I can hardly believe it's been two years....
There are times when it seems like only a breath has passed. Most days though, it seems like you've been gone for so much longer.
I've been thinking for the past month about this day. What would it feel like? How would we handle it? What would we do? Would it be like last year? Would it be better? Would the gaping hole left in my chest subside? And here the day is and I have no answers. It's the wee hours of the day but it's still here. And I see no crystal ball.
I'm sitting in the office. This used to be your room. This was the room where you took your last breath. The room where I last heard that soft whisper "I love my girls". The room where the course of my life was forever altered. I try not to think about those things when I'm in here. I try to remember all the movies, Play-doh, and all the laughs...
Just this week I stood in the kitchen holding Kate's report card. I thought how proud you would be of her. She's absolutely excelling in school. I thought I should share the report card with you. I carried it into the office. Half thinking I would find you sitting in bed and half knowing, I would just file it in the cabinet with all of her other achievements. I reached the cabinet and my knees buckled. The weight of losing you once again being more than I could carry. It's just not fair that you're not here to see this. That Kate doesn't have you to run to, to share these moments. It's just not fair. But, so little in life is. You showed me how to carry on past the not fair.
I know you're with us. We feel you around us every day. It's the calm that keeps us together. You've always been that calm. That absolute constant. Everyone misses it. All your 'brothers', my family, Kate, me... everyone that ever knew you, misses that constant calm. The way you reached inside everyone you encountered and told them they were important and that you cared. The world is seriously lacking that right now.
Our girl...my God, I can't believe how incredibly wonderful she is. Her little heart holds so much of you. Those eyes and that smile... Pure joy. The truest love that has ever existed. She misses you. It astounds me what she remembers of you. I guess she has your memory and not mine. Thank goodness for that. I'm doing my best with her and for her. I think I'm doing ok. And I know you would tell me that I was/am the best mother there ever could be for our girl. I hear your voice every time I feel that sting of mommy guilt for having been a little quick, or a little too harsh, or a little too loud. I hear you tell me, it's ok. I hear you forgive me when I do not want to forgive myself.
I got an idea yesterday (feels like today because I haven't yet gone to bed) that I needed to see what the last two years have been like. I needed to see what separates the "before" and "after". Maybe then I could wrap my brain around the length of time we've been without you in our physical space. So, I hastily threw together a video. A photo montage of what we've been doing. It's not as perfect and polished as I would like. And we both know I could spend about 50 more hours on it. Tweaking, primping, designing, making it perfect. But I've been learning that it's ok for me to not do everything perfectly. I am so very, very flawed and yet, I had the love of the most amazing man. So I'm cutting myself some slack for a change.
The movie hits most of the highlights. All of the family toasting you. Holidays. Birthdays. First day of school. New York City. California. Walt Disney World. And a bunch of the random moments in between. Strangely, I'm most drawn to those random moments in between. Those are the ones where I take the deepest breaths.
We love you so much Baby. We miss you every day. I hope you're proud of us. I'm pretty proud of us.
Today, I will take our girl to Daddy Lake. We'll send balloons to you in heaven. I'll tell her the hot dog story, again. She'll show me again and again how she used to say "Da-da" and "Mommmmm, mommmmm, mommmm". We'll just be quiet in our Daddy space. While our girl goes off to slumber with Grammy and Papa, I'll join your brothers and we'll toast to you. We'll tell all our favorite stories and laugh and laugh. We'll try to carry on the way you would want us to. Chins high. Hearts full of love. Lungs filled with laughter...
We love you. So very, very much.
