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


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.

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!


My cell phone rings.......

It's a number that looks like Ainsley's school.


"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."


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.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Happy Birthday Ainsley

Day 5 in our new chapter of life.  The life we now have to journey through with baby steps, one step at a time, one breath at a time, one hour at a time.......

March 28, 2012.  It's Ainsley's 2nd birthday and in all honesty, it's not very happy at all.  I think deep down inside, Ainsley herself felt that it's not very happy but we all try our best.

It's a Wednesday, a day that Erick and I would be going to work, Olivia to school, and Ainsley would be going to day care.  But instead of Olivia going to school, her body would be on a plane and would arrive back in Pittsburgh.  For several months after this day, I would look up at airplanes flying over me and think of her lifeless body on an airplane, cold and alone.

We decide to keep things as normal as possible today for Ainsley so we get ready and we take Ainsley to day care but a few hours late.  Just as Flo had made cookies for Olivia when she turned two, Nancy had made cookies for Ainsley to take to day care.  Nancy, Flo's daughter, kept the tradition going by baking cookies shaped like the number 2.  Erick, Ainsley, and I  drove down to day care to celebrate Ainsley's birthday with her teachers and classmates.  The teachers had all learned of our tragedy but it's still so awkward at this early stage to walk into a room knowing that everyone knows our loss.  Everyone sings "Happy Birthday" to Ainsley but the lump in my throat is overwhelming me so I'm whispering it as Ainsley sits on my lap and Erick is taking pictures of this, what should be joyous, day.

Later that day, we went into Olivia's room with Ainsley and reached underneath her bed to grab the birthday present that she had waiting for her precious baby sister.  It was the Sing-a-ma-jig that Olivia bought a few weeks earlier.  There it was, in a gift bag, with a card that was decorated and signed by Olivia and Hannah.  "This little light of mine"would be sung when you pressed the Sing-a-ma-jig's belly while it's mouth moved.  What an appropriate song to give to her cherished little sister.  Olivia was so excited for Ainsley to turn 2 but she would miss this day and every other birthday to come.

Family and friends start to arrive at our house once again and one of my friend's aunt bought a cake for us to all continue to celebrate Ainsley's big day.   I didn't even think to have a cake. Once again, the generosity and thoughtfulness continues from all around us.

I have no idea how we can mustard up a smile but we did.  Trust me, it's completely forced.  

We continue to celebrate like it's any other normal birthday.  Erick and I bought Ainsley her own scooter with 3 wheels so that she could follow Olivia and Hannah around on their scooters.  She would have loved that.  Ainsley loved to hang out with Olivia and Hannah but just couldn't keep up with them.  Now she could.  It's funny how everything you do revolves around your children.  What would make them happy?  Six days ago, this scooter would have been the best gift ever.  Today, it's just a toy.  It's now a reminder other absence.  To this day, sAinsley still scoots around on her 3 wheeled scooter and I follow on Olivia's.  She has no idea of what could have been, but I do.  

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The first few days

What better thing to do on a rainy day than write.

March 24, 2012.  The first day of my life without Olivia.  It sucks.  Erick and I both agreed that we didn't want to be alone so we called our friends and asked them to come to our house.  By Saturday night, our house was packed with friends and family and it continued  for an entire week.  Food, flowers, and gifts were being delivered to our home.  It was so comforting to have the distraction from our reality.  But, when it came time for visitors to leave......  oh, that's right.  Olivia is still gone. I would go to sleep at night with the help of Xanax but wake up to my nightmare each morning.  I think one night, I actually dreamed that it was just a nightmare and Olivia was still alive.  My mind was playing games with me or was it the Xanax?  Or, was it just part of grieving?  Whatever it was, it was awful.  I wanted a do-over in life.  I wanted out!  But, each morning we woke up, cried  and continued being parents to Ainsley.  My mother-in-law slept at our house, which was nice to have her there.

By day two of our new life, we were faced with writing an obituary.  Erick handled it and did it beautifully.  We were also faced with contacting the mortician in Florida because Olivia was still there, remember?  Because Olivia was young, an autopsy was required.  Oh, that makes me sick to think of that process so I don't choose to write about that.  Oh, and I did wish for her organs to be donated.  Something good has to come from this, right?  I am thankful for my father-in-law, a lawyer, who helped in getting death certificates  for life insurance policies that we had.  Sounds strange that we had life insurance on Olivia but my dad had purchased  one through some local organization never thinking we'd need it.  But, there we were........ using it towards a funeral.

