Sunday, October 30, 2011

Death, and other crappy things that will happen to you

Sweet Caroline,

If I could have magical powers, one of the things I would protect you from in life is death and the overwhelming sensations of grief and loss. I wish I could even promise that when bad things happen and you lose people and things you love that it will get better.
But it won't.
All I can tell you is that with time, you will get used to it. Your body and spirit are far stronger than you realize, and will shift to hold up the weight of the sadness you feel. You don't get over it, it doesn't get better. Your body just builds a stronger layer to let you get back to normalcy.
Some deaths will seem small. When you were 9 months old, one of our cats passed away unexpectedly. I called your dad at work in a panic, begging him to come home because I didn't know what I was supposed to do with a dead cat and a small baby. I was crying, which made you so anxious and worried that you cried too. When Daddy got home, we put Otter's body in a small box, wrapped up in my bathrobe that he was laying on when he passed. As Daddy carried that box away, you said "cat cat" with the saddest, most questioning tone in your voice. We were fully convinced that you were asking,
"Wait, where are you going? Why is he in a box? Why are you crying? Where is my cat cat?!"
Seeing your sadness was so much worse than anything we felt on our own. It still terrifies me that this was only one of the first in many losses you will feel in your life. What's worse is someday you'll have the words to tell us about it, but we won't have the words to make it better for you. And for that, baby, I'm already so sorry.

Some losses in your life will be huge. Mommy had already suffered two big losses in her life before you came along. My aunt, your great aunt, passed away after a horrible battle with cancer in March of 2006. Ironically, your Daddy and I's first date would fall within a day of the anniversary of her death.
I wish you could've known your Great-Aunt Janet, but I know that her influence will touch your life in ways you'll never know. She was the shining star in our family. It seemed that whenever we all got together, there was a moment in time when everyone was just waiting on her to arrive so the real fun could begin. She was a force of unstoppable cheer, and happiness, and humor. Though she herself had lived through so many struggles in life, she was somehow everyone rock. Though she only had two biological children, I know many of us held her as a mother figure, a mentor, and a true friend.
I think, in a way, a small part of all of us was altered with her passing. We all grieved in profoundly different ways. There was a time where it seemed that the darkness of her death would never pass. But, as I said, you get used to it. It's been 5 years now, and it's not every day that I feel that same old longing sadness for things I'll never have again. It's not every day I regret what I didn't get to say or do, and it's not every day I don't wish desperately that she could be here with us to share in our joy of having you.
But it still comes around. I remember the last thing I said to your Papa before he walked me down the aisle at Daddy and my wedding was, "I wish Janet was here to see this."
I wish I could say my last words to my father as a single woman were something profound, or sentimental, or expressing my gratitude for how he raised me. Perhaps, in a way, they were. I spoke plainly from my heart and shared a moment of raw feeling with my father, who I know misses his sister more than he'll ever say. I expressed my regret that she wasn't there so he could show off in his light-hearted way of how good a job he'd done raising his daughter and then letting her go.
Your Papa with Janet, Pee-Paw, Granny, and Laura Jo

Even now I tear up writing this. Little did I know, my grandmother had passed away from a stroke the morning of my wedding. Once again, God closed a door and open a window. She left our family just as Daddy joined. The day after our wedding, once we were told the news, Daddy and I cancelled all of our plans and spent our first days as husband and wife taking a 10 hour drive to Alabama to say goodbye to my Granny. I took the bouquet from our wedding and placed it on her casket. We watched my grandfather sob, overcome by the grief of having lost his wife after 62 years of marriage, 5 children, 11 grandchildren, and 6 great-grandchildren. Just one short year later, you would become the 7th great-grandchildren, but not in time for Granny to witness your amazing spirit.

You share a birthday with your Great-Aunt Pat, Daddy's aunt. Unfortunately, you two never got to meet. She passed away a few short months after your birth after a long, difficult struggle with cancer. It broke your Grammy's heart to lose her sister. I'm thankful, however, that your presence in her life has given her something good to hold on to when she feels that dark sadness.

Sadly, even Pee-Paw, your great-grandfather, was robbed of time with you. He passed away a mere 6 months after your birth. Each day as you grow and learn new things, I'm heartbroken that he's not here to witness it. He loved the times he had with you, and I know he'd adore the amazing little girl you're becoming.
The first time you met him you were only 6 weeks old. You laid in his arms and stared at him in wonderment, stretching your arms towards him and giving him the sweetest newborn smile you could make. The second time you were together you were 6 months old - only a few weeks before he passed. You were eager to show off the noises and hand motions you could make and loved making him laugh. I was beside myself when he decided that what my 6 MONTH OLD daughter needed for a snack was a Little Debbie Swiss Roll. My mommy instincts wanted to stop him, but who am I to tell a man with 7 great-grandchildren what to feed a baby? 
You're not sure who this man is, but you seem to know later there will be cake.

My God, you loved that piece of cake. You looked over at me with such disgust that it took this long for someone to finally give you some freakin' cake. Forget formula, forget that jarred mush you call "food." You wanted cake! Swiss Rolls will always hold a special place in my heart.

Your Pee-Paw passed away October 3,2010. It was Mommy's 24th birthday. Once again, plans your father and I made were forgotten, and we made that long drive to Alabama. Pee-Paw was laid to rest in his favorite overalls and fancy pink button up shirt. The sight of that shirt made me cry, remembering that's what he'd worn the last time he saw you. When asked about his choice of shirt, he replied that he wanted to look extra nice for that "sweet baby girl." Him being laid to rest in his overalls was only too fitting. Pee-Paw wasn't a formal man, and I think he would've been very uncomfortable in Heaven in a suit. Besides, it would've been ruined the first time he and Granny went fishing on the other side of the Pearly Gates.

All I hope for is that everyone else in your life stays around for a good, long while. I promise you that I'll always drive extra carefully to the point that you'll think I'm obnoxious. I want to make sure I'm still here for your teenage years when you roll your eyes at me and wonder how I managed to live this long being so ridiculously stupid and uncool. Until that day comes, I promise to cherish every single day I have with you, my little girl, my Ookie Bear.


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