Firsts

When most people think of their child’s “firsts”, they think of them crawling for the first time, walking, or saying their first words. Seeing Crue hit milestones his brother never had the chance to hit has been amazing to watch. The firsts that have been monumental to me would be rather normal, everyday things for most mothers. When I think of Crue’s firsts, three things stand out to me…his first night without us, his first time in a pack-n-play, and his first night without his Snuza (breathing monitor). These moments were incredibly hard for me.

I never planned his first overnight. I think it worked out best that I didn’t; it just happened, and I couldn’t have imagined it any other way. I was going out for a much needed girls night up north. My sister-in-law Amanda had been wanting to babysit Crue and offered to watch him while I went out and drive him to me if I had too much to drink.  I love Amanda and trust her completely; she is more then a sister in law, she is one of my best friends. It also helps that she is an ICU nurse, just saying. I knew that Amanda would not find it weird if I asked her to keep an eye on Nash Bear too. Todd and I take Nash Bear with us when we go up north, and I couldn’t stand the thought of leaving him at the cabin.

I was having such a good time with my friends that I felt guilty for wanting to stay longer. I kept messaging Amanda, saying that I would be there soon. An hour more would go by, and I would send her that same message. My circle of friends is friends with Amanda as well, so it  helped that with every new drink they would speak for her, telling me that Amanda doesn’t mind, stay a little later. I think they all knew that I needed a night out and were trying to calm my worries. I don’t know if it was the alcohol or being away from Crue that long, but I started to cry. My friend Jessie asked me what was wrong and I told her how guilty I felt having such a good time while Crue was with someone else. How guilty I felt for needing any time away from him. How I was afraid he might die while I was out partying it up.

I knew Amanda was more than qualified, but it had reached that time of night where I knew she would be sleeping while he was sleeping. I was panicked. Jessie calmed me down and reassured me that not only would he be fine, but also that I needed to do it. I texted Amanda that I would be really late. She texted back telling me to stay, have fun and not to worry. She said that there was no way she was waking Crue up to drive him to me, so she was going to keep him overnight. I knew my friends were right, I needed to do it. I also needed Amanda to tell me that it was happening because I never could have asked . I had my friend drive me to Amanda’s at 2:00am. So not quite an overnight, but the closest I have known to it. When I got there, Amanda was laying beside him sleeping with her hand on his chest. I took a minute to swallow the lump in my throat, seeing Crue still breathing, resting peacefully, and being cared for. I don’t have the words. It was a moment I needed and didn’t even know I needed.

As most of you know, Nash died while sleeping in a pack-n-play. My family and I no longer use them. Just the word pack-n-play makes us all a little nauseous. We even thought about getting rid of ours. Instead, we put it in the closet in Nash’s room. When Crue began to crawl, it was almost impossible to take a shower because he got into everything. I was asking other mothers what they do. Some suggested locking him in the bathroom with me. I tried, but he would pull the curtain back and try to get in. Another mother said that she just puts her little girl in a pack-n-play right outside the bathroom door. As she said those words, I cringed. It was, however, a great idea. I finally found myself taking the pack-n-play out of the closet and putting it up. I justified it by telling myself that as long as he doesn’t sleep in it, it was fine. I placed Crue in the center with a couple of his toys. He looked up at me and smiled. I laughed at the irony. Crue in the pack-n-play for the first time at 9 months old. He was almost big enough to climb out of it. I have grown to love watching him hold on to the rail and laugh as I am taking a shower. He has never known one day in a crib, so to see him enjoying it makes everything a little more normal.

The last milestone is still a daily struggle. One I’m actually having an easier time with than Todd. Crue had never, and I mean never, slept one night without his Snuza. For those of you that don’t know what that is, it’s a movement monitor that clips on to the front of his diaper. If Crue doesn’t breathe or move for more than ten seconds, it vibrates; if still no movement, an alarm goes off. This is the only reason Todd and I get any sleep whatsoever. The only reason I can close my eyes at night and rest is knowing that if my baby quits breathing, this thing will set off an alarm. However, as soon as Crue hit about 8 months old, he started moving around a lot more at night. It would come off and give off a false alarm. After so many false alarms, it became less scary. I was actually more upset that it woke me up, and I would just shut it off.

After a couple of weeks of doing that, I realized that he was sleeping a couple of hours a night without it. It truly was building my confidence. Todd, however, checks Crue every night to make sure it is not only attached to him, but also that it’s turned on. I can’t tell you how many times Todd has come to bed after me, and I have been woken up to him screaming that the Snuza is not on. When I would explain to him that it would false alarm, Todd was unfazed. I understood, and I put it on him every night like I was asked to. When he was about 9 months old, I would wake to Crue playing with it. He learned to take it off his diaper and because it was still “moving,” it wouldn’t alarm. Now that Crue is 10 months old, I am getting comfortable with the fact that he is past that scary age. That is until there is a news report about a 10 month old dying and the Snuza will be back on. I feel like Todd and I are waiting for that magical number…1. Like we are holding are breath and hoping he makes it. I wonder if these worries will stop when he hits that age. I know that there will be new worries, but will I ever wake up without feeling anxious and sick? Will I ever wake up and not gasp for breath while I turn to Crue and pray he is still alive?

