Sunday, December 30, 2012

4 years....

This is, and will probably always be, a rough week for me.  Today, four years ago, Melissa went back to Hospice for the final time.  I can't sleep.  I remember this week so well.  Like it was yesterday.  On this  day, she got up and wanted to take a shower.  I wouldn't let her.  I was afraid she would fall in the shower.  Plus she had to have her oxygen...the ONE thing she wanted, and I wouldn't give it to her.  One simple thing.
When I try to close my eyes to sleep, I see her taking her last breath.  I shake my head and try to get that vision OUT of my head.  But it won't go away.

Haven't been on FB in a couple of days, but went there today to Compassionate Friends.  A reminder that I am not alone.  Found this article.  Some people can put into words what I am feeling better than I can.  Ann Hood did just that in this article:


Providence, R.I. -  We are stunned.  We are outraged.  As a nation, we are questioning laws on gun control, questioning how such a thing can happen.  These are all appropriate responses to the tragedy in Newtown, Conn.  But there is a repercussion to all this that will continue long after laws are changed and life, unbelievably, life gets back to normal:  the grief of the parents of the 20 children killed.  How many times have I heard that this is a parent's worst nightmare? As someone who has lived the nightmare of losing a child, I know that the enormous hole left behind remains forever.

My daughter Grace, was not killed by a gun.  She died suddenly at age 5 from a virulent form of strep.  As I stood stunned in a church at her memorial, one of the hardest things I heard someone say was "I'm going to go home and hug my child a little tighter."  Well, good for you, I thought.  I'm going to go home and scream.

What can be said in light of such grief?  What can you do?  The problem is that no on can give the parents what they want most:  their child.  Long after the memorials fade and the casseroles stop coming, that child is still dead, and those parents are still grieving.

I offer here what I have learned about grief in the 10 years since my Gracie died:  I learned that platitudes don't work.  Time doesn't heal.  She is not in a better place.  God does give us more than we can bear sometimes.  I have learned that even in the face of loss, clothes still get dirty and bills still need to get paid.  Friends who laundered our socks and answered our emails, who mowed our lawn and put gas in our cars, helped us - a lot.  The friend who came one afternoon and went through Gracie's backpack, carefully storing her kindergarten workbook and papers, hanging her art on the refrigerator and her raincoat on its hook in the mudroom, had more courage than the ones who told me to call any time.
Some friends sat with me day after day, week after week and, yes, month after month, and let me talk while they listened.   I told the story of Grace's last day over and over, as if by telling it I could make sense of what happened to her, to us.  But there is no sense to be made of such tragedy, and when I realized that, they let me wail and bang my fists and curse.

As time passes, people return to their ordinary lives, while grieving parents no longer have ordinary lives.  They are redefining themselves, and they are at a loss at how to move forward.  There is a woman who still sends me a card on Grace's birthday and every Mother's Day, who sent cards weekly for more than a year, a lifeline to a grieving mother.  The people who even now, a decade later, still say Grace's name, still comment on her quirky style and artistic talents and love of the Beatles, continue to help me through my days, simply by remembering her.  How easy it is to look away from frief, as if it might be contagious, or too frightening to face.  But the Newtown parents have a difficult, lifelong journey through grief ahead of them.  Somehow, the seasons will change, the anniversaries will stack up one after the other.  They will, unbelievably, smile again.  They will make dinner and change jobs and buy clothes and celebrate and travel.  They will go on.  But there will always, always, be this grief, softened and dulled but present every minute of every day.

Do not forget that.  Look them in the eye.  Take them in your arms, and do not let them go.

Ann Hood is a novelist and short-story writer living in Providence, R.I.


So this week, I will lay low.

Have the boys tomorrow, Monday, New Years Eve, overnight, and New Years Day.

Our last New Years Eve with Melissa, we toasted the New Year ~ John and Donny had a beer. We were asleep by 9.  At 10:30, there was a loud crash...Melissa fell.  She got up to go to the bathroom.  Took off her oxygen, got up, and fell by the door.  When the nurse asked her why she didn't call for help, she said "I didn't want to wake anyone up."  She could do it herself.  The "theme of her childhood"...

So "celebrating" a new year just doesn't seem right to me any more.

Not sure how many people knew this, but this was the week that JP was going to be delivered too.  Except he decided to come a couple of months early.

We will get through this week.  The boys will help tomorrow.

Thursday, four years, will come and go just like the last three.  And Saturday we will celebrate her birthday just the way she liked it.  Lunch at China Cottage.  Tradition.  Then we'll go to the girl's basketall game.  She would want to do that if she were here.  And somehow, we'll get through another year without her.

And I hate it.

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