On this day last year we bid you "farewell" in a very public way. This was the day of your memorial service. In terms of closure and tradition, this service was a very necessary part of our grieving process. In terms of something "no parent should ever have to do," this ranks in the Top Three.
On this same day last year, another brilliant light left this earth. Joey, with his 10,000 watt smile and bright blue eyes. Joey, who loved to swim, play in the snow, hang out in his monogrammed chair. Joey, who embraced life with a zest and gusto - and who loved to eat almost as much as you, Peanut - left the world and shattered the hearts of his amazing parents on January 30, 2011. Today is Joey's Angel Anniversary. Who could have imagined, another St. Louis family with a little boy close to your age, walking this same path of loss and grief in parallel with Momma and Dadda? This couple, this family, have become our friends, our lifeline, our sanity, and in so many ways a new branch of our family over this last year. And now, like us, they are celebrating a new little life - a daughter - while learning to navigate a world without their precious son.
Peanut, I think back to your memorial service and wish I had better, more clear memories. That day was such a fog. I vaguely recall planning the service, first at the funeral home and then with the pastor who came to our house. There were things I knew I couldn't tolerate - singing, too much scripture, too much talk of you "being in a better place." Because, you weren't in a better place. A different place, yes. But the best place for you was HERE. With me.
So many people attended the service, and I'm sorry to admit I can't remember most of the faces, the names. We had only planned one hour for the visitation which was a mistake. The line snaked out the door, and the funeral home wasn't nearly large enough to contain the crowd, the love, the grief. During the service, I held onto your school froggy for dear life...he was the only thing keeping me grounded in reality. People got up to talk, to remember you, to read your favorite book, and all I could do was try to not break down. To not cry too hard. My vision was fixed on your little urn at the front of the room. My brain and heart kept asking, "When is Peanut coming home?"
Later, after the service, we invited everyone to a local restaurant for drinks and food. Dadda and I just couldn't bear to come home to our empty house. It was too quiet. It had become a tomb for the living. The giant picture boards created by your aunts, brothers and sister were displayed around the restaurant, and I finally got to look at them - REALLY look at them - and in that moment my brain connected with reality. Peanut is gone. All we have left are pictures, memories, stories.
When Dadda and I got home that night, we realized it was just the beginning of our true grieving process. The early days of a house full of people, constant things to do, and an ability to ignore what had happened, had come to an end. It's hard to believe that was one year ago. It's hard to believe we are now able to laugh. To smile. To make future plans with hope. It's hard to believe we are home with your little brother. It's still hard to believe you're gone.
I reflect on all of this today, as I send love and strength to Joey's family. As we both embark on "Year Two" it is impossible not to think of the journey we've traveled over the last 12 months. I continue to be amazed by the power, strength and resiliency of the human heart, spirit and brain. And, I am eternally thankful for the support and love we have found through Joey's family.
So Peanut, today we send love, hugs and butterfly kisses to you and to Joey "Monkey Man" - to the moon and back, boys! To the moon and back...