Tag Archives: child loss

9/11/2021 ~ Today my grief is compounded

Will I ever feel any different on this somber and devastating anniversary?

20 Years ago we lived in Maryland. September 11 started off, as any other day did, with us waking up around 6 AM and getting the day going with our regular routines. Andrew was 5 and Alec 3. At this age running around, laughing and playing outside were their favorite “routines”. Andrew was in PM Kindergarten so that meant we had all morning to play around then get some lunch before heading up to school. Everything was normal. At around 8 AM we took our dog, Cooper, for a walk around the neighborhood and the only thing I actually remember from that walk is that the sky was the most perfect blue and there was not a single cloud to be seen as far as the eye could see. It truly was a stunning September morning.

Back inside, I had the today show on. Matt and Katie were on and I don’t even remember what they were talking about until I heard them say that one of the twin towers had some type of explosion and possibly an airplane accidentally flew into it. I came over to watch and I remember thinking “is this really happening or is this a clip from an upcoming movie?” It was not making any sense that a plane would accidentally fly into a gigantic building when suddenly the second plane hit. I immediately called my dad and told him to bring my grandmother over and that they should plan to stay here for a while if not overnight. I immediately felt that if this was possibly the beginning of a war in the US and I was not going to be separated from the people I love most. I started calling my friends to check in on everyone and our phone was ringing off the hook as well. I instantly decided that Andrew was not going to school today. Luckily, they called and school had been cancelled and kids were going home early. The world changed forever that day. 

Here is the beauty of having young kids around during a tragedy: They don’t give you much time to wallow in fear, sadness, uncertainty etc… Kids need to keep going. Their innocence protects them and the need for the basics doesn’t stop because there is an emergency. Don’t get me wrong, they knew something was wrong. Andrew asked a lot of questions and the answers were not easy to find. What do you say? What don’t you say? The meandering is tricky. You know they need some level of understanding because they sense that things are off and lying doesn’t do anyone any good.

We spent that day huddled up at home playing with Cooper out on the deck, playing indoors, making meals and talking. We were together. 

We were together.

(Update. As I wrote this yesterday I had to stop. My grief was overwhelming and I couldn’t write or do much of anything else.) I took my paddleboard and paddled out to Sarasota Bay and watched. I watched birds eating, fish eating, people going out on their boats, some were fishing other people paddleboarding or kayaking. There weren’t a lot of people out and about. There were no “party” boats. It was overcast and quiet. I came home and don’t remember much of the rest of the day. I didn’t watch the news or look on social media. Everything is different now. People I used to be close with I no longer speak to and some I didn’t feel close to for a long time I’m close with again. Tragedies change people. After 9/11 the world changed. I still believe that the tragedy of 9/11 has been used to change the hearts of many Americans. The angry and fearful people, the insecure people, the ignorant people and others have been used by those who stand to make a lot of money by creating conflict. Too many people have been misinformed and manipulated to “choose one side” and not to deviate from that side no matter what. Twenty years later we seem to be more divided than ever and all I can do is pay attention to my community and try to do a little bit of good every day and help where I can because I believe that it’s a lot of the little things we do that add up to gigantic things that make real and lasting impacts but that’s a story for another day.

9/11 is a National Day of Reflection (IMO). It is a somber day and I spend it quietly now. Remembering when “we were together”. I miss my innocence. On 9/11 it’s compounded. Grief never goes away. Whenever anyone says to you to “get over it” with regards to grieving just ask them if they will ever forget 9/11. Who has “gotten over” that day?

I miss you, Andrew. We were together. not just on 9/11. Always. I thought of what you and Alec would have done if the three of us were together and I din’t have to think long to know. So I went out and did what we would have done if we were all together: I picked up a bunch of trash from the Bay and Rick tried to help a bird out of a jam. He almost got close enough to grab him. He had a fishing hook stuck on the back of his head but it wasn’t in deep and didn’t impede his ability to fly or eat so when he flew away we didn’t worry too much. We just know that it should be removed but trying to catch a wild bird is not easy. When they fly off you just have to let them go and accept that you can’t fix everything. Try anyway. 