 

 

Crying in separate rooms

Throughout my whole life, I’ve been told how difficult marriage is, how hard it is to hold it all together. Personally, I know more divorced people than married people. I don’t judge people for being divorced. My parents divorced when I was very young, and I believe I was a happier kid because of it. I can’t imagine having grown up in a household with the two of them. I only ever witnessed telephone calls between them, and let’s just say I wouldn’t want to see them in the same room, let alone together on a daily basis. When my parents remarried, I was like every other child in my situation. I found ways to deal with my emotions…usually by trial and error.

I knew not to talk to my dad about my unhappiness. If I was upset with my stepmom or about something I didn’t like, I wasn’t about to go running to him. Tried that and it didn’t work. My dad was much easier to talk to as I got older. When we were young, I could talk to him about anything as long as I wasn’t complaining; he didn’t want to hear it. I also knew he wasn’t going to take my side. If I complained about anything, it was usually met with, “What did you do to cause the problem?” If I told on my brother for picking on me, his reply was, “No one likes a tattle tale.” My dad was very loving, but he had his limitations. I think that’s why I try very hard not to complain to this day.

When I started writing, it was an avenue to get out my frustrations. In essence, I was complaining but to no one in particular. Just throwing it all out there, and if people wanted to read it they could; if not, no harm done. When Nash died, I could talk to Todd about anything, but I quickly learned that he had a limit as well. He would never stop me from talking, but I could read his facial expressions and knew when he was done. He also had a knack for changing the subject. This irritated me to no end. He would change it to something so off the subject that I would mistake it for a lack of caring. We both have terrible days, and he likes to deal with it by being alone in silence. I have mastered the art of going to my room and crying. I can go cry for 10 minutes, and come back down and ask him what he wants for dinner like nothing happened. Almost like one would take a power nap, but I have a power cry.

Sometimes I’m thankful for that alone time, but other times I wish he knew how much I was hurting in those moments. I wish he knew I was upstairs clinging to Nash bear and crying…but this has become our new normal. If I concerned him every time I had a breakdown, I don’t see how that would help. When you lose a child, you feel very alone. The private thoughts I have when I am by myself are always the same. If I stop and give myself to much time to think, I’m back to June 19th…I’m back to dropping Nash off at daycare…back to that call at work, that hospital gurney holding my dead baby. The stares and cries of strangers who watched my every move as if to see if I was going to break in half. Those faces are permanently etched in my mind.

I think it’s normal as a parent of a lost child to feel very alone. I feel alone with people, at work, even at home. People can say they are there for me, and I know they are, but no one can do this for me. No one can carry this pain, this hurt..I have to do it. No one can erase these thoughts, these images that will plague my life forever. I alone have to figure out how to cope with them. I have to learn how to go on with my daily routine, with life, without burdening everyone including Todd every time I have a bad thought. It makes me feel alone and sad. It feels like I’m in the ocean, in a storm with no life raft swimming against the waves.

In our society, it’s to easy to make everything look perfect…perfect house, perfect kids, perfect marriage. You slap a couple of happy pictures up on Facebook and gush about your family when asked. It’s easy to fool people, to make people think you have your shit together. The truth is, none of us do. We all have our problems but we just don’t share them. There was a time when I thought Todd and I were on different pages. That we were grieving so differently that I wanted to be done. I still have those days; like they say, marriage is difficult. I’m learning that it all doesn’t have to be so pretty or fit into some box. I’m learning That Todd I can be together and still cry in separate rooms. 

   

