21

Twenty-one. How did we get here without you, Maggie? You know that feeling after having a baby, when you can’t remember life without them? You suddenly feel like they were always there? I feel like there’s no way she’s been gone for seven years. How can we be looking at 21 without her? She should be planning drinks with her friends. Well, maybe she wouldn’t be, because COVID, but she should at least be able to buy her first legal drink.

March is a month of juxtapositions, caught between winter and spring. The weather has always been a surprise for Maggie’s birthday. We had a big snowstorm the day she was born. Today is going to be about 70°. I remember her second birthday party. She was a little overwhelmed by all of the people, and she would occasionally run to the back room of the house to look out the window and say, “Snowman gone,” lamenting the melting of the snowman she had made with Stefan earlier in the season. It was something that grounded her. Now, we all lament the loss of our Margaret, and I often struggle to find something to ground myself.

On this beautiful day…make someone laugh…dance better than Beyoncé…tell someone about a beautiful girl who should be celebrating adulthood, but was stolen from us too young…share a drink in her memory. Cheers.

Dinner at Margarita’s. We joked that this is what 21 would look like.

Bittersweet Surrender

It’s bittersweet

More sweet than bitter

More bitter than sweet

It’s a bittersweet surrender

–Big Head Todd and the Monsters

2020 has been a year. So much bitter, but some sweet too. Lydon graduated from high school and started college. Of course, these are milestones Maggie did not experience. Molly started senior year, but it certainly has not been normal. I was thankful that she had cheer and band in the fall to add just a pinch of normalcy. Molly’s college acceptance letters have started arriving, and she received the Coaches’ Award for cheer, for which I am over the moon proud of her.

It’s been a year of such tremendous loss. As of today, more than 342,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the United States. Most died without their families at their sides. The pandemic has made mourning more difficult too, no matter the manner of death. I lost a cousin, but couldn’t travel out of state to be there for her mother, sister, and brother. I have friends who lost children this year and friends who lost parents. Standard wakes and funerals are replaced with socially distant walk-throughs and graveside services. It makes it difficult to comfort the bereaved.

Maggie’s 20th birthday was the day COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. Now, her friends have started turning 21, which is crazy!! Who gave them permission to grow up??

As we enter 2021, remember to treat others with kindness and extend grace. Oh, and wear your masks!

Santa’s Village 2007

Kindness & Empathy

These are crazy, tumultuous times.  Pandemic, protests, riots, division.  I keep going back to quotes that we found in Maggie’s wallet.  I often refer to “Stand in Your Light,” but lately the more appropriate is “Never make fun of something a person can’t change about themselves.”  It just seems fitting right now.

Social media has made it so easy to share misinformation.  It also makes it so much easier for people to type things they would never say to someone’s face.  All civility goes out the window under the guise of “honesty” and “just sayin’.”  Links are shared without fact-checking.   Confirmation bias abounds on the interwebs, and it keeps moving us further and further apart. 

We need to have empathy for our fellow humans.  Just because you haven’t experienced something doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.  So many people don’t try to view a situation from another’s perspective.  If we could all do that a little more, maybe we would see more kindness around us.

Maggie was kind. She didn’t like to hear people talking badly about others. She recognized that even if you don’t like someone, there was no reason to be mean. Maybe think before speaking and decide if it should really be said (or typed) out loud. Don’t shame others. Try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Respect differences. Never make fun of something a person can’t change about themselves.

Pandemic Thoughts

How is everyone?  Stir crazy?  Cabin fever?  Happy to stay on the couch?  Binged anything great?  The majority of the country is home, and it can lead to a roller coaster of emotions…fear, anger, sadness, boredom, even happiness.  It’s tough, but for the greater good.

I’ve been a bit all over the place.  I am fortunate to be able to work from home, so for that, I am grateful.  I don’t mind being stuck in the house, honestly.  The kids are not fans.  It’s hard on the kids who are used to going to school and seeing their friends and teachers everyday.  Technology is a savior.  We’re able to stay connected with family and friends all over the world.  One highlight of my day is seeing a cousin in Ireland dance with her husband.  They are on lockdown, so they record themselves for their grandchildren, and they are gracious enough to share for all of us on Facebook.  It is absolutely fabulous!

This is Lydon’s senior year.  At this point, we’re out of school buildings until May, but that will most likely be extended as we get to the end of April.  I would love it if the kids could go back for even a week in June.  It would give them a chance to see faces, gather their things, and say their good-byes, especially the kids ending certain years–fifth grade, eighth grade, and senior year.  We will have a high school graduation ceremony as our district has reserved a backup date in July, so that is a positive.  It’s still hard, though; spring athletes are missing their season, my theater kids are not sure that they will perform their spring musical, we’re missing spring music department concerts.  Yes, in the grand scheme of things, these are not major, but they are still losses.  We truly are glad that we are healthy and safe.  It’s ok to be sad for missing these parts of our life, though.

