Tuesday, February 17, 2015

…and the saga continues….

Finally found a carpeted area to sleep around 1 a.m.  Updated the blog with my rant about Delta.  Kind of slept.  A little achy.

The end of the last post I tried to B POSITIVE by remembering what Melissa always said…No matter how bad you have it, there is always someone who would love to be in your shoes.  That was about the time the young woman with the baby walked by, trying to get the baby to sleep. On the floor.

Woke up this morning and a young woman was sitting across from me.  We made eye contact and I said "This is crazy."

She asked where we were traveling from and to.  Said we had a two hour delay, then missed our connection.  She is on her way to Canada from South Africa.  She had a 17 hour delay.  Twice.  Her flight  from South Africa had to make an emergency stop in San Juan due to an emergency medical issue.  (and I'm complaining about a two hour delay…ok, add the time in the airport, it's a little more than that)…

As soon as she said she had a 17 hour delay, I thought of Melissa.  Just happen to have a few of Melissa's cards so I gave her one, and of course told her about Melissa.

She was in South Africa to visit her boyfriend.  Her boyfriend's sister died two years ago, suddenly. She was his only sibling.  We had a long discussion about the loss of a child, how his parents are dealing with it, how he is dealing with it, how it is affecting her.  Interesting conversation for 4:30 in the morning.  Of course I shared my name too and asked her to share my name with her boyfriends mom.  Her name is Aliki.  Just like the children's author.  Beautiful young woman.

God (and Melissa) seems to put me in the path of people who have walked my path…or in this case, in the path of someone who could use the perspective of another parent who has lost a child.  I hope I helped her understand why her boyfriends parents talk about their daughter all the time…even after two years.  I told her it's been six years since Melissa died, and I am trying to focus on her life, not her death.  And of course I will talk about Melissa whenever I get the chance.

Made another friend this morning.  That's a good way to start this new day.

Now on to the next challenge.  Convincing my dad to agree to assisted living.

More later.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Pam & Donna's Excellent Adventure

Ok. I wasn't going to post anything about dad until we got there to see how he's doing…but I am SO frustrated right now.   I need to right this while everything is fresh….

Dad has not had a good couple of weeks.  In and out of the hospital twice, now in rehab.  So I decided to visit, and possibly bring him home.  So I needed someone to go with me, and Donna wanted to go. (I needed someone to help me take care of dad on the way home).  Not sure that is happening now - but this is about our trip.

Waited to make reservations to see if he was going home, rehab, or what.  Last week decided to wait until this week.  Good fares today. (well, better than last week).  Didn't know a snowstorm was going to hit the south, from Atlanta to Ohio.

Left home around 4 for a 6pm flight.  I thought there would probably be a delay because of the weather.  One hour delay turned into a two hour delay.  got out of Dayton around 8:30.  Flight was very bumpy (pilot actually said 180mph winds were hitting the right side of the plane-Jet Stream).  Kind of scary.  When we were about 60 miles from Atlanta, said we couldn't land because of bad weather.  Circled multiple times before we could land.

Forgot to say that in Dayton, the clerk at check in booked our flight for Tuesday morning just in case we missed our connection.  That was the nicest thing Delta did all night.  In fact, they were pretty accommodating in Dayton.   The clerk also said they changed our flight to Atlanta as our final destination, and to "pick up your bags at baggage claim when you get there.  Go to the desk to get a voucher for a hotel."

Ok. So we get a free hotel if we miss our connection. (only because our flight was delayed because of mechanical problems.  No comps if delays are weather related).

So we finally land in Atlanta, rush to get to Customer Service desk for Delta, only to find about 100 people ahead of us.  After waiting about 10 minutes, the girl who seemed to be in charged shouted "CAN I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION PLEASE. WE HAVE NO MORE HOTELS AVAILABLE. SORRY.  YOU CAN FIND YOUR OWN HOTEL OR STAY IN THE AIRPORT."

That's it.  The end.  We caused this problem, now go find your own place to stay.

