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 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,'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.