As a bereaved mom, I’ve had thoughts that others would most definitely think mean I need to be committed.  At times during this pandemic, I’ve been glad that Maggie isn’t here.  Of course, I would give so much for her to be here, but the fear and anxiety that I know I would be dealing with in trying to keep her safe and healthy would be beyond difficult.  Even if she had been cancer free for the last six years, I would be worried about her health in the face of having been through chemo and radiation.  Then, I hear of people with COVID-19 hallucinating, seeing dead family members, and I think maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to get sick if it meant I could see Maggie, even if it was a hallucination.  She doesn’t like to visit me in dreams, though, so I would probably not see her in a fever-induced haze either.  Am I crazy for having these thoughts?  Perhaps, but it is the reality for cancer and bereaved parents.  I see it online, and am thankful to find I am not alone.

Stay well.  Stay safe.  Stay home. 90371106_10222462212409914_4231427390909186048_o(1)

My Compassionate Friends

I spent Saturday afternoon with a group of friends.  Anyone who randomly walked in or saw us through a window would have seen us hugging, joking, and laughing, having a lovely time.  We sang “Happy Birthday” to two of our children, but those children were not with us, because our children have died.  These are friends I know only because Maggie is gone.  These are my Compassionate Friends.

We are so fortunate to have supportive friends who remember Maggie, but those who truly understand our everyday are those who have also lost a child.  None of us ever expected to be in this group, and none of us want to be in this group, but we are all so grateful to have each other.  It’s a special kind of support we receive and give, and it is always comforting to me to be around those who share our loss.

Maggie was one of the kids we sang to on Saturday.  Today is her 20th birthday.  Twenty years ago she made me a Mom, and that has been the best job I’ve ever had.  When she was dying, she asked if she would still be alive for her upcoming 14th birthday.  She wasn’t, and remains 13 forever.  Every month I am glad to get the chance to share her with my Compassionate Friends.

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“Stuck in a Moment”

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Six years.  February 1st will be six years without my baby.  The days line up this year–the first is a Saturday, just as it was six years ago.  All day I’ve been thinking about this weekend, Maggie’s last at home, in 2014.  She was not well, but we didn’t realize what we were facing.

The next two weeks are rough for our hearts.  Keep us in yours.

And if, and if the night runs over
And if the day won’t last
And if your way should falter
Along the stony pass
                                                   It’s just a moment, this time will pass                                                                                                                               –U2

🎵Christmas Time is Here🎵

I don’t know when I thought Christmas was going to be, but here it is, Christmas Eve on December 24th, just like it has been since, well, since ever.  Anyone who has known me for more than five minutes knows that I am a Queen Procrastinator, but I really pushed even my own limits this year.  I was actually out shopping this morning.  I was so behind that I just felt like I had to try to catch up.  I have struggled with Christmas since Maggie died, and it makes shopping difficult.  I am supposed to be getting three Christmas lists, buying for three kids, filling three stockings. 

I’ve been out shopping here and there since Thanksgiving, but I wasn’t really accomplishing much.  I would find myself roaming stores aimlessly.  I was at the mall on Black Friday (I had to bring Molly to work, so I decided to wander), and I was doing ok, until suddenly, I wasn’t.  I was just walking along when seeing Old Navy sent me into a slight panic attack.  My chest felt tight, breathing was hard, and my eyes filled with tears.  The wave of grief crashed over me out of nowhere.

I kicked it into gear last night, shopping for almost five hours.  Mags was with me, though.  She knew I needed her.  During the day, I was searching clip art online, and a random image included the name Maggie.  When I was out, “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” came on in Market Basket, and two cashiers were talking about calling someone Margaret (not her name, just what someone kept calling her) at another store.  Each thing was just enough to keep me going when I needed it.

I still have wrapping to do, but for now, I write and watch “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” with Molly.  I have decided to grant myself some grace, and hopefully, Lydon and Molly will be happy with the gifts they receive.  Be kind to others and yourself.  Hug your kids.  Enjoy your family.  Merry Christmas.

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Christmas 2006

 

 

And So It Goes

I haven’t written in months.  I write less than I used to, because I find that I will be repetitive.  I am sad.  I am angry.  I miss Maggie.  These things never change, but I don’t want people to tire of my words.  Lately, I’ve been having a tough time.  Change of seasons is always hard.  We marked 16 years without my Dad on October 29th.  My Facebook memories are flooded with cheer competition pictures.  Lydon is looking at his future, and trying to decide his direction.  It’s all hard.  Every.single.day.is.hard.

