snapshots

Going back through the photos in my phone, some shots that caught my eye:

James, Jack, and Leo in Mexico

Look at those cutie-pies: Daddy J with Rockinrolla and a very chunky Ward by the pool in Mexico.

Gray and Jack with Bionicles

Heh.  Rockinrolla and the Fishmaster in the house that burned.  They LOVED Bionicles and used to create new creatures out of them.  Rockinrolla especially was a huge fan.  Look how proud that little scooter is of his creation.

big boys with fiddling guy

And My, My, how they’ve grown, huh?  This is a shot with that Fiddling performer on the Opry cruise. 

Gray rockin for Leo

The Fishmaster entertaining Rainbow with some AC/DC air guitar.  That little boy thinks his big brothers are the coolest guys evah.

Jack making Leo smile in stroller

And here’s Rockinrolla making Rainbow laugh in front of the house.  Note enraptured expression on the babe.

leo sticking tongue out

And a Rainbow with a tongue that he is mighty proud of.  He’s a big tongue-kisser now.  If you go in for a smooch on his cheek, he whips his mouth around, wide-open, with tongue sticking out.  Heh.  He also likes to kiss pictures in books (dogs and cats, mostly) and his toys.  Little sugar.

crowded room

So. 

At this point, four years ago, I guess he’d have been in the PICU at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, hooked up to a bazillion tubes, with various doctors lining up for their turn with him.

We were hearing things like very injured little boy and pray for a miracle and don’t lose hope.  And later, things like feeding tube and colostomy bag and unable to speak.

It was horrifying, the most nightmarish experience I have ever had.  I know there are Worse Things out there in this big world, but this was the Worst Thing Imaginable for me.  (And No, universe, that was NOT a challenge to come up with something to top it, thankyouverymuch.)

He didn’t experience any bodily stuff in the hospital, though, which was a bit of a blessing.  We tried to cling to hope, but to be honest, I didn’t have much.  I saw his eyes before I tried to revive him, and he wasn’t behind them.  And he never came back.

After the Last Big Talk with the Medical Team, my mother and her husband stayed behind to see his body off for the organ harvesting (sigh…) and Daddy J and I wanted to say our last goodbyes and get home to the big boys, who were, obviously, very distraught and missing us.  The nurses put his body in my arms before we left for the very last time, and it was… repulsive.  It was a dead thing, a lifeless mass, a mockery of his sweet self.  I held his body for a few seconds, out of some vague sense of propriety, then had the nurses take it away.

***edited to add:  I wanted to clarify that my emotional response to holding his body after he was no longer alive was MY issue, and in no way am I saying that anyone else in my position would (or should) feel the same way.  Mamas of stillborn babies, especially, would (I imagine) feel very differently: their only glimpse of their child would be after he or she had passed.  And I can imagine people NOT being repulsed whatsoever, but remembering the person they loved and treasuring those last moments with that very familiar and beloved body before it’s taken away.

+++++

Some time later, a friend told me that she had called some spiritual/intuitive people she knew as soon as she heard about the accident, before she came to the hospital.  They told her that Yes, indeed, he was not in his body and wasn’t going to come back to it.  One woman told her that his hospital room was filled to the brim with angels, crowded in tight, and that it was (for them) a joyful, wonderful time.  She said that Ward was there, too, with the angels, and that he was doing just fine.

I cling to that image, that angel-crowded room we occupied.  I don’t know how the whole thing works, but I like the notion that prayer sends angels to be with the person for whom you pray.  They go off like a shot to offer what comfort they can, and the more prayers there are, the more angels pack in around a person in pain.

I think we had a lot around us in those early months.  There were times that I felt cushioned and uplifted, and I attribute that to the angels and the people who sent them to us.

Thank you.

Mama Goat

Behind the Great Big Wooden Playground at the recreation center in our county seat, there is a little wooden bridge that leads to the walking trail.  In between the bridge and the walking trail, there are countless limestone boulders sunken into the ground.  Some are enormous, some are just your basic rocks, and many have super-cool waterworn curves and hollows.

