Saturday, December 29, 2012

Lunch with My Boys

Peanut -

Today was a big day.  A day that merged past and present, in a heart-warming, heart-breaking, delightful and sorrowful moment.  Today your brother ate his first grilled cheese sandwich.  Actually, he shared a sandwich with Momma.  Just like you and I used to do on Friday afternoons together.

As Momma sliced up bite-sized bits of the sandwich for your brother, your presence was overwhelmingly strong.  You were on my shoulder whispering words of encouragement in my ear.  You were in the ray of sunshine that chose that instant to break through our grey, overcast day.  You were in the peals of laughter that escaped from your brother's lips and rang through the house.  You were in the slow, unsure grin that spread across his face as he discovered the wonder of grilled cheese.

Momma is going to savor this moment.  A moment that didn't evoke tears, but, rather, a giant Momma smile, burst of laughter and a wistful sigh.  This moment drove home for my heart and brain that you are here.  You are always here.  With us, around us, inside us...surrounding us.

I just had to share this moment to say, "Thank you, my Peanut."  With bunches and noodles of love.  How much love is that?  To the moon - and back, of course!

- Momma

Peanut, October 23, 2010...almost 14 months old.  

The Pickle, December 29, 2012...getting close to his first birthday.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Happy Holidays?

Peanut -

This holiday season has been both wonderful and terrible.  Momma's heart doesn't know how to process the joy of The Pickle's first Christmas against the heart-wrenching fact that you aren't here for what should be your fourth Christmas.  Add to that the horrific events in Connecticut and it just leaves Momma do we celebrate authentically without bitterness in our hearts?

For our family, I believe hosting a separate celebration for you - for your Peanut Tree - has been essential.  It allows us to honor you during this season, show our grief and share memories on a day that is not Christmas.  It also opens the door to talk about you.  So by Christmas day our friends and family aren't so worried about uttering your beautiful name.  Connor. Peanut. To share their funny memories of you.  To remember an outfit, a toy, an expression...and to recognize something similar in your brother.

I know it scares all of us to think about the next few weeks.  In 2010 and 2011 these were the weeks leading up to your death...little did we know.  Everyone is now watching The Pickle with hyper-sensitie eyes.  What is that cough?  That runny nose?  But, here's what I know.  The Pickle has a guardian angel who got him through a bout with RSV last week with flying colors.  An angel named Peanut, his big brother.

Momma wonders if the families in Newtown, CT are feeling the presence of their angels.  Are they seeing the signs that were so important to Momma and Dadda in the months after you passed away?

I wonder how this holiday season has felt for those families.  Are presents still wrapped, waiting patiently for tiny hands to open them?  Will those same presents remain wrapped for days, weeks...years?  Will future gifts be purchased by grief-striken parents who just want their children back home in their arms?  <sigh>  Momma still buys little gifts for you, items I think you would enjoy or that remind me of you.  Sometimes they wind up in your special Peanut trunk, sometimes they get donated to charity.  But they always soothe Momma's heart.

Today I choose to remember your sunshine smile, your musical laughter, and the joy and love you opened in my heart.  Today I send that love to the families torn apart by tragedy and loss...I send them the strength to walk through the fire of their grief, to stare it in the face, and to wake up each day and put one foot in front of the other.

Today - like every day - I send you my fierce Momma love.  How much love?  To the moon, Peanut - and back.

- Momma

Peanut and Dadda, the week before Christmas 2009.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Hanging On To Hope

Peanut -

Momma has been simply unable to post any letters since Friday, December 14...a day that never should have happened.  A day when the unthinkable became reality.  The day 20 new angels joined you in Children's Heaven in a horrific, violent, tragic series of events.  The day that re-opened wounds in the hearts of other bereaved parents across the world.  Parents who thought they were healing. Parents like your Momma.

In a moment Momma was brought back to January 26, 2011.  The beginning of our journey.  The utter un-reality of your loss.  The required motions of memorial service plans and questions - how should the obituary read, flowers or charitable donations, bury or cremate, sermon or none, songs or prayers, ask people to speak or just the minister?  All while coming home to a house that was empty.  Hollow.  Too quiet.  Life had lost all meaning and Momma was answering questions that seemed senseless.  Pointless.

It's hard to imagine what the families in Connecticut are experiencing.  Their loss is so violent.  So public.  And it involves whole groups of families...Momma can only hope they are able to support each other over the upcoming days, months and years.  But, well, they are probably sill in the place of surviving minute by minute, hour by hour.

After drying our tears last weekend, Momma and Dadda hosted the 2nd Annual Peanut Tree Open House.  We had over 40 family and friends join us to decorate your special tree with ornaments and stories about you....remembrances we will relive each year and share with your brother.  These are the events that help keep your spirit alive and now make Momma smile.  Peanut, your tree is...beautiful.  Breathtaking.  Perfect.

Yet just when we think we're feeling better - wait!  There's more!

Yesterday, while Momma was goofing around with the Pickle after a full day at daycare he was overcome by a terrifying 2-minute coughing fit.  At one point he looked at Momma with "panic eyes" which triggered the need to get him in to the doctor today.  And now?  He has a confirmed case of RSV.



Peanut, you were very sick over the Christmas holiday of 2010.  Are we reliving history?  Is there some obscure lesson buried within these events?

Peanut, despite all of this Momma is hopeful.  Looking for - and finding - joy in each day.  I will not give in, I will not give up.  I will live each day for you.

Tonight I share a picture of your 2012 Peanut Tree as a beacon of light for those who need it...I hope they might find strength and love within it.  I hope they can feel the love contained within your tree.  How much love? the moon - and back silly!

- Momma

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Over the Rainbow

Peanut -

It has been way too long since Momma has posted a letter.  Five whole days.  You know I talk to you every day, and I can see and hear you and Pickle having funny little conversations constantly.  But, still...these letters mean so much because the time I spend writing them is special time carved out to think about you, to talk with you, to focus on what we would be doing if you were still here, to focus on how the grief is settling in at the moment.  These letters have also proved to be terribly important to Momma for reflection.  Going back and reading entries  from March 2011 vs. March 2012 vs. today helps Momma understand the nature of this very confusing, and never-ending road.

A lot has been going on in Momma's head over the last week.  It started with a sweater cape.  This particular cape was ordered in December of 2010, when you were still alive and we were preparing an exciting Christmas and future with you.  I still remember ordering the cape, full of joy and optimism, because I was also creating and ordering our "Happy 2011" cards that afternoon.  The cape was on backorder, to be delivered sometime in January.  And then it slipped out of my mind.  The holidays flew by, suddenly we were into 2011 and then January 26 happened.  And, two weeks later, as the true impact and isolation of our grief was revealing itself, a package arrived.  Clearly not a grief or sympathy gift.  It was that stupid, silly, goddamn sweater cape.  How dare it fling itself in my face, taunting me, reminding me of all we had and lost.

Despite the irrational anger I felt towards the sweater, Momma found herself wearing it everywhere.  Our first dinner out with family.  My first day attempting to return to work.  First lunch with friends.  It became a symbol of all the "firsts."  And then, it hung in Momma's closet, pushed to the back, out of sight and mind.

Last week Momma brought it out, shook it off and wore it.  No special reason.  No first.  Just because.  And I discovered something.  There is a new happiness surrounding it, centered around remembrance of the joy I felt the day it was purchased.  No longer taunting me, it now has a special connection to my time on earth with my Peanut.

