Searching for Understanding

I stepped into the shower in the hospital bathroom and washed the day off of me. I had a rare moment alone where it seemed unlikely anyone would barge in unless it was an emergency. The bathroom sported a swinging door, but Chris figured out a way to keep it shut during showers early on.

I can’t remember exactly what point this was in Lucy’s stay in Dallas. But it wasn’t anywhere close to the beginning or end. I let the feelings of frustration and fear overwhelm me and I cried. Tears rained down my face with the water from the shower. I refused to be angry. In fact, I apologized profusely to God for all of the terrible, blasphemous things I had shout-whispered at him in the bathroom in the PICU at Dell. I truly meant my apology, but part of me was also afraid that Lucy had grown worse because God was punishing me.

I prayed. I begged. I begged for Lucy to get better. I begged for her to be stable without transplant. I begged for her to get a transplant if she needed one. I begged for strength to bear whatever I was going to have to bear. And I begged God for forgiveness. The one thing I wanted was for her to have a chance at life and for our family to have what it took to get her there. That’s what I had prayed for everyday in the chapel there. And that’s what I begged for in that shower. I literally got down on my knees in that shower with the water pouring over me and cried and prayed and begged.

I’m not sure how long it took, but eventually it seemed that a miracle happened. A doctor came to us some days later and told us exactly the opposite of what we had heard from the other doctors. She didn’t think Lucy’s vtach had the potential to be dangerous. She thought it seemed normal. She didn’t even think it needed to be treated medically.

By this point, Chris and I were so shell-shocked, we were afraid to believe it. We barely let ourselves be happy about it. We were too accustomed to stunning reversals at this point.

We were allowed to take her home a few days later. And she died almost exactly two months later.

It might have been the vtach. Her heart might have just worsened too quickly for us to catch it. There’s no way to know.

I don’t understand why my prayer was answered in this way. She died three days after my birthday and I remember I used my birthday wish to wish she would get well. I figured I might as well take a shot. And that weekend I just started hoping she would get a new heart on Status 2, even though that is rare. I was ready to trade in our problems for a set of new ones. I just wanted so much for her to feel better.

 All I can come up with is that those two months of normalcy were the answer to my prayer. Maybe Lucy’s early death was inevitable and God gave us those two months as a parting gift. One of my prayers had also been for our family to have a chance to be together in our home for awhile before transplant temporarily uprooted our lives. We were so worried she would never leave the hospital or she would be listed too high up to go back to Austin. We didn’t know if we would ever be together in our home again. But we got that chance. She did not live and die in the hospital. And now we just have to find a way to live with the “what-ifs”.

Tonight I thought about how much lazier I was about my eating when I was pregnant with her. I didn’t try nearly as hard to be healthy as I did with Max. It probably had nothing to do with her heart condition, but I feel so guilty. Chris and Max were sitting on the couch playing games on his IPhone and I was lying down behind them. All of a sudden, I could just picture Lucy in the room with us. It was as if she had lived and been healthy. She was toddling and crawling. Getting into things and smiling mischievously at us when we told her to stop. Laughing. Behaving like any 16-month-old. It was so clear. I have never been able to picture her healthy so clearly. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. I wish so much it was real.

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Happy Hospital Memories

When I think back over my time with Lucy, some of my best memories are from when she was in the hospital. You wouldn’t think that would be the case. The hospital is not usually a fun place to be. But she did spend roughly a month altogether of her 15 month life in one hospital or another, so there were bound to be some good times.

Lucy spent ten days at Dell Children’s Medical Center when she was first diagnosed last November. She was mostly in the PICU. She was hospitalized again for a “tune-up” last February. The night before she was to be released, she had an episode of ventricular tachycardia. She was summarily returned to the PICU and then airlifted to Children’s Medical Center of Dallas the next morning. She spent the next two and a half weeks there, first in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit, then on the regular cardiac floor.