Since Rockinrolla and the Fishmaster were little, the bridge has been our Billy Goat Bridge, inspiring games of Billy Goats Gruff, and the boulders have hosted The Goat Game.

To Play: The leader hops from rock to rock, and those behind him/her must leap from and land on the same spots on the rocks.  To land on the ground is a dire mistake, but there are no points or eliminations in this game.  Just a Whoops!  Mama fell! and then a resumption of the game.  Players take turns being the leader.

I tried to find pictures of the last time we played it with Ward, in the summer of 2005.  Boy cousins E and J were there, too, and it was a lot of fun.  The pics, unfortunately, are in my eleven-thousand-plus photo album on my phone (sigh) and will turn up one of these days, I guess.  Ward loved being one of the big guys and playing a big guy game on that day.

+++++

On Tuesday, after Rockinrolla’s 8-12 basketball camp, we went to the playground.  Rockinrolla was pooped, so he sat and kept Rainbow company while the Fishmaster and I played the Goat Game.  It was great; the Fishmaster got all into it and led me all over the place, once my turn as leader was through.  I yanked a shoulder and tweaked an ankle during our play, but nothing that bothered me after a few minutes.

It was delightful on so many levels, but mostly because I think Ward was happy to see us having fun together in a place he liked.

The Day is galloping toward us, but we’ll be okay.

(Don’t worry!  Everything’s okay!  And I LOOOOOVE you!)

+++++

In other news, we received Rainbow’s birth certificate through the mail a couple of days ago.  I had seen a bumper sticker (some huffy anti-Obama thing, evidently) that said, Where is the birth certificate? the previous day, and thought, Huh – where IS that boy’s birth certificate?  We should have it by now, shouldn’t we?    Ha. 

Anyway, it’s here.  Daddy J and I picked it up on a walk (he was working from home that day) and I dropped him off so that Rainbow and I could walk further. 

I looked down while walking and found a nice, plump lucky clover to tuck into the birth certificate envelope.

dream journaling

I haven’t had a dream of Ward in a very long time, it seems, but this was definitely a special one.

Dream interpreters, put your hats on and tell me what you think:

I was swimming in a very beautiful outdoor place. It may have been a very slow river, or else a long lake.  The water was crystal clear, warm, and buoyant, so I just effortlessly swam through it.  It felt wonderful: I was aware during the dream that this is a special, rare, not-quite-earthly place.

Plants grew on the banks and sunlight sparkled on the water.  Daddy J was there with me, swimming up ahead, but we didn’t interact.  Where we entered the water, there were no other people, but as I swam down to the right I encountered more and more people.  Everyone was swimming for the joy of it, not for exercise. 

There was a row of people doing a kind of synchronized swimming, swimming underwater toward the bank like Rockettes kicking one by one, and I swam on top as they dove under me.  One of them griped good-naturedly about “sharks” (people like me, just swimming past) going through their paths, but he wasn’t really angry.

There was a dead bird in the water, a big white swan or goose.  It was floating, not boody or gory or anything, and no one was disturbed.  A mother went by it with her baby and let him look at it.  I remember thinking that it was just a dead bird, and it was natural for it to be in the water, and it wasn’t hurting anything.

I came up to a more crowded shore.  Not unpleasantly crowded, but full of people wading in and smiling.  I asked someone why everyone was crowded in here, when it was more beautiful and not crowded at all back where I had come from, and he said that the mothers liked to give their children fresh spring water from the pipe (he pointed to it) with cherries for a refreshment after they swam.

***edited to add: So, yeah, in hindsight this one was pretty transparent.  But a very, very nice and comforting dream nonetheless.  I love dreams where you actually feel stuff; in this case it was the water on my skin, and the light sparkling on the water was really beautiful.

late July

It’s that time of year again.

I never wanted to know the actual date of his accident.  For many months, it was just “late July” that it happened.  It was a defense mechanism; I feared that I would obsessively count days since I had seen him last.  Also, it was somewhat unclear what day to actually figure as his last: the day he jumped in the water, or the day they proclaimed him brain dead, or the day they took his organs and let his body stop breathing?

(For what it’s worth, I count the day he jumped off the dock: July 28.)

