Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

We just returned from date night, also known as "Support Group." During group, I had a profound thought...people were talking about the holidays and the difficulties people may face. I thought it was so appropriate that the first big holiday since Jack's death will be Thanksgiving. It would be wrong for me to say that the day will go by without any sadness but I am focusing my thoughts to the best of my ability on what this holiday is truly about...being thankful for all we have in our lives.
This Thanksgiving, I am so thankful for having had Jack. Without Jack, I would not know so many things...Jack was my first child, my first pregnancy, and my first experience being completely responsible for another human being. Jack taught Dan and I as a couple a different level of working together, of responsibility and that "sleeping in" is a thing of the past. Jack taught us that going to birthday parties instead of happy hours is more fun and that there is nothing more beautiful than a sleeping baby. He taught us how if given the chance, we would sacrifice anything for another human being and that Dan and I are blessed in our ability to make cute babies with amazing eyes and abnormally yet gorgeous long eyelashes.
Jack taught us that life is so precious, to savor each moment and that when you think you don't have anything left to give, you do. Jack taught us that the worst day at work can easily be remedied by a toddler with a million dollar smile running at you with open arms saying "Mommy!" or "Doddy!" I have learned so much about myself and Dan, about Dan and I as a couple and what unconditional love is. I learned that a child is so much work but well worth the journey. When grief sometimes takes over, I think "I'll take the grief because I won't trade the last two years for anything."
Happy Thanksgiving to you all...may the day bring many moments of joy and time to reflect on all the wonderful things we are so fortunate to have.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

House Plant

Tonight we watched all the short little videos we have in the "Jack Movies" file of our computer, we didn't plan it...I was at the computer and somehow stumbled on that file, as I was watching them, Dan stumbed into the computer room and of course, couldn't walk away once he saw what was on the screen. We have about 20 different videos, about 20 seconds each of Jack doing a variety of things, some that had been posted on the blog, some not. It's bittersweet watching them, I am so glad to have them and to hear his voice again, see his movement, see his smile and his personality but then, it is sad to think, "This is all we have." At some point, these videos will be so repetitive, I will know them by heart and it won't be a "surprise" as it is right now since I don't have them memorized from watching time and time again.
What did strike me as I watched them was, "How in the world is the plant that I see in the background of all the videos shot in our living room still living and Jack isn't?" How is that possible? How can a plant we own have a longer life span than our child? It starts the questioning and the mystery of this whole thing..."How in the world?" "What happened?" "Why did this happen?" For me, these questions can be toxic if dwelled on too long because regardless of the answers (If we ever really have any...), the bottom line is, my children should live longer than any plant I own. (This actually is ironic...I volunteered in HS to water plants at church with a dear friend and we got "fired" because we killed most of them by accident! I am no green thumb...)
I spoke with the Medical Examiner (ME) again on Friday. Travis County does not have special equipment for what is necessary to continue trying to figure this out. So, it all comes down to money. Can you believe that? The ME is trying to find an expert in this certain thing that needs to be done (Electronic Microscopy?, I may have the last word wrong) and is asking if it can be done pro bono, otherwise, Dan and I would have to pay if we want it done. The ME couldn't even guess at how much it would cost. (Not a good sign) I also received a bill for $505 from the County for EMS to come and "pronounce Jack dead" as the not-so-compassionate woman told me when I called inquiring as to why I received a bill. I seriously thought I was being punked and was waiting for Jack to jump around the corner and say "Just kidding! It was all a joke" when I was talking to her on the phone. Thank goodness I was with Lourdes at the time and she could finish the call for me as I excused myself to the bathroom to sob. I guess I was foolish to think that my tax dollars paid for EMS services. I know there is a charge if you ride in an ambulance but Jack was never transported. Each day continues to show me that this world is crazy and life is a wild ride.
The grief is still a visitor at our house (not like we have expected it to go away this soon, or ever for that matter) hasn't learned to politely leave when its hosts are sick of it.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Swimming Pools, Milk, Cupcakes and Golden Retrievers

Before Dan and I left the park, I commented that I think Jack is swimming in a huge awesome pool with golden retrievers, with a full belly of milk and cupcakes. Life is certainly sweet, and I think wherever, if anywhere Jack is, his life is even sweeter.

