One of those days… up and down and back up…

The drive home today was rough, well it had a rough start.  About 20 minutes into the trip Amelia started her angry and annoyed about the lack of an eraser.  An eraser was about to flare up the crazy lady that lives in Meme.  I was in no place to find an eraser, driving 60 mph… let alone that fact that I was on Tug Hill and all you can buy there is gas and beer.  She proceeded to yell ‘Mom, mom, mom, mom… get me an eraser.’  I told her to take a break and breathe through it.  I could not fix the problem, only help her calm.  She pretty much hates people helping her calm down… so Lucy and I ignored her.  She escalated, unbuckled and jumped up front.  I pulled over and tried to keep calm.  She buckled and I drove.  She threw a lap desk at me (and other items) and I chucked it out the window.  Life is safer with less things to knock the driver out.  It was a scary ride.  I didn’t know how to calm her and finally about 40 minutes in I was the same crazy mad lady as her.  After a long time of pinches and digs and mean words I was yelling too.  Ick.

I thought about dropping her off to some Amish people and calling my parents to come grab her.  I figured General Brown would fit her in and she could come back in like… 2016.  I thought about pulling over and letting her chase me through some cow fields… maybe wearing down some of the mad.  Finally she broke down and apologized.  I wasn’t ready for it yet and she took a nap.  When she woke up, I told her I was sorry for my words and that we need to find a way for her to handle her mad.  It isn’t healthy to handle it this way.  I told her if she could breathe through and \start using the tools we work on I would reward her, something cool and fancy like Clams at Johnny’s or a movie out.  I want her to think and try in those moments.

So… after about 40 minutes of Christmas music and good driving and a normal ride back from Watertown the mood had changed and we were in family Christmas mode.

We went to our traditional place for our tree and parked the car.  I rearranged the boosters and third row, so we could do it all by ourselves.  We put Sparky on her leash and headed out to find the perfect tree.  We looked and looked, then found a great one for us.  This process works better when you remember you have a tiny living room… I am currently thankful I have a saw to cut it shorter.  We pulled our tree to the jeep and stuffed it in the car.  The girls were covered in sap and told me that they really missed when daddy tied the tree to the top of the car.  I told them that those times are great memories.  I told them that there are more memories to come…

We drove home with a tree sticking out the liftgate and a car stuffed to the brim.  We pulled in to our house to an amazing surprise.  We got ‘tacoed’ by my amazing and special friend Mr. Rick.  It was the perfect gift to drive into, lights and a new light up weiner dog.  The girls were so excited.  I was so aware of his kindness.

Rick is a special man.  He has been put through a hot mess this past year and a half, a hot mess that he doesn’t deserve.  He has been a rock for me and I have tried to help him  the same… it is quite special finding a person who is so caring.  Rick takes care of his family, he has some amazing and funny boys.  I first met Rick and his family after Madeline passed.  His nephew, Devon, was diagnosed with DIPG and passed the year Madeline left us.  He was a rock then and is now.  He is the guy that you know his Dad and Grandfather are proud of, the one that takes care of his grandma, loves up his boys and kills all the spiders for his nieces.  He is thoughtful and kind and patient, he is super resilient.  He has been tried in a way that I could never have handled with such grace and patience.  I would have gone all crazy Erin by now (Amelia and I are so similar).  He has had constant people following him, documenting and trying to track his life… honestly though I think the tracking would show how generous he is.  Silly people… I have learned though sometimes you must try to back fake stories.  I don’t have fake stories, I am pretty genuine.  Rick is the same, he has no fake to back.  He an amazing person, friend, hugger and part of his family.  I am thankful for him, his family and getting ‘tacoed’.

So rough stuff softened up… and amazing popped up in the hard.  I love how life works like that… Ending a day that during my ride home I thought I had given up on a lot to some rockin’ amazin’…

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Thankful. Blessed. Surrounded.

Today is the day to reflect and file the details of yesterday- yesterday being a day of supreme blessings, a warmth of being surrounded and a comfort of new normal. Thanksgiving… one of the best days of the year- whether celebrated that day or another. A day to really love the blessings and specials in our life. Whatever life we are in we are blessed, whatever kind of day today or tomorrow is we are blessed. Thanksgiving is a day to see and think about the bits of amazing in each of our lives.

