Thursday, December 31, 2015

Another new year

As we get ready to say good-bye to 2015, I remember the mixed emotions that I had when we said good-bye to 2012.  Since 2012 was the year that we lost our sweet Olivia, it would seem natural to want that year to be gone.  However, leaving 2012 behind was also very hard for me because it meant that I was closing a chapter  in our book in which Olivia's character was present.  I felt that I was leaving her behind or even being farther away from the time that she existed.

Now when I leave behind another year, I feel indifferent on the matter.  One reason is that I know that I can't stop time and the other reason is knowing the special moments that are to come with Ainsley as she grows and experiences life as a little girl.

So, happy new year to you all.  May your new year be filled with peace and love.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Heartbreak

Four months before Olivia's death, Erick's sister was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer.   She was only 34 years old at the time of the diagnosis.  Approximately 3 weeks prior to Olivia's death, the colon would be operated on so Erick and Olivia would go to the hospital to visit his sister, Olivia's aunt, who she looked so much alike.  I was worried that Olivia would be scared to see her aunt in a hospital bed with tubing, but she wasn't.

After their visit, Erick took Olivia  shopping for Ainsley's birthday present.  Her birthday would be on March 28th.  Olivia wanted to buy Ainsley a Sing-a-majig.  Later that day, they returned home with the present that sang "This Little Light of Mine".  It was adorable.  Olivia placed it in a gift bag and hid it underneath her bed.  Olivia and Hannah would later created a card to go along with the present.  She even used her own money to buy it for her  baby sister, who would be turning 2 in a few weeks.  Unfortunately, Olivia wouldn't be around to celebrate Ainsley's big day.

I'm writing about this because, my sister-in-law is going through a rough time with the cancer this month.  It breaks my heart to know that she is in pain and I'm sure she is scared to be going through this as a mother of 3 beautiful daughters.  I also feel for my mother-in-law who has to watch her oldest daughter go through the agony of cancer.  As a mother, I know first hand what it's like to watch a child suffer.

I am not writing this story for sympathy.  I only share this because it is a part of our story.


Friday, December 18, 2015

Our trip to Florida

There are so many reasons why I decided to start this blog.  One being that I believe writing my stories and events will help me heal.  Describing to you the actual accident is going to be necessary but challenging so I may do this in steps.

Why were we traveling to Florida in March of 2012?  Well, each year my mom's brothers and their families get together for a "family reunion" of sorts.  Since my uncles all live in various states except Pennsylvania, they usually convene in Florida.  The last time my parents joined the reunion was decades ago!  My mom and dad never travel via airplane so I started pressuring them to go in March 2012.  I thought that I would go this year too and perhaps they would feel inclined to join me.  Then, I thought that it would be a good idea to bring Olivia along with me to meet my family since most of them haven't seen her since she was a baby.    BIG MISTAKE ON MY PART.

My plan worked.  Olivia and I bought tickets to fly to Jacksonville, FL on March 23, 2012.  My parents also purchased tickets for that same date and time.  

My parents picked me and Olivia up early that morning and we traveled to the airport to fly to Atlanta, GA for a brief lay-over.  Once we were in Atlanta, we stopped and had lunch at a burger place in the airport.  Olivia had a cheeseburger.  I don't remember what I had for lunch that day.  

We proceeded to our terminal and noticed that it was a bit empty, which was odd because our flight should be boarding by this time.  We figured out that our flight to Jacksonville was leaving from a different terminal so we rushed to the new location.  Olivia and I made it there quickly but my parents were dragging behind.  Once Olivia and I got on the plane and into our seats, I started to worry that they weren't going to make it!  I asked the flight attendant if I could check to see if they were coming but she told me that if I left the plane, I would not be allowed back on so I just waited.  Sure enough, mom and dad came onto then plane and I swear they shut the doors to the plane right after that.  We were on our way to Jacksonville, FL.  Oh how I wish we would have missed our flight.  