The pain of losing a loved one never goes away.  The pain of losing a child remains unmeasurable for a lifetime.  We are constantly seeing reminders of what our children are not doing.  I am thankful for my supportive family and friends who keep Maggie’s memory alive, but I am always reminded that she is not here.  The world keeps spinning, and life continues, and sometimes I just want to scream, “Don’t you know my child is dead?!?”  I know that life goes on, but there are days I just want it to pause, and I know many other bereaved parents feel the same.

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Maggie as Shufflebot, Halloween 2011

 

Five Years

February 1, 2019 marked five years since Maggie died.  Five years.  In that time her friends have started and finished high school.  They have started college.  They have become adults.  Lydon and Molly have become teenagers.  They have started high school.  Lydon has earned his driver’s license and joined the world of part-time employment.  They have learned how to navigate the world without their sister.

Five years.  Stefan and I are not who we were before.  I never will be again.  My baby is dead.  My first born will never have a first born.  I look at pictures and think about the fact that there will be no more pictures of her.  It’s still hard.  It’s a little less hard than it was at first, but it will always be hard, because she will always be gone.  I am still sad all the time.  That’s not to say that there is no happiness.  I am happy too, but there’s always that shadow.  Now that I am working full-time, I am exhausted.  I believe I’ve written before about how much energy  bereaved parents put into making it through the day, and I feel it.  Putting on a “normal” face everyday takes a lot of work.

Five years.  Time is so intriguing.  How fast or slow it feels is sometimes hard to capture.  One one hand, it feels like forever since I last held Mags.  On the other, it feels like she was just here yesterday.  I am hopeful that this year will be a little easier than last year was since it’s not such a big, important year for her friends.  There are no major milestones Maggie is missing.  Who knows, though?  This month was pretty tough, so what do I know?  Her birthday is less than two weeks away, and that will end the difficult season of holidays, death, diagnosis, and birthday.  I usually feel like I can breathe a little better after that.  There are many things to look forward to this year–Molly turns 16, Lydon starts senior year in the fall and turns 18.  It’s crazy how life just keeps happening, even when I want to scream and make it all stop since Maggie should be here.

Five years.  Cancer still sucks.  Childhood cancer sucks hard.  I will never understand.  It will never be fair.  I will forever miss my girl.

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Memory Window I made as my sister Kathleen’s Christmas gift to Maggie 

 

Peopled Out

Peopled Out

For the first time in my life, I am peopled out.

I’ve always considered myself an extrovert.  I am shy, which most people don’t believe, but I just push past it.  I enjoy people.  I was known to stand in the hall for talking in  kindergarten.  I’m done, though.

I love my job.  I love the staff.  I love the kids.  I love (most) of the parents.  This week was nutty.  Kids have so much going on in their little heads as we get close to Christmas.  Some kids are just over the moon excited.  Some kids realize that being home for vacation means they won’t have enough food.  Lots of sickness is going around too.  Then there are the parents.  They are stressed.  Some are as excited as the kids.  Some don’t know who will care for their children over break.  Some are worried about having enough food for the week.  Then there are some who just don’t have respect for anyone else’s time or kindness.

I love volunteering for my kids’ activities.  I do it for the kids.  There were two amazing concerts this week.  All of the students played or sang beautifully.  They work so hard, and it really shows.  Everyone is busy, but I do wish that more parents were willing and able to give a little time for their children too.  I’m not talking about people who normally pitch in, but once in awhile are not able to.  I’m not talking about the parents who have conflicting events for their kids.  I’m talking about the people who just don’t ever step up and always assume others will do it.  After the first concert night, I had to send an additional email asking for help for the second night, because out of a couple of hundred or so sets of parents, not one person had signed up to volunteer to help us with the concert.  Thankfully, people came through–we got a few volunteers and plenty of baked goods.  Those of us who do give our time would really love to see our own children perform too.

I am just done with people this week.  I know this is tied to my grief, especially at this time of year.  I am beyond exhausted.  It’s so hard to miss Maggie with so much of my heart and soul while continuing to function like a fully-formed adult.  This is our fifth Christmas without her.  How is that even possible?  Why am I not jumping with joy because she’s coming home from college for a month?  Why am I not both excited and nervous to see her grades after her first semester?  Instead, I am wishing for those things.  Instead, I am peopled out.  Instead, I am sad.  Instead, I grieve.

I haven’t even made a dent in my Christmas shopping.  I suppose I will find myself out in the crowds tomorrow.  If you run into me, I promise I won’t be rude, but I might not stop for a long chat.  Tonight, I will have my pity party and try to recharge my brain, my heart, and my soul.