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My daughter Madeline is no longer here, but honestly she kind of is. She is in the surrounded and safe that my families and friends provided all.the.time. She is in the experiences that my girls and I have had in these past years. She is in the new normal, that is starting to feel regular and normal… and real. She is here. She is one of my favorite gifts and biggest blessings, even with the hard stuff.

Thanksgivings in my family were welcoming, loud and full. There were cousins galore, food cooked in vats (my grandma’s pots were more like vats…) and a table chock full of people. There were stories and laughs… there were drop in’s and people who stayed for hours. Everyone was always welcome, this was our normal growing up. We sat elbow to elbow and my grandpa said Grace, then we ate. The mashed potatoes were amazing, Aunt Bridget made casserole with no mushrooms, the turkey was special order sized… and the Greek bread was a staple (Irish didn’t master the bread). The days before Thanksgiving were spent in my grandmother’s kitchen peeling bags of potatoes, hoping that Aunt Mary K made cheese cake and Uncle Joe would come home. We would wear her aprons and help her… then hang out with Aunt Jane or whoever stopped for coffee. It was, for me, the most best way to spend a holiday.

Fast forward to life in the past few years… it hit me that Thanksgiving for my girls will never look like that. It used to make me sad… but what if their amazing memory isn’t supposed to be mine. So… I stopped being sad about it. I offered Matthew and his family to always have the girls for Thanksgiving, so the girls and I can travel on Friday and enjoy a weekend back home. I want my girls to have a regular tradition so they are not shipped back and forth… so they have a chance at their normal. What am I to do on Thanksgiving? Last year, with Maddie’s Mark herd, I tried to think about where we could be needed to help. I know on holidays so many volunteer, I wanted to find a niche that wasn’t full. I contacted Albany Med and got chuggin’ on Thanksgiving dinner at the Ronald McDonald room right inside the hospital. I reached out to my friends that were also experiencing a ‘new normal’ (i.e. newly divorced). Many local companies along with some amazing herd worked to create an amazing, warm and kind of normal holiday. We used our leftover take away’s from events and toiletries as care packages for families. This year the dinner was mostly donated by The Mallozzi Family, desserts were provided by a freakin’ cake artist- the Cake Architect. The room, the families, the ease… it was so warm and welcoming. It felt so normal.

These families, all faced with a different normal this holiday season, enjoyed a bit of normal. They sat around a table in a room that felt like home… they ate amazing food and laughed and shared. It felt so easy and so right… It was a great gift for my heart. I felt like got the privilege of using our messy, new normal’s as a way to connect and create a little bit of normal for many who were stuck in different. We cleaned the tables, cleared the dishes, helped when mother’s needed a hand… we added more drinks, swapped out the food when it was empty and took all the work out of the day for families. I felt how grateful they all were, but mostly I felt grateful to be there. I felt thankful for those families being there and being brave enough to join us. I felt happy for the bit of normal we were able to create for them.

It was amazing and special and beautiful. There is a part of me that hurts knowing the pain and stress those families are feeling and faced with. I wanted to hug away much of it… but this is their journey, their family. We are here to support, but I can not fix theirs any more than I can fix my life. Maybe… the gift is in remembering we can’t fix it, only build better, love what we have and change what we can.

It was a day of new normal. I felt content and surrounded. I didn’t spend all day missing my girls, but instead filled the day with amazing people and loved seeing my girls in the end. I spent the day delivering dinner, grabbing a Thanksgiving glass of wine and making my mom try tzecki and hummus… then visiting Madeline. Only Madeline would love us always and anyway for our crazy. She unites and builds… she is amazing and special.

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Thanksgiving ended with my girls loved and surrounded at the movie theater… followed by the playing of some fun games at home and crashing. It is all about balance in this life. Balancing the positive next to the hard. Living with the hard and loving it anyway… recognizing and loving the new normal. I loved Thanksgiving, it isn’t even done yet. Tomorrow my family, which is far too big for most dining tables, will squash together and eat dinner… just like when I grew up. New normal isn’t so bad… it is pretty amazing actually. I am grateful for new normal, every.single.bit of it.

Love you always and anyway.