YaYa

One of my favorite movies of all time is, The Divine Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood. It’s a movie following the lives of four girlfriends. Their lives all have horrific tragedies, pain, love, and loss and the only thing  that stays the same in their lives is their friendship with one another. I used to tell my friends in high school which girl each reminded me of. If you have girlfriends, and you watch this movie, you realize they all represent someone you know. What’s so unique about their friendship though, is one friendship does not work without the other. It’s the friends as a whole that make them so endearing. Not until I started planning Nash’s first birthday party did I understand that kind of friendship. The five girls I plan this party with are all amazing on their own. I would consider each of them a dear friend all by themselves, but it’s something about all of them together that’s truly something to see. I used to pride myself on being a guys’ girl. Most of my close friends were guys. I always thought women were kind of, well, ridiculous. I had my core girlfriends that I could count on one hand and that’s all I wanted. I’m friends with one who doesn’t like the other or the only thing they had in common was their friendship to me. With these girls, it’s different. They are like a motor, take out one part and it won’t run. I called them the dream team at last years’ party because they truly are. I 100% think these girls could run the world. We have had a private message going on Facebook for about a year and a half now. I started it to talk about the party plans we were making, things we needed to do. It was like a check in of sorts. I had no idea what it would become. This feed could be published! It could be published as a drama and a comedy. Sometimes I’m so amused by what we share with each other I will smile randomly in the middle of the day at the thought of something we shared earlier. With every laugh or emoji sent, there is an equal amount of baby pics, job changes, wedding planning, moving houses, random fears, and sad days. It’s become a place I go to, we all go to, when we want to share anything. Nothing feels real until I share it with them. After Nash’s first party was over, the feed died down. As soon as we started planning again, we picked right up where we left off. It’s nothing to see 48 new messages on my phone. It is why 99% Of the time I have my phone on silent. There is a part in the movie I talked about earlier that I love. Since the women were children they all get together for a sayance of sorts. They wear headdresses, chant and cut there palms and hold them together. Sounds worse then it is! They vow that the secrets of each others’ lives do not leave the outside of their circle. When my niece Chandler wanted to come to one of our many Nash meetings, I knew we had to induct her. She loved Nash so much and has this need to be a part of all things that have to do with him or his party. I wondered what we could do for hats. Natalie suggested Burger King crowns, which I thought was perfect. All of us girls get so excited to meet. I think half the reason Chandler wanted to come, was to see what all the fuss was about. As we all gathered around my dining room table, I told Chandler she needed to listen and listen carefully because we had a secret to share. I dimmed the lights and found the closest thing to tribal music on the radio. I placed a red solo cup attached to a wine handle on the table. I couldn’t find any red juice in the house, so Orange Justice would have to work. We all put our Burger King crowns on (including Crue) and I said, “we are the YaYa sisters, everything spoken at this table stays in the circle.” As the giggling pursued, I told her she needed to follow the rules of the YaYa’s if she wanted to be a part of our meetings. Her eyes were huge, and her smile even bigger, as we all locked hands and I went through the rules. One, anytime you are feeling down or need someone to talk to, you come to us; we are always here. She agreed. Two, you always have the back of any of the other YaYa’s, no matter what. She agreed. Three, everything we share is a secret between just us; she smiled. Lastly, we will be there for you always and whenever you call, and you must do the same. She agreed. I looked around at my friends, all in Burger King crowns, smiling, and as much as it was a silly moment, there was truth in those rules. These girls have been there for me, have had my back, wiped my tears, picked up my slack, and loved me when I found it hard to even love myself. I looked back at Chandler, and I pulled a necklace from my pocket that said, “I carry you in my heart.” Nash’s name was underneath. This was a necklace she had been asking for. She smiled as I put it on her. We all took turns drinking the juice. Then, we all grabbed hands, as we lifted our hands  in the air and yelled YAYA!! I’ll never forget that night and I will never forget these ladies. This is a time in my life when it’s a good day if I can connect to anything. Grief has made me colder, numb, and sad. To not only connect with these women, but connect to them in a way I didn’t know I still had in me, well, it’s been the biggest gift in my life, besides Crue, since Nash passed. I lost my son. He was the greatest gift I have ever known, but I gained five friends, five family members, five soul mates. There are so many hysterical quotes in the movie that remind me of us, “I hope this isn’t a real emergency, I only brought one bottle of vodka”, or “I wish I knew then what I know now, and still had those thighs!” “It’s life. you don’t figure it out, you just climb up that beast and ride!” Of all the silly ones, two quotes move me the most.  Two really hit home. The first, as I looked at my niece Chandler, came to mind, “some women pray for their daughters to marry good husbands. I pray that my girls will find girlfriends half as loyal and true as the YaYa’s.” As I looked at my friends all giggling and smiling in their crowns, I thought of the last one, “there are people in the world who are here to save you when you need saving, cover your ass when it needs covering, and are always there when you need someone to lean on. We are the mighty YaYa priestesses, let no man put us under!” Natalie, Kasey, Becca, Caroline, and Christina……I love you! Nash, thank you for knowing that I needed them and for sending them to me. 

    
   

800

Well, people showed up! To be exact,over 800 people showed up from 48  different cities! As people started flooding the gym for Nash’s second birthday, I found my tears hard to hold back. This year, I had more time to just sit back and take it all in. To look around and see people celebrating my babies birthday, his legacy. I’m sorry, correction, to see 800 people celebrating my sons legacy is a feeling too immense to put into words. I’m afraid if I even tried I would fail to convey just how amazing I felt in that moment. We ran out of prizes 45 minutes into the party. Todd had to make an emergency candy run just so we had something to give the kids at the game booths. We had to cut the cake an hour early, just to feed the people in line for pizza, because we could barley keep up with the amount of pizzas needed. There was a point in time where I could barley move in the gym. I remember being in a panic that people were going to be mad or upset. An hour in and no prizes, no pizzas. We were not prepared for this amount of people.  They didn’t leave though. Not only did they not leave, but they were happy to wait. I looked around at the Kids screaming and laughing, running around with Nash painted on their faces. Playing at all the game stations, toys in one hand, cotton candy in the other, as Spider-Man was flipping off the top of the bleachers to the kids screaming below. I asked Todd before the start of the party what his favorite part of last year’s party was, he said, “All the kids smiling.” In that moment, I knew what he meant.

