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.

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Six years

Hi, Baby.

Six years ago, I carried you safely in my belly. You were tiny, and so was I. I had no idea that in a few short weeks, I would welcome you into the world. I planned for that homecoming to be months away. At that moment, six years ago, I just waited patiently for you to move, so I could feel you. But I never did.

The first time I saw you, I placed my finger inside the tiny, plastic door, into your miniature hand. Your head was smaller than my fist, your entire body shorter than my foot. But you were the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. Through the wires and tubes, I saw my nose on your face, and daddy’s brow above your eyes. At just over one pound, you were the perfect combination of our perfect love.

Six years ago, I wore maternity clothes, though my weight was all water. A sign of preeclampsia I did not yet know would strike. I celebrated the new year, photographing my sweet family toasting at midnight, while I happily abstained from the champagne. This year would be our best year. The year we welcomed our first, beautiful son to our world.

And Baby, though it was a tough year, with ten months in NICU, and constant worry and fear, it was the best year. It was a year we had with you. A year I would not trade for the moon. A year I’d give just about anything to have back. That beautiful, perfect, unforgettable year. With you.

And as we embark on the sixth year since you graced this Earth, and the third since you’ve made your journey to Heaven – Baby, I want you to know – you are still so much a part of who I am.

I am a mother because of you. I am a survivor because of you. I am who I am, because of you. And I am far from perfect. I am terribly flawed and I am horribly heartbroken. But I have a capacity to love and succeed and be better, because of you. Every moment of every day I think of you and if you are proud of who I am today, without you on this Earth. And every day I ask myself, is this good enough for him? Am I good enough for him?

I don’t know. But I will keep trying. Because I know you are watching, and you are hearing, and you are knowing all that goes on. And I just want to be good enough for you.

Six years ago, I carried you in my belly. Today, I carry you in my heart. I love you, Baby.

So this is Christmas

This Christmas, we awoke in our own home, to the sound of our sweet angel on Earth exclaiming, “Santa came, Mommy” and walked out of our bedroom to his bouncing and clapping with an innocent energy I’ve only dreamed existed.

Christmas last year he had joined our family only days before and was still so timid, and so young, and so frightened. And so were we.

This new little addition to our fractured world, our beautiful Christmas blessing, was still so fresh and so new. We were all still navigating our new normal with one another and just announcing to the world that we were officially a family.

The Christmas before, that may have been the hardest. Our childless Christmas. To be honest, I don’t even remember what we did. I only remember our sweet angel wasn’t there. I know we hung his stocking and we sent Christmas cards with his picture. We debated over those cards. My husband said don’t do it, it’s too sad, it will be too hard for everyone to see his sweet face. I said it’s the last time I can put his photo on a Christmas card. It’s the last year he was part of this world. I can’t not include him. And so we did. And still I’m glad we did.

The last two years I’ve thought about including him. Every family photo still feels like something is missing. Something will always be missing.

And the Christmas before that, it wasn’t much easier. The hospital was amazing. The nurses in HemOnc, those saints that they were, fought over the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day shifts. Not to have them off, but to be there. To be there for their kids, for their families, who were fighting for their lives during the time of year when the rest of the world was celebrating.

The volunteers brought gifts, wonderful gifts, and the doctors, though our poor sick baby was struggling, fought so hard to keep him from going to PICU where we couldn’t snuggle and cuddle and have visitors, so we could have some kind of normalcy on one day of the scariest year of our lives.

So this is Christmas. A day where our little man wakes up to gifts and cookies and the magic of Santa. And Mommy wakes to the memory of her angel in Heaven while somehow creating unforgettable memories for her angel on Earth.

So this is Christmas. Bitter and sweet. Breathless and breathtaking. Joyful and painful.

No different than any other day.

My greatest fear

I had someone ask me recently, ‘What is your greatest fear?’ I actually had to think about it, for quite a while, because my instant answer was everything.

I fear everything. I am scared of waking up every day to the memory of my baby who’s no longer with me. I fear raising a child who lacks confidence and security and self-importance because his mom is a grieving mess. I’m afraid of this world where we are so self-absorbed that our things and our stuff and our material wants seem to mean more than the people who love us. And I worry that this shell of a human I am will be revealed and the walls will crumble and I will no longer be able to physically, mentally, and emotionally function.

