Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Gift of Appreciation

Peanut -

As we prepare to turn the page on another year, Momma can't help but be reflective.  To think back on this same time in 2010 and early 2011.  The memories of that holiday season are warm and beautiful.  You were growing into this funny, musical, spirited little man and had finally mastered the art of walking - yay!

Momma thought we were on top of the world.  Invincible.  In a bout of optimism I even sent out New Year's cards with a picture of you and your big, toothy smile.  How could I have ever guessed we were going to be contacting the recipients of those cards, our friends and family, just three weeks later to inform them of your sudden, unexplained death?  That the next cards Momma would send out with your picture would be our grief stricken thank you notes for all the flowers, letters and cards we received in the wake of your passing.

Yes, in late 2010 the first weeks of 2011 Momma was riding high.  A little too high.  Because I can remember well how terribly unappreciative I was for all our blessings.  How even as I looked around and marveled at our good fortune, I still wanted more.  Rather than bask in the small moments - you enjoying my turkey meatballs and caramelized french toast sticks, patting Zeke the cat on his head and exclaiming, "Hiiiiii kitten-kah!"when he entered the room, or sitting on the couch next to me and leaning in to give butterfly kisses - I was busy working too much, giving Dadda a hard time about stupid, trivial things, going out with friends, and simply not being present.  In the moment.

In these almost three years we've been without you physically on earth, Momma's scarred heart has embraced the gift we suffered so terribly to realize - the gift of appreciation.  While at times it can be hard to live in the moment, to keep the small stuff in perspective, whenever I catch my brain going down a negative path I feel a little tug at my heart.  I feel you.  While it's getting harder and harder to remember your scent, the feel of your tight Peanut hugs, the softness of your blonde curls, it is still so easy to tap into the love you brought to my heart.  Because, it's still there and growing each and every day.

Peanut, as we enter 2014 Momma resolves to continue to appreciate the small moments.  And to hopefully give and share the gift of appreciation with others.  Because that is how we honor you and make you proud.

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

- Momma

The picture of Peanut we used on the New Year's cards.
I took this the day we went to visit Santa.  Look at all those teeth!

This year's Peanut Tree - we almost need a bigger tree!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Sock Monkey Pajamas

Peanut -

In the past Momma has written about the sock monkey footie pajamas that got labeled as "the saddest happy-jammies ever" after you passed away.  These were the pajamas Momma put on after your Memorial Service and lived in off-and-on for days during the subsequent snow/ice storm that hit St. Louis.  These sweet, bright red pajamas almost found their way into your memory trunk but at the last minute I said, "No."

Momma has been working to break her belief in curses and an imagined connection between the unrelated events that occurred around the day of your death.  These ridiculous pajamas have become quite symbolic in this effort.  Somehow they have taken the blame for for the grief and heartbreak - for the days when survival just didn't seem to be an option.  Momma buried them in her closet, under a pile of clothes.  But due to their color and sheer size - these are adult footie pajamas, after all - the sock monkey jammies were impossible to fully ignore.

And then the day came last week.  A frigid day filled with snow, rain and ice.  Despite bundling up throughout the afternoon, Momma was still chilled to the bone.  That evening, Momma made a decision.  Time to pull them out.  Hold them against my frame, shoulder to shoulder and challenge my beliefs.  To finally open my heart and remember why the grief was so raw when I last wore them.  To feel the Peanut love and still very fresh loss, even after three years.

At first it felt like a betrayal, to be wearing the pajamas that bring warmth and comfort, when you are no longer here.  But then I realized - the warmth and comfort are not only from their fleecy fabric but from the wonderful memories of you and your musical laughter when you saw sock monkeys.  That's why Momma bought these silly things, after all.

In some ways these pajamas are a bridge in time.  Not a bridge back to a time of intense grief, but more a bridge between my boys.  Pickle also loves sock monkeys, and now I can't wait to see his reaction when Momma shows up in this ridiculous outfit.  The anticipated giggles and need to touch the monkey faces on my feet - so similar to you, but different.

Peanut, Momma has been thinking about you a lot in the last few days.  It's almost Christmas.  This would be your 5th Christmas…Santa and his elves would be the only thing on your mind, and the anticipation of Christmas eve and Santa's eight tiny reindeer.  This season is terribly bittersweet since I can't help but wonder what it would be like with you here - which brings pangs of sadness - but I am also so thankful to have your little brother with his spunky personality and wonder over the Christmas tree.

We also have your 3rd Angel Day looming before us.  Honestly, Momma just wants to get through the next month.  Just make it to February.  It's strange how this year seems harder than previous years.  Is it the passing of time?  The fact that you should be getting so much older but never will?  I'm not sure.

What Momma knows is this.  As I type this letter I am wearing your red sock monkey jammies and I am smiling.  And crying.  Tears of love and appreciation.  A smile that is tinged with grief.  But all of it is rooted in deep, fierce Momma love.  A love I never would have known if it hadn't been for you, my precious Peanut.  I love you sweet boy, to the moon - and back.

- Momma

A soulful, serious Peanut with Santa in 2010.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Love of the Ordinary

Peanut -

Last night Momma got exactly ZERO hours of sleep.  I watched the clock tick, tick, tick - 11pm, midnight, 1 am, 2 am, <groan> oh 4:00 am please bring some hope of rest.  Nope!

Why the insomnia?  Because The Pickle hasn't reached that magical age when sleep feels safe for Momma.  And St. Louis is back in a freezing cold snap that feels a bit too familiar.  A bit too much like January of 2011.  So Momma's brain stayed up all night, waiting.  Watching.  Staying vigilant.  For what?  Death to arrive at our doorstep again.  He found us once...

What is that magical safe age for Momma when sleep will no longer be terrifying?  Maybe three.  Four?    I don't know.  The data surrounding SUDC is so limited it's hard to say - when are we safe?  Are we ever safe?  We thought we were safe with you when you reached one year of age.

In the midst of this fear, I am trying to soak in the ordinary moments as I contemplate these questions - these horrible questions.  Savor the love of everything "normal" with The Pickle.  His love of trucks, stomping to music with a strong beat, chicken and steak but NOT bread or rice, and his very Peanut-like desire to give big hugs and kisses.

The ordinary is today, tomorrow and the next day - whatever they may bring.  When and if they arrive.

The normal is what makes our memories with you so amazingly wonderful.   Like reading your favorite bedtime story every night.  Momma loves you to the moon - and back!

- Momma

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Practicing Gratitude

Peanut -

As I write this letter to you, we are wrapping up Thanksgiving Day in the United States.  A day devoted to breaking bread with family and reflecting on all we give thanks for in our lives.  This is a day when it would seemingly be so easy to be anything but thankful - to instead be bitter about what we lost when you died.  But, no.  That wasn't the case, thanks to your Peanut Effect.

Today Momma and Dadda shared memories of you, your strong independent streak and your love of hugs.  We cuddled your little brother as he danced, stomped through the house, and dissolved into a puddle of toddler tears over absolutely nothing.  We observed that both of our little boys have voracious appetites but are both little string beans thanks to their boundless energy.

In short - today we reflected on our love of our two boys.  One here on earth.  One watching over us.

Today, Momma is practicing gratitude.  Gratitude that is found in the simple moments, the small things. Because those are the moments I miss the most with you.

I miss bath time with your froggy bath mats and fishing pole.  I miss the scent of your lavender bedtime lotion.  I miss giving you butterfly kisses and nose nuggles.  I miss making you caramelized fresh toast sticks.  I miss sitting on the floor with you between my legs while we practiced our Saturday nail-cutting routine.  I miss reading "Guess How Much I Love You" right before bedtime, and your signature Peanut neck-hug.  I miss watching you mimic my one-eyebrow gaze.

