"Grieving the loss of a child is a process, it begins the day your child passes and ends the day the parent joins them."

Thursday, May 24, 2012

May 24, 1986

...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.

Monday, May 14, 2012

We Made It...

..as I assumed we would. Thru Mother's Day, I mean. The day started of rather gloomy for both Paul and I. By "gloomy" I mean our moods. We were neither one sure of just what to do. We headed outside, planted a tree, worked in my weed garden...er, I mean, flower garden. Poor garden, had no care or readiness to prepare for fall, due to the fire an all that went on. It was a mess. Still is. I'll get it done. Maybe.

As we were out working in the yard, the garage door (which was up/open) suddenly closed! Then, opened and closed again. And finally, opened and remained open. Paul asked me, "did you do that?" I had to remind him that I was in the yard with him and we watched together. It kind of freaked us both out. And we wondered, maybe, could it be our kids letting us know they were near on that day? No idea. But, Paul and I both know it happened. We saw it with our own eyes. We stood watching, in disbelief, really.

I've never been sure about receiving "signs" from loved ones who have passed. I guess I never really had an opinion, one way or the other. But more and more things keep happening around this house. One day, I'll share with  you, the sign I had one morning while home alone. This sign was so clear, it made my knees weak. Weak to the point I had to sit down. It was a sign from Brad.

At any rate, I was pretty happy to let myself believe that the garage door going up and down on its own, was my two Angels, letting me know they hadn't forgotten me on Mother's Day.

The day continued and surprisingly, Paul and I were pretty at peace after the above incident. We got cleaned up and went out to an early dinner at Smokey Bone's. We ate ribs--even I did. I splurged, but still accounted for all the food I ate (I do Weight Watchers). I talked to Ashleigh for a while. And received a really sweet card from her. It made me get all teary eyed. She also gave me an hour gift certificate for a massage. She knows her mom pretty darn good, cuz I realllllllyyyyyyy need a massage right about now.

After we went to dinner, we headed to the cemetery, where I placed a hanging planter. I'm pretty sure that moms are suppose to receive on Mother's Day, but on this day, I give. I give to my two kids who were plucked out of my life so suddenly and so unexpectedly. That's just wrong. WRONG!

We ended our day by visiting my parents. I gave my mom a planter, but forgot the card! Of all days to forget a card...I pick Mother's Day.

Even though I dreaded this Mother's Day, it wasn't all that bad. I honestly do believe, that the anticipation that leads up to "special days" (holidays, and so on) is by far, much worse than the actual day itself. The dread is almost a fear that sets in. No matter how hard you try to fight it...it's there. And will be here, forever.


On a side note. I'd appreciate some really good, positive vibes this week. I have a couple of doctor appointments. One tomorrow, the 15th and one on the 17th. The 17th is actually a procedure, it's at 11am and it has my nerves rattled, to say the least. So, if you have it in your heart, I could sure use some good vibes.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day

This Mother's Day, I have a whole different take on the meaning. 
Honestly, I dread the day.  
Likely, no more than I dread every day.
But, this day...
The day when mother's are happily enjoying their day and their children. 
I yearn for mine. 
Missing ALL, of my kids.
 And wish nothing more than to have all 3 of them here, with me, on this day. 
Instead, I will visit 2 of them at the cemetery.
But, I will be thankful to be able to talk to Ashleigh on the phone.
So happy that she's just a phone call away.

Happy Mother's Day, to all who are able to enjoy their children. Squeeze those kids
just a little tighter today. One never knows what tomorrow may bring.

Happy Mother's Day to all those who grieve the loss of their children.
May we all find some sort of comfort on this day.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Dream

As I blogged about the other day, May 8th was 7 months since our fire. 7 months since we last saw our son. It was a hard day. Harder than I thought it would have been.

