Saturday, August 9, 2014

Finding Balance With the Help of a Little Dog!

As we approach Alexis' 31 birthday - 3 1/2 years after her death  I realize that somehow we have found balance.  While the ache of our loss never leaves, by creating a safe environment where we can talk freely about Lex telling 'her' stories and including her in ours has helped.  Losing Lex was our 'rock bottom' nothing that happens in the future will ever  be as devastating,  aging parents, people who disappoint you,  nothing will ever compare.  However, 'being happy' has been sneaking up on me, I am surprised to find joy in moments of distraction.  Some of these 'moments' are provided by our dog Turtle.   Each morning after she is fed she goes outside and hops onto our garden swing where she naps.  Watching her lying on that swing so content and peaceful warms my heart, the simplicity of this act has helped me understand what is important now.  Turtle has been integral to our coping with the loss of Lex.  How surprising that this tiny animal is so important to my family.  Turtles needs force us to function outside our grieving.  Watching her doze on the swing calms me, taking her to the park to play catch distracts me and being the recipient of her licks makes me smile.  Caring for her is a commitment but the rewards far out-weigh the work involved.   Turtle is helping us find balance by teaching us to appreciate simplicity in life.  Sometimes it's the smallest things that give the greatest joy.  My only regret is that Lex never met Turtle, how she would have loved her.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Leading By Example

I ran into Alexis' grade 3 teacher recently.  The first words out of her mouth when she realized who I was were words of condolence.  She said she remembered Lex as a beautiful well behaved, quiet girl and actually of all the children who have passed through her classes during her career Lex stood out as one of her favorites. Her reaction when she realized who I was, was, sad and uncomfortable.  She expressed her feelings and then kept repeating how good I looked, to the point where I actually felt ill at ease because I wasn't acting or looking miserable.
Funny, how people expect you to  grieve on the outside, maybe if I walked around with a wad of balled up Kleenex in my hand constantly dabbing my teary eyes that would fit her image of how a grieving mother should act.  Instead of feeling proud of the person I  project when I am out, she  made me feel like I shouldn't be happy or friendly. This is the 1 dimensional preconceived notion of the grieving parent that I have encountered before.  The fact that I am able to carry on with my life by being a productive person with a positive attitude should be applauded because I have worked hard to get to this point.  Projecting positivity doesn't mean I am not heartbroken over her death, but I owe it to both Alexis and Danielle to try.  Alexis modelled this very behaviour right up to the moment she died.  I can only imagine how hard this must have been for her knowing what she was facing but, she did it. She needed everyone  to feel comfortable in her presence and she needed to be treated as normally as possible.  Fulfilling these goals was important, surrounding herself  with positive energy helped her to maintain a good attitude thus sustaining a good quality of life and  I can say unequivocally and that she achieved both.  So how can I not attempt to attain the same goals as  Lex?   I know with my entire being how disappointed she would be if I didn't try, this was not her way, it is not my way, I am not that 1 dimensional grieving parent.    The way I conduct myself literally models Alexis', who lead by example - behaving in the way she wished to be treated.  I also hope I am a role model for Dani by showing her that you can have a full, positive life in spite of suffering the greatest sadness.

Monday, January 6, 2014

LISA AND CHESTER'S WEDDING

This month Dani and I attended the most beautiful wedding.  Alexis' friends Lisa and Chester were married on Dec. 30, in Jamaica.  I have so many mixed emotions that it's been difficult to sort them out.  We've been waiting a long time for this wedding.   Lisa and Chester have been together for 11 years and they met because of Alexis.  I believe that you can gauge the quality of a person by the friends they keep and Lex's friends are wonderful.  Kind, generous, caring and even after 3 years missing her terribly.  Their love and devotion to her memory is both heartwarming and terribly sad.  I have been insulated in my grief and although I am aware that she was loved and is missed by others I hadn't given it much thought until this trip.  These friends loved Lex completely and I am so proud.
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Dec. 29, was the 3rd anniversary of Alexis' passing.  It was also the night before the wedding, Dani and I were quietly watching the sunset when we noticed an unusual cloud formation that resembled two letters I and C,  holes in the clouds with the orange of the sunset glowing behind them that were so compelling that I took a picture of them. I  C,  we both felt that we were seeing a message from Lex telling us that she was with us, watching.
                      
