Monday, December 31, 2012

I Love...

... how you have taken to making up your own lyrics to "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," like "Twinkle, Twinkle, Choo Choo Train," or simply "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy..."

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Days of Thanks #34

On this Christmas Day 2012, I am most grateful for my children and for the gift they give me of being able to relive the magic of Christmas that I loved so much as a child.  I felt some of that magic even when Hudson was as young as a year old (the only Christmas we had with her where she was partially aware of some excitement) and I feel it already with my dear Jackson.

Merry Christmas, my sweet babies.  I love you both so much.

Christmas 2008 and 2009
















Monday, December 24, 2012

Days of Thanks #33

Today I am grateful for a warm bed, a full stomach, a devoted partner, a precious child sleeping about ten feet from me, and another precious child who lives in my heart.  On this Christmas Eve, I have so much that so many others have not.  And though I'll never have the one thing my heart desires most, it is just. . . enough. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Days of Thanks #32

Today I am grateful for gratitude.  It's been a rough holiday season, and there are days where I sit here for several minutes trying to figure out what I feel grateful for today.  There are a ridiculous number of things to be grateful for, but there are still days when it's hard to see any of them because all I can think about is the one thing I want that I can't have:  my daughter.  I have had more than the usual share of those days during this holiday season.  So I'm grateful for this daily practice of gratitude-- a conscious choice to sit and think about all the amazing good that remains in my life in spite of the horrifically bad thing that happened to me not even three years ago yet. 

I miss her.  So much.  But I am so grateful for her continuing to teach me every day. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Days of Thanks #31

Today I am grateful for a windy, chilly night, perfect for snuggling up on the couch with my husband and a cup of mulled cider to watch "Meet Me In St. Louis."  It is moments like these that, for me, Christmas is all about. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Days of Thanks #30

Today I am grateful for a sweet husband who brings me cupcakes from my favorite place in DC every time he has to travel up there (which is about every other week, so I'm pretty well taken care of in the cupcake department).  Love you, sweetie. 


Edited to add:
(I'm also grateful that he has a better memory than I and reminded me that I've already been grateful for this once!  Well, that's OK.  They're really good cupcakes.)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Days of Thanks #29

Today I am grateful for the many digital records we made of Hudson's life.  She was here for so very short a time--no photo or video could ever make up for that.  But since we have to go on without her, I am so very glad we have so many ways to remember the time we had with her.  I happened upon this video today on my Facebook timeline.  She was a mere six days old, but when I watch it, I see all of the roots of the spirited personality she ultimately became. 

And when I watch it, I remember a time when I did not know the pain of a child's death.  It is almost impossible to imagine such a time anymore, but this video helps.  My precious, sweet angel.  I miss her so.  I miss every version of her, from the 1-minute-old to the 6-day-old to the 17-month-old.  I miss her so. 


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Days of Thanks #28

Today I am grateful because last night, when Jackson was bidding his good nights, he said, "Night, night, Poppy!" and then one second later, totally unprompted and out of the blue, he said, "Night, night, Hudson!"  My children.  They are something else.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Days of Thanks #27

I think I've done a post just like this each of the last two years, too.  Today I am grateful for music and for music's ability sometimes to express that which I cannot express.

Christmas is a week from today.  But it doesn't feel like Christmas to me at all.  Maybe it's because we still aren't living in our own house and all my favorite decorations and all my Hudson ornaments are packed away in boxes.  Maybe it's because tomorrow is the tenth anniversary of my mother's death, and the memory of that terribly sad Christmas is closer to me than I realized.  Maybe it's because 20 children, babies really, were murdered in cold blood a few days ago and I still can't get my head around what those parents are facing this Christmas.  Maybe it's because this year, we'll be celebrating our third Christmas without Hudson, which is one more Christmas than we had a chance to celebrate with her.  Maybe it's because I'm looking back to the last Christmas we had with her and am stunned to think that it was only three years ago.  Stunned to think that it was such a terribly long three years ago.  Maybe it's just because I miss her.  

I don't know why, but it doesn't really feel like Christmas to me this year.  It's been very hard to get into the Christmas spirit.  I haven't bought a single gift.  I haven't made plans for Jackson to see Santa. I haven't thought about feeding our family when they come.  I'm just not feeling it

So today, I'm grateful for a song that seems to understand this feeling.  I'd never heard this song from The Pretenders before today, when a bereaved mom friend of mine posted it on Facebook.  The Pretenders wrote it after their guitar player died at the age of 25.

I hear people singing.  It must be Christmas time.



He's gone,
2000 miles

Is very far
The snow's falling down
It's colder day by day
I miss you
The children were singing

He'll be back at Christmas time
And these frozen and silent nights
Sometimes in a dream
You appear

Outside under the purple sky
Diamonds in the snow
Sparkle
Our hearts were singing

It felt like Christmas time
2000 miles

Is very far through the snow
I'll think of you
Wherever you go
He's gone
2000 miles
Is very far
The snow's falling down
It's colder day by day
I miss you
I can hear people singing
It must be Christmas time
I hear people singing
It must be Christmas time

Monday, December 17, 2012

Days of Thanks #26

Today I am grateful for this One Good Thing out of the incredibly awful darkness of the mass murder of children in Connecticut on Friday.  I imagine there will be many more as we remember all of those sweet angels forever. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

I Love...

... how you always pause briefly between words whenever you string words together in a short sentence. It's like you are thinking really hard about what you will say next.  Not a bad skill to learn.