It's a beautiful day

Of course, we had Hey Cupcake! red velvet cupcakes too!

Yesterday was a gorgeous day in Austin. We both had the day off and took advantage of daycare being open, sent Kate and spent the day together. We decided to scatter Jack's ashes. After much thought and deliberation, we decided to put his ashes in a "Hot Wheels" Happy Meal box, with a bouquet of balloons and release them at the splash pad that Jack LOVED! Thanks to Lourdes who found the Happy Meal box at a McDonald's, they had it in a back corner for some reason...the Happy Meal box was from the beginning of September so we were very lucky that a McD's still had the one we wanted and would be perfect for the cause. We poked a bunch of holes in the bottom, thinking the ashes would scatter as the balloons went in the air. Well, let's say we had some technical difficulties, (I was never too good at science, I am not sure how many balloons we would have needed but a dozen was clearly not enough). After many tries, we finally were able to release the bouquet and think sweet thoughts about our J-Boogie as we watched them go up and up into a gorgeous sunny sky.

To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven

A time to build up,a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear it's not too late

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

JACK! on the Big Screen

On Sunday, we attended the "Space Between Breaths" documentary about the loss of children and the life that continues after. JACK! was a sponsor as I mentioned in a previous post...only because of such generosity of y'all! We wanted to donate to "For the Love of Christi" (FLOC) and this seemed the perfect and most fun way to do it. Before the movie started, there was a preview reel of all the sponsors, I loved each time Jack's face would pop up and all our friends that we have made since attending FLOC commented on what a great photo that was. Some would comment further about what a personality he had or how much fun he looks. Amazing that one photo can convey so much. It was a pretty packed house, I promise, I just took the picture early!
I have to be honest in saying that this isn't how I pictured Jack being on the "big screen," and it left me to wonder...if things had been different...what would his "big screen" have looked like? Since I never will know the answer, I thought...perfect, I get to finish the story myself...
In my mind, it goes something like this...Jack would have been athletic, he would have been a great team player and show the compassion that he had learned and seen from Dan. He would have continued to be a great dresser and would have worn ties to school, especially on the first day of kindergarten, without complaining. He would have made a special valentine for his mom, sister and his favorite girl at school each year and he would have participated in spelling bees with success. He would have continued with his birthday tradition of going to the Waffle House for breakfast with Dan wearing his Superman Cape, long after he had outgrown it and it became tattered. He would have been left-handed and played Pee Wee Baseball. He would have walked the dogs, learned to scoop the poop and LOVED being the only boy among 11 neighborhood girls after he learned what an advantage he had. They would have taught him how to pretend to be interested in "girl things" so that one day, he could make a woman very happy. He never would have had training wheels and would have gotten frustrated with us that he didn't have video games and the latest and hottest toy. It would take years before he would appreciate us for that. He would spend afternoons playing in the yard, building forts and making castles out of old refrigerator boxes. Sometimes math would be hard for him in school and some days, it would be even harder to sit still and not talk while his teacher was giving a lesson. He would have learned tolerance for religious, political and sexual preferences and would believe that as long as people love and are loved, that is all that matters. He would protect Kate without hesitation and would make sure kids were nice to her and boys treated her with the upmost respect. Jack's favorite holiday would be the 4th of July and all the festivities that have become tradition and he would have loved taking the ferry to visit his Nonno and Nonna on Whidbey Island in Washington State. Jack would have been the social one, perhaps Homecoming King and a popular kid, although, he would be one of the rare popular kids that is nice to everyone. He would look forward to going to college and would know that when he came home to visit, I would do his laundry without hesitation. He would learn the pleasure in a good beer and would often share one with Dan. He would call home, would work hard and play hard, and would love college as much as we did. He would know that we love him so much and would support him through anything. He would develop a strong sense of self esteem so that he could say "no" to things that didn't feel right. I can't say what I think he would choose professionally but I do know that he would have been a fantastic family man, marrying a wonderful woman who would laugh at all his craziness, find as much joy in life as he did and who would melt when seeing his smile as we did. I know there would have been grandkids and Jack would have been a fabulous could he not with such great role models in his family and extended family? Jack would lead a full and happy life, not forgettign to give back to others, to embrace each day and would have no doubt that his parents loved him more than words can describe.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A loaf of bread, a container of milk and a stick of butter