Which leads to the next mind-bending event.  Decorating for the holidays.  For some reason Momma didn't see this one coming, but probably should have.  We didn't - couldn't - decorate or celebrate last year.  We were simply too sad.  But this year we decided it's time to dive back in, for your little brother, for our families.  It feels good to have the stockings hung, including yours.  And to have the Christmas tree glowing with while lights.  But hanging the ornaments - all except yours which will go on your Peanut Tree - was heart-breaking.  Why?  Because the last time they were hung was Christmas 2010, over a weekend Momma got to spend with you, just the two of us, while Dadda was out of town.  We went to see Santa, had friends over to visit, and we decorated the tree all weekend.  The tree delighted you, and Momma explained the different ornaments, much to your delight.  It was, quite simply, one of the best weekends of my life.

It's hard, Peanut, when the wonderful memories also evoke such strong emotions of loss and sadness.  I want to remember, to celebrate those moments, but I'm not as good at grieving as I was a year ago.  It's scarier to face now.  Not the familiar bedfellow it was for so many months, it now feels more like a looming stranger in a dark alley.  It's always waiting around the corner...Momma just hasn't faced it head-on in a while.

Maybe that's a part of why five days have passed since my last letter.  This is the time when I address my fears and grief without cushioning or avoidance.  It's when I'm honest with you and my heart.

Peanut, as your brother grows older the memories of you are re-awakening.  He has adopted so many of your mannerisms, without ever meeting you on earth.  It is a little scary, constantly delightful, painful and wonderful.  I expect the next several months are going to be one heck of a roller-coaster ride.  But, I know you will be here with us.

Missing you with all my heart.  I heard, "Over the Rainbow" today and released myself to a flood of tears for you...but there was still a small smile.  Why?  Because I know someday I will see you over the rainbow.  Until then, I love you to the moon - and back!

Peanut and Santa - December 2010

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Like A Snowflake

Peanut -

Your kitteh-kah is still missing.  Momma has left his bowl and water bottle system sitting "as is."  Every day I come home and check the kitchen window where he used to wait to come has never occurred to Momma that he might not be there.  Hope abounds.  For now.

Loss is so unique.  So situational.  Thus, the title of today's letter.  It is like a snowflake with its own special one loss is like the other.  The loss of a pet, a parent, a sibling, a son.  The way we grieve, the way we mourn, the way we work through our process is ours to own.

With Zeke I have no sense of closure. No sense of what might have happened or if he could possibly come back home some day.

With you I was a witness.  An unwilling participant.  I knew from the moment I saw your eyes that morning that you were gone.  Yet, I still had hope until the ER doctors pronounced your death.

But with both of you I struggle with the reality of my own failure.  Failure to protect you from pain or fear or whatever unknown force took you from us.  SUDC stole you...I have no idea what took Zeke.  A hawk?  Coyote?  A stranger in the neighborhood?

I am sure it seems silly to compare the loss of Zeke - a cat - to your loss, but they are very closely related in Momma's heart.  You both looked to me for protection.  You both saw me as a Momma.  And now you are both gone.

Tonight, while I picture you hanging Christmas lights in heaven, I also envision your kitteh-kah batting those same lights delighting you and your angel friends.

Peanut, I love you - to the mooooooon and back!

- Momma


Friday, November 30, 2012

Losing Another Piece of My Peanut

Peanut -

Zeke is missing.  He has been gone for 3 days, and there has been no sign of him.  Your sweet, rough & tumble kitteh kah...gone.  With no warning.  No good-bye.  This loss has torn Momma's heart to pieces.  It feels so familiar.  Too familiar.

This was YOUR cat.  As long as we had him here, I felt like we had a bridge between time, eras, children.  Zeke knew you.  And he knows your little brother.  Momma could tell he saw the similarities...he sought to interact with The Pickle just like he was constantly drawn in by your gravitational pull.

This loss of Zeke has taken Momma to a strange place.  I find myself wondering, "Are we cursed?  Is it this house?  Has loss just decided to dig in and own us?"

Despite all that, I still have hope.  Flyers were created and printed act that reminded Momma of creating the handout for your memorial service.  Then there were phones calls to all the local Humane Societies and registration with St. Louis Lost Pets.  Oddly, that brought up memories of dealing with the organ donation people in the aw moments after you were pronounced dead.

In the midst of this funk, a quote landed on Momma's radar screen that made me stop and realize...this is life now.  Life is that ridiculous "new normal."  The losses and pain will continue.  My challenge: To continue to strive to seek strength, grace and the potential positive outcomes.  Oh, and the quote:

"She was no longer wrestling with the grief, but could sit down with it as a lasting companion and make it a sharer in her thoughts." 

- George Eliot

Perfect, right?

Peanut, please send a beacon of light to guide Zeke home if he is still out there, wandering.  Please give him a heavenly hug if he has joined you in that special heaven reserved for children and pets.  Those special beings who love us unconditionally.

I miss and love you bunches of noodles.  How much is that?  Well, it is to the moon - and back.

- Momma

The Zekester

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Three Balloons

Peanut -

I am picturing you sitting on a cloud in heaven, holding 3 blue balloons.  Balloons we sent to you yesterday, after taking the family pictures we never got around to scheduling when you were here.  Yesterday we gathered Momma, Dadda, your sister and all your brothers and braved a 28 degree St. Louis morning along with the phenomenal photographer Heidi Drexler.  And you were there too.  In the form of a blue balloon.

Why THREE balloons?  Well, because Momma is an idiot.  We did have one solitary balloon but Momma opened her car window without anchoring it down.  And, it was so excited to visit you it simply zoomed up and out, straight to heaven.  So your oldest brother quickly ran to get another, and wisely purchased two so we would have a backup balloon.

In photo after photo your balloon bounced and danced in the wind.  Pictures with your siblings, the whole family, Dadda and all his kids, and finally sitting around your special butterfly paver stone.  The Pickle was fascinated by your balloons, so at the end of the shoot we gave him the strings while we all looked to the sky.  "Hi Peanut!"  Then we helped him release the balloons as we waved and called after them, "Bye Peanut!  Bye balloons!"

And Momma hid her tears with a pair of sunglasses.

This on the heels of another Thanksgiving without you.  In anticipation of another Christmas without you.  Momma started Christmas and birthday gift shopping for your brother yesterday.  Such an odd sensation to be shopping for gifts for a first birthday again.  For a 12 month old.  To not be shopping for TWO little boys.  I can't help but pretend to shop for you...for a 3 year old boy.  Let me tell ya, Peanut, you would be into some pretty cool toys and gadgets.  It is so tempting to just give in and buys gifts for you.  To suspend reality for a few moments.

But no...that would be more painful in the end when reality comes crashing down with all its brutal weight.  

Instead I choose to keep your spirit alive.  Momma talks about you a lot.  While it may be uncomfortable for some people, Momma has come to realize that is THEIR issue.  Not mine.  People need to know you.  To understand what a beautiful impact you had - and still have - on this earth.  Thanks to The Compassionate Friends, Momma now wears a blue wristband in your memory that states, "Forever in my heart."  It prompts questions, and Momma is happy to share.

Peanut, I hope you feel the love I'm sending you.  I hope you hear my words, and can touch my tears.  Tears of love, tears of remembrance, tears of thanks, tears of sorrow, tears of hope.  Guess how much I love you, Peanut.  To the moon - and back!

- Momma

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Despite All We Have Lost, Life Is Good

Peanut -

The title of today's letter represents a thought that has been swirling around in Momma's head for the last few days.  It's a thought that brings equal amounts of guilt and happiness.  Guilt in that I shouldn't even begin to think "life is good" when we don't have you in our arms, growing older day by day.  Happiness in that we/I live each day to honor you, to surround The Pickle with love, and to be better people.

