Monday, May 2, 2016

Coincidence?

As many of my followers know, my sister-in-law Jennifer passed away on April 22, 2016.   She had been battling metastatic colon cancer since October 2011.  The month before her passing, the family had taken turns to care for Jen.  She had pretty much been confined to her bedroom and was unable to care for herself towards the end.  The last day that I helped to care for her was on Thursday, April 21st.

While we were with Jen on that last day, the hospice nurse came to assess Jen.   The nurse introduced herself to me and Jen's other sister-in-law, Jenny.  The hospice nurse tells us tat  her name is Michelle.  Michelle was filling in for Jen's usual nurse just for that day.  As Michelle is talking to Jen, I start recognizing her calming voice.  Hmmm, "Michelle", I think to myself.  I know this person, but how?  At this point, Erick and Jenny were helping Jen with something so I tell Michelle that she looks familiar to me.  She tells me that I also look familiar to her.  "Did you work at Pitt", I asked her.  "I worked at the Asthma Research Center", she replies.  Well, what do you know.  I was her Research Manager 13 years ago!  We hugged and she asks the usual things, are you still living in Edgewood, are you still working at Pitt......  that then leads to why I resigned from Pitt - Olivia's death.

After Michelle assesses Jen by listening to her heart and taking her blood pressure and temperature, we head downstairs with Michelle so the tJen can get more rest.    Michelle sits at the kitchen table with us to give her "report".  It wasn't the report that we wanted to hear.

Let's back track now 13 years prior to this.  April 25, 2003, I'm at work and my ankles are swollen due to being 37 weeks pregnant.  I waddled over to the clinic and asked our research nurse, Michelle to take my blood pressure.  It was fine.  Who knew that about 12 hours later, Olivia would be born.  Too soon but there she was.

Michelle would eventually be laid off from her position at the Asthma Research Center due to lack of funds.  I never saw her again until April 22, 2016.  She assessed Jen for the first  and last time as Jen would pass away 12 hours later.  Too soon......

Why was Michelle brought into our lives twice?  Coincidence or does her presence have a purpose?  I can't help but wonder.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

August 2011

One of the best things that I ever did for both Olivia and now Ainsley is sign them up for zoo camp in the summer.  Zoo camp is a one week long day-camp where the kids get to be at the zoo for a full day and go behind the scenes  of the zoo.  It really came in handy for me when I was working back in 2011.



Because I was off every Friday, I promised Olivia and Ainsley and I would come down to meet her after zoo camp was over and we'd walk around the zoo until daddy was done with work.  My mom agreed to drive me and Ainsley down to the zoo after Ainsley woke up from her nap.  

At 3pm, we pulled up at the zoo and the sky was turning a very dark, ominous color.  I put Ainsley in the stroller and pushed her up to the ticket gate.......  hello rain.  OK, that's ok.  Then came the thunder and frequent lightning strikes.   I rushed into the elevator to get up into the zoo.  When the doors opened, people were rushing out of the zoo and into the elevators.  I decided that I would try to run about 100 feet to the gift shop.  I took one step and a lightning bolt blocked me from my path.  OK, now i'm getting nervous.  I got back into the elevator and it took us down to ...... well, nowhere.  I had no where to go once I was off of the elevator except for the shelter that was provided by the escalators.  Ainsley, eating her fruit snacks,  never made a peep.  We huddled under the large METAL escalators while a violent storm was passing over us.  Not only was a scared by the storm, I kept thinking of the movie Jurassic Park.  At some point the power was lost.......  did the animals escape from their designated areas?  Creepy.  

Finally, after a good half an hour, the storm let up.  Ainsley and I went back into the elevator and made our way into the zoo in search of Olivia.  I was still a bit spooked about my Jurassic Park thoughts at this point but we made our way to the education building where all of the zoo campers were being held until the storm was over.  As soon as Ainsley and I opened the door, Olivia came running up to us and wrapped her arms around me so tightly.  The zoo camp counselor whispered to me that Olivia was very nervous.  The counselors told all of the kids that the moms and dads were all waiting for their kids in the safety of their cars.  This did not satisfy Olivia.  Olivia said, "But my mom doesn't have a car."  She was truly concerned about me.  What a sweetheart.  

