Yes, it has been 365 long days. Honestly, I never thought I (we) would make it through the first three months let alone twelve. In fact, for the first three months, I'm not certain I wanted to. Don't get me wrong; I remain incredibly sad and I miss Heather as much now as I did then. But, I have had time to think with my head and realize the importance of living FOR Heather. She fought so damn hard and with such dignity that I would never disrespect her by not picking up my heart and carrying it with me instead of remaining in the dark fog of constant grief. The year of "firsts" suck! I can't think of a more appropriate word to describe it. The most difficult may have been Mother's Day - no, Father's Day - no, Heather's Birthday - no, her Angel Anniversary - no, last Christmas - every "first" was ugly. The first visit to her grave site after her funeral. The first time I saw her friends post "fun family" gatherings. The first time I had to go to her work to see my doctor. The first time I gathered some of her clothes and just held them and sobbed on the floor. Oh, there were 365 days of firsts. But . . . there were some good firsts. The first therapy pool (Heather's Healing Pad) at Methodist Health System became Heather's Legacy. So many cancer and neurological patients will benefit. In fact, the first patient to use the pool is a cancer patient suffering from so much pain. The first Monster Bash (2017) that raised over $50,000! The first Lancer/LFAC game to raise over $15,000. The first time I could think of a memory that brought a smile and warmth instead of a tear and heartache. The first day I made it without crying. Yes, those days do become real. My first grief group for mothers who have lost children. And, my first (and only) meeting with former Vice President Joe Biden - 20 minutes of uninterrupted sharing about our children. Of course, there were many more "firsts" in those 365 days. Some good. Some heartbreaking. Some bitter/sweet. But, we survived! Are we different than we were one year ago? Yes! So many lessons came our way. Hope. Faith. Friends. Family. Heather always lived with hope. She taught me how to live with hope and that continues today. I have to believe that hope for the future is alive and well. Hope for peace. Hope for continued support. Hope for a cure. Hope that all lives are worth living and life should never be taken for granted. Faith - faith that God has a plan. We are not supposed to understand, only believe. Faith that Heather is in a better place (although I hate that phrase). Friends - Our family has the best friends in the world. Heather's friends have continued to cherish her memory. They keep her close. I love them. And our friends have touched our hearts and held our hands - even those who have tried desperately to understand our grief. They have helped more than they probably believe. And to our friends who have walked this journey, they have paved the road to help our journey to be less bumpy. They give us the hope we need to keep our faith. Family - some have been there every step of the way; I believe others find it too difficult to acknowledge the pain. But our immediate family is tight. We are a bonded family of five - stronger than any large family could imagine. Life moves forward for everyone, except for a family who has lost a child. Yes, we continue to live a life, but we can never move on because we cannot leave our child behind. The loss it too great for parents to "get over" it. What we had to do was to begin a new life - one without Heather in our physical world. While our hearts may forever be broken, our hearts grew to allow more love to enter. We pay more attention to tragedy. We understand no one is immune to a life-changing moment. We keep those who have been our support closer than ever - our world may be a bit smaller, but it is more full of love and appreciation. I've been told year two is worse in many ways, but I find that difficult to believe. However, this journey has been travel by many, and I have heard it many times from those on it. Reality sinks in. The heart remains broken. Life around us is different. So I guess in a manner of speaking, year two begins another journey. Sue
Well, we survived another first: Heather's 38th birthday. I think the day was made a bit easier with all the supportive gestures from so many people. So, thank you for thinking of us. One beautiful moment was when we drove up the the cemetery to visit her after dinner. There, standing around her, was many of her co-workers with green balloons and cupcakes! We each wrote a message on a balloon, sang Happy Birthday, and let the balloons go. As we celebrated, a rainbow appeared. It had to be Heather showing us her appreciation and love. We have three more firsts that will touch my heart: Addison's 3rd birthday (the first without Heather), the first Monster Bash, and the first "anniversary" of her passing. These will be difficult, as all firsts have been. Our lives have changed, but she continues to be my teacher and guide to live a meaningful life. I honor her with trying so hard to think of hope, love, forgiveness, humor, and so much more. She will forever - and I mean forever - be a part of our lives. Even though a piece of my heart is missing and I know my heart will never be repaired, I still have love in my life: Jon, Amy, Michele, Addison and many more. Heather, some day we will meet again - I have to believe that. Then our twisted humor will reconnect, but it will be more appropriate 🙂 Love you, baby girl.