I remember you and how you cared so much about people, animals and our earth and you felt bad about mistreating things so even though you weren’t perfect you tried to make things better and you weren’t always succesful but you wouldn’t give up. Ever. You were EXTRA and knowing you could fail, you tried anyway. We all should. 

You were about 12 in my dream the other night

I think it’s because I was watching this movie called “Endings, Beginnings” and although I didn’t watch the whole thing because I don’t even know why exactly but it freaked me out a little bit emotionally I guess. I saw myself in the main character at times when I was that age and something about her physically reminded me of your Katie and although the story line really had nothing in common with anything we went through as a family I just felt like this movie kept talking to me and it was talking to me about you. I don’t know. I’m crazy. I know all of this sounds crazy but what exactly isn’t crazy? I would like someone to prove that to me and don’t say “Math” because math is crazy.

Anyhow, I fell asleep wondering, yet again, would you have turned the corner if you had lived just one or two more years? Would you have. Because when I was 22 I was not ready to turn the corner and I did plenty of ridiculous and thoughtless things and I, too, was a ‘shoot from the hip’ kind of person and maybe you got that from me. I don’t know but i wonder. Would you have turned the corner and not done stupid shit when you started to “have fun” with friends? I ask but honestly It doesn’t matter. Nothing really matters anymore. Just keep a little soul ’cause nothing really matters anymore. Honey, keep a little soul…it doesn’t matter. Does it.

I fell asleep reminding myself that you are here. You are in the spaces in between what I can see and I talk to you all the time and when I’m awake talking to you I can imagine what you would respond but when you visit me in my dreams things are different. Is it me imagining what you would say or is it you? Or is it both at the same time because are we ever really separated. Me, you, Alec. Are we? I don’t think so but I’m crazy so there’s that.

You were about 12 in my dream. You were running around outside. Maybe you were about 10. You were really happy with your hair long and moppy the way you had it in middle school. You were sweaty when you came inside and we were talking but I don’t remember what we were talking about. I remember your smiling face and I could smell you and feel that dampness of sweat on your face. At some point you got serious and I saw that look in your eye where the gentleness of your smile ran away. You were serious. And then it’s over. My eyes are open. Like a pan across the face.

I wake up in tears every time you visit in my dreams because I can smell you were there and I miss that. What I wouldn’t give. NO. What an amazing gift I was given. I got to watch you grow. You loved so intensely. You still do. I saw you so clearly in my dream and I could hear your voice saying “Mom” again and I could smell your sweaty skin and you were there with me. In the spaces in between the things I can see. And I could feel you right there. With me.

You are my first baby. My Andrew-baby.
*You’re my second Mama. My Mama*

I remember Cinnabons and I remember love

“When all is said and done I’d never count the cost. It’s worth all that’s lost. Just to see you smile”

Just to See You Smile performed by Tim McGraw

Every time I hear that song I cry. Not because of what he’s actually singing about but because of how this simple line in the song reminds me of you and Alec and a few of the simple things that brought you both such joy and how I would give anything just to see you smile like that again.

I can’t find a picture of us ever eating a cinnabon but I know we did. Hundreds of times. They sold them at the mall. The one in Gaithersburg. Lakeforest Mall which no longer exists. Funny how things change so much that you cry because it’s really not funny at all. The Cinnabon was downstairs near Sears or JC Penney. That part I can’t remember exactly but I remember the times we had there. Neither one of you would ever have known this because I would never have told you but we really couldn’t afford those Cinnabons yet your delight eating them was so simple and genuine that if it meant that I had to work an extra hour a day just to see you smile from eating a Cinnabon I would have worked as long as it took to earn that extra money for those Cinnabons on the regular. Just to see those beautiful smiles.