I wasn’t exaggerating when I thought no one would come. I truly felt I may be kidding myself into thinking I could  keep this going. Not only because it’s been over a year since Nash passed, but also because unfortunately, more people have lost loved ones, even babies since Nash passed. Other people need help, support. I’m further in my journey of grief then others and for some reason it felt like people needed to choose. Choose to continue to support us or help someone they feel may need it more, like there wasn’t enough room to support all of us. Crazy right? Sometimes I spend so much time worrying about when this is all going to stop,I forget to take in the beauty and power of the present. I got to celebrate another birthday party for my little angel. I got to celebrate it with 800 people who have been touched by the light he left behind. All I have left of Nash is his legacy. It’s all I have to hold on to. These people don’t realize what they are doing for me, for Todd. Yes, we throw this party to give back to the community that has given so much to us. We throw this party to honor the birthday of our Nash. Those are the reasons we started doing this, but with every business that signs up to help, every person who donates to the event, every family that came, I feel this overwhelming momentum that there is something more to it. This powerful surge of goodness. It pushes  me to keep going, to keep doing what I’m doing, to get up every morning and put one foot in front of the other. I started that day telling myself this is the last year we will do this. It’s too much. It’s too stressful to put myself out there, to put Nash out there and then feel disappointed, almost like he didn’t make the football team or something. Or that by people not coming, it was a sign of me not doing a good job as his mother. My fear when all of this started, the blog, his Facebook page, the random acts of kindness, is that I didn’t want it to stop because of me, because of my shortcomings or inability to keep up. I could handle it stopping but not if it was my fault. I’m realizing now I don’t have to worry about people forgetting Nash. Even if everything stops tomorrow, these people will remember him. I also realize it’s not something that is in my hands.  This isn’t a journey I’m running, it’s a journey I’m on, a journey I’m on with over 800 other people. We go where our heart leads us….and on January 9th, 2016 over 800 peoples’ hearts lead them to Nash. I said at the closing of the party that we don’t get to watch our son grow old and get bigger, that other people celebrate their child’s milestones and achievement on their birthdays. Todd and I don’t have that, we have his legacy. Looking around the gym that night, I’m proud to say he is getting pretty big. 

    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
   

It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to

Nash Bash 2…..the second annual Nash Bash……Planning this years Nash Bash has been a totally different experience then last year. I find myself being pretty pessimistic. It’s almost like a movie you love. It was great, amazing, perfect, everything you could have hoped for. Do you risk doing a sequel and it being a flop. The second of something really is the true determiner if you should continue.  Were people so touched by our story last year, so caught up in the tragedy of it all, that they felt compelled to be there. Now that it’s been a year and a half, will they still be as moved, still as connected? 

I remember reaching out to the girls who help me plan the party. It was something along the lines of, “do you think we should do it again?” Of course it was an excited, “yes!” from all. I was surprised! Planning an event like this especially around the holidays is not an easy feet. All have lives, jobs, obligations. Why would they want to put themselves through the stress? Then I look at their faces and the answer floods my mind quickly as I picture my smiling baby boy. They do it for Nash. Everytime an obstacle came up, I give them every available out. Should we ask Dr. Shumaker to sponsor again? No! He did it last year; we probably shouldn’t be greedy. Should we ask Johnny’s to make pizza? They did 60 pizzas last year. That’s a lot maybe we shouldn’t ask them. Are businesses going to get sick of us asking them for things? The Beauty  of it all is my girls. They play tricks with my mind. They know me well and know how to word things to ease my anxious mind. They said you have to at least ask Dr. Shumaker, his feelings may be hurt if you don’t and if he says no we will find someone else. Well, most know him personally and knew what his answer would be. Deep down I did too, but I felt better about asking. I even asked saying,”don’t feel obligated, we just wanted to make sure you didn’t want to be a part of it.” He laughed and said, “of course I want to sponsor.” The girls took me to Johnny’s for our first meeting. We didn’t even have to ask Sandy, she volunteered to do it again. Most businesses jumped at the chance. Most businesses are repeats from last year. Of course I gave them all the outs I could think of, asking each of them for something and following it up with don’t feel obligated. We won’t be upset if you can’t this year. Turns out I’m not the best salesman, shocking I know. Thank God people wanted to help, because if not, I was making it damn easy to say no. The girls have told me, “who cares if five people show up? It will still be worth it.” To me, it’s so hard. This day is so personal to me and I don’t know if I could handle  it being a bad sequel. I assume people aren’t as passionate about Nash, I can’t expect them to always be so moved by a boy they have never even met no matter how special I personally know he was. To me, if five people come, it will be the answer I wait for every Nash day. Every time I look at his Facebook, preparing myself that it’s ok if no one posts. I tell myself that people have moved on.  We had a good run and honestly, Todd and I received so much more support from our communtiy after Nash died than most people have ever known. People know Nash. They love him.They know he lived and they know he was here. That’s all we have ever wanted. I repeat these things in my head. I prepare myself mentally for that day always. People always surprise me though. They continue to post on his page. They continue to sponsor and donate to his party. Well, I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. Everyone else is continuing to spread Nash’s legacy. 