It was important to Lisa to include Alexis in her wedding so she borrowed a beaded necklace that Lex had made and  braided it into her hair, she also wore one of Lex's bracelets.  The wedding was in a beautiful setting overlooking the ocean,  the weather perfect, the bride radiant, the groom handsome, everyone looked wonderful and the feeling of love caressed us like the warm sun on our skin.  Then a song was played by the violinist that was not part of the playlist  provided by the bride and groom.  'Somewhere Over the Rainbow and Its a Wonderful World'  is a song that I have not been able to listen to in 3 years because I associate it so strongly with Alexis and there it was played in its entirety.  Everyone was stunned and then, not stunned because we understood that Lex was telling us that she was with us on this important day.

As happy as I am for Alexis' friends as they move through their lives, I am also saddened by what we all have lost.  Sometimes I try to pretend that Alexis is living her life, working, travelling, married and  having children.  I try to imagine that she was never touched by this terrible disease that stole her from us. That my beautiful child never felt the fear that she had to face.  I see her running around organizing everyone, beaming her beautiful smile at us happy and excited about life's possibilities.  I pretend that the words of the song 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow and It's a Wonderful World' were true for her.  When I awake from my dreaming to the harsh reality of her absence from my world I am grateful that she surrounded herself with such wonderful people and I realize that it is these friends that are her legacy and I am comforted by this.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

A Life in 9 Green Garbage Bags

Today Alexis's life fit neatly into 9 green garbage bags containing blue jeans, dresses, blouses, sweaters, blazers , shoes,  pajamas, tee shirts, bathing suits, winter clothes and summer clothes.
 9 bags.  The clothes were among her most valuable possessions. Going through them was like a trip down memory lane and  many items triggered flashbacks to good and bad times, the dress she wore to her prom, the pajamas she wore in the hospital.   Dani and I lovingly examined each item and discussed whether to keep or donate it.  I know Lex would be pleased that we are donating her belongings to the Children 's Wish Foundation and it helps that they will go where they are needed.   However, the bags also call attention to how young she was and how little she had.  Lex's  spirit, her hopes and dreams are wrapped up in those 9 bags, and they are a painful reminder that she just never had a chance to really get started.

It was a hard afternoon and I feel sad at having to do this task at all,  emptying her cupboard and drawers of her most intimate belongings is such an invasion of her space and, it is so final.   Part of me feels that I could have put off doing it because there is some comfort in seeing her room as she left it. There is also the unreasonable concern that without her clothes to look at it will become harder to remember her, even though  I know that I really don't need her stuff to keep her memory alive.  Leaving her room untouched also seems the easier choice as in easier to do nothing, but it really isn't,  because it was distressing to see her clothes becoming outdated, a constant reminder of a life that simply stopped.   9 green garbage bags containing my daughters essence now sit on my porch waiting for pick up and it is all I can do not to run outside, rescue them and put them back where they belong despite knowing that the act of donating her clothing albeit painful is another necessary step in moving forward.

Friday, October 18, 2013

My Paradox

After almost 3 years of mourning I think I am qualified to discuss what its really like, I mean REALLY like to live this way.  The death of your child is not something you plan for.  It is when that child is born healthy and helpless, that you understand the enormity of the responsibility you have taken on, as a parent you feel fear but also excitement for your child's future, imagining, and planning as they grow.   Immediately you also experience a love so powerful that you know you would do anything to ensure that your child lives as wonderful a life as you can provide.  But, when the unimaginable happens and your child is diagnosed with a life threatening disease you realize how vulnerable we really are and all the unreasonable fears you harboured inside all your child's life have actually become real, this does irreparable damage, it opens the door to fear.  You understand with clarity that your child could die, when your child does die, well, our language has no words to describe the unimaginable pain and sadness you feel, it is horror, it is pain, it is terrible emptiness and it is the knowledge that nothing you can do will ever bring your child home and that's when you understand that this is how you are going to feel for the rest of your life.   You will never stop missing your child nor do you want to because somehow missing her and remembering her hold hands in your heart.  This is a life changing experience, the worst has happened the open door that fear walked through stays open,  now you belong to the special club of people who understand our true powerlessness.   But, although I fear life's frailty it is that very fear that has provided me with the insight to see how wondrous our existence is.  I will always feel overwhelming sadness but somehow, miraculously I can appreciate joy, see beauty and feel love. This is what Alexis's death has taught me and I clearly see the paradox of my life,  the confusing emotional rollercoaster that I ride every day.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Alexis's 30th Birthday