Here in the United States of America we are preparing to kick off the holiday season with Thanksgiving.  Last year Momma truly couldn't face the holiday season and spent most of these weeks merely gritting her teeth and surviving.  My only goal was to get to the birth of The Pickle.  That was my beacon of light.  This year is different.  We have your brother who is fascinated by the early Christmas lights and decorations which has, in turn, gotten us excited to decorate and celebrate.  We have a new family-owned business.  We seem to have more stability...a new sense of being grounded.  Maybe it's because we are also approaching the two year mark of your passing...two years...unimaginable.

This November Thanksgiving holiday also carries with it the obvious question: What are you thankful for this year?  To be perfectly frank, I couldn't answer that question last year.  While I was excited for The Pickle's arrival, I wasn't sure I was truly thankful for, well, anything.  And this year I am thankful to have that perspective.  It gives Momma a whole new sense of the word "thankful."  I am fortunate to be here, alive and healthy and surrounded by friends, family, a great husband, a wonderful Pickle and the spirit of my amazing Peanut.  Quite simply, I am thankful to be thankful.

I am thankful for you.  You made me a Momma.  You taught me the meaning of Momma Love.  You taught me to laugh and dance and be crazy - even when people are watching.  You taught me to want nothing for myself and everything for someone else.  You taught me how to grieve and survive.  You taught me how to display grace even in my darkest moments.  You gave me a new world.

When people look at me and think, "Oh, she's so strong" or "Wow, she much be over the loss of her child" or "She must be medicated" I simply want to say - "No.  I am simply Peanut's Momma."

I've been reading "Guess How Much I Love You" to your brother.   When we get to the end I point to your picture and to the sky.  I'm pretty sure he gets it.  I'm pretty sure you feel the love we send your way each and every night.  How much love?  To the moon - and back!

- Momma

A photo fron right before Thanksgiving 2010.  See Peanut's "shiner?"  He got that right before Halloween trying to walk around our coffee table.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Building New Memories...

Peanut -

This last week has been full of highs and lows.  Moments where I've caught myself laughing without reserve, and moments where I've surprised myself by bursting into tears while shopping.  Times where I have caught myself confusing The Pickle with you, times where I have envisioned you are still here and times when I have berated myself for seeming so "fine."

There are three moments Momma is going to focus on in this letter:
1) shopping at Baby Gap on Friday
2) opening the mail Friday afternoon
3) Saturday morning at home with The Pickle

On Friday afternoon Momma and Pickle wound up at THE MALL to return a few items and shop for some small gifts.  Your brother was captivated by all the holiday lights and decorations, and THE MALL itself wasn't too crowded.  So, Momma decided to duck into Baby Gap.  Just to look.  For Dadda's birthday we are taking a family photo after Thanksgiving and we need something for The Pickle to wear, right?  That was the thought.  But, Momma found herself standing there with a sweater in her hands meant for a 3 year-old.  And then another.  And then a pair of jeans.  And then...wham!  It hit me.  You will always be in our spirit.  As a balloon.  A baseball cap.  Hopefully a ray of light that finds his way into the frame.  But...there won't be a Peanut sweater or shirt or "picture outfit."

This moment was interrupted by a timid hand and shaking voice, "'am?  Are you OK?"  Oh jeez.  I'm still in the store. And she just called me ma'am.  Damn, on so many levels.

Later on Friday afternoon The Pickle and I returned home and fetched the mail.  Oh look - a card!  Personal mail is very exciting for Momma.  I opened the mail and...exhale...a special card.  I cannot even express or describe this amazing gift, this tribute,  so a picture is included.  What I will say to my friend and to everyone who reads this this...THANK YOU.  Thank you for remembering.

Which brings us to Saturday morning.  Dadda left to do work at his newly opened restaurant (big news!) so the day was unplanned and open for me and The Pickle.  He took an awesome nap, woke up, ate lunch and had a phenomenal diaper blowout.  Momma thought this would be the perfect time for a bleach bath...even though we were expecting a FedEx package (note: this is foreshadowing, folks).  Off came the diaper, into the sink went The Pickle, diaper safely placed to the side.  Until...

WHOA!  Here comes Henry the Dog!  Up on the counter!  Diaper in his mouth, off and running!  Poop everywhere!  Knock, knock, knock.  Are you kidding me?  The FedEx guy is here now?  Pull The Pickle out of the sink, wet and naked.  Football carry.  Chase the dog.  Give the FedEx guy the "thumbs up."  He gestures back...and throws the package at the door and runs for his life.  Grab the dog and diaper.  Crate the dog.  Bag the diaper.  Get The Pickle back in the bath and wait for some sort of "protective service" to arrive at the front door...or counseling for that poor FedEx kid.  And, realize...we are making new, funny memories.  Memories we will share forever.  Just like all the memories we have with you.

I'm not sure how I feel about that.

Peanut, there is so much to say.  So much to process every day.  But my message to you tonight is this - you have taught me to find joy and tears in remembrance.  And to embrace the future actions that will build tomorrow's memories.  Yesterday, today and tomorrow...they are all one.

I love you sweet, funny, loving Peanut.  I love that I see more and more of you in The Pickle.  I love that I see you protecting him.  I miss you...and love you.  To the moon - and back!

- Momma

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Slaying Dragons

Peanut -

Momma has been offline for the last week.  Partially due to the terrible US election coverage and related hatred which I found truly distasteful, but primarily thanks to a major Momma Life Decision.  Momma had LASIK surgery and the recovery period required no computer time due to eye strain.  I know...holy cannoli...Momma did it!

Peanut, in the months after you were born Momma complained constantly about the inconvenience of contacts and glasses.  My eyesight is (was) bad enough that I couldn't function without some type of correction but contacts were drying and uncomfortable, and glasses were a source of fun and fascination for you.  Yes, you loved to gnaw on my frames!  I talked constantly about overcoming my fear of laser eye surgery.  I talked incessantly about "getting around to it."  But, well, I never did.  And was too late.  You were gone.

Fast forward to the summer of 2012.  Once again, Momma was complaining - like a broken record - about glasses and contacts and discomfort.  Promising - once again - to get her eyes fixed.  Someday...

Here's the thing.  We don't know what tomorrow will bring.  And if your death has taught Momma ONE thing it is to seize the day.  Overcome the fear.  Commit and make a decision.  Slay the dragon!

And now I can wake up in the morning or from a nap and I can see your brother, the rise and fall of his chest, confirmation that he is alive and glasses.  No contacts.  And it brings a new, odd sense of relief.

And then today Momma battled another demon.  Speaking in front of large audiences.  For the last 22 months crowds have been the enemy.  Frightening, really.  They have reminded me of your Memorial Service and the unwelcome spotlight brought by your passing.  So when I was asked to emcee an event at work for 1500 people the first response was NO WAY.  But then I realized...I have a Guardian Angel.  A Peanut Angel sitting on my shoulder, cheering me on, soothing my heart and calming my nerves.  Today was the day. felt OK.  Almost good.  Why?  Because I felt you there with me.

Peanut, you continue to make me a better person, a better Momma, a kinder more gentle soul.

How is it that I think I miss you more now than I even have before?  <sigh>  Thank you for being in my heart, soul and mind every moment of every day.  I love you sweet boy.  How much?  To the mooooooooooon - and back!

- Momma

Monday, October 29, 2012

Diaper Rash Flashback

Peanut -

Now that The Pickle is over nine months old, he is being introduced to the wonderful world of solid foods.  Cheerios.  Macaroni and cheese.  Steamed, chopped vegetables.  Goldfish crackers.  Ah....Goldfish crackers - your favorite!  (Unlike you - so far - The Pickle doesn't shove handfuls of Goldfish into his mouth without chewing and swallowing.)

