Monday, March 24, 2014

Impatiently waiting...

  This post is just a quick one for those who have asked me how Jason died... and let's be honest, for those who are wondering, but afraid to ask. And that is understandable. I don't take offense to people wondering how a healthy 32-year-old man just dies in a matter of about 6 hours.  I'm sure some have even combed back through this blog to see if they missed something. Trust me, I have been combing through the last year or so, to see if I missed something, as well. I mean, really how does this happen? It certainly takes away the "funny" from the joke made in the ER that night to "call Dr. House." I think it was I who made that joke, before I knew what was really happening. I feel guilty for that now.

  So, here is what news I have for you. 

Nothing. 

It's been over 5 weeks since his death and I am still waiting for a final ruling on cause of death and manner of death. I am not throwing stones at the medical examiner's office, though. If you know me, you know that I am not one to let things that concern myself or my family go on without my diligent attention. I press, and I press hard. So, it won't surprise you that I have been in constant contact with them and they have been very nice. Cathy from the medical examiner's office, if you ever stumble across this blog and are reading this one day, thank you for your candor, tact, and prompt responses. Anyhow, they sent off for labs on Jason, including toxicology, blood and histology (tissues). I know the toxicology has already come back and is negative, which means there was nothing in his system like drugs, alcohol, etc. This is not news to me, since Jason and I do not participate in drug use of any kind. But they have to do those tests in cases like these. The doctor is still reviewing his tissues and I know that something has come back positive in his blood. I have some suspicions about what, but I don't know for sure.
Also, the doctor will be presenting Jason's case to the critical case review panel, which is a meeting among doctors where they present cases on which they are working, and wish to get a consensus on. 
I have been assured that this particular doctor is very thorough and leaves no stone unturned.  For that I am grateful. It is nerve-racking and stress-invoking beyond the mere words that I can begin to formulate today. I assure you that years have literally been shaved off my life. Today, I feel far older than my years should allow.

 But there is nothing I can do about it... except wait my turn. And I promise to let you know when I know. There is nothing to hide. Nothing funny going on, at least on our end.
        Thank you for your support. I am so grateful for good people. 
Love,
Claire





Friday, March 21, 2014

For Harper

  To the littlest George, 
One day you will be able to read this letter about your daddy, and I hope that when you do, you will understand that even though you cannot see him, he watches over you. And even though he cannot talk to you, you can always talk to him. And though your time together was cut so very, painfully short, know that he is with you still.

  We knew your name before we even decided to have you. I did, anyway. But I had to earn it. I had to convince your daddy to have another baby after all the work your sister was. 

There was also this fear he carried, and one day you will understand this, too. Could we love someone as much as we loved Lila already?
But when you picked your own birthday on that hot and sunny Thursday afternoon in June, we both realized that it's true what they say about love and your children... you don't have to divide it up, it multiplies with them. 

Your daddy was so tired after all the "work" he did delivering you... See him laying down back there? It must have been hard for him. 

Ok, so even though I did the hard part that day, and the 9 months before that, he really picked up the slack at home. He got up with you at night more than I did. And now I am glad I made him. Sometimes, the strongest bonds are made at 3am. 
He loved this neon pajama set on you, because he loved all things loud and bright and bold. Like your mama.  

We immediately had to capture on film how small and beautiful you were at just 4 days new, and that look of love on his face is real, baby girl. 
(Photo by www.yourcandidmemories.com)

You liked to watch motorcycle races with him every Sunday. He would even willingly get up with you at 3am to listen to the live practices across the globe!

And he loved to make you laugh by bouncing you on his lap. No matter his mood, if you smiled, he smiled. He was no match for your gummy grin!

He took you to your friends' birthday parties... But you were tired, so he carried you the whole time. Ask me about "hashtags" one day. #partypooper

He loved to take naps with you on lazy Saturday mornings (and on busy Saturday mornings), and he did so every chance you gave him. 

For your first Halloween, he took you trick or treating in your stroller! You were a ghost that year.

And when Lila wanted to practice holding you, he made sure it was always on a soft surface...

He took you to the park to swing for your first time! He stood there and pushed you for an hour at that busy park, even though other kids probably wanted a turn. But he didn't care about what those kids wanted...
 
And he liked to take selfies with you, just like any respectable father would do. 

Seriously. Motorcycle races every Sunday. 

I want you to know, that I know you already don't remember him. I don't want you to feel sad one day when you can better understand this. All I want is for you to look at the pictures, listen to the stories, watch the videos, and trust me that your daddy was the best daddy you could have wished for. A protector, a provider, and he loved you. You made him proud and gave him joy and meaning in his life. He would never leave you willingly. And one day, not soon, you will see him again. That reminds me... ask me about Jesus, too. 