Always before Alexis's birthday I get a little maudlin.  The magnitude of what we have lost is incomprehensible.  This birthday would have been her 30th and Lex would have celebrated in style.  We continued with the wonderful tradition that began with Lex's 28th birthday.  This year almost 30 friends and family joined us for a Sushi, Asian fusion dinner (Lex's favorite) at a local restaurant.  We visited Lex in the afternoon and spent time thinking about and missing this beautiful, vibrant, wonderful person - my daughter.   Then we went to dinner with the most beautiful, wonderful people, our friends and family.  When I looked around the restaurant my heart warmed to see so many loving faces who needed/wanted to be together and be with us on this night and I am so grateful that Lex was the kind of person who garnered so much love.  This is a trickle down effect, the love for Lex is now being given to us unconditionally  and it helps, it helps a lot.

 I find myself day dreaming sometimes, wondering where Lex would be now if she had lived.  Where would she be working, would she be living on her own, would she be married, single? So many possible scenarios.  If she had never gotten Leukemia where would she be?  As a healthy person the sky was the limit for Lex, the possibilities endless.   That she would have been living in another country is a big possibility, she was an adventurer, an explorer, a risk taker, she easily connected with people wherever she went and the world held endless possibilities for her. But, if she had survived I wonder if she could have been a complete person or would she have been riddled with health issues for the rest of her life?  Graft versus host disease, secondary cancers, cataracts (already diagnosed) lung issues, liver issues, joint pain and arthritis from steroids and chemo, a weakened immune system, heart problems, the list goes on and on, and I ask how my vibrant daughter would have coped with this litany of health problems.  Would we have had to watch a person we adored attempting to live a compromised life, constantly hitting brick walls, never being able to achieve what she dreamed of, and always with the fear that her disease would return.  Is life no matter what, better than no life?  Selfishly I say yes, but, would she?  So I have to content myself with the knowledge that Alexis lived a full and happy life for 27 years, she loved deeply, lived hard and played harder.  Lex would want us all to remember that the most important things are really very simple, they are,  hug tight, eat well, love deeply, laugh till you cry, and celebrate, celebrate every single life event with enthusiasm!
 So Happy 30th Birthday my darling, I hope you had the party of your dreams.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Waiting Room

The length of our lifespan is relatively short.  We attempt to accomplish so much in approximately 29,200 days.  We seem to be hardwired to get educated,  find employment,  find a life partner, have children, raise children, perhaps own a home.   Our desire is to leave this earth a better place than we found it, we crave fulfillment in our lives and spend a lot of time trying to learn how to be happy.  We do all this even as we are aging, the passage of time making it more and more difficult to accomplish our goals.  One wrong step, the wrong job, the wrong life partner, illness, catastrophic world events and, we run out of time.  The cards are really stacked against us, it almost seems impossible and a little unreasonable to expect to achieve and sustain these objectives and yet every human being on this planet tries.  Why?  Part of the reason is an effort to make the most out of the time we do have, to be as productive as possible.   We are like ants each generation going through the motions trying to be better than the one before, building, working, planning. This model has gone on for thousands of years and will probably continue for thousands of years to come. And yet the eventual end result for every human being on the planet is the same, we will run out of time.  It occurred to me that this current existence is really like a 'waiting room,'  imagine you are sitting in a doctors office waiting to be called in for your appointment,  you read a magazine or nap, the time spent while waiting is secondary to the actual appointment, we don't know what will happen in the doctors office but we do know that it will be much more important than the time spent in the waiting room.  Could our existence be the same?  Is this need to be so productive with our 29,200 days simply an attempt to control what there is no control of?
 Is the brief  time we spend now simply a pause in the great cosmos while we wait for what's to come? And when we enter the next realm will we finally see the big picture and clearly understand that the time spent in the 'waiting room' was just that, waiting!