Good-bye to 508

Grandpa and Grandma’s house was my favorite place in the world growing up. Everything was quiet, predictable, and safe there. Tom and Dorothy Lowder, my mom’s parents, were the best grandparents in the world. I watched TV, read books, and did puzzles with Grandma; I played outside while Grandpa worked in his yard.

Grandma was a great cook and would make us whatever we wanted for a snack. She would let me have homemade French fries and Twix bars if I wanted. She would literally sit down and start peeling potatoes if you said you wanted French fries after school. She kept a cabinet completely stocked with Campbell’s soup, because she knew I loved it. Grandpa always teased me that I was going to turn into a can of soup since I ate it every day. J

Grandpa had one of the most beautiful yards I’ve ever seen. There was a huge bed of azaleas that we always posed for pictures in front of. The yard was full of huge trees. Once upon a time, there were two little crepe myrtles that my younger brother Chase and I chose for our own. Chase named his Rudolph because it looked like a reindeer. Mine was The House, because you could sit in it like it was a playhouse.

Grandpa was very proud of his lawn. Heaven forbid you drove over any part of the grass. I was so worried about messing up Grandpa’s lawn that I didn’t hazard parking in his driveway until I was well into my 20s.

I remember getting stuck in a tree in the backyard. I remember Grandpa successfully convincing us not to climb the huge antenna in the backyard by saying we would “get fried like bacon if Grandma [was] watching her TV.” Grandma was always watching her TV.

I remember sobbing my eyes out next to the bed in the back bedroom the night of the New Kids on the Block concert in Shreveport. I didn’t have tickets. I didn’t discover the band until after they were sold out. That space next to the bed was my favorite place to hide when I was upset.

I remember sitting on the windowseat behind the curtain and reading books. I was drenched in sunshine, yet hidden from the world. I remember sitting in the middle room reading to my brother while he played Nintendo. And fighting him for the TV when I wanted to watch my New Kids videos back there.

I got my first period there. (I know, TMI.) I’m pretty sure there were members of the family conceived in that house. I spent innumerable Christmases, Easters, New Years, Super Bowls, and Fourth of Julys there. Grandpa was a charming host who loved having family around him.

508 sheltered our family for forty years. We celebrated and mourned there. We watched three generations of grands and great-grands play there. (I say three, since the great-grands are so spread apart in age.) That house was truly my childhood home and the seat of our family. So many memories. So many good times. So many sad ones. Now, I hope another family will fill it with noise and laughter and happiness again.

The youngest ones did not really get to know Grandpa and Tiny (my stepgrandmother) and they never met Grandma. Now that all three of them are gone, the house has been sold. By chance, the closing was delayed, so I was able to go back one last time. I had made my peace with not seeing it again. But I’m very glad I got the chance.

The rooms were empty, but you could still see the marks in the carpet from the furniture sitting there so long. Cailyn, Max, and Thomas went with us. They chased each other through the rooms, laughing and squealing. They hid behind the curtains and tangled up in them. For the grand finale, Thomas pooped his pants. It was time to go. We stood by the garage door and listened to it squeak and slam one last time. Everyone always used the garage door. It was a fitting farewell for the house that had pretty much been another member of the Lowder family for so long.

I haven’t spent much time there in recent years. I live far away and it has been difficult to travel since Lucy got sick. Grandpa has been gone almost two years. He wasn’t himself for many years before he passed. The parties stopped a long time ago. In a way, I guess I gradually let go of the house over the last decade. I will cherish my memories. I am so glad I got to make a few more, watching my son, my niece, and my nephew run and play in my childhood home.

Good-bye, 508. I can’t believe you’re not ours anymore. Thank you for everything. I hope your new owners take really good care of you.


Me doing a show in front of the fireplace.


Max, Cailyn, and Thomas in front of the same fireplace.


Chris, Max, and me in the eating area of the kitchen.


The kids in the big picture window in the master bedroom.


Chase and I in the same window.


Chase shutting the door for the last time. I think my brother looks very handsome in this photo. 🙂


Letter to Max at three and a half (more like three and three quarters by now)

Dear Max,

Just now at bedtime, you made me and Daddy laugh so hard we cried. We couldn’t stop. I almost wet myself. I was singing “Godspeed (Sweet Dreams)” by the Dixie Chicks to you. You have definitely entered a silly stage and you often sing nonsense based on whatever I’m singing. Well, “Godspeed” became “Godjam” and then it became “Goddamn”. I have to believe it was an accident, because I doubt I have ever said that word in front of you. In fact, I hardly say that one at all. You obviously had no clue why we were laughing so hard. You seemed pleased at first, but started to get a little miffed that I couldn’t calm down enough to sing very well.

