Monday, June 30, 2014

The Shockingly Awful Bereaved

Peanut -

How can it be?  A month has passed without a letter.  My heart feels terrible but also hopeful.  Because, this blog has been the outlet for Momma's intense grief.  A place where I had to force my brain to balance the pain of missing you with some measure of joy.  But, over the last few months, joy has been more accessible and present.  More constant.

While there is guilt associated with that, there is more a sense of settledness.  A sense that this is what it feels like to allow grief and joy and love and pain to become the norm.  There is a strange new ability to ride the yellow sunshine highs of wonderful moments while also embracing the need to indulge fits of chest-heaving sobs...all in the same day.  I acknowledge this is not normal.  At least, not for normal people.  But, we are not normal.  We are the Shockingly Awful Bereaved.

Yes.  That is a new Momma phrase.  As we travel this path of loss, and time plays a more predominant role, it seems humans feel more comfortable uttering words and phrases they danced around during the early days.  The times of, "I can't imagine...I am so sorry." have passed.  We've entered into the zone of, "OH MY GOD.  That is the worst thing I have ever heard.  How are you still alive?"  Yes, this is a Momma over-generalized dramatization.  But, not all that far off.

Today I had a woman inform me that, outside of her husband cheating on her and the pain of their divorce and loss of her house and country club membership, she can't imagine anything worse than the death of a child.  <Deep breath in and out.>  My response, "I am so sorry for everything you are unexpectedly dealing with - it must be awful."

Thanks to you I have become more patient and kind.  I believe in the inherent good of people and humanity.  When I hear people (above) say things that seem idiotic I give the benefit of the doubt.  I give grace.

Your Peanut Effect.  Stronger than ever.

I write tonight to honor you and to keep this blog active and alive.  For you.

Peanut, I miss you.  Every day.  I love you sooooo much.  How much?  To the moon - and back!

- Momma

Peanut's Butterfly Stone, flanked by beautiful flowers.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Summoning Butterflies

Peanut -

This afternoon Momma was enjoying a warm summer day, browsing Facebook on the porch during a brief thunderstorm, when life without you hit me over the head.  Several friends posted pictures of their kids who are the same age you would be - children playing baseball this summer, participating on swim teams and riding bicycles.  All things you would - should - be doing.

The reality that your classmates will be starting kindergarten in the fall also sunk in today.  A major milestone you will never realize.  A reality that will only loom larger as the new school year creeps up on us.

And in the midst of these terrifying moments, a lovely white butterfly emerged.  It flitted across our yard, over trees and winding around bird feeders.  Every time I thought of you, it landed on the bird feeder next to my chair.

I hear you.  I see you.  I know...we will get through these milestones, these ongoing heartaches.

How?  Because you are still with us, watching over us.

Earlier this week Momma was asked to share the one question I ask myself every day.  That would have been a tough question a few years ago.  But not now.

What is the question?

How do I live a life that honors you every moment of every day?

Peanut, thank you for sending butterflies to greet Momma today.  I love and miss you so very much.  To the moon - and back!

- Momma


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Would You Know My Name?

Peanut -

It's been several weeks - too many - since Momma's written a letter.  There has been so much going on...but there is no excuse <sigh>.  Just lots of emotion that Momma hasn't known how to channel because so much of what is happening has been misdirected towards your death due to a situation with one family member.  A family member who is taking your death and making it the root of many personal issues.  

And I'm just not "OK" with someone else (or many someone else's) trying to take ownership of this grief journey.  Of assuming that Momma can continue to be the strong shoulders.  Of bastardizing the amazing impact of your Peanut Effect.  And the decision Dadda and Momma made to honor you though joy, love, light, laughter and beauty.

I am angry.

There.  I said it.  

It's been close to 3.5 years since you died.  I am now being forced to relive the raw emotion of the first months after your death due to this situation.  But...so much has changed.  We have the ever growing Pickle, and he is amazing, hilarious and challenging.  We've opened a restaurant.  We have moved once and are now about to move into our "dream home."  A home you never set foot in, but I know you will inhabit in spirit.  

With all these changes, I worry sometimes.  Would you know me today?  

Momma listened to Eric Clapton's "Tears In Heaven" this evening and came to this conclusion:
I think - no, I know - you are by my side, on my should and in every fiber of my being every step, every moment, every day.  You are my heart and my inner-voice.  You are why I have the strong shoulders.

Peanut, you are my touchstone.  I love you, sweet boy with the ocean deep blue eyes...to the moon - and back!

- Momma


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Boiling the Ocean, One Cup At A Time.

Peanut -

Momma ran into a co-worker today she hasn't seen since she was pregnant with The Pickle.  A wonderful, kind young man who was simply devastated after your passing, since he has a son just a few months older than you.  We actually became friends after sharing exhausted-parent infant/toddler stories as we were both navigating first-time parenthood.  After you died, our milestone-sharing bond was severed.  His joy upon learning 2 years ago that we were pregnant again was cautious, tempered.

