this was his home and I felt closer to him here. Terry lived in Schenectady most of his life. There would have been more of a connectedness if I had stayed there but that was not possible. I had to return to my life, my house, my job here in Des Moines.

So, I made another journey home. A small journey as part of a much larger journey. I'm not the same person as I was when I left. Each time I've grown and grieved and sought answers. The answers have come. Perhaps not right away but they have come on these trips. Even now I wish I could just take off and drive again...