Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Elmo Mafia

When my Dad was packing to come to Austin moments after learning the devastating news, he knew he would need a tie. He looked in his closet and saw a tie that had pool balls all over it. He told himself “This is it! This is what Jack would want me to wear.” Not the most stylish tie and a bit loud but Dad hit it on the spot. Jack certainly would have picked that tie over any other. This story gave us the idea to encourage others to do the same. When we had Jack’s celebration we had posted on the blog for people to wear something bright or fun, something that screamed “Jack!” We encouraged people to pick something out of your closet that Jack would have if he were helping you to get dressed. It was the perfect idea which came from my Dad. We didn’t need anymore darkness that day and the bright colors and fun outfits that people wore were a refreshing change from your typical attire for something of this nature.

I couldn’t believe the outpouring of support and people that came to the celebration. I was afraid too many chairs were set up when we got there and couldn’t believe that people continued to flood in and that there was standing room only. It certainly taught me that if you are ever considering going to a celebration/wake/funeral but are unsure whether you will be received well, you will. Our friends were sweating and working so hard to set everything up, to make it just how we envisioned.

As the celebration was getting ready to begin, I was feeling so nervous. What was going on? What were Dan and I doing here? This was one occasion that I did not want to be the “host” but here we were. We reviewed everything with Pastor Brian and then knew we needed to start. We walked to the front of the pavilion and looked out at everyone that had congregated with us. I was trying to hold myself together and to breathe deeply. I wanted to fall over and then I looked out past everyone sitting in chairs to the little hill that people had to walk down to get to the pavilion. It was like slow motion…a group of Dan’s friends had gone to Wal-Mart earlier in the day and found Adult Elmo Shirts. They were bright red and had Elmo’s face on them. They bought them all. They were all wearing them under their suits/jackets/blazers. It was like the “Elmo Mafia.” In an instant, I was smiling and felt so much better. I thought “People got it!” People understood that we were here to celebrate Jack and his sweet life. People weren’t afraid to go outside the box and knew that we would love it. They knew Jack well enough to know that Elmo was a favorite and were doing something to honor what we had requested. I was so touched by this and 4 months later, often I think of that moment and get a huge smile on my face. Thanks so much you guys…you have no idea how much it meant to me. “Money well spent” is a gross understatement.

Some questions can't be answered by Google

Of all the places you see your name; there are certain places you just don’t ever want to see it. There are the obvious places, on a list of people who are delinquent on their mortgage or America’s most wanted list. You don’t want to see your name on a late payment, a “flight is cancelled” email or a pink slip. But, I can say with the upmost certainty that the last place a parent wants to see their name is on their child’s death certificate. After waiting for 4 months to hopefully have an answer to “What in the world happened to our sweet Jack?” we received what may be the only answer we will receive. It still boggles my mind that I am receiving my child’s death certificate. I should be getting reports of how long his nap was at daycare and how many times he used the potty, how much he ate and new words that he learned. What an entirely different kind of document to get. I couldn’t help but notice that they listed the deceased person’s age on the certificate. Did the person typing in Jack’s information do a double-take? Did they think a number was missing on either side of the number “2?” Did it make them catch their breath and think “Thank God this isn’t my family?”

The Medical Examiner wrote the cause of death as “Pulmonary Hemorrhaging of Unknown Etiology.” Basically, Jack’s lungs filled with blood, causing him to suffocate while sleeping. Some crazy virus took over and reeked havoc. Do we know why/what/how? No, and we probably won’t ever know. The Medical Examiner was hoping that an “expert panel of Doctors” would look at Jack’s tissue to see if they could see something he couldn’t. The Medical Examiner claims that this group kept putting him off and he finally gave up on them. I know that learning more of Jack’s death is only top priority to two people and unfortunately, Dan and I didn’t have the clout we needed or even the opportunity to try to contact this “expert panel” to plead our case. Clearly, this group of doctors never met Jack and had no idea what a vivacious, fun, sweet, crazy little boy he was. If they had, I have to believe they would have done whatever they could to help us solve this puzzle.