We safely made it out of the zoo to the comfort and safety of Erick's car.  However, the afternoon wasn't all happy endings.  A local mother and her two daughters were caught in the same storm.  She and her daughters were in the comfort of their car but the storm brought such heavy rains that her car was sweated away from flood waters on a road that was adjacent to the zoo.   She and her daughters lost their lives that day.  I can't tell you how many times I think of this story and think of this mother's fear, the two young lives gone way too soon, and then......  after Olivia's passing, I think the worst - I had wished that would happen to me.  I wish that I would have died on that boat.   But then I think for how heartbroken I have been since 2012, I would never want Olivia and/or Ainsley to feel the pain that I do.  So, I continue to LIV Strong.  

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Anniversary

Tomorrow will be four years since my sweet Olivia took her last breath.  March 23rd will always be a date that will burn in my brain.

Five years ago, March 23rd meant nothing.   It was just an ordinary day.  I probably went to work and Olivia went to her second grade classroom.

Today, March 23rd churns up terrible memories.  It's a day that changes the lives of so many people.  Not only me, Erick, and Ainsley have been traumatized my the death of Olivia but so have my Uncle and my cousin and my dad who were all of the boat with me and Olivia that dreadful day.

March 23, 2012 will be an anniversary of such profound sadness.

What I find myself thinking of is that it's been four years ago that I had a hug, a kiss, a "mommy, guess what?' from that sweet little girl of mine.  It's been four years since we've heard her sweet voice and laughter.  Four years since she played in the backyard with her baby sister.  Four years ago since we said our bedtime prayers.

Next year will be five years, then six, and then seven.  I don't even want to think about how this will feel ten years from now.

How I long for those days back.

The problem with March 23rd is that it's inevitable.  I can't keep it from coming but I can make it something different.  tomorrow, we will gather with our close friends have have a lantern launch sending our love up to Olivia.

We'll light the sky just like she lit up our hearts.


Monday, March 14, 2016

Starting off our week with a bang..... or maybe a bump.

Today was any typical Monday morning at the Wade house.  We're all a little tired because it IS Monday after all and it's that first full day after day-light savings time.  Rain is now adding to our tired morning so I let Ainsley sleep in for another 10 minutes.

I opened her door to notice that her room was still so dark due to the clouds and the change in time.  I rubbed her belly and she woke up with hardly any trouble.  I continued to do my normal morning routine and headed out to the kitchen to turn on the coffee maker.  After a few minutes, I noticed that I didn't hear Ainsley so I went back into her roman she was still laying in bed.  No big deal, we have time......  Erick drives her to school so there is no concern about catching a bus.

Finally, she gets out of bed and goes potty.  I poured her a bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats (with Almonds) and she sat at on the floor in the living room by Erick to eat.  Penny cuddled up right next to her to do a little begging.  I did notice that Ainsley only ate half of her bowl, which is unusual because she LOVES this cereal and on most mornings she'll ask for a refill.  I didn't think much of it because we're all tired.  I know that when I'm tired, eating breakfast isn't my top priority.

Erick takes her to school and then returns home because he decided that he would work form home today.  He does a little work and then I ask him if he wants to get out of the house at all today.  I wanted to walk around at our local mall so he agreed to drop me off and he would run some errands.

I walked the mall for about 30 minutes then entered the store Justice.  I'm usually not a Justice shopper but I thought I'd try something different.  I was looking for birthday gifts for my niece but of course got side tracked by some really cute clothes for Ainsley!

Then.......

My cell phone rings.......

It's a number that looks like Ainsley's school.

"Hello?"

"Hi Mrs. Wade.   It's Amy from the Nurses Office."

Now, if you're a parent, you know that call is always one that stopes your heart for a bit.  

"Ainsley was on bathroom break and she slipped on water while in the bathroom and she hit her head on the floor.  She has a red mark on her head.  She's stopped crying.  Her pupils look fine."

Seriously?

