Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Because not EVERYthing is about my grief...

Thanks to The Oatmeal for making me laugh in a totally sick way this morning...

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Heaven's Amusement Park

Kiersten grabbed my hand and dragged me along the white hallway to where the roller coaster was loading up. "Hurry up!" She climbed into the only seat. "Watch me, Mama!"

I watched, smiling, as she went around the short track three, then four times. She laughed, her dark hair flying out behind her. As she got out of the car and ran around to re-enter the non-existent line, she yelled, "Come on with me this time!" I climbed in with her, then noticed she was not sitting in the seat, but floating next to me. She was in some sort of water slide, whooshing along on her back. Laughing, she grabbed my hand again. I felt so happy. Then I remembered.

"You're not real, are you?"

She looked at me briefly, "No Mama. I'm just in your dream."

"So you haven't come back?"

"No, Mama. But we can play for now."

"So I'll wake up and you won't be here."

She nodded. "Uh-huh."

Then she hugged me. I could feel her arms around me, could smell her hair. I felt her in my arms, whole and solid. My joy was transcendent.

"If I know it's a dream, why am I still here? Don't you have to go? Am I awake?"

"Not yet. Let's ride another ride."

Then my alarm went off.

Monday, December 28, 2009

4 lbs., 7 oz.

Kiersten's ashes came home the other day. We had ordered an urn awhile back, a wooden one. I guess we both wanted her to be in something warm -- something that was once alive. Neither of us was happy with what we ordered and we sent it back. S is going to work with his old woodworking mentor and they are going to make an urn together. His mentor is a master wood-turner and I'm certain it will be perfect, however it comes out. This is important to S; he wants to feel like he has a role to play here in making her comfortable.

In any event, the result in the short term is that she came home in a cardboard box. No; not a bag-lady-brown-corrugated-Amana box. It's actually a pretty nice little white box. It has -- wait for it -- a Certificate of Authenticity on the top of it. "Oh look, honey. She's bona-fide!"

It weighs exactly 4 lbs, 7 oz.

I was at once surprised both by how heavy and how light it was. K was a big kid -- just about 100 pounds and just under 5 feet tall. She was, to be honest, too big for my lap anymore, for all that she spent a lot of time there anyway. All that kid reduced to 4 lbs, 7 oz. An entire lifetime of memories in a white cardboard box with a Certificate of Authenticity on the top. Don't ask me why, but this morning I put the box in front of my stereo and played Alice's Restaurant. She loved that song, and there was something about the Certificate that made me think of "twenty-seven eight-by-ten color glossy photographs with the circles and the arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one." I put the song on and I sang along to the singing parts of it while I cleaned up the family room.

And then I put her under the Memory Tree.

4 lbs, 7 oz. Almost inconceivable.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Comfort, perhaps, if not joy.

There is so much I want to write about Christmas, but for a change I cannot find the words.

Christmas eve mass was beautiful and I was profoundly glad to have started my Christmas at the stroke of midnight with such joyful music. I was also glad for my dad and step-mom, who came with me. S was having a terribly hard day on Thursday and I would have gone to church alone if they hadn't driven out to go with me.

I understood why S was so sad. There were so many things that were part of our Christmas tradition that we did not do this year and probably will never do again. No mixing up magic reindeer food (oats, and my own special magic flying powder that looks remarkably like a combination of glitter and corn starch). No leaving out cookies for Santa. No sneaking downstairs after K went to bed to assemble her special "Santa" present. None of it. Just emptiness.

It about devoured S on Thursday. I ached for his hurt, but couldn't really find the words to comfort him. So I just hugged him and let him be for the day. I was all the more thankful for the distraction of midnight mass, however.

Christmas day was really very pleasant. My dad and step-mom, and my in-laws, came over. We made breakfast strata and fruit and muffins. Everyone brought a little of something. The mimosas were consumed in unheard-of quantities and the conversation was upbeat and careful. It was as happy a celebration as we probably could have hoped for. I got some pretty good swag, truth be told, including a totally awesome seedling cart that I can use to grow my herbs and to start all my seeds for spring planting. Daisy Mae made out like a bandit, with more clothing, art supplies, make-up, perfume, and video games than any kid needs or wants.