They say grief is like an unwelcome and unexpected shows up when you least expect it and you don't know how long it is going to stay. Today I went grocery shopping for the first time since before "that day." (Yes, everything has become a "before" and an "after.") We had reached rock bottom when we couldn't even make brownies because we didn't have eggs and I heard my bones pleading for calcium.
Who knew that "grief" would show up while in the supermarket?? I never realized how my grocery shopping was so Jack focused...bananas and yogurt for smoothies, peanut butter, whole milk, turkey meat, cheese, chicken nuggets, et cetera. It seemed every corner I turned, I wanted to put a different item in the cart and then realized I didn't need it. It made me miss him so much and I almost felt lost trying to figure out what we needed. You may be wondering how I was able to avoid the store for so long...our wonderful friends and neighbors have brought us meals EVERYDAY since "that day." It has been unbelievable and we have been SO spoiled with all the tasty dishes, we received our last one tonight, thanks so much everyone!
I knew it was such a gift to receive home cooked meals but the added treat and unexpected present from it all was giving me time to be in a better place. You wouldn't think that even the most mundane of errands could grudge up sadness but it did. Thank goodness I didn't have to go weeks ago. While I wait for Kate to be able to eat all that stuff, I think I'll spend the money on pints of Ben and Jerry's for me and Dan. Sounds like a good plan to me!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Mad Tea Cups

