Sunday, January 22, 2017

A great memory.

Five years ago today, this is what my girls were doing.

video
Enjoy their laughter.   

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Finding Connections

During the beginning of Olivia's third grade year at school, a letter from the school was sent home about the sudden death of a first grader at Acmetonia Primary.  A little boy, six years old, gone.  I didn't know of the little boy nor of his family.  While putting Olivia to bed one evening, she and I talked about his death.  Since I knew nothing of the situation, the conversation was sort of brief.  I don't think that Olivia was scared but nonetheless,she was  curious.  

Who would ever dream that six months later, Olivia would be gone too and parents would be having discussions with their children about the death of a child while tucking them into bed at night.  

In the weeks after Olivia's death, I was also contacted by a woman who had lost her daughter in an act of violence.  She had asked if she, her husband, and another childless mother could come and talk to me about my sufferings.  I gave them the OK to come to my home to talk with me.  Not knowing who the people were, I started rethinking my decision to have strangers who claim to have lost a child come to my house while I'm alone.  My neighbor/friend, J, agreed to sit with me while they stopped by.  The three of them come over and couldn't have been more sincere.  There was M, an older woman, who described to me that her son had lost his battle with AIDS in his mid twenties.  The older couple that  came with M, had tragically lost their daughter several years back by an ex boyfriend who decided  to shoot their lovely daughter.  

While both stories of loss are tremendously sad, I couldn't relate.  They had their children so much longer that I got to have Olivia on earth with me.  They got to see their children  go on first dates, get a driver's licenses, and graduate from high school.  I didn't even get to see my sweet angel finish third grade.  

On the other hand, I was fortunate that I didn't lose Olivia to an act of violence where I would have to go to court hearings and have such anger or resentment towards my daughter's murderer.  I'm fortunate that I didn't watch my child suffer through a hittable illness.  

But yet, I just couldn't make a connection with that lovely couple and woman who didn't have to reach out to me.  They could have just read the articles in the newspaper and thought, "Oh, what a shame."

On my first Mother's Day after Olivia passing, the mother who lost her daughter to violence stopped by while I was mowing the lawn.   Yes, I cut the grass on Mother's Day.  She had a bouquet of flowers for me and a hug.  I asked her, "What do you do each Mother's Day?"  She replied, "I cry."    I never did stay connected to that lovely woman......  

I needed to find that little boy's mother.  I needed to talk to someone that experienced sudden loss of a little kid and know that I'm not the other mother who feels this emptiness.  

Through the help of my wonderful neighbor, J, we located the little boy's mom and I called her. In all honesty,  I really didn't expect her to even entertain the notion that we meet for coffee or whatever but she did call me back and we did make plans to meet for coffee.  I invited her to my home and again, she  accepted my invitation.  

Two grieving mothers (and a little grieving sister)......  what the hell do you talk about?  The only thing we knew what to talk about.  Our stories.  

She spoke of the day that she lost her son and I shared with her about the deaths of my tragic day.   She shred with me the fact that a baseball field had been dedicated in her son's memory and how she had gotten a tattoo in his memory on the back of her neck.  Both of those would get my ideas spinning.........

We went to a short walk with Ainsley, talked some more, then parted ways to never meet up with each other again.  I don't know why......  perhaps that's all we needed from each other was comfort that we knew that there was another mom whose child was taken away from them in the blink of an eye?  

Perhaps I'm not meant to connect with a mother that shares a very similar loss.  Perhaps I'm supposed to continue to make the connections, or even friendships with the people that I have been bonding with since Olivia's death.  Make those friendships stronger.  Perhaps those  connections and friendships are what keeps me going.  


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Empty

For the first few days/weeks after Olivia's untimely death, I was still numb.  In fact, I could almost set my mind to believing that she was just at summer camp (she's never even gone to summer camp before).  This was  only"temporary".    But NO, it wasn't.  She was not coming home.

Sitting down at our dining table  for dinner but now i was just the three of u.  Looking at her empty chair made it all too real.   Walking past her bedroom on a daily basis, knowing that she wasn't going to lay her head down on her pillow ever again......  I started to realize that this was not temporary.  It was, in fact, permanent...........  This was our forever.

I'm sure that every mom who has lost a child handles the empty room differently.    I turned to listening to audible books about death and read that one mother kept her child's room exactly the same.  Almost like a shrine.  In fact, one mother describes that she even left a dried up piece of bubble gum that her child stuck on the dresser drawers.  

I can relate. 

 Some parents chose to close the door because the site of the empty room was too painful.  

Again, I can relate.  