Conversely, these are all the things I am thankful for.  Because, I have these moments.  These memories.  And, I am fortunate enough to be building new, different ones with your little brother.

Momma's Thanksgiving Day message to herself and others is this - be thankful for the small gestures.  The tiny seconds that someday will mean so much.  Bask in them.  Soak them in.  Because those are the times you will miss the most, and will desperately want to relive over and over again.  It's not the "big" trip or the giant birthday party.  It's the constantly mispronounced word, the happily mis-matched outfits or the out-of-tune but enthusiastic singing voice that will haunt the void in your heart.

Love these moments and let them be your guideposts in life.  Remember what's important…and shed the rest of the baggage.  As I learned the hard way - life really is too short.

Happy Thanksgiving, Peanut.  Gosh…I miss you.  <sigh>  Sending you my love and my heart.  To the moon - and back!

- Momma

A musician in the making...

Monday, November 11, 2013

Blue Dog Journal

Peanut -

For years, Momma has used journals to keep notes and records at work.  Before your death these were never plain old journals, they were always works of creativity and art.  Usually plastered with drawings inspired by favorite artists, songs, etc. and often with wide open pages, free of lines and boundaries.  In the years before you died my preferred journals were inspired by George Rodrigue, and came to be an inside joke with Momma's team.  Lately - meaning, since January 26, 2011 - Momma's journals have been plain black with lined paper.  Not out of thoughtful intention…maybe.

Earlier today Momma started cleaning out her bookshelf at the office.  Too many books + too much stuff escalated the need to purge.  As I came to my journal storage shelf there was a moment of unexpected joy - what is this?!  An empty journal?  And a Rodrigue Blue Dog journal, no less???

Then I turned to the first few pages.  While 98% of the journal was indeed empty, it turns out this was the one Momma purchased for 2011.  A forgotten journal, thanks to a stark, black journal labeled "2011" that sits on Momma's shelf.  But, that one wasn't started until April of 2011.  This sad, almost empty Blue Dog was started in the first weeks of January and is full of notes and plans for the year ahead.  The first six pages are jam-packed with ideas and enthusiasm.  Momma turned to page 6, and caught her breath.  There it was.  January 25, 2011.  Team meeting notes.  A to-do list for the next day.   For January 26.  A to-do list that never got done.

Every page after that is blank.  Somehow, so completely appropriate.  Life Before Connor.  Life After Connor.  A reminder that just like that, poof! in a moment, everything you know to be true in this world changes.

After a brief panic attack, followed by a brisk cross-campus walk, Momma made a decision.  End the day early.  Make no big decisions today.  And be unapologetic about it.  Go to the bookstore and surround yourself with the joys of reading.  And so I did.  The moment Momma walked into the bookstore what did I see?  A Rodrigue 2014 calendar.  It is now sitting in a bag on the kitchen table, patiently waiting for 2014 to arrive.

Today was a wake-up call.  A reminder the grief, like life, is a journey - not a destination.  It is neither long nor short.  It simply is what it is.

Today I chose joy in the midst of this wave of grief.  Somedays I choose joy thanks to the sun.  Somedays I choose joy because the alternative is just too painful.  Today is one of those days.

The almost empty Blue Dog journal came home with Momma today.  It will be placed in your special Peanut storage trunk - the place where all the happy reminders of you are stored.

Peanut, please know I think of you every moment of every day.  And I love you.  To the moon - and back!


Taken on January 20, 2011.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Jungle Frog and Superman

Peanut -

Tomorrow is Halloween.  A delightful holiday made for kids and adults alike to indulge in costumes, candy, jokes, and pretend.  It's a way to poke fun at death, to stare down fears of vampires and ghosts, and to laugh at silly skeletons and fake graveyards.  While the day is rooted in a much deeper and more serious tradition, today it is simply a fun day filled with costume parades and trick-or-treating.

For many parents who have lost children, this holiday is particularly bitter and difficult to face.  All the reminders of not only death, but that their son or daughter isn't here to celebrate with friends and classmates, can be paralyzing.  Many choose to not celebrate or acknowledge - an approach Momma and Dadda exercised on the first Halloween without you, but have chosen not to take going forward thanks to The Pickle.

For Momma, Halloween is a reminder of all the costumes you will never get to wear.  The candy you will never have the chance to indulge in until your tummy hurts.  All the goofy one-liners you will never recite, followed by your booming belly-laugh.

It is also an opportunity to look back at pictures from your first - and only - two Halloweens and remember your adorable smile, handsome little face, glowing blue eyes.  To remember how the booties on your Jungle Frog costume didn't fit properly, and were super slick thanks to a lack of traction grips.  You were just beginning to walk at 13 months old, and kept wiping out on Grandma and Grandpa's floor.  We finally looked over to catch you ripping the footies off out of frustration - clever boy!

Tomorrow we will celebrate with your little brother, who is going to be dressed as Superman.  Pretty appropriate given how his presence has helped form the scar tissue that now binds Momma's heart.  In so many ways, Pickle rescued Momma from a hollow life of sorrow and potential bitterness.  While his foray into new, unknown toddler territory and milestones has been at times sad and often a little scary, these moments also give me insights into the little boy you were growing into on a daily basis.  He keeps you very much alive for Momma.

As we enter this holiday season, Momma is taking a class focused on practicing authenticity, living wholeheartedly, embracing our imperfections, and being vulnerable.  All the hard lessons learned in the wake of your death that, in recent months, Momma seems to lost touch with, or that have at least somewhat faded into the background.  As a part of this class, we were instructed to choose a photograph of ourselves that captures us in a truly authentic moment and to explore what we love and appreciate most about the person in the photo.  Momma "cheated" a bit and selected two photos - one with you and one with Pickle, and in both there is a complete and utter lack of care or concern for anyone or anything outside of that moment.  Our eyes are locked on each other, our faces glowing with joy and total connection.  Tenderness.

Peanut, these are the gifts you opened my eyes and heart to, and continue to give as Momma chooses to grieve and celebrate you through love.

Sending you love, giant hugs and kisses every moment of every day.  Momma loves you...to the moon - and back!

- Momma

(PS - Thanks for the giant orange butterfly this weekend.)

First Halloween - almost 2 months old.

Look at those darn footies!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Never-Ending Journey

Peanut -

Momma has dropped off the grid for a few weeks out of sheer necessity.  The changing of the seasons, the hesitant entrance of fall, your 4th birthday - it's been a lot to process this year.  Why this year in particular?  While Momma's not 100% sure, I do have several guesses.

For starters, the realization that you would be four is jaw dropping.  The age of four is squarely outside of the Toddler Years, and moves into full Kid Zone.  We would be preparing you for school, team sports, and a "big kid" bedroom.  These would be the years of not just watching you learn the fundamentals of language and numbers, but actually watching you learn to apply those fundamentals.  Momma would - should - be watching you discover your full potential as an intellectual, an athlete, a little boy.

At the same time, your little brother is moving beyond anything and everything I ever knew with you.  The toys you loved to play with are now "baby toys" in many ways.  He's mostly outgrown any clothes we tried to hand down, including the ones you were never big enough to wear.  While you had mastered a handful of words, he's now communicating in phrases, full of emphasis and gestures.  What should I do with the items we didn't pack away, but kept out for Pickle never projecting this day would come?  For now, Momma took the easy way out and put them into storage.

I guess, more than anything, it is the ongoing discovery that this - this grief - is a journey.  And maybe one that has no true destination.  No one shares that question when you embark on this sojourn.  They comfort you by telling you, "It's a journey - and it is your own journey to take.  There is no right or wrong direction."  That feels good in the early years.  Yes, yes...it's OK that I'm wandering, a little lost and directionless.  But, I'm still here!

