Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Go Directly to Jail, Do not pass GO!

I thought grief was giving me a free pass…like “Do not pass go, go directly to jail.” Like “I will visit you during the day but give you a break at night.” I thought grief maybe had an ounce of compassion, like “At least let this poor woman sleep at night. We make her fight us enough during the day.” Last night, I learned that is not the case and grief should not be given the benefit of the doubt. I speak of grief like it is a horrible villain or lice that your kids come home with from school. It just won’t go away, it’s hard to see with the human eye and to fight it is near impossible, disgusting, and something no one wants to deal with or take on. Like lice, grief has somewhat of a social stigma too. Only THOSE people get lice. Right? (For the record, I did have lice in second grade, although I will claim that my sister had it first, I did have it. Nasty.) Who knows how to appropriately deal with someone who is grieving or if you really got lice off of all soft surfaces in your house? How do I even know how to deal with myself sometimes?
I woke up to dogs barking and couldn’t go back to sleep last night. Of course, this was at 2:45 am and it annoyed me to no end. I started thinking about friend’s blogs I had looked at before heading to bed. Many of my friends have kids that are Jack’s age and their children continue to grow older, develop, acquire new skills and are not doing the same things that I equate with Jack. Some of the kids are now older than Jack was. The pictures I saw of our friends and their families were rightfully filled with joy, opening presents and celebrating the holidays. I would want it no different for them, although, it was bittersweet for me to see. Three months have gone by and children have advanced past the stage Jack was and that I know. No longer is Jack just like the kids I would associate with him. That started the tears and made it seem so real that he was gone. I really had this palpable missing of him. Throughout my crying bout it didn’t seem real that he wasn’t down the hall…I tried so hard to believe that if I went to his room, I would open the door and clunk into him as would happen the last month of his life. He would get out of bed and fall asleep on his side of the door. I would check on him and carry him into bed. I miss how fun he was, I miss his energy and his curiosity. I miss reading “Goodnight Moon” to him and him putting his index finger to his lips to whisper “hush” with the old lady. I miss the joy he brought into my life and how he was always happy.
I have had enough respite since “that day” of only taking care of one child. At first it was like “Wow, this is so easy again.” I don’t want easy and I never wanted easy. I want hard back…I want a crazy toddler (JACK!) that is all over the place, laughing and wrestling with his Dad. I want Jack to crawl in and out of the dog door and drink more milk than anyone, play playdough with me after coming home from daycare and grab diapers for me when it is time to change Kate’s diaper.
It’s hard at vulnerable times like this to avoid the toxic question…Why? I had to make more of an effort to not ask that last night and continue down the path I chose. When it happened and still now, I see it as there being two paths…
1. Complete devastation, anger, and asking why. The not-brushing-my-teeth and getting out of bed, the anger taking over me and being bitter.
2. I can’t change this so I accept it and I will celebrate him. Even though at times, I will acknowledge that this really stinks.
I have embraced path number two (not easily) but have learned through these months of grieving that even that path is not void of boulders, humps, landmines and rocky spaces. Thank goodness for a husband that hugs me, spoons me and rocks with me in the middle of the night as he hears a sound coming from me that only he and I truly understand and make. The noise…a guttural helpless cry that sounds so pathetic…It is amazing that even at those times he loves me more than the moment before and continues to do so.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Big Wheel

Thank you to the many of you that have contacted us over the past few days, dropping off nice cards, a pointsettia, ornaments in memory of Jack to hang on our tree, texts, calls, et cetera!
It is Christmas Eve and we are doing well. Kate decided that she only needed a 30 minute nap so we kept busy while Dan was at work making "Christmas Cranberry Corn Muffins" for the dogs. They are in need of some TLC and I know the way to Finn and Murphy's heart is through food. Although, Murphy would settle for any kind of petting.
Christmas will be as usual this year! Yes, we have decked our halls in boughs of holly and have a beautiful tree and stockings hanging from the mantle. Some people have asked "Are you going to do all of that this year?" Of course! Then they will say, "Well, of course you are, you have do it for Kate." Yes, we do need to do it for Kate but we need and want to do it for ourselves too! I am still living, in fact, I am living better than I probably was before "that day" since we were taught at such a high price how valuable life and each day is.
I received a text today saying, "I can't believe it's been three months, thinking of you." I took it as a good sign that I didn't even realize that...I just thought of today as today!
Merry Christmas Everyone, have a fabulous evening and wonderful day tomorrow.
And for our little J-Boogie, I hope wherever you are...that you get a Big Wheel for Christmas! I would have done anything to have you here to buy you one myself. XOXO.