So now we have to go get our luggage, which in the Atlanta airport is about a mile from your gate.  WE get there and our wait for about 45 minutes, and our luggage never shows up.  So we go wait in ANOTHER line - The missing luggage line.  Only to be told by the gentleman there, who scanned our luggage receipt- your luggage is going to Melbourne tomorrow.  "NO.  They told us in Dayton to pick it up at baggage claim."  "NO.  It is not showing up here. It will go to Melbourne tomorrow."  There were several other people whose luggage didn't show up either.  They were checking other carousels.  After talking to the luggage guy, we decided to go back to check if our luggage ever came out…just to find more luggage coming out of the carousel…OUR luggage.  SOAKING WET.  Evidently they took it off the plane and left it on the tarmac.  In the pouring rain.  Donna's checked bag was a duffle bag.  EVERYTHING in her back is soaking wet.

From there, we finally found a desk for DELTA that was open.  I went up and asked what we were supposed to do.  Where are we supposed to sleep.  "Well. We can get you a hotel, but its not very nice. It's about 15 minutes from here. "  Well, I'd rather sleep on the airport floor than some seedy hotel.  At least there's airport security riding around.  And about 100 other people sleeping on the floor.

Last year we flew SOUTHWEST when we went on our cruise.  We got bumped from our flight (twice) and got vouchers for being bumped.  That's how you keep customers.  When something happens (like a mechanical problem)…you compensate your customers SOMEHOW.  You don't say.  SORRY.  Your problem.

I will NEVER fly DELTA again.  No vouchers for food (everything's closed anyway), no vouchers for future travel (that would at least get me to fly Delta again, and MAYBE consider flying with them again) and a promise of a hotel, only to be sleeping on the floor.

They did say we could check our bags at 4:30… A.M.  I guess that was there way of appeasing us.

But you know what…know matter how bad you have it, there is always someone who would love to be in your shoes…

A mom with a baby just walked by me, trying to get her baby to sleep (looks like about a year old).  At least I don't have a baby to take care of too.

Delta, you should be ashamed of your customer service.  OR LACK OF.

Ok.  Im done.  80 degrees and sunshine should help tomorrow… I mean today.  It's after midnight.

 This reminds me of a trip I had with Melissa, Sue and Matthew a few years back.  Donny called it "Pam and Sue's Excellent Adventure."  But that's a story for another day…

Good night.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Caregiving

Before I get into the excitement of February, I thought I'd start off with a picture that was given to us recently.  Something that made ME smile.


Was she adorable or what?  I love this picture of Melissa.  It was at some family get together, might have been Thanksgiving at the Rado's.  Not sure, but I love pigtails and that smile.  She didn't change much over the years, did she?

***


 January is always a difficult month, especially the first week.   After the anniversary and Melissa's birthday, I try to get back into some kind of routine - basically going to basketball games.
Something to get me out of the house.

I thought it was March that was supposed to "come in like a lion and go out like a lamb" or just the opposite.

This year it's February.

If you have had the opportunity to be a caregiver to someone you love, or kind enough to be a caregiver to a friend, I want you to know how much I appreciate you.

Because in the last ten years, I was blessed to be the caregiver for Melissa (along with her husband John) and in the last few years for my dad.    I appreciate you because I have walked in your shoes.

It was time to post again (most of the time for my own sanity), and January ended up being a pretty peaceful, laid back month.  Not a whole lot to write about.  February is looking to be a lot more exciting.

We have a good friend that lives down the street, Bruce.  He just turned 92.  Great guy- WWII pilot who tells a great story of his days in the service  We could sit and listen to him for hours.  His wife, Ruth, was like a mom to me.  The last few years of her life we had coffee every Saturday morning at McDonalds.  We were friends for over 30 years.  Ruth died of breast cancer two years after Melissa.
Anyway, whenever Donny and I take a walk, we always stop in to visit Bruce.  He has one son, who lives in town and is his primary caregiver, but his neighbors and Donny and I also check in on him.
He had a heart attack Wednesday night and is in the hospital.