Grief…I believe it is a short word we use to convey “roller-coaster” or “You will now be taking life minute by minute.” What a whirlwind of a ride…sometimes I equate it to the “Mad Tea Party Tea Cup” ride at Disneyland where it is all you can do to not stand up and scream “Get me off of here” while you try not to throw up.
I thought it was time to do an entry about me…what this has been like, my experiences, my thoughts, a check in for my loyal followers! I know people are wondering “How is she doing?” “How do they get out of bed in the morning?” “Does she cry everyday?” “What have they done with all his stuff?” “How do they make sense of all this?” “How is their marriage?” I know I would be wondering those things if I were in anyone else’s place.
I have been saying that there is “no score card for grief” but if there was, I would be amazed at how well I am doing. I am certainly not afraid to have moments where the tears come and they do come…for short periods of time. I have somehow had the fortune to be able to quickly remind myself of how blessed we were and how rich, happy and FUN Jack’s life was (and mine because of it!). It would be easy to grieve what won’t be but in that, I would be wasting all my energy when I could be thinking of how wonderful his life was. Believe it or not, that thought really carries me through the days and makes all of this make a bit more sense and not seem devastating. We know there is a circle of life and Jack’s circle just didn’t have the circumference that we wanted. If we know that we all live and we all die, it is quite simple. It is just unexpected how quickly it was for Jack…but again, to live with such joy is such a gift and there is no doubt that wherever he is, if life does continue on, he is in a great great place! Someone told me “If there is a heaven, Jack certainly took the express train to get there.” Love it!
I have struggled with thinking about “that night.” My mind would go back to the horror, the noises, the disbelief, the people in our house, having to be interviewed separately from Dan with a detective, having to role-play with a doll everything that happened, picturing Jack’s sweet little body laying for hours in our house and watching the EMS workers cry as they left. I wouldn’t say I was obsessing over it but after I learned that Jack had passed away in his sleep, I realized he wasn’t present in the way we know for any of that. What a comforting thought that his life was blissful even to the final minute. What a joy to know he was given a bath by “Doddy!” tucked in kissed and was told “I love you J-Boogie.” Can it really get better than that? That night doesn’t take away from his spirit, his wonderful life, the way he loved and was loved. I am happy to say that each day, I think less and less of that evening.
I asked a dear friend shortly after, “Am I not going to be me anymore?” I was so scared that this would change me forever, in a negative way. I feared that I would be rolled up in a ball in a fetal position on my bed with the lights turned off, sobbing and sobbing. I was afraid I would be bitter and unable to see the simple joys in life. I was afraid that I would lose my ability to want to shower and brush my teeth everyday. She reassured me that I would always be me and that this would not “Take what is me.” I am so glad for that conversation and that time has shown me that no…death won in taking Jack’s life but death will not win in part of me dying or losing my spirit. For me to lose who I am would make Jack’s death a double tragedy. Enough has been taken away already. What a disservice to Jack if I were to loss myself. How could I continue to prove to him that I really am the woman, mother, wife, friend that he thought and witnessed that I was?
People mention the scary statistics of marriages after losing a child. Minutes after Jack was pronounced dead, Dan and I were hugging. I said “No matter what, we are in this together.” I have never felt a deeper connection to Dan since meeting him and we truly have walked this together. We joke at our support group that it is our “weekly date.” We say “Is this what it took?” and laugh. After the first support group, we laughed on the way home. How wonderful to have a partner that can also still see humor, see that life continues for us and that we share this unique bond that no one else will ever understand. We have demonstrated more compassion, love, tolerance and patience with each other than ever before. We like to think of it as our “new normal.”
Shortly after Jack’s passing, I cleaned through his room and our friends painted and decorated for us. I walk in the room frequently and have framed a beautiful photo of Jack in that room. It is painted a light blue with a white cast iron headboard and footboard. I had to admit my obsession with baby clothes shopping as I passed on 2 HUGE garbage bags full of AWESOME clothes to a friend of mine (that went up to size 5 year-old, I have always been a planner!) and a ton of stuff to Goodwill. Kate has become the recipient of some awesome toys and Grover and Elmo now sleep with her.
It’s crazy… this blog has become so much more than just pictures and an update of what our kids are doing lately. Thanks for being an audience for me to bear my soul and to be honest about this crazy crazy Mad Tea Cup ride.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Happy Grams and Certificates

I still have a Happy Gram, proudly on display in our house from my kindergarten teacher, Ms. Schroeder. She was praising me for working hard in class. My guess is that I was probably talking way too much and she finally got me to buckle down and do some work. I have certificates from this and that while growing up and had started a collection for Jack as well. In his short life he had received several certificates which I proudly displayed and then tucked away in his memory box to pass onto his family when he became an adult.
Today, I decided that I would pick up his ashes. Since everything happened, his ashes were not something that I needed to do something with. To me, I could take it or leave it. I got the impression that Dan wanted to do something with them and we brainstormed some good ideas. When we decided on the perfect thing to do, I was sold on getting them. (Future blog post!) When I picked them up, they gave me a certificate documenting his being cremated. Really? Such a thing exists? Why? If there really is a reason to have to have one, how awful. As I got back into the car with his ashes and this certificate, it was so clear to me that we are experiencing things that NO ONE should have to. I shed a quick tear and then found the ability to laugh...Jack finally got to sit in the front seat with me, and without a seatbelt. Oh J-Boogie…we miss you!

Jack's Brick

I had the pleasure of spending the weekend in Minnesota with Kate, surrounded by friends and family. What a wonderful get-away at a much needed time. We were able to head to Mankato for a night to relive our glory days of college and made a stop to see Jack's brick at our alma mater which dear friends Scott, Wes, Jason and Brian had bought for Jack when he was born. Is it just a coincidence that of all the bricks on the ground only Jack's had green growing on the side of it?