It’s what you make it

This is a rough week, every year. Tomorrow is the last day we had our sweet angel speak to us, hug us, laugh with us, on Earth. We held him for eight more days, but tomorrow, three years ago, was the last day his soul was truly a part of this Earth.

I’ve learned, I know, that his soul is still very much alive and has never left me. But I still miss that laugh, and I miss those hugs, and I miss that boy more than anything on this Earth.

And remembering that week of waiting, wondering, fighting, pulls at my heart with a pain at one time I didn’t think I’d survive. But I have. For three whole years, I have survived.

I took my angel on Earth to church with me this past Sunday. His daddy was working, and I felt I really needed the sense of peace that church often provides me to start off this challenging week. This new church is not typical in any traditional sense.

It is not located in a grand building with a steeple or adorned with stained glass windows. There are no pews or figures of Christ or really an altar. It’s a small collection of like-minded people who congregate in an office-like space in a strip mall next to a book store across from a car wash.

And this past Sunday, while my sweet son ate yogurt-covered raisins and laughed appropriately at jokes he didn’t understand, the pastor spoke of Heaven. And I dreamed of my angel up there and what he might be doing and how I’ve often thought over the last three years, how it would be so much easier to be there, up in Heaven with him, than it is being here, facing this lonely, difficult world of grief without him.

But then the pastor described this world, and the world that is Heaven, and how everything that we do, and everything that we experience, is all a matter of perception. How each one of us sitting there would tell a different tale of what happened there, and what message we took for today’s sermon, based on our perception. And how Heaven, as a concept, is also based on perception.

And I again, thought of my angel in Heaven. And how I perceive his Heaven. How I imagine him bouncing on clouds, and sliding down rainbows, and having picnics with my grandmothers. And if I can perceive Heaven to be that perfect, then why can’t my Earth be that perfect as well?

If I wake up every day imagining my world to be as beautiful and wonderful as my baby’s world in Heaven, then maybe it just might be so. Because isn’t it true that it’s all what we make it?



We took several friends to a hockey game tonight to celebrate the end of a long season. It’s ‘working’ season for my husband and he’s gone a lot of weekends. This was the last home game and he was offered a great deal on tickets and also arranged for one of our friend’s kids to ride the zamboni during the second intermission. So for all of us, it was a big night out. And for the kids, it was super exciting.

My son and I got there a few minutes early so we could distribute tickets, and we had to weather a torrential downpour on the way into the game. Everyone entering was soaked, and my son grabbed a seat on a bench right inside the entrance, then proceeded to wave at every fan who entered the building.

Minutes after entering, an elderly lady who was having trouble catching her breath entered, looked at my son and asked if she could share the bench. ‘Sure,’ he said, gladly, and scooted over. He has no concept of ‘stranger danger’ and his friendliness is absolutely contagious.

She looked up at me and glanced at the logo on my jacket.

‘You’re supporters too, I see.’ She said, nodding to my coat.

I was wearing, for the first time in the year plus since I’ve had it, the jacket that was gifted to me at the last charity run for our friends who sponsor families of kids with childhood cancer. Our good friend won the race, and gave me the jacket she won, since they all participate in my son’s honor. As much as I objected, she insisted I keep it. For the last year, I had thought it would be too small, but for some reason, tonight, I found it in the closet, put it on, it fit perfectly, and was the right weight for the cool rain we were having on this weird Ohio winter evening.

‘We are,’ I said, and smiled.

‘We love Nellie,’ she said, referring to the founder of the charity.

At that moment, my son, at four-years-old – who was adopted less than a year ago, over a year after we lost our first born son to cancer – looked over at her and said, ‘My brother is in Heaven.’

I looked at him, swallowed hard, then looked at her, and said, ‘And that’s why we love Nellie.’

She smiled and said, ‘Our grandson is going through it now.’

‘I will pray for you,’ I promised.

Please visit to offer help to pediatric cancer families.

The day

It’s a birthday, an anniversary, a day to mourn, a day to celebrate, a day I hate, and a day I love, all in one.

My birthday. I get one year older. One more year of knowledge and experience. One more year of successes and failures, and one more year of living this beautiful life.

One more year without you. It was this same day, my birthday, three years ago that you were given the gift of life through organ donation. Another amazing reason to celebrate.

You were finally, after five months of chemo, and three years of being my fragile little man, given the chance to be whole, and healthy.

This was the last day I had with you, conscious, on this Earth. My birthday. Your transplant anniversary. Our last day, together. The last day I heard you say, ‘mum.’ The last day I saw you smile. The last time you gave me a kiss. The last breath you took on your own.