But, close to three years later the truth hits home.  Holy cow!  This truly is the never-ending journey.  At least, during this life on earth.  While we will always have clear cut lines between the times we most miss with you, and the moments we truly rejoice with Pickle, there will always be a fuzzy, grey zone.  A zone where Momma is happy and sad, filled with hope and despair and my vision is blurred by the visions of your forever 16.5 month old face alongside your always-getting-older brother.

If Momma had to choose one word to describe the last month it would be this - introspective.

Peanut, you feel very, very close lately.  Your energy, your laugh, your hugs.  I truly think you visit your brother and laugh and sing with him.  You are here in spirit.

Regardless, I miss you so very much.  And I love, love, love you.  To the moon - and back!

- Momma

An early Peanut bath, just over 4 years ago.  Love the cow towel!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Kindred Grief Spirits

Peanut -

Today is Grandpa's birthday.  But, not just any birthday...a big 7-0.  This milestone reminded Momma to look back two years ago, to when we were facing his birthday without you (2 Years Ago).  It was a gloomy celebration, brightened for most by stories of you.  And, the hope of new joy and laughter surrounding your little brother who was still just a bump in Momma's tummy.

Grandpa was one of the family members most impacted by your death.  One of the few people whose grief most closely mirrored Momma's in the months after your passing.  Some of Momma's most heart-wrenching memories from the first days, weeks and months include Grandpa - having to tell him in the ER - as he rushed in full of hope that everything would be OK - that you were "gone"; planning your service alongside one of his best friends who wrote the obituary and helped us pick your teddy bear urn; meeting for lunch weeks later and not being able to stop the tears over bowls of white chicken chili. 

A few weeks after you died, Grandpa and Grandma tried to take a trip out of town, to Florida.  Planned well before your passing and much needed after the services and shock.  Unfortunately, they ran into an ice storm somewhere in Kentucky and got slammed into by an 18-wheeler.  But, wouldn't you know it.  Grandma's little Lexus held together like a steel cocoon and they walked away, relatively unscathed.  

After the accident we talked about you, the Guardian Angel who watched over them to help them survive that accident.  An accident they probably shouldn't have survived.  But, as a family we needed them to survive.  I believe you were there.  This event was beginning of Momma's restoration in her faith - faith in something, anything.  In something more than just the here and now.  

Oh, and by the way.  As we reflect on Grandpa's 70th birthday I must share one of the reasons I find Grandpa so remarkable and touched by faith of his own.  This isn't Grandpa's first amazing survival story.  He made it through a full year in Vietnam during the height of the conflict.  And a terrible head-on car accident caused by a car thief the 80s (as well as other minor car accidents).  But he survives and is the rock of our family.  Positive.  Spiritual.  Funny and loving and optimistic. 

Happy birthday Grandpa.  You deserve all the happiness the universe can possibly create, and then some.

To the moon - and back!

- Momma

Grandpa and Peanut just weeks after he was born.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Your Due Date (and a declaration)

Peanut -

Today - September 25 - was your original due date.  You, my feisty 'Nut, obviously decided to move the clock up given your actual birth date of 9-12-09.  But today is still a pretty significant date for Momma, if for no one else.

Peanut, while everyone else seems to have "moved on" Momma is struggling.  Night-time is still petrifying...do I try to sleep, or stay awake all night?  I'm doing the bulk of this all on my on own since Dadda can't be home in the evenings due to the restaurant schedule.  

The result?  These questions that Momma poses to herself every night: 

Do I stay up with The Pickle, listening to him on the monitor and checking in every hour?  
Or, do I allow myself to rest, hoping there's a Guardian Angel watching over him? 

I don't know the right answer.  Most nights the answer is a combination of the two.

What I do know is this -
I'm exhausted.  I'm bone tired.  

And I've hit the point that I can't take care of anyone else until I take care of me.  I'm not sure what that means but I do know know I'm done with being "The Rock" for everyone else.

Peanut, this comes on the heels of me seeing the "old Momma" at work today.  I just won't stand for it. Your death taught me too much about life, love and priorities.  I live to honor you.

It is time to re-prioritize.

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

- Momma

Sunday, September 22, 2013

"I Love You"

Peanut -

Tonight Momma heard a phrase she's been aching to hear for years.   A phrase she thought she would hear from you...a phrase she thought she would never hear after you left this world.

While you had mastered a few words and phrases, you never got to a point that you could say "I love you."  The same was true for The Pickle until tonight.  He has hundreds of words and expressions but Momma hasn't expected anything life-changing.  We've been hearing a lot of "truck" and "puppy" and "airplane" but what I got tonight knocked my Momma socks off.

In the midst of a toddler meltdown (complete with crocodile tears) Momma got an unexpected neck hug.  Pickle brought our faces together, side-by-side, cheek-to-cheek, and declared, "I love you!"

I melted.

So wonderful.  So tragic.  So.....much.  How do I express it?

Peanut, I believe you are working your magic through your brother.  That you are present in these amazing moments.

But still...I miss you so very much.  My heart aches for you.  My arms and neck long for your Peanut hugs.

I wish the world had gotten the chance to hear you declare "I love you!"

Regardless, you know I love you...to the moon - and back!

- Momma

Thursday, September 12, 2013


Happy 4th Birthday Peanut -

Momma woke up this morning and spent some time snuggled up in bed simply remembering this day in 2009.  A day that began just like any other, and ended with a tiny, beautiful, perfect little gift nick-named Peanut, thanks to one of the delivery nurses, who changed my life and the world forever.  Momma outlined the details of the day in a post on your 2nd birthday, back in 2011: Happy 2nd Birthday.

Peanut, I will never forget the unbridled joy that filled my heart the moment I glimpsed your head with its dark blonde fuzz, your grasping hands, and hungry mouth.  The electric love that shot through my heart the first time we locked eyes...I felt you gaze into and capture my soul.  A connection that has never faded, regardless of the fact that I can't physically hold, touch, hug or kiss you.

I wonder what kind of birthday party we would have hosted for you this year?  Dinosaur themed?  Football or soccer?  Jake and the Neverland Pirates? Or rockets and trains?  Would you and your friends be climbing trees and wrestling in the yard?  Would you still have your voracious appetite and love for all foods, tastes and spices?  Your love of music and dancing which never failed to evoke your brilliant smile and belly laugh?

Yesterday, as Momma prepared her heart for this milestone, I came across an e-mail exchange with Dadda from January 20, 2011.  Just days before you left for heaven.  It was a funny conversation, with Momma explaining your school had called to let me know you hurt your lip while playing piano.  What?  Hurt your lip playing piano?!?  Dadda and I both immediately had a picture of you shucking, jiving, bouncing and grooving while playing the instrument.  It cracked us both up and we agreed we couldn't wait to see the injury that evening.

That incident and the laughter it provoked was long forgotten in Momma's memory bank.  What a gift to retrieve it, to remember the joy you brought our family through the tiniest, silliest actions.  And to see the connection between you and your little brother.

Today I remember you with laughter and dance.  I honor you through smile-filled tears.  And, I hold you close in my heart.  Dadda and Momma celebrate your birthday because this day in 2009 marks the moment when we realized life will never be the same.  Never could we have known what that meant four years ago.  But through the best and worst moments, through the grief and joy, we have been guided by the love and hope you brought to our world.  Tonight we will release four Japanese lanterns and watch them soar towards the heavens, to our Peanut.

Happy birthday, my loving, introspective, cautious, funny, intellectual, musical little Peanut.  Oh, how I wish you were here.  I hope you are having a party in heaven, filled with balloons, ice cream, salsa and chips, Backyardigans, music from The Zac Brown Band, and stories from Eric Carle and Dr. Seuss.  Momma will contribute by reading you to sleep with "Guess How Much I Love You."  But, you already know the answer to that question.  To the moon - and back!

