Sunday, July 29, 2012

humor isn't always funny

There is a company that creates tongue and cheek e-cards; many people post them on Facebook.  I will admit, some of them are downright hilarious to me.  Sometimes, even days, weeks or months later,  I laugh at the thought of them. 

Overall, the writers seem to be very clever folks.

While humor is definitely based on opinion, there was one e-card that I saw on Facebook within the last few months that I found quite bothersome, and not at all funny.  I could see where the thought process was trying to go, but I couldn't get past the ignorance of it, and was honestly hurt by it. 

So hurt, in fact, that I almost posted it on my own Facebook wall just to lash out and make everyone feel bad who had posted it.  After a little thought, I decided it was in poor taste to post it in retaliation.  Who am I to make others feel horrible for having a sense of humor on a subject that is sensitive to me.

Instead, I have decided to write out my feelings, so that others will understand my point of view - whether it is the same, different, or otherwise as their own.

Here is the e-card:


It doesn't really get more painful than that for a bereaved parent.  I'm sure that this was just meant to be a joke, but this picture cuts so deep that I still haven't laughed at it......not even once.

I don't blame my friends for finding the humor in this.  In another time and place, I might've found humor in this picture, too.  Clearly we all have our moments in parenthood where we don't meet up to our expectations of ourselves - things rarely ever go as planned.  Frustration happens, anger happens, tantrums happen (hopefully by the children more often than the parents).

I get that parenting is hard.  I know we are all just doing the best that we can, and I am certain that sometimes it must feel like an accomplishment just to be able to say our kids survived our mistakes.


For those who have experienced the death of a child, this is "e-card" is downright cruel.  It has cut me in a way I didn't even imagine to be possible.

I feel the need to defend the reality on this...

The survival of a child does not indicate that parenting was ever good.  There are so many good parents who have lost children, and so many unfit parents who have not.

None of us is better than any other.  We are all doing the best that we can in life.  However, I feel the need to bring this up, especially as a person who jokes around a lot. 

Jokes aren't always funny; without meaning to be, some jokes can be cruel and painful. 

Perhaps this posting can serve as a reminder.  For me, the reminder is not to make so many jokes, for others, it might be the same. 

The bottom line is:  one person's funny, just might be another person's pain. 

So, if you are the jokey type (like me), then please especially try to think about your 'audience' before you deliver a punchline.

Friday, July 27, 2012

9 years and 1 angel

When I started my new job, a couple of months ago, I made sure to tell my immediate co-workers about Catelyn's death.  I wanted to be able to bring it up first, so that I could feel more comfortable and not dread each moment, worrying about when the question would come up, or how to answer.

I do have Catelyn's picture on my desk, because it's wonderful to see her, but I didn't want to spur a lot of conversation about 'how old is she?  is she your only child?' etc...

A couple of weeks ago, one of my co-workers was talking with me, and asked how long I've been married.  I replied, 'As of next month, it will be 9 years!', and then I thought, 'Wow, can that be possible?'  (side note: while I understand that, at 32 years of age, I am old enough to be married 9 years, part of me feels like I'm not old enough to be married that long, because 32 is, in fact, young!)

The response was, 'wow, you waited a long time to have kids'.


Now, I am the kind of person who tries VERY hard not to pry into the lives of others, especially when it comes to children.  I don't know anyone else's circumstances, unless they volunteer it, and I refuse to ask because I realize that a lot of things factor in:  health, fertility, choice, etc...  Perhaps I am oversensitive to the thoughts and feelings of other people (okay, let's face it, this is true), but I don't feel it's my place to ask.  The ability and desire to have children can be a very a sensitive subject, and I just don't want to dredge up a lot of unwanted feelings for other people.

So, I replied, "Well, it wasn't by choice.  If I would've had it my way, I would've been pregnant within the first year of my marriage."  We, then, had a discussion about how it took her a couple of years to get pregnant with her first child and then it was smooth sailing after that.