In the best of times and in the worst of times always remember I love you always and anyway. This is just how parents love their children. I remind myself often that I am lucky to be loved always and anyway. There isn’t a moment in me that won’t feel this; it is a fact and a truth and a solid real thing.

You may wonder ‘what is always and anyway?’ Wonder no more, there needn’t be any extra thought in this. It is a fact, a piece of you to carry and know forever. I mean it. I love you always and anyway. It is the best kind of love. It is the kind that loves you when you are mean and cranky and your breath smells like garbage. I love you when you are sad and broken and small… and I want to use my love to help build you back up. I love you when you are mean to me, I love you even though you told me I am a terrible cooker, or you actually hate my singing voice. I love you then, partly because I know it isn’t true (I am a rock star cook and I could back up Stevie Nicks any day) but you were mad. Mad is important. Mad is big. Feel it, but please don’t tell me I am fat… that sucks (I prefer ready for winter). I will love you always and anyway with my extra insulation for emergencies, Christmas tree cutting and polar bear dips. I will love you when you are too cool for me and you insist I am not necessary to walk you five houses to the bus, I know you want your friends to ‘think’ I am uncool. I know your insides and your brain know that I am wicked cool. I will love you always and anyway on the day you don’t need me. I will also warn you if you choose to tell me my kisses are gross I will kiss you with really wet lips, I don’t have time for that kind of drama.

Do you know that I will love you right through your first big mistakes? I will love you the same, always and anyway. You will break rules and fear me, but I will love you anyway. I might react, I might yell… I might need to help you find a better path… but all along I will love you anyway. I might even sound like I don’t love you, sound like I have gone off the deep end… I promise I will apologize and be better in the morning- but I love you through it- always and anyway.

My love for you is different than any I have ever had. It has taught me to love me more, love me with more of that ‘anyway’ deal. Knowing and learning from you and helping to build you has made me know me more. I have come to understand the notion of love and loving someone, really everyone anyway. I have felt the deep blessing of waking up in the hardest moments of my life and being loved wholly and fully and genuinely. Those amazing people loved me anyway, they loved my broken, my fixed, my hurt and my light. You, my dear, have taught me that God loves me… not just enough to have you but He loves me always and anyway. There is no enough in loving…

Where did I learn to love always and anyway? I grew up hearing and learning about the Golden rule and Jesus… I have come to understand it more in my old age. Love everyone as I love you… or love them anyway… always and anyway. If they are sick show love. If they are well show love. If they are broken show love. If they are happy show love. Basically, God says show love… just like I love you. He loves us in all of those states. He made us to feel all of those things and He loves us through them. I think the biggest grace in this is the anyway part. God loves us anyway. He reminds us regularly that He loves us broken, fixed, hurt, happy, proud, sad, mean… He loves us always and anyway. I also know that He wants us to do the right thing in those moments. He loves us when we are unkind to a friend, but He wants us to apologize and get back to loving that friend always and anyway. He even lets us love always and anyway through boundaries… He is kind like that. Sometimes letting go of a person and keeping them farther from your soul is loving them always and anyway. He knows that some people just break others… so boundaries and distance are rockin’ good tools. So love like Him- always and anyways.

I love you, the best way. I love you always and anyways. I will love you when you call me for a ride because you broke rules, I will love you when you lie and sneak out. I am made for you, you for me- we are made for we… we are made to love each other anyway- always. This is the best kind of love. I want you to carry this in your pile of truths. I want you to love others this way, it is amazing to be loved always and anyway. It is amazing to be loved for your quirks and your mistakes. It is the very best kind of love, the kind He made us for. Remember this as you move and live and grow and breathe… as you wonder if you are loved…

The Godmother

November 21, 2015 is forever set into my brain as a day that changed my life. I have carried 3 little ones inside me, gone through all the excitement of prepping for them to come. I have gone into labor and had simple deliveries and hard ones. I have 3 amazing ladies that I met the moment they entered this world and left my safe little pod. Pregnancy and labor and delivery and motherhood have all been beautiful and hard and lovely and painful.