… how whenever you see letters of any kind, you break into a UNC cheer, saying "C-A-R-O-L-I-N-A!"  Yes, sweetie, all letters should spell that word.  

Days of Thanks #25

Today I am grateful that after a very long travel day, we have arrived back home safely.  When we were on STJ, my dad asked Ed where he would live if money were no object. Ed said, "Chapel Hill, North Carolina."  I couldn't agree more.  There's no place like home, and I'm grateful to have one.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Days of Thanks #24

Today I am grateful for the opportunity to swim with green sea turtles here on St. John.  It was an experience with this very same kind of turtles in Hawaii that inspired our turtle nickname for Hudson when we were pregnant with her, and any encounter with them is a very special one.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Days of Thanks #23

Today I am grateful that I get to hold one of my two babies when he wakes up in the morning. I am weeping for the too many parents who will not get to do that with their babies tomorrow.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Days of Thanks #21

Today I am grateful for Jackson's utterly gleeful enjoyment of the ocean and everything in and around it. He can't get enough of the water, the sand, the waves, the birds, the fish. The best parts of my day today were spent sitting with his right where the tide meets the shore, digging holes in the sand and watching them fill with water, covering our feet with sand, and making and destroying sand castles. Sometimes there is nothing better than seeing the world through your child's eyes.

And the pelicans were very much with us again today, one of them dropping onto the beach and sitting so close by that it was hard not to wish it were Hudson, dropping in for a quick visit in the middle of a glorious day of flying.  Missing her so much in this beautiful place that she would have loved.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Days of Thanks #20

Tonight I am grateful to be luxuriating in an oversized chair with a good book in hand and the sounds of wind and tree frogs in the palm trees outside. 

I've been missing my girl on this first full day on the island, thinking how much she would love this adventure. But as always, she is here with me, especially in the pelicans flying low over the bay as we played on the beach this morning.  And as always, I am trying to learn from her and cherish what is. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Days of Thanks #19

Today I'm grateful for so many things, but foremost among them is having six uninterrupted days to spend with the people I love most in a beautiful place. We got another hard reminder today about how short life is, so I'd be happy to spend these days with Ed, Jackson, and my dad no matter where we were. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Days of Thanks #18

Today I'm grateful for another gorgeous December day, this one spent at the N.C. Zoo.  Jackson seems to have fully recovered from a very mild case of the flu, so we're taking the plunge and flying to St. John tomorrow.  I'm grateful for both of those things, too.  

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Days of Thanks #17

Today I am grateful that my little boy seems to feel just fine even though he has the flu.  While it was disappointing to have to postpone (and perhaps cancel) our vacation, it would have been a lot worse if we had a miserable baby on our hands, too.  Instead, we had a lovely day enjoying the gorgeous weather outside.  Flu, schmu. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Days of Thanks #16

Today I am grateful for small problems.  We were scheduled to leave tomorrow morning at 7AM for a much-needed week-long vacation in St. John, with little Jackson and big Jackson (my dad) along for the ride.  Yesterday, little Jackson woke up with a fever and cough, and today, a whole 15 hours before we were supposed to take off, he was diagnosed with the flu.  The flu.  Against which he was vaccinated two months ago. 

We cancelled our tickets for tomorrow (and fortunately we bought trip insurance).  If he seems OK, we may decide to rebook for Sunday or Monday (amazingly, the ticket prices haven't gone up astronomically since July). 

I am bummed, for sure.  But all I keep thinking is that there are so many worse things than having to postpone or cancel a very nice vacation.  So many worse things. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Days of Thanks #15

Today I am so grateful for my dad.  He has been such a huge help to us throughout this entire time we have been staying with him while our house is under renovation.  He was there for us all summer long during my chemo, right there waiting to hang out with Jackson at every moment when I had to go lay down.  And he's been there for us all fall, with Jackson's repeated sick days when I had to teach and Ed had some work thing to do. 

Today, again, he was there for us.  Jackson woke up with yet another fever and a croupy cough.  Ed was in DC today and I had a project I had to finish up at work before we leave for vacation on Saturday (fingers crossed that this bug will not waylay us), and once again, Dad stepped right in when we needed him. 

Good dads can be hard to find.  I'm grateful for mine. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Days of Thanks #14

Today I am grateful for books and for their ability to expand our experience miles, even worlds, beyond the 5-foot radius in which we usually live our lives.  I want to read more, more, more. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Days of Thanks #13

Today, when I feel so tired from too few hours of sleep last night, I am grateful to be able to crawl into a bed.  With soft sheets.  And warm blankets.  And a roof over my head.  The little things for some are everything to others.  I am grateful to have been the beneficiary of such incredible privilege in my life. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Days of Thanks #12

Today I am grateful yet again for an unexpected moment with my little boy that I might have found frustrating in days before.  He had trouble settling down for bed with his daddy, and then he woke up 45 minutes later with a bloodcurdling scream.  I went in and picked him up, and he was obviously very upset by something.  I turned on the light for a little while and rocked with him and once he'd settled back down, I turned off the light and put him back in his crib.  He wouldn't let me leave, so I stayed there and sang "You Are My Sunshine" until he seemed to be almost asleep, but as soon as I stopped singing, he started to cry again.  So I laid down next to the crib and put one arm through so he could hold my hand.  Eventually, he let go and turned over to get comfortable and go to sleep.  I was just happy to be there. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Days of Thanks #11

Today I am grateful for an impromptu sunset walk to Merritt's Pasture with my precious little family on another beautiful, warm December day. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Days of Thanks #10

Today, I am grateful for a beautiful, sunny, warm day on which to remember my child's life.  I am grateful for new traditions to remember her in our new-old hometown.  And, as ever, I am incredibly grateful for the outpouring of love and friendship and remembrance that has accompanied yet another birthday we have celebrated without Hudson.  So many wonderful One Good Things.  So many little pieces of our girl's spirit being shared with the world.  Today, above all days, I think about the dandelions, and I imagine each little deed spreading Hudson's sweet presence to those who need it most. 

