Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Dear Sister

Tonight, not more than five minutes after I tucked Roslyn into bed, she came back downstairs in tears, arms outstretched for me. I thought she had hurt herself, but when she was finally able to tell me what was wrong, she just said, "I miss her..." I instantly knew she was talking about Natalie. I hugged her tight and we went back to bed and she proceeded to cry and cry as long as she needed. I just held her close and did my best to comfort her. After awhile, I asked her if she could think of any happy memories of Natalie and she said she was too young to remember (she had just turned 4). And I realized that as she continues to grow up, Roslyn continues to lose Natalie. Just as we all miss having her with us as a vibrant member of our family, Roslyn continues to miss having her sister, who would now be in second grade, ready to turn 8 this July, a constant companion, a best friend.

I am so sorry, dear Roslyn, that you must endure the pain of losing your precious little sister.
I am so sorry, dear Natalie, that you didn't get to grow up and continue living your beautiful life.
I am so sorry, dear Gabriel, that you will only know about Natalie through pictures and stories, but I know you love her, too.
I love you all soooooo much!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Why We Don't Celebrate St. Patrick's Day

Despite having some Irish blood in me, I haven't ever really embraced St. Patrick's Day. It's not like I didn't like it, we just never really celebrated it. When I was a kid I would dress in green and maybe do some green crafts. As an adult, I never went out for green beer, never really took part in any of the festivities, drunken or otherwise. I would usually try to wear something green, but that's about the extent of my "celebration" of this holiday.

Six years ago today, I spent the my last day with Natalie. I didn't know it was our last day together - and I distinctly remember that the fact that it was St. Patrick's Day wasn't even on my radar. I was too busy dealing with two active girls on a cold, rainy, slushy day in March. Natalie and I had both come down with colds over the night and neither of us felt that great. But somehow she managed to have way more energy than I did. We got through our day and we had spinach pie for dinner (having a green food was a total coincidence).

The next day, I found her lifeless body. She was gone and our whole world fell to pieces. We called 911 and it took what I thought was a long time for them to get to our house - maybe it was five minutes. When she had her febrile seizure six weeks before, they were here in about two minutes. I remember noticing the difference in response time. I thought it had to do with the fact that I had told the 911 operator that she was dead.

When they arrived at our house, they took one look at Natalie and just shook their heads. There was no frantic attempt to do CPR or help her in any way. She was gone and beyond anyone's help. They stood there waiting for the police to come. After some time passed, the two EMTs started chatting with each other about their St. Patrick's Day fun the night before. One of them commented that he wasn't supposed to be "on", but someone else had called in sick. He joked about how hungover he was. This was the conversation that took place in my living room, in my presence as I sat cradling my daughter's dead body. These people didn't even have the decency to keep quiet out of respect for our sorrow and our baby girl.

When the detective came and I asked about why it took so long for them to get here, he said they were short staffed due to so many people taking the day off after St. Patrick's Day. That upset me, too.

Call me what you will, but this is why I hate St. Patrick's Day. I know that if it had been any other day, it probably wouldn't have changed the outcome. Natalie was still gone. There was nothing they could have done. But this "holiday" is forever associated with her passing and so will forever not be celebrated in our house.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Coming of Spring

After a very snowy winter here in Rhode Island, we are more than ready for spring to come. Just a few days ago I noticed the first crocuses peeking their hopeful heads out of the dead leaves. I was so excited, I said to Gabriel, "Let's go outside and look at the flowers!" We went out and he enjoyed seeing something new on the ground. I had to caution him not to step where other bulbs might still be trying to come up and he carefully stepped out of the garden. Today is colder, like winter just won't let go. But I am still hopeful that spring is coming - and soon.

My feeling of hope and optimism about the coming of spring is so different from how I felt six years ago. In 2007, after Natalie died, I just wanted the world to stop. I actually expected everything to stop. It was unfathomable that people were going about their everyday lives when my world had come to a tragic, crashing halt. I wasn't mad at anyone in particular, but in the collective universe that didn't stop. In my grief-stricken insanity, I was even mad at the weather. Spring represented the promise of new life, hope, and joy. Things that were robbed from me when Natalie died. How dare it come?!

It didn't take long before I realized that being mad at Mother Nature was pretty silly. Just as you can't stop time from moving forward, you can't stop the natural cycle of the universe. By the time summer rolled around that year, I had embraced nature and gardening in particular as I set about creating Natalie's Garden, a special place in our yard that is dedicated to our beautiful girl. Creating the garden became the best form of therapy for me that first year. I lovingly planted the various flowers, plants, and small trees that I carefully purchased or were donated by friends and family. There are special heart-shaped rocks, sculptures, and our Mother's Day stepping stones, a tradition we have continued over the years since. In 2009, I expanded Natalie's garden and I am looking forward to completing that side of the yard this year when we add a fig tree and another sitting spot.

Today is March 15th and we'll be going to the Cold Stone Creamery tonight to honor sweet Natalie. I'm doing my best to get through this difficult day, and the promise of spring and the sweet memories of my angel-girl are enough for now.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Waking Up

Since Gabriel was born and especially since he started sleeping alone in his crib (11 months), I have kept him very closely monitored. We have an AngelCare movement and sound monitor under the mattress, which detects every breath he takes. If it doesn't, it will sound the alarm. A few times, it has gone off, causing me to rush into his room to check on him. Usually he has just managed to squeeze himself into a corner that is difficult for the monitor to pick up the movement. I also have a video monitor so I can see what he's doing. A few times when the AngelCare has gone off, I've been able to see him moving in the video monitor, so I know he's OK. I keep both monitors on all night, every night. We travel with them, too. It gives me enormous peace of mind, which affords me a better night's sleep.

Despite the monitoring, it rarely fails to cross my mind each morning when I hear Gabriel start to stir that he has woken up. I am hyper conscious of the fact that we all continue to wake up. Why is this? Why is it that Natalie didn't? It seems like such a simple thing, to wake up. To keep breathing, to stay alive. Yet she didn't and we will never know why.

This is a difficult time of year. March 18th is coming fast. I get more anxious, breathe shorter breaths, and have a deeper-than-usual feeling of sorrow. The gloom of March has descended. I know we'll get through it and it's not out of strength, it's out of having no other choice. The 6th anniversary of our little girl's tragic passing is almost here. It doesn't seem to be getting any easier year after year. It just is. It is just part of our DNA now. And we all do our best to be a little bit kinder to each other, a little bit more forgiving, because we know the worst time of year is here. As we muddle through this difficult time, I continue to take comfort that we all continue to wake up and marvel at the simultaneous simplicity and complexity of that reality.