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Yesterday I got to be on the other side, I went through the pregnancy by hearing my sister update me and poking her belly. I spent much time wondering if a boy or girl would join our family, seeing little pink outfits and really wanting to buy them, even though no one knew what we were getting. Early on she asked me to be in the room with her and Damon. I felt really honored that she trusted me with this intensely intimate moment. This moment that would forever change our family, I was blessed to be there. I hoped that I could make it, Syracuse is 2 hours away, I trusted that God would have it happen how it would. So when I got the call from my brother in law I loaded a bag and threw some deodorant on (I didn’t want to be that lady). It was early and grabbed some gas and hit the thruway. Off to Syracuse for this new life to come join our crazy family (I know they will love it).

I got to Syracuse and Cortney was doing great, she made my job VERY easy. She was calm and focused and Damon was alert and loving. I felt like maybe my job was to just talk, and let her rest if she needed. So… I did what I do best. I told her my wardrobe malfunctions and funny stories from Albany. I tried to help her gauge her progress and in the process experience it a little. She was a champ and her nursing staff was superb. Just after lunch I knew we were going to know if it was a sister or brother for my Reaner… and the time came to push. After a few very effective pushes I saw a head full of hair (which is special, most Wilson babies don’t have black curly hair). I told Cortney keep going, he is going to make her hairdresser soul happy. She rocked the rest… and I saw something I have never seen.

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I have never seen life enter the world. I have felt the pain and push, but not the whole deal. It was amazing. It amazes me regularly how we were designed and what our bodies can do. It amazes me that we carry life, in this world full of hard and unhealthy there is this amazing piece of us that build life inside us. If that doesn’t amaze you… I can’t understand It not. At the moment he entered the world, yes it was a he (and there were no pink bibs in my future…) I saw his first breathe, his first bits of skin, his first squeak. I saw his eyes open for their first moments in this world. It was amazing. I also got to see a placenta and pick on my sister… wondering if we could cook it in the crock pot and have it for dinner. In all honesty I relished in the extraordinary of it. Our bodies create an organ just to support the life that our body will build. The moment that the cells combine and start making more they connect to our uterus and our body creates an organ to build that baby into the brother or sister or cousin or only child of some excited and scared parents.   Our body creates a freakin’ organ. I know you are probably not so interested, but this to me made me think of the amazing medical work doctors did when my father had a heart attack. I think our bodies are amazing. I think life is pretty rockin’ amazing as well.

Yesterday, just after lunch time, we welcomed Marett Delleo Kirkby to the world we all live in. He is beautiful and perfect, as every.single.new.life.is. He has Damon’s nostrils, his nephews lips, Cort’s ears, perfect hands and tiny toes. He is made to be Reaner’s little brother for the rest of the journey. He has a big brother and built in entertainment. He will grow and drive hi momma nuts, he will fall and chip his tooth, he will need to learn to pee on cheerios and he will become a teenage boy (scary fact). God made him for all of these role and will love him anyway through it all. My girl’s can not wait to meet him, the ones here. I know Madeline already put her imprint in his soul and heart.

So I was asked to be Marett’s Godmother. I am not only very honored to be the woman trusted to help Marett understand faith and life and God and love, but I think it is pretty cool to tack that label onto my life resume. I think it gives me special privileges to steal him from other family members and to snuggle him while someone else chases my girls. My girls just got a new God cousin… which is like a new little special type of cousin for them. I also just wrote about my plan A of being a lot like The Last Don, maybe I misread and God meant The Godfather, I mean I am only one word off. So I am The Godmother. BAM… sounds good. I think I need to put it on my card. I also think I am god at this job, my Goddaughter Ceatlyn is pretty amazing and it must be because of my influence ;).

A Godmother is a big deal. I know it and will treat it like that. It is my job to help build Marett to know God and know the pieces that build faith. I get to be a strong influence in his life and growth. I am excited and honored for this role. I want my sister and brother in law to know that I treasure these gifts, the honor of meeting Marett at the moment he joined us and that I have been chosen to help build him to be strong and faithful… to know that God loves him always and anyway.

As I was driving back from Syracuse I had sent my friends pictures. It is always such a reminder that while new life joins our world others are faced with goodbyes. While Madeline was leaving us my friend was welcoming their new family member. Reaner was born on my 9th Anniversary, on a day that reminded me of the dying marriage that I was working to grieve. Marett was born to that same circle… that circle of birth and death and building and breaking. So… he is here for the journey, the cycle and the rollercoaster. He will love it and hate it and build and break.