We arrived in Jacksonville around 4pm, rented our car, and drove to Palatka, FL where most of my mom's family was waiting.  My Aunt Elise and Uncle Greg's friends let our family borrow their house for our family reunion weekend.  It was a lovely home that sat on the St. John's River.  On our trip in the car, Olivia and I listened to Justin Bieber on my phone.  She loved his music.  We danced in the back seat of the car.  Erick called us to see if we landed.  We were looking forward to our weekend getaway.  

After about a 20 minute drive, we pulled into the gravel driveway, parked, retrieved our bags from the trunk of the car, and headed into the house to say our hellos.  I introduced Olivia to my cousins, Erin and Meredith, and we got a quick tour of the home.  The last time Olivia and I saw Erin and Meredith was Christmas 2004 when we flew to visit them in Stuart, FL.  

We walked out onto the back porch, which looked out onto the St. John's River.  It was a beautiful view.  There was a porch swing  that Olivia went to sit on but was quickly startled by a large spiderweb!  She wasn't afraid of much but spiders were off limits!  My Uncle Greg then asked, "Do you want to go on a boat ride?"  The dreaded question.  We accepted the offer on the condition that Olivia wore a life preserver.  Off we went..........  Olivia would not return to the house.

To be continued.




Thursday, December 17, 2015

Christmas Past

I just love this picture of my girls.  The way  Ainsley is looking up at her big sister is just so precious.  Even though Olivia was 7 years older than Ainsley, she played with her baby sister.    The age difference didn't seem to bother either one of them.  Olivia would put Ainsley into a laundry basket,  attach a belt to the end of the basket, then pull her through the house.  She would let Ainsley play in her room and even dress her up in princess dresses.  Ainsley was often listed on letters to Santa Claus and art projects at school.  Being a big sister was awesome to my Olivia, who was sweetly called LaLa by Ainsley.


Monday, December 14, 2015

For you

I dreamed a poem early this morning........

For You

It started with just the three of us, then we became four.
They say four is a family, but no more.

A family for almost two years,
Until that dreadful day in March when we shed our tears.

For You, Olivia, our hearts cry with sadness and pain.
For You, my Angel, we cry.
Until we see you again.


Friday, December 11, 2015

her beautiful voice

I wasn't thinking about writing anything today until this happened........

I got my shower a little bit ago and decided to listen to my playlist on the computer.  I was in the mood for Adele.  I thought my playlist was still up since we listened to it yesterday evening  so just just clicked the play arrow.  Instead of playing my list of songs that range from Taylor Swift, Adele, Miranda Lambert, and yes One D, Olivia's beautiful voice started singing to me!  She had recorded  herself singing a song in November of 2011 that she was supposed to sing to the Veterans for a Veteran's Day Celebration.  She never did get to do that because she got sick that morning.    The beauty of this song is that she added her own verse at the end saying how thankful she was for her family.  Thank you Olivia.  


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Memories from March 17, 2012

It's a beautiful Saturday morning.  I have scheduled the four of us to get family photos taken at the nearby mall.  I had bought matching blue shirts for the girls and they wore khaki cargo pants.  I wanted it to be very relaxed so the girls were in their bare feet for then photo shoot.  Looking back..... I am SO THANKFUL that we had family photos taken because that would be the las time.

It is St. Patrick’s Day 2012 and we're back from our family photos.  We've all changed out of our picture clothes and into something green.  It was an unusually warm and sunny day in the Pittsburgh area.  Like with any nice day, Olivia’s friend Hannah would see Olivia playing outside and would cross our street to  join her.  Hannah, a girl from an Irish family was decked out in Kelly green shorts and 2 pony  tails with green pompoms.  Olivia only had limited time to play since she had an indoor soccer game that started at 1pm at Pittsburgh Indoor Soccer Association (PISA).  She was a bit disappointed that she had to end her play time with Hannah to get ready for soccer to the point  that she was a bit resistant to do so.  I remember slamming my hand down on her white desk in her room to let her know that I was a bit annoyed.  Annoyed at what?  I think it was just me and my short temper, which was unnecessary.  Olivia just looked at me with a little bit of remorse in her eyes and I looked back at her the same.  I continued to get her ready for soccer; blue shirts today.  Same blue shirt and shorts that she would be buried in.  Her soccer team was blue and white.  She was a member of the Harmar Soccer Club U-9 girls team, the Harmar Cheetahs.  U-9 meant that the girls were under the age of 9 (the girls were all 8 or 9 years of age depending where their birthdays fell in the calendar year).  I pulled Olivia’s hair back into a pony tail.  She had such thick hair; like me.  