When you were little you’d both just ask for them not thinking one little bit about it and I would get us 3. One for each of us and we’d sit and eat right there at the mall. You and Alec would have just been done running around that play area in the center of the mall. You’d be almost sweaty. Grinning and ready to go on to the next adventure. But first: Cinnabon. But you, Andrew, loved them more than either Alec or me and as a teenager you understood that it wasn’t that easy to just “get something” and your eyes would always wander towards any place that sold Cinnabons. At the airport on our travels, sometimes gas stations as we drove down 95 to Florida, random places we’d find ourselves in or if we ever went to a mall anywhere you’d see them and you’d be shy about it but I knew. I’d get you your Cinnabon and you’d smile that smile and say “Oh mama. You’re the mama” and you’d pat my head the way you always did. I just wish that I could stay there in those times. Forever. Just to see you smile.

Your little 5 year old smile, Andrew. I can’t believe how clearly I can see your 5 year old face. Your hair was soft and wavy. Your little teeth were perfect and your smile was like a flash of beautiful little white miniature chiclets. Your big brown eyes full of sparkle, spirit, mischievous adventure, a little sadness and a lot of kindness. Those eyes never changed. I can see you clear as if you were right here with me this very second. Fork in hand eating that Cinnabon. Smiling and smelling of that sweet Cinnamon and frosting mixed in with that dewey boy sweat. Delighted with the world.

Maybe I always knew this was a fleeting moment and I’m glad I “wasted” all that money on those Cinnabons. Best money I ever spent. I’d do it all over again. Just to see you smile.

“I can’t forget the way you looked at me. Just to see you smile. I’d do anything…”

….Just to see you smile

You can prepare for all catastrophes except the one where your child dies.

“The Fort” in Maryland

You were ready for Covid-19, Andrew. Of course you were. I know it. Alec knows it. Everybody who knew you knows it. Hardest thing during this pandemic is the fact that you’re not here to make sure we are all going to be ok. So strange. To want you here for a pandemic that nobody wants to have around. It’s just no fun without you. Even being worried is no fun without you. So crazy to think that I miss you during such a crisis that I wouldn’t want you to go through! It is insanity that I feel this way and I know it but no one is sane right now anyhow so what now. What the actual fuck now.

Katie texted and said she went into the attic at the condo to look for a table or something and saw some heavy duty plastic containers up there so she looked inside. She said there was food, water, some pills in packets the blankets and other stuff. She said she knew right away they were yours. Your family survival kits. Each person had enough for weeks of survival. I forgot to look in the attic before we left the condo. I honestly thought the boxes were still in Maryland but then I kept thinking that you had them for the hurricane down here in ’17 and I’m all mixed up.

I have no joy right now. Of course I don’t. Duh. I can’t paint my rocks these days. I can’t write these days. I can’t sleep these days. I can’t move these days. I’m exhausted. I can’t sleep and I am not awake. Alec misses you and it’s coming out as anger and rejection. He rejects everything and I don’t know if it will get better. I have no clue about anything right now and I am pretty sure I never did and I don’t believe I ever will. Whatever.

You can prepare for a catastrophic event. You can never prepare for the death of your child. I can’t sleep anymore. I see you everywhere, Andrew. I just miss you and your sense of wonder. Your laugh. Your “mom. YOLO”. I can’t sleep anymore. I’m not YOLOing right now. At all.

I don’t know for sure but I think I’m supposed to go pick up your boxes. Maybe there’s something there we need. Maybe there will be a reason to smile in there. Maybe there will be a good ole Andrew prank in there. There may be a little YOLOing in there that I need to see. Maybe.

It’s just one of those weeks I guess. I got nothing but grief right now.

On our trip to Colombia. You were in your ultimate YOLO so be prepared mode during that trip.