I am The Godmother, and the aunt and the lady who chases you around for nibbles and to see your new chompers. I am the one who will spoil you with experiences and make sure you know your lovely cousin Madeline. I am also gifted the privilege of sharing my faith journey and knowledge with lil Marett and big Marett.

Life is about how you handle plan B….

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Life is all about how you handle plan B. A friend bought me a mug last year, when I was going through a rough time, and it had this saying. I thought then about how I really like the quote and the gift. My brain wanted to add more- like ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff; it is all small stuff’. I felt like the quote should be ‘life is all about how you handle plan B; prepare for life to ALWAYS need a plan B’.

Honestly, has your life ever not required some version of plan B? I don’t think any part of my life has not had some sort of plan B popped in, however big or small that could be. While I was washing dishes tonight, that mug to be exact… I thought about a better solution than prepping for plan B. Prep and plan in the same sentence create a scenario that could totally fail. Preparing for a plan, sounds hard and for me is not.going.to.work… it almost makes my brain think there won’t be big glitches and changes.

Maybe, just maybe life is about not putting our attention into a plan. Maybe we refocus on the ride. Life is a crazy ride, a rollercoastery space mountain with an occasional lazy river. It is a mix of lines when you meant to have speed passes, it is getting right up to the moment and your child freaking out because of heights- having to climb back down the scary ladder. Life is messy, we spill sticky slushies right after eating the best cotton candy ever. Life is a mix of it all, but really it isn’t planned, at least the plan never goes accordingly.

I thought when I was younger I would live in a BIG city, I would be Miss Metropolitan. I wanted to find a cool Italian Husband and live the life of ‘The Last Don’… or live in the city and be a successful architect. I had such plans… I started college as an engineer with plans of going on to architecture school. Then I took physics… and realized God made me to be a Biology major. I loved dissecting and taking things apart… drawing cells and talking about habitats. Physics did not work in my brain. I met this boy back then, that I was drawn to, and that argued that physics ALWAYS worked. Our oppositeness was apparently a HUGE draw for me. So… after not wanting to build houses with angles and formulas and the science of physics involved I went back to what I know and love. I fell in love with that physics loving boy and BAM… the life plan changed. All of the sudden the plan was college and adventures, marriage and children, a house and puppy… after it all it felt like we were totally on plan. We did it right and we had these awesome set of chicks. This was THE PLAN. We vacationed on the lake and I saw sunsets and grandkids in the future. I saw weddings and college and adventures to Greece and London… the places that didn’t fit into the plan early in our marriage. I saw my forever person.

Madeline died. Losing Madeline was a huge realization that plans never work. All I planned and prepped her for is gone, all those future hopes are changed. My darling’s plans became something so different than I could ever imagined, than most could have. This was not in the plan, but honestly I think it reminds me to let go of the plan. My marriage to the boy who loved physics ended, in ways naïve and open Erin could never have imagined. This life did not fit into the plan, none of them. Maybe, just maybe we aren’t the knowers of the plan. Maybe this so called plan is something written and known by someone else, who always knows that plan B is the best one anyway. He knows the outcome, He must know the plan. In giving up on the plan that our brain creates… it is like a pathway to just letting life be what it is. Lessening the negative when it doesn’t work out, or stress about swapping it up to plan B.

While washing dishes I felt like I feel anxiety over the planning now. I feel fear of it not working out. I don’t like to plan, or look too far ahead- it will look like it does anyway. I feel scared too think far ahead to plan. My daughter died only a few days after being diagnosed. My marriage failed when I truly thought he was made for me, that we would fix and build. So using the word plan makes my heart beat fast and makes me want to run away. I joke that I have commitment issues, but commitment is kind of a plan, and I have issues with plans. I am now the lady who halfway RSVP’s. I am the lady who shows up with wine when I can’t pull together a dish or comes all fancy with a homemade appetizer. You really never know who you are going to get, the best part is- neither do I. This ride is bumpy and smooth, then drops and give us butterflies, it flattens out and then throws a scary few turns and hills. Sometimes we know what is coming, others it is out of view. Life is like that.