Nash’s birthday is bittersweet. I keep myself so busy planning  the event, I barely stop to think of what we are palnning. My son’s second birthday, my son that is no longer here, and another year we missed watching him grow.  The week leading to the party, I’m a mess emotionally and then that day hits and I’m so busy with the party that I don’t have time to breakdown. This year it will be calmer. We have all done this before. I’ll have moments to breathe. Is that a good thing? I’m not sure. What I do know is I have shared every personal thought, feeling and breakdown with all of you. At some point, early on, that was the decision I made to take you all on this journey with me. If the Nash bash is a flop, if five people show, I will still share in those feelings with you. If I cry or breakdown at the thought of my two year old not being there, I will share that with you. I always have this. No one can take that away. It helps. You all help! This party is not just a birthday, but a thank you to all of you for continuing my son’s legacy. This is perhaps one of the hardest days I experience all year. I chose to share it with all of you. Why? Because it’s the one thing that has always helped. I hope to see you all there and if not, I’ll still be here continuing to share my journey of healing after the loss of my most precious boy….Nash. 

 

The holidays

Parents who have lost a child have a love-hate relationship with the holidays. At least I do, and I have heard others say the same. I think it’s obvious to most people why these days would be harder than others. Happy people, celebrating their happy lives. Their children another year older. Thankful for their health and happiness. Toasting to another year of memories.

 Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful. Although I am very thankful for so many things, at the same time I have a hard time being truly thankful.I remember how thankful I was when Nash was born. I had to pinch myself, I was so happy. I reflected on my life often and how everything had happened to lead me to this point. This moment of true bliss. Now my version of being thankful has an “at least” attached. At least I have Crue, at least we are healthy. This Thanksgiving, I wanted nothing to do with going to my in-laws for their big Thanksgiving party. It felt like cheating., almost like going and celebrating was not respectful to Nash and the fact that he couldn’t be there. I decided to stay home. Home is where I feel closest to him, and this way we could spend the day together. Once Todd and Crue left, all I did was cry. How could I not spend Crue’s first Thanksgiving with him!?  Mother’s guilt is a killer! I feel guilty if I go and guilty if I don’t. I ended up going for maybe an hour tops and bringing Crue home with me. I feel horrible for saying this, but I was mad at everyone for being happy. I want people to stay tortured with me. I know for a fact they all thought about Nash that day, everyday for that matter, but I want everyone to wear black to the holidays and tell me how much they suck! I really don’t want that…but around the holidays my mind works that way.

Christmas is a time of gift giving, Santa Claus, being surrounded by family. Nash would almost be two this Christmas. I think of how much fun he would be this year, unwrapping presents, leaving cookies out for Santa. Snuggling up on the couch watching the Christmas cartoons I grew up watching.  He won’t do that though, he will never do that. I wondered when I sent our Christmas cards out, do I put Nash’s name on the card? I decided to. These are decisions I never thought I would have to make. However small they are pain fully hard. When Christmas morning comes my family will be one short. No two-year-old bubbly boy will be coming downstairs to open presents.

Then there is New Year’s, a fresh start, a time to reflect and reminisce on the year before. Many great things happened this year, most importantly Crue, but I can’t help but feel sad, angry, and envious of other people this time of year. I don’t feel like I will ever have a fresh start. I will always carry the heavy load of grief into the next year with me. It’s my cross to bear.

To me, the new year means another year without my baby. Another year to get through. People will be drinking and cheering, and I will be just…drinking, although this year I may just do it with others instead of alone. Hey, that’s an improvement…baby steps . I think what makes the holidays the worst is that they are a time that revolves around family. Even family from out-of-state flies in for the holidays. It’s the one time a year where most families are complete. Kids come home from college, grandchildren from out-of-state visit. People wait all year for that moment their family is all together again. Me on the other hand…I’ll be waiting an eternity. 

    
   

Johnny and the Girls

Fenton is made up of two parts. I like to call them “Old” Fenton and “New” Fenton. New Fenton is filled with stores and busy streets, all of the commodities we find necessary in this day and age (Walmart, Target, Home Depot, etc.). Downtown Fenton or Old Fenton is the Fenton my husband grew up knowing, filled with small stores and quaint houses. It’s got that nostalgic feeling of the past. Recently, it’s been morphing into the “new” place to be; restaurants and stores are being built everyday. Sidewalks and benches have recently been added and now line the streets. It’s becoming new again. New with charm that is. Everyday you see or hear about something they are adding.

