Friday, September 28, 2012

Friends & Friday Night Lights

So how exactly did I end up at a high school football game on homecoming night of all nights?

Hmmmm, let's see. It all began about a week and a half ago when Isaac asked if he could have some of Addie's friends over to play. Yeah, I know, weird. I mean what 10-year-old girl is going to want to come over and play with a 5-year-old boy? Even Addie (who in my mind was the best sister ever) had moments when she just did not want her little brother around. Since I didn't think I could possibly bring myself to ask one of Addie's friends to come over and play with our rough-and-tumble boys, I did the next best thing: tell Scott he needed to take them to a football game.

But that still doesn't answer why I was there.

Actually, I can't answer that question. There's really no explanation other than about five minutes before departure time, I found myself pulling out a sweatshirt and checking myself in the mirror. I call it the five-minute window, a time when I either decide to bolt or be bold. Tonight I chose bold.

Typically, the stadium is teeming with kids and tonight (being homecoming and little girl cheer night) was no exception. Toddlers. Teenagers. And everyone in-between.

And then, three of Addie's classmates - donning a heavy dose of face paint - approached us.

"Hi, Jamie!" they exclaimed.

The group grew to four. Five. Then six. Eventually, a whole football team's worth of 10-year-old girls surrounded our family.

And I found that old familiar lump in my throat and tears in my eyes (because of this I'm seriously thinking about pulling a Corey Hart and actually wearing my sunglasses at night).

Tears because there's one little girl missing from the group. Tears because they haven't forgotten her. Or us.

Addie loved those girls.

And we do too.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Thank You

If you told me six months ago that this is where I'd be, I never would have believed you.

This is hell on earth.

This hurts.

This still doesn't make any sense.

And yet, I'm still standing.

I inhale and exhale.

But how?

I'll tell you how.

The reason that Scott and I and our sweet little family hasn't completely crumbled is because of you.

You and your prayers. Your phone calls and texts. Your apple crisp. And cookies. And casseroles.

It's the notes that you send. The wristbands you wear.

It's the conversations. At work. At school. On the golf course. You ask. You listen. And you listen some more. You watch as we attempt to accept the unacceptable and realize it ain't gonna happen.

You know "OK" is our standard answer when someone asks how we're doing. And you know that's really code for "crappy" and "barely holding it together."

You drop in every once in awhile. Invite us over and understand that sometimes we'll be up for it and sometimes we just won't.

And you say her name. That sweet, sweet name. Without hesitation. Or fear. And you let me say it freely.


You share a memory. A photograph. And tears.

We're still standing.

With a whole lot of help.

And for that we say thank you.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Memorials and 'Mom'

Remember when a day off from school really meant a day off?

Neither do I.

But today was one of those scheduled days off.

When I took a look at my school calendar this past summer, I have to admit, I did a double-take. And then I got to scheduling appointments.

I won't go into each and every appointment. Bo-ring. Let me briefly mention the two that happen to represent the very best and worst life has to offer me right now.

Let's do the worst first.

Does it get any worse than making a trip to Lincoln to finalize your daughter's headstone? Let me tell you, it ranks right up there with selecting a casket, designating pall bearers, and picking up the death certificate. I can think of about 10 million things I'd rather do.

But Scott's been after me to get. it. done. Since, like, May. I'm not even kidding. That's when we started this whole pain-staking process. So why doesn't he just do it himself?

Seriously though.

Do you know who monument places market their materials to?

Not 9 year olds.

Let's face it. You're not supposed to die until you've lived a long, happy life filled with home mortgages and home movie footage.

And just how do you go about summing up a life so beautiful on a slab of granite?

You don't.

I finally figured that out today. No stone. No picture. No (ridiculous) dates can adequately depict who our daughter was (or anyone who passes, really).

But do you know what can?

Take a stroll through the cemetery and just look at the trinkets that have been left by those who knew and loved her. Pinwheels. Flowers. Messages. Dogs. Cats. And more. Then you'll catch a glimpse of what this little girl meant to a mom and dad, grandmas and grandpas, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends.


I told you it was bad.

Let's shift gears for a second and talk about an appointment I was actually looking forward to today.

Lunch with a certain 5 year old.

By the look on his face, he was looking forward to it too.

I've always said Isaac's smile is infectious. It doesn't matter how craptastic your day has been, when he smiles, you smile. And when he smiles, he smiles with his whole face - eyes and all.

So there I was patiently waiting outside the kindergarten classroom as each little one stood in line for their spritz of hand sanitizer when Isaac spotted me. A smile and a wave.

We walked as single file as two people holding hands possibly could, grabbed our napkins, straws, spoons and forks and sat down to a delicious lunch of chicken tortellini. Isaac opted for PB & J.

Lunch was, well, lunch. Probably more talking than eating going on (but isn't that how it always is).

And that 5-year-old boy was absolutely beaming.

So was I.

Then it was recess. Like a perfect host, Isaac refused to leave me alone on the playground. So he showed me how he could climb the "carrots," slide down the slide, and sit on a bench. We spent a lot of time sitting on a bench. And talking.

Do you know how many times I got to do that with Addie?

Five years in elementary school and I was able to have lunch with her twice.


Once when I was on maternity leave and once when I had the day before Thanksgiving off and she didn't. Last year, when my schedule loosened up a bit, it was too late.

She was in middle school and parents just don't do that anymore (her words, not mine).

So anyway, back to recess.