(***edited to add: Daddy J just pointed out that I do in fact have the date wrong.  Which is no surprise, really; I’ve blocked it pretty thoroughly.  He actually jumped in the water on the 26th.  So I’ll reassign the Big Day To Get Past as the 26th, I suppose.  I guess it’s good that it’s closer and will be over sooner…)

And now, every year since it happened in 2005, toward the end of July the sadness creeps in.

I thought I was maybe coming down with something, or just overtired from waking up early with Rainbow, but it’s become clear that it’s just the late July-ness of it all.

+++++

I was watching one of Ward’s favorite videos with Rainbow the other day.  We broke it out after realizing that Rainbow loves to watch a little Sesame Street and Wow Wow Wubzy on occasion.  He shouts at the screen and laughs and wiggles from his portable crib, which comes in super handy when I am trying to get out the door with him and the eleventy-four accessories we require on road trips.  Anyway, it was kind of emotional to watch Baby Songs, but also nice to see again why Ward loved it: the babies and kids are so cute and look like they are having so much fun.

Ward’s favorite song came on, and I couldn’t remember what it was he called it.  It’s a song about different shapes, and he called it The Triangle Song.  Or maybe The Circle Song.  Or was it The Rectangle Song?

I was really sad that I couldn’t remember.  He used to ask for the video with the song title: I want to hear the Triangle/Circle/Rectangle Song!  I felt like he was slipping further away, withdrawing from me and pulling my memories with him.

It’s just a silly song, Mama. 

But you liked it so much!

Not as much as I liked you.

Oh.  Yes.

And then, earlier this weekend, I brought down one of his favorite toys that I think Rainbow is almost ready for.  It’s a hammer that goes BOING BOING BOING! with a cartoon noise when you hit something.  I wanted Rainbow to get to play with something that Ward used to play with.  I replaced the batteries and tried them every which way, in case the diagrams on the battery case were wrong, but the toy is just broken.  I guess it’s too old.

It’s just a toy, Mama.  It’s just a plastic thing.  It’s not me.

Yeah, I know.  I just liked it when you played with it, and now that it’s broken, you feel further away.

It’s just a shadow, Mama.  It’s not me.  It’s even a shadow from the past, not a shadow from what I’m doing today.  It just doesn’t matter.

No.  I guess it doesn’t.  Sometimes it’s just hard.

I love you.

I love you, too.

+++++

I have this image of him losing the material debris from this world, his wordly raiments falling off in chunks.  He’d hold on to them if I wanted him to, if I needed them to recognize him or relate to him, if it made me feel good to think of him as only a toddler who loved the Teletubbies and pumpkin pie and his pets and his toys. 

But as the chunks fall off, his actual Self shines through.

Glowing and laughing and brilliant.

+++++

effortless

The Hunger Site is completely free.  Donations are paid for by advertisers; you don’t have to read anything or do a survey or anything that takes time.  You just go here and click on “click here to give” and it says you’ve just donated 1.1 cups of food to the hungry.

the downside of grief groups

I think I’m going to stop visiting grieving parent sites entirely.

They were such a lifeline after Ward’s accident.  I loved MISS foundation and chatting at the Compassionate Friends.  I’ve just checked in there sporadically in the past year or so, although I’ve lurked at MISS some recently to read posts about parenting susbsequent babies after child loss.

I think, though, that it’s actually adding to my fears in a Not Good way.  I realized (headsmack!) that everyone there has lost a child to illness or accident, so EVERY SINGLE PERSON has a child loss story to tell.  Tragic child loss is the norm there, and it feeds my dread that something awful might happen to Rainbow.  Like, in a big room full of people who speak German, you kind of start to feel like everybody speaks German, that that’s just the way it is.  When actually: NO, plenty of people in the world don’t speak German.  MOST people don’t.

So, yeah, I think I’m going to not go there, for now, anyway.  For my own good.  It kind of makes me feel like a bad friend, because I do (of course) care about the grieving parents there and know some of them from online talks, and am very grateful for the kindness and support I’ve gotten from grief groups in the past, and would probably be able to offer support and hope to some newly bereaved people, but…

Yeah.

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