Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Viewing

After my sister-in-laws death, viewing, and funeral, it occurred to me that people experiencing the worst grief seem to hold up the strongest.  You all know what I mean.....  when we attend a viewing, we're always so impressed  how "well" the immediate family is in the situation.  My brother-in-law was stoic.  I know that he was hurting inside and wanted to curl up into a ball and pretend that this wasn't happening to him and his girls, but he didn't.  He stood in that funeral home (the same one that Olivia was viewed) and he greeted people who were paying their respects to Jen.

How is it that grieving people can cope?

March 29, 2012 was the date of our viewing for our sweet Olivia.  That morning, Erick and I went to the funeral home early so that I could do her hair.  Beauticians had offered to do Olivia's hair but I wanted to do her hair for the last time.  Erick and I arrived at the funeral home along with Erick's youngest sister, Anne.  We had asked her to meet us there in case we needed emotional support.   That moment that you look in a room and see a casket surrounded by  so many flowers, plants, wreaths, and stuffed animals  but inside of the casket is your 8 year old daughter......  it's breathtaking.  It's heartbreaking.  It's devastating.  It's just so, REAL now.  Remember, I haven't seen Olivia since that fateful evening 7 days ago.  Erick hadn't seen her since 7 morning ago but he hadn't seen her....... dead.

We immediately went to her and hugged her stiff body.  We cried but we also sat with her and felt so comforted by her presence.  It was so nice to be with her again.  It's been a long week and all we wanted was to be with her.  Granted, this wasn't the way we wanted to be with her but we could look at her and touch her.

I brushed her hair with her Hannah Montana hair brush, then cut a chunk of hair from the back of her head.  I tucked the hair brush somewhere in the casket.  It was hers.  For the last time, I braided her hair, one small braid on the side of her bead like a did so many morning for school.

Our family began to arrive, then friends.  Erick and I stood by Olivia the entire time as so many people came to pay their respects to our sweet Olivia.

To answer my own question fro earlier.  How do we cope?  How did we cope?  It's an out-of-body experience.  I could actually see my self hugging people like I was floating above watching this all take place.  We made it through that day because we had to.  We couldn't curl up into a ball and ignore that our daughter was dead.  Being there with her was the last chance we would get.


Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Beginning of the End

T's only been 5 days since Olivia has left this earth and we've done so much.  We've dealt with the media, wrote an obituary, met with a funeral director, picked out a burial plot, picked out a headstone, and then  we picked a final outfit for Olivia to wear.  All sound so much fun, right?    Meeting with the funeral director was, well, weird because he is the father of one of my best friends.  I wouldn't have given her to anyone else though.  I knew that he would take care of my little girl.  While meeting with him, I asked the dumb question of how much  this would cost.  Who cares, right?  It has to be done......  the words, the question just came out of my mouth.  After hearing his answer, I immediately blurted out, "that is what we should be spending on her wedding in a few years."  Now, I know that weddings cost much more.......  you get the point.

There was only one outfit that I thought to be "perfect".  Her soccer uniform was just so "current" in her world.  It was an outfit that I  didn't need to have in my hands again.  Plus, she had two jerseys.  I gathered her blue soccer shirt and blue soccer shorts and put them into a plastic bag and handed them to the funeral director.   I didn't give him her soccer socks and it still bothers me that her feet would be cold.  Sounds ridiculous.......


Her shoes and white jersey are displayed in a shadow box along with her trophies and metals from her 6 seasons of play.  

We also gathered items that we thought that should be buried with Olivia.  For me, this wasn't hard and to this day I don't miss any of the items that are with her now.  I just miss her physical presence, obviously.

Her guitar - she was taking guitar lessons and was becoming quite good.  I did keep quite a few of her guitar picks.
   
Her American Girl Doll, Sara.  We finally bought Olivia a doll for her 8th birthday.
 
 Her 2 favorite stuffed dogs,Vanilla and Cocoa.  They were a yellow and chocolate labrador retrievers.    When Olivia was younger, she used to pronounce the one Banilla.  She even had written stores about the adventures of Cocoa.  She had such an imagination.

Her large stuffed dog - I didn't know that this Basset Hound looking dog was a special one until she told me shortly before her death that she can't sleep without that dog.

A picture of all of us was placed in the casket along with a picture that Olivia put into a frame of the first time that she met her baby sister.  The frame fittingly said, SISTERS.

I also left her Hannah Montana brush with her because I braided her hair for the last time and cut a lock of hair from the back of her head.  It's so hard to believe that a lock of hair is the only physical thing that I have of my sweet Olivia.   However, when I look at my Ainsley I see Olivia and that gives me comfort.


   


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.