We survived Easter. Our first big holiday without our KitKat. It wasn’t pretty. Or graceful. Or even remotely any of those things. The weather matched my mood as I awoke – gray and gloomy. I should have known from the way I felt when I woke up that I probably should have just stayed in bed.
There are beautiful signs of spring all over…in the warmer weather, blooming daffodils and budding trees. Yet her winter coats still hang by the front door with anticipation. Easter is quickly approaching, yet there is no special Easter dress or cute shirt. There are still clothes from Christmas she never got to wear; hanging there in her closet with the tags on them. Outdoor furniture and spring garden supplies for sale at Target, windows open and green grass ready to play in. Dinosaur days at school have come and gone. Summer camp sign ups and kindergarten registration. “School pictures are coming home in bags today” and a missed “donuts with dad” at school; something Kate would have loved to the ends of the earth.
My friend Molly said it best, “the only thing that might ever ease your pain is the one thing you don’t want…time.”
She is right. Time hurts. Farther away means that much more time since I’ve kissed her. Farther away means that many more people move on and don’t immediately recall that for us, we are still very, very new at a LIFETIME of grief we will endure. The more time away means more people will move on about this world never knowing she was here. She was HERE. She LIVED.
I want my baby back. I want her with me; where she belongs. I am so sad and lonely without her. I want to parent her in present tense and stop speaking of her as if somehow memories can soothe the burn of missing her. I don’t want to hear “you’ll always be her mommy” because yes, that’s true, but being a mommy means actively doing so. I want her back. More than I’ve ever wanted anything in my entire life and more than I will ever want anything else in this world.
8 weeks ago today, we lost the love of our lives to a disease we thought she had beaten. 8 weeks ago today, I crawled in bed with her and whispered a promise to her that we would never let her death be in vain. I promised we would do anything we could to find a way to help spread awareness…to help raise funds…to help make a difference to other kids with cancer and hopefully one day, to find a cure. In her beautiful name. Kate Olivia.
Imagine you are me. You marry the love of your life. You buy a cute house in a nice neighborhood with a big yard built for a family. You give birth to a beautiful, WANTED little girl. You live a happy life but after struggling through her cancer diagnosis, you are FINALLY okay. You are FINALLY feeling strong enough to not be scared anymore. You see hope and light at the end of a very long tunnel and you promise to yourself, the love of your life and that beautiful, wanted, now fought-for and CHERISHED little girl that you will start living. Really, really living. You will get back to saying yes as often as you can. Life will be fun and happy again. You will date your husband again without fear or guilt. You will spend time with friends and other families and maybe let in a little more love to your family and add another baby. You will let your little girl do anything and everything she wants to do to experience life.
And then, in one crippling day, after 11 days of desperately trying NOT to be afraid of “what ifs” again, its all over. Everything you ever wanted in life, EVER, GONE in a flash. I don’t know where to look. I don’t know where to turn. I have everyone and no one to talk to. I can’t seem to find the person I can truly release it all with because why? No one can understand. No one can talk me out of how I feel or say anything to really help. So…I cry to myself. All. Day. Long. I sob, cry, dry heave, pull my hair out and wish I could just find her. I search in books for answers. Search her face in pictures and her voice in videos for some clue that she is as connected to me as I am to her. Scour websites for hope. Read blogs for answers. Search for myself in the mirror and find no one. I have more support around me now than I’ve ever had in my life and yet I feel so completely alone.
So I ask you. Imagine you were me. What would you do? How do you live? know you can’t answer. I wouldn’t want you to know this. But the trouble is, I don’t want to know it either. But I don’t have a choice.
Kate, mommy loves you. Best friends forever, okay? I promise.
We never talked with Kate about heaven or religion or God or anything like that. Only when Grandma’s kitty cat and shortly after, our own Conan passed did we mention it. She knew Rusty & Conan went to heaven and that it was a beautiful place where they weren’t sick anymore, and they could run and chase whatever their hearts’ desired. It was a steep concept for a freshly four year old little girl, but she soon came to “understand.”
Kate’s daddy grew up Catholic (school and all) while I had a much less “intense” religious upbringing. My entire family – aunts, uncles, etc., were big into church – they sang in choirs, ministered (is that a word??) half the Baptist churches in the state of Virginia and spent most of their social time with church groups, too. While I didn’t spend my Sundays (or any days, really) in church, my family is why I believe in what I do.
We sent Kate to a Methodist church preschool. Mostly because the school itself was perfect and the teachers a dream. It was close to home, but also, we liked the idea of Kate beginning a foundation of “the golden rule” and learning what we feared we couldn’t teach her. We always figured we had time to dive into it more wholeheartedly and planned to start this year.
Only…this year didn’t turn out the way anyone thought.
It’s no secret I’m struggling with the whys and hows of it all. You can see it in my posts. I know Kate is in heaven and I know she is perfect and healed, but there are still SO MANY questions that my brain NEEDS TO HAVE ANSWERED. I don’t do well with questions left unanswered. It’s not in my nature NOT to dwell on them. I have a hard time accepting things “just because.” It’s a true struggle I’ve always had with faith and, well, being me.
I’m reading a book right now called “Proof of Heaven” which is one man’s story (a neurosurgeon, by the way) of his seven-day coma and his near death experience. He describes his ascent to Heaven in a way that sounds kind of scary. Scary for him…when he was 54 years old. So, if his story is true and his experiences are real, what must that have felt for my four year old?
Kate didn’t know anyone who passed away before her. I believe she was greeted at the gates of Heaven by those who love HER from afar, and by children we knew who passed before her. But she didn’t know her deceased great grandparents. She didn’t know her Uncle Danny who was just a little older than she was when he passed 40+ years before she was even born. She didn’t know Shayla or Gavin or Gabriella or Mathias or Avery…but I believe they were waiting for her. But when these strangers greeted her, how did she know she was going to be in good care? She didn’t know anything of Heaven or God or these beautiful souls meeting her. How did she know she was going to be okay without us? Without her family and friends here on Earth?
Besides the obvious pain I feel, I worry. I worry so much about those moments looking down on me and her daddy and how that sadness she saw…that desperation…how could anything have taken that from her? I can’t imagine how scared she was seeing that. She always used to say to me “mommy, you’re not smiling! What’s wrong?” even if I was just sitting there beside her. She was so concerned about us being happy.
But now…who is caring for her? Whose lap is she snuggling in? Who is reassuring her? Who tucks her in and reads her stories? Do those things just not happen anymore?
Some days I can’t breathe from not knowing. These last few days are some of those days.