It's funny; I never understood why the parking lot at the movie theater was always full on Christmas day. Who on Earth would go to the movies when it was primo family time? And yet, there Daisy and I were, standing in line for the 4:50 showing of Sherlock Holmes. Good movie, by the way. I have found that movies do a good job of filling in empty spaces. I guess a lot of people have spaces to fill on Christmas, because the entire theater was packed. I saw two people ask for tickets for a movie, and when they found their choice sold out, they simply took a ticket for the next movie, whatever it was. Like I said, there are apparently a lot of empty spaces out there. I never knew.

The evening found the phone ringing, non-stop. I am again reminded of how blessed we are to be surrounded by so many friends and family who care about us and want to be sure we know we are loved. Incredible. I hope I never take them for granted.

Joy is pretty hard to come by these days. But for a few days there, we had comfort.

Well, lookee there. I guess I had a few words after all.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Memory Tree

When you lose a child, the community mourns with you in ways you don't expect.

The phone rings, and on the other end is always a small voice.

So sorry if I'm disturbing you.

I have something for you. May I stop by?

There are tiny keepsakes from schoolchildren. Meals of rigatoni or chicken. Checks for one of Kiersten's causes.

For most of these things, it's easy to be gracious. I'm always grateful for the food. Never thought I'd be happy to have meals brought to my house, but I'm so exhausted all the time right now that a meal I don't have to cook is always a good meal. The checks allow me to focus on the work that Love-A-Stray and the zoo are doing.

Yesterday was different. Two families of Kiersten's classmates brought over dinner and Christmas cookies. But they also brought over two things I didn't expect. The first was a prayer quilt that their church had made. The second was a memory tree.

They had collected thoughts about Kiersten from each of her classmates, and had placed them on a large cut-out Christmas tree, with the pictures of each classmate who had written something.

I couldn't look at it while they were there. I had to fight to keep from crying. We talked about the dogs. I asked the girls about their letters to Santa (which earned me a nervous laugh, like they weren't sure if I actually knew -- you know -- about Santa). We talked about the zoo and the animal shelter and the church. I had to fight to stay on an even keel; to talk when I wanted to scream.

Then they left as Kiersten's friend, Serena, came over. She was K's best friend. We had made plans to make popcorn mix, like we have for the last three years. I also wanted to give Serena some of Kiersten's things that would be meaningful to Serena.

It was a great visit until it was time to go. Losing your child also means losing that child's friends -- children who used to fill your house with laughter and love. You're left with only echoes and memories.

Late last night, I looked at the memory tree. Fourth-graders are wonderful.

Ashley: Kiersten loved animals.

T.J.: Kiersten loved everybody!

Sarah: She was my first friend.

Hannah: She was my best friend.

Jillian: Kiersten was beautiful.

Maeve: Kiersten was courageous.

Jonathan: Kiersten was the most loveable person I've ever known.

Yes, Jonathon. Yes, she was.

I miss her so much.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Dear Bug,

Dear Bug,

Today I actually went out and had some fun. I visited with Grandma Laura this morning; we went and did a bit of Christmas shopping. Then we went to Uncle Joe and Aunt Kate's house where we met Uncle Peter and Aunt Christy and we went to see Avatar. It was a totally awesome movie. I have to admit, though, that Daddy and I both felt a little bit guilty enjoying it -- you wanted to see that movie so much. I remember that, just before we left to go skating, you were watching the trailer for Avatar on my computer. Well, it was just as good as you thought it was going to be. I hope you got to see it, too.

It was good to be out with friends. It's kind of funny -- so many people have gotten to know each other better through their love of you. You were put here to make people love each other, I think. I just wish that you didn't have to go to make that happen.

