I wrote this a few nights ago in preparation for Monday, December twelfth. I wasn’t sure I could handle getting the words out that day, and so I decided to tackle it early. Turns out I’m sharing it even earlier, and on a Thursday, because I’m taking part in a blogfest about this very subject…to help promote the launch of The Golden Sky by E C Stilson…
Normally I write about things having to do with romance on Monday’s, but not today. Because today marks an anniversary I’ve been dreading for the past few months. Exactly one year ago, my other daughter passed away during the night from complications following surgery. She had just graduated from college that spring, had her whole life ahead of her, and it was just not something I expected to happen.
About three years old here, with her foot-long braid falling out…from playing too hard, a fairly common thing back then.
It’s been a difficult year full of ‘firsts.’ First year that I only have two kids instead of three since before my youngest was born. First holidays knowing that she wouldn’t be here for the big suppers I cooked, or to call me if she couldn’t come. The first birthday that she hasn’t been on this earth.
It’s also been a year when I see three threes every time I turn around. On such a regular basis, it’s almost unbelievable. I see 3:33 on my computer clock several times every week. And when I want to waste time playing my favorite game (Mah Jongg Dark 3-D), those numbers come up all the time. Even the price on the marquee at the gas station was $3.33 a gallon one recent morning.
Why is that significant? Because she was born at 3:33 p.m. It’s like life is conspiring to remind me that she was here…even when I’m trying really hard to put it out of my mind.
I’ve literally been on the emotional roller coaster from hell, starting with acute depression the first few months, which included the most horrible, frightening nightmares I’ve ever had. When it got to the point where I was nervous about going to bed, I made an appointment with my doctor for antidepressants. Fortunately, as I learned to deal with the situation a little better, my need for them went away. Not that I don’t still struggle some days, but it’s getting easier to distract myself.
One things that was really hard for me was getting to the place where I could say, “My daughter died.” Sometimes it was almost as though I was saying it on purpose, like testing it out to see how it felt. And it never felt good. Why is it that saying, ‘passed away,’ sounds nicer? Like it isn’t quite as bad as dying? She died.
I still can’t really listen to this song, but Mr. Clapton clearly understands this situation.
Another thing that’s been hard is trying to break the habit of referring to my youngest daughter as…well…my youngest daughter. There’s no longer any need to make that distinction. If I say my daughter is going to see a movie with me, it’s pretty obvious which one I’m referring to. Yet I still am unable to stop myself from qualifying which one I’m talking about much of the time. And I won’t even get into how much you worry about your other kids when something like this happens.
Want to hear something really bizarre? The night before it happened I’d actually thought, as I’ve done periodically through the years, that three kids out of seven was better than it could have been. And less than twelve hours later, I got the call. Then I only had two out of seven. To explain, I lost three other children at various stages during my pregnancies, and a preemie died sixteen hours after he was born.
I really wish I still had three kids…
Age 15 here. Miss you, Kerry. (the angle is because we cut her first boyfriend out of the picture)
Now I guess it’s time to stop dwelling on this first anniversary. I just needed to acknowledge it in some way, and here it is.
One more thing though. This is a poem my mother wrote for her when she was about four years old:
My Momma calls me Baby,
she loves me quite a lot,
I’m Grandpa’s Palsey Walsey,
the best one that he’s got.
To Grandma I am Pumpkin,
that is what she’s always called me,
I’m Uncle Jeffrey’s Buddy
and hope I always will be.
Aunt Kelly calls me Sweetie Bear,
she’s always called me that,
Now I’m Uncle Justin’s Girl Friend,
except when I’m still his brat!
She was the only grandchild/niece until she was nearly seven years old. Clearly very much loved…and just a little bit spoiled. It’s really hard to know that she’s not here anymore.
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I hear you, Kristy. I’ve spent my share of time ignoring / pretending, and it served a purpose for me, too. It’s important to trust that each step you take is the best step you can in that moment, whether it involves distraction, nachos, or Pumpkin Whimsy. You’ll know if / when it’s time to change course. Big hugs back at you. -Shelly
Yeah, I’m rather partial to the ignoring/pretending thing. Cleaning works, too, lol. After my dad’s funeral eight years ago, I came home and started cleaning, sorting, reorganizing, and getting rid of stuff…and didn’t stop for about six weeks. You could have eaten off my floors…walls, windows and pretty much every other non-dish thing in my house. 🙂
Hopefully I won’t need to change course any time soon (and even more hopefully, it won’t include nachos for awhile).
Thanks, Shelly. Most of the time I think I’m pretty much okay…except when things like her birthday, and the upcoming anniversary roll around. And then I’m still pretty much fine because I work very hard to distract myself and not dwell on it. I also try to find the humor in life…and that helps a lot.