You are so smart. You are sweet and sensitive. You have been testing your limits, but most of the time you are so darn lovable. I can tell you want so much to please us, which makes me happy and worries me at the same time. If you realize we are displeased with you, you do everything you can to make us happy again. In fact, one time, when I was irritated with you after you had an accident, you kept asking, “How are you feeling? Are you happy now?” I felt so guilty for getting angry at you, but it is kind of hard to NOT be angry when you have to wash poop out of someone’s underwear.

After almost a year, you have finally started telling us occasionally when you need to go potty. I don’t really blame you for that. I think we started seriously training you too late and picked a really bad time for it.

Tonight, as we were reading, you looked at the book and said, “It was published by Penguin, wasn’t it?” You saw a book with a penguin on it at Half-Price Books one day and still remember my explanation. Now you point it out every time you see a penguin on a book.

You are such a good big brother. I can tell you love Lucy so much. You have already had to sacrifice a lot for a three-year-old. You were unexpectedly separated from us for most of a three week period recently when Lucy was hospitalized and her condition took a sudden turn for the worse.

I know that this situation will, and already has, given our family some blessings. But I know it is going to be hard on you to have a chronically ill sibling. We don’t know what the future holds for Lucy. I am hoping she will have a long life, but it seems almost certain that she will have a rockier path than some. And that will make yours rockier.

I worry about you losing your only sibling. I don’t want you to be alone. I don’t want you to go through that heartbreak at all. I know that having another sibling would not ease the pain. But it would lessen the chance you would be alone. I still don’t know what will happen with that. But we will do our very best to make the best decisions we can for everyone.

I am so grateful you are healthy. We had your heart checked. I was so afraid you would have DCM, too. But, thank goodness, your heart looked perfect. I guess you aren’t completely out of the woods, since the doctors now suspect Lucy’s condition might be genetic. But I think you will be fine.

We spent the last two days mostly just the two of us. You have been sick with a nasty virus and Daddy took Lucy to her appointment with the transplant team, so I could stay with you. It has been so lovely to just be with you. It seemed so easy, despite the fact that you were sick. It seems strange to think it used to just be you and me most of the time. I am so glad we got this time and our date night last week.

I really did start this letter to you last January when you turned three and a half. It looks like it might end up being my letter to you at four instead. 🙂 Oh, little man. So much has happened since I last worked on it. Your baby sister died on Mother’s Day. She didn’t wake up from her nap.

This was one of my worst fears for you and her. I am so afraid you won’t remember her. I am going to do my best to help you hang on to some memories, but you don’t always want to talk about her right now or see pictures. That is understandable.

You are doing much better now. The first week was so hard. You threw lots of tantrums and cried. I’m not sure if this is a memory we really want to preserve, but one night, a few days after Lucy died, you flipped out in the bathtub. You were screaming and crying. I have hardly ever seen you like that. I suddenly knew it wasn’t about the bath. You were in pain. Your were screaming and crying in confusion and pain over your sister being gone. Your little heart was broken. And it broke my heart to see you like that.

I know it doesn’t seem like it, but it’s a blessing that you felt so much pain when your sister died. The more pain you feel, the more you loved. I know that sucks, but the love is worth it. The bond you and your sister had was worth it. I hope you realize it one day and can still remember her, with happiness.

I am so glad I still have you, my cherished boy. I hope you will not be an only child for too very long. Really, you are not one. You will always be Lucy’s big brother and she will be your little sister. No matter what happens in the future, you and Daddy and I have each other. And we will always have our love for Lucy in our hearts.

This experience will make you stronger and more compassionate. I know you would rather have your sister, but we have to embrace what we have and believe that everything happens for a reason. At least, that is what works for me.

I love you very, very, very, very much. To the moon and back. A bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck. You are the most amazing boy in the world. I am so grateful and honored to have you as my firstborn.

These have been the most wonderful four years of my life, even with all the pain we have gone through. Onward, little man. We can face and do anything together.

Love, Mom (As you insist on calling me these days.)

Second Letter to Lucy in Heaven

Dear Lucy,

This is my first school morning alone since you died. Five whole hours to myself. This was my fantasy as a busy mom of two littles a few months ago. But this is not the way I wanted to get it.

I went to HEB after I dropped Max off. As is usually the case in the early morning at the grocery store, I saw many moms with 1 or 2 young children. After I saw the first two, I glanced at the empty basket on the front of the cart and felt a pang. I tried to smile at them, to communicate to them somehow that I am still one of them. I feel like I need a sign that says, “I have two children! I still have two even though one died and the other is at school! I have not been deprived or cheated! I am still like you!” I want them to know I am still in the club. I feel this crazy defiance about it all. Defiance in the face of death. Defiance in the face of life and its cruelty.