Last night, I went back to the skating rink. I had to do it -- part of me was afraid that you were stuck there somehow, and I just had to be sure. But you weren't there. It was just a skating rink; it wasn't scary and I didn't feel sick or anything. I know it wasn't the rink's fault you left us there. But it was the last place I saw your beautiful smile and heard you laugh. It made me miss you so very much.

You would be so surprised and happy to see how many people sent in donations to Love-A-Stray for the kittehs and to the Zoo for the Gharial. Lots of them are from people we don't even know. But because they thought you were so special, they are making sure that you will be the gharial's mom for the next 20 years! And that's not all. Because of you, the people at love-a-stray will have enough money to take care of 25 extra cats this year. All because of you, Baby.

I managed to go all day today without crying. I feel a little bit guilty about that. But I still miss you every minute. It just doesn't hurt quite as bad today.

I love you and I miss you, Bug.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Lift Up Your Voice

There are two means of refuge from the misery of life - music and cats.

~Albert Schweitzer

Last night, I went to choir practice at church for the first time in 20 years.

The first ten years, I missed because we hadn't found a church that made us feel at home. The second ten years, I missed because I didn't want to take time away from Kiersten.

It took about 15 seconds for the rest of the choir to figure out that I was "that" Mrs. Sump. You know; the one who just lost her little girl. Poor thing; I don't think I could be here. They welcomed me with hugs and assurances that I would do just fine, and whatever I could do, I could do, and don't worry; most of the rest of the altos don't know the parts for the Christmas Concert pieces either.

The compassion and pity was a bit overwhelming. It felt condescending. I thought I might have to leave. It was that hard to be there.

The reason I had come there in the first place was that I had made an agreement with Father Charlie. In a completely unconventional moment, he made a confession to me, while I was making my confession prior to Kiersten's funeral: "I've never done this before. I've been a priest for 30 years, and I've never had to bury a child like this before. And you can see grace here and I just see evil. I don't know how to do this." And then he started to cry. I had made him promise me, then and there, that he would not cry during Kiersten's eulogy. "I have to follow you up there, and if you cry, I'm going to cry and then I won't be able to talk, and we'll never get through this. So you can't cry up there." We pinkie-swore that we'd hold each other together.

He almost lost it. I heard his voice catch at the beginning of the eulogy, but he paused, calmed himself and rose to the occasion. It was a beautiful, heartfelt, uplifting tribute and I was extremely grateful for his words and his strength. I caught him afterward. "I thought I lost you for a minute there."

He smiled. "You owe me, now. You have to join the choir."

So there I was, promising the group that if I couldn't find my way well enough through the music, that I would not embarrass them by actually singing at the Christmas prelude. And then the actual rehearsal started and it was like riding a bicycle. All the music came back, and I found myself lifted up and comforted by the words, the technical points, the joining together of voices in praise. We floated through the Christmas portion of The Messiah and an adaptation of Greensleeves that was new to me but just lovely. Lots of traditional carols that I knew as well as my own name. I struggled with two a capella pieces, but I think I can master those in the next ten days. I found that I really hadn't forgotten how to do this, and for two hours, my heart was glad.

As we broke up, they all came and hugged me again, but differently this time. This time, it was in welcome. "That's a helluva set of pipes you have there, sister," The director winked at me. "I think this is going to be a good thing for us all."

I think so, too.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

And another farewell

My friend, Debbie, left this morning to drive down to Florida and start a new chapter of her life. It wasn't easy for either of us to say goodbye, especially given the circumstances of the last few weeks.

Debbie first came into our lives in October 2000, when we hired her to help with housecleaning. I was a first-time mom and working a lot of hours and made a decision that I just couldn't work and take care of a baby and keep my house clean. Having someone else clean my house felt like the most decadent luxury ever. It took about two weeks, however, to decide that paying someone to clean was the best money I spent every month. I felt like I had gained a big piece of sanity.