One gaze says it all - love.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

September Blues

Peanut -

It is September.  Your month.  The month that welcomed you into the world, full of so much promise, hope and joy back in 2009.  This month ushers in a new season - Fall - and with it all the delightful memories we have of falling leaves, cooler weather, Halloween, shorter days, Thanksgiving, and visits to Santa that we shared with you for two Fall seasons.

You will never get to enjoy these events again.

But...we are still here.

Your brother has brought us a new sense of purpose and happiness that allows Momma to look forward to the holidays and transitions, but still...a dark cloak of melancholy has settled over Momma since returning from Big Cedar.  My joy is found during moments with The Pickle.  And I wonder...will this pass?

Momma can't stop thinking about the days leading up to your early birth.  I knew you were coming early.  I could feel it.  The anticipation, the wonder and anxiety was overwhelming.  Never was there a sense of concern or fear like I've had to face with your little brother.  

And we never were given a reason to worry until the day you didn't wake up.  You were always so wise, calm and strong.  You were Momma's little soulmate and love bug who didn't fuss, belly-laughed without hesitation, and happily doled out super-tight neck hugs.  And so very, very smart.  

Peanut, you should still be here.  Why you were taken so early - too early - is such a mystery.  I miss you every moment of every day.  But today that emotion is very, very heavy on Momma's shoulders.  So much so that I fear it will weigh me down.  

I know this will be "September" for the rest of my years on earth.  Does that knowledge help?  Hmmmmm...I don't know.  Maybe I can prepare for it.  Try to ignore it.  Compartmentalize it.  Or, maybe I should just ride this wave as another step in the grieving process.  For now, I choose to do the latter.  

Missing you.  Loving you.  To the moon - and back!

- Momma

August 31, 2009 - Momma is a giant 9 months pregnant with Peanut, and 12 short days away from delivery.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Gift of Your Smiles

Peanut -

We are in the middle of our annual Big Cedar trip, and feeling your presence in the most joyful way on a daily basis.  Everywhere we look we are touched by wonderful memories of you, and are also creating new ones with your little brother.  Momma is surprised by the happiness, not guilt, that has filled her heart during these days.

On Sunday Momma, Dadda and The Pickle were enjoying brunch on the patio, with your little brother greeting everyone with a giant, "Hiii-looooo!" and wave as they walked by, no matter if it was their first or tenth time passing our table.  This evoked lots of smiles and laughs from the other patrons and the kind restaurant staff.  Eventually one waitress approached our table, with a huge grin, and shared a story from her bible study about a little boy who was sent to earth to bring smiles to everyone he touched.  She told us she was pretty sure that little boy was your brother, and she hoped we realized what a blessing he was with his sunshine presence.  Dadda and I simply looked at each other and nodded with our own knowing grins.  She has no idea...

Yesterday we were walking through the woods after a morning boat ride with Grandma and Grandpa (now known as NaNa and PawPaw) when a large, beautiful butterfly joined us on the path.  Dadda and I both exclaimed, "Hi Peanut!" and your brother giggled and tried his best to say, "Brother!" The butterfly circled us several times, and attempted to land on The Pickle's hands.  In the shady quiet of the wooded path we felt your love, your joy.  The warmth of your smile.  I realized, while we look like a small family of three to outside observers, we are truly a family of four - a Momma, Dadda and their two little boys - enjoying this end of summer trip.

Meanwhile, back in St. Louis a political drama is playing out surrounding County Executive Charlie Dooley.  You remember Charlie.  The guy whose office we flooded with letters after Dr. Mary Case from his Coroner's office refused to acknowledge SUDC.  The guy who was so troubled by our letter campaign that he devoted not one, but two weekly staff meetings to a conversation around what to do about this "Connor Mulholland situation."  The guy who had secret e-mail conversations (shared with Momma by one of his concerned senior staff members) with Dr. Case discussing why she chose to assign Bronchitis as the cause of death on your Death Certificate, even though no one in her office could actually find a cause - but that "Unknown" wasn't acceptable under her watch even though they have between 1 and 3 of these situations on an annual basis.  The guy who refused to talk directly with Momma, who dodged her calls, e-mails and letters.  Yeah, THAT guy.

As Charlie's political career goes down in flames while we prepare to celebrate your 4th birthday, I can't help but feel satisfied.  There is a sense of peace, that the scales of good/bad, right/wrong, grief/joy, are balancing themselves.  While I know nothing will ever bring you back, the injustice of your death can never be erased, and the hole in my heart will never be filled until I meet you again, Momma does feel hopeful.  Hopeful that a new administration will step in and we can once again campaign to have SUDC added to the St. Louis County Coroner's list of causes of death.  A small change that could have such sweeping implications - for more awareness with the CDC, for more state and national funding for research, for someday finding the root cause of SUDC so no other family has to suffer this horrible, meaningless loss.  So no other family has to face that moment when a day - just a regular day - changes the course of their world forever.  When they are joyfully walking in to wake their snoozing son or daughter only to find a lifeless body, the spirit gone from their eyes, stolen in the peace of slumber. And in the wake of that moment, to be told there is no reason, there are no answers, there is nothing anyone could have done to predict or prevent that moment.  Momma has hope...no, confidence, that we can make that change.

The little story shared by the waitress on Sunday got Momma thinking - my two boys have both been, and still are, such beacons of light, happiness, sunshine.  How did one Momma get so lucky?  Both of your smiles fill people with happiness and laughter.  Oh, how I wish I could see the two of you playing together.  But, in the absence of that I can look at photos of the two of you, side-by-side and marvel over my amazing sons.

Peanut, thank you for keeping the joy and hope alive in Momma's heart.  Thank you for showing your presence.  I love you, my sweet, happy, amazing son.  How much?  To the moon - and back!

Peanut, at 15 months old.  So full of himself after a successful visit to Santa.

A rare blog-glimpse of The Pickle - taken during vacation this week.  He is 19 months old.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Back To School, Fishing and Lanterns

Peanut -

It is back to school time across St. Louis.  Everywhere I look I see kids waiting at bus stops, hundreds of "First Day" pictures on Facebook, and a hollow feeling that this will never be you.  In addition, we are just a few weeks away from your birthday.  You would - should - be turning 4 this year.  Almost old enough for you to start kindergarten. To be a "back to school" kid whose picture I could proudly post on Facebook.  But...no...This convergence of milestones has been a lot for Momma to handle.

Oh, and on top of everything, we leave for our annual family trip to Big Cedar this weekend.  This year you would probably be fishing with Grandpa, using your own pole and learning the art of fly fishing.  Instead, Momma is faced with the reality that we need to buy your brother a lot of new clothes because we own nothing beyond 18-24 months.  That he will be the fisherman you never got to be...

Peanut, I've struggled with this post.  It's been in my "drafts" folder for days.  Momma doesn't want to seem sad, but...well, I am.  At the same time, I am incredibly happy.  Grief and joy - they truly do reside side by side.  Conflicting emotions but also complimentary.  One makes me appreciate the other.

Sitting at a stoplight this morning I burst into tears.  I realized that Pickle has started called me "Mommy."  Not Mommah, or Momma, or Mom.  He has mastered the "y."  So, there it is....one of my favorite memories of you and your milestones transformed by your little brother.  The beginning of many more, I know.

So, next week we will light lanterns that will reach you in Heaven.  A huge thanks to my awesome sorority sister Suzy who mailed us over 70 paper lanterns to assist in this effort.  These lanterns will light a path for you to come visit.  Please, visit often.

