CLEARWATER — P.A. Kushner smiles, and for a moment her face perfectly matches a peeling-at-the-edges picture of her son ironed onto the front of her purple T-shirt. But the moment flashes past. Kushner's mouth fades back into its worn expression and there are two separate faces again; a dead 19-year-old son, and a mother trapped in mourning.
"Today is the anniversary, but it isn't any harder than any other day. The pain never goes away," she said last month, after placing fresh flowers near where her son Logan Kushner died a year ago.
On Jan. 8, 2012, Logan drowned in 14 inches of water in a creek running through Kapok Park. That night, he had used Jazz, a legal form of synthetic marijuana sold in gas stations everywhere. The medical examiner later said it may have contributed to his death.
Kushner, 58, considers it a tragic accident and hopes people will just remember her son. In a very real way, she needs them to.
He was a 19-year-old who still said "I love you, Mommy," even when his football friends were around. He always invited strangers in the park to join his football game, wrote thank-you notes to the teachers and coaches who inspired him and had a "joy dance" that he performed with shameless abandon to cheer friends up.
The thought that all that could just disappear was unimaginable to his mother. So she and her husband, Mike Kushner, created the I'm Logan It Foundation to promote the art of being Logan.
"I'm Logan It" was a phrase coined by his friends in high school while he was still alive to describe his no-holds-barred love attack on people around him. P.A. Kushner wants to ensure that it continues.
"I'm a member of this club now. A club that you never want to be a member of. Mothers who have lost their child," Kushner said. "It's not an amputation. It's worse than that. It's like we've been cut wide open like a deer, and gutted. … We just keep breathing. You literally feel your heart breaking."
There are good days and bad days.
On a good day, she remembers that Logan made her a mother, and what greater gift is there? The 19 years, two months and 22 days she had him were a gift. She thinks of all the things she got to experience because of him. Remembers the day his flag football team tie-dyed jerseys in the back yard. They hung them to dry in a long hippie rainbow row on the fence, came in the kitchen exploding with laughter and ate bowls of chili and plates of brownies like a swarm of happy locusts.
On a bad day, she hits what she calls "the wailing wall." It hits her out of nowhere. In the car, in Publix, in the shower. She wants to pull her hair, punch, scream.
"When you lose a child, you question your past. How could they be gone? Was that child really here? Or was it a dream?" she said. "And then it takes away your future, because as a parent, when you have this child, your dreams change. Your dreams aren't aspirations of what you're going to grow up to be. Your dreams are about what your child is going to be."
That's why I'm Logan It brings a kind of remedy that all the support groups, books and wonderful friends just can't. When she sees people living Logan's example, his future continues, so her future continues. It is the only thing that brings real peace.
She cherishes the emails and stories from his friends who emulated him. Someone paid for a stranger short of change at Starbucks. Someone sat next to a sad woman at the bus stop and learned what was wrong. One mother's tough guy told his football buddies "I love you." When they pay it forward Logan style, he lives a bit more. So she lives a bit more.
John Pendygraft can be reached at (727) 893-8247 or [email protected]