I talked with Ashleigh on the 8th. She told me about, The Dream she had in the early morning hours of May 8th. Brad was in it. Actually, he appeared in her dream. She told me that he walked up to her, she turned to look at him, asking him, "What are you doing here?" He was all smiles. Very happy. His response, "I'm okay, Ash." (he has called Ashleigh, Ash, since he started talking. I don't think he ever called her Ashleigh!) He went on to say, "Tell mom and dad." How about that?? It made tears run down my face. I think he actually came to her that night.

I've yet to be able to dream about Brad. I've had many dreams about Carly. They've been awful. Very disturbing. But, I've had no dreams about Brad. It makes me sad, really. However, I'm so happy that he appeared in Ashleigh's dream and that he was happy. Like Ashleigh said, "I guess there's some comfort in that."

Paul had such a hard time hearing about that dream. He cried and cried and cried, as we stood at the graves of our children. We both decided that it had to be a sign. That he must of came to Ashleigh during the night. I've never really believed in that kind of stuff before, but this is makes me rethink many things.

Sure, we've been having some pretty strong signs of Brad's presence around here. Carly's too, for that matter. But nothing like, The Dream that Ashleigh had the other night.


I'm trying to do a blog makeover. Please pay no attention to the jumbled, under construction look!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Just For Today

Just for today I will try to live through the next 24 hours
and not expect to get over my child’s death,
but instead learn to live with it, just one day at a time.

Just for today I will remember my childs life, not just his (& her) death,
and bask in the comfort of all those treasured days
and moments we shared.

Just for today I will forgive all the family and friends
who didn’t help or comfort me the way I needed them to.
They truly did not know how.

Just for today I will smile no matter how much I hurt on the inside,
for maybe if I smile a little, my heart will soften and I will begin to heal.

Just for today I will reach out to comfort a relative or friend of my child,
for they are hurting too, and perhaps we can help each other. 

Just for today I will free myself from my self-inflicted burden of guilt,
for deep in my heart I know if there was anything in this world
I could of done to save my child(ren) from death, I would of done it.

Just for today I will honor my child’s memory by doing something with another child
because I know that would make my own child proud. 

Just for today I will offer my hand in friendship
to another bereaved parent for I do know how they feel. 

Just for today when my heart feels like breaking,
I will stop and remember that grief is the price we pay for loving
and the only reason I hurt is because I had the privilege of loving so much.

Just for today I will not compare myself with others.
I am fortunate to be who I am and have had my child for as long as I did. 

Just for today I will allow myself to be happy, 
for I know that I am not deserting him/her 
by living on.

Just for today I will accept that I did not die when my child did,
my life did go on, and I am the only one who can make that life worthwhile once more.

 by Vicki Tushingham

Today is 7 months ago since we've seen Brad. I'm still having such a hard time wrapping my brain around this cold, hard, fact. When Paul and I left our home that night, at 5:15pm, back in October,  we NEVER dreamed that we would never see our son again. At 6:05pm, I called and talked to Brad- he told me what he wanted me to bring him home from the restaurant. He ordered a steak, baked potato and fries. I asked him how his steak should be cooked. I thought rare, he corrected me with, "medium well." By 6:50pm, Brad was gone. Fire engulfed his room. Smoke filled our home. Our son, was gone. We never got to say goodbye to him. We never again laid eyes on his face. He was gone. It's hard to say goodbye to someone that you can not actually see. It's hard to say goodbye to your child whether or not you can actually "see" them. But for us, it was especially difficult because Brad's funeral was a closed casket. 

It's so hard to try and make sense of all that has gone on in our lives over the past 25 months. Sometimes, I think that maybe it was me who died. Maybe I'm looking down over my family. Or, maybe I've been in a coma for the past 25 months. I mean, seriously, how can this be happening? Not once, but twice. 

So, Just For Today, I will try extra hard...but I can't make any promises for the days, months, years to come. 

I miss my son. I miss my daughter. I miss the way my life used to be. I miss the 'old' me. I just can't get to know this 'new' me. And sadly, dammit, there is not one single thing I can do to change any of this.