Souvenirs in the time of Covid-19

“All the snow has turned into water
Christmas days have come and gone
Broken toys and faded colors
Are all that’s left to linger on
I hate graveyards and old pawn shops
For they always bring me tears
I can’t forgive the way they rob me
Of my childhood souvenirs” ~ John Prine ‘Souvenirs’

Andrew and Alec with their cousins Gabriela and Anastasia. Best souvenirs

Last night I heard the news of John Prine being hospitalized with this hideous virus and I have to admit that at first I almost felt nothing. Numb. After the death of my beautiful Andrew I’ve felt constant pain and sorrow and it seems as though I now have a delayed reaction to tragedy. I realize John has a chance at recovery and I pray to the universe for a balance to his health but the news of his hospitalization awoke in me another flood of emotions which started as numbness but then took over me like a tsunami and there I was. Sitting in a pool of tears. Spitting nails at life again knowing that this is just the way this cookie crumbles and it will continue to crumble and crumble. I’m not made for this world. I feel too much. No one should feel all of this.

I am sick of the suffering. I am sick of the sadness. I am tired. I am sick and tired of being sick and tired. But of all the things I am so sick of, John Prine had the gift of being able to put my feelings into words and music and he did it long before I knew I was going to feel this way. I’m sick of having my childhood souvenirs being robbed. I want them back.

I want to watch my sons run into the house smelling of sweet summer sweat. I want to see Andrew throw his gear down and talk a mile a minute while Alec pushes him and tries to get a word in edgewise. I want to see them running down the street like bolts of lightning. I want to be there again. Oblivious, frustrated and happy. I want to be getting popsicles for the gang in the heat of the sun. I want to hear the yells and the thunder of their feet upstairs while I make pancakes. I want my souvenirs back. I want to hear the radio playing all my favorite songs as I sit there and dream of the days to come with all the innocence and hope I once had.

Just make me an angel who flies from this old heart ’cause to believe in this livin’ is just a hard way to go.

May the universe shine it’s magnificent light over us during this pandemic. May it shows us compassion and understanding. May it bring out the best in all of us, lead some to put pen to paper and blend the words with beautiful music and may that magic help us heal our broken hearts.

“Memories they can’t be boughten…they can’t be won at carnivals for free”

Be Prepared

Word Dump Part 2,356,875

This entry may not make sense to anyone. It’s OK. This is what I’ve been rummaging through in my brain recently.

I still walk around thinking you’ll just walk in and slam the door like you used to. I wait for it. It won’t happen. I know. I still wait for it. I keep wanting to talk to you about the pandemic. I know you’d be in a frenzy over preparing and being careful about everything. You’d probably throw a few conspiracy theories that “could be” behind it. There would be the endless jokes about it as well and I miss that so much. I seriously cannot believe your beautiful soul is not in your body any more. I know you’re here because I hear you. As I type this I know it was you making that sliding glass door creak. I feel you right here so I know it’s you.

Remember that time you bought the MREs and we had to keep them in the basement in that big container because “you never know, mom. We need to be prepared”.

Be Prepared
“Be Prepared”

I’m not prepared. I never was. I wonder what kind of “MRE’s” one could make for a mom who never wants to eat. I literally live off some vegetables and seafood, corn chips and cheese. Vodka. I hate love that shit. No more though. It’s a liar. By the way, I’m never going to The Olive Garden again. Ever. I don’t even think your grandfather realizes that the last birthday meal you two shared together was at your all time favorite birthday place and I miss you. I want to see you eat 4 bowls of that salad and go through your meal in 30 seconds. How many years did we do Olive Garden birthday salad. 10? 15? Probably 15. Had to be because we used to go there with your great-grandmother and she left in ’07.

18 minus 7. 11 years. You followed her 11 years later. How can that be. You really never had a clue as to how much she loved you. You must know now. We found about 25 chargers in your car when Alec and I cleaned it out to sell it. There they were. All those times you “cleaned” your car out. What was going through your mind?

