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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.”
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.
I had the typical mommy blues after Nash was born. A couple of weeks of crying for no reason, feeling down, but nothing like I had after Crue was born. When I found out I was pregnant with Crue, most of my family was prepared, or at least anticipating that I would have some sort of depression after birth. Although I felt disconnected to Crue, the real blues didn’t set in until he was about two months old. I didn’t recognize it as post-partum. I felt no different than I had been feeling the past year. The first thing that alarmed me was how irritable I was. I had a total and complete lack of patience with everyone and everything. If Crue would cry, instead of trying to figure out what was wrong, I felt the need to set him down and go in another room and just breathe. I would say that I tried for about a minute to figure him out, and if I couldn’t, this ball of frustration would accumulate in my gut and I felt like I was going to explode. With Nash, I was more patient. I wanted to figure him out. His cries broke me and pulled at my heart strings. Even if I was frustrated, I tried hard not to show it and always kept a soft voice. With Crue, I wanted to scream at him and shut the door to the room he was in to drown out his cries. I didn’t do that, but boy did I want to. Then I would feel guilty for feeling that way. I could look at him cry and feel nothing. This depressed me to no end. Why was I being like this? He is perfect, what do I have to be sad for?
I would be angry with Todd for not having psychic abilities. If I was was holding Crue and wanted a drink of water, for some reason I couldn’t put two words together to ask for what I wanted. All the words came out like a jumbled mess. Todd would ask me what I said and I would just scream, “Never mind, I’ll get it myself. To which he would give me an annoyed look and say something sarcastic, which would make me so angry I would proceed to tell him everything he did that day that upset me until I was hiccup crying and saying I wanted a divorce. I didn’t really want one, I said it more for shock value, which I have never been accustomed to doing. I’ve always prided myself on never saying those words unless I meant them, and now here I was saying it every other day just so he knew how truly pissed I was. Sometimes I did think about divorce…one reason being that I hated everyone, including him, and the second reason being because I felt so guilty for the way I was acting. I didn’t feel the need to have a spectator to my everyday meltdowns and manic behavior…seriously, when I am being irrational I know it, but once I’ve committed to it, I’m loyal.
I would cry about everything. God forbid I couldn’t wrap a spaghetti noodle around my fork. That shit would put me in a total meltdown. All I wanted to do was sleep, but I was so panicked about sleeping when Crue did that I had insomnia. I didn’t want to go anywhere. Todd would tell me that it may feel good to get out, and just the thought of showering exhausted me so much I would need a nap. I was angry that I couldn’t just dwell on everything sucky. I couldn’t grieve at the level I wanted, because now I had a baby to take care of. Crue was crushing my dreams of becoming an alcoholic hermit that stayed at home all day watching TV and eating until I had to be removed by one of those cranes because I could no longer carry my own weight to get out of my house. Damn him for making me take care of myself and damn Todd for……EVERYTHING!!
When I had my first OB appointment, Todd told me to mention it to the doctor. I’m like, “Mention what?” He said, “The possibility of medication for your depression.” Another comment I wanted to kill him for, but at this point he had nothing to lose. I was mad at him for everything. As I sat in the room waiting for the doctor to see me, I thought to myself that it may be a good idea to mention it. As soon as she walked in, she asked how I was doing. As I started to speak, I began crying uncontrollably and barely putting words together in any order that would make sense. Once I had gotten it all out, I stopped abruptly, looked up at her in total embarrassment and smiled. She smiled back. She listed the symptoms of postpartum depression and asked if I had any of them. Irritability, disconnected to baby, overly tired, insomnia, unable to speak clearly, crying for no reason, lack of interest in eating, overeating. I felt like she just described my personality to a T. Seriously, if I was on match.com and had to describe myself, I would list all of those things and maybe add lovable just to round it all out with a good trait to sell myself. I told her I felt this way, but it truly was no different then the depression I was feeling before Crue was born. I didn’t want to rely on medication to get me through it. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t even take Tylenol unless I’m dying. So the thought of taking a medication that I would have to eventually ween off of did not interest me. Plus, it was June. Everything felt worse this month. My doctor smiled and said, “Shelly you have a good head on your shoulders and a good support system. You will know when you need something and I will be here if and when you are ready.”