Day 3, we're meeting with the Pastor from our church to discuss funeral arrangements.  We're also meeting with my friend's father, who is a funeral director to discuss those details.  What color casket? What size?  Olivia was "big enough" to be in an adult size casket.   Oh, good for her.  I hope you sense the sarcasm.  I asked the funeral director how much all of this would cost.  Why?  I don't know. It just came out of my mouth.  When he told me, my response was "that is what we should be spending on her wedding some day".  At this point, we were learning that Olivia would be coming home from Florida on Wednesday.  Her viewing would be on Thursday and her private funeral would be on Friday.  She died on a Friday and we'd bury her one week later.

More visitors were stopping by.  My two friends that I had met through Olivia's soccer team had stopped by with an envelop of money that they collected from the PTA at Olivia's school.  There I stood in the entryway of my house telling them the details of Olivia's death.  I think I kept repeating my story to remind myself that it really did happen.  Jen and Leslie were brought to tears, of course.  I was again in my stoic, robotic state.  Tears only came while alone.

Day 4.  I hd just gotten out of the shower when I heard my mom talking to someone who's voice I did not recognize.  It was a news reporter from WPXI.  Julie and her camera man were in my house wishing to interview us.  I declined being on camera and wished for none of our family members to be interviewed.  Julie did ask if they could just see pictures of Olivia for the story.  I guess they were going to run the story no matter what so I let them come in so that they could film some footage.  I guess we spend the flood gates because Channel 4 was at my door , then Channel 2 had called my mom then later ran the story while standing outside of Olivia school.  One news channel did interview our neighbor, Harry.  He did an awesome job speaking fondly of our Olivia.  Day 4 also took us to a cemetery.  Yes, we had to pick a grave site, a burial plot for our 8 year old daughter.  A final resting spot that we later named, La La's spot.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Going home

Once I decided to leave the hospital, I was standing outside of the room where Olivia died.  I was shaking uncontrollably, shivering.  My aunt, who came to simply get an update for the family, suggested to the nurse that I was in shock and perhaps they could give me something to help.  Someone handed me a prescription for Xanax.

We walked outside and it was dark and raining......  such a difference from hours before.  Well, everything was different hours before.  I had Olivia then and now I do not.  I sat in the backseat of someone's car and could hardly keep myself upright.  I slumped over and leaned onto my bag that my aunt had brought from the vacation home.  We drove to a CVS, I think, where I handed my prescription slip and my insurance card to a drive through window.  We then drove back to the vacation home.  My cousin, the one driving the boat, was waiting for me when we arrived.  She said how sorry she was.  I know that sounds very simplistic but what else could she say.  It was an accident.  Yes, a terrible one but an accident.  

I went into the house and my mom grabbed me and hugged me.  I still haven't cried.  I felt like I was walking through life as a zombie.  I sat down on the couch where my cousin Mark came to comfort me.  There was nothing that anyone could do.  I just wanted to curl up into a ball and pretend this isn't really happening.  I wanted to be with Erick and Ainsley.  I wanted my Olivia back here with me for our get away weekend.   Oh how I wanted this nightmare to be over but this is only the beginning of my nightmare.  This fucking nightmare is now my reality.  Excuse my language.  

The hospital had asked me if I wanted a social worker to come to the house to talk and I took them up on the offer.  She stopped by a little while later while I was still laying on the couch now holding onto Olivia's green blanket that she slept with every night since she was a baby.  I remember telling the social worker, Kim, that I was so scared that Erick would blame me for this and  would leave me.  At some point, I think, while I was in the hospital or later, I had inquired about organ donation.  What?  Seriously?  I consented to have any viable organ of Olivia's donated.  Someone from the organ donation department did call me on my cell and we arranged it.  I will blog about this later.   I remember feeling so tired but incredibly empty inside.  I remember still hearing my dad cry and cry and cry.  Me?  Still no t ears.  I have no idea what time it is at this point but I'm given a Xanax and I go into a bedroom to sleep.  My mom shared a bed with me.

The next morning, we woke up very early because my cousin, Mark had arranged for us to return to Pittsburgh.  I wasn't about to stay in Florida any longer than I need to.  This will later haunt me.  I left my daughter alone.  

