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.
Instead, I made my husband & Mom dress up. We met for breakfast at Kate’s favorite restaurant thinking we would celebrate our love for her with her favorite pancakes and that somehow, pancakes would make things better. (After all, they usually did for her!) Two children (in separate families) passed by us…each carrying dinosaur toys. Kate’s Easter basket often contained dinosaur toys & books and I thought maybe she was coming to say hello. We made our way to church and that’s about where things began to fall apart. I hadn’t been back to the sanctuary since the day of Kate’s funeral. I hadn’t spoken to anyone but our loving preschool folks since, and walking in was a gigantic wave of emotion. We were immediately greeted by two familiar faces who hugged us “hello” and spoke with us the whole wait up until the service began. This couple had lost a child many years ago and they shared their pain with us at Kate’s service. It meant so much that they loved on us without fear of us remembering them, only to say “we know how hard this is for you” and to share some sage advice.
As we walked into the sanctuary and the service started, I began to feel like I was in trouble. I couldn’t see the glory-filled altar of Easter lilies and spring flowers. All I could see was my baby girl’s casket. Small and white. Gold flourishes and pink flowers. Her beautiful face on posters right there up front. I could see the podium I spoke from, without recollection of actually having done so. The music swelled and I followed along with the words, but while reading the service program, recognized that one of the beautiful Easter plants on the altar I couldn’t see was donated by Kate’s school in honor of her…their Honeybear. And then, the Pastor began to speak and I lost it. The same voice that had comforted us, spoke of her with such love and cried with us in our home… it was too much. I was overwhelmed, so I gave one look to my family and off we went. 5 minutes in and I left sobbing.
Later, Mike & I took her flowers and sat beside her a good long while. We cried at how unfair this all felt. She should be here. She should BE HERE. I wanted her at home with me; helping me cook and set the table for Easter dinner. I wanted to hide eggs for her and watch her gleefully run about. Instead I sat at a cemetery. For a very long time in the cold, sitting in the dirt. When we got home, I huddled under my cozy Minky blanket, gifted by friends after Kate died. I wore my super soft LulaRoe leggings, also gifted by a friend. I wore my darling daughter’s signature necklace around my neck and snuggled with Lovey Bear, trying to wrap myself in love and comfort and sleep away my pain.
So yes, We survived.
And then this morning, I got to thinking, while texting a friend…this is just the beginning. As I’ve said many times before, we celebrated EVERYTHING in our family. Every night at bed time, we would talk about “what was next.” By that, she was asking me, what holiday comes next and what does it mean? What fun new thing are we doing next? It got us through the entire last year of her treatment and last spring, we had a LONG list of fun to discuss. All of those discussions now pave way for the memories we will never make again.
Mike’s birthday is next week followed by Opening Day (yes, this is as big as a holiday in our household.) Kate would have joined us for games this year; it had already been decided. Then it will be my birthday and Mother’s Day. The Kyle’s Kamp tournament and the end of her first and only school year. Her 5th birthday and Father’s Day. A summer full of birthday parties for her friends that she will never go to again. The first day of kindergarten at a new school. And then….it will be the end of “this time last year” which was the best of our lives. “This time last year” was as good as it has ever been for our family. So full of hope, so full of promise for what was to come after the trials of the years prior. We had nowhere to go but up.
You might think I’m putting the cart before the horse, already concerned about getting through what’s to come. Trust me, I’m not. I know. I already know how hard they will be. She was the REASON these days were so special. She was the REASON we celebrated the way we did. Kate was the reason for everything we did and the reason my life felt as good, as fulfilled, as joyful and as content as it did. Moving on without her is the most painful process of grief; creating “memories” I’d rather forget.
I’d like to forget words like relapse and sepsis. I’d like to forget the PICU. I’d like to forget the small, white casket. I’d like to forget spending such a special day sitting in the cold dirt. And I’d like to not do that again. But I will. Again and again and again.
Jesus take the wheel…