Thank you all so much, my friends. 

Happy Fourth Birthday, Sweet Hudson


My dearest girl,

It is December 1 again. Your birthday again. The third one we have endured without you here to celebrate with us. Today, you should be four. And if I thought last year that three seemed so big, so much older than you were when you left us, four seems like an unimaginably big-girl age. A few weeks ago, I met a little girl at the Halloween party at your brother’s school. She was tall, almost gangly (like I have often imagined you might be), and so full or words. We just happened to be in her classroom, and I glanced at the birthdays on the wall and saw that she was actually younger than you. Or younger than you would be if you were still here. (I still don’t even know how to talk about that. Because I suppose you will always be 17 months and 12 days old. The youngest in our family, even as you are at the same time the oldest.) And as these realizations always do, this one took my breath away. To think that you would be that big, that old, that mature, that talkative, that outgoing (you were already well on your way in that direction)—it was just hard to imagine. Four.

It has been quite a year for us, sweet girl. Over the course of five short months from mid-March to mid-August, I was diagnosed with cancer, went through several surgeries, raced in a triathlon, moved with your daddy and Jackson back to our very special hometown, went through eight chemotherapy treatments, lost all my hair, went into remission from cancer, and started a new job. I remember thinking so many times after my diagnosis and during treatment that I just felt like I could have handled it all so much better if I’d just had you with me. And yet I also know that the only way I managed it as well as I did was because of you. You were right there with me every step of the way, from the sea birds I passed during my race to the turtle keychain on my nurse’s necklace at my first chemo appointment. If it hadn’t been for you, I don’t know how I would have endured at all. I feel sure that if it hadn’t been for you, I would never have shaved my hair into a purple mohawk or done something as insane as try to train for a triathlon during chemo. Losing you was the hardest, cruelest, most horrifying thing that has ever happened to me, Hudson. In comparison, cancer felt almost like nothing. And even more importantly, you taught me about the importance of trying to live without fear, about the importance of gratitude, about the importance of finding One Good Thing in every bad thing that happens to me. And for me, in the most bittersweet of ways, my girl, cancer was just one more opportunity for me to share your amazing spirit with the world. And really, how could that be bad?

I miss you, dear one. My heart aches with the missing. This morning, after we’d all gotten up and eaten breakfast, we went outside in the front yard to enjoy this beautiful sunny day. We kicked a ball around and chased each other, and then your brother pretended to tackle me and threw himself on top of me while your daddy tickled me until I could barely breathe from laughing so hard. Then your brother laid his head on my shoulder, and in an instant, my laughter dissolved into tears. Or perhaps the better way to say it is that my laughter was mellowed by tears, because I was still smiling, even laughing, as I cried. The sky was so perfectly blue, cloudless even. The air was almost balmy, nearly 60 degrees at only ten in the morning. The laughter, the snuggles, the day—in that moment, it all felt so nearly perfect. Except that, in that same moment, I knew how very perfect it wasn’t, how very perfect it will never be. Because you should have been right there in that big pile of love and laughter, tickling me, tickling your brother, shrieking with delight as Daddy grabbed you up by your ankles and swung you around just like he used to do when you were so little, pointing out the airplanes in the sky so that Jackson could see them. You should have been right there.

But there are so many little pieces of you everywhere, sweet girl. Many nights when I put Jackson to bed, I am so grateful to open a book that was yours, one that was inscribed to you when you were born. I always run my fingers over the words, remembering the care and love that someone took to write them, remembering how very much you were loved from the very moment we all knew you existed. The other day, I went to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription, and when they couldn’t find it, I gave them the name “Chaney” to see if it had somehow gotten mis-filed. The pharmacist looked in the computer and then looked at me and said, “Hudson?” I said no, but I was amazed to think of your name, little digital histories of you, floating around in all of these places I never would have even thought of. Your little brother is now wearing the fleece jammies that I bought for you on sale at Christmas 2009—you wouldn’t fit into them for another year, but they were such a good deal that I bought them in advance and put them away for you when you grew into a 24 months size. You never got to wear them, but now I think of you every night when I pull one of them out to put on your brother—there is a striped pair and a pair with, of all things, penguins on it (I recall so well the moment that I found those when I was packing up your room last winter—another moment when I laughed and cried all at the same time). You are not here, and yet you are here everywhere, ready with a new surprise when I expect it least, and often when I need it most.

As we have for each of the last two years on your birthday without you, we have tried to share some more little pieces of you with the world, always, always trying to keep looking for that One Good Thing after losing you, the One Good Thing in these long days, weeks, months, and years without you. It was hard not being in our old home where we spent most of your life—we missed visiting our special place for you in the Arboretum in particular. But we are making new-old rituals here in our new-old home, the place where we will spend the rest of our lives making sure that all these little pieces of you stay with us and with the world. We took lots of dog toys to the animal shelter here in Chapel Hill, just as we did the past two years in DC, and we thought about you as we looked with yearning at all the sweet pups who need adopting and how much you would have loved each and every one. And instead of taking Elmo dolls and your favorite books to the hospital where you died, we took lots of toys, books, and games to the Ronald McDonald house here in Chapel Hill, where so many children and their families stay while the children receive much-needed treatment at our children’s hospital here. And instead of visiting the Arboretum, we took a long and beautiful walk through the nature trails here at the North Carolina Botanical Garden. There were many memorial benches all along the trails, and I read each one and thought about the families who placed them there, about the people, young and old, who inspired so much love, just like you did. I feel a sense of communion with all of those people, the dead and the living, all because of you. What wonderful gifts you continue to give me, because in another life, I would have walked right past those benches and never thought twice about them. All these little pieces of you, right here among us. All these little pieces of you that I will spend the rest of my life trying to share with others, so that they might know just a tiny fraction of the joy that you brought to my life. All these little and big One Good Things.