One reason for the good memories of these places is that the people who designed them obviously put a lot of thought into making it easier for children and their families to be there. Dell Children’s has a great coffee shop, the Holy Roast, as well as a darling gift shop. The cafeteria is decent and there are sibling playrooms and a “Healing Courtyard” that looks exactly like it sounds. The doctors, nurses, and staff are wonderful. Not to mention, it is right in the Mueller complex, so there is a Starbucks and a Chipotle right next door.

Children’s Medical Center has a Starbucks INSIDE IT (Although it was pretty far from Lucy’s room and not open on weekends!?!?) and a trainscape that takes up an entire room. Max still talks about going back to it. There are also playrooms and several good dining areas. Ryan Seacrest even set up a recording studio in the lobby (which has a ceiling of sparkling stars) and Stephenie Meyer had a book signing while we were there.

All of these amenities went a long way towards making living in a hospital for weeks at a time easier. But the real reason I have such wonderful memories of my time with Lucy in the hospital is that I got to be with her all the time. I got one-on-one time with my second-born that most parents only dream of. And especially after Chris and I both started staying there every night and we were transferred to Dallas, I just felt like almost everything important in the world was in that little room. The only person missing was Max. Those hospital rooms were our world. I would curl up next to Chris on the foldout hospital bed every night (The bed in the CICU in Dallas was no bigger than a couch.) and listen to Lucy breathing and feel so content. And I would wake up in the morning and see her first thing and just be, well, so glad to see her. Especially at first when we never knew whether she was going to make it through the night.

Being in a situation like that gives you such clarity. It helps you cut through all of the b.s. and focus on what’s really important. I’m sure you’ve all heard that before. I always hoped that it would last once we were out. But part of me knew it wouldn’t. I also knew that was the way it was supposed to be.

We were able to just appreciate the present more once Lucy was released from the hospital. Whenever I would get worried about the future and getting through transplant and possibly losing her one day, I would remind myself that she was alive right then. Every night, I would remind myself that everyone was alive and at home together and that was enough.

But life did return to normal. The last two months of her life were beautiful. There were times between doctor visits that we could actually forget she was sick for awhile. We would get caught up in all the flotsam and jetsam of life and it was heavenly.

I remember telling my former therapist once that it was so nice to feel “normal stress”. Never was that more true than in those last two months of Lucy’s life.

So, I think back sometimes to those days at Dell and Dallas. I remember the heightened emotions and how it was a victory when a minute, an hour, a day, then a week went by without vtach. How we found joy in our daughter’s presence. How we experienced uncontrollable panic every time we thought we were losing her. How everything was right in the world when we finally brought her home and Max rushed into our arms and tackled his sister joyfully saying, “Everything is back to normal!”

I would like to go back and visit those rooms. Lucy finally learned how to sit up at Dell. She learned how to hug her doll and smile for the camera at Dallas Children’s. We lived a lifetime and became a stronger family in those rooms. I hope that everyone who ends up in them now can feel the same joy, determination, love, and devotion that we did.

An update on the potty-training situation today – three accidents, one of them in public. Sigh.

Keeping Sibling Love Alive

Chris and I sat down with Max today to choose pictures for a “Max and Lucy Memory Book”. I can’t take credit for this idea. Several friends suggested it on Facebook after I published my blog post “A Little Boy and His Sister”. Yesterday, Max chose a photo album at Super Target and we bought some stickers to form the words “Max and Lucy” on the outside.

Max’s choices for pictures to put in the album were pretty different from what I had in mind. I already had a list of pictures of the two of them together that I thought would work. I had envisioned it as an album of pictures of the two of them. But I want it to feel like it’s really his and who knows why he might have chosen the ones he did? So, we will probably include some pictures of Percy the Train sitting next to my breast pump along with the ones of him and Lucy together.

Max lost interest and wanted screen time pretty quickly, so Chris and I chose most of the pictures. We are not quite finished, but I am hoping the album will prove special to Max.

One of my biggest worries since Lucy died has been whether or not Max will remember her and, if so, how well. I do not remember much from when I was three. Max is almost four and that might help. But I don’t remember much from when I was four, either, to tell you the truth.