Thirty-eight years ago, I was eagerly awaiting Heather's arrival. Of course, we did not know the gender - only a few did in 1979. Many thought we were "trying for a boy" because we had already been blessed with two girls. Funny thing, we were not trying at all. But God knew he wanted us to have one more and He wanted us to have another girl. Jon always said, "I just want my kids to be healthy." (Such a cliche', but oh, so true.) And we were blessed with a healthy little girl. So, today, which marks the 9 month grief journey without Heather - our healthy baby girl - will be a difficult one. I have learned so much since April 2008, and I have learned so much more since July 13, 2016 (the day we heard "two months"), and even more since November 8, 2016. A piece of my heart is forever gone and the rest of it remains broken. I can never be the person I was prior to April 2008, prior to July 13, 2016, and certainly prior to November 8, 2016. Once I realized I needed to stop looking for that person, grieving and healing became easier. Yes, I say healing because I have two other daughters, a granddaughter, and a husband who need to know I still have room in my broken heart for them. They give me hope and keep my heart from crumbling beyond repair. Heather became my teacher on life and death, and now it's my job to take what she taught me and put it to use. This past year has strangled me with firsts: Thanksgiving, Amy's birthday, my birthday, Christmas, New Year's, Valentine's Day, Easter, Mother's Day, two vacations, Father's Day, Michele's birthday, July 4, and next up: Heather's birthday. One of the most difficult firsts was going to my sister's in San Jose - a house we called home for at least 50 trips to UCSF. Too much - but I survived. Each 8th of the month has been a day filled with tears and memories. We endured selling Heather's house and moving her belongings out one week after her funeral. I had to make decisions in one week that people try not to make for at least one year. We moved this summer as well. All those special spots for Heather's mementos will now need to find a new resting place. And, I cannot ignore the painful decisions we have made regarding Heather's final memorial marker. Someone told us, "Do not rush into making decisions. This decision is a lasting one." So, after nine months, we have finally approved the marker and now await its completion. And, I will be returning to my adjunct position at Midland University after a year's absence. Many, many necessary moves and changes this past nine months. While I'm forever changed and forever missing a piece of me, I am grateful. I'm grateful for the friends who have shared their child loss grief with me. They have truly been my mentor for survival. I am grateful for the friends who have tried so desperately to understand, but appreciate that they cannot. I am grateful for my immediate family - no words can express how much I love them. I am so grateful for a special cousin - John Maser - who has kept a special spot in his heart for Heather. And so many of Heather's special friends keep in touch with me and visit her often. I am also grateful for the online support group I belong to. I soon realized how many others have lost children. We all know about "it," but we never believe it will be our situation. We somehow look at the world and think how sorry we are for people who lose their children, but we move on with our lives. That was our family too - until it hit us. We just never knew and never understood the lingering torturous pain. No, people do not "move on" after losing a child. No, it's not anything like losing a grandparent, parent, cousin, best friend - or anyone else. It's the worse pain imaginable, only unless you have lost a child, you cannot even imagine it. Life goes on for everyone else, but not for the grieving parents. Today I'm going to focus on happy memories, which also bring tears. I am going to stay busy so I can try to make it through the day. Yes, 38 years ago I was hoping Heather would arrive a little early - hot August days do not set well with pregnancy. Today, I'm hoping to make it through the painful reminder that she is gone and will not be the healthy adult child we had always thought she would be. Love you baby girl!