My mom hopped into the bathroom to shower but I heard her vomit.  I showered next and then we left the house with our luggage.  Olivia's clothes were still packed in her suitcase.  I was leaving her in Florida.  Even when I type it......  it sounds horrible.  

I think I sat on the plane by complete strangers and was completely in a zombie state from the Xanax (too high of a dosage for me).  I dozed off on the plane but was startled awake by my own realization that Olivia was dead.  

We had another lay over in Atlanta, GA where I would call my friend Lori.  She had known what happened because my family had called my friend Melissa for me.  I wanted Melissa to call our friends and for someone to check on Erick the night of the accident.  Lori was a member at our church so I called her to ask if she would call our Pastor because I now have to plan a funeral.  Lori had already taken care of it.  Eventually, we arrive in Pittsburgh and back into my parent's car where Olivia's booster seat was waiting for her.  I sat in the backseat and my mom sat next to me.  Staring out the window the entire time but I could see the stickers that Olivia put on the back door.  She was everywhere but she wasn't here.  

Erick opened the front door of our split level home.   Ainsley was standing at the top of our steps and the first thing that comes out of her adorable little mouth is, "Where's LaLa".  I didn't think that my heart could break any more.  My mother-in-law was there to distract Ainsley while Erick and I went downstairs to our bedroom.  We sat on the bed and hugged each other while Erick cried.  Me?  Nothing.  I am numb.  I am dead inside.  

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The little things that she'll miss

Today, my friend Leslie and I went to sweat our butts off at Hot Yoga.  She and I have been going to yoga for about a year now.    Leslie's daughter, ironically enough is named Olivia, was texting her mom before our class started about this weekend's school dance.  Olivia and my Olivia were in the same grade and were on the soccer team together.

Leslie's Olivia had decided that she wanted to go to the dance on Saturday.  She then texted Leslie to tell her that a boy had asked her to go to the dance with him.  Wow, that hit me like a ton of bricks.  I don't usually let my emotions show in front of my friends but this time was different.  Sitting in a dark and HOT room, I cried.  Than Leslie began to cry.  I cried because it was so cute that she was asked to a dance and I cried because my Olivia will never get that chance of being asked to a dance.  She'll never have those butterflies in her stomach when she starts liking boys.....  there is just so much that she'll never got to experience as a 7th grade girl.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Bins and more bins

When we became pregnant for the second time, we decided to find out the sex because of all of the clothing that we had stored in our attic.  Olivia had a ton of clothes.......  partially because I am a shopping addict and we had clothing donated to us by family members.  So, if we were having a boy, I was getting rid of all of those clothes that Olivia had grown out of.  THANK GOODNESS THAT WE HAD ANOTHER GIRL.  I often think about "what if".  What if we had a boy?  I would have gotten rid of Olivia's clothes and would have only had the clothes in her closet, which, by the way are still THERE.   They will stay there until Ainsley can fit into them.

On Sunday, I ventured up into the attic to look for the next set of bins of clothes.   I came across several bins of clothes that Ainsley could wear this summer, fall, next summer, next fall, the following spring, and then.......  we'll eventually hit the end of our supply.

Going through the bins, I have mixed emotions.  Some of the outfits bring back memories or where we were when Olivia wore this.  Some of the clothes I will not part with even after Ainsley wears them.  They have too strong of a connection to Olivia.   I have created a new bin of clothes that I refer to as my memory bin.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Made in China

I know that a few of my past blogs have been tough for some of my readers to get through.  Trust me, it was hard for me to write and relive but it's important for me to tell my story.

On a much lighter note, Olivia was very intrigued or maybe obsessed by where things were made.  I'm not sure if this was something they were doing in school or she just figured it out on her own but it was an interesting phase.  She would turn items over and read "made in China".  At one point, she actually got agitated that 90% of the items she turned over said "Made in China".

During this weird time frame, we remodeled our kitchen and a new dishwasher had been delivered and installed.  I was trying to learn how to use it but couldn't read the small font on the buttons due to my visual impairment.  This is the nice thing about having a child who now can read when you yourself need help reading!  Olivia actually loved helping me.  She even learned how to read the bus numbers when she  and I rode the bus home from Oakland after Kindergarten.