I didn't go into it, and I'm not really sure why I'm talking about it publicly, but my husband and I went through a couple of years with no luck, and because I had some health related concerns, we then started undergoing testing.  Even with the testing, nothing was ever fully confirmed, but to be honest, we were beginning to think we'd never be able to have children.  So to this day, we don't know why it took so long, but what I can tell you is:  I was ~ 4 months pregnant at my 6 year anniversary, had a 7 month old by my 7th anniversary, had a 19 month old by my 8th anniversary, and for my 9th anniversary, I will have an angel.

A lot can change in 3 years.

Thankfully, I wasn't asked if we are planning to have more children, because I might've kicked her for prying....or more likely, become tearful and had to have walked away. 

For the record....a decision has been made, but I am not publicizing it at this time - and please don't ask, because it IS personal.

Monday, July 23, 2012

reality bites....

Last night I was reading Donna's Cancer Story on a blog called Mary Tyler Mom (MTM).  Donna was an amazing little girl, taken too soon by cancer.

Donna fought her cancer for 31 months, and last year her mom wrote a post a day for 31 days - each post covered approximately one month of Donna's fight.  I read the first 8 of 31 posts about Donna's fight, and when I realized that it was well past my bedtime, I closed down the blog. 

Within the last entry that I had read, though, MTM said that she found herself looking at her baby, who was the sickest in the room full of patients, and being jealous of the other cancer kids who weren't as sick.  She commented that you know how sick your own child is when you are jealous of other cancer patients.

As I read those words, part of me could relate, and I guess that transferred into my dreams, because I dreamt that Catelyn was still alive, but that instead of our true reality -  a few days in the hospital, where we expected she would be well again soon enough - we were told that Catelyn was facing a terminal illness, and that we would make the best of each day as they were given to us. In my dream, my whole outlook was changed.  We weren't just cuddling up on the couch or in the recliner with Catelyn talking about when we'd get back to our regular life, we were making the most of each and every second.

This may seem like torture, but I assure you, it was not.  My dream, was amazing.  We were back at the Children's Hospital with Catelyn - she wasn't dead, she was just sick.  While you could tell she wasn't herself, she still had a bit of Catelyn pep - some people, including me, would even call it sassiness.  But it was enjoyable, no matter how you phrase it.

We were regularly visiting the hospital to do treatments to help her live longer.  Though her timeline was unknown, I didn't even care.  I was holding my baby again.  She wanted to snuggle with her dad and I (just as she did in reality), and she was a busy bee - playing with games, reading books, eating and drinking (unlike her actual stay).

It was odd, even though I was dreaming, I somehow knew that her previous reality had been altered, and I was so grateful for the second chance.

The problem was that this dream seemed so real.  Too real

The kind of real that makes you look for your child when you wake up.  The kind of real that brings your life to an alarming halt.

I haven't had one of these dreams in months...probably not since about a month after Catelyn's death. 

My reality was that I woke up and expected Catelyn to be there...but she wasn't. 

What a crushing blow landed by reality.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

found pennies

Perhaps you're familiar with the phrase, "find a penny, pick  it up, all day long you'll have good luck'.  Here is a 'new' twist on that phrase.

My parents came out for a visit at Easter, and my mom brought a stack of shiny pennies with her....20 to be exact.  She explained, after she placed them, that she brought one penny for each month of Catelyn's life, and she pushed them into the ground at Catelyn's cemetery plot so that Catelyn wouldn't have to look for pennies.  I didn't fully understand, but she went on to explain that  she had always heard that 'found pennies' are the angels' way of telling us they are thinking of us.

About a month ago, my husband and I were working on a project in the house, and we had walked over the same spot time and again.  At one point, he looked down and saw a shiny copper penny laying next to our cat.  He asked where it came from, but I was on the phone at that moment.  As soon as the call ended, I reminded him of my mom's words.  He commented that he felt it explained why the cat was lying next to the penny, as he loved Catelyn too. 

Secretly, I was devastated to not to have found the penny.

Each day, at my job, I collect the change from the sales the day before.  The other day, as I counted the collection, I noticed that there were 4 pennies.  I had never seen such polished pennies. 

This may be a stretch of the imagination to some, as I hadn't technically 'found' them, but as I gazed at their sparkle, I truly felt that they must be a quick hello from Catelyn.

