...one has no way, to even attempt to imagine, all that can take place within 26yrs.
26yrs ago today, Paul and I were married. Two EXTREMELY young kids; I, 19 and he, was 20. Wow! But on that day, so many years ago, we never, in our wildest dreams or most horrifying nightmares, could have known how our journey together would go. Sure, we had happy times. Lots of them in fact. But man...it's been rough for a couple of years now.
Ashleigh was born and then 2yrs and 11months later, Brad was born. We had some rough times...as many young married people do. But, we were doing okay. For a while anyway.
When Brad was 2 1/2, Paul and I separated and eventually divorced. We remained divorced for 7yrs. And only because of our children, we started to heal. We would attend school events together, with the kids. Go to movies and even on vacation. At that point we decided we should give it one more try..the whole marriage thing. We wanted our kids happy. We wanted to be happy.
On December 17, 1999 we remarried. Our kids were THRILLED! Our family was whole again. Gone, were the sad looks from the eyes of our kids, who were torn apart through our divorce. The sparkle came back into their eyes. Life was good.
Paul started coaching Ashleigh's soccer team..until the girls got to "that weird age" as Paul called it. He was uncomfortable coaching middle school girls. At that point, he started coaching Brad's soccer team. I think he coached those boys throughout elementary. Once Brad hit middle school, he switched to football. Our weeknights were busy with practices. Weekends we were consumed with soccer games. Oh, but it was so fun. And looking back, we are so happy to have been so involved with the kids, their friends, the parents, school etc...
Along comes Carly! What a surprise she was. A complete and total blessing for our little family of 4. Jan., 2, 2002 was such a great day. The day our family was complete. And then we were hit with the news, "were sorry but, we think your baby has Down syndrome." We were shocked. Devastated really. This was not the way it was suppose to be. How could this have happened? What were people going to think? How would we tell people? How would our new baby be treated/accepted by others? It was rough, to say the least. But, we made it. And I'll never forget the words that Brad said to me on the night of Carly's birth. Let me back up a bit first. Ashleigh had gone from the hospital with my parents to buy a new outfit for Carly to come home in. Brad stayed at the hospital with Paul and I. Brad heard the doctor tell us, what we thought at the time, were the worst possible words a doctor could ever say. Brad saw the reaction that Paul and I had..and it kind of freaked the poor kid out. He had just turned 12, less than 2 months before Carly was born. Eventually, Paul and Brad left the hospital that night. I called home to talk to the kids and Paul. When Brad got on the phone, I was trying not to cry. Trying really hard not to be emotional. He asked me, "are you okay mom?" I said, "I just don't know what we are going to do." Brad's response, "we're just gonna take care of her mom." And at that very moment, even though I was so saddened, I knew, that once the shock wore off, we'd be okay.
3 weeks after Carly's birth, we were hit with another blow. We found out that she had a severe heart condition. She would not survive childhood without surgery, but what she needed done, was no easy task. Carly was given less than 20% chance to survive with a successful surgery. At 3months of age, she was taken from my arms, into surgery. She made it! But 13hrs later, we nearly lost her to a pulmonary embolism. She spent 3 1/2 days on ECMO. 31 days after entering UofM hospital for open heart surgery, we brought our baby girl home. Her surgeon was in awe of her. He told us, "I expected your stay in ICU to be 4-6months." She blew the minds of those doctors.
June, 2004 we were back to UofM for a second heart surgery for our sweet girl. She breezed right through it. We were discharged on the 4th morning following her surgery. We were amazed. And thrilled. We were home, happy and healthy.
Sept 2004, leukemia reared it's ugly head with our sweet little girl. We sat at UofM in total disbelief. How many times were we going to get knocked down in this life time? When was enough going to enough? How could this tiny little 2 yr old be put through 26months of chemotherapy?
She had endured so much. We nearly lost her 2 times due to blood infections and once due to a round of really hard chemo that caused dehydration so severe the nurses couldn't find vitals on her. But, she came out swinging. She beat that evil cancer. She won the battle. Our family could finally get back to being a family. 26months is a long time. Lots of hospital stays. Low blood counts, = no company, no going away...being confined pretty much to home. After chemo days, we were resting pretty easily. Carly was thriving. Our family was happy. Things were good.
April 23, 2010 our life came crashing down. Our family of 5 was no more. Our lives and hearts were shattered. How could life be so cruel? How would we go on? What would happen to our family? Could we survive this life, without Carly? We thought this would certainly be the worst day of our lives. How could life get any worse? Our family was suddenly ripped apart and it all took place in 1 1/2 hrs. Our lives were turned upside down. Life as we knew it, had forever changed. We would never be the people that we were before that dreadful day.