Always, B and K
I need to say a few things. Some of it probably won't go over well with everyone. Hell, some piece of it will probably piss off everyone at one moment or another. I don't care. I just don't care. I am broken. This world is broken. It's broken and we need to get serious about fixing it. All weekend long, Kate and I talked about the innocent lives that were lost at Sandy Hook Elementary on Friday. She asked questions. I answered them as honestly and as candidly as I could. We discussed mental illness. We talked about violence and guns. She asked her Daddy to hug those children that were lost and now rest in heaven beside him. I fielded questions that no parent ever wants to address. I know I was not alone in that. So many other parents just like me were doing it all over the nation. On Friday evening after learning of the days horrific events I found myself in my bathroom. Staring at myself in the mirror. I thought about all the hardships that have made up my past. Events that people often say "that would never happen to me". My parents house fire, that left 85 percent of their house a charred ruined mess. A fire that hurts more to remember this time of year because it destroyed all of our childhood Christmas treasures. I remembered the months at Rush. The emergency transports in ambulances and helicopters. The years of sleepless nights. Losing what I perceive as my battle with VEDS when I let it take my husband. Being a 33 year old widow. The 3 rounds of invitro, where we challenged every ounce of medical knowledge to create a healthy child that was part Scott and part me genetically. All things that most of society simply can't imagine. Each one of these moments puts me in a group. A group of unique people that can relate to a specific event because they have lived through it. I am not the only person that has been through IVF. I am not the only person who lost their treasures in a accidental fire. I am not the only person who lost their spouse at 33. There are others. We huddle together in cliques. Nodding, smiling and hugging each other. Several new groups of people were made on Friday. Survivor; those that made it out of Sandy Hook Elementary alive. Victims; those that have gone to rest in heaven. Grieving parents; those that will never hear the voice of their child again because of a senseless act of violence. I will never be a part of one of those groups. It was not my child that was lost that day. But as I stood in the bathroom staring at the mirror, I ached. Just as so many others do. I have walked my path but I have not walked theirs. I cannot imagine. Just as others cannot imagine mine. Without thinking, I opened my jewelry drawer. I pulled out the mother and child pendant that Scott got me the Christmas I was pregnant with Katherine. I put it on. I put it on, not only to remind me of my own child but to hold each one of those children that were lost that day. I held it and whispered each child's name. I closed my eyes and mentally wrote their names on the back of my eyelids in big scrawly cursive letters. For that moment I gave each child my undivided attention. I held them in my heart. I wore that necklace all weekend. Frequently touching it and remember one of those innocent babies. This morning as I struggled to get Kate ready for school, she asked if she could wear it. She wanted my necklace. Honestly, I didn't want to share it. I wanted to keep her and all those babies with me as I sent her off on the school bus, to a place that felt so safe just a few short days ago. I asked Kate if she wanted to wear her daddy necklace. I just didn't want to give it up. "I always have Daddy with me. I want you with me today too Mommy." I'm not wearing my necklace now. I put it around her little neck. And as I started to cry, I said to myself "she'll be home soon. Stop it. It would never happen to you." But here's the problem. I'm not naive enough to believe that. It could happen to me. It could happen to all of us. Every parent could find themselves like the parents left grieving the lives lost at Sandy Hook. This is just unacceptable. Flat out unacceptable. We have to accept illness, accidents, random acts of terror from Mother Nature. We do NOT have to accept these random acts of violence. DO NOT! This problem is so multi-layered you simply can't place blame in one spot. The burden and the blame for what happened at Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Columbine and others like them lays in many, many places. I've heard people barking about gun control. I've heard the opposing side bark back "if a teacher had a gun this wouldn't have happened". Here's the reality folks. Nobody needs an assault riffle. Hunters don't need them. People "protecting" their homes don't need them. A handgun, a 22 (for hunting), something larger for extreme hunting maybe. But oozies, and semi-automatic machine guns like the AR-15 used on Friday... there is no place for them. This doesn't mean I want all guns taken away. I believe that people have rights but I also believe that people need to stop being so wrapped up in their "right to bare arms" and start being realistic about what's actually necessary to do the job right. If I've got to put a nail in the wall to hang a picture, I do not need to get out my high-power compressor and pneumatic nailer. A regular hammer and nail will do just fine. Think about what you're trying to accomplish and get the right tool for the job. If your job "requires" (and I use that