It would break my heart if he forgot her. You can’t love someone you can’t remember. It’s just not possible. Well, maybe, children who lost a parent and are too young to remember them might still love them. That’s the only exception I can think of. If you have other examples, please tell me about them. I can’t think of anyone I love that I can’t remember.

Max loved Lucy so much. He was so happy to have a sister. And she adored him, too. We have several pictures where she is just gazing at him in admiration and adoration. I know nothing can hurt her now, but it just seems so unfair to her that the only sibling that knew her might forget her and stop loving her. Their relationship was so special. It made me so happy to see how much they loved each other. My husband and I created two beings. We made them brother and sister. We helped create that love. And it would break my heart for it to vanish.

Any future children we have will not know Lucy. Max and Lucy were each others world for fifteen months. They were a wonderful fifteen months. I want so much for him to remember at least some of it his whole life. To really remember it.  Not just from stories and pictures. Actual, real memories in his head that can keep the love alive in his heart. Not just for him, but so he can create a bridge between Lucy and any future siblings she has. We will need his help to be one whole family, rather than two distinct ones.

A quick update about some of the issues I posted about yesterday – Chris, Max, and I went to dinner at a friend’s house tonight and Max eventually warmed up and played very happily with her little girl. He said he didn’t want to leave. Also, he has indicated (Not said, mind you.) that he had to go potty several times today and only had one accident. I need to remember what I was saying to Chris the other night. Nothing lasts forever in parenthood or, at least, they give you breaks often enough that you keep your sanity.

Birthday parties, cemeteries, and carbon monoxide scares – oh, my!

Today was definitely not perfect. It had its good moments, for sure, but it was mostly emotionally draining.

It started with a birthday party for one of Max’s friends. Max would not let go of our hands. He repeatedly asked me to go in the foam pit with him even though Daddy was in there and I had already explained that I couldn’t get in because of my back.

Then, he refused to sit down and eat with the other kids. It did not feel right to just let him continue playing in the foam pit when he was supposed to be celebrating his friend. Plus, Chris wanted a break from the foam pit. In true three-year-old fashion, Max did not care about politeness or what his Daddy wanted or needed.

Something in me just kind of snapped. I had had it. I am very patient with him most of the time. I spend the vast majority of my life talking him down and convincing him to do things. But I was tired. I was stressed. Much as I love my friends and their kids, it is sometimes not easy to be around them or any other group that includes kids since Lucy died. Much of the time, it is fine. But today, several younger siblings of Max’s friends were there. That was the group Lucy was part of. She was a second child, a younger sibling, too. I looked at these kids and tried to picture Lucy crawling and toddling around with them and laughing. They are all still here, growing and enjoying life and she isn’t. They will all get older and she won’t.

I wasn’t brooding incessantly over these things, but they hovered in the background of my mind, occasionally creeping to the foreground. One of the younger siblings is a girl and she reminds me of Lucy a bit at times. No one will ever replace Lucy, but I want another daughter so badly. Lucy will always be my daughter, but I am not going to get to watch her grow up and share mother-daughter activities with her. And I still want that.

Anyway, I snapped and said we just had to leave. I grabbed the bag and told one of my friends that Max was being difficult and we just had to go. We practically ran from the place, even though I thought I heard someone call my name behind me. I felt so bad. The more I thought about it, the ruder it seemed. But I had just had it. I couldn’t stand listening to my son fuss and whine while I missed Lucy for one more second.

Max was upset, but we were all pretty quiet on the drive over to Super Target. I told Chris we just shouldn’t say anything, because we were both upset and it wouldn’t be fair to Max. After we calmed down a bit, we explained about politeness and respecting Daddy’s needs. Also, about how our friends are very important to us and that it is an honor to be invited to celebrate someone’s birthday with them. I told him how he would be glad someday that he had known all of these children since he was born. I wished I had that growing up and that’s why I wanted that for him.

I must have taken it too far, though, because he said, “I messed it all up.”

