Friday, September 8, 2017

For just a moment

Last month, Ainsley, Erick and I went on a family vacation .  We flew into Myrtle Beach, South Carolina on a Monday afternoon and hopped into a taxi , which took us to our favorite resort in Myrtle Beach.  Well, it's really the only resort that we've ever stayed in but we love it.  We've been flying to Myrtle Beach  and staying at the Island Vista Resort since 2013.  This year was our fourth time.  The resort is a beach front condominium complex with 2 pools, a lazy river, palm trees, the ocean breeze, a great restaurant,  plus a tiki bar with an island feel.  Actually, despite the loud waves from the Atlantic Ocean, you can almost convince yourself that you're in the islands.

This year's trip to Island Vista Resort was to be the BEST ever because we were being joined by Ainsley's best friend (BFF), Nicole and her family.  Nicole also a seven-year-old little girl with a fantastic spunk about her, is Ainsley's absolute best friend.  These two girls  are practically sisters.  They have been pretty much inseparable since they were first introduced in 2012.  Nicole's oldest sister, Natalie, now 14, was on Olivia's soccer team and in third grade with her at the time of the accident.  Their mom was/is one of those friends that always made time for me while we were grieving.  She and I have become very good friends over the past 5 years.

After Olivia's death, I would go for long walks with a few moms on a weekly basis.  Nicole's mom was one of the faithful walkers.  Nicole and Ainsley were only 2 years old  when they were introduced during our walks.  The two of them sat in their strollers as I and the other moms walked the neighborhoods of Springdale.  From that summer on, Nicole and Ainsley have been attached at the hip.    And, they planned to be attached at the hip while on vacation this summer as two best friends do.



We arrived at the resort and headed straight up to our room where we are greeted by Nicole, her mom, and her middle sister, Jessica.  We get royal tour of the 3 bedroom suite.    We were introduced to our sleeping arrangements and started to unpack while the girls got ready to head to the beach for the evening.  We made our way to the beach to meet up with the rest of Nicole's family.  After playing on the beach  for an hour or so, we moved our crew to the tiki bar for some adult cocktails and 4 non-alcoholic daiquiris for the girls  Nicole ordered up a Pina colada daiquiri (for the third time that day) while the other girls ordered up other flavors  like strawberry and watermelon.  We enjoyed our beverages while watching a Luau.  Another great amenity at the Island Vista Resort is the evening events or shows that they have for the guests' entertainment.

It's started to get darker and time  for the girls to get showered.  Erick and I had the master bedroom which meant that we had the biggest bathroom.  The  stand-up shower was big enough to fit all 4 girls so it was perfect for Ainsley and Nicole to shower together.  Because, that's what best friends do on vacation.  I got them set up with shampoo and soap, along with wash cloths.  I could hear them laughing in the shower.  This was going to be a great few days at the beach.  Then, all hell broke loose.......  "NICOLE THREW UP!"  Ainsley was yelling.  I ran back into the bathroom to find Ainsley pinned up against the tile wall of the shower , Nicole was holding her belly and a puddle of Pina coloda was on the shower floor.  At first, we all thought that the stomach issue was caused by swallowing too much sea and pool water, but as the vomiting persisted throughout the night, followed by diarrhea, we had suspicions of a stomach virus but held out hopes  for option #1.

The following morning, Nicole was still feeling under the weather so she stayed in bed while her mom watched over her and tried to nurse her back to health.  Now, it's just the 3 girls and 3 adults spending time at the beach.  Ainsley and Jessica really bonded that day as they dug  for sand fleas and sand crabs.  That evening the six of us all took an Uber to the Flying Fish in Barefoot's Landing.


The next morning, Nicole is still not well but we're all feeling fine so we were convinced (or perhaps still holding out for hopes) that her illness was the result of ingesting too much sea and pool water. (and not to mention those 3 Pina colds).  Again, Jessica and Ainsley had another great day at the beach.  At dinner that night, Jessica got up from the dinner table and swiftly walks into the bathroom and then..........OH CRAP.  Victim #2.

Thursday came.  Jessica AND Nicole are ill and their mom and dad have been taking turns caring for them.  At this point, I wanted to put police tape over the bedroom door.  Being confined to a condo with  a stomach virus that hitting people hard and without warning is a nightmare for a germaphobe (ME).  Natalie and Ainsley were the only 2 healthy kids for our last full day at Myrtle Beach.

For just a moment, on that final beach day, Erick, Ainsley, Natalie, and I  were a "family of four" hanging out at the beach.  Natalie, Eric, and Ainsley swam out in the deep as I soaked in the sun while sitting in the surf.  THIS is what my reality should be like - Ainsley and her 14 year old big sister.  Later that day as Natalie and Ainsley took a walk on the beach looking for ghost crabs, I sat on the balcony of our condo and watched the two flickers of lights from their flashlights bounce up and down the shoreline.   This is exactly what Olivia would be doing with Ainsley if she was still here with us.

(Picture taken by Natalie as they looked for ghost crabs)  

Was I sad?


Yes, but also touched by Natalie's love for Ainsley.  She  treated Ainsley like a sister and that is what Olivia would want for her little sister.

I am also thankful for the people who have been put into our lives after our tragedy.  They are blessings and are cherished.

***Neither Natalie nor Ainsley ended up coming down with the stomach virus***



Thursday, May 4, 2017

Keeping a Promise

Before leaving school on Thursday, March22, 2012, Olivia had given her best friend,  Lexi,  a silver box.  In the box, she had placed a picture of herself, an angel pendant, and other trinkets.  As she gave Lexi the box, she told her, :So you don't forget me."

http://triblive.com/news/1073680-74/olivia-alexis-angel-box-sharon-bff-friend-friends-girl-girls#axzz2m8lTN3pC



That was the last time that Lexi would see her best friend.  

Best friends are given that title for several reasons.  One reason (which I think it's pretty much the most important one) is that they keep promises.  


Five years later, Lexi has done just that.  She hasn't forgotten her third grade friend after all of these years or maturing and learning herself as a teenager.  


Lexi recently completed the third and final  holy sacraments within the Catholic Church.  She has been confirmed.  


The sacrament of confirmation is one of the three initiation rites for Catholics, the other two being Baptism, and Holy Communion. According to Catholic doctrine, in the sacrament of Confirmation, the faithful are sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit and are strengthened in their Christian life.


When  confirmed in the Catholic Church, young adults choose a confirmation name.   In many countries, it is customary for a person being confirmed in the Roman Catholic Church (and some Anglican dioceses) to adopt a new name, generally the name of a saint, thus securing an additional patron saint as protector and guide.


When I was confirmed (oh some 30 years ago,), I chose my deceased grandmother's name, Elizabeth.  Lexi could have chosen a family name but instead, she chose to remember her "BFF" by taking Olivia as her confirmation name.  


She never did forget you Olivia and neither have so many others.  



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.