term loosely because each person feels differently on what is needed) a hand gun. Then there needs to be proper channels, regulations and classes to teach you how to properly use the tool. Your "right" does not, and should not ever, compromise my right to a peaceful existence. You shouldn't be able to whip out your handgun at the mall where I'm window shopping with my 5 year old just because you saw a kid steal a sweater. What kind of harm would there be in limiting serious heavy duty weapons to military and police? What couldn't you do as a regular person with a more typical (arguably less deadly) gun? Beyond that why would any law biding, mentally stable, person resist stronger laws for obtaining proper permits? Why would anyone not intent on doing wrong things object to stricter penalties for those that have guns illegally? I just don't get it. The problem just isn't the guns though. The problem is much, much deeper than that. Mental illness and it's "stigma" are part of the problem too. Why is it so difficult to get someone help? I know first hand the over the top hoops one must go through to get a loved one the mental health they need. I know the fight with insurance companies. I know the out of pocket expenses you're burdened with. I know the whispers, glances, and shock from people when they hear that somebody is struggling with mental illness. Mental illness is an illness just the same as any other. When Kate asked me why someone would commit such atrocious acts, I answered her as honestly as I could "because there was something wrong with his brain that made him so mad or sad that he couldn't see another way to say what he needed to say." Those with mental illness should not hide in the dark. We should acknowledge them, speak openly about ways to help them. Most certainly, we need to make sure that the very, very few of them that are so mentally ill they could commit this type of grievous act, get the attention they deserve and are put some place where they cannot harm others. I'm sure this mother, a victim herself, tried. As we learn more about what type of life this young man had, I'm sure there will be things that show us that she knew something was wrong with her child. Talks to the pediatrician that perhaps got fluffed off. Numerous trips to hospitals, on-line research, reaching out to family and friends... who knows what all this mother did to help her child. I can say positively, and this may anger some, she should have NEVER taken the child she knew to be mentally ill to a gun range. NEVER. That to me is like an alcoholic working at the liquor store. You're just asking for trouble. Here is where I go back to intelligent, gun ownership. No mentally unstable person, even the most docile of them, should be allowed access to weapons. It's so unsafe for everyone, including the person with the illness. This mother and her "right to bear arms" belief taught her very sick son how to load, re-load, aim and nail a target that is shaped like a body. When Kate asked how many kids were in the hospital, the reply of "none" made me queasy. If this young man wasn't as versed in guns and target practice maybe a few more of these innocent babies would be victims recovering in hospital. These shots were obviously direct on target and quick. It sickens me. Where did this mother, who I believe like all mothers was probably trying her best, think this was a good idea? Where did we as a society go wrong, that this mother couldn't tell that this could be a bad idea? We as a society, need to get real about being a good parent. Every parent fails, myself included. We try something and it backfires and we're left going "well that was a bad idea". That's ok. We need to gather our resources and figure out how to correct the problem in a better manner. In a lot of ways, the internet has helped with this. It's so easy to jump on line now and ask other parents what their thoughts are. To find out how others handle it. While one thing may work for one parent and child and not another, we have access to resources that is unparalleled in our history. Every parent is so busy being the "perfect" parent that they don't dare ask. Stop acting perfect. Stop acting like you don't need help. Stop being naive. Stop being proud. Ask for some help. I do not solely blame his parents. Just as I do not solely blame the guns he had access to. It's all of it. Right down to this notion that I'm seeing going around now (Mike Hucakabee being it's chief sponsor) that it's because of the lack of God in schools. That these children need to fear God. I'm sorry Mr. Huckabee, but WHAT? Now more than ever, with all our very diverse religions and beliefs, we need to teach our children love and acceptance of everyone. Not fear. My child does not fear the wrath of God. She does not fear her mothers hands. She did not fear her fathers belt. She does not and will not know what it's like to feel fear from those that are here to love, nurture and care for her. We are here to guide her in her life. Teach her right from wrong. Allow her to make mistakes that won't result in serious harm for her or others. So she can see what happens when. Kate knows right from wrong. She learns something about it every day. It's not because she afraid, repressed or brow beat to learn it. She learns it everyday by watching her actions and seeing the consequences. I'm not a "natural consequences only" parent. Sometimes the consequence of her action comes from my reaction and not just what "may" happen as a result. It's called being a parent. 