Me and Ruth @ Donut Man - late '80s


While I am not his primary caregiver, we love Bruce.  He and Donny have gotten pretty close.  And he calls me "his gal".  We are really worried about him,  but haven't had any updates.  We were going to stop to see him at the hospital last night, but were taking Donny's mom out for dinner for her birthday and got a late start-so didn't get a chance to stop yesterday.

Me & Bruce


Had a nice dinner at a local Hungarian Bistro (not much traditional Hungarian food though - a little disappointed) and a nice visit with Roz for her birthday.


When we got home, my nephew Matthew stopped by to pay his rent.  I was telling him my dad's most recent escapades…last weekend he was throwing up-just didn't feel good.  Thought maybe he had the flu.  He doesn't normally have someone there (home health care) on Sundays, but he asked if I could get someone to come over.  Fortunately, one of the women that is with him during the week was able to help him out.  I talked to her the next morning and she said "I told him to take his blood pressure when I got there.  It was 210/98."  UGH.  Can't understand why they didn't call 911…I'm guessing because he said "I'll be fine. I'll just lay down".   The next morning it was still high, so I was able to get in touch with the home health nurse and get her to come back in.  

So he made it a week without too many problems.  Except one.  This is not something that I really want to share, but I will because I'm betting that there is someone else who is going through the exact same thing.  Something that is not easy to deal with.  Getting a nurse or the paramedics or adult day care is EASY.  Telling someone they need a shower is not.  For the second time in a couple of months I received a call from his friends at the VFW.  He was starting to offend people.  With his smell.  So for the second time, I have the job of telling him that he needs to take a shower.  Not an easy task when you are doing this over the phone from a thousand miles away.  My dad is 84 years old.  And German. A stubborn German.  His opinion is "I don't do anything.  I don't sweat.  I don't NEED a shower."
What he fails to realize is that sweating is not the only reason you take a shower.  He has arthritis in his shoulders and it is very painful.  He has a hard time taking off his shoes and socks and getting shirts over his head (yes, I bought him several button down shirts) He likes t shirts.  So I get that it is painful for him to get in and out of the shower.  And I have offered to get him an aide once a week.  That was a mistake - he yelled at me and told me not to do anything until I asked him first….

Ahhhhh…the joys of being a caregiver.

And what do you know…and hour after I called him, he called me back. 
 "I just got out of the shower!"  
"GREAT!  Did you use soap?"
"Yep. Shampoo AND a fragrance soap."
"What about your clothes?"
"Carmen is washing them."
"That's great dad.  Your friends at the VFW won't recognize you!"
"I think I'll start taking more showers."

Two hours later, I got another phone call from him.  This time he was at the Verizon store.  He knows that he can get a new phone every two years.  So he is at the Verizon store picking out a new phone.  I asked him what kind of phone he wanted to get.  He said "I think its called an I Phone".  UGH.  So I proceeded to give him the list of why he didn't need an I Phone.  
"Dad.  You use a phone to make phone calls.  That's it.  You don't text, use the internet, take pictures, send email…"
"But I can get music on it."
"Dad. You will never listen to music on your phone."
"I like the way I can touch the screen."
"How much will this cost you?"
"99cents.  Plus $35 (activation fee).  And $20 more a month."
"Why don't you wait until I come down and I'll show you mine.  Then you can decide if you would use it.?
(In this conversation, the phone is handed back and forth from dad to the sales person, oh, about 7 times.  She agrees with me that a smart phone is not the right phone for my dad.  She also says that the flip phone that he has is better than the new ones.  So if he Upgraded, it would really be a downgrade.)

Then I ask the clerk if he gets one and doesn't like it, can he return it?  Yes, if he returns it within 14 days, then there is a $35 restocking fee.  REALLY?????  Don't get me started on Verizon ripping people off.  That's a story for another day.

Finally, the clerk says to dad "having a smart phone is like having a computer in your pocket."

So I ask him "Dad, do you really want to walk around with a computer in your pocket?"