You are gone but you should not be. But, following your lead, I will cherish what is— that your dad’s and my lives, and so many others, are changed forever because you were in them. Your smile, joyful laugh, mischievous ways, sweet voice, and wise countenance are indelibly burned on my heart-- I would do anything to hear you say “Mama” just one more time. You are gone but you should not be. Thank you for helping me cherish what is. I love you.

I love you and miss you so much, precious girl. Today and always. Thank you for you.

Love,

Mommy

Friday, November 30, 2012

Days of Thanks #9


Today, on the eve of Hudson’s fourth birthday, I am grateful for the community of bereaved mothers that has surrounded me, held me, grieved with me, and lifted me up ever since Hudson’s death.

I received an email earlier today from an acquaintance telling me that one of her friends tragically lost her young son almost a year ago and asking if it would be okay for her friend to contact me, because she has not been able to find anyone who really understands her loss.

The road a parent must walk after the death of a child is a harrowing one. It is dark. It is endless. It is utterly unfathomable in every sense of that word. There are moments, days, weeks, when you feel you just may have turned to putty, that your feet don’t touch the earth but instead plunge through it, that perhaps you will never find solid ground beneath them again.

And it is during those moments, days, and weeks when you most need to know that you are not walking the road alone. That others are walking it in front of you, leaving little cairns here and there to show you where they have been and that they have survived. That others are walking it right beside you, ready to pull you back out when your feet plunge through. That others are walking it behind you, giving your child’s life and death new meaning because now you are the one who builds the cairns, the one who retrieves the despairing. Even as you still sometimes stumble unknowingly through the dark, even as you still sometimes plunge straight through the earth beneath you.

I don’t know how I would have survived without all those mothers walking in front of me, beside me, and behind me during that first year. During that second year. During this third year. A very few I knew before Hudson died. The vast majority I came to know after, most of whom I still have never even met. And yet we are friends. We are family. I feel nearly as close to any one of those women I have never met as I feel to those I knew before and those I have had the pleasure of meeting since. We gush over each others’ photos on Facebook. We send notes when we see or hear things that remind us of each others’ lost children. We remember our lost children together during those hardest parts of every year, year after year, ad infinitum. Birthdays, death days, holidays, regular days, every day. We build cairns. We pull each other up. We give our lost children’s lives and deaths new meaning because we are there for each other.

So it will be my privilege to be in touch with my friend’s friend, because no one should ever walk this road alone.

To all of my fellow mother-sisters in grief, thank you. I love you.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Days of Thanks #8

Today I am grateful for the sweet treats Ed brings me back from DC every week.  I'd much rather he didn't have to travel up there so often, but if he has to go, cupcakes from my favorite place or chocolate truffles from Godiva are a nice perk. He's something else, that one. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Days of Thanks #7

Today I am grateful for that last moment every night before I get into bed, when I go into Jackson's room just to look at him, his limbs splayed in all directions in his deep, toddler-exhausted sleep, his wispy hair sometimes sticking straight up. I listen for his breath and watch his ribs move slowly up and down.  Every once in a while, I risk it.  Every once in a while, I bend over and put my hand on him, on his tummy, or his back, or the top of his head.  Just because I can.  Just because I can. 

I Love...

. . . the way you tuck your hands underneath your belly when you are resting in my arms with your head on my shoulder.  It's as if you are settling in for a good, long snuggle (even though you are just as likely to wriggle away ten seconds later).

. . . how you imitate the noises of inanimate objects, like when I am chopping with a knife, you say, "Ah! Ah!" to imitate the chopping sound. 

. . . that one of the teachers at your school called you "The Greeter" the other day.  Just like your big sister. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Days of Thanks #6

Today I am grateful for a husband and partner who is so much the yin to my yang.  We are alike in so very many ways, but the few ways in which we are very different are incredibly important to the success of our friendship, our marriage, our lives as parents, and our lives in general.  For one of many examples, today we met with our builders about the budget for the remodel of our new house (which we still aren't living in).  The project is way over budget on lots of line items through no fault of our own (meaning the overages aren't due to us making extravagant finish choices and things like that).  In a conversation that could easily have become a little heated (although hopefully it wouldn't have, since we actually like our builders a great deal and now consider them friends), Ed was the epitome of letting cooler heads prevail.  He is so good in these situations where I would be so very bad if left to my own devices, and for that, I am so grateful.  As I have said so many times since we met, he always makes me want to be a better person, which is what I think a marriage, or really any relationship, should be all about.  

Monday, November 26, 2012

Days of Thanks #5

I am so grateful for the light in Jackson's eyes and the delight in his voice when he sees me at the end of his day at school.  There's very little that can beat the excited "Mommy!" out of his mouth as he drops whatever he is doing and comes tumbling over to hug me.  And when he puts that head down on my shoulder...  well, most of you know the rest on that one.  Tonight, before Ed put him to bed, I asked him for a hug, and he willingly obliged and then went back to his daddy.  And then he leaned over to come to me again, and I said, "I'll take all that you'll give me sweet boy," and I held him tight for a moment, not a long moment, but long enough. 