In a lot of ways it’s exciting. So much thought has gone into every single thing that has been built and it truly is an amazing and exciting time for Fenton. On the flip side, there are establishments that have been with Fenton since the beginning. Places that struggle to stay current in an ever changing downtown. In the heart of downtown is Johnny’s Pizzeria. It’s a local bar and restaurant that has been a part of Fenton for over 51 years. When you take a step into this restaurant, it’s like stepping back 50 years in time. You can feel and see the history in every room.

It was originally owned by Delio, an Italian immigrant who came to be just as much a part of Fenton as Fenton itself, and is now ran by his daughter Sandy after his passing. It’s a staple in the community. I never had the pleasure of meeting Delio, but once you meet Sandy, you know what kind of man he was. She is a hardworking, selfless sweetheart who pours her heart into this restaurant and the customers she grew up knowing. There has never been a time I was there that she wasn’t. She takes pride in the legacy her father leaves behind. This is not just a restaurant but a tribute to an ever changing city. It’s claim to fame is definitely pizza and a banquet room used for many parties, including my wedding shower. I didn’t know then that this would become a place of healing for me. A place that holds so many memories close to my heart.

When the five girls I like to call “The Dream Team” started helping me plan last year’s Nash bash, we frequently held our meetings there. It’s a family restaurant and last year it proved to be difficult. Happy families with babies…babies I could barely look at without breaking down. After a few times there, I started handling it better. Thank God for these girls, an empathetic Sandy and good wine. Now it’s one of my favorite places to be. To see me there this year planning yet another birthday party, you would see a different woman than last year. Not the sad, shutoff person I once was.

This year I walk in with Crue in my arms and the girls fight over who gets to hold him first, usually losing out to Sandy. It’s become a second home. Sometimes I feel badly about just how comfortable we have gotten there. We usually walk in obnoxiously loud, pulling tables together to accommodate our group. Pulling Sandy from her duties to discuss all of the things we are excited about with this year’s party. Yet again, Sandy is providing pizza for this year’s bash. If you thank her, she won’t have it. I remember telling her thank you once, and she replied, “My dad would have loved what you are doing in your son’s name. He would have wanted to be a part of it.”

That’s Sandy. I don’t think she does much with this restaurant or in her life for that matter without thinking about what would have made her dad proud. Just last week, I was sitting around the table with the girls, smiling and bouncing Crue on my knee as he reached for a baby at the neighboring table. Eating pizza and drinking wine, laughing as we discussed our lives. New jobs, babies on the way, searching for Mr. right, planning a wedding, raising three girls, buying new homes. I couldn’t help but be thankful.

The walls at Johnny have heard it all. Looking around the room, you know they have heard much more than the gossiping of our small table. We just add to the already prominent history of that building and the people it has served. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. It feels like Nash leads me to the places I’m supposed to be. Crue will grow up going to Johnny’s often during his life. One day I’ll tell him why this restaurant has become so important to me. Until then, I’m enjoying every minute of my time there. I’m sure Nash and Delio look down on all of us smiling often. What could make you smile more than wine, pizza, good friends, and two angels?

Sandy and Crue

My world

I could have written a hundred blog entries about these last seven months, describing every high and every low that I have experienced as a grieving mother caring for her new baby…and there have been many highs and lows. In short though, I’ve been too busy living, too busy pouring what’s left of me into being Crue’s mommy. I’ve had to work at it; it hasn’t come naturally like it did with Nash. Not the loving part, that has always been there, but the being motherly part. The part that dresses, feeds, and takes care of your child. I had been going through the motions like a lifeless robot. Feeding him because he needed it, dressing him so he wouldn’t be cold, rocking him so he got the sleep he needed.

With Nash, I found all of these things…fun, nostalgic even. With Crue, they are things I have to do as his mother. At least this is how I felt in the beginning…maybe even a little longer than just in the beginning. I’m not sure when the exact moment was, or if it slowly showed itself naturally over time, but it did happen. These things became fun again. All of the amazing wonders that come with being a mommy are there again.  I find myself smiling as I dress and feed him. Staring at his face as he dreams, and thinking to myself that I am blessed to have this amazing little man in my life. Yes, I said it, blessed. A word that six months ago I would never have put in a sentence that describes my life in anyway. Maybe grateful, or thankful, but never blessed.

Crue has become my whole world. I can’t tell you how many tears and kisses his sweet head has soaked up, and how many giggles and smiles I have gotten in return. I’m a mommy again, and that special connection I had with Nash, I now have with Crue. I was always thankful for the connection I had with Nash. With Crue, there isn’t a word big enough to describe the amount of gratitude I feel to be able to have this kind of connection again. I not only feel bonded to him because he is my son and I love him, but also because he is my son after a great loss. I can’t explain it; he is with me in every private moment I have. Every smile and every tear…every thought of anger and feeling of guilt. He has been beside me through it all. I feel connected to him because of it.