Anyhow, I found the courage to look at our last messages on FB the other day. I miss you. I will make sure the cats have a way out in case of fire. You are still a good helper. You always will be. I miss you slamming the doors and then saying “Sorry, mom”. I hear you loud and clear. I always did.

The last message you sent me on FB messenger. I miss you.

You’re my first baby
(and you’re my second mama)

Be Prepared

The Visit by Wileyna

We lived on Alderleaf Dr in a little neighborhood that was magical.

There weren’t that many families there with kids when we first moved in around 1994 but neighborhoods turn over and by the time both my boys were born we started to see that other families were also having kids. Needless to say, by the time Andrew and Alec were 5 and 3 they had a seemingly endless stream of built in playmates for their daily adventures. Our neighbors across the street, Steve and Nancy who became dear friends, ended up having 3 kids who added so much laughter and screaming to our little magical neighborhood. Their oldest son, John, was Andrew’s best friend and partner in Neighborhood Defense. They were a riot. Protectors and destroyers simultaneously. My fondest memories come from those days when John, Alec and Andrew would dress up in their “war gear” and save the world as they destroyed our yards. Best days ever.

John and Andrew Cub Scout Days.

Time kept moving in our little magical neighborhood and, of course, things changed. Good friends moved away, kids grew up and our little dream world of magical days became a most wonderful memory. A memory, to me, that keeps me alive and brings bittersweet joy to my heart.

My dear friend, Nancy, who was witness and participant in our magical neighborhood wrote this the other day. She had a dream and in it Andrew came to visit. Warms my heart. Heals me. Please take a minute to read: https://nancywileywriter.com/2020/03/13/the-visit/

I have a Facebook page called “The Little Gigantic Things”. Nancy’s visit from Andrew is exactly that: a little gigantic thing. It’s these little gigantic things that touch us to our core. They are the little things that become the fabric of your being and these are the things that heal you.

Dreams are awesome. Also: they suck

“Like a heartbeat…Drives you mad.
In the stillness of remembering what you had.
And what you lost.
And what you had.
And what you lost…”

~ Dreams by Stevie Nicks

Andrew was with me all night long in my dreams. I can’t remember specifics but I’m all confused again this morning. Woke up scared with the same knot in my throat and tears ready to roll. Why did you have to go? I just can’t understand it and I know I never will. How can there be a “God who loves you so much” yet takes not only your mother when you are 3 and you grow up scared and grieving but then later after you have learned to live with that grief and let your guard down a little bit and love again…and I mean actually love again…this “loving God” takes away your first born child too? I’m 52 years old. I do not believe in a “God who loves you so much…”

Here’s the kicker for me. “Oh you’ll get to see your baby in dreams. But you won’t be able to remember them. You’ll just feel like they were with you all night and there are snippets of the dream you’ll remember but you will just wake up and realize that he’s gone. It was just a dream and you can’t even remember the details”. That’s how much God loves you. No. That makes no sense. I want him back and I don’t want it to be in a dream that I can’t remember.

But that’s never going to happen so I take my dream, my memories and my shattered heart and I carry that life with me here on this floating rock in the middle (or end or beginning) of the universe and I smile through my tears after the screaming stops. I smile because for 22 years he was with me. I carried him. I nursed him. I read to him. We sang together. We talked. We held hands. We hugged. We cried. We learned. We welcomed his brother together. We fought. We disappointed each other. We forgave. We loved. We love. We will always have that because we lived. And all of that, plus so much more, is real.

Andrew came to visit me in my dreams last night and I can’t remember what happened but I don’t need to remember the dream to know that I love that kid and his presence in my life for 22 years is a gift beyond price. I thank the Universe for letting me be a part of that magnificent soul’s life here on earth.

What a happy day.

Oh, Andrew. You’re my first baby. (Oh mama. You’re my second mama) He really did say that every time. I wonder.