24 hours a day from the moment she was born until the moment I die, I will be her parent. Sure, I can wear my friend hat and play a game but the second she tries to cheat, I'm correcting her. If she wants to keep up the behavior, the friend cap get ripped off my head and it's all mama. It's endless, tireless, and thankless (most of the time) but that's the job I took. Believe me, correcting my child the night of her fathers death when she did something small, was absolutely brutal for me. I was exhausted, numb, empty and completely drained. Correcting her actions made me feel like the hardest, worst parent ever. But in reality, that was one of my finest moments as a parent. A no jumping on the couch rule exists in my house for a very specific reason. Kate's known it her entire life. Her then 3 year old mind was reeling from the days events and she needed to know where she stood. And guess what, she knew that her mama loved her enough to stick to the rules and make her get down. She knew that even though absolutely everything else was in a spinning vortex of hell, her mother would not let her down. I didn't give her a reason to fear me, I gave her boundaries and consequences. The same unmoving boundaries she's had her entire life. Not just when I feel like it. Some rich, entitled, white mans version of God and how we should fear (or love him, for that matter) does NOT belong in my child's public school. Just the same as an Islamic radical, and their version of God and how we should show our devotion does NOT belong in my child's public school. There are specific schools that teach specific things. If your families believes are as such than please, by all means, send your child to one of those schools. But the public school system (and all it's inefficiencies) is not the place for this. Care, respect for all, tolerance for opposing views, are what the schools need to be teaching and demonstrating. Intensely personal beliefs are best taught, at home, by the teachers that each child should hold in the highest regard, their parents. Teach them at home and they shall carry it with them forever. More God in the schools is not the answer. A police officer in every school... Now that I can get behind. We've got school superintendents making $750,000 a year but schools "can't afford" a $50,000 a year trained police officer? I call bullshit. I live in Illinois, the land of bankrupt, corrupt, school systems, but come on people. The money exists for this if we make it happen. We have to make it happen. We need to stop over paying for supplies and inefficiencies in our school districts and start using the money to protect these kids. Armed guards in banks and jewelry stores no problem. But in schools, no way. Are our children not worth as much as our money and sparkly baubles? Our society needs to wake up. We need to get real and start dealing with all of these issues (and so many others). We need honest debates that are not just "let me shove my personal belief down your throat" conversations. We need to listen. We need to compromise and find middle ground. We need to realize that what might work for me and my personal beliefs may not be the best thing for everyone. These kids deserve so much more from us. I walked into Kate's room tonight to put her to bed and found her searching her book shelf for her nightly story. I suggested we finish another Frog and Toad chapter. She became almost belligerent searching for a specific book. In the end, The Next Place by Warren Hanson, was what she needed. A beautiful book about what we, in this house, call heaven. Mid way through the book, she broke into the most awful sobs I've ever heard from her little body. She misses her daddy. She doesn't understand why twenty little kids her age would be taken into heaven. She doesn't know why she can't go to heaven and be with her daddy too. I held my daughter and wiped away her tears. Rocking her gently and doing my best to ease her troubled mind, knowing I can't answer her questions and I can't keep her safe from the evil in the world. Then it hit me. I get to try. I get the opportunity to do my personal best. There are 40 parents tonight in Connecticut that aren't holding their crying babies. This is unacceptable. Not from this.... We need to do better. We are not collectively doing our personal best. Brandi.out.
You've been gone so long. It gets harder to remember with each passing day. I don't like this part. It hurt to remember some days, always having your voice so close to my ear. But, now...this...I have to search for your voice in my ear sometimes. You're never far when it matters. Baby Girls first day of school, every night when we talk to you, tonight when I just want to sit and cry. You're here when it counts. You always have been. My strong, reliable, never failing love. Our day is coming. 10 years.... It would have been 10 years. What would you have planned for us? How would we have celebrated that first date? The night we talked until the sun rose and our voices failed. The night I knew that I was made to love you. Your nervous Seinfeld impressions.... "I promise I'll stop now." You said I twirled my hair, my nervous habit, I guess. I didn't feel nervous. I felt certain, alive, connected. How should I honor our day? How do I say the things that can't be said anymore? Whatever I do, I promise to pay the bar tab. I won't have the distraction we did 10 years ago. 18 and 10... 18 and 10...