In my case, I went through phases.  I couldn't keep her room as a shrine because my mother-in-law stayed with us for a few days after Olivia's death and she slept in her bed.  The shrine was already null and void.  

Hundreds of sympathy cards were piling up in our home.   What do you do with all of these cards?  Which, by the way, I still have them AND still haven't read all of them.  I started storing them in Olivia's room.  Additionally, while preparing for Olivia's funeral service we rummaged through all of her beautiful artwork and priceless writings that she had saved under her bed and in her desk drawers.  

The guidance counselor from her school kindly delivered Olivia's artwork and other school items and work that she left behind.  We also received wonderful tributes to Olivia from her friends and classmates.  Those all went straight to her room.  

Her room was no longer empty.  It was filled with the reminders of our loss.

Oddly enough, Erick and I felt comfort spending time her her room even if it was for a few moments.  We felt connected to our sweet Olivia.

 Then there were the moments of use walking past her room with the open door that would bring me to my knees.......  

Thursday, December 22, 2016

"Returning" to normal

Olivia died one month shy of her 9th birthday.  To celebrate her birthday, she had decided that the would take a few of her friends to  a movie theater party to see the Disney Earth film, "Chimpanzee".  I had reserved the date and put a deposit down.  

At home, during the middle of March, we were also in the midst of switching bedrooms.  Olivia had the smallest room and Ainsley was in the largest bedroom .   Actually, Ainsley was in the master bedroom.  Weird, right?  When we purcased  our home, it was only the 3 of us.  We had no idea that we would welcome Ainsley 16 months after we moved into our split level home in Springdale.  Two of the bedrooms were on the main living area of the home and there was one downstairs (with a full bathroom).  Actually, we have 3 full bathrooms in our house.  Some would say that's really convenient but I don't like to clean three bathrooms.  For the first 16 months of living here, Erick and I oppupied the master suite and Olivia was right accross the hallway in her "Wizard of Oz"  themed room.  It was all decor from our old home in Edgewood but she still loved it.

So, when we found out that we were expecting in August of 2009, we had to make some changes to our sleeping arrangements!  We weren't comfortable putting a child's bedroom downstairs so we moved our bedroom there and put a crib in the master bedroom.  Yes, going up and down steps a few times a night for feedings wasn't all that fun.  But, it all worked for us.  Before Ainsley's birth, we had alreay transitioned ourselves downstairs.  Along with the crib, I also had a twin bed in the "master" bedroom  thinking that once Ainsley got a little older, Olivia may want to bunk up with her.   

Ainsley was turning 2 and we thought it was time to give Olivia the "baster" bedroom.  Erick and Olivia were in the middle of painting the walls a beautiful lavender color.  I was having fun ordering new curtains, comforters, and wall decor.  I also was designing a desk with my friend Dan that would be shaped like a dog house.  Of course, right?  Her room would be a dog theme.  I had everything ordered and delivered, even a new carpet.   We were just waiting for the walls to be completed.  Unfortunately, she never did get to see that desk (nor did I).  WE never go to see the finished  bedroom.  I can still invision it in my head; two twin beds with bright yello comforters, acsents of teal blue throughout the room.....   a very femenin stake on a dog room.  

My mother-in-law was thoughtful and I guess proactive.  She offered to return the comforters and curtains for me after Olivia's passing so that they weren't an additional reminder of the loss.  

As for the movie,  My girlfriend went to  the movie theater and cancelled her birthday party.....  they refunded my money  knowing the reason why for the cancellation.  

I did keep the picture that I ordered for her room.  It now hangs in Ainsley's room (Olivia's original room).    

Eventually, Erick and I moved into the master bedroom and Ainsley moved into Olivia's original room  but not until Ainsley turned four.  We kept that beautiful lavender paint color on the walls as a reminder of the her presence and joy.  

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Moving forward

The morning after Olivia's funeral started out cool and cloudy, and over all gray day.  I guess you can say that it was the perfect description of my own feelings.

My body literally ached......  I felt like crap.

Now what?

It was time to start our lives as a new family.  A family that had experienced loss.  A family that would wake up every single morning to the reality that Olivia was no longer here with us.  Wow, this reality sucks.

Erick and I had to continue to be parents to Ainsley even though every moment it hurt and was, in all honesty, fake at times...  forced.   The past week had been filled with visitors to keep us company and to keep our minds off of what the hell just happened to our world.    But, this morning, there was no one but the three of us.  The silence was deafening.   I wanted Olivia's bedroom door to fly open and our days to resume to the way they were a week ago.  I wanted Olivia to  put her baby sister into that empty laundry basket and pull her around the house as if she was pulling a sleigh.  I wanted my life back, the one when I had TWO daughters.