"Yes."

Then he said "Im just going to get what I want."

"Then why did you call me?"

"Well, will YOU tell her what I want?"

OH. MY. GOD.

"I don't know what you want dad."

"This one."

"I can't see it dad. I'm not there."

"Alright.  I'll just wait til you get here."

Arrrrrrrggggggghhhhhhhhh…..

Whew.

So happy we worked that out.  Fast forward to the next day.  Thursday.  Last night. Matthew is here and I'm telling him about the last two weeks with dad.  My phone rings.  It's BRETT-Dad's Friend.
Who I haven't heard from since dad fell in the driveway and had to go to the hospital last summer.

"Hello?"

"Pam, It's Brett.  Your dad fell in the driveway again.  I can't go over there."

"Thanks for calling".

Here we go again.



Fortunately, I have Melbourne Fire and Rescue in my phone, because even though dad has a Life Alert  button, he doesn't use it.  He calls Brett first.  This all happened around 9:30.  I didn't know where he was transported (dispatch wouldn't tell me because of HIPPA laws) I had to call the two hospitals in Melbourne to figure out where he was.  Finally talked to the medics, then the nurse.  He was throwing up and dizzy again.  They admitted him and did some bloodwork, CT Scan and he is waiting to hear from the Cardiologist.  I have one of his caregivers from Home Instead staying with him at the hospital today.  And it looks like some major changes are coming for my dad in the next few weeks.

And you know what?  I wouldn't have it any other way.  I love my dad so much and I worry about him and I want to take care of him.  Stress and all.  

So the purpose of this blog is to remind myself that I AM NOT ALONE in this caregiving adventure. I have several friends who take care of their parents also…one whose mom lives close by.  She doesn't drive, but they pick her up every day and have her over for dinner.  They take her to appointments, to church, wherever she needs to go.  Every day.  I talk to my dad every day, but I don't get to see him every day. I would rather be there with him than sending a caregiver.  I am the caregiver.  I have another friend whose mom just passed away and her dad had a stroke a few days after the service.  She's taking care of her dad too.  We are all in this together.  We can help each other get through the stressful days, and remind ourselves that when they are gone, we will miss having them around…good and bad.

Melissa always said "No matter how bad you have it, there is always someone who would love to be in your shoes." I have two good friends from high school who have cancer and are going through treatments - one is having a 17 hour surgery next week, the other prays to be able to get her chemo treatments on time.  I think about that a lot when I am overwhelmed, and I sit back and realize that I can do this.  I am not alone.  I have Donny.  Nick & Mere.  My extended family. Good friends. And this blog…to vent when I need to vent.

Thanks Dad, for giving me a purpose.  I love you more than you know. 

***

There were some good things in the last couple of weeks too, believe it or not.  Melissa's good friend from high school, Andy Aracri, was inducted into Fairmont's Athletic Hall of Fame - she would be so proud of him!

Me, Andy, Melissa after the Miami/Akron game

Melissa & Andy

Andy at Hall of Fame introductions


Fairmont played at Northmont last week.  It was their "Coaches vs. Cancer" game. They asked me to write something about cancer or Melissa.  Betcha can't guess what I wrote about…then I got to read it to the crowd.  Easiest thing for me to do…talk about my girl.  

My cousin Lindsay plays for Fairmont. Tore her ACL the first game of the season-her senior year. She continues to go to practices, sits on the bench at every game and cheers on her team.  With a smile.  They honored her at the game last week by wearing t shirts with her name/number.  The whole team and the coaches!  She's pretty amazing.  (just like someone else I know). Melissa would be so proud of her!  Lindsay is on the far right in the picture.

Donny had a day off a couple of weeks ago and was going through some pictures - found some good ones…

This was taken after the OU/Miami game.  Wish I could name everyone in the picture. Melissa is on the bottom row, second from the left.

After the game.  Isn't she beautiful! 