The introduction of solid food brings new spices, tastes, acidity and fierce diaper rashes.  Your brother has been blessed with skin that can handle fragrances and heavy ingredients which is very different from the hyper-sensitive skin you inherited from me.  So far, The Pickle really hasn't dealt with a persistent diaper rash so it was a memory, a fear, Momma and Dadda didn't have to face until this past week.  And, Whoa Nelly, did we ever have to face it.

You see, Peanut, when you passed away you were in your second week of a persistent, nagging diaper rash.  The school nurse counseled that is was a yeast-based rash, and we were combatting it accordingly.  But it never totally cleared up.  That rash, and its potential link to a yeast infection, has haunted Momma and, in particular Dadda, ever since.  Was that rash a symptom of something worse?  If we had been able to get it under control would you still be alive?  Did the rash compromise your system and allow something worse to attack you?

So, last week your little brother showed signs of a diaper rash that kept getting worse.  By Friday it was out of control.  Suddenly, we were reliving January of 2011 all over again.  In a panic we called our doctor, took pictures of the rash, and received an odd but effective piece of advice.  Stop the diaper rash creams and ointments.  Stop the powder.  No more "baby wipes" regardless of how scent free they claim to be.  Simply put him in a bath with a tablespoon of bleach twice per day, allow to air dry and frost his tiny butt with zinc oxide.

Ta da!  Within a day the rash faded.  By the end of the weekend it was gone and healed.  On Sunday afternoon Momma looked at Dadda, sighed and said, "Oh, the things I wish we had known two years ago..."  He looked down and nodded in agreement.

Would this have made a difference for you?  I guess we will never know.  My logical brain tells me to let go of this line of thought.  My heart says something different.

The Momma-guilt is deep tonight. I hope you can feel how often I think about you.  And how very much I love you.  To the moon - and back!

- Momma

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Oh, For The Love Of Vanna!

Peanut -

What is it with my boys and this strange fascination with Vanna White?  (Hey Vanna! April 27, 2011)  I mean, I know she's sparkly.  And has brilliant white teeth.  And lights up large letters with a mere brush of her hand.  I get all that.  But still...Vanna trumps Momma on a nightly basis.  First you and now The Pickle!

Tonight, after giving The Pickle a dinner of pasta primavera, strawberry & beet SUPER PUFFS!!! and a bottle, I left him in the play area to explore and wander while I washed the dishes.  In a quiet, still moment I glanced across the room to find a confusing vision of the past and present, Peanut and Pickle, merged into one.  The Pickle was standing in front of the television transfixed by Vanna and her shiny blue dress, both hands gripping the gate while he bounced up and down full of grins and giggles.  He finally plopped down on the floor only to start clapping his hands for Vanna...just like you.

If it's possible, Momma's heart shattered and healed all at once.  Tears and laughter.  A smile and a sob. The sound of my breath catching must have alarmed The Pickle.  As his little blonde head whipped around Momma remembered and recovered, "Heeeeeeeey Vanna!  Whassup girl?!" And, The Pickle broke into a beautiful smile.

Oh Peanut...there you are...right the sunshine of his smile.  In the beauty of that moment.  In the Momma love in my heart.

Joy and grief, side by side.

With each day that passes, I understand that sentiment more deeply.  I know it intimately.  I embrace it.

So, beginning tomorrow night and every night after Momma will exclaim at the top of her lungs - HEY VANNA!  And I will laugh.  And cry.  Why?  Because I love you.  How much????  To the mooooooon - and back!



Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Comfort Circle

Peanut -

Last Friday Momma had lunch with a special group of women who share a single, simple bond with our family.  They have experienced profound loss...death of a child/spouse/sibling.  In a normal world, we probably wouldn't have ever met.  Our social circles don't necessarily intersect.  But now.  Now these women are, in many ways, family.  Friends who understand Momma's heart.  Friends who require no words, apologies, or explanation.

It is so hard to describe this bond to others.  To lifelong friends who continue to stand by our sides, desperately wanting to support and provide love.  To family members who are also navigating their grief while wanting to be strong for Momma and Dadda.  To other friends and co-workers who, after 19+ months, believe we must be "over" this tragedy.

Momma equates this new group of soul-mates to other types of groups.  Actually, one group in particular - knitting circles.  In these groups individuals congregate based on a common bond - knitting.    The conversations that take place over knitting...well, that's where the magic happens.  As knitting needles create new patterns, colors, designs the discussions take a parallel path.

It's similar when Momma connects with The Comfort Circle.  The connections may take place over e-mail, telephone, Facebook, lunch, a glass of wine.  It doesn't matter.  The level of comfort, the sigh of relief, the removal of the mask, is always similar and liberating.  We find each other completing sentences, finishing thoughts, laughing as we share like experiences.  Oh, what a morbid mystery we must be to other diners when we have a group meal!

Peanut, death, loss and tragedy have changed not just Momma and Dadda...they have transformed our friendships and interactions with the world.  But, rather than see this as a negative Momma chooses to see it as an amazing, positive impact.  Another ripple in your Peanut Effect.

I send a note of love to Heaven on behalf of the women who have touched Momma's heart, surrounded us, and shared in our journey.  Sarah, Amy, Nancy, Jill, Shawn, Laura, Jules, Katie, Laurie, Ann...and so many others.  I hate that we know each other.  I love that we know each other.

Peanut, it is in these connections that I feel your presence the most.  I still feel you, every moment of every day.  And, oh, how I love and miss you.  To the moon - and back.

-  Momma

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

"Are You OK?"

Peanut -

Momma has heard the above question too many times to count over the last two weeks.  It is a question that is based in good intention, but makes me absolutely nuts.

Am I OK?

No.  I am not.  My son is dead.  And I'm still here.  My brain is forever scarred with images from the worst day ever.  My heart is forever confused by losing the beautiful gift of you.

Am I OK?

No.  I will never be "OK" or "The Old Me" again.  There will always be a shadow, a sadness in my eyes...a sign of Momma's unfinished earthly love for her Peanut.

Am I OK?

No.  I still cry most days.  Yet, I have rediscovered happiness and laughter and hope in this life.  A smile is always ready and waiting on my lips, thanks mostly to The Pickle.  But, there are still painful days, exhausting weeks.

Am I OK?

No.  Because "OK" doesn't measure up anymore.  I owe you more than that.  I am not simply surviving.  Since your death, it is Momma's mission to make this life better, one interaction at a time.  To continue your Peanut Effect.

Am I OK?

No.  No matter if it's two months, two years or two decades after that awful day in January of 2011, I am not OK.  I am a bereaved parent.  I am a Momma who outlived her amazing son, and no parent should ever have to face that reality.  Parents do not, should not, outlive their legacy.  Their heart.  Their love.

A better question, perhaps?  "How are you?"

Thank you for asking.  I am taking it one day, one moment, at a time.  There are wonderful days, full of love and remembrance.  But, some days are dark and almost unbearable.  Yet, I am slowly rediscovering my love of laughter.  The sound of my voice singing full blast in the car.  Dancing without a care in the world.  Yes, I will always live with the fear and knowledge that it can all be ripped away in a second which simply makes me embrace it more completely in the here and now.

Peanut, I don't mean to sound bitter or angry.  Momma is tired.  Feeling alone in this new period of dark grief.  My heart knows it will ebb and flow and ebb and flow.  The trick is to keep facing each day with my chin up.