So, be on the lookout for found pennies, and be sure to pick them up.  Someone is trying to tell you hello.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Tough days happen....

I purposefully requested yesterday off from work. 

My husband and I are sponsoring a blood drive, next month, in the community we live in, and yesterday was the meeting where we gathered with area coordinators to discuss details of the event.  As some might imagine, this meeting stirred up a lot of emotions for me. 

While we didn't talk a lot about Catelyn's story, it was there with me.  In my heart, in my mind, in my gut, lurking behind my eyes, and welled up like a giant knot in my throat.

I think about Catelyn every day. 

Every.   Day.

But, I try not to focus on her death too much.  Instead, I try to think about the life that she lived.  I refuse to forget her, so I choose to remember her.

Because she is with me all of the time, however, I think that sometimes I forget that she is gone and isn't coming back.

So yesterday, talking about the blood drive, and realizing what was lost as friends (new and old) gushed over my sweet girl was extremely hard.

Emotions were dredged up from places I didn't even realize existed. 

It hurt.

The day of the blood drive is going to be very hard for me. 

As I sat with the coordinators yesterday, I mentioned that in December I could hardly stay in the waiting area with my husband as he prepared to give blood.  As a matter of fact, I sat in our car and cried on the phone to my dad for most of the time (a good 20 minutes for sure).  I will cry a lot on the day of the blood drive.  Some people will understand, some won't.  Some will cry with me, some won't. 

My husband and I are grateful for the opportunity to sponsor such a meaningful event.  No matter where you live, we hope that anyone, who is able, will give in some way to the Red Cross.

The Red Cross is actually experiencing a blood donation shortage right now, and needs to continue to build a supply.  If you are able to give, perhaps you will consider sending a message to this blog.  We can count blood given at external sites/drives too.

Please remember, blood donated to others provides memories to families that would not be available otherwise.

Friday, July 13, 2012

a recent email to a friend

This morning I was writing to a friend, who inquired about my day on the 11th (as Catelyn passed away on September 11th, and 10 months have now passed).  As I wrote my message, I really felt like part of it was share-worthy on my blog, so here goes:
For about the first six months after Catelyn died, the shock was so severe that I felt like it was important to recognize each month publicly.  It felt like if I didn't, that it would be like she never existed.  Fortunately, by about the 7th month, healing finally began to ensue, slowly, and the 11th of each month stopped being so horrifying.  I was finally able to start finding a little peace, and actually make it through that day without even thinking about the significance. 

I finally began to realize that Catelyn is a part of me every day, and that, while her death is still horrible, that isn't the part of her that I wish to focus on.  I want to preserve the better times and memories of her life.  The 11th is actually no longer a day of focus for me, although September 11th will be a different story, I'm sure.

So, with that said, the 11th was actually a good day.  My huband and I enjoyed several conversations about Catelyn, but not, at least for me, based on the date of the month....simply out of the joy of thinking of Catelyn.

Some days are so very hard, and the realities of her death still creep up on me, for sure, but, remembering Catelyn's life brings such joy, that it's hard not to make that the focus.  Even though the memories are usually followed with the pain that she isn't here to create more, the joy is still worth it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A memory

My husband informed me that he made an appointment for our cat to visit the vet this week for his annual check up.  As we were talking about the appointment, we were reminded of a fun story.

At last year's check up for the cat, Catelyn came with me to the veterinarian.  At the appointment, I was trying to remember the assistant's name, and could not.  As the vet came in, the assistant left the room momentarily.  As she returned, Catelyn said "Hi Sara", and then it hit me, the assistant's name was Sara! 

Everyone was so impressed, especially because she could say Sara as clear as day.  The comment was even made that the assistant spent a lot of years being called 'wa' in her household because none of her siblings or cousins could say Sara when they were little.

I then explained that Catelyn's daycare mom was also named Sara, so Catelyn learned that name early.  It was a pretty fun experience.  As my husband said, Catelyn pretty much made the day of any person named Sara, as she exclaimed "Hi Sara" in her chipper little voice.