So, I called Olivia into the kitchen and pointed to the first button on the dishwasher for her to tell me "Pots and Pans".  OK, I pointed to the next one and she says "Normal Wash".  Great, let's see what this next one says.....  I point.  Olivia smacks her hands onto her thighs as in disbelief and says to me "See!  I told you everything is made in China!"  I'm confused so I ask her to read  to me what is printed on the button. "China Wash"!

Monday, January 18, 2016


Sitting in the private room of the emergency department, my dad suggests to me to call Erick .  I dial Erick on my cell phone and he picks up after only a few rings.  I can hear Ainsley playing in the background......  I tell Erick that there's been an accident and that Olivia is badly hurt.  He immediately starts screaming "NO, NO, NO".  I don't remember anything else about our conversation other than his cries of helplessness and fear.  I don't remember hanging up the phone.....  I just don't remember......  I do remember his cry and it haunts me to this day.

A nurse comes to the room and tells me that her name is Mary and that she can take me to Olivia.  I walk with Mary and ask how Olivia is doing.  I was NOT prepared for her to tell me that Olivia wasn't breathing on her own.

At this point, I am now having an outer-body-experience.  I am watching myself walk into a room with Olivia surrounded by medical staff.  The doctor introduces himself to me and then explains that Olivia's pupils are fixed and dilated.  I don't really know what that means but I know it's not good.  The doctor continues to tell me that Olivia sustained a significant head injury.  He gently tells me that there is nothing more that they can do for her.  A few moments go by and I try dialing Erick again but my hands are trembling so badly that I can't hit the right numbers.  The physician dials for me and I don't know what I said to my husband who is hundreds of miles away from us but he is on the other end when I say good bye to my sweet Olivia.  I tell her to go find Steeler then I buckle at the knees and curl up into a ball on the floor.  At some point during this, I hear "Time of death.........."  She's gone.  Oh my God, my first born, beautiful daughter is dead.

The nurses give me a chair and tell me that I can stay with Olivia as long as I need to.  I sat next to Olivia's lifeless body and hold her hand while my dad hugs her and sobs.  I remember showing the nurses how cute Olivia's toes looked.  Erick painted her toes and mine before we left for our trip.  It was a bluish green color.  I later learned that the name of the color was Mermaid's Tears.  Weird, huh?I also remember hearing a man in the adjacent room vomiting over and over again......  I sat back down again and held Olivia's hand.  It had that stupid pulse oximeter attached to her pointer finger.

I don't remember how long my dad and I stayed at the hospital that night but to this day I know that it wasn't long enough.

Watching your child die is the worst thing that a mother can experience but watching your child's body be placed into a black bag and zipped is, well, I have no words for it.  I wish I wouldn't have seen it.  I wish I wouldn't have said that I wanted to go back to the house.  I wish I would have never been on this nightmare of a vacation.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Deaths come in threes

Have you ever heard of that saying that deaths come in threes?  At one point, I think I actually believed that wive's tails until 2012.

While home from work on Christmas break back in 2011, I attended two funerals before the first of the year.  One funeral was for Flo.  Flo was like a grandmother to me and my husband.  She was in her 90's so it seemed natural to lay her to rest.  Don't get me wrong, it was sad.  She was a great lady but attending a funeral for an older person isn't out of the ordinary.  Flo was such a sweet lady.  She always thought of Olivia at the holidays and her birthdays.  When Olivia turned 2, Flo baked cookies shaped like the number 2 and hand painted them with Sesame Street characters on them.  This lady had talent!  You almost didn't want to eat the cookies because of their beautiful perfections.

Funeral number two was NOT of the ordinary.  Erick's cousin Kelly passed away a few days after Flo did.  Kelly was in her 30's when she was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer.  Kelly, a mother of two, lost her battle with cancer and we said our good-byes to her on New Year's Eve.  I've known Kelly since grade school and have fond memories of her over the past few decades.  She was a vibrant young woman who was taken from us way too soon.