As he always did and still does, Erick knew that we couldn't sit in our house and feel sorry for ourselves so he decided that we'd take Ainsley to a playground.  Oh goodie!  Can you sense the sarcasm?

Ainsley played and ran around  like there was nothing missing in her world, like any "normal"  2 year old little girl would do.  I, however, was uninvolved, silent, removed, .......  dead inside.    This wasn't where I wanted to be on this ugly cool  day on the last day of the Godawful month.



What choice did we have though?   We were parents of a little girl who no longer had a big sister.  She was also a little girl who needed her mommy and daddy.  So that day was the beginning of our new lives.  Lives without Olivia.


Monday, November 28, 2016

Tangled

OK, who doesn't love the Disney movie, Tangled?  The story about the Princess who  has been locked in a tower by her "mother" so that her magical powers can be kept a  secret.  Well, my little Ainsley doesn't like  it.  How is that possible?  I have such fond memories is the movie.  Watching the movie with Olivia was a great family nigh so many years ago....  it's just a cute movie.

I asked Ainsley several times, "Why don't you like this movie?"  She can't seem to explain to me the reasons for her dislike.

Tonight, as she was getting her shower, I watched Tangled.  I happened to turn it on as they were releasing the "floating lights" in honor of the lost Princess.

Ever since our Olivia's  untimely passing, our friends have surrounded us with love and support.  We've done several lantern launches since 2012, sometimes alone and sometimes with our group of friends. We have brightened the skies with our own floating lights to remember our Olivia on her birthday and on the day of her passing.

Perhaps the floating lights and our lantern launch were too much a a reminder of loss for Ainsley?





"Frying pan.   Who knew, right?"


Friday, October 14, 2016

The Final Day


This little church that we joined in 2010 had given us such fond memories.  This was the church that Ainsley was baptized.  Now, it's the church that held my Olivia's funeral service.  It hasn't been the same since then.  In fact, it's actually painful for us to be in that church.  I wouldn't dare sit in the same pew as I did on March 30, 2012.

Erick, Ainsley, and I walked into that church.  I felt as if everyone was staring at us.....  they probably were.  We walked down the middle aisle and sat in the front pew.  Two doors to the left of me opened, and there was the back of the hearse.  The hearse door opened and two of my best friends and our two brother-in-laws pulled Olivia's white casket out of the hearse.  They slowly walked into the church through those doors and placed Olivia in  front of family and close friends.  We listened to Rev. Legg speak so sweetly about Olivia.  His words didn't come from him knowing her; which was no fault of his since we only became members a little over a year prior.  Rather, the words were given to him by Olivia's biggest fan, her dad.  Erick spent hours going through Olivia's handwritten stories and pieces of artwork looking for the best material to describe the 8 year old little girl who dreamed of being a musician and a veterenarian.   Most of her stories were about the adventures of Cocoa, a chocolate lab that I do believe was Penny's alias.  Olivia had so much to offer this world.  She was so talented in so many ways.  Her artwork was clever and she thought outside of the box.  She was musically talented as well.  Her guitar instructor, Mike, played the piano and guitar at her funeral.  It was only fitting.  I do remember hearing the music and the angelic voice of a friend of the family, Christina.  She sang a song "Wherever you shall go I will Follow", which Christina picked out herself.    She even recorded it for me.  To this day, it brings me to tears but I'm thankful that I have a copy of it.

Besides the beautiful words and music, Ainsley also provided "entertainment".  I remember her standing in front of her sister's casket, facing the "audience" and lifting up her shirt to reveal her chubby belly.  I'm sure that she made someone smile in that church but it wasn't me.  However, looking back on it makes me laugh because I think Olivia was laughing.

With the blink of an eye, it was over.  We were walking out of the church and following a hearse into the cemetery that was directly across the street from the church.  Her casket was pulled out of the hearse one last time and placed at her final resting place next to a blossoming dogwood tree.  I walked Ainsley over the the casket and we put our hands on it and said ever so quietly, "Good bye LaLa".  "I love you LaLa".  I turned away and walked Ainsley back to the church.

We convened in the downstairs area of the church for lunch.  Christina and Mike performed Olivia's favorite song, "The House that Built Me" by Miranda Lambert.   We had the CD in our car and Olivia would always tell us, play number 10.  Erick and I always requested number 2 track, "Only Prettier" but she loved the number 10 track.

It was now Ainsley's nap time so we headed home.  I don't remember anything about traveling home. I do remember changing my clothes, going outside, sitting at the bottom of the sliding board and finally sobbing.  

It was all over........