Do One Good Thing for Hudson’s Fourth Birthday


I am working hard to write this one. I don’t want it to be hard work. I don’t want this post to be about me. I don’t want it to be sad. I don’t want it to be about anything other than helping celebrate my beautiful daughter’s life on her upcoming fourth birthday.

But this birthday feels so much different than the two before it that we have celebrated without her. We no longer live in the town where she lived. Our dear Arboretum is no longer a ten-minute drive away. I no longer pass the hospitals where Hudson was born and died on a daily basis.

She feels farther away from me than ever. Her death feels more surreal than ever. And what’s even worse, her life feels more surreal than ever. I’ve written many times about how her death seemed like a dream, but only a few where it seemed not that her death had been a dream, but her life itself. I’ve been feeling that so much lately. I feel so separated from her, especially as our lives just tumble forward, totally unhindered by my grief.

But her birthday is here again. Her fourth. Our third without her. And the best (and really only) way we know how to celebrate it is by trying to help her spirit keep working in the world by doing some kindnesses for others. In DC, we donated toys and books that had been favorites of Hudson’s to Children’s Hospital, which took such exquisite care of her until she left us. And we donated dog treats and toys to the animal shelter, in honor of Hudson’s love of animals, especially her Bess. And we donated and visited the Arboretum, in honor of her love of the outdoors and in memory of the many special times we spent with her there. We are still pondering what One Good Things we will do here in our new-old home, where we will celebrate the rest of her birthdays for all the many years we must live without her. It’s part of why this birthday is so hard. I will get back to you once we decide what to do.

But meanwhile, as we have each of the past two years, we invite you to do One Good Thing sometime this week or on December 1st. And please share with anyone else you know who might want to help us celebrate her life in this special way. And as in years past, if you are so inclined, we would love to hear from you about your One Good Thing, so feel free to leave a comment here about it.
  
I will end the way I have each of the past two years. We can’t stop it from coming. We can’t bring Hudson back. But in the spirit of the lesson she taught us, we can continue to help her light shine in the world by finding the One Good Thing, and this week, that means doing One Good Thing.  Thank you all so much. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Days of Thanks #4

I am grateful that my 18-month-old (I have an 18-month-old-- for a while, it seemed I might never be able to say that) is already developing a keen appreciation of the wonders of the outdoors.  Ed took him outside this evening at the tail end of sunset, when just a touch of light remained on the horizon and a few stars already shone in the sky.  When they came back inside, Jackson kept saying, "Outside!  Stars!" over and over until we took him back out again.  This continued for several trips back out into the chilly night until it was finally time to eat.  With this kind of beginning, I so look forward to the amazing life we will share together. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Days of Thanks #3

Today I am grateful for gorgeous, crisp fall weather and a wide beautiful trail on which to take a long walk with my favorite little boy.  He had a glorious time wandering every which way, checking out the grass and the trees and the sky, and I enjoyed being able to relax a little bit and not having to walk right beside him, hands out, to keep him from falling into or over something. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Days of Thanks #2

Tonight I am grateful for a last-minute date night with Ed, and for his can-do attitude about finding a theater where we could see "Skyfall" when our neighborhood theater was sold out.  And I'm grateful for my dad for putting Jackson to bed for us and making this outing possible.  

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving and Days of Thanks #1


Another Thanksgiving without our girl. Unbelievably, our third. Another walk down the long gravel road from her grandparents’ house, past the swans and the geese and the ducks, to visit the horses and feed them some apples, just like we did during our only Thanksgiving with her, this time with her little brother kicking his feet as he walked on the side of the road, delighting in the rustling sound of each step through the dry leaves.

So much to miss. And so much to be grateful for.

So today begins my now-annual days of thanks, stretching from Thanksgiving to Christmas, when I most need gratitude to help get me through these happy-sad, sad-happy days. Today, I am grateful just to be here, two-and-a-half years after Hudson’s death, almost seven months after a cancer diagnosis, more than three months after the end of chemotherapy. Somehow, some way, I am still here. And I’m so glad I’m here.

Happy Thanksgiving from our family of four.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Life is a Circle


I wrote in my letter to the babies last night that Jackson was running a fever. A fever on the night of his life where he reached the age his sister was when she died from an infection that started with a fever.

He has had a nasty cough for about a week, but he worsened on Sunday and Monday. He had a very fitful night last night, and Ed and I took turns getting up with him every two hours or so, trying to help him feel better and get back to sleep. He slept on the couch with Ed for about an hour between 4 and 5, and then woke up again. When Ed tried to put him back to bed in his crib, he became inconsolable. I took over, and he was just beside himself. He didn’t want to be put down. He didn’t want to be picked up. He didn’t want to sit in my lap. He didn’t want me to touch him. I was at a loss for what to do.

Finally, I just let him wander around in the dark a little bit while I laid down on the carpeted floor. He came back over to me and I gently laid him down beside me. He started to cry again and rolled away from me, but I just sat quietly and waited. He reached out and touched my hair, which is now very short and very soft and fuzzy as it grows back in after the end of chemo a few months ago. He got quiet as he laid there in the dark, rubbing the top of my head. I was cold and uncomfortable on the floor, I was exhausted from being up every other hour through the night, and I was dreading getting up an hour later to go teach my 8:45 class. But as I laid there in the dark with his little hand on my head, listening as his breathing slowed into a soft rhythm, all I wanted to do was snuggle him even closer. I thought about how many times after Hudson died I longed for the opportunity to be kept up all night with a cranky little girl on my hands, how I longed for the chance to be frustrated out of my wits not knowing how to soothe her.