Even when she would get confused and called me Sara, it was still sweet.  She was such an awesome kiddo.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

counting down

Something has been on my mind for about a week now.  I've started to become aware of the fact that I'm on a sort of 'countdown'.  It seems that the closer I get to the one year anniversary of Catelyn's death, the more I'm counting down. 

What is it that I'm counting down?  Is it the number of days until the 1 year mark?  Is it the number of seconds, minutes, hours, days, or weeks I can go without thinking of Catelyn? 

The answer to the previous questions is no.  First, I don't like thinking about the # of days that it's been without Catelyn, and second, I always think about Catelyn....always.

The inadvertent countdown that I've found myself a part of, is thinking about the current date, and trying to come up with something I might've done with Catelyn at this same time last year. 

Please understand that I'm not purposefully trying to do this countdown.  I think it might stem from a deep part of me that needs to remember her, and remember that she lived.

Actually, it's a crushing countdown that I find myself a part of. 

Every day I watch Catelyn's playmates growing bigger and stronger and smarter.  I find myself looking at children her approximate age, and comparing them to what I think she'd be.  I remember many of the moments that my husband and I shared with Catelyn, and how amazing she was.  It's hard not to wonder what she might be like now, but I can only look at who she was. 

Fifty-percent of me would like to bring this horrifying whirlwind to a stop, but the other half of me hopes it never ends, for fear that if the countdown ends, so will my memories. 

Instead of hating the countdown, I think I have to learn to love it...embrace it....let it be a part of me, but not control me.  I have to let myself be at peace with reality, as best as I can.

What is my reality? 

My child is dead.  She's not coming back, ever.  I don't get to hold her, touch her, smell her, kiss her, read to her (directly) or sing to her (directly).  It's quite possibly THE hardest thing I'll ever have to go through in my life.

Do I get bitter?  Yes. 

Do I get frustrated?  Yes.

Do I get mad....sometimes, but overall, I try not to.  Why not?  Because there is no point. 

Anger will not bring Catelyn back, and it doesn't help the situation, at all, to get toxic emotions involved.  Plus, at the end of every day, I still believe that the doctors and nurses, and everyone else involved, did everything within their power to save her life.

Do I get sad?  Heck yes!  It's nearly always the small things - saying 'whee' when I hit a bump too hard backing out of our driveway, opening a container of yogurt, hearing someone yell 'no no', saying 'hi baby', watching wheel of fortune, seeing toddlers content to wear sunhats, petting the cat, going to any pool, etc.
How do I get through it? 


Basically, I try not to look too far ahead.  I try to take each moment as it comes, and I try to take each day one at a time.  When none of that works, I try to remember to breathe.

So, when I realized that I'm being haunted by this countdown, at first, it made me feel extremely anxious.  Especially about what will happen when I reach the weekend of Labor Day.  Then, it made me sad....mostly because I can see life is going on without Catelyn.  And now, I realize that all I can do is breathe through it....let each moment and memory surface, and then see how it goes from there. 

Sometimes the hardest part is not really being able to do anything.  Again, nothing I can ever do will change the outcome of that dreadful day.  However, as long as I keep going forward....keep hoping...keep loving...keep remembering...keep dreaming...keep talking about Catelyn, then she lives on.

This countdown sucks, but I guess it's a good reminder that I can use the memories that are being dredged up to help Catelyn's memory live on.

Sunday, July 1, 2012


Oftentimes, those who are grieving, will comment that it's the things that are least expected that will catch you off guard.  Basically, there is no way to be prepared for the things we don't expect, and that can be very hard.

I had an unexpected reaction to an unexpected moment the other day, and I happened to be at work when it hit.  Meals are provided at my job, and the office staff gets to choose whether to eat from the dining room kitchen or from the snack bar at the pool.  I, personally, don't mind either the dining room kitchen, I usually order a cold-cut sandwich, and at the snack bar, I usually order a grilled chicken sandwich.  Both are tasty, and the decision is usually based on what time of day it is, more than what I'm in the mood for.

