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


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........

Friday, September 9, 2016

Saying Good-bye

Friday, March 30, 2012 - The day of my sweet Olivia's Funeral, yes, FUNERAL.  I didn't even want to wake up for this day.  I was still hoping to wake up from this nightmare.    But, we woke up to our reality.  Olivia is dead and this is the day we said good-bye to her forever.

First thing, we got ourselves ready.  I don't know if I brushed my hair or my teeth.  Frankly, I didn't care.  t did know that tI had on clothes.  I was numb.  I was trembling.  I was just lost and broken.  Next, we had to get Ainsley dressed for her big sister's funeral.  Ainsley, 2 ays into being a 2-year old, had no idea what was going on.  We told her that we were going to church.  We needed to be at the funeral home first to say our final good-bye and we were the last ones to arrive.  I didn't know why we were late but I did know that we didn't know what we were doing.....  another out of body experience, I guess.  We rushed into the funeral home and threw Ainsley onto someone's lap, handed that person a cup of her favorite yogurt and a spoon.   Erick and I walked into the room where eOlivia was laying.  I could feel everyone's eyes on us.  I moved in slow motion.  I wanted to crawl up into the casket with her and have them close it with us both inside.  Instead, I kissed her and caressed her gently for the very last time.   When I think about that term, "very last time", it just makes my whole body feel weak.  That was it - it would never happen again.  I would never have a hug from her, never braid her hair, never help her with homework or watch her play soccer.  Never, never never, have her walk into a room and brighten my day.  My life with Olivia present was OVER.

We finalized what items would be put into the casket with Olivia.  Then, without watching, the casket was closed.  Done.  We'd never see her again except in photographs and videos.  Photographs and videos that I would watch over and over again for the next several years.

 Ainsley never did see her sister again after the morning of March 23rd.  

Erick, Ainsley, my Mother-in-law, and myself got into our Saturn Outlook - The car that we upgraded to for it's bigger size.  Olivia was getting older and we needed room for her and her friends to be transported around.  Olivia's seat was no longer her seat.  When I looked over my left should and into the back of the car, I would never see her sitting there.  Instead my mother-in-law is sitting there while we drove her to her granddaughter's funeral.

Everything about that day was terrible.  I mean, what could possibly be good about the day of your child's funeral?  But, following a hearse  with your daughter's casket in the back was......  indescribable.   To this day, when  we drive on that same road that leads to our church and pass the ugly water tower that sits up on the right, I feel sick.   It brings me back to that moment...... to that vision.

To be Continued.

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


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.