I grabbed a blanket, ignored the pain in my shoulder, tucked my head into the crook of his little body, and laid there for the next hour awake and aware, feeling so very grateful for this moment with him and so very grateful for this gift from her .

Monday, November 5, 2012

For My Babies


Today, Jackson is 17 months and 12 days old, as old as Hudson ever got to be. To mark this occasion, I wrote them this letter.


My dear, precious little ones—

Today is another sad milestone for all of us. Jackson, today you are as old as your sister ever got to be. Hudson, tomorrow, your little brother will be older than you. There are days when I can still barely comprehend that this ever happened, that this could possibly be true. How can it be that on this same night of your life, Hudson, we were forced to say goodbye to you so many decades too soon and go home from the hospital without you? And on this night of your life, Jackson, you are sleeping fitfully in the next room, running a fairly high fever yourself, something that has become all too common for you. Another awful irony in our lives.

The two of you are so very alike in so many ways. You are both so quick with a grin, with a hug, with a kiss. You both have your Daddy’s eyes and my hair (albeit in the form of a wispy baby mullet in the back and an old man’s receding hairline in the front). You both love to sing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and you both love our Bess-dog to death. Jackson, you were slower to talk than your big sister, but your vocabulary has grown incredibly quickly and is now bigger than Hudson’s. And Hudson, I can only imagine that somehow you inspired your little brother’s amazing thirst for learning—even though he never got to meet you, at least not here on this earth, I still believe that somehow he got this trait from you. How very much I wish you were here to actually teach him all these things. And Jackson, how very much I wish you had your big sister here to show you the ropes, to be your partner in crime, your greatest torturer and also your best friend. Often times, people, including your daddy and me, inadvertently call Jackson by Hudson’s name. And I smile and joke about how much more often this would have happened if you were both here in the house with us. Tonight, and many nights, I read a book to you, Jackson, that was inscribed to your sister at Christmas in 2008, a few weeks after she was born. How very much I wish she were here herself to read it with you, to point out the turtles and the trees and the moon to you. How very much the two of you deserve to have that. How very much I would have liked to see it.

I think I miss this relationship for the two of you now more than ever, as we make our way through the fall, through Halloween and later Thanksgiving and Christmas, through all those days where we take sibling photos and family photos, and more importantly, where we make memories together. Hudson, we miss you so much, but you are still so very much a part of our lives—you are part of our memories, even though you are no longer here to make new ones with us. Your little brother now points at your photos and, unbidden, says your name. When we ask him where his sister is, he points to pictures of you. We will do our best, forever, to help him know who you are, to help him know that you are always his big sister even as he grows older than you ever did. Thank you for the gift you gave all of us by helping us learn to truly cherish one another, perhaps in ways we never would have learned had we not lost you. Of course, we would have you back in a second if we could, and we would all go on loving each other the best way we knew how, but that is not our reality. And in this reality, part of keeping you alive in our hearts is being grateful to you for that gift and learning to use that gift to the fullest. Jackson, even though your big sister is not here with you, I hope that you always feel her presence in the most wonderful of ways, in the extra snuggles we are always so happy to give you, in the adventures we are always eagerly seeking out, in the wind on your face, in the many rituals we hope will become part of your life story, in the lingering moments where we take time to admire the stars, or a beautiful sunset, or a deer quietly grazing in the yard.

Hudson, my dear sweet baby girl, I am so very sorry that we are all going on without you. I don’t want to. And yet I also know that it is for your sake that we must.

I love you both so much, my sweet babies. You are so lucky to have one another, even if it’s in a different way than most brothers and sisters get to have each other. And I am so very lucky to be your mother.



All my love, dear ones,

Mommy

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I Love. . .

. . . that you just saw a picture of your big sister on my computer and you said, "Hudson!" 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Seventeen Months


Jackson is seventeen months old today. Seventeen months. In just nine more days, he’ll have lived as long as Hudson lived before she was diagnosed with an ultimately fatal illness. In just twelve more days, he’ll have lived as long as Hudson lived. In just thirteen more days, he’ll have lived longer than she ever did. I feel almost as though I am on a precipice, bracing myself for the inevitable fall over the edge, into an unknown that should be a known, into the rest of Jackson’s life, into the rest of my life without Hudson.

This election season has filled me with such nostalgia—at this time four years ago, we were eagerly awaiting Hudson’s birth in six or seven weeks. We met the future vice president and he rubbed my belly for good luck and told me that having a child was the greatest thing in the world. I dreamed about the day when I would get to tell that child the story of how he or she had brought good luck to Barack Obama and Joe Biden in a historic election. On Election Day, we drove home late in the evening from our voter protection post in Richmond, listening to the radio for news of the results, getting chills when our home state of North Carolina turned blue, rejoicing when it became clear that our guy had won.

That was four years ago. Four years. And yet I remember it like it was just yesterday. It seems like it was just yesterday. For the first time, I think, I am starting to get a real sense of the passage of time. Hudson has been part of our lives for more than half the time Ed and I have known each other, yet she lived here with us for only seventeen months and twelve days of that time. This is now our third fall without her. The third Christmas approaches. I see pictures of babies born long after her who are now turning three. I wrote an email today in which I noted that I left my law firm almost three years ago—this wouldn’t be striking, except that I left my law firm only five months before Hudson died. Which means she has been gone for two-and-a-half years. As if I only just realized that when writing about something wholly other.