Life was pretty difficult for us in the days and weeks and months that passed after losing Carly. We never felt so alone in all of our lives. Not just Paul and I, but Ashleigh and Brad too. People didn't know what to say, so they said nothing. Which is much harder on grieving families. We cried many tears. Felt very lost, empty, angry. Surely we had been through enough. How could this have happened? Would we, could we survive this? Carly was the core of our family. Loved beyond loved. And she was gone. Plucked, right out of the family core.
I often times worried about Paul and I. The statistics/divorce rates are out of this world, high, after the loss of a child. Would we be okay? I worried about Ashleigh and Brad too. How would they cope with the loss of their baby sister? Would they be okay? Then I'd get pissed. Dammit, Ashleigh and Brad had been through enough. Paul and I had been through enough. And now they lose their sister...we lose our daughter...total bullsh!t! Yep, that pretty much sums up my thoughts in the days, weeks and months after losing Carly. Total bullsh!t!
Some how, we were all making it through that horrific time. Making it through the best we could. The kids were doing okay. Paul and I were doing the best that we could. And I thought, just for a split second. We are going to make it through this.
BAMM!!! October 8, 2011. Paul and I left our home at 5:15pm to run to the auto parts store and grab some dinner. At 6pm, I called Brad (he was home) and asked his what he wanted us to bring him for dinner, because I wasn't going to cook. He placed his order - steak, cooked medium..baked potato and fries. At 7:30ish, Paul and I were on our way back home. My phone rang. I noticed it was my friend calling, she rarely calls my cell. I answered and she asked where I was at. And then she told me, "Joany, your house is on fire." I hung up on her and frantically started calling Brad's cell phone. I called it over and over and over and over. He never answered. I called my brother and told him he needed to get to my house. Paul and I were 20 miles away. I called one of my girl friends, who lives 3 miles from me and told her to get to my house, it was on fire. I continued calling Brad. NON STOP..he never answered. How in the HELL could this be happening? I just knew we would pull up to our home and he'd be outside with the firemen. He wasn't. Nothing but chaos once we arrived on the scene. I was in shock. We were all in shock. There is absolutely no way that this could be happening. It was like a nightmare. As I sat watching, everything seemed to be going in slow motion. Paul flipped out and ran through the police crime scene tape that was placed around our yard. He was heading to the house. He was tackled by 2 State Troopers and placed in hand cuffs. We were kept separated for a couple of hours. I just couldn't believe this was happening. Eventually, the cops let us be together. And then the devastating news, "we have found a body in the home." came crashing down upon us. My knees buckled. I could not believe what we were being told. He was gone. Brad was gone.
As I sit here today, typing this, I see that I may have veered off track of what I intended to post, but when you've lived and lost, what I've lived and lost in 26yrs, sometimes, you find yourself rambling. Memories flood your mind. Your heart. Your entire soul. Tears flood your eyes and you try desperately to remember every detail of your life.
This has been one Hell of a 26yr journey for our family. As we said our "I do's" standing in that church, we didn't have a clue of what we would face. How life would play out. The joy we would share. The heartache. The pain. The suffering. The loss. One never knows, for that matter. But I can promise you this, we never in a million years thought we'd be grieving over 2 children. That was something that never, ever entered our minds. It's just not suppose to happen that way. Parents aren't suppose to bury their children. As hard as each passing day is for Paul and me. We continue to put one foot in front of the other,,,even when we feel we just can't do it another day, but it's the hardest thing we've ever done.
I would like nothing more, than to turn back the hands of time. Rewind our lives to happier days. Good times, when we were a family of 5. But, I know that will never be. I can't begin to imagine having to go through this horrific time without Paul. I wish we didn't have to go through any of this, but we do.
We did nothing fancy for today. We never do. Likely because we don't know which anniversary to celebrate. This one, or the second one, or both?! I made fish, corn on the cob and baked potatoes for dinner. We ate, did the dishes and Paul was in bed by 8:15 (he works about 70+hrs a week).
Tomorrow, after Paul gets home from work, we will head to the cemetery. I bought some flowers for Memorial Day to place on each of the kids graves. We'll talk about the past 26yrs..the past 25 months. We'll talk about Brad and of our memories about him. We'll talk about Carly and all the memories we have of her. We'll stand at the foot of their graves and we'll shake our heads and we'll cry.