Each year since that birthday three years ago, I have tried to celebrate this day. I have tried to celebrate me, and the life I have been given, and the blessings in my world. I have tried to celebrate you, and that darling child who was lost whose organs became yours for eight short days.

Each year I have become a little more successful in my celebration. Each year I cry a little less and function in the world a little more.

But the day itself still levels me. It will never just be my birthday again. It will always be your ‘second chance day.’ And it will always be the last day I had you.

I will always, for the rest of my life, celebrate this day. It will forever be ‘our’ day. And it will always be bittersweet.

A promise

I drew a bath tonight in my newish, clean, white tub. I filled it full with steaming water. I measured two heaping tablespoons of Epsom salt I keep in a mason jar on the shower shelf. I burned a bunch of sage and a candle and played a meditation melody of music while I floated in ecstasy, clearing my mind of the week’s stress and the day’s distractions.

Minutes into my soothing soak, I found myself sobbing, mouthing, ‘I promise,’ over and over and over.

I realized, as the tears streamed down my sweat-stained brow, into my bath-soaked hair, that I was talking to both my angel in Heaven and my angel on Earth.

My bath, in the relaxed state that it often induces, has become somewhat of a grief sanctuary for me. Tonight, as I became relaxed, and thought of my two beautiful boys and what they mean to me and what I mean to them, in my most vulnerable state, the one thing I need them to understand is that I will fulfill my promise.

To my angel in Heaven:

I promise, no matter the challenges I face on this Earth, and no matter how difficult each day is without you, I will do everything in my power to get to where you are some day, some how. I may not be good enough now. I may not be the amazing soul that you were on this Earth. But some way, some how, I will do whatever it takes to do what I can to be the best version of myself to get to where you are when it is my turn to cross over.

To my angel on Earth:

Buddy, I know your Momma is not perfect. And I know we have a long way to go. But I love you so much. And I promise I will try every single day to raise you to be kind, and smart, and confident, and loving. And I will remind you, every single day that you walk this Earth, that no matter what you do, no matter how you act, no matter where you are, that you are loved. You are so loved. And you will always be loved. I promise you will know, you will always be loved.

And I hope and pray, that is enough.

Letters to the moon

Dear moon,

I am in awe of you. We awoke early yesterday to see you in your super, blue and eclipsed state. But you were hiding behind the clouds. We spoke of you at dinner and my sweet little one described in his four-year-old way, how Earth would move and the Sun would stay still, and we would see your light change. But still, last night, you were hiding. And we didn’t get to see you.

So tonight, I write to you, a letter of thanks. Although you hid yesterday, twice, as we tried to look at the wonderment of your light at its brightest, in the past few years, you have been one constant in a stream of tumultuous change.

I look to you when I need a glimpse of my angel in Heaven. You are so close to him, I know, and in a clear, dark night, where your light shines so brightly and you are so round and seemingly glad, I look to you, and feel him. You have brought me comfort on many a lonely night.

When you are at your roundest, and brightest, and I cannot help but look up and notice you, I know my angel, at that very moment, is also thinking of his mommy on Earth. You bring us together, somehow, though he is so far away. You make him closer. Just looking up at you, in your greatness, makes me feel like a little piece of him is still within reach.

So tonight, dear moon, whether it’s cloudy or clear, through a window or in the crisp evening air, I will look to you. Because I know, like my angel, whether I see you or not, you are always there.


I have been having the most vivid dreams over the last couple nights and I think my slumbering self is trying to tell my conscious self something.

Some of these dreams have been easy for me to interpret – like the one where I was sent to Dubai for work with my child in tow, and had no idea how to handle both tasks. No kidding. I never have any idea how to handle a full time job, a four year old, and surviving as a grieving mother. It’s impossible. Of course, I have nightmares.

But these other dreams, they have been filled with babies. It’s like a nocturnal nursery in my subconscious, and I awake to all these conflicting feelings about my sweet boy in Heaven, my sweet man on Earth, and all the if, ands and what-have-yous of what could have been or what maybe should be.

The first of the series, I was in a van, and I was holding a very tiny infant. It was clearly just born, and I was speaking to its caregivers as we rode in the back of the van, on a very bumpy road.

‘This child needs a carseat!’ I exclaimed as I held tight to the tiny bundle, wrapped snugly in a blanket, as close to my chest as I could hold him. ‘I have one at my house, a baby bucket seat, we are not using. I will give it to you. You need to keep him safe.’