You loved birthdays! You didn't care too much about your own but you loved birthdays in general. A chance to be with family and friends celebrating, sharing, laughing... You loved it. You should be turning 37 today. Kate's been wondering if you get to celebrate birthdays in heaven. She's been wondering about a lot lately. Her little mind is racing with questions all the time. I do my best to answer them honestly but there are times that I just don't know what to say. If you have birthdays in heaven, do you get older? Without all that getting achy, wrinkly, forgetful crap. Or will you always be exactly as old as you were when you died (but restored to a healthy you), like Jack on Titanic? You know only wrote that so I could antagonize you into to saying "Jack, come back" in your Rose voice. That never got old, unlike a few of your jokes. That's the stuff I miss the most these days. Those little details that only we shared. The things that made us, us. I taught Kate the hand squeeze. She does it all the time. Her little hand slips into mine as we walk across a parking lot and there it is, the three little squeezes. If I'm distracted and don't notice, she does exactly what you used to do. She shakes my hand, makes a grunting noise and does it again with a sad, lost puppy dog look on her face. You are ever more present in her everyday mannerisms. I couldn't be happier. We're going to Daddy Lake today. Uncle Joshers is taking us fishing. Kates first time. We went to Daves Bait and Tackle and got Kate line for her reel. Kate loved it there and Dave loved having her there. Future summer job??? Kate asked to send balloons up to you. She sat down with me last night and had me help her write you a note. You're so very alive in our hearts. Dinner at Crandalls with some of the gang. Everyone wants to raise a glass (or broasted chicken wing) to you. Happy Birthday Baby! Always, B.
I didn't know this was published. I wrote it, submitted it, declined the offer to be in the book and moved on. I stopped checking the site sometime ago, not wanting to spend any more time crying. Something made me check today. Dear Photograph
It's been a while since I've written. We talk to you all the time so it seems like I don't have much to say most days. Tonight though, on the eve of our girls 5th birthday, I've found myself with plenty to say. You knew her for almost all of her first three years. But you've missed out on her entire fourth year. You missed out on so much. When I think about how she was when you passed compared to the little girl she is now, I'm overwhelmed. She started swimming. Our girl isn't going to be an Olympic swimmer but she has finally gotten past her fear and insecurities and is making some progress. She puts her entire face in the water but won't quite submerge her entire head. Like somehow it's too much having her face and her ears in the water at the same time. Our kid has quirks thats for sure. It took her such a long time to warm up to her swim instructor. She just couldn't trust her. But now... now things are getting better. It's like she became a new kid when she started skating. Yep, our girl is a skater too now. She hit the ice and never looked back. You wouldn't believe how confident and driven she is out on the ice. It's like skating has given her a huge boost of confidence that's carried over into the rest of her life. Kate has already decided she doesn't want to play hockey and only wants to "dance on the ice like a ballerina". Such a little princess. I think that's because you always treated her like your princess. Boys have also come on her radar. You would be happy to know that she's only interested in being friends with boys. When other kids at school tease her about her "boyfriends" she just shakes it off. I know, I know, I'll keep doing what I can to keep her mind off the boys and focused on more positive things. I'm hoping she'll be too busy with school in the fall to really pay much attention. You wouldn't believe it but she can read. Really read. Nothing complex or too difficult but just a few weeks ago it was like, WHAM she's reading. I can't tell you how much joy it brings me to sit with her for the last 20 minutes before bed and listen to her read the stories to me. I haven't given up my bedtime story book just yet. There is something about snuggling with her and reading a story to her that keeps her little for me. I know if you were here her reading would be better. You had the same intense, calm, intelligence that our daughter does. I think back to all the play-doh time you guys spent together. You taught her to stay quiet, calm and focused. Thank you for that. I struggle every day to be a little more of that for her, it's just not my strong suit. We're working on getting rid of her training wheels on her bike. You never got a chance to see her ride with her training wheels and yet they are already being out grown. We miss you every day. But Baby, don't worry. We're doing just fine. We've got our rhythm and we manage. More laughter than tears. We're doing just fine. Tomorrow I'll give Kate the first of many cards from you. I'll try not to cry when she realizes it's from you. I'll chase away the memories of sitting in your room, in your wheelchair, next to your bed, watching you write those cards. Thank you for writing those. I know it was hard but tomorrow, it will have been worth it. Forget the toys, the cake, the hoopla, the card with your message to her, written by you, will be the best part of the day. We love you. Always, B.