I asked if Ainsley wanted to stay or come home.  She wanted to come home.  I called Erick to see where he was in his errand duty and told him that he needed to pick up Ainsley from school.  I'm now in a full on panic.  The worst possible is running through my head.  I'm walking through JCPenney in tears.  Not having control over a situation sucks.  I decided to call Ainsley's doctors office to speak to a nurse.  I told her the story and she proceeds to tell me what to look for......  drowsiness, fatigue, vomiting, and don''t let her sleep until an hour after the bump.

Erick picked up Ainsley then they picked me up at the mall.  Ainsley is in her seat practically falling asleep!  Erick NEVER thinks the worst so he's calm.  I told him what the nurse had told me so we decided to head over to LOWES to walk around.  Ainsley is sitting in the cart and has chills and wants to sleep so I PANIC!  I can't handle this.  I called and got her  an appointment for NOW.

Long story, really short!  Ainsley actually had a temperature of 100 which was just coincidental to the head bump.  She doesn't have a concussion but it was enough trauma to my psyche.  I'm up waiting to go in and check in on my sleeping angel to be sure she's ok.

Ainsley is thrilled that she's staying home tomorrow because she can watch movies.  Now, that's the girl I know.  Same response Olivia used to give me on sick days.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

A kind soul

There are some conversations that just seem to stick in your brain for a lifetime. I have one that I had with Olivia when she was in 3rd grade (the last grade that she would attend).
Every night at bedtime, I would kneel next to her bed while she would say her prayers and we'd talk. Some talks were attempts to just stay up a little later but others were true heart-to-hearts, questions of life, friendship dilemmas, and addressing issues that arise on the school bus.
Some kids that sat in the back of the bus had learned that sticking up your middle finger was bad. It was disrespectful. I don't know if they knew what it actually said but they knew that it meant something wrong. 
Olivia was troubled by it because sticking the finger up in the air was sticking up to where God was. It was suggested to her to simply turn your hand upside down.  
Olivia didn't like that solution because the middle finger was then pointing toward loved ones that were buried in the ground.......
What a respectful little girl she was.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Happy Birthday Ainsley

Day 5 in our new chapter of life.  The life we now have to journey through with baby steps, one step at a time, one breath at a time, one hour at a time.......

March 28, 2012.  It's Ainsley's 2nd birthday and in all honesty, it's not very happy at all.  I think deep down inside, Ainsley herself felt that it's not very happy but we all try our best.

It's a Wednesday, a day that Erick and I would be going to work, Olivia to school, and Ainsley would be going to day care.  But instead of Olivia going to school, her body would be on a plane and would arrive back in Pittsburgh.  For several months after this day, I would look up at airplanes flying over me and think of her lifeless body on an airplane, cold and alone.

We decide to keep things as normal as possible today for Ainsley so we get ready and we take Ainsley to day care but a few hours late.  Just as Flo had made cookies for Olivia when she turned two, Nancy had made cookies for Ainsley to take to day care.  Nancy, Flo's daughter, kept the tradition going by baking cookies shaped like the number 2.  Erick, Ainsley, and I  drove down to day care to celebrate Ainsley's birthday with her teachers and classmates.  The teachers had all learned of our tragedy but it's still so awkward at this early stage to walk into a room knowing that everyone knows our loss.  Everyone sings "Happy Birthday" to Ainsley but the lump in my throat is overwhelming me so I'm whispering it as Ainsley sits on my lap and Erick is taking pictures of this, what should be joyous, day.

Later that day, we went into Olivia's room with Ainsley and reached underneath her bed to grab the birthday present that she had waiting for her precious baby sister.  It was the Sing-a-ma-jig that Olivia bought a few weeks earlier.  There it was, in a gift bag, with a card that was decorated and signed by Olivia and Hannah.  "This little light of mine"would be sung when you pressed the Sing-a-ma-jig's belly while it's mouth moved.  What an appropriate song to give to her cherished little sister.  Olivia was so excited for Ainsley to turn 2 but she would miss this day and every other birthday to come.

Family and friends start to arrive at our house once again and one of my friend's aunt bought a cake for us to all continue to celebrate Ainsley's big day.   I didn't even think to have a cake. Once again, the generosity and thoughtfulness continues from all around us.