Ok, so maybe that one is fairly easily explained. I am no psychotherapist, nor dream interpreter, but of course I have feelings of guilt that I could not save my own baby. He went to Heaven, and I couldn’t stop it. So maybe this dream was placed carefully into my thoughts to help me save another child. Even if only in my head and heart.

Then more dreams followed, each with different children, all infants or babies, some tiny and fragile, some bouncing and crawling. But all in my care in some way, and each felt as though they were mine to comfort, care for, and console.

I had many experiences in my lifetime where I ‘predicted’ or knew a friend was expecting before even they knew, or made the announcement. I don’t claim to be psychic in any way, and cannot predict the future, but in the case of pregnancies, I often have an intuition that has been right more often than wrong.

Theses dreams have made me wonder about those close to me and if and when they may announce pregnancy news and if I am getting a ‘signal’ of what to expect. Or maybe my grief is beginning to heal just a little by giving me small tastes of experiences missed, and moments I long for since my baby has gone.

I’m now the mother of a four-year-old angel on Earth and a sweet baby in Heaven. And those boys bring me more joy than anything else. But there’s something about dreaming, the if, ands, and what-have-yous, that fulfill a little piece of longing, but cause a little yearning all at the same time.

Just a little thing

We finally, after many months of debate, decided to cancel our cable. It seemed like it was becoming an extravagance, a monthly expense we didn’t need, and it was time to do without.

I made the call early last week and I have to say, we have not missed it. We’re spending a little extra quality time as a family, I’m learning to accept the beauty of silence just a bit more, and I cannot wait to get that first invoice with only the internet charge.

I had to drop off the cable boxes to be shipped back to the provider this morning to ensure we wouldn’t be charged seven million dollars for keeping them. I stuck them in a reusable shopping bag and threw them in the front seat of my car as we left the house for preschool.

I dropped off the little man then headed over to UPS. The man behind the counter offered me a smile and a ‘good morning’ and I told him I was there to return the boxes. I set my bag on the table and he said, ‘Well that’s about the most adorable bag I have ever seen!’

The bag was a Christmas themed sack, featuring a bashful little minion holding mistletoe. It is an adorable bag. It was given to me by my very good friend, along with several others, when we participated in our first ‘Minion Run,’ as we lovingly refer to the charity 5K event that helps families like ours with kids battling cancer. That charity sponsored us the Christmas our little angel was sick. They have since donated a wagon at the children’s hospital in his honor. We love them, and love being a part of everything they do.

That bag helped me distribute the team T-shirts that first year after his loss, and I’ve used those bags for groceries, diapers, toys – you name it. They are my ‘catch all’ bags. And every time I use one, I think of my angel, as well as my friends and family who are with me every step of my journey.

I thanked the man and agreed, it is a cute bag. ‘We love the minions at my house,’ I said. He proceeded to tell me he had a daughter who loves everything ‘minion.’ They are her favorite.

He printed my receipt and told me to have a nice day.

‘Would you like to keep the bag?’ I asked. ‘For you daughter?’

‘That is so nice of you!’ He exclaimed as he took the bag off the counter and started carefully folding it. ‘Thank you so much. She will be so happy.’

‘I have plenty more,’ I said as I waved and walked out the door.

Once again, my angel at work, spreading happiness.

Please visit Nellie’s Champions for Kids to learn how you can support pediatric cancer families in central Ohio.


The joyous quarter

I am embarking on my ‘joyous quarter’ according to my best friend, as stated over a few (too many) drinks, a soak in a hot tub at a super swag Air BNB, and possibly some other influences. We were gushing over each other at our third ‘annual’ girls’ weekend with my ‘minions’ – the beautiful, amazing, supportive girls who have been with me before-during-and-after the life and loss of my angel. Those, who through it all, still choose to love me.

‘After all you have been through, and survived,’ she said, ‘I think it’s about time for your joyous quarter.’

A few of my other girls laughed a little at the term ‘quarter’ and said, if I’m only 37 and I’m entering my 4th, does that mean it’s my last, and I’m gonna die by 50?! Well, no. That’s not the point.

The point she was trying to make, was me, who at 37 – has survived a kidney transplant at 26, with multiple rejections and frequent health scares afterward, the birth of a 24-week, one pound, one-ounce infant, who spent ten months fighting in NICU, only to be diagnosed with simultaneous kidney failure and liver cancer at age 2 1/2, then sent to Heaven at age three – about due a carefree, enjoyable slice of life?

It sounds nice, doesn’t it?

I feel like, maybe, I deserve it.