For example, I was looking for his social security card yesterday and thought I may have accidentally placed it with Nash’s papers in his room. I sat Crue down on Nash’s nursery room floor as I sat beside him and went through papers. I found Nash’s burial permit, his death certificate, his birth certificate, his autopsy report, the cards from his funeral…tears poured from my eyes like a faucet. I looked beside me and there was Crue, staring up at me. Every time I sniffled, he would look up from the toy he had. I finally said out loud, “Well buddy, this sucks.” He smiled at me with this huge grin and reached out for me to pick him up. As I scooped him up, he giggled and I smiled through my tears.

These moments happen often. It’s strange to expierence such contrasting emotions within minutes of each other. Before Crue, these moments changed my whole day. They would send me into a tailspin of depression and tears, and the rest of my day was spent in bed. Now I go from looking at autopsy reports to smiling at my beautiful baby boy. Every horrific memory or sad moment I have is immediately followed by baby kisses and hugs and an adoring look from Crue. Its a special bond that only we share. He sees me at my weakest but is too young to see anything other than his mommy who he loves. Too young to see just how broken I am. Too young to know I’m hurting. He just sees me.

No one looks at me that way anymore except Crue. He is the closest thing to healing I have experienced, and I find myself intensely protective of him. He has become the center of my universe; that someone I cannot live without. He is the first to know only the broken me and love me still. He makes my heart feel full and ache less. The pit in my stomach is more tolerable. Most importantly, he gives me hope. Hope that the gray world I now live in will one day know color again. Each day he seems to paint a new shade of light in my dark world. A rainbow? A rainbow he most definitely is. If I follow him, I know he will lead me to that pot of gold.

   

  

  

  

  

  

Extensions of love and grief…

In my opinion, there is nothing worse than losing a child, and I think most people would agree with me. I do, however, feel that there is something to be said for losing a grandchild, niece or nephew. The main reason being that they are the only people who come close to understanding the love you have for your child. Another reason being that it’s not the correct order of things for them, either. I have had people write me that read my blog, grandparents especially, asking me how our parents are doing, and I realize that they need the support as much as we do, and the understanding of others that this a huge loss for them too.

When I previously wrote about Nash’s great grandpa, papa Elmer, I had explained him as a man who had lost that twinkle in his eye after Nash passed. That can be said of everyone in our immediate families. Outsiders may not see it. We all are amazing fakers. We have mastered the art of fake smiles and casual conversations about the unimportant things in life. We can’t, however, fake these things to each other. There is not one of us that can’t see and relate to the grief of the other. There is a phrase in our family now that we call, “Having a bad Nash day”. When we feel like we have been hit by the semi truck of grief, that’s all we need to say to each other.

My father in law is the easiest to read. The reason being that he usually texts me early in the morning to ask how I’m doing. I know this really means, “I’m having a bad day, couldn’t sleep, up all night reliving the past, missing Nash so bad it hurts and I just want to know I’m not alone.” Instead, though, he sums it up to, “I’m having a bad Nash day.” My sister-in-laws, Becca, Caroline, and Tricia just come right out and say, “Today sucks.” Usually through tears. Soon after Nash died, Tricia said something to me I will never forget. She said, “I talk to Nash in my car, that’s where I feel him the most. I smiled and probably looked unmoved by the statement, but as soon as I got to my car I cried. Not the kind of crying you would think though, they were happy tears.

I imagine it’s how she feels when I’m proud of her children. How nice it is to have someone love your children that much. That’s how I felt. I felt a weight off my shoulders, knowing that when I’m not talking to him, someone else is. Someone is always loving and thinking of him. Becca has a Nash bear and I have seen him over at my in-laws’ house before. Becca told me that she talked to her dad on the phone and realized he needed him. Greg told me that for months after Nash died, he had a morning routine of getting up before Peggy and looking at all of Nash pictures and videos. He does this before Peggy gets up because it would make Peggy too sad.

Peggy and Greg love all their grandchildren equally. Nash had  a special spot in their hearts; I think being the only boy. My mother-in-law had me promise when I was pregnant to keep having kids until I had a boy. She said, “I love my girls and they love me, but they have a special bond with their dad; he can do no wrong in their eyes and vice versa.” She said she always felt that connection with Todd. That moms and their boys have that same special bond. When I saw her play with Nash, I saw that same bond with them. My family lives a couple hours away from us and they loved Nash just as much but didn’t see him as often. I’m that way with their kids. I’m always going to catch their next game or see them next time I’m up. They thought they had more time with Nash and I think they wrestle with a lot of guilt for not seeing him more. How were they to know their time would run out so quickly?

In one way, I think our families have it worse than us…I know what you’re thinking, not possible. The reason I say this is because they are dealing with a double loss. The loss of their grandchild and nephew…but also, the loss of the people Todd and I once were. They have all said this to me on many occasions. My mother-in-law said, “I miss Nash so much, and then I see you and Todd so broken and my heart hurts. I try to put myself in their position…thinking of Crue’s future children and how much I know I will love them, and imagining that ever happening to him. Yes, I would miss my grandchild and I would be heartbroken from that loss, but seeing Crue so heartbroken may even be worse.