More importantly, however, in Debbie, we all gained a friend and a confidante. There is a bond you form with someone who knows where all your messes are hidden that transcends age or background. With Debbie, though, it was a different kind of bond. We quickly settled into a pattern of easy banter over the kitchen table, where she felt free to hand out parenting advice and we felt free to trade recipes and fitness tips.

Over time, Debbie stopped being someone we hired and started being a member of the family. She came over to help put the house together the day before Thanksgiving every year, staying after for sandwiches and drinks. We always invited her to join us for Thanksgiving dinner. She always said no, but she always showed up anyway, usually just after dinner, to hang out and drink coffee and nibble desserts.

She's been with us through all of our ups and downs, as well as her own. We've become "go to" people for each other. When my mom broke her leg and moved in two years ago, Debbie was there to be her friend when she was lonely and everyone else was at work or school. When Debbie had personal crises of her own, she would call and we'd be there for her. She shared my love of hard work, and valued wisdom, and she had proved to be one of the most trustworthy and honest people I've ever known.

In the last year, her sister and mother have moved down to Florida, however, and she's felt a bit adrift. About three months ago, she made the decision to join them. It was time, she decided, to move on and open a new chapter of her life. We've been dreading her leaving, sad to lose our friend and scared that we'd finally have to figure out how to clean this house! But we supported her and wished her well. And this year, on the last day my family as I knew it was still complete, Debbie finally joined us for Thanksgiving dinner. It is a day that will live in my heart forever.

In losing Kiersten, we all came to realize anew how very important Debbie was to us. She was there when Kiersten was born, and she helped up bury her when she died. She spent a lot of time with Kiersten. She was there to kibbitz with homework or to take time out to play Nintendo when K got bored. When Kiersten died, Deb was at the house at 8:00 the next morning, ready to do whatever we needed, even though her hurt ran almost as deeply as our own.

It was Debbie who ran interference with reporters when they arrived at my door unannounced. It was Debbie who sat up with me the second night when I thought I might never sleep again. It was Debbie who made sure the house was locked up and secure when we weren't there. I will be grateful to her forever for being there when I needed someone the most.

Our goodbye on Sunday was an exceptionally sad one. She almost tried to stay and I almost begged her to. I told her that, if she decided once she got down there that it wasn't the life she wanted, that she would always have a home with us. And I meant it. I doubt she'll ever come back; it's not in her nature. But I hope that someday we'll see her again.

Good luck Debbie. I'll miss you.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Leaning into the pain

I read a website yesterday that suggested you should "lean into the pain" while grieving. I found it an interesting directive. But I think I like it.

I've had contacts from others, locally and nationally -- mostly other mothers -- who have lost their children. They have given me dates like 1996 and 2000 when their precious little ones left them. Their grief still seems fresh in their writing. I am devastated for them -- as my husband said the other day, "This is NOT a club anyone wants to belong to", and frankly I'm frightened for myself. As much as I will miss Kiersten with a big part of my heart forever, and as much as I am profoundly sad that I will not have her in my life anymore, the prospect of continuing to grieve in this paralyzing way for another 13 years is scaring the crap out of me.

It's easy to find escapes from pain; drugs, risk-taking behavior, games, even work -- but I think that failing to "lean into the pain", might keep us from conquering it, or at least co-existing with it. I think "leaning into it" means to feel it, not just on the surface, but to meld with it, make it part of us, and to find it a home where it can exist and not cause us ongoing damage. I think I mentioned in an earlier post once that stress, pain, exhaustion can soften us at times; make us more open to change, allow us to accept that things are not what they once were.

It hurts to lean into the pain. It makes me cry and rage and at times to struggle to stand perfectly still, like a captain trying to steer a ship through a buffeting hurricane. But each time I do it, each time I let the pain pass through me, it seems to change in a subtle way. Maybe in time, it will not hurt as much.

BHD said the other day, "This is not your story." The parents who stop living and continue to grieve for years stretching into decades are not my story. But I think it will take a continual "leaning into the pain" for awhile to make sure of it. I'm not looking forward to it. But I think this is what I will have to do.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Act 2, scene 4

And we move on to anger...