Sending you love, hugs and butterfly kisses.  To the moon - and back!


Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Odd (Beautiful, Magical, Amazing, Joyful ) Life Of...

Peanut -

Earlier this week Momma watched "The Odd Life of Timothy Green." A movie that got panned by critics as too sentimental. Too shallow. Too traditional. I disagree. Honestly, it seems to me that very few people can truly relate to the movie's underlying beauty and message. 

In a nutshell, here is the storyline: 

The film is told from the perspective of Cindy and Jim Green, as they explain their experience with Timothy in an effort to persuade an adoption agency to allow the couple to adopt a child.

When Cindy and Jim learn that they are not able to have children, they spend one final evening imagining what their child would have been like (a name of Timothy, talented artist, a big heart, honest to a fault, etc.). They put all those qualities in a box and bury it in their garden in their effort to "move on." But unusual things happen that night - a huge storm rains only on their house and a little boy named Timothy (with leaves growing out of his ankles) shows up in their house, muddy and naked.

He immediately calls them Mom and Dad and, after realizing that he is a magical gift from the garden, they welcome him and the challenges of parenthood, learning along the way.

Unbeknownst to his parents, one of Timothy's leaves falls off each time he fulfills one of the qualities listed on the original slips of paper. Timothy eventually reveals to Cindy and Jim that his time on earth is short and that he will eventually disappear.

The Greens' meeting with the adoption counselor concludes with Cindy presenting a letter that Timothy left them before leaving. In the letter, he explains to them what he did with each of his leaves that fell off, with a montage sequence showing each person whose life Timothy touched. (Spoiler: After an unspecified amount of time, the adoption counselor is shown pulling up to the Greens' house in a car with the little girl who is to become the Greens' daughter.)

Peanut, this movie was hard to watch.  Really hard.  Momma had no clue what she was getting into when it started, and once it became clear what was going to happen, I couldn't tear myself away.  Throughout the movie my brain kept replacing "Timothy" with "Peanut."  

While the boy in the movie magically appears from a garden at the age of 10 - magical, mysterious, odd - there was so much about his joy, love, and exuberance that reminded me of you and what you brought to us.  Your constant, tight Peanut hugs.  Your love of kisses.  Your head-thrown-back laugh.  Your toothy smile and unsteady, wobbly-fast walk.  Your love of peas, carrots, steak, cheese and homemade meatballs.  Your enjoyment of "One Fish, Two Fish" and riding your firetruck.  Your anticipation of bath-time, snuggles, and "Guess How Much I Love You."

The message at the end of this movie was essentially this: Timothy revealed to the Greens what amazing parents they could be, and they must do everything possible to fulfill that dream.

You did that for us.  You helped Momma and Dadda realize that we are great parents, and together, with your love and blessing, we needed to be parents - again.

This movie helped Momma process some of the recent guilt that's been building in her heart.  Guilt over the total, complete joy that finds its way into my heart when The Pickle does something totally new and brilliant - like string multiple words together into a coherent sentence, or help put away his toys and dishes, or show Momma the sign language to an entire song.  Things we never got to see you do or learn.

It helped reveal to Momma that maybe, just maybe, you are watching all these events from heaven and grinning from ear-to-ear.  Cheering on your little brother.  Acting as an angel on his shoulder...and on our shoulders too.

Peanut, I still can't believe you're gone.  Sometimes I have to pinch myself - am I really awake?  How can it be that our little boy, who should be close to turning 4, is no longer in my arms?  How can it be that we've been without him longer than we were with him?  How can it be that his little brother has now out-survived his time on earth?  Shouldn't we be in the midst of back-to-school shopping?

We live to make you proud.  To let you know that we received your messages while you were here on earth, and we continue to hear and honor them:
Love unconditionally.  
Give super tight hugs freely.  
Laugh with reckless abandon.  
Dance, dance, dance!  
Heads bumps and butterfly kisses are essential.  
And, try every food at least once.

Oh, I miss you so much.  I miss your cautious approach to new things.  I miss your long, delicate fingers that loved to trace my hands, face, eyelashes.   I miss your blue, ocean-deep eyes.  I miss your eyebrow-raises that rival Momma's.  

I just miss you.

Sending you love, hugs and kisses to the heavens.  To the stars.  To the moon - and back!

- Momma

Yep - he learned that one-eyebrow trick from me.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

5-Year Wedding Anniversary

Peanut -

Tomorrow Momma and Dadda celebrate five years of marriage.  (Never mind that we met and fell in love over 20 years ago when we were just 13 years old.)

It was five years ago that we decided to "tie the knot" all on our own out in Las Vegas.  We decided to create a ceremony that was meaningful to us, an older couple who were getting married out of love, commitment and a desire to start our own family.  

Six months later, Momma discovered she was pregnant. After tossing her cookies while cooking salmon for dinner one night there was a moment, a thought...is this morning sickness?  Um, yep.  It was!  Two months later and 12 pounds lighter we moved into the honeymoon phase, assisted by one of the coolest spring/summer seasons in St. Louis history.  Momma's pregnancy with you was blissful and capped off by a speedy, happy, easy and quick labor/delivery experience.

On our first wedding anniversary, Momma and Dadda were treated with a giant, beautiful baby shower   for you.  One of the most meaningful moments?  When Momma's aunt presented a hand-crafted quilt with all the characters from Peter Rabbit.  Amazing, beautiful, hand-drawn and stitched, this quilt hung over your crib and was a source of stories, joy and wonder for you.

Our second wedding anniversary also included you.  Momma and Dadda took you to the downtown City Garden where you charged through the shooting fountains of water like a tiny warrior.  We attempted to do an overnight downtown, but going home simply proved to be easier.

Our third anniversary was heart-breaking.  Still reeling from the loss of you, we were also dealing with the news that Pickle's twin sister had not survived.  There was a feeling of...what more? Why us?  Why are we being challenged and tested like this?  (Chickpea...we still light a candle for you every night.)

Year four was marked with a new sense of joy.  Hope.  Optimism.  We chose not to do much in terms of a celebration, but the sun had started to shine again.

And now here we are....year five.  Momma feels weathered, seasoned.

We entered this marriage with such optimism   A sense that nothing truly bad could happen to us - that those things happen to "other people"   We now know that we are the other people.  Yet, we have survived.  Dadda is the only person who truly understands Momma's grief and joy.  And all the other conflicting emotions.

It is with this lens that Momma welcomes and truly celebrates tomorrow. Peanut, you made us - and still make Momma and Dadda - better people, better partners, better citizens of the world.  Thanks to you we appreciate our precious time together.  

Peanut, we love and miss you.  To the moon - and back!

- Momma

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

18 Months

Peanut -

Tomorrow is one of those milestones Momma can anticipate.  Sort of.  Thank goodness.

Tomorrow your little brother will officially be 18 months old.

Why is this important?  Well...a few reasons.

First, all infant/toddler clothes are sold by months.  You had barely started wearing your 12-18 month clothes when January 26 happened.  We had a closet full of clothes you never got to wear and chose to hang on to for The Pickle.  Some have worked, some haven't due to the seasonal differences in your ages.  But...he is now beyond most of what we purchased for you.  Everything is new.

That leads to the next point.  Momma is so far beyond what she knows, it is startling.  Your brother is communicating, speaking phrases with words, sign language and gestures.  I now know I don't know what's next.  We (Ok, I) are venturing into new territory.

It hurts my heart to realize your little brother has surpassed you in terms of time on earth.  This is a tough milestone to swallow.  That fact that every big event from this day forward will mark a giggle, a word, a version of smile we will never get to experience with you.

It's funny.  As the pressure of The Pickle "surviving" lessens the heartbreak of what we missed with you has intensified for Momma.   Who knew?  One more layer in the process of grieving.