Boys were chasing girls. Girls were chasing boys. And both boys and girls were making their way across the monkey bars.

That's when a little first grade boy stopped me and said, "Hey, are you Addie's mom?"

"Yes," I said.

"I'm sorry about Addie."

I said thanks and he went back to the monkey bars, but not without making quite an impression on me.

First, this kid was able to accomplish what so many adults find so incredibly difficult to do. Trust me, I get it. Before this, you could put me in the group of people afraid of saying the "wrong" thing. But you know what? The whole situation is wrong. And messy. And awful.

Second, and probably most important, he called me something I hadn't been called in six months.

Addie's mom.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Second Worst Day of My Life

Some days are worse than others.

Today was one of those days.

So was last Friday.

And you can bet next Wednesday will be bad too.


Simply because the calendar says it's the 14th, the 20th, the 26th. Stupid calendar. Actually, I don't even need the calendar. Like clockwork, it just shows up - along with the knot in my stomach, the lump in my throat, and the constant replay of events that took place March 14-26.

Today we reached the six-month mark.

On March 20, we found out our seemingly healthy 9-year-old daughter had leukemia.

I could go on and on and on about the details of that day. There's not a one I can't recall. But today I'll keep it short.

We naively thought March 20 was the worst day of our lives.

It wasn't.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

On Boys and Bugs

Like most boys, our 5 year old and 3 year old are rough and tough. They jump off couches and counter tops. They wrestle. Fight. Maybe even bite. They're covered with bruises from head to toe. And dirt. Oh, the dirt.

But there's one thing that makes Isaac and Tripp different from other little boys (well, other than the obvious).

They won't smash bugs.

Not that I'm worried about it (at all), but isn't that something little boys just do?

Like spit and fart (on purpose) and pee outside. Trust me, I'd be happy if they didn't do any of those things.

But the bugs and spiders and flies?

They won't touch them.

Not because they're scared of them. No. Because bugs and spiders and flies have families.

Like us.

And Isaac and Tripp know just how badly families can hurt when they lose someone they love. How moms cry and daddies too. How birthdays get passed over. And holidays. How it's completely normal to pack up and leave church early because sitting there is just too hard. Just like it's completely normal to keep a chewed up piece of gum in the back seat of the car because that piece of gum belonged to Addie.


What's normal?

Is it little boys smashing bugs? Maybe.

Or is it little boys missing their big sister? That seems normal to me. And so unfair.


A bouncy seat for $5.

Polka-dotted sleepers for a buck.

A bathtub. Stroller. Onesies. Blankies. Burp cloths. Anything an expectant mother might want. Right there for the taking. And I walked away empty-handed.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all about bargains. And there were plenty of bargains to be had this past weekend during our community's annual garage sales. Forty-two sales in all and I made it to at least half of them.

Last year we were the ones pricing items into the wee hours of the morning.

Goodbye, bouncy seat. See ya later, stroller.

Each item, lovingly selected by my own two hands, had served us well as we brought three beautiful children into the world. They saw us through colic and acid reflux and gave me an opportunity to take a shower - albeit a quick one - at 3 in the afternoon (it's amazing how baby is completely content as long as the bouncy seat is in the bathroom with you). But, it was time for them to go. We were done with babies.

We weren't planning on any more.

Just like we weren't planning on cancer.

Yet here we are.

With the best and worst life can throw at a person.

March 14.

A positive pregnancy test and preparations for big changes in our family.

March 14.

A fever and a trip to the ER.

One day. Two events. Two lives. Two daughters.

Inexplicably linked.


I'm not sure we'll ever know the answer to that question, but it's one I ask and struggle with every day.

Which is why I couldn't bring myself to buy the polka-dotted jammies (even though I picked them up not once, not twice, but three times).

And why our reactions to "congratulations" aren't typical of expectant parents. We smile, say thank you, and switch the conversation to something else.

And why we haven't even thought about a name.

We're just not there yet.

We're still stuck missing a perfectly wonderful little girl gone too soon.

Friday, September 7, 2012

My Own Personal Superhero

Is it possible to endure five months of (keeping it PG) heck and realize for one sliver of a moment you felt a smile creep across your face?


Is it possible to laugh?


I'm not going to lie. This grief thing sucks. This is not the life we imagined, but it's the life we have to live.

And we aren't the only ones left here to live it.

Brotherly Love?
Thank God.

Thank God for Isaac.

Thank God for Tripp.

Thank God for matchbox cars on the floor. Markers on the kitchen table. And messes to clean up every night.

Because I can honestly say I don't know where we'd be without them.


Thank you, Santa, for the Spiderman costume.
It's no secret Isaac has a penchant for this raggedy, old Spiderman costume. If you've ever stopped by our house, you know which one I'm talking about (and you know there's a pretty good chance little brother's going to pop out from behind a piece of furniture in nothing but a pair of Batman underwear and pink cowboy boots). So it should come as no surprise that Isaac insisted on wearing Spidey on a bike ride through the park the other night. I know. What kind of parents would allow that? The same ones that let Tripp wear the boots (after we explained why it's necessary to wear clothes in public places).

To passersby Isaac probably looked like a typical 5 year old kid with a runaway imagination - especially since he managed to shoot webs at a few of them. Sorry 'bout that.

But that kid is a superhero in my book.

Because he was able to do the impossible.

Make us smile.


This guy makes us smile too.

Boots and a sword.
And so does she.

So glad we got to spend this time together.