                           Love,
                           Mom
















Friday, March 14, 2014

One down, a lifetime to go...

  One month. 
It's been one month since I've talked to you. It's been one month since I've heard your voice, and smelled your cologne, and watched you toss Lila up toward the ceiling. One month since you put little Harper to bed. One month since I saw your smiling face, full of life and color. One month closer to healing or just one month further from you? One month since my phone lit up with a ridiculous text from you. I still read through them sometimes. I'm not sure if it makes me feel better or worse to do that...

  It's been one month since life felt normal and comfortable. One month since the days felt like MY days and not like myself watching someone else's life from the outside. I am the only parent now. Whose life is that? 
  When you lose someone, time becomes a strange concept. It literally feels like yesterday we were in that emergency room. Yet, it feels like you've been gone for so much longer. Your absence is more than just painful. It's a gaping black hole sucking me in, and it's sitting next to me on the couch. And it's curled up next to me in that big bed. It stays with me all day long as I continue to glance at my phone for a text from you. It parks next to me in the driveway. And at night it makes its way into my dreams when you pop up to tell me you're alive, only for that cold bitch reality to come crashing back down on top of me when I wake up. 

  I am making every effort, futilely thus far, to banish the black hole. Not because I don't want to miss you and not because I don't want to spend my days thinking of you. Because I always will. But because I can't let Lila and Harper lose both parents. I can't let myself fall into the black hole that follows me around all day. Because nobody knows what's in that hole, where it would take me, when or how I would get out of it. It's a conscious effort I have to make to not be sucked in. I have to actively pull myself out of it and away from it. I have to use muscles I haven't even exercised, strength I haven't earned, and endurance I'm not sure I have for this task. So, I try to make efforts to be normal; to at least act normal. Pretend to be normal, while I attempt to do the hardest thing I've ever done in life. For them. 
(Your shadow overlooking them, at the park you loved, as I hope you always will)


  This got me thinking about what YOU would be doing if the situation were reversed. What if I had died? What if I had suddenly disappeared from our life, without any warning at all? What if you were left alone to be Mommy AND Daddy? What if suddenly you became twice as important because the we were cut in half? What would you be doing right this moment? Would you be blogging? That's a joke. Of course not. But would you be ok? Would you still take them to that same park? Would you still live in our house? Would you still take Lila to gymnastics each week?
Would you be faking it like I am? Would you give up? 

  I'm guessing you would be a little like me. You would try to be strong for the girls at whatever cost. Because you were that kind of man. Life kicked you in the teeth more than once and you never gave up. I promised you I wouldn't, even though I know you couldn't hear me. And I keep my promises. 
One month down, a lifetime to go...


Sunday, March 9, 2014

An Open Letter to God

Dear Lord,
  That familiar salutation I greet you with every night, for every prayer. How are you today? Well, let me be honest with you for a moment, and you probably know this anyway, but I'm a little... dare I be bold enough to admit this to you?... mad. 
Is a better word "abandoned" or "confused"? I'm not sure because I hardly feel those things, but I do know mad when I see it.  
 I asked you every single night for the health, safety and longevity of my family. I've been doing so for years, even before I had kids. 
  Back then, I prayed a lot for my mom. She was my best friend. I called her no less than five times a day. But you know that. You know her. If there was ever a You, she's with You. So, I still pray for her. 
(My mom, with 7 month old Lila, 2 weeks before she unexpectedly and suddenly passed in 2012)

  Then I had these beautiful children of my own and I added them to my prayers. I prayed for them and for my family.
Every.night. 
  While I was rocking little Harper, and Lila before her, in her dimly lit room, back and forth in the wobbly glider, I would lay my head back and close my eyes. Sporadically, I would breathe in the baby scent from her little head, taking peeks at her eyelids flickering rapidly in her dreamy state, and then I would pray. I asked for forgiveness for my sins. I asked for greater understanding of the things I doubted. I would always thank you for my abundant blessings and I always asked ONE specific thing of you. To keep watch over my parents, my daughters, my husband, my brother and myself. To keep our bodies well, our hearts strong. To keep us together, to enjoy each other. To keep us safe from harm. Why do I feel like I've been talking to myself now? 

  When my mom needed to return home to you, great Lord, I was devastated to lose her. I was heartbroken that my daughters had won the grandmother lottery, only to be denied collection. I was lonely without my mom. But I finally accepted that she must have had a purpose beyond me and my daughters. I accepted that parents die. I tried to look at silver linings, if you could call it that. I felt like she was still present for a lot of my grief and felt like I would get "signs" from her, even though I'm pretty sure The Good Book says the dead cannot communicate with the living. I put a small part of my heart away for her to hopefully unlock again in a new life beyond. A piece just for her. You could say a part of me died with her and I guess that would be true. But I preferred to think of it as saving that part for her to have later. And I put the rest of my heart into my life with Jason. He did a great job taking over. 