Rememberance Service

For the Love of Christi hosted a wonderful Rememberance Service two weekends ago. They had a huge Christmas tree where we all hung pictures of our loved ones...I must admit that hanging Jack's picture brought many tears to my eyes...if you look close enough at his heart, you can see that Kate was trying to eat it before we found the perfect spot on the very full tree...We found a great spot to hang the photo of Jack and were comforted by the wonderful messages and music that made the event so special. We learned that it costs $616 A DAY for the center to run and we are so very grateful to the donors and funders that make this service available. As founders Don and Susan Cox say, "The price you pay to come here is already to high." Yes, it certainly was high indeed but we are so grateful for all the unconditional love and suppor we have received. If you are ever in search of a charitable organization to volunteer or donate to, we know we have our bias but we say "For the Love of Christi!"

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Dogs Love and Dogs Know...

Do dogs have human feelings? Do dogs know when we're hurting? Do they wish they had words to use to let us know they feel our pain or wish to take it away? Did Murph and Finn know that something was wrong with Jack before we did? Did they smell something the human nose can't detect before Jack went to bed and were so frustrated because they couldn't communicate that to us? When we finally let them out of the stairway after Jack was pronounced dead and Murph started licking Jack's face...did he know? Was Murphy saying goodbye or trying to do what he could to bring Jack back to life?
The beauty is that like Jack's death, there will never be answers to my above questions besides what I think and believe. Although they are canines, I believe that the loss of Jack is profound for them as well. The night that Jack died, Murph and Finn sat stoically behind the stairs watching intently. I don't think they made a noise, they were surveying everything and as people walked in and out, they didn't bark as they normally would. It was almost like they were sitting there praying themselves. It was evident they felt sad and could pick up on the emotions of everyone. They had an eerie calm to them and their loyalty did not falter. God Bless Murphy and Finnegan! We know we don't give you as much attention since the kiddos came but we love you just as much!
If I could have anything for Christmas I would ask for the obvious that we all know that as much as Santa wants, he can't even bring that (and I have been very good!) and for the ability to have just one conversation with Murph and Finn. And believe me, I would certainly NOT forget to ask Finn "Why in the world have you been passing such offensive gas so frequently lately?"
Murph and Finn...your unconditional love does not go unnoticed or unappreciated!!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Who wants to be millionaire?

It took almost 3 months for me to be asked the inevitable question. I knew it would come, I just didn’t know when, who or how. At a neighborhood function last night, a 6-year old boy who spent a lot of time with Jack until about a month before he died asked “Where’s Jack?” with the innocence of a bunny and the annoyance of a mosquito buzzing in your ear because of his questions. (If he only knew what he was asking…poor kiddo and parents. They were probably mortified but I have learned not to sweat the small stuff over the past few months.) As a zillion thoughts raced through my brain, I quickly responded with “Oh! He’s not here right now.” What I was thinking but kept to myself was “Who the hell knows? Isn’t that the Regis Philbin Million Dollar Question? Where IS he? Is he somewhere? He’s not here and I certainly know that.” The boy then said “Where is he?” I am not a good liar, especially when it is off the cuff. Fortunately my audience was a 6-year old who doesn’t have the social savvy yet to pick up on my dead give away clues… the stammering, the awkward look, and the longer than usual pause before responding. I said, “Oh, he’s out playing.” It was the best I could come up with and if I did have to make a logical guess, it would be that Jack is playing somewhere, happy and carefree. The boy and his curiosity still wasn’t satisfied as I am almost breaking out in a sweat trying to field these questions like a hockey goalie at the Stanley cup. He then asked “Where is he playing?” At this point, I had run out of stamina and creativity and said “Oh, just out and about.” At which point, something else caught the boys attention and he was off and running.
It was almost comical to me, the things that have been said to me when people have NO IDEA what they are saying. A week after Jack died, I was at a street fair and a local insurance man stopped me to talk about having life insurance for your CHILD. Could the timing have been any worse? I thought I was being punked again. My mom was with me and I could tell she was tensing up, worrying that this would make me upset. After I knew what the man was talking about, I wasn’t even paying attention to his speech but just shaking my head thinking “Really? Is this conversation seriously happening?” If only that man knew, he would have been mortified. People say you’re not given more than you can handle and whereas I agree with that on a basic level, there’s more to it than that. Yes, we handle what we are given but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with small miracles of mustering up the mental strength and the ability to laugh.
To answer the million dollar question…”Where is Jack?” To me Jack is in the warmth of my car after it is has been sitting in the sun all day. He is part of the sound of Kate’s laughter. He is in Dan’s arms as he wraps them around me and in the tears that still fall down my face. He is in my muscles that get me out of bed everyday and especially the muscles that allow me to smile. He is part of that refreshing feeling when you jump in a pool and he is present when we decided to get Hey Cupcake! Cupcakes. He is present when I buy milk and if I imagine really hard and can pretend enough, he is present in a physical sense, crawling all over me and hugging me. He is present when we start laughing about memories of our little boogie, even when they make us laugh so hard we cry. He is in our hearts and minds and picture frames in our house. He surrounds us and reminds us to be better people, better parents, better friends and better lovers because life is so precious.
So… Where is Jack? Jack is more places than he has ever been before and for that, I am so grateful.
And Regis, yes, this is my final answer.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