And then there was today.  It has been so long since we've seen each other, and he is a new dad again.  A beaming smile greeted me - one without the fear of "what do I say?"  We talked freely about our kids, until it came to his son...the one who is just a few months older than you.  The one who just turned five.  It hit me like a sledgehammer between the eyes.  Five.  Holy cow, it's April...you turned 4 1/2 in March so we would be in the "almost five" zone.

Something about that fact is horribly difficult, sad, and paralyzing.

I share this because I've realized that trying to manage and anticipate what grief has on the menu for the day is like thinking you can boil the ocean.

First, why would you want to?  Boiling the ocean means you would miss out on the mystery of its dangers.  You would kill and devastate all the beauty those dangers have to offer before you have the change to realize what seems dangerous at first is actually beneficial.  Healing and restorative.  Just like grief.

Second, it just isn't practical.  The ocean is turbulent, vast and dictated by forces larger than this earth.  You could try to boil it one cup, gallon, or any other measurement but, at the end of the day, you will be lucky if you get a nice warm bathtub.  But, sometimes isn't that enough?  Or even more than enough?  Why try for more?

Third, the ocean has its own rhythm.  At times she is calm, peaceful.  But a storm can rage from seemingly nowhere and calm just as quickly.  Momma relates to this in so many ways.  A good day can turn dark in a flash - the mere mention of a boy who just turned five can apparently send me into a tailspin.

More than anything, the notion of thinking humans can boil the ocean is our way of trying to be in control.  That's human nature, right?  But there are some forces more powerful and wise than we can ever imagine.  Forces that understand what the earth, heart, brain need to experience to heal, restore, thrive.  At times that process is painful and wounds get re-opened.  But the scar tissue that re-forms is tougher and more resilient.

Anyway, at the end of Momma's interaction with her co-worker there was a genuine request - I asked to see pictures of the kids.  And, that request brought a smile.  A glowing, appreciative smile.

Peanut, days like to today remind me just how much you have changed this Momma's heart and soul. I am a better person throughout because of you.

<sigh>  I miss you, your strong neck hugs, and sense of connection.  Those long blue-eyed gazes and butterfly kisses.  I love you so very much.  How much?  To the moon - and back!

- Momma

Peanut's 6-month photos from March 2010.  Our little Irishman.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Small Victories

Peanut -

Momma got on a plane last week.  Yep.  That's right.  Momma flew...without fear.  For the first time since December of 2010.  That was the last time Momma took a work-related trip, just weeks before you passed away.  Momma was speaking at a conference and felt obligated to make the trip, one of many I took for work in 2010.  <sigh>  I wish I could get back all the days and nights I lost when you were alive for the sake of my career...

After you passed away, Momma was physically unable to board a plane, which Momma and Dadda learned the hard way when we tried to escape to Sanibel Island for Mother's Day.  It was 4 months after your death, we were trying to conceive The Pickle, and Momma simply couldn't face the holiday in the house where you died.  But I also couldn't get on a plane.  After two failed attempts and related panic attacks, Momma and Dadda said, "Enough."

Since then we have resigned ourselves to a life tethered in St. Louis, MO.  Dreams of flying to Disney World and various beach get-aways have tickled the edges of Momma's mind, but fear has prevailed for the last 3 years.  Until last week.  A small but powerful victory.  Momma got on a plane.

There was so much guilt in my heart, but also a sense of responsibility.  While I didn't want to leave The Pickle, this was also something that needed to happen to free our family.  To allow us to continue to embrace life.  To stop cheating Dadda and The Pickle from enjoying vacations surrounded by powdery sand, sea shells, and Mickey Mouse.

Momma didn't do it alone.  You were there, encouraging me every step of the way.  And a little bit of Xanax, too.  Yes, I'm not too proud to admit it.  There are some battles where we need to admit we need assistance, and this was one of those for Momma.  And with the powerful tools of Peanut-love, Momma-belief and minor medication, we won this one.

Peanut, something else has been tugging at Momma's heart these last few months and it feels like the right time to address it head-on.  Many friends and readers of this blog have commented how our journey has made them more patient as parents, forced them to re-evaluate priorities and to be thankful for their blessings.  But, I have to be very honest...parenting is hard.  I wish I could be a "perfect" parent.  That I never got frustrated or felt a need to have "Momma time."  But that just isn't reality.  As much as Momma is always and forever grateful for her Peanut and her Pickle, I am human.  I am imperfect.  And I am the best Momma I know how to be.  I love my family with every ounce of my heart.  And that is - that has to be - good enough.

Momma read "Guess How Much I Love You" the other night.  I refuse to read it to The Pickle...it is your book.  He has "Goodnight Moon" among other books.  But this one is yours.  When I read it I can feel your neck hugs.  Your fingers tickling my eyelashes. I can hear your soft sighs, and whispers of "Momma..."  I can smell your wonderful, soft scent...a little bit of Dreft mixed with Downy...a little bit of lavender.  I can feel the feather touch of your blond curls.  Ah...you are still so present in my mind, my heart.

Dear Peanut, I love you so very much.  How much?  Come on silly boy - you know!  To the moon - and back.

- Momma

Pure joy...