Tuesday, January 19, 2010

MORE balloons.....

to Fort...Love Grandpa - from Melbourne FL

Thanks John & Diana from Murphy, NC!

Thanks Beth from Masawa, Japan!

Thank you LOLA...from Stockholm, Sweden!

Thanks Molly...from Butterfly Beach (Santa Barbara, CA)

it was just over a year ago that you wrote "I never imagined I would be visiting my child at the cemetery for his birthday..." and now I write the same...
Happy Birthday pretty girl....

106 Years of Greatness

Two years ago, when Melissa & Stacy turned 30 and Pauly turned 40 all in the same week, one of them decided to celebrate their birthdays together...as 100 years of GREATNESS.
Last year, they continued the new "tradition", and included Melissa...and US.
I can't think of a better way to get through a birthday without her, than to celebrate it with her friends.
This year included "Favorite Fort Pictures" and "Favorite Fort Stories"...
Thank you for including us Stacy & Pauly...and especially thank you for
continuing to include Melissa.

John & Nick and their SUSHI Boat...

Happy Birthday FORT (32), Stacy (32) Pauly (42)... 106 Years of Greatness...

Fort, ? , Stacy & Casey at OU

Stacy & Fort in the middle row - planned the "BORED" look (two guys in front of them heard them planning and turned around just as the picture was taken) - JMac is behind them...

Fort & Stacy
(per Stacy) Fort insisted that we dress up so we all headed to WalMart that day and bought the most obnoxious St. Patty's Day gear that we could find. We had such a blast on our many trips to Savannah for the Rugby tournaments!

Stoll, Stacy, ?, Fort (in her "LODGE sweater")
(per Stacy) We rented a huge cabin for NYE 2000 in Hocking Hills. I think there were about 25 people there. Fort wanted to enjoy "nature", so she made us go for a hike earlier in the afternoon. She also begged and begged anyone who would listen to build her a bonfire. Finally Casey built one and she stood outside for about 10 minutes!

(per Stacy)...St. Patrick's Day in Savannah - 2002 - Both of us worked for
Enterprise and hated it! So when we saw this van parked, we couldn't resist. This was also the trip where Fort called Pam @ 2 a.m. because she got separated from us.
Also the trip of our most famous "mini-fight"!
(YES - I received a call from Melissa at 2 a.m....FROM Savannah, Ga....from a phone booth (remember those?)...I think she felt safer talking to me - I obviously couldn't do anything for her from Dayton...while she was in Savannah...she eventually got back to her hotel, where Stacy and the rest were waiting. And by the way - she WAS NOT alone - she had a friend with her(not sure who it was though).

Fort & Casey (@ her wedding)

Stacy (30), Pauly (40), Fort (30)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Dear Melissa,
Every year on your birthday you had to listen to me tell you the story of "THE DAY YOU WERE BORN"...my mom did it to me, and I have to do it to MY kids....I don't remember my due date, but you came close to arriving on time. Although we tried really hard to get you here on Dec 31 (thought a "little tax deduction" would be nice) we were at a New Year's Eve Party at the Ryan's and I walked around the block, hoping to go into labor, to no avail. You were stubborn and knew when you were going to get here. The morning of January 5 - around 5 a.m., you woke me up.
When we left for St. Elizabeth Hospital it was a balmy 40 degrees...dad and I played cards for a few hours, until you decided it was time...exactly 1:19 p.m. You were BEAUTIFUL. HEALTHY. And we were ecstatic. We got to stay at the hospital for a couple of days, and when it was time to come home, there was a lot of snow on the ground and our car wouldn't start...so "Uncle" George came and picked us up and took us home. About a week later, the Blizzard of '78 hit - and we all survived it.
THERE. I had to tell it, because it's what I do on January 5. Only now other
people have to listen to it (and roll there eyes...just like you did!)
I love you so much Melissa, and hope the balloons arrived in time for your
celebration today.
Love you pretty girl.....

When we got home from the balloon release on Sunday, I decided that we
did it that day so they would get to her in heaven in time for her
birthday....balloons were released at David Cemetery in Kettering,
in Orlando & Melbourne Fl, Hilton Head, Santa Barbara CA (Butterfly Beach),
Murphy NC, Boston, Stockholm Sweden & Japan. Below are some of the
pictures I took and received from friends and relatives...THANK you everyone who celebrated with us - whether here or your hometown. I KNOW Melissa would be writing thank you's (and you'd get them eventually...)and a SPECIAL THANK YOU to Carol, Ski & Cari for organizing & bringing all theballoons - what a beautiful way to celebrate Melissa's birthday - I love you!

Balloon release at David's Cemetery....

From Hilton Head (pink heart shaped balloon w/ note TO MELISSA in heaven) from
Mary, a former co-worker of mine...

Shannon(Melissa's OU friend and 3day walk teammate)& Evan from BOSTON....

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Gone but NEVER forgotten........

one year (almost to the exact time right now)...one ENTIRE year.
Every single day I think about Melissa. The pain does not go away. It does not
get better. The hole in my heart grows.
But OH my. What I have learned in the last year....(in no specific order -just how it comes into my brain)...