Jack’s death continues to be something that no one understands. As frustrating as that is, I can see a silver lining. It was fast and he most likely didn’t have pain. There is no one to blame and nothing could have stopped it. It is a comfort to know that our pediatrician thinks it happened “very fast” and that Jack most likely didn’t suffer at all. I am continually filled with gratitude to Adam Stevenson and Woody Green, the EMS responders who worked tirelessly on Jack for 45 minutes before pronouncing him dead. At the time, we didn’t know that when I found Jack, he had already passed. The responders had to have known this yet fought for Jack as if they were fighting for their own life. This could have been no small task as Dan pleaded with Jack to live in a tone filled with such desperation and I paced the house having no idea what was happening and what to do. Both EMS responders left our house crying which solidified to me that they understood that although Jack was only two, he was as much a person as an adult.

As Jack’s body lost the fight to whatever this virus was that I continue to curse, I hope Jack was having sweet dreams of swimming, cupcakes and sunshine shining on his face while he completed his journey on this earth. It is still amazing to think that as this was happening, I was about 20 feet away, in another room watching Oprah on TIVO and eating a Lean Cuisine pizza, having no idea that my world was falling apart. Dan was downstairs cleaning a vacuum. We live life not knowing what/how/when things could suddenly change. Perhaps this is a good thing as we cannot live in fear and change is not always bad. We must remember to live each moment to the fullest. I have no regrets about my time with Jack. I know that he knew he was loved, adored, respected and cared for in the best way possible for our family. I know that Dan and I didn’t waste a day with our sweet boy…how sweet it is.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


A week or so ago a little girls bike caught my eye outside of a Goodwill. Since we had Jack, Dan and I always look at the bikes at the thrift store, looking for a great find. Not a Huffy or Magna, but a really good quality bike for our kids. The bike that caught my eye was a Specialized brand "Hot Rock!" that was pink in color with dogs on it. I loved that it didn’t have Barbie or Princesses on it and it was in great shape. I wasn’t sure what size it was but knew Kate probably couldn’t use it until she was probably 4 years old. I bought it without hesitation and knew in that moment that I finally had faith that Kate would live… that she would enjoy this bike even if she can’t use it until she is 4. In my reality, my children pass away when they are two. I have been a parent for almost 3 years but don’t know what it is like to have a child older than 2. Since Jack’s passing I have thought that the same will happen with Kate because that is what we know. As each day goes by and I wake Kate from her sweet slumber in the morning, my faith is renewed that perhaps Jack’s passing was a freak thing. We all knew Jack was one in a million, why should his death be any different? I can’t wait to watch Dan teach Kate how to use her bike and to see her ride off into the sunset with a huge smile. I just hope she doesn’t go too far, we’re not ready to let her go just yet.

Tax Break

Today I filled out a form for our tax preparer. It asked for us to list our children and include how long they lived with us in 2009. Stab me in the back and kick me while I am down. An innocent question for most that requires no thought at all was like a dagger in my back. I actually had to think about this question in relation to Jack. This should have been a no-brainer for me, I should have been able to type in “12” and continue on my merry way. As I typed 9 months onto the form, I couldn’t see the screen through my tears. Sometimes the reality sneaks up on you when you least expect it and the gravity of the situation hits you. Thoughts of frustration, sadness, and “Do I really continue to live this reality day in and day out? filled my brain, all because of a tax form. Is there a special tax break for parents who are grieving their child? Do we get an exemption for suffering one of life’s greatest losses? Instead of donating money to a presidential fund on our taxes, can we donate money to prevent this from happening to anyone else? I would like to think we “took one for the team,” that team being all our family and friends but we know we can guarantee no such thing. As we progress though this journey some minutes/days/hours are easier than others but we seem to still be fighting the fight with grief. Darn it…grief won again. Someday I am going to be the winner. I am not giving up yet.