I find myself watching this 3 second clip over and over. Maybe because I can hear Jack's voice and he is using a word in the right context, maybe it's because he has goofy socks on and no shirt, or maybe it's because he almost hits Murphy as he swings the baseball bat around. Maybe because the baseball set was a gift from his Grandma or maybe because the summer sun is shining down. Maybe it's because this video shows Jack being a child, doing what kids do and not having a care in the world. Maybe it's because when this video was taken, we had no idea how our lives were going to change and the video is truly as innocent as it seems. After playing, we probably went inside, had dinner, had baths, read a story and tucked Jack into bed as always with the promise of a new day pending. Maybe I watch it because I want to go back to that place, a time where one of life's hardest lessons hadn't been taught yet. I feel that I am a better person because of the lesson taught but I wasn't so bad before it either. Had someone told me this summer that I only had so many days left with Jack, I never would have believed it. When I watch this video, the tears fall and all I want to do is grab him out of the screen and smother him with kisses, hear his laughter in my ear and feel him push his way out of my arms because he is a boy and has many more things to do other than be loved on by his mom. There are balls to hit, yuckies to find in the backyard and dogs to harass after all!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What I Know...

The past few months have taught me a lot of things, I still have a long way to go but here are the things that I know...
~People want to talk about their loved ones they have lost. Don't be afraid to ask them about their loved one or share your own story or memory of them.
~You won't harm anyone (in this family at least) by asking "How are you?" or "You have been on my mind lately" or "I really miss Jack" or "I have been thinking about you/Jack/your family." It is a comfort to know we aren't the only people that miss Jack.
~I know that I am open to any question anytime about this whole thing.
~I know that when people tell me that Kate looks more and more like Jack everyday, it makes me happy.
~I know that SOMETIMES wet tears falling down my cheeks feels so good but hugs ALWAYS feel so good from Dan.
~I know that now or ever is NOT the time to tell me to accept Jesus Christ or God into my life. I don't tell others how to do their hair, how to vote or how to live their life, I don't think that others should tell me how I should believe because I have suffered such great loss. Please, let me believe what I do and respect what I don't. As Dan says, "We've never considered ourselves religious, just spiritual."
~I know that hot chocolate chip cookies do make things a lot better.
~I know that 3 years ago today I told Dan that we were pregnant with Jack. It was one of the happiest days of our life. I'd go back and do it all over again if I could.
~I know that life keeps giving me lessons. Sometimes I am tired of learning.
~I know that I'm still figuring out for myself if there is life after death or if your life just ends. If there is a heaven, I know that Jack is safe and happy. If his life and spirit ended several months ago, I know that he had a fantastic life, period!
~I know that it is hiliarious that Jack thought dog poops were called "yuckies" and that he thought every bed my sister slept on had "kitties" under it.
~I know that there isn't enough time to take enough baths, give Kate enough snuggles and to find the right words to convey to Dan how much I appreciate him and love him to accurately reflect what I really mean.
~I know that getting only one child into a carseat is so much easier but then again, I am not afraid of hardwork. I AM chainsaw certified in the State of Oregon!
~I know that I am still finding legos under furniture and it makes me smile.
~I know that I took a risk being a parent...being vulnerable and loving something so much that at times it hurt. I took a risk and the sacrifice was worth it.
~I know that sometimes I am afraid to check on Kate before heading to bed.
~I know that the sound of Kate in the morning, awake and alive is music to my ears, even if she is crying.
~I know that we couldn't do this without friends, family and complete strangers who have lifted us up so high and continue to do so. A million thanks...