We didn’t get much sleep that first night home. The house seemed so empty. I had always dreamed of raising a family there. The night before Nash died, Todd and I had talked about having another child. We wanted Nash to have that buddy for life. I joked, telling Todd that I could just hear them running down the stairs yelling that one had hit the other, or that one wouldn’t share a toy. I couldn’t wait…and now it was so quiet. Even though I had no intentions of getting out of bed, I couldn’t wait for people to get here. I wanted there to be noise. It didn’t take long. Aunts, uncles, cousins, friends. Brothers and sisters. They all came.
Todd’s cousins are not like normal cousins. They have always been more like brothers and sisters. There are so many of them, and I’m not sugar coating it at all when I say they would do anything for anybody! When Todd and I first started dating, we went to Becca’s house for Halloween go trick-or-treating with his nieces. When we got there, every aunt, uncle, and cousin was also there…FOR HALLOWEEN! I learned quickly that this is just how they do things. Holidays, going away parties…even when we were just going to the bar for a drink, Todd would suggest that we call Christina, Jen, or Ceddie (a couple of the cousins) . I use to think, what, you can’t just have a drink with me? Four years later I find myself wanting to call them when we are out too. They never judge each other. They never talk bad about each other…and they all have hearts of gold. So it didn’t surprise me when they all showed up. I remember when we were planning the funeral and the funeral home director asked me about pictures. Becca interrupted and said, “My cousins have that under control”. He asked about a DVD or music we might want to play. Becca said, “My cousins are on it”. I wanted to cry…of course they were…they love us. It was so nice to not have to worry about that. I knew they would make it perfect for us and they did!
Becca is what I call “a get crap done kind of person.” Att the hospital when I was holding Nash, she was the one that asked if she should take pictures because we might want them some day. That’s how she copes. She always thinks about what she can do to help. I couldn’t answer her because I was to upset. Now I’m so thankful she took those pictures. She was with the cousins as well when they were taking care of funeral arrangements. Without going on and on, because I very well could, I will just say this…the funeral home director offered her a job afterward! Of course she didn’t want the job, but that’s just how much she was involved.
Caroline and Chad
Caroline feels everything; she never wants to do the wrong thing. She doesn’t want to bother us. She does things on her own, usually from afar as to not get in the way. It’s sweet and I would love her around, but she just doesn’t want to overstep her boundaries. Her and Chad are the ones who started the memorial fund. Something that I still have a hard time looking at without crying. It is, after all, the reason I am still able to be at home and grieve without worry. My mother-in-law and Caroline went to the store and literally bought me a new wardrobe for the days ahead. Caroline said, “Whatever you don’t like donate to charity.” That’s just the kind if person she is.
My sister had a daughter, Bristol Mae. She died 51 days after she was born from Trisomy 18. My sister knew this when she was pregnant and was told she could abort, but she didn’t. She wanted to give her whatever short life she was going to have, and to fill it with as much love as possible. I know that whatever strength I have, I draw from her, and how she went through her situation with such grace. Everyone who met Bristol fell in love with her. My sister and brother-in-law were so inspiring. The loss of their beautiful daughter only brought them closer. I hate that my sister and I will now have this horrible thing in common. I do, however, love that I have someone close to me who understands. She gave me a necklace that was given to her from her mother-in-law. It says “one day at a time” and her name is engraved on the back. She engraved my name underneath it and gave it to me. She did not leave my side during any of this.
The Old Folks ( as Todd would call them)
Our parents had been there everyday; bringing us food, trying to get us to eat, crying with us and for us. People had dropped off enough food to feed an army, which is good because we had a small army at our house. One morning, my father-in-law Greg called and asked if we wanted breakfast from Mega. Todd said, “Dad we have a ton of food here.” Greg said firmly, “Just tell me what you want!” He ended up bringing almost everything on the menu!
My mom bought me a Pandora bracelet. It has a little girl charm and a little boy charm. The boy has an angel wings charm to go with it. The girl has a butterfly charm. It represents Bristol and Nash. My sister wears the same one.
My hometown is an hour and a half from my home now and my girlfriends still live there. They came down every single day! Julie is the mother hen of the group. Her goal was to make me eat something; to stock my fridge. I’m surprised to this day that everything in our pantry and fridge is not labeled with directions and the best time of day to eat each thing.
Jessie is usually the funny one; she is the one who introduced me to Todd. To know her is to love her and anyone who has ever met her will tell you the same. She was heartbroken for us. She mainly sat by me and stayed quiet. Which honestly is the best thing to do most of the time. I found myself sitting by her when I didn’t want to be alone but I wanted to be left alone…if that makes sense. They heard I wasn’t eating and pulled up with a cooler. They had ordered every flavor ice cream shake from Sonic. It was pretty funny. I would have loved to seen the worker’s face when they said they wanted one of each flavor.
Shawn and I have been friends since grade school. She didn’t miss a beat. We have slept in the same bed since we were little kids. We still do. We even did the night before I was married and I plan on returning the favor when she gets married a month from now. We would always stay up and talk like giddy teenagers…about boys, school, work. The second night I still found myself in bed awake. All I wanted to do was sleep and not think. Then I heard Shawn walk in. She climbed in bed behind me and said nothing. I slept like a rock….well, except for when poor Todd came in and started feeling Shawn’s face. Then I woke up to a panicked yell. Shawn screamed “It’s Shawn, not Shelly!” That gave me my first laugh.
Andy and Brandon
Andy and Brandon were Todd’s closest friends growing up. When I hear stories of their younger days, I am seriously thankful my husband is still alive. They have families of their own and don’t see each other as much as they would like. Weeks later, after a lot of people have stopped coming over, these two still come. Brandon and Andy took him shopping for clothes for the funeral and covered the whole bill; they wouldn’t let Todd pay for a thing. These are guys with families that you know don’t have the extra money and they did it anyway. Todd said one day he was talking to the two of them and said, “Why not me?” He was surprised by their reactions. They agreed, ” Why not them?” I know in my heart that if they had a choice they truly would switch spots with our son, Leaving their families without a father so we could have our baby back. I cried when Todd told me.
Michael and Tricia
After three days, my brother was the one who finally got me to eat. I remember it was half of a small doughnut. He came upstairs where I was in bed and didn’t give me a choice. He said nicely. “We are gonna eat this” and it made me feel better that he said we…it made me feel less guilty for eating. He hand fed me in bed while I laid there crying.
His wife Tricia is my kind of girl. She doesn’t even know she does everything right. When everyone is hounding me to eat, she looks at them and says “She is drinking water and juice, she is not gonna starve.” When I’m crying she says nothing, just cries with me. I’m not surprised she is such a comforting person. It’s what makes her such an incredible mother to her three boys and aunt to our Nash.
So many people who didn’t know us and didn’t know Nash came with food, Tupperware, cards and money. People were writing on our Facebook pages that they didn’t know us but were praying for our family and donating to the memorial fund…strangers!!!!! I’m crying just thinking about it.
As horrible, terrible, and gut-wrenching as this all is, I thank God every day that we have such an amazing support system, and I only mentioned a handful of them here. It would take me a lifetime to explain what great families and friends we have. What great communities we come from. There are so many people who love us and will do anything to help. If prayers and peoples’ love for us could bring our baby boy back, I know he would be in my arms now.