To this day, I haven’t taken anything. I have improved, for the most part, but am still unsocial and want to be alone most of the time. I’m still very easily frustrated and irritable. I only blame Todd for 50% of my problems instead of 99%. The best thing that has changed is my connection to Crue. He is my everything and I adore him. He truly makes me feel more like the old me than anything else. I catch myself laughing and smiling with him, and kissing him nonstop. Sometimes I’m so happy I feel like me again. Even if it’s only for a couple minutes, it gives me hope. Hope that these aches and pains are just growing pains, and that as Crue grows, so will my heart. That hole will always be there, but he fills every part of it that’s left, and in some moments makes it grow even bigger. My rainbow baby, he has saved my life in so many ways. Who needs medicine when you have 18 pounds of pure, innocent, giggly, sweet and slobbery love at your disposal at all times?
Just typing that title sends chills down my spine. This day last year, Nash died; this day my life was forever changed. This day a part of Todd and I died as well. Thinking back to Nash’s life makes me happy and sad. I was such a different person then. I was never happier. I cannot express that enough. It’s not a dramatization or feeling I think of now when I look back. It was 100% the happiest time in my life. I would tell Todd on a nightly basis how perfect our life was, how good we had it, how lucky we were. I wasn’t one of those people who realized what they had once it was gone. NO! I absolutely knew! I spent every damn day smiling, daydreaming, thanking God…this is not an exaggeration! To be at the peak of happiness and receive a call that someone is doing CPR on your everything, followed by the longest drive to a hospital…only to see my lifeless baby on a gurney…felt like being slammed into concrete from 1000 stories high. I dreaded this day more than any day.
Todd and I had planned a party for close friends and family. We knew we would do this months ago. We couldn’t let the day pass without acknowledging it. Family and friends have helped us through so much, why not lean on them again? However, once the day got closer…I canceled the party. I may have wanted friends and family before on tough days, but so far in June, sad to say, they had felt like a burden, people I had to fake smiles around or explain things to. I didn’t want my friends and family around staring at me…I felt like I had been faking it for a full year, and I just couldn’t do it anymore. This day was all mine to wallow in and wallow was what I planned on doing. Once I canceled, Todd seemed down. I asked him if he was upset and he said he wasn’t, that he understood, but at the same time he felt family would help him, distract him. Over the next couple of days, I thought hard about it. I have been a ridiculous person to be married to this month, hell, this year. I’m moody, agitated, sad, careless…if Todd needed the party, who was I to deny him that after all he had been doing for me? I told Todd that when the day comes, if I want to be alone, I’m locking myself in our room and gave him strict instructions to not let anyone come up to talk to me.
In the beginning of the day, Todd seemed to be right. We were so busy picking up stuff for the party and cleaning the house that I barely had time to think about it. Then we went to the grocery store, and that’s where I fell apart. The weather was almost identical to the weather this day a year ago, blue skies, warm. As we shopped, I looked at all the people picking up groceries and smiling. Walking down the aisles like it’s just your average day. When we left the house for the store, I looked at the time and it was the same time the sitter said she had laid Nash down for his nap. When we were checking out at the grocery store, I looked again…only an hour into the almost three hour nap she claimed he had. I started to cry. I felt frantic. As I looked at all the smiling people, I thought to myself that this is how it probably was the day he died. People smiling, shopping even…I wanted to yell at them all that my baby is dying in a house by himself minutes away and you are shopping instead of helping him!! Another hour went by and we were at home. As I watched the time, it killed me to see just how long he was left. It really sank in.