This was on one of our houseboat weekends.  We had two houseboats, each one had to come up with a 
team name - ours was Houseboat Cafe (like Hard Rock Cafe). Friend Dave found these old uniforms that were going to be thrown away - they were our team uniforms.  

A little shaving cream fight...

Donny with his first car.  Black convertible Chevy.  Not sure what year it was, but I think it was probably his favorite car.  Wishes he still had it.

My Grandma & Grandpa were married in 1916.  They went to Niagara Falls for their honeymoon.  On the Canadian side, there was a cable car that went over a whirlpool on the Niagara River.  It was brand new.  They needed volunteers to test it out, so Grandma and Grandpa volunteered along with another couple. They are the couple on the right.

Me and Donny on the new and improved Whirlpool Cable Car. We visited when Nick played for Akron @ Buffalo.

Workers on the Whirlpool Cable Car in 1916.


And of course, I have to end with Andrew and Max.  Melissa would have it no other way…

First a funny story (I think).  I took Andrew to his speech class the other day.  On the way home, I asked him how it went.  

"Good.  I made a new friend.  His name is Billy.  He's in first grade, but he's really small."

I said "well, aren't you the tallest in your class?"

"Yes. I'm the tallest in first grade.  I'm always in the back row."

So I proceed to tell him that when I was in high school, I was a cheerleader.  I was always the biggest too - I was always on the bottom of a pyramid.  (and of course I explained how to make a pyramid).

He said "That surprises me Pamma, because you're so small now!"

Andrew is 6 - how does a 6 year old come up with that concept?  What is he comparing me to?

I love having conversations with Andrew & Max.  It's just like having a conversation with Melissa when she was little.  Andrew talks as much as she did when she was little.  (although he does have Nick's personality too - a very sensitive side!)  Max is like Melissa too - nothing bothers him - things just roll off his back.  

And here they are - growing up…


***
Another Dream!

This one is interesting.  I love interpreting my dreams…I was going somewhere - on some type of transportation - a plane or a train.  I went from one room to another, and when I walked in the room, a little boy came up to me. He was about 4-5 years old.  He looked up at me and said "Mommy!" When I looked down at him, I said "Did you think I look like your mommy?" Then he said "Pamma!" I picked him up and looked in his eyes (one was blue and one was brown) and I said "I know who you are…"  In the dream, I thought he was Melissa in a child's body.  When I woke up and was telling Donny my dream, I realized it wasn't Melissa…it was JP.  He thought I was his mommy, (because I look like her), but when I looked at him, he realized I was his grandma!  He looked a little like Andrew & Max. John Patrick (J.P.) would have been 11 in October.  It's the first dream I've had about him. Hopefully not the last...


Gotta end with this story. It is definitely Melissa.  Last night, in the middle of all the phone calls with the nurses at the hospital and my dad, Donny comes into the room and says "I lost my hearing aide."

Of course, that was the LEAST of my problems.  I did help him look for a minute, and he was pretty good about saying it wasn't that important (they're only $1000), I just couldn't worry about that too.

So he gets up today and goes into work early.  Every day at lunch time he takes a walk in the basement of his building.  It's about 1/4 mile around the building.  He remembers taking the hearing aide out, putting it in his shirt pocket, then pulling out the iPod.  Thought that when he pulled the iPod out, the hearing aide fell out.  As soon as he gets there, he goes to the basement and walks every inch - not there.  A little later, he was at his desk, and something (or somebody) told him to go back and look again.  As he was walking around, he thought "what if someone found it and picked it up and put it on the ledge so no one would step on it."  At that VERY moment, he looked up, and there it was.

Coincidence?  We don't believe in coincidences any more.  It was Melissa, helping her dad again. She comes through so strong so many times, I have to believe she'll come through when I see the L.I. medium in a month.  

Thanks Melissa, for coming through AGAIN!

Love you and miss you pretty girl!














Monday, January 5, 2015

Happy Birthday Melissa…Forever 30

It's almost the end of the day…Melissa's 37th birthday.  She never made it past her 30th birthday. But we still celebrate and remember.  We always will.

