Tuesday, June 10, 2014

20 Years Today

Today I got re-routed on my way to work.  While I was bitching about the construction on summer streets, I turned right off the main street and knew instantly where I was. One more four-way stop and I would be there.  Not where I intended to be as I was surely going to be late for work but maybe where I was supposed to be even if for the briefest moment.  Beyond the gates lies a place where your name is etched in stone.  I already knew what today was. I have known for weeks that it was coming and I went to bed yesterday aware of what day I would awake to.  Today is twenty years since my life changed forever, the day You died.
Driving slowly past the cemetery I thought about how I might write this blog, if I felt so inclined.  Today was spent in reflection on how meeting you, loving you, knowing that you had died and experiencing your funeral had impacted me but also who I would become as a result.  I decided that putting it to words would help me to honour your memory in a way that feels authentic to me.

Before you I believed that I was invincible, not like superman or some other fictional character but from a place that is based in the residual beliefs of childhood and magical thinking.  In addition to having this amazing ability, I also thought that I would amount to something great - which would definitely be in the area of helping others.  This was the way of the adolescent ego and that is the time that I am speaking of, when you entered my life. The time between childhood and adulthood, where for many who live with the privilege of health, family and modest middle class, it is a time where the good outweighs the bad.
I knew of you before I knew you and so I was aware that you had Cystic Fibrosis. I even did a project on the disease for health class and I had not even met you yet.  The day I did actually meet you, you introduced yourself so assertively and with so much kindness, I liked you instantaneously. In that first conversation you told me about CF as a gesture of transparency and I told you all I had learned about the disease and we fell into an easy friendship.  If I am being honest now, in that first meeting I wanted to save you. I thought I could be the one that would go on to be some sort of Biochemist who in my brilliance could research and cure Cystic Fibrosis (even though I had I dropped out of chemistry a semester earlier).  I was so future-oriented planning the things that we would do together as friends I see now how you helped root me in the present, even before this whole Mindfulness movement, so I could enjoy it there with you ~Thank You.
I don't want to fast forward through the 10 months I got to spend as your friend but I know I could fill 6 blogs talking about that time and I want something different for this one.
June 10, 1994 - you died.  I was devastated.  We were all devastated.  Nothing can  prepare you for the death of someone you love.
I know now that I lost more then you that day; I lost my invincibility, my immortality and my identity.  I was not going to save anyone from death not even myself.  It may seem like an unbearable lesson and for a time it was but it also began to carve out the path for my life.  Admittedly, I was not ready to take that path at the time and it would be years and another death that would finally have me walking my own journey but I am on it now. In my role I support the bereaved as they enter their own journey and I can come from an authentic place with empathy and compassion that I learned because you were my friend.
As in any life that is built from the lessons that death has taught, it is bittersweet.  To have today be just another day and to have you here - well I would have chosen a different path if only it were a choice.
Sheri I remember you always and I know that I have never been alone on my path and that has brought me a tremendous amount of comfort in some of the darkest times.  Miss you ~Until We Meet Again.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

A Mother's Day Observed

In my practice I have been known to tell individuals in relationship with others that they must be clear with their expectations.  While I understand the disappointment in not receiving accolades or wooing; if we do not communicate what we need or expect, our loved one will likely fall short of our desires and wishes.  Therein lies the potential for breakdown or tension in relationship with others and I am not immune from this experience.

This year Flynn's birthday and Mother's Day have fallen similarly in the calendar as they did 12 years ago and I have been feeling down in relation to this (or at least that is what I am attributing it to).  Practicing what I suggest to others, two weeks ago I told my beloved that I would really appreciate a Love Letter for Mother's Day in lieu of any Hallmark card or store bought merchandise.  Once his jokes about me not being his mother were out of his system, he told me that he liked the idea and would see what he could do.

It may not seem romantic or sentimental to ask for a love letter but I knew that what I needed right then for my spirit and in relation to him was a reminder of our connection. The relationship that is at the basis of our transformation into parenthood and the foundation for our family.  In being honest with him I was more likely to have my needs and desires met.

When he and I began dating we bonded over our love of the written word. We both took poetic license with our thoughts and emotions and reveled in sharing it with one another.  His letter to me today left me a puddle of tears, feeling loved and knowing that in this life I have someone who sees me. His letter touched on the deeply personal and I needed it to be.  These past few weeks I have felt raw and vulnerable "searching for something" to help me feel rooted.  I wanted to tell you how much I appreciated this beautiful act and I wanted to post this passage and say Thank You for loving me.

"When I watch you struggle with your anxiety over them, their difficulties with school and with their ever growing need to make choices for themselves, I'm empowered by your passion and investment into what they will become. I may be a great "Dad" in the moment but I pale in comparison to your attention to detail. Without you by my side and at the helm of this family, I know that we would be lost....veering wildly around in search of some solid ground on which to build a foundation for a strong future. You are our anchor. It sounds unpleasant, but it is the most important requirement in a successful and truly happy family. You need to know that we all love and depend on you, and always will as our lives unfold."

Sunday, May 4, 2014

We Were Not Here

"The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain." ~Kahlil Gibran

It wasn't the same this year, Flynn's birthday. Even that is hard to say.  I waited for the lead up; the weeks of turmoil and instability. I waited for my body to remember, feeling hollow and burdened and it did not happen the way I had known in the past.  Maybe it was because we left the familiarity of routine and our home, taking a mini vacation to a place of happiness. 