And more than anything, now her little brother, our precious Jackson, another light of our lives, born an entire year after she died, is now almost as old as she was when she died.  And yet he is still so very little.  He is still so very young.  Our time with him has only just begun.  Only now have I really begun to understand how very short our time with Hudson was. 

And just as Hudson did, Jackson delights us at every turn with his huge grin, his friendly “Hi!,” his sweet kisses, his love of books, his ever-expanding vocabulary, his silly sense of humor, his Elvis-impersonating dance moves, his contagious giggle, his engulfing belly laugh.  He reminds me of her in so many ways, but when I try to remember what this time in Hudson’s life was like, this time in the last month before she died, I can conjure so little in my head that exists separately from a photo (photos we have shockingly few of from those last several weeks of her life). I can vividly recall the last interaction we had with her before she woke up very sick early that Monday morning. A few hours before that, about 11PM or so, after a day of rising and falling temperatures, she’d woken up again with a fever, and after giving her some medicine, we brought her into bed with us to make sure that her temp went down and that she was feeling better. At some point, she sat up in the bed between us, chatting in much the same way that Jackson chatters now, clearly saying something that is just beyond our understanding as mere adults, smiling and playing with the wooden spindles in the headboard above us. I remember smiling and saying, “OK, I think it’s time to go back to bed now,” and putting her down with every belief that she was totally fine and would wake up in the morning back to her old self. But less than 24 hours later, I was crying over her in a bed in the ICU, and 24 hours after that, she was, as far as we know, already brain-dead.

Until now, my only understanding of what we have been missing without her has come from watching the other babies her age grow older, from watching the interactions between her peers and all of their younger siblings, and from my own imagination, as I try to picture in my mind what she would be like if she were here, what our lives would be like if she were here. An almost four-year-old with thousands of words and a sophisticated understanding of how to put them together. A lean, gangly, long-haired girl where there was once a round-faced toddler with a baby mullet. Two kids to wrangle at the grocery store. Two kids to drop off in two different rooms at school every day. Two kids to make peace between in the back seat of the car. Two kids to watch grow up together, play together, make each other laugh, play jokes on each other and on us.  There is so very much we haven’t experienced that we should have experienced.  

Until now, I have had only a sense of what we have been missing, like the blurred background of a photo. But on Election Day, Jackson will wake up to his 530th day, a day that Hudson never saw. And from that day on, we will know, in sharp relief, perhaps really only for the first time, what we have been missing.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

I Love...

... how you always announce it when you burp. "Bup!"

(So far behind on these... life is slowing down a bit on my end, so I' hoping to be back here more often from now on.) 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Fifteen Months

I am still here.  It is hard to believe how long it has been since I last wrote in any depth.  I have so much to write about, so much to say, so much clattering around in the cobwebby corners of my mind.  I will be back regularly soon, I hope. 

But for today, I needed to mark another milestone in this journey of life without Hudson.  I took Jackson in for his 15-month well visit today.  The 15-month well visit was the last regular visit Hudson made to the doctor before she got sick.  Her 18-month visit was scheduled for three weeks after she died. 

What is also becoming clearer with each passing day is that there is no escaping the reality that Jackson will soon be older than Hudson ever got to be.  Of course, there is nothing I want more than for him to grow and flourish and live to be a very old man.  But once he lives past 17 months and 12 days, he will have lived Hudson's entire lifetime.  Every moment beyond that is a moment we did not get with her.  It makes every moment with him, both now and then, ever more precious.  But as much as every one of those moments is a reminder of all that we have, every one of those moments is also a reminder of all that we have lost.  Much of the deep sense of grief I have been moving through this summer has come from the fact that Jackson has rapidly been growing into a little person very much like the little person that we lost when Hudson died.  Just as she was on the brink of bursting fully into herself, so is he now.  Just as she charmed us daily with her mannerisms, her words, her animal noises, her contagious smiles, her loving little self, so does Jackson.  More times than I can count, I am quickly brought to tears in the very moments where I am smiling and laughing hardest with him.  

A reader once commented that it was a good thing that I am able to enjoy moments with Jackson in ways that are just his, that he deserves his own life.  Of course he does.  He also deserves to have a big sister here on earth with him.  We deserve to have both of our children living.  All of us deserve many things we do not get.  Life is not fair.  Jackson does deserve his own life, but his life just happens to be one in which his older sister, his parents' first child, died before he was born.  This fact will shape all of our lives forever.  It does not mean that our grief will overshadow the joy he brings us.  It does not mean that Jackson will be forced to live in Hudson's shadow, never his own person.  What it does mean is that she will always be our first child, she will always be Jackson's big sister, we will always miss her, and we will all keep learning to live with our grief beside our joy.  The grief does not make our joy any less.  If anything, it enlarges our joy.  I am learning to accept that the tears may often come in those moments of joy, but the tears don't have to detract from those moments.  Instead, they can simply offer a more beautiful reflection of the joy than could ever have been possible without them. 



  

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

I Love...

... how you greet every person you see with a giant grin and a cheerful "Hi!" Including Daddy and me when you haven't seen us all day. And I also love how you say "Hi!" when you wake up from sleeping. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I Love...