My heart melted, “Oh, no, baby, you did not mess it all up. They are still your friends. You are you and we love you just the way you are. We will figure out a way to help you feel more comfortable in social situations. It will be ok.”

Everything seemed ok after that. The trip to Target was fine. But I just grew more and more depressed. Why in the world didn’t my child want to play with others? Why was he stuck to me like glue? Why is it that one of my children is dead and the other one is antisocial? Can I please just have some normal?? What have I done wrong???

Chris sensed I was having a hard time and convinced me to take a break. He wanted me to go have a nice, leisurely lunch, but I went to HEB and bought flowers (Had to wait in line forever behind someone who wanted cigarettes. The cashier couldn’t get the cabinet unlocked.) and headed to the cemetery instead.

I bought pink hydrangeas. My friend Denise recently planted a pink hydrangea at her home on Prince Edward Island in honor of Lucy. Prince Edward Island is one of my favorite places in the world. It was the home of L.M. Montgomery, my favorite author. She wrote “Anne of Green Gables”, my favorite book, which is also set on the Island. I love that there is something in honor of Lucy there. Plus, the pink hydrangeas are delicate and sweet, like my girl. So, that is what I chose.

I managed to overshoot and end up in Georgetown and had to turn around. Sigh. The cemetery is in Pflugerville. I lost my mind and thought Round Rock came before Pflugerville. I need some sleep.

I finally arrived. Luckily, the sprinklers weren’t on this time. I set down the flowers and just talked to my girl. I poured out my heart to her. I told her everything I feel about her and everything I feel guilty about. I’m not usually one to feel close to people at their graves, but I felt close to her there. Probably because, for once, there was nothing and no one to distract me. No people, no IPhone, nothing. I finally had some private time with her. Even when we said good-bye before they took her from the house, there were five or six strangers standing around watching. We were too shell-shocked to think to ask for privacy. The only other private moments I got with her were right before they closed the casket and even then, Max was howling for me at the other end of the chapel where Chris had taken him.

I finally tore myself away, feeling a bit better. I felt like I had cried myself out anyway. It was so peaceful and lovely there. I’m glad we chose that spot, even though I wish it was closer to our house.

I grabbed a quick burger and headed home. Max was still in fine form, but we made it through the rest of the day. He was playing outside. We were about to get him to bed.

And then the carbon monoxide detector went off. The firefighters came. (At least, they didn’t need the siren this time.) It turns out the levels probably went up because Chris used our new wok to cook dinner for the first time. He thinks the wok ring caused it. The levels were very low and going down rapidly while the firefighters checked. We will probably have the gas company come out and check to be sure, but everything seems ok.

For the grand finale, Max pooped and peed his pants while the firefighters were here. At least, he did it outside. (We had decided to stop making him go potty at designated times and see if having accidents and “being in charge” of his pottying would help him start going on his own. I’ll let you know how it goes.)

So, that was Saturday. This introvert really needs a quiet Sunday. Here’s hoping.

 

A Parent’s Perfect Day

Yesterday was one of those rare days when everything went right. The weather was beautiful. Max and I made it on time to his hair appointment. It was a close call, because I lost momentum a bit in the home stretch, but we made it.

We arrived at the salon and Max immediately asked for Roley, one of Bob the Builder’s friends. He played with Roley on one of his first visits before he even knew who Bob the Builder was. I was amazed he remembered.

He started to get a bit upset when the stylist first called us back, but Roley and “Cars” playing on the TV at his station combined to soothe him. He still wouldn’t let her use the electric shaver around his ears, but he mostly did just fine.

We were planning to meet Chris for lunch, but the haircut was over too early. We went to the library to kill some time. On the way in, Max urged me to hurry. Every time he saw another kid walk in before us, he said, “Ooh, hurry! They’ll take our books!”  

I geeked out the minute we walked in. I never realize how much I miss the library until I go back. I love looking at the rows and rows of books and seeing all the people, especially the children, enjoying them. We didn’t have much time, but that was okay, because we were on a mission to find “Max and Ruby” books. Max is suddenly back into “Max and Ruby” big-time.