But at the same time, I thank God every day I had that kidney transplant and subsequent challenges. It gave me an appreciation for life I would not have had otherwise. It made me understand medicine in a way that equipped me for the life and challenges my son would face. It created a bond between my husband and I, that no matter how many dirty dishes he leaves in the sink, and no matter how often I forget to move clothes from the washer to the dryer, cannot be severed.

And that beautiful baby of mine. I may not have had him for long. And those brief three years may have been tough, and trying and tumultuous. But there is no way I would trade them for the most joyous quarter, or life, or ten thousand lives, anyone could promise.

But still, if I have not yet paid my penance for whatever wrong I may have done, or am not yet living to my fullest potential, or have not yet fulfilled whatever Karma that is due, then that is ok. I would love, more than anything, for it to be easy, just easy, from here on out. I’d love to not feel the pain and heartache of anymore tragedy, and know that my health and the loss of my baby, are the hardest feats I will face in this lifetime.

But the truth is, there are no guarantees. And, even though I feel I have suffered a pain worse than any other – the loss of my baby – it could still get worse. This life could still be full of heartbreak. I have a son and a husband who I love more than anything. And they could, at any point, be taken from me. And I will, forever, worry about that every single minute of every single day.

But, I would like to have faith that my joyous quarter is upon me. And to acknowledge that I have faced the worst with the best I can give. And maybe there’s some hope in that. Maybe, just maybe, with my sweet angel in Heaven, and with my faith that I am here to make everything just a little bit better for someone, anyone, maybe I will have my joyous quarter.

My path

On days where I’m tired, and I feel the pressure of life, the stress of work – the difficulties of the tangible – creeping up my spine like an ache I cannot shake, I think of you.

I think of you and the beautiful, meaningful, brief life you had here with us. You never knew stress or pressure or even heartache. You led a life of joy. A life that, to any other soul may have been hard, or painful, or difficult. But a life that you greeted each day with smiles, and laughter, and joy.

Even days that were so hard for mommy, watching you sick, and tired, and worn from months of chemotherapy. You were still smiling. Still loving every minute of your beautiful, fragile, delicate life. You were – and are – a beautiful soul.

And I wonder, on days like today, when silly, meaningless stuff is just getting me down, what is my soul’s path?

Yours was so clear. You were meant to be an angel. My angel. And I was meant to be your mommy. I know that much with my whole heart. And I am meant to parent your brother.

But do I have any chance of being as wonderful as you were? You touched so many lives in such a short time and made such a positive impact on this world. And I know that, and remember that, and remind myself of that every day.

And I’ll take a small piece of credit, because I am your mom, but then these feelings of inadequacy, and doubt, and fear, and grief – they all just take over.

And I need to know, to understand, that I too, am on a path for the greater good. That this beautiful, wonderful life is not just about me. It’s not just about you. It’s about how we fit into the greater puzzle that makes everything better.

You made everything better. Your smile, your beautiful blue eyes, your voice, made everything better. And days like today, when I wonder, what is my path, what is my greater purpose? The truth is, it’s no different than any other day. I’m just missing you.

Thinking of you

I often wonder as I go about my busy day, how often do others think of you?

I think of you countless times during each and every day. A scent, a voice, a breeze, reminds me of you. The sweatshirt I wore today was given to me on my first ‘girls’ trip’ after the run we raced in your honor, the year we lost you.

Everything has a memory of you. Before you were here. While we had you. And now that you’re gone. So many memories are all tied back to you.

When I talk on the phone to those who knew you, or knew about you, or knew of your loss, do they think about you when we speak? Do they think about how often I must think of you? Do they pity me? That poor mother who lost her sweet, young, precious son? I think about if they think of you. I think about what they think of me, as I think of you.

I walked in the house last night, after my drive home from work, and Daddy noticed I had been crying. He asked what was wrong and if I was ok. I was fine, I had just been thinking of you. I had been thinking of you, and missing you. And often, still, while I am alone, especially in the car, I cry over you.

I cried at work yesterday thinking about you. No one noticed, and I didn’t have to be embarrassed. I still never feel I have to make an excuse when I cry over you. Even though those around me now never got to meet you, and met me after you were gone, I never shy away from mentioning your name and telling stories of the wonderful little man you were and the angel that you are.

So when I cry, when I have those moments where your absence hurts my heart, and your presence in Heaven doesn’t offer comfort, and the tears have to fall, I accept it and I admit why. Because I think about you. All the time. And it’s ok for me to let others know how often I do.

And when others see me cry, I wonder what they think. I wonder if they think about how lucky I am. I only get to think about you, because you are no longer here. But I got to have you. And I can’t think of anything better.