Thursday, January 26, 2017

Six Years...Forever In My Heart

Peanut -

Today. January 26. This is not a day to celebrate. It isn't an "anniversary." It is the day my earth stood still and everything that made sense and was right, good, normal got turned on its head. Today is the day you died. Six. Years. Ago.

How can it be?

We have somehow survived in the massive wake left by your death. Cobbled together a new existence that includes your little brother and our scarred, re-shaped hearts that have found joy and hope again. Time does not heal the grief and wounds. Time simply gives us the grace to learn how to compartmentalize, cope, manage the grief.

Even though it's been six years, I can remember every moment of this day in 2011 in vivid, stark, raw detail.  I can't say the same for the subsequent days and weeks - those, quite frankly, are a blurred jumble of snapshots in my head. But this day. This day is tough. From the moment I saw your sobbing Dadda holding your lifeless body while I was in the shower, my hair full of soapy suds, to the paramedics in our bedroom, to the frantic ambulance ride in rush hour traffic when I couldn't stop praying for your to somehow live, to the calm, focused doctors in the ER, to the kind doctor who explained that after an hour there simply was no hope, to the painfully long phone call with the organ donation service, to the horrific interview with the police, to the hospital room filled with our stunned extended family, to the garbled phone call to my boss, to the endless walk out of the hospital to our car with its empty car seat, to the phone calls we made to our closest friends, until we finally drove home to our house. Your home. An empty home. The master bedroom floor still littered with tubes and paper from the paramedics. Your room and crib stripped of bedding and your beloved froggy by the police. And the silence.

Until the calvary arrived.

Friends and family arrived on our doorstop with alcohol, food, flowers and love. Our house was filled with hugs and conversation about you. Your beautiful laughter and spirit.

That night we had to face the empty house again, and had to decide if we were going to try to survive your death. Honestly, I had to decide to survive. I had to commit to Dadda that I would survive. And that was the most I could promise at that moment. It wasn't until many months later that I could make the conscious decision to actually live, love, and thrive again to honor you.

Every day I wake up and commit my day to you and your spirit. You, Peanut, are my North Star.

I love you with every fiber of my being, and that love grows every day, even though you aren't physically on this earth with us. How much love is that, you might ask? To the moon - and back, silly boy!

- Momma

This might be my all-time favorite picture of you.

To honor your memory, this year Momma purchased this froggy paperweight, and a dome paperweight of the universe where I see you every day.

Friday, March 11, 2016

When You Wish Upon a Star

Peanut -

I'm sure you've been hearing your name around the house a lot lately. And, you've probably noticed how your little brother, Pickle, has taken to calling you "his Connor" or "Baby Connor" even though you're his big brother. You are so much a part of our daily conversations and a source of many, many difficult questions that Momma is really struggling to answer.

The other night Pickle and I saw an ad for Walt Disney World, which immediately sparked his interest since we are planning our first trip there this spring. The background music was, "When You Wish Upon a Star" which has always been one of Momma's favorite Disney songs. However, this time around I realized how potentially dangerous the lyrics are to a young child's ears and understanding. The line, "anything your heart desires will come to you" resulted in Pickle turning to look me directly in eyes and declare, "Mom, my heart's desire is for Baby Connor to come back. Can I wish upon a star tonight and make that happen?"

Uh oh.

My quick response was to give him a big hug and share that having you come home was one of my heart's desires too. And that we keep you alive and with us every day by talking about you, sharing stories and looking at your pictures. I went on to share that we will all be together again someday in Heaven.

Fortunately, that answer seemed to satisfy him. This time. However, the concept of Heaven is still somewhat nebulous and confusing to Pickle. Where is it? Can we go visit? Take a plane? In addition, he is now fixated on the concept  of death, how people die, why they die, when they die.

Bottom line: Momma is failing at this whole conversation.

Peanut, you know Momma. I'm a voracious reader and researcher and I've searched high and low for resources that address how to talk to a subsequent child about the sibling he or she never got to meet due to death. Sure, there are beautifully illustrated books that talk about nature and dying leaves and flowing streams, or pets that go on to another place but the fun we had when they were alive is magical. Books and articles that extensively cover the death of a parent, grandparent, classmate, or a sibling who was an active part of the child's life. I thought maybe books that discuss miscarriage could be relevant but the topics are far too different to really be of help.

So, in the meantime, Momma is making this up as I go. Scary.

I keep telling myself that one way or another we will get through this. As we have every day since you died. It won't be perfect, but what is? And maybe, just maybe on the other side I will have gained some mysterious wisdom that I can pass along to other parents struggling with similar situations.

Until then, the goal is to continue to keep you alive through stories, dancing, songs and memories. That joy will far outweigh any stumbling Momma (or Dadda) might do when asked the tough questions. Your magic, your Peanut Effect will continue to transform our family as you walk by our sides, sit on our shoulders, whisper in our ears, and watch us from Heaven.

Peanut, I still miss you so much every single day. But, I also find so much happiness in sharing you with Pickle. I can feel your presence and it is...simply magical.

I love you so very much my Peanut. How much? You know! To the moon - and back.

- Momma

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Birthday Dance Party

Happy 6th birthday, my amazing Peanut.

While we can't celebrate with you in person on earth, with a cake and big party with all your friends, we are still celebrating with you. Today Momma, Dadda and The Pickle are going to visit lots of butterfly friends, eat birthday cake and we're going to have a super special dance party just for you. The featured song? You know! King Louie's jam, "I Wanna Be Like You" from The Jungle Book, of course!