I have no idea how we can mustard up a smile but we did.  Trust me, it's completely forced.  

We continue to celebrate like it's any other normal birthday.  Erick and I bought Ainsley her own scooter with 3 wheels so that she could follow Olivia and Hannah around on their scooters.  She would have loved that.  Ainsley loved to hang out with Olivia and Hannah but just couldn't keep up with them.  Now she could.  It's funny how everything you do revolves around your children.  What would make them happy?  Six days ago, this scooter would have been the best gift ever.  Today, it's just a toy.  It's now a reminder other absence.  To this day, sAinsley still scoots around on her 3 wheeled scooter and I follow on Olivia's.  She has no idea of what could have been, but I do.  

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The first few days

What better thing to do on a rainy day than write.

March 24, 2012.  The first day of my life without Olivia.  It sucks.  Erick and I both agreed that we didn't want to be alone so we called our friends and asked them to come to our house.  By Saturday night, our house was packed with friends and family and it continued  for an entire week.  Food, flowers, and gifts were being delivered to our home.  It was so comforting to have the distraction from our reality.  But, when it came time for visitors to leave......  oh, that's right.  Olivia is still gone. I would go to sleep at night with the help of Xanax but wake up to my nightmare each morning.  I think one night, I actually dreamed that it was just a nightmare and Olivia was still alive.  My mind was playing games with me or was it the Xanax?  Or, was it just part of grieving?  Whatever it was, it was awful.  I wanted a do-over in life.  I wanted out!  But, each morning we woke up, cried  and continued being parents to Ainsley.  My mother-in-law slept at our house, which was nice to have her there.

By day two of our new life, we were faced with writing an obituary.  Erick handled it and did it beautifully.  We were also faced with contacting the mortician in Florida because Olivia was still there, remember?  Because Olivia was young, an autopsy was required.  Oh, that makes me sick to think of that process so I don't choose to write about that.  Oh, and I did wish for her organs to be donated.  Something good has to come from this, right?  I am thankful for my father-in-law, a lawyer, who helped in getting death certificates  for life insurance policies that we had.  Sounds strange that we had life insurance on Olivia but my dad had purchased  one through some local organization never thinking we'd need it.  But, there we were........ using it towards a funeral.

Day 3, we're meeting with the Pastor from our church to discuss funeral arrangements.  We're also meeting with my friend's father, who is a funeral director to discuss those details.  What color casket? What size?  Olivia was "big enough" to be in an adult size casket.   Oh, good for her.  I hope you sense the sarcasm.  I asked the funeral director how much all of this would cost.  Why?  I don't know. It just came out of my mouth.  When he told me, my response was "that is what we should be spending on her wedding some day".  At this point, we were learning that Olivia would be coming home from Florida on Wednesday.  Her viewing would be on Thursday and her private funeral would be on Friday.  She died on a Friday and we'd bury her one week later.

More visitors were stopping by.  My two friends that I had met through Olivia's soccer team had stopped by with an envelop of money that they collected from the PTA at Olivia's school.  There I stood in the entryway of my house telling them the details of Olivia's death.  I think I kept repeating my story to remind myself that it really did happen.  Jen and Leslie were brought to tears, of course.  I was again in my stoic, robotic state.  Tears only came while alone.

Day 4.  I hd just gotten out of the shower when I heard my mom talking to someone who's voice I did not recognize.  It was a news reporter from WPXI.  Julie and her camera man were in my house wishing to interview us.  I declined being on camera and wished for none of our family members to be interviewed.  Julie did ask if they could just see pictures of Olivia for the story.  I guess they were going to run the story no matter what so I let them come in so that they could film some footage.  I guess we spend the flood gates because Channel 4 was at my door , then Channel 2 had called my mom then later ran the story while standing outside of Olivia school.  One news channel did interview our neighbor, Harry.  He did an awesome job speaking fondly of our Olivia.  Day 4 also took us to a cemetery.  Yes, we had to pick a grave site, a burial plot for our 8 year old daughter.  A final resting spot that we later named, La La's spot.