Tomorrow Momma will strive to give The Pickle a celebration.  Tomorrow Momma will cry for what the world has lost with your death.

Peanut, I dream with you often.  Not about you, but with you.  That's important.  I believe you are still very present and are guiding us...and that Pickle sees you.  You are always with us.

I close my eyes, take a deep breath, say..."Hello Peanut."  And here you are.  Right next to me; in my heart, in my arms, giving me a Peanut hug and butterfly kisses.

Missing you, loving you - to the moon and back!

- Momma

One of the last photos we have of Peanut before he passed away...so happy with his book.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Proud To Be "Those People"

Peanut -

Momma and Dadda have officially become "those people."  The people who are out in public with spirited, rambunctious toddlers, who stoically receive icy glares and hear loudly whispered nasty comments from older folks and couples who don't have kids.  We clearly invade their non-child time (but, wait, don't they get that at home?).  We are the people who were once embarrassed to be "those people" but now bask in the love and glory of these sometimes embarrassing moments.

Why?  Because we are lucky enough to get them.

We strive to give your brother exposure to the world just like we did with you.  Museums, restaurants, art fairs - these shouldn't feel off-limits to kids.  These are the places and experiences that form a more well-rounded, culturally competent and competitive kid.

Peanut, you were on track to be a mammoth contributor to this society.  I believe you were - and still are - a game changer when it comes to spreading a message of love and empathy.  Thanks to you, Momma does't allow an unkind look, a snort, or a <hrumph> to get under her skin.  There might be a little Momma-chuckle, but that's about it.

Readers, if you are out and see or hear a family with a child shouting out with joy (or frustration), please don't feel annoyed.  Embrace it.  Shout with them!

Why?  Because you never know. They could be reeling from the death of a child or loved one. Or, could be navigating some other personal hardship.  You just never know.

Just as I need to remember those sorrowful months when Dadda and I felt like many of those couples who desperately want, but cannot have, children might feel.  Hollow and hopeless.  Those times when a child's laugh was simply salt in the wound of our vast canyon of grief.

Peanut, I watched a group of boys your age play today on a water-slide.  In their big-boy surf shorts I could envision you as a happy participant, a ring-leader.  And then I saw a butterfly...the second one to flit by Momma, Dadda and Pickle in a 30-minute time frame.  It's presence prompted a peal of giggles from your little brother.  Well hello, Peanut...we know you are still here with us.

I love you, my awesome Peanut.  I hope you always feel my love.  To the moon - and back!

- Momma

July 4th weekend, 2010

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Music To Momma's Ears

Peanut -

Your little brother has been fighting a summer cold over the last few days.  His runny nose, rattling cough and red-rimmed eyes have been an eerie reminder of the days leading up to your death.  My brain says, "It can't happen again" but my heart is doubtful.

Saturday morning your brother slept in.  A very quiet sleep.  A much needed bout of sleep, I'm sure, but it caused the hairs on the back of Momma's neck to stand on end.  Flat on my back, gripping our sheets in my fists, I stood firm.  I will not assume the worst.  I will not walk into his room expecting an unresponsive little boy.

And then, after what felt like years...

A giant sigh and giggle.  From Pickle.

Music to Momma's ears.

These days any breath, sigh, laugh, cry Momma hears over the monitor is a gift.  A gift we didn't receive with you the morning of January 26, 2011.

Momma wonders, will it ever go away? That sense of "he could die in his sleep at any time"?  Perhaps, but I don't think so.  My view of the world is altered, more fatalistic.  I am afraid to hope for more.

For now I am beside myself with joy every time I hear a breath, a snore, a giggle, a cry, a grunt while The Pickle sleeps.  Momma wishes she had heard the same from you after 3:30 am the morning you died.  The last time I checked on you.

Oh Peanut, I miss you.  Love and butterfly kisses...to the moon- and back!

- Momma

An under-the-weather but very happy Peanut days before he died.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Who Inspires You?

Peanut -

Momma was interviewed this week for a work-related article and one of the questions asked was, "Who inspires you?"

Great question.

After much marination I realized how much my answer to that question has changed over the last 2 1/2 years.  Once upon a time the answer would be high profile world leaders or female CEOs - the Sheryl Sandbergs' of this world.  But, no.  Not today.

I am inspired by people who have not only survived and thrived through great personal tragedy, but those who have taken the lessons learned from their tragedy to make this a better world.  Momma felt somewhat ashamed when her best example was John Walsh, but he really is the case study for the type of change Momma would like to influence.  Thanks to him, there is now fingerprinting in US schools, an "Adam Alert" related to public child abductions, and he has transformed national legislation.

While our situation is dramatically different, it does give Momma pause.  How can I effect great change in honor of you?  Project Pinwheel is just the tip of the iceberg.

I am energized.  There is new Momma energy to re-engage with the St. Louis County Coroner's office to push them to acknowledge SUDC.  Every week I receive an e-mail informing me that a new family somewhere in the world has been heartbreakingly struck by this mysterious cause of death.

It is time for more visibility.

For more research funding.

For recognition.

Peanut, you know your Momma.  I am like a bulldog with a bone when I get my mind set on something.

We - I - can make a difference.  It is time.  For you.

Oh sweet boy, I miss you terribly.  I love you so very much.  To the moon - and back!

- Momma

Spunky Peanut at almost 9 months.

Thursday, June 20, 2013


Peanut -

A tragic event occurred this week that brought Momma back to January 2011 in an instant.  And not just Momma - a whole host of friends who surrounded our family in the days, weeks and months after you passed away.  The proverbial scab was ripped off the wound.  Emotions I haven't experienced in a long time were revisited, in some ways like long lost friends.  Or, at least, acquaintances.

Momma is raw and ragged, fraying at the seams a bit tonight.

Deep, paralyzing grief has returned to my soul like a boomerang.  I am remembering that sense of shock.  The blurring of days - or in some cases, actually losing the memory of an entire day.  Finding comfort in the details of planning anything - your memorial service, your teddy bear urn, what to do with your room and clothes, what to do about work.  Of hosting large gatherings at our home.  Of shopping for food, soda, alcohol to let our guests understand they were welcome.  Of dreading the day it all went quiet.  Which, eventually, it did.

Then there was the silence.

How do I help prepare another family for the silence?  For the idiotic comments and questions they will undoubtably receive When people actually start talking to them again?  For the journey they are unwilling beginning?  How do I share the lessons learned without making about our own story?

When do I simply tell them to sing the Dory song and, "Just keep breathing. breathing, breathing"?

Peanut, you are so close tonight.  I see you.  I feel you just out of my reach, like a word on the tip of my tongue.  You are present.

I love and miss you so very much.  More every day.  To the moon - and back!

- Momma

2 days after you were born...every Momma glows with love and thoughts of the future.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Mr. Frog's Journey Home

Peanut -

After months of wondering if I would ever get another sign from you, today I received a giant Peanut hug via the dysfunctional US Postal Service.  Let me explain.

Momma receives a monthly box of toddler appropriate goodies via Bluumbox.com.  Last month I checked to make sure they had our new address and was told repeatedly the new address was recorded.  However, when the May box shipped it decided to head our old house - your house - not once but twice despite all the forwarding instructions.

The box finally made its way to our new house today after Dadda hunted it down at a Post Office branch.  We joked that it "better be worth the $6.00 forwarding fee."

And then, Momma opened the box.



Yes.  The theme of the box was Cuddle Time, and the box included an Angel Dear lovie - YOUR lovie - and of all the ones we could have received, we got the frog.  Your frog.  In an instant your brother saw that frog and wanted to snuggle with it.