My parents were at my house to watch Ainsley since the soccer game was during nap time.  My dad, who is a very handy person, came to the house with a broomstick in hopes to fix the girls’ playground ladder; which had broken off.  The playground that we had in our backyard was purchased as a used one.  I bought it off of a gentleman through Craig’s List.  The nice man disassembled the wooden playground, loaded it onto his trailer bed, then drove it to our house.  It was the best $200 that I had spent!  My dad would fix the ladder then meet us at Olivia's game.
Erick, Olivia, and I left our house a littler early for the soccer game because we had to stop off at Lowe’s to order new bedroom carpeting for Olivia’s new bedroom.  We were moving Olivia into the bigger of the two main level bedrooms and moving Ainsley into the smaller one.   Olivia and Erick had already finished painting her new bedroom walls a beautiful lavender color so carpeting was our next step to the room swap could begin.  We had ordered her new bedspreads that were a cheerful yellow color and her room would be accented in teal blue.  We were going to put two single beds in her room in case a friend was sleeping over or if Ainsley wanted to sleep in her big sister's room.  I think Ainsley would have loved doing that.  In my head, I can still picture how it was supposed to look.  I had purchased her some cool artwork of dogs playing with soccer balls.  Our good friend Dan was building a desk for her room that looked like a doghouse.  I never did get to see the finished product; if he had finished it.  I don’t think I want to see it.  
Erick and Olivia dropped me off at Lowe’s and went to pick up some take out lunch from Panera.  I went in to order the carpeting and started the process by consulting with one of the store flooring employees.  By the time I had someone, Olivia and Erick were back with me and we decided on a color that was very similar to the carpeting in her current room.  We were all satisfied, we placed our order, then hopped back in the car and headed to PISA.  
Erick was an assistant coach for Olivia’s team so I sat by myself in the front row of the bleachers to watch the game.  It was hot in the arena since it was so warm outside today.  My dad came over and sat next to me and we watched the first half of her game.  The girls were really starting to play well as a team.  At the half way break, I told my dad that they had a pub upstairs and suggested that we go up a get a cold beer.  We went up and ordered two bottles of beer.  They were very cold and very refreshing.  From the pub, you are able to look through a window down onto the field that the Harmar Cheetahs were playing.  We sat up there and watched the rest of their game from the bird’s eye view.   My dad inquired about our upcoming trip to Florida for the family gathering.  I reminded him that we were flying out on this upcoming Friday, March 23, 2012.  He was a bit stunned that our trip was so soon.  We talked a little bit about the details of getting to the airport and times that he  and my mom should pick up me and Olivia.
The game had finished and we met the girls at the usual spot outside of the field in which they had played.  Olivia’s face was beat red from being so hot.  Olivia was one of the fastest kids in her grade and she loved to run.  Soccer was the best sport for her.  Coach Clyde did his usual reminder of the next weeks practice and the next game.   “We won’t be here next Saturday,” I said, “We’ll be in Florida”.  Coach Clyde replied as if he was envious of our warm weathered vacation but I reminded him that it was equally warm in our area this week.  We said our good byes and headed outside to the 70 plus sunny day.  That was the last time that a lot of people saw Olivia alive. 
Olivia made a last minute decision and requested that she rides home in Pap’s car.  “OK”, we said.  Erick and I both knew that she wanted to ride home with Pap because there was an excellent chance that she could stop off at Glen’s Custard for some of the best custard around.  Sure enough, that is exactly what they did on their way home back to our home.  Being that it was St. Patrick’s day, Erick and I stopped off at the local six pack shop and picked up a growler of festive green beer for our evening.  
Once home, Ainsley was awake and my parents left.  The four of us went outside to our backyard and played.  We had a board that was laying in the yard where Erick would set our fire pit on so that he could burn things.  Olivia lifted the board and found worms.  She loved worms and other bugs (except spiders).  Ainsley and I were sitting in the grass by Olivia while she was digging and just watched her at work.  Olivia picked up a very large worm and held it up near Ainsley’s face.  Ainsley leaned back as far from it as her back would allow her and made a terrible face of fear.  Olivia and I both laughed at Ainsley’s reaction.  
Later that day, Olivia and Erick made homemade chicken fingers for dinner.  What a busy yet great day that was.  