I am missing you so very much.  I miss your toothy smile, warm breath, and curly blonde locks.  Your expressive hands and monkey toes.  Your funny penguin walk and deliberate, hand-smacking crawl.  In short, Momma misses you.  I love you, Peanut.  How much?  To the mooooooooon - and back!

- Momma

Saturday, October 13, 2012


Peanut -

Momma thought we made it through this week without too many wounds and emotional scarring. That first day of school was tough...walking in and smelling the same scents, tracing footsteps from 2 years ago, passing the door to your was jarring.  But, also comforting.  It felt good to get back into the old routine.  I thought, "Hey!  We've got this!"  Until yesterday.  Dadda brought your brother home from school with a note tucked into his diaper bag.  Pertussis alert.  Whooping cough.  The older sibling of a child in The Pickle's class has a confirmed, diagnosed case of WHOOPING COUGH.  Seriously?

After 9 months of no runny noses, no coughs, no sickness, I am now faced with a little Pickle who has a runny nose and tiny, persistent cough.  Regardless of his immunization status we now have to start him on a regimen of antibiotics to guard him against pertussis.  Momma stayed up most of the night watching The Pickle sleep, making sure his chest was rising and falling with breath.  The Angel Care Monitor was fully armed and alarmed twice, sending Momma's heart into overdrive. In the midst of these events all I can think is, "What am I doing?"

What kind of Momma loses her Peanut, is fortunate enough to be blessed with The Pickle, but still goes back to work?  Forcing her miracle child into daycare, a place full of sickness, germs, and - apparently - pertussis?  What kind of lifestyle is so important that we need Momma to keep plugging away at this job?  Am I simply asking the universe to rob us of another son?  Have I not learned my lesson?

Peanut, in the months after your death the truly important things in life became crystal clear.  The drama and politics of work faded into the background.  Material possessions lost their value.  Gossip and petty arguments no longer had a place in Momma's world.  But slowly, ever so quietly, these have burrowed and snuck back into my frame of reference.  The swirl of life, events, schedules, meetings, sunrises and sunsets took over.  Momma hadn't even noticed it until yesterday...until the pertussis alert.

Why does it take heart-stopping events, unspeakable losses, and once-in-a-lifetime moments to make us (me) stop and breathe?  To reassess?  Reprioritize?  Shouldn't this be the way we strive to live?  Our aspirational best?  Why is it so easy to get caught up in the muck?

Peanut, you are Momma's North Star.  You are my reminder, "Be better, Momma."  Today I focus that energy on The Pickle, his health, and the love of our family.  The things that matter.  And I commit to release and walk away from the noise, the swirl, the drama, the politics.  Today, I will crawl on the floor with your brother, take him to a pumpkin patch to play in the fall leaves, shower him with hugs and kisses, and watch him like a hawk as he naps.

Today I will make sure you, my Peanut, feel my love, my heart, my grief and appreciation all the way up in heaven.  I love you, sweet 'Nut.  How much?  To the mooooooooon - and back.

- Momma

A very unhappy Peanut, sitting in a pumpkin patch in October 2009.

Monday, October 8, 2012

D Day

Peanut -

Tomorrow is...D Day.  Daycare Day.  The Pickle's first day at your school.  Momma has only walked through those doors once since you passed away.  Those classrooms are full of memories of you.  A froggy statue with your name and the fingerprints of your classmates now lives in their butterfly garden.  And now we (I) have to learn to build new, happy memories in those walls with your little brother.

You loved school.  The interaction with other children.  The activities and classes and teachers.    Well...except "gym" class.  Apparently you and the teacher never saw eye to eye.  The memory of those funny daily reports, detailing your displeasure with gym class still make me giggle.

The day before you died you had to leave school early due to your fever.  100.7 degrees.  No school for you until you were fever-free for 24 hours.  The morning you passed away Dadda was getting you up to go see the doctor. never made it there.  Instead, we called 911, performed CPR on the bedroom floor, took a wild ambulance ride, experienced heroic efforts to save you in the ER, dealt with the frustrating organ donation process, survived questioning by the police, and eventually held you for the last time.  And then the phone calls started.  Momma called work.  Dadda called your school.  Since your death was so totally inexplicable, we had to put them on notice.  What if there was some horrible, new virus?  What if other children in your class were infected?

The school, its staff, and your teachers surrounded us - and continue to surround us - with love, support, food, flowers, friendship.  Two of your teachers spoke at your memorial service, sharing wonderful stories, memories and tears.  Your school had to quietly grieve while caring for the other families, and keeping the business running.

And now, they are preparing for your brother.  I spent this evening labeling his bottles, food, diapers, snacks.  The label-maker purchased for you was pulled out of storage.  As I turned it on I wondered...would it pull up the last label I made for you?  <sigh>  No.

Momma's heart is heavy.  I know daycare is the right thing to do for The Pickle.  He is ready to be around other kids.  But, he has been so healthy.  And, we're entering cold and flu season.  He's had all his vaccinations, his flu shot, his formula loaded with probiotics.  But...what if...?

Momma is putting her faith in...something.  The universe?  God?  All that might be right with the world?  I don't know.  I have to believe lightning won't strike twice.  I have to believe it is safe to plan on a future with The Pickle.  I have to believe he has a Guardian Angel named Peanut.  Connor.  My little boy.

Peanut, I know I ask a lot of you but I need another favor.  Flap your wings extra hard tomorrow.  Keep an eye on your brother.  And feel the love I am sending to you every second of every minute of every day.  How much love is that?  To the moooooooooooooon - and back!

- Momma

Your froggy statue in the butterfly garden.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

How Momma's Heart Has Changed

Peanut -

It's would be so easy to be angry every day.  It would be so easy to never get out of bed.  It would be so easy to shake my fist fiercely at all the happy families I encounter on a daily basis.  It would be so easy.  Right?  Or, would it?

Maybe in a time before my heart knew you, before I became a Momma, it would have been easy.  But after becoming Peanut's Momma none of those actions were even an option.  Not even close.

In a time before Momma Love I had very sharp edges.  Expectations of myself and others were impossibly high.  Praise was not given easily.  Relationships were sometimes sacrificed for the sake of results.  Let's just say "empathy" was not a strength for your Momma.

The unconditional, boundless love you offered so freely humbled me.  Quite frankly, it took my breath away.  It began in the moments right after you were born.  Your trusting nestle into my chest.  Your desire to sleep next to my beating heart.  And through your 500 days on earth you continued to dole out that trust and love through Peanut hugs, butterfly kisses and air kisses tossed across the room.  Sighs into Momma's neck.  Towards the end of your 500 days, the whisper just before bedtime, "Momma..."

And then...the worst day imaginable happened.  The sorrow, emptiness, grief and confusion consumed Momma.  But always present was Momma Love.  Peanut Love.  I always felt you.  I still do.

And now...your brother.  A bright light in the darkness pointing us towards the future...a future full of hope and promise.  And, sadness because you are always absent.  Everything feels a little unfinished.  Off.  Imperfect.  Yet, I know you are here in your own special Peanut way.

And maybe that explains how Momma's heart has changed.  And how it manifests itself on a daily basis.  Back in May of 2010 I went through a 360 feedback process at work.  The results were (I'm sure now) spot on but not pretty.  Momma was viewed by others as a "get it done" kind of leader.  Not terribly collaborative.  Or interested in building teams.  A good communicator, but sometimes at the expense of others.

Last month Momma went through a "retest" of that same 360 tool.  The feedback in places was similar, but not.  This time a more people-focused Momma emerged.  Results still showed up as important, but behind caring for others.  For people.  Rather than the raters taking this as an opportunity to say anonymously what they were afraid to say directly, Momma found no nasty surprises.  It was...humbling.