So now a few questions: Do I hide the frog?  Do I let The Pickle have his own frog despite my efforts to push a puppy his way?  Can my heart handle watching The Pickle hold Mr. Frog?

Peanut, I believe that box wound up at our old address multiple times because that is the home you remember.  I hope you understand you have moved with us...you are here.

Please send my heart a sign.  What should I do with the shiny, new frog?

Oh, sweet boy, I miss you.  Sending you love to the moon - and back.

- Momma

Connor's Mr. Frog....doesn't his smile just melt your heart?

Friday, June 7, 2013

Is It A Lie If It's True 99% of the Time?

Peanut -

How will I ever begin to explain your death to your brother?  How can I not begin to discuss it now...now that he is forming words and sentences?  Now that he understands who that blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy is in pictures who looks so much like him?

And, how do I not scare the hell out of him?

Tonight we were snuggling on the couch watching "The Pajanimals" just like we do every night before bedtime.  The Pickle dances, bounces, sings and laughs throughout the episodes, but is always ready for sleep time by the end of the 15-minute show.  Momma loves the messages reinforced by this show that is the creation of Jim Henson's kids (creator of The Muppets).  They use singing, dancing and harmony to help kids understand they don't need to be afraid of new activities like baseball tryouts, first day of school, or looking for a lost toy under the bed.  They also address issues like bed-wetting and bullying.  More than anything, these four little Pajanimals never go to sleep with unresolved issues - they help each other cope.  They "Bundle up, snuggle up, huggle up, and goooo!"

So, back to tonight.  The episode dealt with fear of bad things happening while they slept and their wishes that Mom and Dad could be with them, or that they could sleep in Mom and Dad's bed.  The message in the show was that bad things don't happen when you are safe in your bed, because The Moon is watching over you.  And, Mom and Dad are not far away.  Bed is safe.

Yep.  That's what Momma always thought.

I felt like a liar, a fraud, watching that episode while holding your little brother and encouraging him to fall asleep.  How can I let him think that I believe that, when I know it's not true?  At least, not true for us...the 1 reported instance out of 100,000 children across the United States on an annual basis (which we know is under-reported thanks to jurisdictions like St. Louis County who refuse to acknowledge SUDC).  Bedtime - nighttime - is the most frightening time of all for Momma.

Which leads to a larger question: How do I begin to explain you and your death to him?  How do I help him understand the beauty and magic of your life?  And how you live on in everything I do, every kindness I extend, every smile, every laugh...everything.  And that lightning hopefully won't strike twice?

I want to tell your brother that bedtime is his safe time.  That his bed should be the warmest, most comforting place he knows outside of my arms.  Because I want to believe that.  Maybe if I say it enough times, it will be true, right?

Peanut, I am struggling with this one.  I know an answer will come, and I know I will feel your hand in it.

Until then, I gaze at a picture of you and wonder what you would be like today.  My brain has an image, a vision, that will continue to grow as you should be growing up here on earth.  But my heart continues to remember you just as you were in January of 2011.  It hears your bellowing laugh, sees your mouth crowded full of new teeth, feels those precise fingers pressing at my eyelashes, and smells the scent of your blonde curls washed in lavender bath time bubble bath.  I still feel your breath in my ear as you whisper, "Momma..."  I still feel your tight grip around my neck as you offer a famous Peanut hug.  In short, I still feel you in every fiber of my being.  Thank goodness.

My arms ache for you.  So does my heart.  Missing and loving you more than I can ever express.  To the moon - and back.

- Momma

Peanut sleeping at just 5 days old.  When sleep was still safe.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Into the Great Big (and Still Very Scary) Unknown

Peanut -

Well, we made it.  Day 501 with The Pickle has now come and gone without event.  There was no trumpeting of angels, or a booming voice from the heavens declaring, "Welcome!  You survived 500 days!  Congratulations!"  (Well, there were some pretty intense thunderstorms and tornadoes - do they count since weather has been a constant mirror to Momma's emotions since you died?)

So, how do I feel standing here, staring at a world of unknowns with The Pickle?  <sigh>  Quite frankly, I am relieved.  And still scared as hell.  Maybe scared isn't the appropriate word.  It's more that I don't take anything for granted.  I don't assume anything.  I am prepared to lose everything I love in the blink of an eye.  Is that cynicism?  Perhaps.

However, I don't think that is unusual for a bereaved parent.  When your child dies, the world as you know it doesn't make sense anymore.  All sense of right and wrong, fair and unfair, the natural order things, and the circle of life and family - it is broken.  Your child is supposed to outsurvive you.  To be the fingerprint of you on this earth once you pass.  As a Momma, I never imagined I would have to plan your funeral, choose a "child appropriate" urn for your ashes, and find a place to discretely display your beloved froggies in remembrance of you...all while having the memory of your birth and the joy of watching you discover words, new tastes and smells, our kitty cat (Hiiiii kitteh kah!) fresh in my mind.

Peanut, you continue to make me a better, kinder, more patient Momma.  When I hear an edge of irritation creep into my voice as The Pickle tugs on Henry's tail for the 100th time, or when I find myself overwhelmed by the responsibilities of being a full-time working Momma, your sunshine smile enters my heart and I feel a Peanut hug around my neck.  In an instant, I am thankful for the blessing of your little brother and grateful for this second chance to be a Momma.  To experience happiness once again.

Grief. Joy. Love. Guilt. Terror. Happiness. Relief. Hope.  These are the emotions that fill Momma's heart every day.

My sweet Peanut, I miss you.  Sending you air kisses, bunches and noodles of love and nose nuggles, and praying for a butterfly or froggie sighting today.  To the moon - and back!

- Momma

Love that sunshine smile.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

500 Days

Peanut -

On this very same night back in January of 2011 Momma was listening to you on the baby monitor.  You were fussy and restless.  So unlike you.  So much so that at 9:00 pm Momma got up and pulled you out of your crib and read you your favorite book, "Guess How Much I Love You."  We nuggled noses, you gave me a giant Peanut hug and touched my eyelashes.  I laid you back in your crib, never thinking anything would be different in the morning.

I have never been so wrong in my life.  And never will be again.

Confession:  Momma and Dadda had been fighting in the days before you died.  Momma went out to dinner with her sister the night of January 25, 2011 and didn't get home before bedtime.  Momma had no clue that Dadda's Aunt Joan passed away earlier that day, and never got a chance to "check in" with Dadda about his day, how you were doing, or anything at all.

It was just fate - or you, my wise Peanut - that brought me out of bed to hold and hug you. To read to you that night.  To say an unrealized goodbye.

It was just fate that had me check on you at 3 am.

Where was fate when you stopped breathing?

Why you?  Why then?  Why, why, why?

Tomorrow morning, Momma will hold her breath in fear.  Will The Pickle wake up?  Will history repeat itself?  Is the world that cruel?

We were blessed this week to reconnect with some friends who provided us with smiles, hope and a ray of sunshine in the weeks after your death.  The Seeds of Happiness folks who have simply loved and embraced us:  http://www.seedsofhappiness.com.  At the end of our time with them, their founder, Mark, gave Momma a special seed...an Angel Seed.  Blue, just like Momma's remembrance wristband.  Once again, it hit Momma's heart as a sign from you - you are telling me to to not just survive.  To live, smile, laugh.  To be happy.

There is so much Momma needs to say these next few days...letters will be much more frequent than in recent weeks.  This 500 day milestone with Pickle has unearthed a lot of emotions, questions, guilt and pain.  But also a new reconnection with you, my Peanut.

Tonight I share a photo from January  20, 2011...just days before you died.  For me, it brings home the unreality of your death.  But also the vibrance of your spirit and smile.