The mission was forgotten when I spotted “Thomas’s Great Discovery” on display and pointed it out to Max. From then on, that was the only book he wanted. I convinced him to check out two “Max and Ruby” books and two “Bear” books just in case.

Even though we had to stand in a very long line (Mommy forgot to renew her library card. D’oh!), Max was so well-behaved and soooo excited about his Thomas book.

We headed over to meet Chris for lunch (We had to read the Thomas book before we ate, of course.) and then to the train table at Barnes and Noble. There was a new Thomas train table with some Chuggington trains on it, which blew Max’s mind a bit. He asked me numerous times why there was a new table with new accessories. I guess he kept hoping the answer would get more interesting than, “Fisher Price bought Tomy and Learning Curve and reissued everything, so Barnes and Noble is switching over.”

We read several more Thomas books. Just when I was pondering if we should hit the Asian market next or head home, I noticed a familiar look on my son’s face.

“Max, do you have to go potty?”

“Yes”, in a strained voice.

If he says yes, it’s probably already too late.

It was, but it was ok. I cleaned him up as best I could and we headed home, where I cleaned him up the rest of the way. We read all of his library books through twice. He watched videos while I made hummus for Chris.

You don’t get those days too often in parenting, but they do happen. Everything just seems to go right. You are patient and funny and kind. Your child is cooperative. And you don’t even mind when they poop in their pants and you have to leave Barnes and Noble. You are filled with enough love and happiness and optimism to still consider it a perfect day.

School Days

I have a new school morning routine since Lucy died and Max started at his summer school. I usually pick up something I forgot at HEB. Then, I get in the car, turn on Rob Thomas’s “Little Wonders” and just cry. That song serves as a very effective emotional trigger these days. It can be very hard for me to tap into my feelings about Lucy’s death, but that song pretty much always does it.

In a weird way, I feel like I spend more time focused on Lucy during school mornings now than I did when she was alive. I feel so guilty about that. When she was alive, other people would say that Max’s school time was a great opportunity for me to spend time with her. But I still wanted his school mornings to be for me. I wanted to spend time with her and I always enjoyed it. But I still wanted it to be time for me. I worried while she was here that I was focusing on myself too much and not taking the chance to have time with her. I kept trying to do better and I did sometimes. But I still feel so guilty about those school mornings now that she’s gone.

Basically, Max’s school mornings are a chance for me to watch TV shows that neither my husband nor son like. I would usually watch while Lucy napped, but sometimes, especially when I first discovered “Revenge” on Hulu, she watched with me. I attempted to involve her. I told her about the show. I asked her what she thought was going to happen. I finally gave up on “Revenge” completely, because it consumed my attention too much when she was around. I restricted my TV time to only during naps.

But I was still tired. And distracted. And busy. And I just feel like I never did enough. Especially considering that she was sick. We knew there was a very good chance we could lose her at some point. Even that wasn’t enough to overcome fatigue and longing for “me time” sometimes.

Having a sick child brings a whole new level of guilt. I’ve watched enough Lifetime and Hallmark movies to know how it’s supposed to go. You’re supposed to be a crusader for your child. Do research, travel miles for the best doctors, fight insurance companies for treatments, fight to get into clinical trials. We did do some research. We considered taking Lucy to Cincinnati where the best doctors for pediatric dilated cardiomyopathy are. We constantly had to balance between quality of life and concerns for her future. Not to mention concerns for Max. And most of the promising treatments we heard about just wouldn’t work for Lucy for one reason or another.

I know other people who have sick children. I am so in awe of a couple I know who have a daughter with cancer. They have written on their blog about supplements they read about in peer-reviewed studies that can help fight cancer.

Was I supposed to be reading peer-reviewed studies?? The one time I read one, it scared the bejeezus out of me. It listed absolutely terrible five-year mortality rates for kids with DCM. It turned out there were some complicating factors Lucy didn’t have. I decided not to read more for awhile until I had gotten over the initial shock of the diagnosis and we knew more where Lucy’s condition was heading. After the initial diagnosis, I couldn’t look at her bottles of medicine without getting sad and angry. I hated having a pediatric cardiologist in the contacts list on my IPhone. I needed adjustment time.