Tonight there was a nation-wide ceremony to honor and remember children of all ages who are missed by parents, grandparents and siblings. At 7:00 pm, we were to light a candle and remember our lost loved ones.

So I lit a candle. And I put an electric candle in the Bug's window, where I intend to keep it until I finally accept that she's not coming home.

But no words would come. Mr. Bean and Daisy Mae couldn't talk either. We all just stood there and stared at the candle.

And then I got angry.

I went to K's room and just screamed at the walls. I grabbed at pillows and stuffed animals, trying to find some trace of her somewhere. I paced the room like a caged animal, desperate to find an escape hatch. I laid on her bed and raged and cried until I thought I would break open and melt into the sheets. I willed myself to shatter into a million pieces and blow away. Why, I screamed. Why, why, why did you make me love her so much, if you were just going to take her away?! I never wanted to have kids to begin with! I was totally ambivalent about parenting! Why did you teach me to love being a parent so much if you weren't going to let me keep doing it??? Why did you make her so good if she wasn't going to stay??? WHY???!!!!!

The pillows, the walls, the stuffed animals, the Pokemon posters -- all, predictably, said nothing. The candle continued to flicker, silently and patiently, on the table. The cat regarded me with crooked-headed curiosity.

My rage melted into exhaustion.

So this is anger.

And it's ALL small stuff.

I've learned some important lessons over the last two weeks. One of them is this: No matter how hard you try, you can't control for everything.

I say this, because I have a very dear friend who is really experiencing some hard times, due to the owners of the adjoining property having installed a natural gas well quite near to her property line. Here in Ohio, there is a tremendous natural gas field in the shale about 100 feet down. It's not easy to extract: they have to use a process called "fracking", which pumps a lot of water into the shale to let the gas out.

But the point of this is not about the gas extraction process; rather, it's about her reaction to it. It's been negative, to say the least, and with good cause. She's become an activist. She's undertaken an aggressive lobbying campaign at the state level, has written editorials and given interviews about the violation of property rights and some of the perceived dangers involved in this drilling process. All good, positive, absolutely understandable reactions to what really is an unfair situation. But she's also declared her home "uninhabitable", and has moved her family out, and is trying to sell it very quickly for what will undoubtedly be a fire sale price.

I'm not insensitive to her concerns. To be fair, there have been a small number of adverse events over the past several years associated with these gas wells, and there is a potential for some release of toxic run-off from these wells. That's a given. But she perceives the risk to her children as immediate and extreme. The stress she's created around this is ruining her health and will doubtless ruin all of them financially.

I want to take her by the hand and tell her that yes, there is clearly some risk involved in having these gas wells on the adjacent property. And yes, if she doesn't like it, she should work to sell her property. But there are risks in everything that we expose our kids to: driving in the car with us, going to school, eating food. And that, no matter how hard we try to keep our children safe from harm, at the end of the day, we may lose them to something immediate and completely outside our control.

I want to tell her to relax; of course she should work toward selling the house if she's uncomfortable, but that she needs to put her risks in perspective and not create more strife and upheaval than the situation warrants. They can live in the house. They can celebrate the holidays. They can still live their lives with joy.

I don't know; maybe my perspective is skewed right now. I think losing your child to a condition that is as common as being struck by lightning might do that to you. But I believe our lives are too short and too precious to waste days, or hours, or even minutes, to worry.

I love her a lot and I need to figure out how to help her find some peace.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Undone by the Giant Eagle

Note: Despite my stated need to step away from the keyboard, I'm still compulsively communicating. If you want happy-peppy, it ain't here.

I have a confession to make. I’m a control freak.

My husband will tell you that I have a need to control nearly every variable of my life. I don’t think it’s that extreme, but I do insist on being in control of my conduct and my emotions. My mother has always been stoic to a fault, and I have inherited her tendency toward carefully measuring my reactions to situations. I’m not always successful, and I’m always angry with myself when my emotions get the best of me.

As you might expect, I’m struggling with the grieving process.

