“Mommy, Vincent is my friend. And he loves me so much.”
“Yes, honey, I’m sure he does. Vincent is full of love.”
“No, mommy, I KNOW he does! He told me! And I love him, too!”
What. A. Year.
2017 has been the true definition of dichotomy in our eyes. It is the first full year we have had to survive without our girl causing pain that is still oh-so-very real and present. But from that pain, her light continues to shine in the everglow she’s left behind, bringing us immense pride. Navigating the two worlds simultaneously is seldom easy, but at a quick glance, it’s nice to reflect upon the successes we’ve had in an effort to inspire us forward.
Twenty three months ago, I put you to bed here. In your sweet robin’s egg blue bedroom with the owl and butterfly sheets. You were in your red & black dinosaur jammies and I read you a story. I don’t remember what we read.
Twenty three months ago tonight, I gave you your last bath. I washed your hair and I blew it dry. You asked to sit down on the floor. You never did that before.
You asked me that night “mommy is my cancer back?” I didn’t know you knew that word. I told you we were going to go to the clinic tomorrow to get everything checked and we would find out. I told you we needed to find out why you were feeling so crummy. I reminded you how much your doctors and nurses loved you. You replied “Yeah. So much.”
I tucked you in and for the life of me cannot remember what I did after. Locked away are memories I may never recover. My next recollection was waking to you crying out for me. You never did that before.
I ran to get you. You asked to sleep with me. I brought turtle in while I carried you. I think I held you more carefully. I think I knew something was fragile. We climbed into our bed. The blue sheets were on and I turned on a show. I don’t remember what we watched. I looked at you for a long, long time that night. I don’t know if I slept.
I knew that tomorrow was big. I knew something wasn’t right. I packed more than just a clinic bag. I don’t remember anything else. Did I text someone? Did I say anything on Facebook? Did anyone know what was happening in our home that night?
If I had known. Katie, I would have climbed in bed with you and never taken my eyes off of you. Your beautiful cheeks. Your button nose. I would’ve wrapped myself around you like a blanket of comfort. I would have smoothed your soft, freshly washed hair and I would’ve inhaled its sweet peachy aroma. Over and over and over. I would have laminated the pages of that book. I would have pressed record on that show. I would have frozen those moments in time. They were your last at home. Your last with me.
Time does not change this pain. I don’t know whether to thank God for the distance from those early days, thankful to be one day closer to you? Or curse the heavens for having the nerve to allow twenty-three months to pass since I last heard your voice in our home. No, time does not change this. Time can merely allow a smile to cross my lips upon the thought of you before the tears begin to fall. Time hasn’t brought those locked away memories to surface. Time has not healed my wounds. Time has not replaced my wild longing to be beside you, wherever you may be. Time is neither my friend nor my enemy. Time is my penance. My cross to bear. Time is all of the pain I swore I would take from you. Now I have, love. I have.
Oh take me back. Spare me this pounding in my chest, this gasping for air through tears. Soothe these nerves that rip through my skin like a fire. Quench this insatiable thirst for just one more moment. Of anything.
Let me have one more moment to take care of you. Let me be yours. And you mine. Let me lay down next to you for one more moment and tell you at bed time “Kate, you are my happy.” Let me hear your squeals coming from two floors below me. Let me hear your voice call my name. Let me know what it feels like to be loved like that. Let me have my family back. Let me have my life back. Let me have YOUR life back.
Let me have just one more moment. And then, time. Then you can take what you will. I would give it all for that one moment.
My club hosts an annual Brunch with Santa that I was lucky enough to attend with my little family the last two years of Kate’s time here with us. The last Christmas she spent with us was remarkably special in so many ways, but the Brunch with Santa that year topped the list. Kate wouldn’t ever sit on Santa’s lap, but she always wrote her letter very carefully. In 2015, while she refused to sit, she jumped into his arms and the pictures show the joy of the moment.
With the help of my dear friend Courtney (the event planner that year and the person who booked Santa) I was able to find his email address. Today, I sent him a letter. You really never know when the little things become the big things.
Grief and Christmas go together like fire & ice.
While the rest of the world is celebrating with their families, the holidays are one of THE most painful reminders to those of us deep in grief that we are without our loved one. When it is a child who has passed, the pain feels particularly raw. I’ll go one step further and say when it is a child like Kate, who loved EVERY SINGLE THING about the holidays, and who would now have been at a prime holiday “funnery” age, it’s just downright impossible. Continue reading “The 12 Days of Katemas”
I first experienced what I now call a “soul day” three years ago this week. It was the day before Thanksgiving and I didn’t have any vacation time to take a random day off, as every hour I had went straight to clinic visits & hospital stays. My sister, nephew & niece were in town and I just really wanted to spend time with them and Kate, who was in great spirits and feeling well. My co-worker (and best friend) Megan donated one of HER vacation days to me and a soul day was born.
It snowed that day. We had breakfast at “the pancake place” and Kate was GLOWING.
See what I mean?
My finger has hovered on the “publish” button of this post now for several days, so if you’re reading this, it means I have found a little bravery. Or maybe a little “I don’t give a #&*” but either way, here it is.
The title of this post in itself is ironic considering the gist of what I’m saying is that I am NOT, in fact, handling my anger. I know that official stages of grief are BS, but that a good majority of us deal with most of them in waves, re-occurrences and oftentimes, we get stuck in one particular spot. Mine? You guessed it. Anger. Continue reading “Handling Anger”
Getting acclimated to our time zone, being back at work and back to the “grind” is going to take some time, so I’m taking a bit of a self-imposed break. BUT, I wanted to share this story.
Grief sneaks up in really obvious ways, but also in really sneaky ways. Parents like us are always AWARE of this fact, and know that something can reach out and grab us at any moment. One of those things is handling the question of “how many children do you have” and the like.
One night while in Maui, we were at a luau – seated at a table with three other couples. We all exchanged pleasantries, where we were from, what brought us to Hawaii, etc. Afterwards…the dreaded question came from one woman…”did you leave any children at home to come here to celebrate?”
A bit of silence…and then I replied (as I always do) “we have a daughter. Our four year old died of cancer nearly two years ago. But we actually brought her with us to celebrate.”
But then, the most amazing thing. ALL THREE couples teared up, but rather than try to cover their tracks or say something in haste, they sat with the silence and the tears for a moment and then? They leaned in.
They asked us her name. Asked us to tell them about her. They cried with us for a few minutes and then asked to see a picture of her. THAT, friends, is a BEAUTIFUL way to handle someone else’s pain and I am SO GRATEFUL to the six other souls sitting with us that night. Six other people who got to hear about Kate and took a little piece of her with them.
Or a little PEACE of her.
Thank you, luau friends from Pennsylvania & Minnesota. I wish this message could reach you because I will ALWAYS remember that night.