Plus, I didn’t think it would help her to have a mom who was constantly stressed and sad. I just couldn’t live and give her and Max a good life while worrying she was going to die all the time. Then, the doctor told us she was probably going to get better. And then, she started to get worse out of nowhere. It was happening too fast for us to keep up sometimes.

I was just trying to keep my head above water. But I feel like I was a slacker of a heart mom. Just keeping up with the regular medicines and doctor appointments and therapy appointments alone with regular life and Max swamped me. Plus, I still tried to include “me time” in order to keep my sanity, not to mention “couple time”.

I know all of those things are important. I know I did the best I could “for who I was at any given time.” (Thanks to “7th Heaven” for that quote.) But that is cold comfort now that Lucy is gone.

So, now I cry and write letters to and blog posts about Lucy. I feel like I focus on her more than ever now. And I wish more than anything that I had done that more when she was here.  

Father’s Day

I can’t believe the road we’ve traveled since last Father’s Day. I don’t remember if we brought breakfast to Chris in bed that day or what presents we gave him. (He doesn’t, either.) I do remember that we went to Tarka, an Indian restaurant. Chris loves Indian food and I’m not crazy about it, so I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. Max even ate the chicken pakoras. Afterwards, we went to Sandy’s and looked at the toys and shoes and then enjoyed some frozen yogurt. I remember the frozen yogurt place was deserted and then loads of people came in as soon as we settled down. A movie must have just let out at the Alamo.

Although we were stressed and tired that day, everything was perfect. Lucy and Max were thriving. We had survived several months of parenting two children on our own. The future was bright.

We never imagined we would spend the next Father’s Day without Lucy.

Today has been bittersweet. Max and I were very excited to celebrate Chris this morning. There was a great deal of whimsy in our celebration this year, which is bound to happen when a three-year-old has input on the decisions. Max chose a syrup dispenser (or “pourer” as he likes to call it) for Chris and paid for it himself. He chose Christmas wrapping paper to wrap the gifts last night, as well as a card with a dancing bear inside. He took his job of “guarding” the gifts while I went to get tape and scissors very seriously, standing close to them and stage-whispering, “Is this how you guard them?”

When we took breakfast up to Chris this morning, Max was so excited I was afraid he would fall down the stairs. He raced in yelling, “Happy Father’s Day!” Good thing Chris was already up.

After the presents and cards were distributed, I caught sight of Lucy’s memorial folders still sitting on a table in our room. My heart sank. This day was just not the same without her. This is our first happy family holiday since she died. And it doesn’t help that she died on Mother’s Day. For a large chunk of the day, I have thought about how much I miss her and wish she was here. And I know Chris has, too.

Chris and Lucy had such a special relationship. Lucy derived her greatest comfort from her Daddy’s arms. He could always get her to smile. If Lucy woke up at night, Chris was the one who was able to get her back to sleep. In fact, she would call for him. She was usually happy.  She was just awake and wanted him to hang out with her. One of the last times she called for him it was a loud, decided, “Dad-DEE” ringing out clearly over the monitor.

If anyone deserves the title of “Dad of the Year” for this past year, it’s my husband. He endured things no father should have to endure. His baby girl being diagnosed with a serious, basically fatal, illness. His baby girl enduring painful procedures in the hospital. His baby girl slowly falling behind the other kids her age as she got sicker. Spending nights in the hospital with her. Basically living in the hospital for three entire weeks with her. Listening to doctors say she could die at any moment. Trying to give her CPR after the worst happened. Holding her and saying good-bye.

Chris could always endure the nights at the hospital better than me. No matter how strong and cheerful I was during the day, nights alone there got to me, especially if Lucy decided to scream instead of sleeping. Chris had the magic touch. He was so patient and comforting. He took an extra night once, so I wouldn’t have to do it. Eventually, we just started staying there together every night.