I believe this is YOUR impact, Peanut.  I think/hope/know I am kinder, more gentle.  And working hard to make you proud so you can say to your angel friends, "That's MY Momma!"

People said from the moment you passed away that a loss this profound would change me forever.  But no one explained it was up to me what that change might look like.  It took several months to realize that was up to me.  And you.

Peanut, I love you more every day.  I miss you in new ways every day.  What doesn't change?  I love you to the moooon - and back!

- Momma

The day we brought you home from the hospital.


Monday, October 1, 2012

Emotional Icebergs

Peanut -

It's been nearly a week since Momma's last letter.  While I talk to you every day, it's been nearly impossible to put words, thoughts, emotions into written form.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again - Year Two is hard.  Confusing.

What most people refer to as "triggers" - sounds, smells, moments that bring raw grief rushing to the surface - I refer to as emotional icebergs.  Why?  Because the trigger itself lasts just a minute or an hour.  Maybe a day.  But looming beneath the surface there is so much more.  And no way to tell how deep it is until it's too late.  Your birthday was an iceberg I saw coming, and I tried my best to steer into it, to anticipate and prepare for it.  And I did.  Yet, here we are almost three weeks later and my heart is still crippled.

And now, a new iceberg.  The Pickle starts daycare next week.  At your school.  In the same building and classroom that you loved so very much.  Once again we will have artwork, classroom parties and daily report cards.  And all the colds, runny noses and fevers that come with the petri dish that is a daycare classroom.

Your brother has only dealt with one very low-grade fever after a round of vaccinations.  But the first time he gets a real fever, and we have to put him down for a nap or bedtime, I'm not sure how I'll stay sane.  Maybe I won't.  I'm sure I won't sleep.

For now, I will do my best to prepare for next week.  To look for the joy in the situation.  To remember how much going to school delighted you.  And know it will be a terrific, fun experience for your little brother.

I love you, my sweet Peanut.  How much?  To the moon - and back!

- Momma

Peanut eating peanut butter toast during a sick day from school.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The More Things Change, The More They Feel The Same

Peanut -

Your little brother is now over 8 months old.  It's hard to believe how quickly time has flown.  How he is no longer a baby, an infant.  How he has transformed into a babbling, crawling, and now walking around furniture, little boy.  How he is resembling you more day by day, doing all the funny toddler things you used to do.  Yet, how he is so much his own stubborn, quirky, sassy self.

Lately the pain of your loss has a new sharpness to it.  My Momma brain has tried to make some sense of how fresh the grief feels...what has brought this on?  Is it the passing of your 3rd birthday?  Is it the transition of the seasons?  Back-to-school time?  The rush of Halloween commercials and catalogs?

Or, is it watching The Pickle?  Reliving those last 8 months we had with you as you figured out this great, big world?  Pickle is trying to put words together, and lately has started saying, "Mamamama."  That sound fills my heart with tremendous joy, but also unspeakable sadness.  I hear you when those syllables tumble out of his mouth.

He has also developed an electric enthusiasm for mealtime, complete with squeals, grunts, claps and foot kicks.  So much like you, his big brother.  We started calling you Baby Bird after watching you tilt your face up, mouth wide open eagerly awaiting food.

Peanut, Momma has already jumped waaaaaay ahead of herself and time.  But, what happens when The Pickle grows older than you?  When he is no longer tracking against your milestones?  When we are suddenly blazing a new trail?  Will it feel worse?  Will the guilt be overwhelming?  Or, will there be a certain sense of peace, relief, when that day comes?

I honestly don't know what to expect.  Or, how to feel.

I do know it still feels like we're living on borrowed time with The Pickle.  There is still an expectation that, like you, he will pass away in his sleep, unexpectedly, without reason.

But, we live each day with love and hope.  With a deep, newfound appreciation for every smile, every hug, every "Mamamamama," every tumble, every tear, every giggle, every sunset and every sunrise.  Peanut, Dadda and I truly lived with joy and love every day with you, but we always assumed we would have another day.  Another year.  A lifetime, with you.  Now, we wait to see you again in heaven. And, we live, love and laugh in the moment with your brother.

Hey Peanut.  Guess how much I love you.

That's right!

To the moon - and back!

- Momma

Peanut at 9 months.

Pickle at 8 months.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Peanut Effect Lives On

Peanut -

Something happened today that was somewhat magical.  It was that little ray of light, that reminder of all the love you brought to this world, confirmation that your impact and presence live on in ways Momma cannot even begin to imagine.

You see, Momma writes these letters to you never truly thinking about who else might be reading.  The hope is always that another family, another Momma, another bereaved parent or spouse or sibling or best friend might find a little piece of help, hope, wisdom, or peace from what I write to you.

Over the last 18 months friends, family and readers have reached out to share their own memories, stories and emotions sparked by something written on these pages.  But, as time has passed, those touch-points have become fewer and fewer.  Momma can still see the number of readers on a daily basis, but communication is fairly one-sided.

Until today.  Today Momma learned during a meeting at work how your story, these letters, and your Peanut Effect continue to impact people on a daily basis.  People who have lost everything.  A spouse.  A child.  Maybe both.  And in their fog of despair and sorrow were able to find a sliver of solace.  To find one Momma who walked through the fire and made the decision to survive...and eventually, live.  To honor her Peanut.  To honor you.

Peanut, you continue to touch the world with your love, brilliant smile, tight hugs and goofy, yet magical, laugh.  Sending you loads and loads and bunches of noodles of Momma love - to the moon and back!

- Momma

One of the last photos I took of Peanut, on January 20, 2011.  Full of joy eating chicken, rice and veggies!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Happy Birthday To You...

Peanut -

Today you should be turning 3 years old.  Three candles on your birthday cake.  A cake we should be sharing with family and your friends from school.  "Happy Third Birthday!" is what the party invitation should have announced.  The party we should have planned and spent the last week preparing for, with decorations, streamers, balloons.  And the toys and gifts...they should all be appropriate for ages 3 & Up.  Should, should, should.  Instead, last night I sat on the floor of your room, cradling your urn with tears streaming down my face, as I sang "Happy Birthday" to you.

It's so hard to imagine.  Momma has a mental picture of you at this age, laughing and running through our side yard with birthday balloons trailing behind you, your blonde hair brilliant in the afternoon sun.  But...the snapshot is fuzzy.  A little imperfect.  The 3 year old you looks a lot like the 16 month old you.  The version of you that I know.  That I held and hugged and sang with and told bedtime stories to - not some weird age-projected version of you.

It is the image of you that is imprinted on my heart.  It is the fingerprint of you on my soul.

I celebrate you, Peanut.  I celebrate your life.  I celebrate the day of your birth.  I remember that day with joy.  With smiles.  It is a day that forever transformed Momma for the better.  I still love remembering and retelling the "play by play" from the day you were born: Peanut's 2nd Birthday.

Peanut, I hope - I believe - on this birthday you are celebrating and enjoying loads of ice cream cake, funny balloon animals, bright red Elmo party hats, and games of tag with all your angel friends.  Because, that is what I think you would be doing - what you should be doing - if you were still with us on earth.  But, try to check in with us because Momma, Dadda and The Pickle will be celebrating your birthday in our own special way.  It sure would be fantastic to have a visit from you.

With love, heartbreak, joy, sorrow, hope and remembrance I wish you, my very special, beautiful, amazing little boy, a very happy birthday.  Sending you butterfly kisses and love, to the moon - and back.