The other day, I decided on the grilled chicken sandwich, which meant trekking down to the pool to pick it up.  I walked out the front door of the clubhouse (yes, I am lucky enough to work for a country club), and I headed down towards the pool.  As I walked along the path to the pool, I noticed several men taking their last shots at the 18th hole, and quipping about their ability to finish well.  One man in particular was upset about not birdie-ing twice in a row.  It made me chuckle.  As I looked ahead, I noticed two women with their little ones in the baby pool.  I kept walking, but couldn't look away as I noticed that both 'babies' were wearing sun hats, and had sweet little chubby legs and bellies that reminded me so much of Catelyn.

I think I actually felt a piece of my heart shatter.  I tried to shake it off, and went to grab my sandwich and head back to my desk.  As I walked past the women and children in the baby pool, I made certain not to look back over.  I searched for the golfers, but couldn't find them, so I focused on the parking lot I was heading towards.  I told myself that it was completely okay to feel sad, but that this really wasn't a good time, so I needed to keep my chin up and let it pass, and all would be well.  I got back to my desk, and I tried not to focus on missing Catelyn, and answered the phone as it began to ring.  I noticed the lump in my throat and tried to stifle my sadness and sound cheerful as I responded to the call.  As I hung up, I noticed the warm river streaming down my cheek, and reached up for a tissue just in time to be spotted by a co-worker who said, "are you crying?"  I replied, "I'm trying not to".  He asked "was it something I did?", and I said "no, it's personal, but I'll be okay".  After that, I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.  I thought it was good, but I was wrong.   As another co-worker approached, I stood up with tears in my eyes and said "I have to walk away for a moment" and rushed to the bathroom.

The nice thing about working for a country club is that they have actual fingertip towels in the bathroom, so I grabbed one, buried my face in it, locked myself in a stall, and proceeded to cry in a semi-muffled fashion.

I told Catelyn that I love her and miss her terribly, and that I'm glad that those babies reminded me so much of her, but that it really wasn't a good time for breaking down, and that I would be done for the day soon, and promised I would readdress my feelings as soon as I could.

With that, I wet my face with water from the sink, patted it dry (though rubbing at it couldn't have made it look any worse), and went back to work.

It's always those unexpected things that catch you off guard when you're grieving.  But, in it's own way, for me, the unexpected events and reactions are good.  They serve as a reminder that Catelyn mattered more than anyone - even I - will ever know.  Honestly, I don't want to be able to guess what is in store for me.  The moments that catch me off guard are more real and true than any moment that I try to prepare for, and there is something to be said for that, too.

father's day

It's hard to feel 'happy' after your child dies, but it's even harder to enjoy the days that are meant for 'celebrating'......birthdays, holidays, mother's day, father's day.....

On father's day this year, I woke up a little later than usual, and couldn't bring myself to want to get out of bed.  When I did get up, I pretty much went straight into Catelyn's room.  Her room used to be pretty simplistic....a crib, a full bed, a dresser/changing table, a rocking chair and a bookshelf.  Now it holds all of that, plus a lot of boxes.....boxes filled with clothes, books, toys, towels, etc.  Things that I couldn't figure out where to store, so I figured that while her room isn't occupied physically, there is room in it to store the 'stuff'.

So, I went in.  I felt the need to try to organize, and while I cleared off the bed from the clutter that it held, and found more bins to organize the things that were out in the open, I still couldn't seem to do the organizing that I was longing to do.  I actually found myself thinking 'I wish I would've taken care of this while I was still in shock and it didn't hurt so much'.  What a bizarre wish, but it's true.  It was easier to do some things when I didn't feel.  It's probably true for everyone.  Don't get me wrong, I'm actually glad I didn't do it then, because I probably would've gotten rid of a ton of things I didn't want to.  I might've taken her crib down entirely, and boxed up the whole room and moved everything somewhere else, like the basement.

Honestly, I'll take the pain of sorting any day, as long as it means I get to remember Catelyn.  Ulitmately, the stuff is just stuff, but the memories that the things offer are the real treasure. 

...Perhaps one of these days I'll begin to blog more of my memories, and not just how I'm getting through.