I will admit to being largely unfamiliar with grief until now. I have lost all four of my grandparents, and the parents of several friends over the years, but these deaths were expected and my ability to cope with them was orderly and predictable. Sadness was intense for a short while, to be certain, but was for the most part confined to the traditional period of mourning. I have missed my grandfather rather acutely at times, and I have had periods of grief over several miscarriages over the years. But these periods were short-lived and I bounced back pretty quickly.

The struggle I am currently having is new territory for me. I keep thinking that I can reason my way through this – set aside a good chunk of time each day to cry and miss the Bug and indulge my need to grieve without courage, and then function the rest of the day. Seems reasonable, doesn’t it? It’s not that I can’t or won’t let myself go through this process. It’s just that I am desperate to start to move on in at least part of my life. I know that my grieving won’t bring Kiersten back. And I still have things I have to do on a daily basis.

My mind, body and heart are not sticking with this program, however. I fall asleep at the drop of a hat. I would sleep now, if I could get horizontal. I can’t concentrate on even the smallest of things. I leave pans on the stove. I forget people’s names. I find myself unable to add simple numbers or spell third grade vocabulary words.

But what I mostly do is cry at completely nonsensical, inopportune times. It’s just that everything, everything, everything reminds me of Kiersten. She lurks behind every corner. I hear her name in every song. Night before last, I came across one of her jackets. In a moment of desperation, I grabbed it out of the closet and buried my face in it, hoping beyond hope that I would be able to smell her in the fabric. I couldn’t, of course. And I was just devastated.

I can accept some of this. I expect to find her in the house. I expect to see a hundred little reminders a day, as I pass her room, or find her toys under the couch. I can accept this. What I wasn’t prepared to accept was the emotional reactions I would have to public places.

Today, it was the grocery store. S and I went to the grocery store today to pick up a few things. Today was a bad day to begin with, and he thought the fresh air would help me. And in fairness, he warned me that the grocery store was a tough place to be. I just didn’t believe him.

Walking through the door and being faced with the produce section, I understood why he had warned me. The Bug loved vegetables. Each time we went in, she would rush to check out the red peppers, the cucumbers, the asparagus. Trips to the store were always fun when we were together and feeling how much she was not there was overwhelming. I spent the entire shopping trip in tears. She was missing from every inch of the store. I almost ran out. It didn’t make sense at first. Why the grocery store, of all places?

Why, indeed? The Dalai Lama once said, “Sometimes, the simple act of bringing food to another person is the most profound act of love we can express.” Nowhere is this more evident than when we feed our children. As a mother, it is the very first thing we do for our newborn babies. Their first moments of life are spent against our breasts, and there is not a day that goes by thereafter when we do not concern ourselves with the act of bringing them food. So I guess it makes sense that the grocery store would be a place to miss her acutely. It just surprised me so much at the time.

It was enheartening to have a day yesterday that gave me a glimpse of what the “good” days will be like. And it was equally disheartening to have today be so bad in contrast. I’m just afraid of how many more of these places I will encounter, and how often the simplest things will leave me undone.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

I almost feel like me.

I lasted about 4 hours at work yesterday. I'm probably only going to last 4 hours today. I get exhausted easily.

But I actually feel OK, for the first time since we lost the Bug. I'm getting some work done, I managed to crack a joke or two with my co-workers, I accepted a speaking engagement for Ireland in June. I even talked S into accompanying me down to Florida for a conference I need to attend in January.

Last night, while we were picking out urns for K's ashes (talk about a morbid activity), we took note of these little mini urns, they call "keepsakes". This disturbed me for some reason. Are these supposed to be travel sized? I wondered aloud if we should put some of K's ashes in there and take it with us wherever we went, so we could take pictures of her in all these different places. "You know, like the Stanley Cup."

First, I was horrified that I'd made the joke.

Then I laughed.

I feel like myself again today. At least for today. Tomorrow might be different.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The new normal

I'm going back to work, at least for a few hours, today. There is just too much piling up there.