- Momma

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Elmo Phone

Peanut -

I heard Elmo say your name today.  For the first time in over a year I heard, "Elmo here...who's calling please?  Oh, it's you...Connor!  Hahahahahaha!!!!  Elmo is so happy to hear from you."  Oh.  Ouch.  Play it again.  And again.  And again.

You see, this is linked to the little Elmo "cell" phone Aunt Dru gave you for your 1st birthday.  A birthday that is creeping up in...3 days.  We programmed the phone with YOUR name so Elmo would say Connor-specific messages.  And you loved, loved, loved it.  As I stare at the little phone now - for the first time since we packed it away - I see spots already worn away by your hands, your teeth, your fingers pressing certain, special buttons time after time after time.

Momma and Dadda brought a bunch of your toys out this weekend.  Toys meant for a spunky 1-2 year-old boy.  Toys that have sat dormant, waiting.  While the rest have been touched by the joy of your brother, this is one toy The Pickle will not play with or change.  This toy is now with Momma, next to her pillow.

Peanut, I can't believe your birthday is right around the corner.  I want to believe you are still here.  I want to believe we are planning a party for you with cake and hats and banners and gifts.  But.  We aren't.

What we are doing is celebrating the life you blessed us with on this earth.  Trying not to dwell too much on what we lost.  What we will never know.  The boy you should have been.  The life you deserved to live.

Instead, we will honor your joyful smile, brilliant blue eyes, musical laugh.  I still see and feel you in my heart, in my soul.

I miss you so much.  I love you.  To the moon - and back!

- Momma


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

I Can't Look At The Stars

Peanut -

Today has been a bad day.  A hard day.  Momma has struggled to be "OK" today.  It's the first time, in a long time, that I've had the urge to simply crawl into bed and never crawl out.  And then I heard this amazing song by Grace Potter and the Nocturnals (lyrics below).  Her voice, the words...they echo my soul crying for you tonight.  Every night.  Forever.

I miss you.  I long for the space to grieve for you.  I want to be with you.    I miss you and love you.  To the moon - and back.

- Momma

I lit a fire with the love you left behind, 
And it burned wild and crept up the mountainside. 
I followed your ashes into outer space 
I can't look out the window, 
I can't look at this place, 

I can't look at the stars, 
They make me wonder where you are 
Up on heaven's boulevard 
And if I know you at all, 
I know you've gone too far 
So I, I can't look at the stars 

All those times we looked up at the sky, 
Looking out so far, 
We felt like we could fly. 
And now I'm all alone in the dark of night, 
The moon is shining, 
But I can't see the light, 
And I can't look at the 

They make me wonder where you are 
Up on heaven's boulevard 
And if I know you at all, 
I know you've gone too far 
So I, I can't look at the stars 

They make me wonder where you are 
Up on heaven's boulevard 
And if I know you at all, 
I know you've gone too far 
So I can't look at the stars.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Peanut's Month

Peanut -

Today is the first day of September.  This month will always be Peanut's Month.  Your birthday is in 12 should be turning three this year.

Three years ago we welcomed you into this world with delight and big dreams.  Momma discovered her heart, and the meaning of Momma love.

Two years ago we celebrated your first birthday with an Elmo themed party and loads of gifts you were meant to grow into over the coming years.  You had just transitioned to a sippy cup, real milk, and big boy meals at school.  Everything was clicking in place, you had discovered words, laughter and a wicked sense of humor, and Momma began to see the little man - the little personality - that was so perfectly Peanut.

One year ago we gathered with family and friends the weekend before your birthday to remember and celebrate your very big but too short life.  We asked everyone to come armed with stories and letters - written to you and about you - for the little brother we were expecting.  On your actual birthday, Momma and Dadda visited each of the tributes and memorials dedicated to you.  Trees, froggy statues, paver stones...they all mean so very much to us.  They announce to the world, "Peanut lived.  Peanut still lives on, and impacts the world every day in so many magical ways."

This year we will bring The Pickle to all these locations, and more.  We will visit the Butterfly House and explain how your spirit floats on the wings of each of these beautiful creatures.  Every time one flits by, we are touched by our Peanut.  Maybe we'll even have lunch at one of your famous diaper blowout spots, so we can laugh and cry and tell some of your hilarious stories.

More than anything, we will celebrate you.  Not just on September 12.  Not just during this wonderful month that knew you twice.  This month that welcomes the crisper weather of fall, that transitions the midwest into yet another season without Peanut.  But each and every moment of every day.  In every action, every word, every decision.  That, my sweet son, is your Peanut Effect.

Sending you bunches and noodles of love, to the moon - and back!

- Momma

Teeny, tiny Peanut at five days old.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Piggy Banks

Peanut -

We bid Big Cedar Lodge "farewell" today after a terrific, fun week with your little brother.  It was a good week.  A great week.  We laughed a lot.  We talked about you. Shared stories.  And felt some (a lot of) heartache.  But more than anything, we felt your presence.

You will be with us every step of the way, as we navigate the future.  You will be sitting on Momma's shoulder as we stack blocks on the floor, making your brother belly laugh.  You will be the butterfly flitting by as we splash around in the baby pool.  You will be with us as we prepare Pickle for school and sports.  You will ride shotgun with him as he experiences his first date. College. Marriage.  Kids.  All the dreams we had for you.

This week Dadda and I wound up with a handful of one dollar coins.  Initially, Momma thought we should just spend the coins.  That idea gave way to the thought of placing the coins in The Pickle's piggy bank.  But Dadda had a better idea.  Let's divide the coins and put half in Peanut's bank and half in Pickle's bank.  Genius.  Perfect.  Done.

Your bank is going to continue to grow.  Why?  Because you still influence and change this world.  This is your legacy.  Your Peanut Effect. And, someday, that money will go to charity.  That piggy bank is yours, and one more thing we will share with your brother.  With love.

Guess how much Momma loves you.  Thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis much - and more.  To the moon...and back.

- Momma

Sunday, August 26, 2012


Peanut -

Momma, Dadda and The Pickle packed our bags and hit the road yesterday for our annual trip to Big Cedar Lodge.  Family vacation.  Last year this was The Saddest Vacation Ever.  And now, it is one full of new joy and laughter thanks to your brother.  But, still, your absence looms large.

The Lodge has week of Labor Day celebrations and games targeted to kids, and you would just be at the age where all this activity would be terrific fun.  Three years old.  Ice cream socials on the lawn, fishing competitions, boat and pony rides, put-put golf...all things we planned to do with you.  It's why we chose this week - for you.  And now, it will be for your little brother.

I went back and read my letter to you from this day last year.  Peanut Vacation - Without Peanut (8-26-11)  We were almost six months pregnant last August, and were struggling to find hope while grappling with the quiet and emptiness.  Dadda and I were so worried this vacation was a terrible idea, but then we got here and it was like magic.  We felt you everywhere.  In everything.  Every activity.  Every sunset.  It was during this week that Momma's heart truly started to heal.

Now we are going to share this place - its magic, the stories of your visit when you were just about to turn one, the memories - with The Pickle.  Being here, relaxing and having fun, is bittersweet.  Dadda and I discussed last night how the loss of you has motivated us to live life with more meaning.  With appreciation.  With the knowledge it could all disappear in a moment.  This brings to mind a quote:

"Grace doesn't depend on suffering to exist, but where there is suffering you will find grace in many facets and colors."

Dadda and I strive to live with grace.  Because of you.  For you.  Peanut, in life and loss you truly make us better.  In this way, you live on.  In our hearts, minds, actions, and interactions.  Your Peanut Effect.

