Friday, February 26, 2010

The anniversary

As I've heard from other people, the anniversary wasn't as bad as the days leading up to it. In fact the day before was so much worse. Perhaps next year I'll take the day before off work along with the day of the anniversary.

We had a pretty quiet day. My husband and I took Meg to preschool as usual, figuring that she needed the routine. Then we went to the cemetery. We made it to Drew's grave despite the several inches of ice covered snow covering the path. After spending awhile there, we went back to the car and drove around the cemetery looking at gravestones. The funeral home recommended we do that before we pick out a gravestone, to see what we "like", I don't feel like I could ever like having to pick out a gravestone.

The rest of the time until preschool pickup at 3 was spent doing little. We watched videos and looked at pictures of Drew We puttered around the house. We played with the computer and played silly video games. It felt odd to not be doing anything particularly profound on such an important day, but we were not up for profound.

Our favorite video of Drew has him standing on a chair and roaring with a dinosaur shaped chicken nugget. He growls "Roar!" and gestures the nugget threateningly and the other kids who were around run through the room going "Ahhh!" and running away. This repeats a few times. After crying watching the video the first time, we were able to watch it with amusement. My husband and I went "Roar!" ourselves a few times as well.

After picking up Meg from preschool, we drove to a nearby town to go to the mall and to dinner. Going to the mall was mostly to entertain Meg before dinner, since the mall has an inside playground. For dinner we went to the Mexican restaurant across the street.

When the twins were in the finger food stage, we could guarantee a pleasant meal out by going to any restaurant that served avocados. They loved them, especially Drew. One time when they were around 1 and half, we went to the Mexican place and asked for an avocado for the kids. They brought guacamole. We then explained that no we just wanted plain avocado. They brought out one, the kids sitting in the booster seats devoured it. They brought out another one, that one disappeared too. When we went to leave the waiter brought us a brown paper bag with a few avocados in it from him for us to take home.

That's why we went for Mexican food yesterday. When we went to check out, the owner commented that Meg was getting big and asked if she was in school yet. My heart caught in my throat and I told him no she had another year of preschool. I waited to see if he remembered Drew. He didn't mention him, but I wondered. We've only been there twice since Drew died, but we went there a lot before that.

And so a year has passed, it feels like an eternity and no time at all. Hopefully as time goes on we'll be able to use the anniversary to remember Drew with fondness rather than sadness.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Love is all I have for you

Remembering Drew today. He was born on the day after Christmas in 2005 and died on Ash Wednesday is 2009. One year ago today.

I have no words of use yet today, so here is a song that is speaking to me right now and some pictures.

Love I have for you
By Brad Yoder
love is all I have for you,
it will have to do, if you were looking for a miracle,
the fact that we’re still here, well that’s miraculous as anything
that I have seen magicians pull,
but I forgot the tricks I knew,
love is all I have for you..
love is all I have for you,

love is all that’s left after the wind has blown the chaff away,
I laugh at what I tried to save,
and disappointment’s just a lens to magnify what might have been,
but none of that was ever true,
love is all I have for you,
I close my eyes, I’m a child by the water,
casting stones so circles spread,
then blink twice, we are old on a park bench,
watching birds eat scattered bread,
in between we lost track of time,
but she is kind enough to remind us..

the little space between goodbyes is really only pocket-sized,
I carry you around with me in case I need some sympathy,
this fear that we’re not good enough will disappear when morning comes,
‘cause none of that was ever true,
love is all I have for you,
miraculous as anything that I have seen magicians do,
but I forgot the tricks I knew,
love is all I have for you…

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Push on till the day

Here we are. The week of the anniversary of Drew's death. Right now I'm doing surprisingly okay, but it is like the calm before the storm.

The plan as it stands is for my husband and I to work as normal for the beginning of the week. We are both taking off Thursday, which is the actual anniversary, and Friday. On Saturday we are having a short service at the grave followed by dinner and writing/telling of Drew stories at the church. We are hoping to collect all the stories in a book for Meg, so she can remember her brother. Of course since they are twins, Drew stories frequently include Meg as well, so the stories will also be about her.

The service on Saturday is partly for us and Meg, so that we can remember Drew with a supportive community. It is also for a few people who couldn't make it to the funeral, notably my sister-in-law and my maid-of honor. They were both on bedrest at the time. My maid-of-honor with partial placenta previa. My sister-in-law for pre-term labor, which started the night Drew died, before anyone knew he was dead. Both babies arrived at term and are doing well, although my nephew has had some surgeries post birth.

We had hoped to place the gravestone this week as well. We dragged our feet and haven't ordered one yet. Also we discovered they don't like to place them until the ground thaws. So it will be just the temporary marker, the birch tree, and some flowers marking his grave. We are hoping the cemetery and grave are accessible, since the snow here is still about a foot deep despite warmer weather.