We were not here.  I thought I would be okay with that. Actually I was content with that until today (the day after his birthday) when I realized that a day which I have always devoted to him did not hold the same commitment to Flynn's memory ~ this year.  Sure I did a Facebook post to remind the world of his significance and my grief but that takes one second out of my day.  Consequently I was sent messages of love and friendship throughout the day and I know that he passed through the minds of my community; that is not meaningless.

Flynn is with me every day.  In a fleeting moment when I can see him in my mind's eye or feel the weight of him in my arms or in a memory of carrying him deep in my womb.  His birthday is different than every other day, it is a time when the world slows down, just the way it did for the days and weeks following his death.  I allow for the feelings that whether valid or not still come to me. There is the disappointment and shame in my body's deficiency. The sorrow in only holding him for half an hour before doctors would take me away to save me (not him). The guilt and tragedy in my recovery overlapping with his final heartbeat - I was not there when he died.  Ultimately it always comes back to the feeling of failure in being a mother that could not save her child.  I need his time so that I can give back to myself the other 364 days of joy.

Flynn - On the way home your brothers argued over who you loved more while they discussed how much they loved and missed you.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Can I have a Do-Over?

As parents, bereaved parents, we need to take time and appreciate that we are doing a good job.  Heck some days I am doing a great job.  Other days I just want a do-over; reset and let me try that one again.
At a recent busy sporting event I had my oldest with me for the entire day and it was nice to have time devoted to Mom and Biggest kid.  After the event we were invited back to another family's house and my son wanted to go, so we did.  There were about 5 teenage athletes that came back with us and hung out in another part of the house while I was having tea with the mom getting to know one another.  It wasn't long before there were six teenagers were hanging out in the kitchen with us - possibly scavenging for food but in the vicinity nonetheless.  The other mom was commenting on the age gap between my boys, asking all of their ages specifically.  Before I could answer the Biggest replied "We have another brother but we lost him."
The 5 other teenagers stopped chatting and the mother asked him what he said (kindly) and all I could think was did the air just get sucked out of the room?

My Biggest said again "We had another brother, Flynn, he was three years younger then me and we lost him."  I corrected him - it was all I could do - "Honey you are correct and he died, shortly after he was born."  The mother was sympathetic, if not completely thrown for a loop. The teenagers were fascinated, the Biggest continued to chat about his brother as they headed back downstairs and I was left feeling exposed,like my secret identity had been revealed.
I have learned that talking about Flynn is easier for me if I feel ready and prepared for the conversation. It is a very intentional act and something that I do not bring into casual relationships.  I guess some would call it guarded.  My Biggest charges into this discussion with a different perspective and understanding of his relationship to his brother.

When we left the house I talked to the Biggest about bringing up Flynn.  I started by letting him know that it was okay to talk about Flynn but that saying things like "we lost him" is confusing when in actuality he died.  I tried to help him see how vocabulary can change the intent of the message. Then I asked him why he brought up Flynn and although I meant it out of curiousity, a part of it was due to my own discomfort.
"He is my brother and if people want to know me they will know about him. I always tell people about him, usually right away."
"Well buddy it is just a very vulnerable aspect of who you are and I worry about you sharing that with people too soon." Even now as a type this I wonder, did I really say that and yep I did.
"I want people to know about him; he was a human being too you know?"
I stopped.  It really was that simple, wasn't it.  Here I was complicating it, caving into societal expectations and definitions of life, death and the value associated with both. Here was my man-child simplifying it down to the root - a place I rarely touched anymore and sadly he thought I didn't realize how human Flynn is.
"That he was, a very special one too."
Where is that parent Do-over button when you need it?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Hello Grandma, it's me Melissa

Seven years ago today you died.
A lot has happened since the last time I talked to you.  I remember that day often, the morning that we were leaving to take the boys to Disney World, coming to the hospital to find comfort in your closeness before I could leave.
A day or two before dad had called me at work to tell me that you had fallen. He said that you had told him you were fine.  I called you right away and you told me that you had slipped trying to open the fridge.  You said your ribs still hurt and I asked you to go to the hospital.  I expected a fight at that suggestion, lord knows I had them in the past but you agreed with me. I remember feeling a foreboding pause and I held my breath when I set down the phone receiver.
Dad called me at work the morning I was supposed to leave. I had been putting in a couple of hours because we were not leaving until the afternoon.  He said you had punctured a lung and that the doctors said that given your already fragile condition, it was not likely that you would recover.  I cried heavy full sobs - the tears came out of some place I had been stuffing deep into my gut for a long time - they erupted from me.  I think I shocked dad and it was hard for him to hear me cry like that. I remember him saying "come on now, we knew that this day would come eventually."  It was true, for years you had been preparing all of us that one day you would be gone.  Even a goodbye seen from years away still hurts when it finally gets here.
At the hospital I tried to be stoic. I marched into your room and asked what the doctors were doing and what they thought could be done.  You looked even more fragile then usual but your fire remained.  It made it easy to believe you when you told me that you were not going anywhere.  The nurse interrupted us and I was so grateful because I was on the verge of tears. I went into the hall with Grandpa and he told me that we had to go to Florida and that we could not stay, you didn't want that.  I cried again.
We went back into the hospital room where you were sitting up in bed.  I told you that I loved you and kissed you on the head.  You told me that you would see me when I got back.  I think we both knew the reality and neither one of us could face it.  I left clinging to the hope that your fiery spirit would once again out pace your weakening body.
You died the morning we headed home from Florida. I wasn't there with you.
I wanted to tell you that we had the best trip, together as a family, all of us experiencing Disney for the very first time.  You knew that the previous year had been a tough one for us; we really needed that vacation. Thank you for insisting that we go.
I know you know how the rest of my story goes, I tell it to you as I go. Hello Grandma, it's me Melissa xoxo.