There's no expiration date on grief.
Just listen to Pat Blount's voice quiver. Pay attention to the silence as his wife Vicki battles to keep talking only to have the words choked out by the pain of losing a child.
"I can go to his grave on his birthday, Christmas and Memorial Day, but don't ask me to go more than that, I just can't,” Pat said Wednesday.
On this Memorial Day weekend, the Blounts will go to their son Tyler Blount's grave site in Guthrie, nearly 10 years after the 17-year-old was killed while competing during the Oklahoma High School Rodeo Association Finals in Enid.
On June 10, 2000, the young saddle bronc rider hung a foot in a stirrup for a split second and was whipped under the horse. He died about two hours after being struck in the back of the head by the horse's hoof. Patrick Tyler Blount was pronounced dead at 10:53 p.m. at St. Mary's Hospital in Enid.
For many, Memorial Day is the start of summer, an opportunity to fire up the grill, dust off the lawn chairs and swat at bugs.
But for others it's a time to visit the graves of loved ones, and often that can be a very tough time. How do they cope with that day, or for that matter, all the days in between the annual remembrance holiday?
I sought the advice of some individuals who became knowledgeable of this the hard way.
I had come to know the Blounts through covering rodeo and was sitting with Pat Blount in the emergency room's waiting area when the doctor came to tell him his son wasn't going to make it.
Mary LeBeau and Jay LeBeau of Edmond were at a movie when Matthew called on the night of July 13, 2003.
"Mom, come home,” he said. She called 911 and rushed home. Their 23-year-old son suffered a brain aneurysm and died before they arrived.
Mary LeBeau is chairman of the North Oklahoma City Chapter of The Compassionate Friends, a national nonprofit, self-help support group offering "friendship, understanding and hope” to families grieving the death of a child of any age, regardless of the cause.
Charlotte Lankard, a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice, is known by many in the Oklahoma City metro. She too speaks of grief, not only from having studied it, but also from a personal perspective. It was the second marriage for both Fred Lankard and Charlotte. Three years after taking their vows, Fred was diagnosed with cancer. He died in 1996.
Personally, I often think about those brave men and women who died in military service to our nation. I think of those who have lost loved ones to illnesses, accidents or simply to time.
On Wednesday, the Blounts, Mary LeBeau and Charlotte Lankard gave me, and hopefully you as well, some other things to consider this Memorial Day weekend.
"We must remember if we choose to love, then we must also have the courage to grieve,” Lankard said. "When faced with grief, it is important to take the time to integrate this loss, or any loss, in our lives so that even though that person is gone, our capacity to love is not gone also.”
Praying for peace
Pat Blount can stand at his father's grave, his brother's, his father and mother-in-law's graves and memories of good days rush in. But when visiting Tyler's grave, even his wire rim glasses can't hide the tears.
"When I go to Tyler's all I can feel is pain,” he said. "The other day a Christian anglers group came to our place to fish. One of the guys had lost his 41-year-old son three years ago.
Know it: Death, Dying, and Grief