For some reason, this year has been harder than the last couple of years.  Not sure why, but might be because the dates/days are the same as 2008.  I remember what happened-vividly-each day those last couple of weeks.

We never got to celebrate her 31st birthday.  Just missed it.  By two days.  Although several friends and relatives sent her birthday cards a few days early that I got to read to her…she loved that.

I woke up this morning around 4 a.m.  Right around the time I woke up 37 years ago on this day.  In labor that time.  Donny remembers that I woke him up around 5, because I wanted to be sure that I was in labor.

Everything was packed and ready to go, including a deck of cards, just in case  it would be awhile.
Didn't have to wait very long-she arrived at 1:19 p.m.   During my favorite daytime show - All My Children.

I remember calling my mom at work (because in those days you went to the hospital with just your spouse, not your entire family)  When she answered I said "Hi Grandma".  When she finally realized it was me, I think she was a little shocked.  I was making a phone call less than a half an hour after giving birth!  Of course now we get minute by minute texts right up to delivery.  How things have changed!

Melissa was a beautiful, healthy baby.  Lots of dark hair.  A good sleeper right from the start.

She survived the Blizzard of '78…we have a certificate from Channel 7 to prove it!  She was just a couple of weeks old.

When I woke up this morning, I remember thinking about that morning 37 years ago.  When we left I remember thinking about how our lives were about to change.  Our house would no longer be quiet.  Peaceful.

Then I thought about the days before she passed away.  How our house would never be the same.  And it wasn't.  The silence was deafening.  Not peaceful at all.

I remember in vivid detail the day she was born….and the day she died.  I wish I could remember everything in between just as vividly.  Thank goodness I was a picture taker, and so was Melissa.
They tell the story of her life.  The in-between.

In a way, having the anniversary and her birthday only two days apart was a blessing in disguise.
The two days where memories come flooding back, and the pain is more intense.  For us, it softens during the summer.  No holidays, anniversary or birthday.  And sunshine.

Thank goodness for pictures - they remind me of the wonderful life she lived.  I want to focus on her life…not just her death.

There have been lots of tears in the last month, but some smiles too.  She left us with a lot of great memories.  And we love that her friends remember too.  And share their memories.

As long as someone speaks her name, she will live on.

Happy Birthday Melissa Marie…Fort…we love you and miss you…and we will always celebrate your birthday.  Your life.

BIRTHday

2nd Birthday celebration

OU Friend Shannon's son with balloon for first balloon release - they released their balloon in Boston!

Melissa's last celebrated birthday.  A big party.  Just what she wanted.  

Fort and Grandma

Group shot.  Melissa's 30th birthday party

Fairmont friends

Family shot

37th Birthday - January 5, 2015

Andrew

Max


Happy 37th Birthday Melissa…FORT

Forever 30

(((((Love you)))))







Friday, January 2, 2015

Six Years later...

Like Melissa, I write.  I make lists, keep a calendar, write in a journal, and write on this blog.  I found a stack of my journals the other day and found my journal from 2009/10.

Writing is cathartic.  Reading my entries from that time made me realize how much progress I have made in the last few years.  My post on the blog on January 3, 2010 was from my entry in my journal.  It was about everything I learned the first year without my beautiful daughter.  Melissa.    Things I could do after a year, and things I couldn't do.

Some things have changed in six years…I couldn't go to the grocery store.  Too hard to look at the things that she liked.  And the greeting card aisle…seems like the cards that jumped out at me all said "TO MY DAUGHTER".  How could I go through life and never buy another card that said "MY DAUGHTER".  I cried every time I walked past those cards.
Now, I still buy those cards.  I wrap them in plastic with tape and I take them to her.  I can't stop.  So I don't.

I couldn't read anything but headlines in the newspaper.  And the obituaries.  Looking for other people who lost children.  To remember that I wasn't the only one.
I still read the obituaries.  Daily.  But I can focus a little more (not a lot, but some) on other articles.  I actually read two books (fiction) while we were in California for a week.  Couldn't do that six years ago.