Your little brother is so excited to celebrate, but can't wrap his brain around the fact that you can't be here. He asked this morning if you could fly in an airplane from Heaven to visit. (Sigh) I fear I'm not doing a great job of explaining you, your death, and the concept of Heaven to him. And now that he's nearing age 4, he is full of curiosity about his big brother Connor. Of course, in his mind, you are his "baby brother" which is also very confusing.

Earlier this week he informed Dadda that they couldn't be best friends anymore because he wanted to be best friends with you. That moment warmed my heart but also shattered me. Your presence, and associated absence, looms over us every day and there are still moments when it cripples me. But, more often than not these days, I smile when I talk about you, think of you, dream of you.

Today we celebrate you. We celebrate your Peanut Effect, and the fact that you made and continue to make this world a better, more beautiful place. You make me a better, more kind and patient Momma. You make us a stronger, more loving family.

Peanut, I hope you and your friends in Heaven can join us for the dance party. My heart will be looking for you. I love you, Peanut. How much? To the moon - and back! Always.

- Momma

Sunday, May 10, 2015 is one of the days I miss you most...

Peanut -

It's been so long since my last post.  The days have grown increasingly hectic thanks to life in general, and your little brother has turned into a full-fledged pre-schooler which requires a whole new level of attention and engagement.  I find these postings now occur on milestone days like your Angel Day, birthdays and holidays.  Like today - Mother's Day in the US.  Momma was only blessed to spend one of those with you alive on earth, and it was truly wonderful.  A day filled with smiling, posed pictures, food and drink, laughter.  How could we have fathomed that a year later we would still be raw with grief, and also very-early pregnant?

The Pickle has brought so much joy to our world and today Momma has felt immensely blessed to be called a mom.  I have the honor of being a mom to you, The Pickle.  To your little sister, Chickpea, who miscarried.  And to your brothers and sister from Dadda's first marriage.  My cup runneth over in so many ways.

But, still.  Today I can't help but reflect on my kids who can't be in my arms.  My Peanut.  My Chickpea.  How different Pickle's life would be with these Angel Siblings.

Today I was called a cry-baby.  It stung and made me angry until I took the time to absorb and reflect.  And, yes.  Yes, I am a cry-baby, today of all days.  I miss my Peanut, in particular.

I respect, love and honor all moms in the universe, but today I hold Angel Mommas in a very special place in my heart.  We find the beauty, joy and celebration in all we have, yet there will always be a hollow space, a rough, jagged scar where loss has attempted to heal.

Today, I call on all Angel Mommas to be cry-babies along with me.  Because, if you are an Angel Momma, there is some joy behind those tears.

Peanut, you have touched Momma's heart in so many ways, and your Peanut Effect continues to astound me.  In the weeks to come, expect more letters.  It's time to do more healing.

I love you sweet boy.  How much?  To the moon - and back!

- Momma

Sunday, January 25, 2015

January Reflections

Peanut -

Tonight marks fours years since I last felt you hug me so very tightly and whisper "Mommaahh" in my ear.  Since you tickled my eyelashes and wove your fingers through mine like knitting a blanket.  Since I believed that, no matter what, children outlive their parents.

January is a complicated month for Momma's heart.  First, we burst with joy when we learned we were pregnant with you over the Martin Luther King holiday weekend in 2009. The warm glow of that memory burns in Momma's heart every January...we so desperately wanted to get pregnant and you were our gift from heaven.  In more ways than we ever realized.

Two years later we woke to find you unresponsive in your bed.  January 26, 2011.  Tomorrow.  My healthy, beautiful, curly haired son with the musical laugh and expressive fingers.  I still see your deep blue eyes and can hear that head-thrown-back laugh you inherited from me.  Tonight I pray in my superstitious head that everyone (Pickle) survives the night.

And then there is the miracle that is your brother.  The Pickle.  Born just a week before your Angel day, he is the glowing beacon who brought light and laugher back to Momma...and maybe to our whole family.  How do I explain tomorrow to him?  At age three he grapples to understand the concept of a brother who exists that he's never met...yet, he knows who you are and can name you in any picture or story.

Four years.  How have we - how have I - survived?  After you died I was confident I would whither way, and life wasn't worth the effort of waking up, showering and getting dressed.  Yet, I went through the motions, wrote thank you notes, went back to work and had dinner with friends.  Eventually we found Henry the Dog, and his furry dog love reminded me what it was to experience a version of Momma-love.  After that we made the decision to get pregnant again...with the help of some wonderful doctors and amazing science/medicine.

Even the miracle of Pickle brought its own heartbreak - his twin sister didn't survive past four months.  But, here he is today.  Smart.strong.  And, in so many ways aware that he is special. Not spoiled special but toughed with an ability to see beyond the retractions of this world.  Often, I hear him having long conversations in his room with stuffed animals and I'm fairly sure this is your way of communicating through him.  It is...delightful.

Tonight I read your brother "Guess How Much I Love You" and gave him a Backyardigans book to read.  Momma reminded him these were to help honor you and he gave me his, "I know, Momma'" look.

Peanut, tomorrow I will celebrate you.  Your life.  I will not focus on those seconds, minutes, hours when we found you at home. administered CPR, rode in the ambulance while praying feverishly, answered police and transplant services questions, held your lifeless body and prayed with our full family, and eventually watched you roll out the door with the County Coroner's office. That was the last time we saw your body - but not your spirit.

Peanut, you are with us - with me - every day.  Sometimes Momma loses sight of what's important and the lessons learned through your death.  But, January always brings those reminders front-and-center.

I love you so much, my sweet Peanut.  And, four years later I miss you as much (if not more) than the day you died.  From the deepest part of my heart, to yours.  And, to the moon - and back.

- Momma

Picture from our 2011 "Happy New Year" card, sent just weeks before Connor passed away.