I quite like this life. In giving up ‘the plan’ or living in ‘plan B’ we can understand how it is so much bigger than us. Life will never go according to plan, we aren’t even big enough to understand the plan. I like this way much better. I don’t get to look at what I think I will see in the future, but I love seeing the now. I love letting go of trying to control these things. I am also working on my commitment issues, and trying not to run away from some of the amazing and scary opportunities and adventures. I am trying to not curse when what I let my brain think was ‘the plan’ breaks and doesn’t work. Sometimes plan B, is quite perfect… plans get cancelled and you have free time to sit on your butt and not leave your house. Sometimes plan B sucks and you are stranded in Baltimore with no plane in sight to bring you home to your ladies. So is life… full of nothing that ever goes to plan and some of it rocks and some of it sucks. I think in general I am getting good at plan B, or His real plan. I think I have become quite flexible and bendable on this rollercoaster. I think through it all I have stood up, brushed off, laughed, cried, broke, smiled, broke and kept on breathing and living and moving and growing.

Strolling…

I remember thinking that we would wear the wheels right off that stroller. After having my first daughter I felt isolated and alone. I felt like the only mom with a little one, I missed having a social life. I think transitioning to having a child was the hardest… thankfully my Madeline was always around for an adventure. We walked, then we rested and walked again. I swear walking with her was freedom and an adventure. On those walks I learned where the kind old people lived, where the big dogs were and where the playgrounds were.

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I remember trying to challenge myself to find ways to pull my walk into my life ‘chores’. We started to walk to the dry cleaners (a few miles away) and bank. I would pack my little weiner dog and she would conveniently hop in the basket under the stroller and sleep. I remember packing snacks and lunch and lots of water… and just wandering. It was like we headed out for little adventures together right from the start.

There are so many little memories and big ones. Madeline enjoyed her first push in a swing on my birthday when she was 10 months old. I remember it was a really nice spring day, the kind you MUST go for a walk and soak in the sun and warm for the next ‘maybe snow’ day. We went for a walk and I felt really different not having my birthday around people. I woke up to just me and Madeline, Regis and Kelly, coffee and no big deals. It was hard. I felt jealous for those people who had ‘real’ jobs and people to hang out with during the day. I was lonely, but I had these chunky cheeks to hang with… so we walked. When we got to the park I wiped the seat of the swing and put a blanket to wrap Madeline to sit up well. I gave her a push and it was love at first push. It is a perfect and hard memory.

Sometimes it is hard to look back and see and know a memory was real and imperfect, with a yelling mom or thoughts of running away. I know though that these memories are real and honest, and as much as I LOVE my girls we have many hard moments. I don’t even regret those with Madeline or Meme and Lucy. Those are all part of it.

After Amelia was born we bought the.best.double.stroller.ever. It was like heaven on those walks. It was smooth and turned on a… quarter. It was an adventure just waking up and living back then, there were less walks (more poops, naps and tantrums)- but more moments. I loved it and it was wicked hard. Amelia added a new playground challenge… soon it was pushing two and leaving one while I chased the other. Then Lucy joined the pack, and I had the cutest freakin’ baby in a triple ever. She enjoyed A LOT of goldfish while Mads and Meme played and I chased… eventually she was big enough to be in a swing and loved it.

I went for a walk the other morning, after the girls got on the bus. I started thinking I wanted to run… but I swapped to mellow music and decided to walk the old walk. I never really do it anymore. I power walked, part of the way with headphones and part trying to hear those noises from long ago. I walked but the playground and saw the swings. I had to go in there. It has changed. There is a housing development behind, no more woods. The children I would have seen playing are now grown and school. Some of the old people we loved to chat with are not here anymore. I sat in the swing and just listened. I let myself remember watching the girls and swinging or chasing. I let myself go back to the picnics and snacks we shared. It was a hard and simple walk, I love remembering but there are parts that hurt.

I kept looking around and seeing how life keeps moving. It is so hard to know this. It is hard to know that life CAN move without your child. We lived and lived, never thinking life would change like it has. Life changed. Madeline is not here. Our family is all messy. Life keeps moving. It used to hurt and hurt more to know that life moves on… but it’s starting to not hurt so much. I know that life has to move on, it has to keep rolling. The world spins even when it is lacking some amazing people. This is a fact though it has taken a long time for my brain to see and understand it.