I’m glad I have my other daughter, too…and my son, though he’s not as much of a buddy as she is. He doesn’t get into the girly things. 🙂
Kristy, are you familiar w/ Cath Duncan’s work? Growing up, I didn’t receive much in the way of models for grieving. I found Cath’s PDF workbook encouraging and useful: http://www.rememberingforgood.com/.
Warning: Her appraoch is less about keeping yourself highly functional in any given moment, and more about integrating your grief fully to make room for deeper joy and meaning…which includes letting yourself be sad when you need to be.
If you decide it’s your cup of tea, let me know. If not, don’t think you have to pussyfoot around telling me that, either. XO-Shelly
I don’t know if I can do something like that, Shelly. Things were so bad the first few months after it happened I was having nightmares and just a mess. I’m not sure I can go there again. The very mature approach of pretending it didn’t happen kind of works out well for me. Pretend is probably not the best word there…ignoring that it happened maybe? Just staying busy and keeping my mind occupied.
Maybe at some point I’ll be ready to do that. Just not right now. If I don’t stay ‘highly functional’ things are going to get pretty chaotic in my house. And then I’m going to be stuck eating tacos and nachos all the time because that’s all the kids know how to cook. 🙂
Thank you, Shelly. I will keep that in mind. Hugs…Kristy
Wow, Kristy, no wonder it’s been hard lately for you to think of things that bring you joy–though your humor shines through in many of your blog posts, and in your comments and Tweets. So glad you have a daughter going through those “firsts” in life to anchor you in the now even as you remember and honor Kerry. She will always be part of you and the love and connections within your family. Peace be with you.
We played Eric Clapton’s Tears in Heaven at my daughters memorial. Brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it.
I think it’s a popular song at funerals for children because Eric Clapton wrote it from the heart. He knows what that loss is like, too. That’s why it’s so touching. Too bad it ever had to be written…or played.
Kristi, i was touched to read of your loss. i can’t even imagine the depths of it.
I do know that the losses I have recovered from (to the degree it is possible) have been those that reminded me of the joy their presence was while they were with me.
Of course, it doesn’t remove the pain of the loss…it does remind me of the greater loss I would have had if they had never have been in my life.
I guess that is what life is like in this fallen, broken world. Our joys are temporary and fleeting. Our losses bring an end to joyful seasons in our lives. They also add texture. We find ways to enjoy the gifts we have more fully. We learn to love in new ways. We also learn to receive it.
In the end, we look to a day when temporary ends and eternal begins.
There won’t be anymore losses or good-byes. No more interrupted friendships or conversations. No more grief or tears. Living a life in God’s presence without our brokenness. Unimaginable!
Thank you, Martha. I know what you’re saying is true. You just never know when something like this is going to happen and you need to make sure you live your life so that you don’t have any regrets when it does. I wish I could say I didn’t have any regrets, but I do. A lot of them. And there’s nothing I can do about them now, except to appreciate the people who are still in my life even more than I did before.
I’m so very sorry for your loss Kristy – I cannot even imagine going through what you have been through. I’m a big believer in symbolism and she is definitely with you every time you see those 3’s (& probably even more often that that!) Hugs! Thanks for sharing something so difficult and personal.
Thanks, Karen. I like the thought about the threes. Sometimes I like to think of her playing with her brothers and sister, and hugging my dad and grandparents. Funny the things we think about sometimes. 🙂
As a father I can not imagine the pain you have gone through. So very sad. This had to be the most difficult thing to write about…I don’t know if I could do that.
It’s actually been very surprising to me that I could write about it. I did once before in July, on her birthday, but didn’t touch on it quite this much. And frankly, I don’t think I will again. Although hard as it is to believe, life does return to normal. Mostly. 🙂
This is beautiful Kristy. I know this was painful for you to write. I can feel it when I read it. You know, that song was played at my sister’s service. It was one of them anyway. Actually sung by my ex. Ugh. That’s another story. I had trouble listening to the songs from the service for a long time.
Your daughter is proud of you. You know she keeps track of you and how you are. She loves you dearly, each and every day. You are a wonderful mother.
Thank you, Karen. It was, but I’ve found the hardest thing this week is reading Elisa’s blog. I’ll be glad when this blogfest is over. I’ve cried more this week reading her stuff than I have in months. Tomorrow I’m going to shoot for something really funny! (I hope it’s really funny anyway)
I can understand about having trouble with the songs. We only played one at hers…and I haven’t listened to it since.
I don’t know why I wrote Karen… I need to start catching up on some badly needed sleep! Sorry about that, Debra. :/