Social gatherings.  We go, but it's still hard.  Especially during the holidays.  Complete families.  If not all together, at least a phone call away.   There are still times, six years later, that I just don't want to attend a function that is a large gathering.  If we do, I tend to find a spot out of the way where I can sit and talk to one or two people.  I'm not really antisocial.  I do enjoy meeting a friend or two for breakfast or lunch.  Big groups still make me anxious.

New Years.  I still have a hard time saying "HAPPY New Years".   The month of December is nothing but remembering what happened each day that month in 2008.  This year, the dates fell on the same days as 2008.

I am writing this on Friday, January 2.  It was a Friday in 2008 too.  Melissa slept most of the day.  I had asked everyone to send her birthday cards.  Told her we would be celebrating her birthday on the weekend since it fell on a Monday that year.  I remember reading her all of her birthday cards to her that day.  Put them on the shelf in front of her so she could see them.  They all made her happy. We still have those birthday cards.  I remember that night, Nick, Meredith and Drew came to visit. She was wide awake.  Held Drew, played with him and talked.  They left pretty early, around 7.  Nick stood at the door and said "Love you Fort.  We'll see you in the morning"  She said "I love you Nick."  That was the last thing she said.  She fell asleep after he left.  John and I slept on either side of her bed.  I remember Donny standing at the foot of her bed and she looked at him, without saying anything.  He said "Mom will be right here.  She's not going anywhere".  I remember watching her sleep.  Looking at her hands.  They looked so small to me…they were so soft.  I wanted to remember every freckle.  Every crease.  I wanted to remember the color of her eyes, and her laugh.  Her voice.  Her breathing.  Because I knew that night was the last night I could do that.

A couple of days before that, I remember going home to take a shower.  Donny, John and John's parents were with Melissa.  I remember coming home, walking through the house and screaming at the top of my lungs….crying…knowing that she would never walk in this house again.  How could I live without her??????? (Two of my friends who lost a child, Roxy & Alicia, stopped by Hospice to talk to me.  They couldn't tell me how to do it, just listened and hugged me.  Just knowing I wasn't alone was, in some strange way, was comforting).

That night, I tried not to go to sleep.  It was the last few hours that she would physically be with us.  How could I sleep through that?  I did drift off a couple of times.  Once I woke up, and there was a single tear sliding down her cheek.  I wish I knew… was the tear because she was sad she was leaving us, or was the tear because JP was greeting her?  I wish I knew…

Tonight I will more than likely have a hard time going to sleep.  I feel like I need to be awake right at that moment…when she took her last breath.  I remember when the nurse came in and checked for a heartbeat.  She shook her head, then took the oxygen mask off Melissa.  John's dad looked at the clock and said "5:18".  I will never forget that moment.  I remember her last breath like I remember her first breath.

So how in the world have I (we) made it six years?

Donny just walked in the door and said there was something at the front door.  He brought it up and it was a gift in a Christmas bag.  From friends we haven't seen in a few years.  Dave and JoNell.   Inside the card was an article from Guideposts.  The article read

"When you have to bury your children, it doesn't matter how long they've been gone, you never stop missing them.  My husband, Myles, and I lost both our daughters.  Linda's alcoholism brought her life to a tragic end at age 45.  Renee passed away at 48 after a long fight with breast cancer.  It's been more than eight years since our girls died, but some days grief still hits me so hard, it's as if I just kissed them goodbye for the last time."

There was more to the article, but I think you get the gist.  Inside the bag were also two breast cancer t-shirts and Peanut Butter Fudge.  The best fudge ever.

JoNell's timing was PERFECT.  I am sitting here writing about Melissa's last few hours, and whether she knew it or not, the timing was perfect.  I needed to know that someone remembered that January 3rd was Melissa's last day on earth.    And someone did.

And I know that her friends will remember, and some of my friends will remember, and if you are reading this you might remember next year.  Because as long as I am on this earth, my job is to make sure Melissa is not forgotten.  I think I'm doing a pretty good job of that so far.