I watched a show once where a person had been killed in eight minutes and the defense attorney said that it was a very short time to suffer. The opposing lawyer, in her closing arguments, made everyone stay silent as she ran a stop watch for eight minutes. It seemed like an eternity! When she was done, she looked at the jury and said, “Do you still think that eight minutes is a short amount of time to suffer?” That is exactly what the day felt like to me, except instead of eight minutes it was hours. What makes it even harder is knowing how many people love Nash now that didn’t even know him until he passed…hundreds, thousands. Many within a ten minute drive from the sitter. Knowing that if any of them knew now what I didn’t then, the sitter would have had thousands of people in her driveway to get him; hell, he wouldn’t have even been there for that matter.
As people started showing up to the party, it did act as a distraction. A fake smile at first, and before long an unforced one. I still found moments to hide and cry and talk to Nash, but for the most part I socialized. Seeing the fifty or so people at our home, close friends and family, made me thankful to have them, blessed even. Once it was dark enough, everyone started handing out lanterns. It was kind of chaotic as people tried to light them and send them off. I had no planned words to say, but I felt the need to say something. Even though I knew everyone there loved Nash, I didn’t want in all the chaos, for people to forget what we were lighting them for. I wanted to say something but felt like I was choking back tears. I had to though. I yelled, “Make sure when you release the lanterns…” I paused to think of what I wanted to say. I wanted to say, remember these are for Nash and the day my baby became an angel. Or, make sure you think of Nash as you release them. All I could choke out was, “Make sure when you release the lanterns…you tell Nash you…love him.” One by one in our front yard on one of the most beautiful nights I’ve seen, my family released their lanterns and I would hear, “We love you Nash” with every release. I held Crue in my arms. I can’t explain how beautiful it was.
Todd always says when he is in our yard that it has a plantation kind of feel to it. An older looking house on almost three acres with fields and trees all around. I feel peaceful out there always. This time though, we stood in the front yard of Nash’s home releasing lanterns, saying, “I love you Nash,” and watching them float to the sky. I held Crue in the middle of the crowd. He had been sleeping and I was thankful for that so I could take in the moment without worrying that he would cry. I looked down at him and was surprised to see his eyes were open as he watched the lanterns float to the sky. The glow covered his face..he watched and watched as they drifted further out. He watched until I could barely even see them, and then he drifted back to sleep. That moment meant so much to me. Looking at Crue and thinking of Nash. I treasure making memories with Crue and this was my favorite so far. Earlier that morning I had written Nash a letter…
June 19th, 2015, marks one year since your passing. So many are worried about your dad and I on this day. To me what hurts the most about June 19th isn’t surprisingly the fact that that is the day you left us. Yes, that hurts more than I can put into words, but what June 19th means to me is that it’s been one year since I’ve held you. One year since I’ve seen that smile. One year since I’ve met your gaze. One year since I last snuggled your warm little body to mine. One year since I’ve heard that adorable laugh. One year down and many more torturous ones ahead. You were my world then and you continue to be my world now. I never in a million years dreamed I would lose one of my children one day. Had I know what this day would be, if I would have had a warning…I would have never left you there baby. It shatters my heart to think of you alone, going through something everyone fears, dying, and knowing you did it alone, without your mommy and daddy. Without anyone. Oh Nash, I wish this would have never happened. I don’t want to be this mother, I don’t want you to be that baby. I want to go back to the time when life was perfect and amazing and you were a part of it. I want you to know that even a year later, I think of you every second. Even though your brother is here, it does not take my thoughts away from you. He has helped me and your daddy in more ways then I can ever explain, and there are moments I look at him and know you sent him to us. A lot of people, myself included, think there are many similarities between the two of you looks wise. What gets me the most though, is that I feel a connection between the two of you. There are times when Crue has these wise beyond his years eyes. When I’m crying, he looks at me in a way I can’t explain, almost like he gets it. He is a part of me, of your daddy, and of you. Even though you are not here physically, you are still very much a member of our family. Not many can say they have two boys, one here and one in heaven watching over all of us. I try each day to look at it as a blessing. It’s hard baby, hard to be here with out you. Hard to keep living in a world that has lost it’s magic. Crue has brought a little of that magic back each day and I feel the need to thank you for that. June 19th……..the end to such a magical life, and the beginning of something magical in its own right. Love you Nash, I’m still here baby, missing you.