But most of all, after really thinking about it, what I fear most is loss. I fear the loss of control over this life that keeps speeding by without asking directions, or my opinion on which route to take. I fear the loss of my network, my team, my people, when they finally realize there’s just no hope and I will actually never be the same. I fear the loss of my youth, my sanity, my happiness, my soul, as they all wane in the wake of the greatest loss of my life – my baby.

When I finally realized, and vocalized, the answer, the wise person posing the question said to me, ‘You have already suffered the greatest loss. What else, really, is there left for you to be afraid of?’

Truly? Nothing. I have already suffered the greatest loss. And I am surviving. And I have learned, through the guidance of my beautiful angel, and a whole lot of soul searching, that death is not the worst case scenario. And death is nothing to fear. And death does not separate us from those we love. And death is not an ending.

So I have nothing – nothing – left to fear.

Song of the Day: 11.25.17

We are love, we are one
We are how we treat each other when the day is done
We are peace, we are war
We are how we treat each other and nothing more

– The Alternate Routes

I heard this song on the radio and started singing along, though I’d never heard it before. It’s such a good reminder going into this holiday season, as we all experience stress, anxiety – grief. This beautiful life is all about how we treat one another that truly matters at the end of every day.

Thankful and grieving

My husband, sweet angel, and I spent three beautiful Thanksgiving Days together. Each bittersweet, as we had to make tough decisions about the health of our sweet, fragile baby, that alienated the very people who offered us love and support throughout his short life.

But we did what we thought was best, and as I look back, I am thankful for each of those three Thanksgiving Days, but I grieve so much as this third one without him approaches.

Every day without him on this Earth is a challenge. Every moment I consciously take a breath, remembering that he is in Heaven, and I am here on Earth, struggling to find the purpose in continuing on, and grasping at the memory of the mother I used to be while striving to be the mother I know I am destined to become, I can’t help but gasp in awe at this life.

My beautiful baby boy, who only had three brief Thanksgiving Days with us, will witness his third Thanksgiving Day from Heaven. His mommy and daddy’s first Thanksgiving with his little brother he never met on Earth.

And as his daddy and I prepare the turkey and talk to this new little man about all that we have to be giving thanks, there is nothing on this Earth that I am more grateful for than my own damn sanity.

Grief, and parenting, and marriage, and working, and life are so G-D hard! And right now, I am thankful that I am not in some sort of institution, in a padded room, tied up in a straight-jacket.

Ok, maybe that’s a little extreme, but there were points soon after his loss that I did not know if life would continue.

But it has. And I am ok. And every day sucks, just a little bit. Some days more than others. Especially days before holidays, or days after big celebrations, or days when others seem extraordinarily selfish, or days where another’s grief makes me feel worse. Every day sucks just a little bit.

But I am still looking forward to giving thanks. I don’t care about the turkey. I don’t even really eat it. But I am thankful that I wake up every day remembering the greatest little man that ever entered Heaven then get to go say ‘good morning’ to the greatest little man on Earth.

This post started after I read the following article, which I thought had a lot of great suggestions on ‘surviving the holidays’ but I ended up on a tangent. It’s a good read, anyway.

A psychologist explains the best ways to cope with conflict over the holidays

What we can handle

I had a conversation this past week with an associate I’ve known for years. He and I have worked together in some capacity for over a decade though we’ve never really talked outside of the professional arena.

We went on a team-building exercise to an escape room, where everyone has to work together to collect clues and solve puzzles to unlock the room’s door.

There was also a zombie in the room – yes, a zombie – simultaneously terrifying and distracting us while we tried to dismantle the pieces and not pee our pants.

We succeeded in our escape with seven minutes to spare by using a combination of hopping from corner to corner, screaming in fear, and at one point I was singing and dancing in an attempt to distract our zombie while other, smarter, team members unlocked clues to our freedom.

After we recovered, we decided to grab a drink before retiring for the night. My colleague and I ended up discussing our children over a beer at the bar. He has been very supportive of me professionally since the loss of my son, and has an empathy most others cannot offer.

He too parents a special needs son, and at one point said to me that he believes we are only given what we can handle. This was only after he humbly described in great detail the challenges he faces daily, while never once complaining. And I could see with every breath the love, admiration, and absolute awe he felt for his child.

In the middle of my tears, I told him, ‘I call bullshit on that theory.’

I don’t believe we are only given what we can handle. He is just a kick-ass dad with an amazing kid who appreciates the blessings this life gives.

