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
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.