After the holidays were over, I headed back to work.  I remember telling my co-workers about how I attended two funerals within one week.    A couple of weeks later, I learned of the death of Mrs. Hanford, a friend of my mom's and my old cheerleading sponsor.  Mrs. Hanford, a exuberant, lovely lady, lost her battle with parkinson's disease in January of 2012.  I attended her viewing and thought to myself that this has to be the last death that I would mourn for a long time to come.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Accident

While in high school and beyond, my husband and I did quite a bit of boating on the rivers around Pittsburgh.  It seemed like every weekend in the summers while on summer  break that we  spent our time cruising the Allegheny River with our group of friends.  We had two close friends that owned boats so we did a lot of tuning and even water skiing.  For all of the numerous times that we spent on the river and for some of the stupid things we did as teenagers/college students,  nothing terrible ever happened to any of us over the years of boating.......   Of course, I am thankful for that.  Erick's dad even ended up purchasing a second home on the Allegheny River in which we frequented often in the summers after marriage and even after Olivia's birth.  He too bought a boat and we would fish and cruise on it every time we were there.  Olivia too also began to love the river and hanging out of the boat with us as she too loved to fish and explore  nature on the river.

When my uncle asked us if we wanted to go for a boat ride on the St. John's River on that day in March, I couldn't have imagined anything but fun.  It started out that way though.  We slowly took a few spins out on the river Olivia, my dad, and I just chatted with my two cousins and my uncle.  We weren't out very long until we decided to head back to dock because it was getting close to dinner and then this is where it all goes wrong.  My cousin, who has driven this boat before, takes the wheel and we head back to the dock.  The dock is different than the ones on the Pennsylvania rivers.   These docks are all stationary.  Docks on the Allegheny River sit on top of the water whereas the wooden dock that we would park were on are wooden pillars that are drilled into the earth beneath the water.  I learn later that the tide changes so much in Florida that they are build this way because of the tidal changes.  As we head back to the dock, my uncle is sitting in front of the drivers seat and Olivia is in front of the passenger seat in the open bow of the boat.  As my cousin tried to "park" along side the dock, the wind started to pick up and she wasn't able to slide the boat in so she reversed and tried again while my uncle instructed her.  I don't remember how many times she tried.  She then went to reverse away from the dock but instead of putting the gear in reverse, she accidently put it into drive and we slammed into the dock.  It happened to fast.  My  uncle, who had been standing in the front of the boat, put his hands up to protect himself from hitting the dock.  At the same time, he glass of the passenger side window shattered.  I remember saying, "Holy shit!"

I was sitting in the very bak of the boat with my other cousin and then ran to see Olivia laying on the floor of the boat.  Her eyes were closed and her hands were peacefully resting on the belly.  I immediately yelled towards the house, "Call 911!"

 Olivia started to groan and moan as I held her in my arms.  I thought that she was in pain because her left upper arm was swollen and her breathing was weird.  In my mind, she had a broken arm and perhaps some cracked ribs.......  My one aunt was on her cell phone with 911 while my other aunt came onto the boat and held me while I held Olivia.  I looked at my aunt and told her that I was scared.  She was too.  There was no blood........  there were no tears.......  but then things started to turn for the worse.  Olivia started to seize.  OH MY GOD.  I shoved my finger in her mouth because I started to think she couldn't breathe.  I was going to give her mouth to mouth but her jaw clamped down on my right pointer finger and I heard this awful gurgling sounds coming from her.  I tried to open her lips and blow air into her mouth.  Looking back, nothing was going to save my little girl at this point.

Just then, I heard a strange man's voice.  It was the first responders.  He jumped on the boat and another woman did as well.  The woman  asked how long Olivia was in the water.  We told her that Olivia was never in the water.  The man looked at Olivia and said, "We need to go.".  He swooped up Olivia into his arms and RAN off of the dock to the ambulance.  I followed.  The paramedics didn't allow me to be in the ambulance with Olivia.   Looking back, I think I can see why.

My dad and I followed the ambulance in our rental car to the hospital.  When I worked at Pitt, one of my co-workers was also a paramedic.  I remember him telling me that it was never a good idea to go through red lights if your a family member following an ambulance.  Well, screw that.  While following the ambulance, I let out a blood curdling scream in the car as my dad recited the Hail Mary prayer.  Neither did  any good.  Once we arrived at the hospital, we waited outside of the ambulance before a nurse came and assorted us to a private room.   My  dad asked the nurse if there was a place for me to get washed up.......  I went into the bathroom and looked at my face in the mirror.  I had Olivia's blood on my lips and on my grey tank top.  I must have washed up but I don't truly remember.

To be continued........