I can feel you, surrounding us in this beautiful place.  It makes missing you a little less sharp.  Sending you love, joy, appreciation, tinged with sorrow.  To the mooooooooon and back!

- Momma

Peanut's first taste of McDonald's during the drive to Big Cedar.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Peanutmobile

Peanut -

Today started out like most other Monday mornings.  Alarm at 5:30 am, mad dash to get Momma showered and dressed, get your brother fed and bathed, hit the road for grandma and grandpa's house, a quick hand-off and kisses bye-bye, then race to the office for an 8:00 am meeting.  Whew.

But after work, things took an unexpected turn.  Momma and Dadda met for dinner, with your tired little brother in tow, then we visited the car dealership.  And, a little after 9:00 pm we left with a new car.  New car?!  That was the last thing Momma thought we would do today.

This is exactly what happened the day we bought The Peanutmobile.  It was a strangely warm, foggy night in January 2010.  You were 4 months old, and Momma had a nasty sinus infection.  Dadda and I had admired this car for a few months, talked about buying it, then BAM!  Dadda went out and struck a deal.  Despite Momma's sinus issues and crankiness, we signed all the paperwork and drove home surrounded by new car smell and dreams of taking such good care of this car we might eventually pass it along to you.

That car became YOUR car.  Sporty, shiny black, dark tinted windows, creamy tan leather interior.  We laughed about you rolling up to daycare in your slick ride, "Hey ladies!  Here comes Peanut in The Peanutmobile!"  I can still see the dents in the backseat leather where your pumpkin seat was installed that first year.  When I glance in the rearview mirror, I still view your giant, toothy smile, right next to your little brother's reflection.

I'll never forget the first time I drove your car after you passed away.  Your car seat was gone.  Your reflection, nowhere to be found.  Where is Peanut? asked the rearview mirror.  The interior was too quiet, aching for your laughter and babbling.

That car knew you.  It still knows you.

And now...Momma has a new car.  A car more suited to yucky St. Louis winter weather, with ice and slick snow.  A bigger, heavier car made to protect Momma and The Pickle - especially during Momma's killer commute.  But, still...this is yet one more door closing.  Sort of.  More like it's left ajar.  The Peanutmobile will now be Dadda's car.  It's not leaving the family, and Momma can still drive it, and visit that reflection in the mirror.

While we completed the paperwork this evening, the finance manager looked at The Pickle and asked, "Is this your only one?"  Oh Peanut, I didn't have the heart.  We will never see this woman again, and, quite frankly I didn't WANT to share you with her.  I hope that decision didn't hurt your feelings.  The decision to share is so situational...this time it just didn't feel "right."

I hope and pray you understand all these changes.  That you watch these events and smile, encouraging us to continue to move forward.  More than anything, I desperately hope you know how much I love you.  How much?  Oh Peanut, to the moon - and back!

- Momma

Peanut, livin' large on his Tonka Truck.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Shark Boy!

Peanut -

Your final Christmas with us - which was only your second Christmas - was filled with "big boy" gifts and monogrammed, personalized items.  Gifts that expected and spoke to a fun-filled future.  Gifts that were given with images of lazy weekend afternoons, and giggly post-work evenings.  Gifts that still evoke images of Peanut at ages 3, 4, 5...years you will never experience.

The wooden step stool with your name carved in bright, wood-block puzzle letters.  The step stool you would have used to reach the bathroom sink to brush all those teeth of yours!

The keyboard with the giant keys and little horns that connects to our television and still begs for a little boy to stand in front of the TV, banging out tunes that trigger various games.  Every time I hit the horn noise by accident, I see your face light up and hear your hilarious cackle.  When you would hit that button, you would quickly turn around to make sure Momma and Dadda were dancing to the music.

The soft bowling pin and ball set that never got set-up or still sits, packed away in its carrying case.  Waiting for you to haul it to grandma and grandpa's house so they could play with you all afternoon, tournament after tournament.

The toddler Lego set that you and I played with during your last two weekends on earth.  Momma still has your final "creation" saved because it was made by YOU.  Your hands.  Your brain.  Your creativity.  It reminds me how much fun you had with that set, and makes me wonder...what wonderful towers and Lego cities would Peanut have created by now?  I imagine a trip to LegoLand would have been in our future...

The soft, butter colored Wells Fargo pony Momma bought at the office, meant to be the first in an annual now has a mate.  The brilliant white pony issued for 2011 with her red saddle.  This will forever be a collection shared by you and Pickle.

The oversized Pottery Barn futon chair with its navy blue, monogrammed slip-cover proudly announcing your name with a little football stitched below...dreams of you playing pee wee football, into high school and maybe even beyond.

The hooded bath towels with your name embroidered across the back of one, and your large initials - CPM - blazing across the other.  I still picture what you should look like, as an almost 3 year old, running around the house with your blue shark towel - teeth and all - propped on your head, arms outstretched like and airplane, chasing the dog and cat.  Bright blonde curls peaking out from under the towel.  I imagine you would be suntanned after a summer spent learning to swim, and swinging on The Perfect Swinging Tree.

Do I call upon these images, these remembered and created stories to torture myself?  No.  Not one bit.  They bring me smiles.  They remind me that we lived to the fullest with you, each and every day.  Every day was packed with joy and laughter.  And love.  So much love.

The time has now come to purchase some toddler towels for your little brother.  I think I'll pick out his very own hooded towel, with his special initials.  Or, maybe his nickname - Pickle.  And someday he will run around the house, towel flying behind him, the dog on his heels.  And, in that moment I will get a piece of you back.

I love you, my little Nutbrown Hare.  Missing you terribly.  To the moon - and back!

- Momma

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Olympics and Sand Dollars

Peanut -

The 2012 Summer Olympics ended this evening.  After two weeks of sports, celebrations, world records and mindless banter on NBC we bid "farewell" tonight to the summer games for another four years.  Four years.  It seems like such a small window of time.  But, to our family it is more than a lifetime.

You never got to see or experience the summer Olympics.  Happily, we did get to enjoy the 2010 winter games with you, but there is something different and special about the summer events.  Maybe it's because Momma remembers watching those summer games during childhood summer vacations, and thought we would do the same with you.  Maybe it's because Momma was a swimmer and always pictured you following in her footsteps and cheering on the USA swimmers with passion.

Watching the closing ceremonies was bittersweet.  Pickle dozed on my lap, half watching the bright lights and fanfare.  Back to school ads popped in and out during the commercial breaks, reminding Momma that, once again, we face a new school year that won't include you.  And all I could think was, "Gosh, Peanut would have loved this."  At close to three years old, these events would have been exciting, captivating, thrilling for you.

In the midst of this looming sadness, Momma is trying to focus on the joy you brought to our lives.  The blessing of your little brother.  As I write this, I am gazing at a bright white sand dollar I received on Thursday.  Dadda and I drove for two hours to pick up your older brothers and sister from Camp Erin, a grief camp for teenagers sponsored by Annie's Hope (based in St. Louis).  The camp always closes with a lunch, awards and a ceremony filled with meaning for the campers and their families...we are all linked at the heart by our shared grief.  It is powerful, touching, special.

This year we all received sand dollars and were told a story about the magic and symbolism of their design.  Many people of faith know about the "legend of the sand dollar" but what we heard on Thursday was not anchored in one religion.  It was anchored in faith, hope and love.  In grief.  In the power of sharing and community.  As the ceremony ended, we were all asked to focus silently on our one wish for everyone else in the room.

I know what my wish is...

Peanut, I miss you so very much.  I love, love, love you.  How much?  To the moon - and back!

- Momma