I think they deal with anger even more than Todd and I. To be blunt, they are pissed off that this happened not only to their grandchild, but also to their child…hell, the whole family for that matter. This has changed the whole dynamic of our family. In some ways, positively; we don’t take anything for granted and appreciate what we have even more….and of course negatively; Todd and I are sad and removed. Every holiday, get together, birthday party, there is a person missing. He will always be included and I’m thankful for that, but he will always be a conversation, a memory, a picture. Not a little boy running around making a mess and telling us all he loves us. I will never hear his Aunt Becca shout  at him while laughing as she chases him to wash his dirty face. I will never see a picture of him and his grandpa and the first deer he gets when hunting. I will never see him playing with his cousins. His Aunt Caroline will never take him out on her boat. His Uncle Michael will never get the chance to have the bond with him that I do with his boys.

Sometimes I think about our future, and how it would be different if Nash was here. I know it changes everything, but I will never know how much. I know the kind of families Todd and I have, and I can imagine the life he had ahead of him. Not only does he not get that, but also we don’t get that. His parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles…we all lost that day. The extensions of love and grief run deep. It’s a domino effect that touches everything and everyone close to us. I heard a quote once that hit me like a ton of bricks. In just a few small words, it describes exactly what I’m trying to convey here………….”There is one thing that changed when you left, everything.” 

    
    
    
    
 

161

For some reason, and I’m not sure why, the majority of my memories of Nash are his final month. They are the most vivid in my mind. Not until Crue was born did I remember things from the earlier months, mostly because he would do something  similar to Nash and it would spark a memory. As Crue approaches the age Nash was when he died, my anxiety grows to levels that make it nearly impossible for me to function. One by one, I have brought the toys Nash was loving at this age downstairs for Crue to use – Nash’s car and his saucer. To see him in these things and hearing those familiar tunes they play, is a feeling I can’t explain. On one hand, it’s nice to see him looking so much like his brother, playing with the toys he loved, and on the other hand, it brings back the painful memories of coming home to these empty toys after Nash died. I had locked them away in his nursery, unable to look at them everyday without crying. Now here I am again, bringing them downstairs and seeing Crue smiling and playing in them. We even took Nash’s car to the funeral home, and now it’s back in my kitchen with Crue smiling and driving around. It’s both a good and bad feeling.   I spend every waking second torn between feelings of doom, imagining Crue is going to die and the need to be with him every second for the few days I have left with him and feeling like I need to watch him constantly to try and prevent his death. I look at him sleeping and cry,feeling so overwhelmed at the thought of losing him- like some fictional monster is going to snatch his life from him while he is peacefully sleeping and I need to be awake to protect him. He sleeps through the night now, and I find myself having panick attacks when I wake up and reach for him.  He loves to have the fan on him at night and wear only a diaper to bed, which makes his skin cold to touch and for the few seconds it takes him to breathe I’m reliving a nightmare. I try and give him belly time so he is strong, but can’t stand seeing his face down and watching him squirm as be tries to figure it out. I catch Todd staring at him and I know he is as nervous as me. When we all go to bed, Todd and I usually watch him without talking for ten minutes before we try and fall asleep, and in those ten minutes of silence,  we have never said so much to each other. When Nash was this age, we were at the peak of happiness. He just started really being fun, laughing, and smiling a lot, sleeping through the night. Now that Crue is doing all these things we find ourselves excited again, but fear instantly follows and you can see it on our faces. At least I see it on Todd’s. One day I remember him saying how much fun Crue is and how hard it is to go to work and leave him, then I saw his smile quickly go serious, as he silently stared at Crue and I recognize that look from my own thoughts and feelings. Work is especially tough. I find myself getting there at the last minute possible and running out as early as I can. I can’t concentrate or communicate for that matter. My mind is consumed with Crue, and I find myself angry I have to be away from him for a minute. Everyone tells me how happy I’ll be once he is six months old. In a way I agree, but I know I won’t truly get over this fear until he is one. His first birthday will be more of a celebration for Todd and I than it is for Crue. I also feel a sadness I can’t explain, knowing that Crue will have officially passed his brother in age. No more hand me downs from his big brother. No more of Nash’s things to share. We will be like first time parents again. Everything will be a new experience. Don’t get me wrong, I want him to grow older but it’s very bittersweet. Everything here on out,  every accomplishment is something his brother never got the chance to do and that breaks my heart in ways it has never been broken before. Nash lived 161 days before he left this world for heaven on June 19th. Crue will be 161 days old September 19th. There is an irony in this date, I know. I find myself scared to death. The fear of losing him is something I will deal will all my life, but on that day, it will be at an all time high, and I pray that we get through it with as little fear, anxiety, and tears as possible. Most importantly, I hope we make it out of this month with Crue in our arms and not in a casket.