... when you've been walking up a storm, and then I put shoes on you for the first time and you just stand there frozen like you have no idea what's happened. And then you start high-stepping.  Hilarious.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Tunnel Vision

I am still here.  On top of a long to-do list as I prepare for a big TNT fundraiser in August and for starting my new job soon after that, chemo has just really been knocking me out for the last few weeks.  The doctor warned me that the fatigue would get progressively worse, and he was right.  But I just keep trying to remember that there is a light at the end of the tunnel for me, at least as far as cancer is concerned.

I have also just been missing my girl so very much.  I want to write more. I have so much to say. But for now, I am struggling yet again with the reality that there is no light at the end of this particular tunnel.  I miss her.  I want my little girl.  I want my son to have his big sister.  I want my old life back.  I would take countless rounds with cancer if I could just have her back.      

A fellow bereaved mom shared this on Facebook tonight, and it spoke to me.  Partly because I need reminding that I have already made it "through" a lot of dark tunnels, partly because I need reminding that I have what it takes for the ones that remain ahead.  But mostly it spoke to me today because it reminded me that sometimes, in some ways, there is no "through." God, I miss my child. 

 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

I Love...

... listening to you play with a toy that sings "Old MacDonald" and hearing you say, "Wa-oo, wa-oo, wa-oo" instead of "E-I-E-I-O."

... watching you figure out how to stack rings on your ring stacker when no one has ever shown you how to do this. 

... the fact that you can play independently and entertain yourself for long periods at a time with little or no direction from me. 

... listening to you giggle as you read your books to yourself.  I always wonder just what you are laughing at. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

I Love...

... to listen to you imitate sounds you hear, like the sounds of a fake bomb dropping in the song "You Dropped A Bomb On Me," which we heard in the car yesterday.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

COMPLETE REMISSION!

More later, but my PET scan was clear and I AM IN REMISSION!  Thank you all so much for the love, hope, prayers, and vigilance. It is a GREAT DAY TO BE ALIVE!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

On the Horizon

Love. Hope. Community. I will definitely need my superpowers these next few days.

Tomorrow I have a PET scan to determine whether or not I’ve had a complete response to chemotherapy after the first two cycles. If the scan is clear, then I only have to complete two more cycles (4 more treatments) of chemo in order to “mop up” any cancer cells that may not be visible on the scan. If the scan shows any remaining cancer cells, then I have to do two more rounds to achieve a complete response, then an additional two rounds of “mopping up” treatments, for a total of 8 more treatments.

The first scenario means that my final treatment will be on August 14, two weeks before classes start at my new job. It means that I can start teaching this fall. It means that I will no longer be in treatment the following month when I complete my triathlon with TEAM STRONGER. It means, in essence, that I am cured. 

The second scenario is by no means the end of the world, or even a worst-case scenario, but it means two additional months of chemo, which I dread terribly, even though I have been incredibly fortunate in tolerating it so well. It means that while I will be able to start working this fall, I will be mostly working on projects from home rather than teaching, because my immune system would just be too much at risk in a law school where stressed-out students (especially the first-years) come to class even when they are practically dying because they fear missing anything. It means that I will still be in treatment by the time of the race, which will be OK (at least I think I’ll still be able to do it), but obviously not ideal. It means, of course, that I am not yet cured. Again, none of this is a worst-case scenario—it does not mean I won’t ultimately be cured. It will just mean that it will take more chemo than we’d hoped to get there.

Knowing what so many other cancer patients have to endure, many of whom can’t even hope to be cured, only to stay alive longer, it feels incredibly selfish to even be worrying about this. Four more rounds of tolerable chemo instead of two is just really not that bad.

But oh, how I want it to be only two. Oh, how I want to be cured already. Oh, how I want to get this disease behind me and get back to living a life worthy of my sweet Hudson’s memory.

Tomorrow is a big day. I am incredibly anxious about it. So in addition to my superpowers (and some Ativan, according to my PA), I need to remember my race tips from back before I started chemo:

1. Take one buoy at a time. I just have to get through this one scan. I will live through it no matter the results, and I’ll move on to the next thing, whether it’s a celebration or more chemo. There will be many more scans with many more fearful “night befores” in my future as we keep an eye on the cancer to make sure it doesn’t return. But I can’t think about those today. I just have to get through this one for now.
2. Think about what you can do in this moment. I’ll have to wait until tomorrow night or possibly even Tuesday morning to hear the results of the scan. I’ll have lots of waiting for results in the future, too. If I waste too much time worrying about these scans and the results, I will miss out on a lot of the good stuff that is my life, like the fact that when I get home from the scan tomorrow, I get to hang out with Jackson and maybe do some fingerpainting. That is the good stuff.
3. You are way stronger than you think you are. Two extra rounds of chemo? Please. I got this.
4. Hudson is always with you. Yes. I changed my profile picture on Facebook to the photo below tonight. It is the first time my profile picture has featured a photo of Jackson that did not also have Hudson in it (one of my side-by-sides). My observant friend Melynn remembered me saying long ago that I dreaded such a moment. And I have. And I thought about it before I posted this photo. But it felt like the right picture for right now. One of the three most precious loves of my life is sitting in my lap. My (purple) hair has thinned to the point that I just feel prettier wearing a scarf. Today is only the second day I’ve worn one. And the scarf is teal (I purposely bought it because it reminds me of Hudson). And I am wearing my Hudson necklace, like I do every day. But as I said to Melynn, I have to remind myself that no matter what picture I post for my stupid Facebook profile picture, or what I do to try to make sure she is part of it, none of that matters, because she is always with me. Always.

This photo is so full of two of my superpowers: love and hope. I share it with you tonight, because you are my other superpower. My community. And tonight, I need your love and your hope again.  Thank you.