I am grateful for this alone time in one way. I have barely had a chance to breathe since you died. I never have a chance to really think about you or let the feelings and tears come. The writing helps to unlock all that. In fact, this letter was practically already written in my head before I got home. The tears started to come at the stoplight by the entrance to our neighborhood. I wonder if anyone saw me wiping them away behind my sunglasses. I wonder what reason they came up with for them, if any.

As soon as I got home, I dashed in, unloaded perishable groceries, ignored three puddles of cat puke (Have a word with God about Angus for me, will you? I’m worried about him.), and grabbed my laptop to write to you. When I wrote the first letter, I said I would keep writing to you. I have had so many feelings flitting around in my head the past couple of weeks. I don’t know why it took so long for me to decide to put them in a letter to you. That’s the best way for me to speak from my heart. I wonder if I really fully intended to write more letters to you when I said that. Regardless, here I am. I will take it one letter at a time.

I have said before that it is bizarre to lose a child. I think it is even more bizarre to lose a baby. You haven’t really gotten to know them yet. I loved and enjoyed you so much, yet sometimes I feel bad, because I think I miss the things I was hoping to do with a daughter, more than the things we actually did. I know that’s not true. I miss giving you bottles and kissing your temple. I miss singing to and playing with you on the changing table to distract you while I let you air dry. I miss standing you up on the changing table and letting you hang on to the stair banisters for a minute. I miss playing peek-a-boo in the foyer mirror with you. I miss getting you up from naps and seeing you first thing in the morning. I miss dressing you up. I miss hearing your voice in the middle of the night talking to yourself and calling for Daddy. I miss saying, “Let’s go get Brother up” or telling Max I’m going to “go get Sister up”. I said those phrases under my breath for comfort one day. I even retraced my steps for getting you up from a nap when I was in your room one day. Lift you from the crib, walk over and turn off white noise, walk over and grab Moonie, walk out the door. I could almost feel you in my arms.

But I was looking forward to “Anne of Green Gables” (book and movie) and the American Girl store. Tea parties and princesses. Or whatever it was you decided to like. You might have hated all that stuff. I wanted to get to know you and have you know me. And we will never get to do that now. You had so much potential, baby. Our relationship had so much potential. I wanted a daughter so much. And even if I have another one someday, I will not get to have you. It’s so cruel. It breaks my heart.

I find myself clinging to any connection with you, even as I let others go every day. I look at the dish soap and think, “When we bought that, Lucy was alive.” I look at the date on blog posts in Reeder to see if they were published before or after you died. Same thing with TV shows on the DVR. Or watching a show for the first time since you died. I hated to let go of the month of May, because it was the last one in which I got to be with you. I still have one tiny piece of Starbucks candy left from a package we were given during your last hospitalization. I don’t want to eat the last one. Silly as those connections might seem, they are links to your living, physical presence here and I hate to let them go.

I am so glad I am able to write to you, to be able to let the tears and feelings out. To feel like a “normal” mom who lost a child, if there is such a thing. Listen to me, I want to be a “normal” mom at the store and a “normal” mom who lost a child. I’m nothing if not ambitious, right? That’s one of the things you would have learned about me. You probably already had learned that one.

I hope you somehow know about these letters. I hope you hear me when I talk to you every day and tell you I love you and miss you.

Love, Mama



One of my favorite books series is “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” series by Ann Brashares. You wouldn’t think it from the title, but they are beautifully written, emotionally complex books. In the final book, “Sisterhood Everlasting” (SPOILER ALERT), one of the main characters dies. The night they find out one of the other girls, Carmen, thinks about the fact that Tibby has died first and tries to imagine what it must have been like for her, so that she wouldn’t be alone in some way. She feels that it is “horrifically brave of Tibby to be dead” (Brashares 67).

That quote came back to me last week when I was thinking about Lucy. I have spent my whole life frightened of death, especially violent death. When I was little, I was very afraid of losing my mother or of becoming sick and dying before I had a chance to grow up and do everything I wanted to do.

I just can’t believe that, at the age of fifteen months, my little girl has done the very thing I have been so frightened of my whole life. She died. She went into the great Unknown. She lived and she died with no fuss or overthinking or the hang-ups about life and death that we all develop. She probably had no choice in the matter. She probably did not even know when it happened. But she did it. And I am just in awe of her bravery.

She is still teaching me, because I am no longer so afraid of death. If my baby girl was brave enough to move on when it was time, surely I can be, too. Maybe part of it is hoping to see her again one day as well. I’m sure the fear will creep back at least somewhat, but for now, I am going to be brave like my little girl always was.


Brashares, Ann. “Sisterhood Everlasting.” New York: Random House, 2011.

(My MLA is rusty, but I couldn’t leave that citation in the blog post hanging.)

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