  So please tell me why, less than two years later, as I'm finally feeling more normal again, the person who I put all of myself into literally dies right in front of me?! My strong, fierce protector slipped away. With no warning, with no answers. Gone in the night. One long, horrible night. Didn't you see me, God?! I laid on top of his body, blood from his lungs splattered on his face, speckling the beard he was so proud of. I lay there shocked and crying while a chaplain who doesn't know me tried to offer awkward comforts when there are none. I had to come home with Jason's clothes, wallet, phone, everything we brought to the ER... except Jason. All in one little bag. Why did you let that happen? I had to be at our home that we built and wait for Lila to wake up. I had to pretend things were normal. And I had to wait. I waited and then it happened. Lila asked for him. And my heart broke into a million shards, puncturing my lungs, making it impossible to breathe. Why did you allow me and Lila to feel that way? She will keep asking for him and it will break my heart a little more every time. And then, one day, she will stop asking. 

And my heart will break all over again. 

  I won't lie to you, mostly because I can't, not because I wouldn't. I felt like the universe was playing horrible games at my expense. And I feel my faith being tested. I mean, TRULY TESTED; created only from a dark, dark place. Not every Christian can say they have been. 
 You could have saved him. Am I really so unimportant that you let my husband leave his children? Don't you remember they're just babies? I've been feeling this way for weeks now. 

That's why I haven't been returning your calls. 

  BUT! I think maybe I haven't been totally fair to you, Lord. A dear friend told me that God has prepared me for this. Those words have sat heavy on my heart since.

"God has prepared you for this."

 I've repeated those words over and over and tried to see the ways. And I have seen. I have seen good people come forward. I have seen the crop from the seeds that Jason planted for us, unknowingly. I have seen the helpers. I have seen people in my life who truly care about me, Jason, and our daughters. I have even seen a little bit of what I'm REALLY made of. The good and the bad. 

 There is so much uncharted territory here for me to see. So I'm not sure where I stand or where I will eventually land. But I wanted to tell you I'm ready. I'm ready to pay attention at least... To see if maybe, possibly, you did prepare me for this.





Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Smoke & Mirrors

     In the last 2 weeks, 4 days and 7.5 hours, I have been told many times that I am strong and that I am doing so well, given the circumstance. At Jason's service, more than one person commented about how well I held it together while I spoke over my deceased husband about our life together. I want to let you in on a secret, it's all smoke and mirrors.

      (The closed end of Jason's casket at the service. Pictures, his old faithful Auburn cap, flowers, and one of many crashed motorcycle helmets laid on him in the open end)

I don't feel strong, I don't feel like I'm doing anything differently than any mother worth her salt would do. I paint my face in the morning, I slip into some business casual attire, clip on my name badge, and I sip my large Diet Coke on the way to my downtown office, as if it's a normal Wednesday. But it couldn't be less like a normal Wednesday. Just like a cheap magician, I have fooled you with an optical illusion, a magic trick. The makeup disguises the redness and dark circles from crying and lack of sleep. The business attire doesn't allude to the endless hours I've spent in the same T shirt and pajama pants of Jason's. The name badge just reminds me of who I am supposed to be today. My trusted Diet Coke is my comfort food (do NOT tell me it will cause cancer).
 
Today is a particularly hard day for me to play these games. On this day 3 years ago, Jason asked me to marry him. He took me to that special restaurant I've talked about, and before dinner, he dropped to one knee, pulled out a diamond ring, and asked me to be his wife. People passing by on the street stopped and said their "Awww"s and wished us luck. I called friends and family and of course immediately updated my Facebook relationship status, duh. 
Shortly after he proposed, the restaurant burned down. It was like it fulfilled its destiny. He took me there on our first date, for special occasions and then to make it official. So it was almost ok that it burned down! Like it had this one purpose, to be our place. 

(Our restaurant at 1022 South Broadway, burning. I was more affected by this than one should be. Jason proposed on the sidewalk in front of that tiny green awning in the middle, March 5, 2011)

The street address of "our spot" is forever etched into my memory. With as many wonderful memories as we had there, I can't see past the image on the medical examiner's file listing it as the place Jason's death occurred*. The place of our first date, the place of our last date. Both times with a single rose laying in front of me. In a way, I feel like this restaurant fooled me with its own smoke and mirrors. It seemed to promise me forever, but it didn't keep its end of the deal.



(My final rose from Jason. Just like the one he gave me on our first date)

1022 South Broadway was rebuilt after the fire with a newer, albeit less charming, face. I can't help but wonder if I will follow suit.