Monday, December 7, 2015

sick child

My little girl has been sick since Thursday.  She started off with an AWFUL stomach bug.  On top of feeling terrible, we added a sinus infection.  Caring for a sick child is never fun.  For me, it's a time filled with fears and anxieties after watching Olivia struggle after our accident.

I was once a lover or all hospital shows like "ER" and "Grey's Anatomy" until I lived my own episode in 2012.  Now, I cannot see how people can watch the heartache of a dying patient or the family that loves them so much even though I know it's not real.   Nonetheless, I can't watch those shows anymore.  They are too painful and bring back the memory of our tragic day on the St. John's River.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

By the chimney with care

After Olivia died, more than 3 1/2 years ago now, I vowed to her and to myself that I would never let anyone forget her.  Pictures of her stayed on the walls in our house, her bedroom door was left open at all times (even though it was starting to become cluttered with cards, gifts, drawings, and legal documents).  Erick, Ainsley, and I will watch home videos from time to time.

I've heard that some people who have lost a child can go in the exact opposite direction than where my grief took me.  I was told a story of a couple who had lost their 18 year old daughter in a car accident while she was in college in Florida.  After the funeral and "normalcy" returned to that family, the husband had requested that all pictures of his beautiful daughter be removed from the walls and no one should even speak of her. Understandably,  It was too painful for the father.  I'm not judging.  We all handle grief in our own ways.

I on the other hand, can't get enough of Olivia.  She is a part of everything  in me.  Since our fist Christmas card without her in 2012, she was still on the card.  She IS our family.

On our first Christmas without Olivia however, I did things a little different even though my Thanksgiving rebellion was a flop.  I didn't hang anyone's stocking over the fireplace except for Ainsley's and Penny's (our dog).  I hanged theirs on the staircase railing that year.  The Christmas tree, that usually stood in our front windows, was strategically placed to the left of our fireplace.  It looked awful there but I didn't care because it HAD to to different.  We had even planned a trip to Disney World over Christmas.  Anything to avoid waking up on Christmas morning without Olivia.  How can I possibly pretend to be excited for Christmas morning when she isn't here to open our bedroom door with excitement?  She would probably had been the most excited for Ainsley, who was starting to understand the Santa thing.  So, I called my Aunt Sherry, who lives a stones throw away from the Disney parks, to see if she'd mind some company.  We were welcomed with opened arms.  We flew out of Pittsburgh International Airport early on Christmas morning.  With that said, we'd have to trick our 2 year old  and Santa came on Christmas Eve morning for Ainsley's sake.

Now, it's our 4th Christmas without Olivia physically here but she certainly is present.  I have an ornament that looks like a red velvet envelop.  It's addressed to the North Pole and inside of it is a hand written letter to Santa Claus from Olivia.  I read it every year that I pull out our decorations and then carefully fold it back up and clip it back into the ornament.  She asked for a Go-Go Walking Puppy that year.  Santa obliged and it's still here with us.

This is the 3rd Christmas that I've gone back to hanging our stockings by the chimney with care.   All five stockings hang on the letters that  spell out the word PEACE.