All this from so many walks… those little adventures from long ago tying into right now. This crazy life of church school, viola, homework, studying, baseball and normal… no more walks. Sometimes God uses those memories to help build you… to help remind you.

Feeling it all.

The hardest moments in this journey are not the ones when my soul is breaking. The hardest moments are seeing my ladies hearts and souls breaking. Many times in the past few years I have heard the most deep and full sobs from my girls. It is a tangible hurt to your soul to console this hurt in them. The broken and empty and full and heavy sob is our reality. I had never in my life heard or felt the cries I have heard and hugged in the past few years.

Sometimes I know it is coming, more so in Amelia. She will have several days of tantrums, that her doctor and others would describe as normal. Her tantrums are different, always have been. After a week of these meltdowns and tantrums she will just drop. Her weight is so different, her shoulders are slumped, her head is heavy. Her body is just there and she sobs with her whole body. She can not talk, she can not tell me right then what is broken, what hurts or what I can do. I just hold her. Imagine feeling the loss of Amelia and Lucy… to have lost their best friend, their little momma- their big sister. I can’t imagine how much that hurts, so I just hold. These moments are to be honored, for she felt safe enough to let it go and break next to me. I hold these moments in a little box to remember when it is hard – that this job is big and important and they need me.

Last week my youngest lovely was in the recliner in the living room while I was working on costumes. Amelia came outside and said Lucy is crying mom, crying in the chair. I finished my spray painting really quick and headed in. She was sitting in the chair with our family picture crying, a sad and heavy sob feeling all of her sad. I lifted her up and got into the chair to snuggle and she cried and chatted. She said that she missed our family, she missed Madeline and she missed when daddy came home. I felt so sad for all the piles of hard that she has been through and still will. I felt sad for all the heavy crying she had to do to feel it all. She felt like a little tiny baby… who needed me to wrap her up in my arms. I told her to keep that picture. I told her that her sister was in heaven, that Madeline was ok and loved her very much. I told her that I did not chose the way our family looks, but she has a mommy who loves her and a daddy who loves her. She has family and a brother and so much to love.

She said to me “Mommy Madeline had such a short life”. It sits in my brain how profound that is coming from a 6 year old. Lucy has already outlived her sister, she completed kindergarten and is in first grade. It feels like she knows that Madeline should have had longer, like Aunt Jane. She sees the bits and pieces that were supposed to include Madeline, as far as she can see. I see missing proms and weddings and slumber parties… she sees never running into Madeline at school, never seeing her grow and have birthdays. Lucy sees the depth of this loss more tangibly than anyone else I have ever met. It isn’t just those words that hit and stuck, it is common for her to bring Madeline into conversations and speak about missing her. This morning we were talking about how her PE teacher had had a death in her family, and what to say. I said you could say ‘I am sorry for your loss’- but Lucy doesn’t understand sorry to be like that. She disagreed, I told her just acknowledging her teachers loss in the best way and words for her is enough. She was worried it would hurt her teacher and make her sad, I asked her if it made her feel sad when people spoke about Madeline. She thought for a moment and said only when they ask me ‘Which of my sister’s died?’ then I know they don’t know Madeline. I told her that is hard when some don’t know her. I told her hugging and remembering with someone is special, more special than not remembering or not sharing.

I never thought my life would include so much talk of death and grief and loss… I never thought I would have such amazing and real girls. I am so honored that I can hug them in those moments and remind them that they are loved, safe and worthy… that their sad needs to be felt. I hate those moments and love them. There is something in the pain though. This pain brings us back to the family the way it was, with my lovely and our whole dinner table.

I assure my daughters and my friends to feel valid in their feelings, they need to be felt. In these moments allowing my daughter’s to feel that heavy and sad and painful moment is a need. Feeling pain and joy and love and broken and happy are all valid to feel at that moment, even if someone else is feeling something else. In our moments of pain or joy we don’t need to compare to someone else in their joy or pain, just feel ours in those moments. These feelings and getting through these moments help us enjoy, breathe, remember, change, grow, run, build, break and live.