For now it's too early to say. For now, I have to put on my show and pretend that today has no power over me; that it's not taking pieces of me with it. I will chat with coworkers and family. At least for the daylight hours, I will try to ignore the lump that has been in my throat all day, threatening to give me away before I can stop it. I will attempt to continue my master show of il•lu•sion (noun): 1. an experience of seeming to see something that does not exist or that is other than it appears.





 


 *For those of you keeping up, Jason did eventually pass in the ER [see my first post], but this is listed as the location of first occurrence


Sunday, March 2, 2014

Dear Lila

     THIS. This is the hardest part. Our girls. I cannot even begin to put into words how heavy I feel in my heart, soul and physical being when that paralyzing "wave" of reality hits me...

Our girls will not know, or even remember, their daddy.
(God, that's hard to say.)

I have decided they call it a "wave" because that's exactly what it is. Just as if you were standing out in the surf of the Pacific, trying to enjoy the sun. The sounds of water crashing begin to all run together, your senses are numbed and you're left without warning. Unaware, you gaze into the horizon, only for your feet to be knocked out from under you with full force. Before you can steady yourself, you're under water... and you're drowning. You don't know which way to the surface, and the salty water burns inside your nose and then invades your lungs. You can no longer breathe. All your limbs thrash around desperate to save your life, but you're no match for the force of Mother Nature. The wave has already broken and taken you under with it. It feels just.like.that. 
 It is so shockingly painful and surreal to me, so I try to run from it. But it still comes for me; it still finds me unaware in that surf; and then it leaves me empty, breathless and crying on the floor. I cry for him, I cry for me, I cry for them, I cry for what should have been; what was supposed to be. If he knew this was their reality, he would feel the greatest sadness he's ever known. I say that with certainty.
                                                 (photo by www.yourcandidmemories.com)

So today I want to tell Lila about what a great daddy she has watching over her. Don't worry, Harper. I haven't forgotten you.

Dear Lila,
One day years from now, you will be able to read this letter and when you do, I hope you will feel your daddy with you. I want you to know he would never leave you willingly. He did not want to go. But he had to. I cannot tell you exactly why, but I pray that one day God will show us. Your daddy wanted to be there for all your firsts. We talked about them often. You gave him a lot of firsts, too. In 2011, you were born and you showed him a love not everyone gets to feel.


He became a different person after you came into his life. He stopped being so stubborn and reckless. He was all about you. 110%. He got up with you at night when you would cry. He played with you for hours and then held you while you slept.

He was a very proud papa! We had plans to take you to the same pumpkin patch each year. I will still take you and I think he will meet us there.




 He worked REALLY hard to provide for you. We even decided right after you were born that an apartment wasn't cutting it and that you deserved a house. So, we built you one. 

Is that a baby in a bar?


You even got to be our flower girl at our wedding, because mommy and daddy may or may not have done things a little out of order. 

He would drive all over town to several different stores just to find the exact toy we wanted you to have. 

 He loved Auburn football and he played with you as if he were a child too. Because, let's face it, he was.

He was the one who introduced you to your new little sister in 2013.

He liked to scare us both when he would toss you around.


He read you bedtime stories over and over again. You heard "Goodnight Moon" no less than 1000 times.

 And he really liked to take you to this park and wave at the ducks from your pink car. He always wanted to go to that park. So we tried to take you every Sunday in the morning, before it got crowded. You would wave and say "Hi ducks!!" He thought that was the cutest thing, so he said it all the time, too.

 He would even crawl into your princess play tent with you and take selfies.


He loved you so much, more than any dad I have ever known. Most nights after you would fall asleep, we would look at all the cute pictures and videos we had captured of you that day. We constantly talked about how funny you were and the new words you were saying (our favorite was your curious word for Popsicle; "ab-o-dee"), what you were learning, and cute things you were picking up. He told me many times how unexpected this relationship was to him. That he had never known he could love someone so much; that he never knew it would be so fun. He would let you jump on top of him, bowl him over and crawl on him until you were tired. You and he would jump on our bed at night before your bedtime, and he looked forward to taking you to gymnastics for the "mommy and me" class on Saturday mornings. 

My new wish for you is that you always know that you changed his life and that he was so happy to walk in the front door to your little face everyday. You would light up and yell "Daddy!!!!!!" while running full speed into his arms. He would yell back "Lila!!!!!" and throw you up as high as he could. It sounds like I'm making that up, doesn't it? Sounds too good to be true? Like a TV show? Or just something mommy made up for a blog post? No, child. I promise you it's the truth. It was real. You made him smile everyday.
 Every.Single.Day.




Love,
Mom