Despite the sadness, we are both so happy to be with Max today. Max and Chris share a love of IPhone games and YouTube videos. Chris always finds the coolest videos and games for Max, ones that are fun and educational. He plays with him and makes him laugh. He is very inventive and thinks of ways to entertain Max that would never occur to me. And he does it all in a way that reflects who he is. He shares himself and his interests with Max. He shows Max the wonders of the world and life and science as he sees them.

When it comes to parenting, my husband has done it all. Baths, diapers, cooking, feeding, you name it. If he could actually participate in pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding, he probably would. (Right, honey? Right???) As much as he loves his children, a large part of the reason is because he wants to make things easier for me. He would do anything for any of us and he has.

Happy Father’s Day, love. It is so important to me that my children have a good, strong father and you have surpassed my greatest hopes. Thank you for helping me through this past year. Thank you for loving our kids so much. Thank you for working so hard. Most of all, thank you for Lucy and Max.

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One Month

I am writing a post tonight, despite the fact that I am tired and just want to veg out in front of the TV. Max missed school due to a cold earlier this week (We have all come down with it.), but he’s going back tomorrow and I want to be able to devote the school time to catching up on TV shows as God intended.

I’m working on injecting more humor into the blog. Topics have been heavy around here lately. That’s understandable given what’s going on in my life, but there is still joy and I want to include it.

Today is an odd day for that, considering that it’s the one-month anniversary of Lucy’s death. For most of the day, I have been fine. But I watched the clock all day. I watched the minutes creep inexorably towards my last moments with her and the last moments of her life. I felt dread, just as if I was actually reliving it, but with the knowledge of what was coming. At 6:15 today, the time they pronounced her officially dead one month ago, I was holding Max on my lap while he watched “Chuggington”. I called Chris over.

“It’s officially a month.”

He looked at his watch, “Yeah.”

I pulled him down next to us, “I want us to all be together in this moment. With Lucy.”

We both looked up at the framed photo of her in the bluebonnets that has been hanging in the living room for the past month. I hugged my husband and my son, beckoned Lucy’s spirit closer, and let the tears come.

She didn’t really die at 6:15. She was already gone when I found her and the paramedics never got any response. I estimate it was between 4:15 and 5:00. But 6:15 was the moment it became official and it is the time recorded on the death certificate. So, 6:15 it is.

It felt good to cry and mourn. It helps me feel closer to her. It makes me feel like I’m reacting normally. Much of the time, I feel like a heartless freak, because I feel fine.  I immerse myself in life and hopes for the future. I know that is just my way of coping. It works for me. But it makes me feel like a bad mom that I don’t feel like the world has ended. I get sad and angry. I miss her and wish she was still here. I wish she had never been sick. But life goes on and I know that. It has gone on every time something bad has happened to me. Every time I have lost someone. This loss sucks more than any other. It sucks and it’s just plain wrong. But I still have so much to live for. And I wouldn’t trade my time with Lucy for anything.

So, today, I snuggled my son. I watched TV with him. I took him shopping for a Father’s Day present for his Daddy. (He picked it out and paid for it with his own money. It was so cute.) I thought about and loved and cried for my daughter. We reminisced and laughed about discovering Lucy’s first tooth during Max’s bedtime routine one night. I laughed over the silly alternate lyrics Max concocted for the lullabies I was singing. That was today. One month out. Sadness and joy and so much love.

I’m looking forward to dinner with my husband after I finish this post. I’m looking forward to the future. Watching Max grow. Having more children. Somehow, we will take Lucy with us on that journey.

Accidents and Artifacts

I plucked the two brown paper bags from the box in which Chris had placed them. I carried them to the table. They each sported two stickers, one printed, one handwritten. Each bore a description. The handwritten one said, “Chain of custody” at the top. One bag still sported tape across the top that said, “EVIDENCE” in bright blue letters.

The first bag contained Marshmallow and Cowie, two of the stuffed animals Lucy slept with every night. Underneath them was the pink crib sheet.