-that my brain doesn't work the same
-that time - hours, minutes, days - are not the same
...time is distance. That time goes on for everyone else while I want time to
stand still
-that I am blessed to have a husband who lets me grieve the way I need to - and is willing to go into stores that I can't go into, and cook, and be patient with me...
-that I am blessed to have a son and daughter in law who let me have my grandchildren when I NEED them...
-that my son in law has been generous sharing Melissa's things with me - her clothes, her camera, her CD's...anything I have asked for...
-that I am so fortunate, BLESSED, to have so many wonderful friends who have taken care of me over the last year....listening to me talk about Melissa, bringing me books (on grieving, of course...thanks Patty D., Linda R., Marla, Lois & Mary)I read them, then read them again!) and my friends who CONTINUE to invite me to do things with them even though I CONTINUE to turn them down. Thank you for asking. Some day I will say yes. I don't know when. Some day. Thank you for being patient and persistent...
-that reading is VERY difficult- so I stick to things like Readers Digest, I scan the headlines of the newspaper, then scan the stories.
-BUT reading books on grief? Especially the loss of a child? I DEVOUR. Helps me understand that I am NOT going crazy. What I am feeling is normal - that the "steps" of grief go in no particular order. (I recommend reading books on the loss of a child to ANYONE who not only has lost a child, but knows someone who has lost a child. It will help you understand what they (we) are going through.
-and also along with reading - I find myself reading the obituaries - and looking for others who died young-specifically Melissa's age. Wondering how THEIR mother's are...and if their mother preceded them in death - how blessed the mothers are now to be reunited with their child.
-that you know you did a good job raising your child by the friends they choose (chose)(I must have done a GREAT job based on who Melissa chose for friends!!!!!
-that I am blessed to have a job where my co-workers are more like family
-that meeting with friends is easier one on one than in big groups
-that a massage once a month is relaxing and needed (thanks Mikala)
-that everyone grieves differently; mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters and friends - and that is OK.
-that the death of a child can pull you apart...or bring you together
-that the death of a child is NOT like losing your brother, your grandson, your mother (I've lost them all)...They are ALL painful. But you stop crying eventually...
-that I didn't know the body could produce tears on a daily basis for an ENTIRE year
-that EVERYTHING after losing someone (not only a child)is a first - not just the holidays...opening a drawer and finding something they have touched (I'm still afraid to go through dressers and closets purposely...I want to know what's there, but afraid of the pain. Seeing her friends for the first time...
-that you can get through the actual "day", the funeral, the burial, because you are in shock. It's IMMEDIATELY afterward that the pain sets in.
-that you find out you have good friends you never knew you had.
-that there are SO many good people out there that are willing to help at a moments notice
-that when you are grieving, sometimes it's difficult to accept that help because it's hard to acknowledge those who help
that it's OKAY to accept help because friends are there because they are not helping because they want to be acknowledged, they are there because they love you.
-when it comes to the holidays - SIMPLE IS BEST
-that I am NOT the same person I was a year ago. I am a different person and will be for the rest of my life.
-that you find out what kind of marriage you have when you lose a child.
-that you don't always want to talk on the phone - either MAKE calls OR answer them
-that, at least for the first year (I don't know about the second year) and for me
specifically-social gatherings that are, in my view "parties", are too hard to do
(UNLESS it's about Melissa, then I do it)
-that I ALWAYS love talking about my daughter
-that one day you wake up and think "OMG - I have another child...I have neglected them"...THAT I know to be true from BOTH sides - I lost my brother when I was 19 and
I was "one of the other children"...and now after losing my daughter...and "have I neglected my son???? My only remaining child???? (I hope I am getting better at NOT neglecting you Nick)
-that my energy level is not the same
-that grandchildren help grieving
-that I LOVE to wear Melissa's clothes (funny...she LOVED to wear MY clothes!)
-that writing in a journal is VERY helpful......hmmmmm...did I get that from her or did she get that from me????
-that I only have memories of her as a PERFECT child (isn't that an oxymoron?)
-that I have found new friends who share my grief, and KNOW my grief, because they too have lost a child and I share THEIR grief...
-that I never thought to sit down with my mom who lost her only son and ask her how she was doing...I was young and had a life of my own - getting ready to get married...(and pretty selfish I'm thinking now)...she hid her pain pretty well-
and I never thought to sit down with my daughter and talk about the son SHE lost because I thought it would be too painful for her. OH I KNOW BETTER NOW. But how
I need both of them to help me through this....why didn't I realize the pain they were going through??????? How in the world did they find the strength to go on?

-that you never realize how much you love your children until they're gone....

-that we were blessed for 31 years with a BEAUTIFUL daughter who brought laughter, sunshine, friendship, inspiration to the lives of SO MANY people...I had NO IDEA...

-that I never knew the happiest moment of my life would be the first breath of my child-her first cry...and the thought NEVER occured to me - EVER - that I would be holding her when she took her last breath....
but I am blessed to say that I was fortunate enough to be there for her from the
beginning until the end.

Needless to say, I have learned A LOT in the last year because of my daughters death.

I learned from her how to take care of others, how to listen and help others who are now where I am...

And I would selfishly give up EVERYTHING I have learned to have her back. But unfortunately life (and death) does not work that way. So I continue on-not knowing what I will learn in the second year, and the third year - or as long as I live.

I will take one day at a time, and always remember FORT's philosophy...
"no matter how bad you have it, there's always SOMEONE who would LOVE to be in your shoes!"

And as a friend who lost her son said recently on the anniversary of his death...
"she's celebrating her first "rebirthday" in heaven.

How lucky they are to have her.

Love you pretty girl.....


and of course, a post on this blog is not complete without pictures...so here are some of my favorites from the last couple of years - and also some of Fort's favorites (she took a lot of them).
I love you all and THANK YOU for continuing to be patient with me. Pam (Fort's mom)