Intense grief has given Momma a true appreciation for happiness and love.  And it strikes me, without experiencing both, you might not ever have a true sense of the depth of these emotions.  I am thankful to know how deep these rivers run....just not thankful for the reason I am part of that club.

Peanut, your giant laugh and silly spirit are forever a part of my DNA.  I long for you to grab my eyelashes or gnaw on my hair.  But, I know you are still here.  The Seeds of Happiness are just one example.

Sending you my love and tears - I know you see and feel them.  Peanut, I love you....to the moon - and back!

- Momma

Monday, May 20, 2013

Tick, Tick, Tick, Tick.

Peanut -

We are marching towards a milestone Momma never thought would arrive.  One she is dreading but also welcoming for the sheer relief and sense of accomplishment.  500 Days of Pickle.  And almost 2.5 years without my Peanut.


Recently, every day with Pickle is a happy/harsh reminder of what was ripped away the day you died.  I now remember exactly what your laughter, smiles, hugs and kisses felt like and I am angry all over again.  But, also thankful.


Because these last few weeks have allowed me to truly remember.  To remember what grief thankfully blocked when it was too painful to remember.  Now, I am ready and open to receiving those memories, those sensory pangs, senses, touches and smells.

For the first time I remember us holding hands on the couch, you threading your fingers through mine.  Then, pulling my arm close around you as you sat in my lap and whispered, "Momma" in my ear through my hair.

I now remember reading you your bedtime story of "Guess How Much I Love You" and getting to the end to be greeted by your outstretched face, just waiting for a good-night kiss.  Just like your brother does when I read him "The Runaway Bunny."

Peanut, I am so afraid to say "hello" to day 501 with Pickle.  The guilt and relief.  The disbelief that you aren't here.  The fear that it could happen all over again.

Tonight we are surrounded by storms in St. Louis.  Once again, the weather seems to match Momma's mood.  Add to the storms the turbulence in her days with Dadda recently and it all seems too familiar.  Haven't we learned our lessons?  <sigh>  Did we lose so much only to return to the way things were?

Momma has no answers, just reflection tonight.  And, a bit of melancholy.

Peanut, I wish I could hold your little hand and hear you breathe into my ear, once again.  I miss you.  I love you.  To the moon - and back!

- Momma

Peanut, surrounded by his - and now his brother's - favorite toys just 2 weeks before he passed away.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Two Years Ago

Peanut -

Two years ago Momma was steeling herself for her first Mother's Day without you on earth.  It's hard to remember and describe how empty my arms felt that first year...arms that longed to hug, hold and carry her little boy.  A little boy who will forever be frozen in time at 16.5 months old.  A little boy who will always be my first son, the child who taught me to be a Momma.

It is because of you and the love you opened in our hearts that Momma and Dadda were trying desperately to conceive a child through every trick of science, every miracle of love, faith and hope.  Two years ago we feared that even if we were fortunate enough to successfully conceive, was Momma's body - a body so immersed in sorrow and grief that it permeated every fiber, every molecule of my heart and soul - strong enough to develop and grow a baby?

Two years ago Momma also discovered an interesting side effect of her personal grief process: intense, situational claustrophobia.  It reared its ugly head as we attempted to board a flight to Florida to escape St. Louis for the Mother's Day holiday.  To take the trip to Sanibel Island that we never got to take with you.  As Momma stepped onto the plane a panic attack set in and we immediately had to exit the flight. A second attempt, later in the day, was equally unsuccessful which Momma took as a signal - we need to be home, surrounded by reminders of you, for this holiday.

Two years ago, throughout Mother's Day weekend, I was visited by butterflies, tiny frogs, and a flutter in my tummy that eventually grew into The Pickle.  Your little brother, who is now almost 16 months old.  Peanut, he will reach 16.5 months at the end of this month...and he will be with us for 501 days on June 1.  Momma isn't sure how she feels about that - or how that first day of June is going to feel.  Will I be relieved?  Feel a sense of accomplishment?  Or, will it pass without notice or event?

As we prepare for Mother's Day, this Momma is celebrating her children on earth and in heaven.  We will look to the sky, maybe even release two balloons in remembrance of you, Peanut, and also the little sister who would have been Pickle's twin.  We will listen for your laughter on the wind, and will feel your warmth in the sunshine.  More than anything, we will embrace and cherish our family, our angels, and our love.

Peanut, thank you for the wisdom, joy and love you shared during your all-too-short time on earth with us.  Momma misses you every day, but my heart feels your presence in everything we experience.  And I know I will see you again.  Until then, I am sending you love, smiles, butterfly kisses, and Peanut hugs to the moon - and back!

- Momma

My favorite picture of me and Peanut, taken during his 1-year photos.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Hope. Smile. Laughter.

Peanut -

Today is Momma's birthday.  Oh, how I wish you were here.  As I drove home this afternoon the blue, sunny sky was filled with sunshine and white, cottony clouds.  I declared in my car, "Peanut, I wish you were here." and a direct ray of light hit me along with a sense of warmth...of you.  It helped me reflect on our journey these last few years...

Two years ago I was wading through deep grief but also feeling a sense of hope.  We had decided to try and have another baby.  Science and miracles were supporting us and, well, hope had sprouted in Momma's heart.  The hope of finding purpose.  A sense of something bigger and more important than just our time on this planet.  And, more than anything, I longed to hold a child who was my own...my son...my legacy.  You taught me that.

Last year I learned to smile again.  The Pickle was here and with him came sunshine, light, grins, happy moments.  But, also some guilt.  I mean, how could we possibly be happy again - ever?  Yet, we found ourselves laughing, playful and sometimes completely blissful.

And now, here we are...the Pickle will surpass your time on earth in just over 1 month.  Another Momma birthday has passed with a Pickle doing things you never learned to do - he can run, throw a ball, say "no, no, no, no" and give me a high-five without missing a beat.  More than anything, I have learned to laugh again.  Momma has one of those laughs no one can ignore, unfortunately.  Many of my birthday wishes today included references to my laugh, how it was good to hear to again, and to keep it up.  Statements that in years past would have embarrassed Momma.

So, now what?  I have no idea.  Into the great unknown we venture with you on my shoulder as a guardian angel.  Where will that take us?  I don't know....to the moon - and back!

- Momma

Connor's last photos with Momma and Dadda two weeks before he passed away...

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Moving. Not "Moving On."

Peanut -

These last few weeks Momma has been concerned that you are viewing from heaven that our upcoming house move is a step away from you.  As an attempt to forget or mask the pain.  As...well...moving on.

Oh Peanut, it is not.

Earlier this week a well-intentioned (I think) co-worker talked to Momma about how EVERYONE has agreed this is something our family has needed to do.  You know.  To move on.  How another executive with my firm also lost a child and couldn't move on until he and his family packed up and moved across the country.  This person actually had the gall to congratulate Momma for making this decision and for moving on.  And expressed the expectation that the bad days would now disappear.  And the old Momma would magically emerge.  That EVERYONE was hoping for that.

What Momma knows is this - we are moving with you.  Your spirit and memories are not anchored to this house, they are with us.

The last two years Momma has found comfort and safety in the cocoon of a workplace that knows the story and magnitude of our loss.  But, in recent months that coin has turned to the tarnished side.  Comments focused on "move on"and "get over it" have begun to permeate the atmosphere.  So...now what?

Peanut, I know your spirit and love will be my Northern Star as I navigate this sticky situation.

I am remembering you in ways I forgot thanks to Pickle's burst of walking, talking, laughing.  I am remembering the giant personality we lost in you.  I am...remembering.  And, it is painful, joyful, scary, happy, sad.  And more.

Sweet Peanut, who taught me to love without expectation - I love you.  To the moon - and back.

- Momma