We have bought convenience foods for cooking this week. I am desperately trying to make it through my grading, which I should be working on right now, but can't. I have two classes worth of exams, a pile of papers, and the usual daily homework left. If it doesn't get done, it doesn't get done, but it would be nice to not have to come back to it after this week is over. My husband and I are both hoping that work is a helpful distraction rather than a burden this week. While we have plenty of support for food and childcare if needed, we don't really have any backup plans if we need to miss work earlier in the week.

We have no idea what we will do on Thursday, the anniversary. We figure we will send Meg to preschool as normal. We'll probably go to the cemetery. No other plans. We waver between making lots of plans to distract ourselves and not planning anything so we don't feel even worse when we aren't up for them.

Friday we have even fewer plans, other than sending Meg to preschool. We are hoping once the anniversary passes on Thursday that we might be able to relax some and do some stuff around the house on Friday.

I know some of you have walked this lonely grief road I walk. What did you do?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Yarn and Therapy and Yarn Therapy

On every other Thursday I cut out early from work to do three things in this order.

1) Go to personal grief counseling
2) Go to the local yarn store
3) Go to the family grief support group with my husband and Meg

It is a very grief heavy afternoon and evening. It helps me keep functioning through the time in between. In some ways the second stop on my Thursday trip might not sound like part of the grief work. A trip to the yarn store is a bit of a pleasure trip, but knitting is a serious part of my grief coping mechanism.

I first learned to knit in second grade. My gram cast on for me and taught me how to knit. She was unsuccessful at teaching me how to purl. I made part of a scarf that we ended up turning into a hat that I gave my second grade teacher for Christmas. I remember being proud of it when my teacher put it on after opening the gift. It was such a silly looking hat though, I have to wonder now as an adult if she had to laugh about it later.

I didn't knit again until last March.

About a week after Drew had died, I was still not back to work. We had done quite a number of household projects for distraction and went on a shopping run with my in-laws to get more stuff to do more household projects. My mother-in-law wanted to stop at Michaels to get some yarn. I was suffering from the usual cognitive dissonance that happens when doing ordinary things right after life changing events. The yarn looked pretty and a I remembered how long it had taken me to knit that small hat when I was in second grade. So my mother-in-law helped me pick out some pink and green bamboo blend yarn, appropriate needles, and bought me a copy of Stitch 'n Bitch.

The next few days I attempted the long tail cast on several times. Finally getting it mostly correct around the fifth time. Then I knit Meg a garter stitch scarf. It was the first time I could sit for awhile and get my thoughts to slow down some. I dropped stitches, learned to pick them up again, and had to unravel some parts of the scarf to fix more major errors. Meg loved the scarf. I was hooked. A college friend clued me into ravelry and I found patterns galore to contemplate.

Knitting works for me to help tame the grief. I know I'm not alone in this. There is even a book called Knitting Circle by Ann Hood who lost her five year old daughter suddenly and took up knitting as part of her grief work as well. I haven't read it all the way through it yet, but the library has it and one day I'll have the mental energy to check it out and read it completely.

So today in preparation for the first anniversary of Drew's death next week,I bought yarn for various thank you hats and Meg picked out yarn for a Child Surprise Jacket cardigan. It is more yarn than I could possibly knit in a week. I am prepared. At least I am prepared for knitting. I will never be prepared for the time when I can no longer say at this time last year, Drew was alive.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday

Drew passed away a year ago on Ash Wednesday. That is not today this year of course, we have a week and a day until then.
Ash Wednesday is a time of preparing for and thinking of death. The liturgical color is purple, which was Drew's favorite color and that was part of what I remember from the message at his funeral.

Last year I was planning on giving up soda, my caffeine of choice, for Lent. However since Drew died on Ash Wednesday, I didn't give up soda. I needed the caffeine to function. I feel the same this year. Perhaps that is not surprise. I do not know if I will ever feel like giving up anything for Lent again. I have given enough up already.

More of a surprise is that we actually considered going to the Ash Wednesday service and then decided we couldn't do it. We go on Sunday usually, but I wasn't sure I could do the whole ashes on the forehead ritual.

So we skipped out and spent the evening having dinner with friends as we do most Wednesdays. Meg really likes having the other children to play with and we like not having to cook the whole meal, just to bring our part. Our friends understand if we want to talk about Drew or seem down. They don't feel the need to attempt to "fix" us or make us happy either which makes it all the more welcome company.

Now as the season of Lent starts, I wonder will Easter feel like resurrection this year? Or will it just be another reminder of loss.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Heartburn and Anger

Heartburn is often my early warning system for myself when it is a hard grief day. Sometimes it even arrives before I'm aware I'm particularly upset. I grieve everyday. Some days the grief is just a fog that covers everything and some days it's a brick wall. On the brick wall days the heartburn is nearly as bad as it was towards the end of pregnancy. Constant and only dulled not fixed by antacids. It is an adding insult to injury event. Grief and its effect on my mood by itself is not enough, my body must remind me that the stress is getting to it as well.