We are all faced with challenges, some tougher than others. Some tackle those challenges with grace and dignity. Some whine and complain and make it harder than it needs to be. And some just keep getting crapped on no matter how much good they offer this world.

But I am a firm believer that we get out what we put in. If we live in love and light, love and light will find us. If we believe we can handle what we are given, then we absolutely can.

A hello from the Heavens

I picked my little angel on Earth up from daycare this afternoon and asked him if he wanted to go to the store with me. I had several errands to run as we are having a little belated birthday celebration for him tomorrow.

He happily said yes and we drove to the local supermarket. As we walked in, he insisted on a ‘race car’ cart, which I saw nowhere. I asked him to look at the row of carts and tell me if he saw any that looked like race cars. He replied no, and I explained that I thought those carts were only at the other grocery store.

As I loaded him into a plain old metal shopping cart, he pointed out the automatic sliding doors to a dad unloading his little girl from a red race car cart. “A race car, Mommy!”

I helped him out of our boring cart and we walked outside to grab the cool cart that was conveniently left on the sidewalk outside.

As he climbed in, he promptly scooted to one side, buckled the seatbelt and said, “This seat is for Jonathan!”

I thought it interesting since he has no friends I’m aware of named Jonathan, and no classmates with that name.

I immediately texted my aunt, whose son – a precious angel my son never knew – was lost two years ago.

I explained in a text what he said and envisioned dear Jonathan sitting next to him in their race car cart.

She texted back, “Tomorrow is his birthday.”

I hadn’t even realized it when I sent her the message.

All I had to do was ask

Yesterday, I asked my sweet angel in Heaven if he could hear me.

I get signs from him all the time. Things I see, hear, experience in my every day life that let me know my sweet boy is still with me.

Just last week I’d gone for an ‘energy’ healing. It was something new I’d never done, and I figured anything that could take away my stress and anxiety, or has the potential to, couldn’t hurt.

After the session, the Reiki healer had several messages for me that I knew could only be from my son. But still, I wanted my own proof.

So last night, before going to bed, I talked to him, as I often do. I told him I wanted a clear sign that he was listening, that he could hear me. That he is still, and will always be, with me.

The first thing that popped in my mind was a ‘purple diamond.’ I don’t know why. Or how. But I said. “Buddy, if you can hear me, please send me a purple diamond.”

Today, as I ran errands, I looked all over, hoping I would see anything that resembled a purple diamond. In my head, it was like a construction paper cutout of a diamond shape in a bright, crayon kind of purple.

I, of course, told no one of my request. This was between my angel and me. Like so many of our days together on Earth, and all my conversations with him now, it was just him and me.

All day, nothing. I told myself to be patient, while at the same time rolling my eyes over the ridiculousness that I would somehow, sometime soon, see a purple diamond.

Then, as I was getting my angel on Earth ready to leave the house for our Saturday adventure, I received a text from a friend.

There it was – our purple diamond – sent directly to me in a message. Not a faint cloud of smoke that I may have imagined. A bright, purple, diamond.

From him. To me. Just him and me. 😇

Heart heavy

I found out today that a mama, who I really don’t know well, but who was instrumental in helping match us with our beautiful angel on Earth, lost one of her children recently. I don’t know the details, or the circumstances, only that she and I are now connected, as sisters-in-loss, mothers parenting children in Heaven, carrying a weight heavier than any burden a woman should ever need to bear.

The news came during the beginning of the same week, that three years ago, my sweet angel was diagnosed with his terminal illness and began fighting his five-month battle for his brief, beautiful, bountiful, three-year life.

My angel, my baby, my perfectly created soul, began his journey to peace right around this time three years ago. Three years it has been since he got sick. Three years is all the time I got to have him on this Earth.

How cruel, and how ironic, and how amazing this lovely life is, that I am about to celebrate the fourth birthday of my new beautiful angel on Earth in this same month I mourn the beginning of the loss of his brother. This perfect boy whose been mine for less than a year, but who belongs with me as much as his brother did, and who forces a strength and resilience in me that compares only to that in which his brother’s loss forced me to find.

These two boys, who stir a hurricane of emotion in this mama from minute to minute, a battle between grief and gratitude, and a hope for a future where positive memories coexist with positive reinforcement, have left me satisfied.

Satisfied with my story. Saddened by my fate, but thankful for my blessings. Grateful for my lessons, but yearning for understanding. And hopeful for the future. Because I see a bright boy with nothing but potential. And an angel just waiting to guide him toward it.