My thoughts are all over the place right now…feeling sorry for myself because I don't have my daughter, but also thinking about some other people I've met who are probably feeling just like I am right now.  I recently met (over the phone) a woman whose son took his own life.  January 3. Same anniversary as Melissa.  He was a Veteran. Had PTSD.  Another new friend whose daughter took her own life.  His daughter's birthday is January 5 (same day as Melissa's).  It will be a year January 7.  He is almost 90 years old, and I can see the pain in his eyes…where WE were six years ago.  It doesn't matter how old you are when you lose a child.  The pain is the same.

So why am I still here?  How have I (we) survived six years?
#1 - we have to take care of each other.  we are still grieving, and we understand that we don't know when it will hit, and we accept the fact that it will always be there.  Maybe not as often, we just don't know when.
We have a son, two grandsons and a daughter in law who we love just as much as we loved Melissa.  I want to see my grandsons grow up.  I want to enjoy time with my son before I join Melissa, whenever that might be.

Friends who still come around, and accept the fact that we are not the same, have helped us survive.

Sometimes (quite often actually) I wonder what my purpose is in life now.  There are still times that all I want is to be with Melissa.

Then I meet a parent (or parents) at Compassionate Friends meetings who recently lost a child.  I see myself in them.  Six years ago.  I've been where they are.  I remember meeting parents at my first meeting who had been there for 2, 3 or more years.  They were talking.  Laughing. Smiling.  Everything I couldn't do.  Didn't want to do.  But they gave me hope.  And that's what I can do.  Give these newly bereaved parents hope.  Somehow, you will survive.

***

So far, this has been about me.

But I want it to be about Melissa.   Her life.

Not long after she passed away, a friend of hers gave me a poster that Melissa made for her while they were at Ohio University.  It said

On the day you were born,
you cried and the world rejoiced.
Live your life in such a manner
that when you die,
the world cries and you rejoice.

I think this so perfectly describes Melissa and her life.   While I would love to say that she was perfect in every way (of course she was when she was born) she was not perfect.  She and her brother fought constantly.  Typical sibling rivalry.  How I miss that NOW.  But they loved each other.  She was messy.   Messes didn't bother her like they bothered me.  She would clean her room once a month and it always looked great when you walked in the room.  Unless you looked under the bed.  Or in the closet.  Or in her brother's room (where she put everything she no longer wanted or needed!).
Melissa was a loyal friend, she was honest.  She would never intentionally hurt anyone.  I think she would do anything for a friend.  Or a stranger.  She was creative - which came in handy because she never had any money to buy gifts, she always made them.  (and those are the things that I treasure the most!)

Oh, how we rejoiced the day she was born.  She was light of our lives…and her grandparents - and all of her aunts and uncles.  I was going through a binder with some cards that I found from her.  This one was SO her - it was an anniversary card.  On the front it says

Mom & Dad
Today is the perfect time to celebrate the many blessings
you've received in your life together…

(on the inside)

…starting with ME, of course!  Aren't I wonderful?! You two really lucked out to have such a great kid!  Hey, no need to thank me--it's my pleasure to bring magic to the family!  Wherever I walk, roses bloom!  (Oh, by the way, Happy Anniversary!)  Anyway, I think it all started when I was born, and suddenly the world seemed a little brighter…

and her note, in her handwriting in the card:  Hope you guys have a great day! Enjoy your gifts on the houseboat.  Thanks for putting up with my crap  & ; most of all yelling, "It's quarter til!" When it was only 6:20.  I don't know how I'll keep a job when I'm gone for good!  I love you guys!  Melissa Marie

***

Wow.  That card said it all.  It was funny at the time, but SO true.

The world did seem a little brighter with Melissa in it.

Working on focusing on her life, not her death.

She was a bright light in our life…missing her more today than yesterday.

Six years later.

***

Memories of Melissa Marie…






































What a wonderful life.

(love you and miss you pretty girl…)