Step one in figuring out what our new "normal" will look like from here on in, I guess. Going to take it as slow and as part-time as I can, for now.

Yesterday was a tough day. The world hasn't slowed down; Christmas is on the minds of most everyone. I just can't get there right now. It's just too hard.

I've said elsewhere on the web that I need to transition from a public and shared mourning period to a less public time of grieving. Grief is not a spectator sport, so it may be pretty quiet here for awhile. It needs to be that way.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Today is Saturday

Daisy Mae's birthday was a celebration. We needed, for just a few hours, to remember that life is still worth celebrating, even if there is a hole in your heart. As has been a constant over the last eight days, we were surrounded by friends and family. Joe and Kate and their girls. Heidi and Bill. Christy and Peter. Joyce. Laurie and Bill, and their beautiful kids. I had a 4-year-old on my lap for awhile last night. I hope I get more of those moments. They help.

Without these friends, I would never have survived to this point. I know I wouldn't have. My family, and Steve's, have also been a constant and I am deeply grateful for them. But your friends are your friends. They choose you, and they choose to stand beside you. And I am so very, very deeply blessed to have them in my life.

Today I will see my sister. I've written about her before. She has come back, at least for now, and she is also a solace and a blessing. There have been a small number of genuinely good things to have come from losing my Bug, and that is one of them. I will not look into the future and tell you what is to come; but for today, I have a sister again, and that makes me happy.

Today is Saturday. Eight days. They seem like a blink and a lifetime, all at once. I guess that's what it's supposed to be like.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Today is Friday

Yesterday, we sent our beautiful little girl off for her next adventure. We were surrounded by friends and family, and held aloft by their love, for her and for us.

It was strange; the night before, I got a text message. It was being propagated through the schools, asking people to dress in pink for Kiersten yesterday. It was fitting for her, and I was touched.

It also made me realize that the service we had planned for Kiersten really didn't reflect who she was. I made a decision to try to fix that. I found a passage from Cats that she loved, and read that as a reflection. I think she would have liked it.

We were also pleased and honored to have many friends from across the country come to honor Kes. Gosh, it was a lot of driving for all of them. I was so grateful for their love and support. I wish it had been for a better reason and that we had had more time to talk.

Several friends and family members came back to the house, and drank and shared fun stories. It was a huge comfort.

I'm tired now. The exhaustion is setting in. But today is H's birthday and we need to try to restore some normalcy to her life.

Today is Friday. And after that, we'll decide what comes after that.

Enjoy the ride, little Bug. You were the greatest blessing any parent could ask for.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Today is Tuesday.

Today is Tuesday. The news people stayed away today, although we were told that Thursday might be a bit tough in that regard. Visitation this evening. Three hours felt like a lifetime, but we got through it.

Seeing her in the casket was not as terrible as I thought, and she was surrounded by her stuffed animals at the beginning of the evening, supplemented by tiny toys and thoughts from her friends by the end. She looked beautiful, even if she wasn't in that body anymore.

I didn't cry tonight. Oddly, I didn't even want to. My job was to comfort all the hundreds of people who came through, and that job, in itself, gave me comfort. There were quite a few of her classmates who came through, most of them wondering what happened to her. We were lucky enough to have a cardiologist friend explain her death to us in a way that makes sense to tell a fourth grader. We will plant a tree at the school in the spring, to help them have a place to go to talk with her. It was good to have that to tell them. I think it helped, in a small way.

Services are all planned for Thursday; everything is arranged. All that is left is tomorrow's marathon. Gosh, tonight we had more than 200 people in 3 hours. Tomorrow night will be twice that. I'm going to need a conveyor belt.

I talked with Kes tonight after everyone left. I told her she'd be touched by all the people who were here tonight. Her friends were very brave and her family focused on her incredibly bright spirit. A dear friend told me the other night that firecrackers can't burn forever, and he's right. But the bang Kiersten is leaving behind will last a long time I think.

It is late. Tomorrow will be a tough day. Time for sleep.