I've had heartburn pretty much continuously since last Wednesday.

It is less than two weeks until the anniversary of Drew's death. My husband and I are taking a couple of days off then and we have something planned at the church for that weekend. Until then though I just need to function. I don't want to function. I want to cancel classes and let the grading grow into tremendously large piles. I have no patience. Lack of patience leads to anger.

Anger is common for small problems and large now. Oddly enough I'm not particularly mad Drew died right now, although I think that may be denial. I'm mad that the rest of the world keeps going on and getting on my nerves. Mundane problems drive me crazy. Why are you making my life more difficult with your small problem when I already have this large one? I have enough on my plate already, thanks.

Of course Meg in all of her four year old splendor both helps and aggravates this problem. She can be wonderful when we are down being silly and giving extra hugs. She can also be contrary and obstinate. When she feels ignored she often acts out. Like drawing on the walls, which she hasn't done in awhile. We think it is just to get some more attention. We of course feel guilty about not giving her the attention she needs. She deserves two functioning parents and a live brother. Instead she has two partially functioning grieving parents and has to learn how to be an only child.

Hopefully in two weeks things will suck less. Right?

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Dar Williams has a song called February which is a breakup song, but as I approach the first anniversary of when Drew died, many of the lines seem apt.

"The nights were long and cold and scary,
Can we live through February? "

The nights are cold and long. I wonder how I will manage to keep on keeping on through to spring. Especially at work where I for the most part pretend to be okay. It is hard to pretend all the time, but the students don't really have a clue and I'm glad they don't. My co-workers know, but don't really understand either. No one does unless they've been through this. I feel truly fake most of the time.

I wish I could take off work, but I would come back more behind. The grading piles up rather quickly and I didn't like doing it even before Drew died.

Sometimes I wish it could be March already. It would be easier to be past the anniversary. I keep thinking about those last things we did in February that we didn't know were last. The superbowl party where Drew played with his friends and sister. The Chinese New Year dinner where Drew and Meg loved the dancing.

On the other hand I am holding these memories close. Last year at this time he was alive and I won't be able to say that for much longer.

"And then the snow came, we were always out shoveling,
And wed drop to sleep exhausted,
Then we'd wake up, and its snowing. "

We live in the area that just got a mammoth snow storm both this weekend and yesterday. School was closed yesterday and today. Digging out took some effort and was mostly my husband's job since I have injured my shoulders.

However I drop to sleep exhausted anyway. Whether that is from taking care of my stir crazy daughter Meg who is being a typical contrary four year old or from the fact that I can't sleep until I'm exhausted anyway. Sleep is an elusive creature for me now. I even have problems motivating myself to go upstairs and start getting ready for bed. I think that relates to my persistent and irrational fear that Meg will stop breathing in her sleep. As long as I am up, I like to think that I would notice if something went wrong.

"And February was so long that it lasted into March
And found us walking a path alone together.
You stopped and pointed and you said, "That's a crocus,"
And I said, "What's a crocus?" and you said, "It's a flower,"
I tried to remember, but I said, "What's a flower?"
You said, "I still love you""

My husband and I always had a joke that only one of us could be crabby at a time. This way the other person could be supportive and remain functional. Grief of course is not like that. We walk in our grief paths alone together. We can support each other, but as one of the books I've read said "It's hard to lean on someone already bent over" We still love each other dearly and I am so glad that our marriage has remained strong through this.

No one should ever have to go through this horrible grief. Children should always outlive their parents.

"I have lost to February."

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

About me

Call me Kairos. When I first read Madeline L'Engle's a Wrinkle in Time series, I loved the idea of Chronos versus. Kairos time. Chronos was the time on your watch and Kairos is something in between moments. This is what grief is, a time where time seems to stand still and yet keep on moving at the same time.

I have two children, twins. One is here on earth my daughter, who I will call Meg here. One is in heaven, my son Drew, who passed away unexpectedly in his sleep at age 3. My husband and I have been married over ten years and are weathering the grief journey together. Meg who is now 4 does not quite understand and her grieving process will be different from an adults in that it will change as she understands what is death.

In my grief I have learned to knit and am likely to talk about that here as well. I also do wheel-thrown pottery when time permits, which is generally the summer since I teach during the school year.

About Drew

Drew is my son. He loved the color purple, dressing up in princess costumes, playing with his twin sister, having books read to him by mommy or daddy, and eating avocados. He had the longest eyelashes and he was quite a charmer. If you called him some silly name like Drewiefantastico, he would respond "I'm just Drewie." If you asked to change his pull-up he would invariably say "Not right now please." He knew most of his upper and lower case letters and enjoyed going to preschool.

He passed away unexpectedly in his sleep in February 2009 on Ash Wednesday. He was three. The cause of his death is still unclear despite the autopsy. We will never know for sure why he stopped breathing.