“Ah, yes, the Pepto-Bismol pink one,” I thought.

The next bag contained the beautiful blanket my mother-in-law crocheted for Lucy. She matched it exactly to the colors of her bedroom.

I held each item to my face. I sniffed them. They smelled a bit stale. Chris told me the police said they had been sealed since they took them from the house. I nuzzled and kissed Marshmallow a bit. That one is so soft. She was definitely one of Lucy’s favorites.

I gathered the items up in my arms and headed for the stairs. I intended to put the stuffed animals in Lucy’s room and the sheet and blanket in the hamper.

Max was hanging out on the landing. He had been hanging out there for awhile. He wasn’t feeling well today and was just lounging around. I think he wanted to go to bed, but didn’t want to admit it.

I had checked on him several times to make sure he hadn’t pooped his pants. I started to ask him again, but he rocked back on his heels with a solemn look and I saw the wet spot on the carpet.

An exasperated sigh mingled with a slight laugh escaped my lips. “Hon, he peed all over the landing.” (I don’t know why I exaggerated like that.) “Oh, Lordy,” I added to myself.

“Oh, Lordy,” repeated Max with a big grin on his face.

Sounds of aggravation and frustration emanated from the kitchen. My husband appeared. He was both exasperated and relieved that it was actually just a smallish wet spot. He took over cleaning the spot while I took Max by one hand and towed him upstairs, still clutching Lucy’s possessions in the other arm.

I left Max in the bathroom briefly while I placed the items where they belonged. I said “Welcome Home” to Marshmallow and Cowie. Then, I returned to the bathroom to help my son clean up.

Being Neighborly

Chris, Max, and I were unloading groceries after a trip to Super Target this afternoon. On the way home, we noticed that many of our neighbors were out – talking, washing cars, or just walking around enjoying the beautiful weather. As he closed the hatch on the Highlander, Chris encouraged Max to go next door and say hello to the boy sitting out there, maybe show him his train. We have all spoken with this boy many times and he is always sweet and friendly with Max, even though he is older.

Normally, there would be no greater lure for Max than hanging out with one of the “big” boys, but he had spotted the neighbor across the street washing his car. I think he was so interested in that he had to have a closer look. (I know. He’s never seen us washing a car. We let them get as dirty as we can stand and then go through the drive-through.)

I walked him across the street and Chris followed, still carrying all of the groceries, including two new litter pans. As we walked up, I called out that Max wanted to come over and say hello. Our neighbors across the street are two of the most gracious, friendliest people in the world and he greeted Max enthusiastically. Chris and I were prepared for our usual driveway chat, but the next words out of Max’s mouth were, “Can we see inside your house?”

I began to remonstrate with Max about inviting yourself into someone’s home, but before two words were out of my mouth, our wonderful neighbor enthusiastically responded, “Sure, you can see our house! Come on in, Max!” and led us inside, Chris trailing behind with the litter pans, calling out to his wife that “The Farmers are here!”

Chris and I are pretty shy people. We want very much to be good neighbors, family members, and friends, but we seem to forget to reach out to people sometimes. These particular neighbors had been wonderfully friendly and warm ever since we first moved in over three years ago. All of the neighbors are wonderful here. The fact that we actually know them at all speaks volumes for their friendliness and willingness to reach out.

So, we were very surprised, but actually pleased that Max had invited himself in. We received the unexpected gift of a lovely conversation with wonderful neighbors we are very lucky to have. Of course, true to form, I enjoyed myself, but with the constant hum of anxiety in the background. I worried about overstaying our welcome.  I worried about leaving too soon and having them think we didn’t enjoy spending time with them. I worried about the fact that we have never had them over for dinner.

Max is usually pretty shy, too, but he always wants to go in people’s houses. I am so glad he spoke up today. He wanted to go in and he said so. Chris and I didn’t even realize how much we wanted to go in until Max asked. I am going to work on not worrying and just taking it one neighborly encounter at a time. As I’ve said before, I’m going to keep reaching and I hope others will, too.

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