Most people who know Todd and I, or have read my blogs for that matter, know how much our nieces and nephews mean to us. They have done so many sweet, crazy, and even comical things since Nash passed and I can’t help but share some of them. After you read this, I know you will see why they mean so much to us. My 11-year-old nephew Chase and I have always had this special bond. He always used to give me kisses and hugs every time he saw me…that was until he hit the age of 8 and became way too cool. It has now become our little game. I see him and then give him this crazy look. He smiles and quickly retreats the other way, running and laughing until I catch him and pin him down to steal my hug and kiss. I asked my brother how the boys took the news of Nash. He said that when he got home from the hospital and told them what happened, Chase clenched his teeth together, flexing his jaw, and immediately got up and went upstairs. Michael followed and found Chase in his room trying to keep busy. He told Chase, “It’s OK to cry if you want.” He said that’s all Chase needed to hear and he broke down crying.
I saw Chase the day after Nash passed for the first time. I was lying in bed with a couple of my sisters and my 18-year-old niece Devin who drove an hour and a half to my house to be with me. Chase walked in the door and we locked eyes. I could see him searching my face to make sure I was still the Aunt Shelly he knew. I gave him the best smile I was able to, and without hesitation he climbed into bed to get to me. He jumped on top of me and gave me the biggest bear hug ever. He let me hug him for what seemed like three minutes while I cried. He didn’t care in the least that people were watching. Not just people but a room full of women, his worst nightmare. He just wanted to comfort his Aunt Shelly. Now that months have passed, I receive text messages once a week from him. They usually are something along the lines of, ” Hi, Aunt Shelly. What are you doing? I love you.” I love that he feels the need to check on me. That even though it’s been months, he still thinks of me. He sent me one text while he was at a friend’s party. I always thought that his mom put him up to checking on me. There he was at a party with friends, and he stopped what he was doing to check on me. Most kids don’t understand grief. So to see that he knows I am still upset and that he is worried about me makes me think he might possibly be the smartest kid in the world!
Two or three days after Nash passed, I was lying in bed yet again. The house was full of people but I was finally left alone in my room with my thoughts. I just lay there looking out the window and crying. I hadn’t eaten at this point and I could hear the adults downstairs discussing how they were going to get me to eat. I was numb. I was hoping I could somehow just die if I closed my eyes and wished for it. I felt like I was on the verge of a panic attack. That my life had no hope. I heard little feet coming upstairs and felt someone crawl in bed behind me. I turned to face whoever it was, and when I turned around I saw my 7-year-old niece Chandler. We lay there for a few minutes staring at each other. I know I must have looked awful. Tears soaked my cheeks and I hadn’t slept in days. I just looked at her blank-faced. I could see her stewing over what to say to me. After a few minutes of thought, she said very seriously, “Why does everyone want you to eat so badly? So you will get skinny, what’s wrong with that?” I burst out laughing and so did she. It was one of those magical moments when you appreciate the innocence of a child. I had gone from feeling hopeless two minutes before to all out laughing hysterically.
Sometime during this first week, my grandma was traveling a couple of hours to come see me. I had to force myself to get out of bed and at the very least move to the couch. She is 90 and I wasn’t about to make her climb the stairs to my bedroom. As I was sitting there with her and my aunt and uncle, my 8-year-old nephew Mason came in and sat down on the coffee table in front of me. He put his little hand on my leg looked at me and said matter-of-factly, “How you doing aunt Shelly?” He paused only for a second, and before I could answer, he looked down, shook his head and said, “I know, just hanging in there huh?” I smiled. He then hugged me and went back outside. Mason has always been very adult-like when he talks. He is very observant and takes everything in. Since he was a small kid I have had to watch what I say around him because he remembers everything!! Mason is Bristol’s big brother.
The day of Nash’s funeral, I was beside myself. Before the service started, I went to the coffin, put my hand on Nash’s forehead and cried. I was having a moment. Taking in how beautiful he was even after he was gone. I felt a tug on my dress. I looked down and saw the biggest brown beautiful eyes staring up at me. My 6-year-old nephew Brenen. I knelt down to his level so he could talk to me. He then shockingly said, ” I hear you are going to cook him.” My eyes got wide with shock and I heard gasps from the people sitting in the funeral home behind us. Brenen immediately looked embarrassed, like he did something wrong. This moment was in no way funny, and had an adult said it, I would have lost my mind. However, he was an innocent child looking at me with curiosity, and for some reason I chuckled and tried to explain. He then continued to say, ” You will have to put him in a jar or something so he doesn’t spill everywhere.” Again I heard gasps from the people behind us, and Brenen looked at the people gasping with an evil glare and then looked back at me for an answer. He still has a little bit of baby talk in his voice which made this conversation somehow adorable. I said, “Yes it’s called an urn and then he will be at home with us” He then shrugged his shoulders, smiled and said, “OK Aunt Shelly, love you, I got to go play.” Then he ran out of the room.
Right before the service started, Mason was sitting next to me at the front of the room. He was sobbing. I told my brother Doug to get his mom because he was having a hard time. My brother Doug looked at me shocked. He pointed to the couch next to me and said, “They are all having a hard time.” I looked to the right of me. I hadn’t even noticed a handful of them sitting there crying. My heart broke. I absolutely know this is a memory they will have their whole lives. As teenagers, I know they will tell me they remember Nash’s funeral and Todd and I being so sad. I hate that. I want them to remember him, but I also want to shield them from the world and the hardships that come with it. They had to learn so early that anything bad can happen. That no matter how good you think someone is, that doesn’t mean they are safe from bad things.
My nephew David and I were upstairs playing a couple of weeks later. We weren’t discussing Nash at all. He stopped what he was doing and said, “I don’t understand Aunt Shelly. Some people are mean to their babies. Some people don’t want their babies and they live. Why?” I think he felt comfortable asking now that we had a moment alone. I didn’t know how to answer. I have always known that children are honest to a fault. They just say what they are thinking. Sometimes at the worst times. Sometimes at the best times. What I have learned is that they say what everyone else is usually thinking. How can you not love that honesty? It’s crazy that in some of my hardest moments, moments when I feel like I’m breaking in half, one of my nieces or nephews says just the right thing, or just the wrong thing for that matter. Either way, it’s exactly what I need at that moment. In a time where I feel like the unluckiest person alive. When I feel there is no reason to go on. They give me a reason. They make me feel lucky. They make me feel unconditionally loved. How many adults can make you feel that way?