I’m Gonna Miss This

I will never forget the night my mom called to let me know that my nana was not going to make it through the night.

I was home folding laundry watching the season finale of The Apprentice. My kids were sleeping.  My husband was working.  I had paused The Apprentice while on the phone. When I hung up I un-paused the show and Trace Adkins had just taken the stage.  He began to sing and I was mesmerized. He sang a song about how life can be so crazy but “you’re gonna miss this” -the chorus and the name of the song. Like country music does, it tells little stories of life. I heard my life in it.

It hit me so hard at that exact moment; Trace was right. I already missed my nana and she was still here. She was in a coma-like sleep and had been for a few days, so technically the nana I knew and loved had already left us.

I cried. Then I cried some more.

The next morning my nana was still hanging in there. Not conscious, but still breathing.

I went out and bought Trace’s album and listened to that song over and over. Later that day when she passed away I cried even more.

IMG_5076

I never said a word to my kids about that song but each one of them told me months later how much they loved that song and how it reminded them of Nana Alice.

That was in March of 2008.

I am thinking about that tonight as my children have a group of friends over and they are swimming, music is blaring and they are laughing, shouting and singing. They are LOUD. They are fun, happy and loving life.

I sit back on the deck and watch them swim, not able to hear myself think because it is so loud, but

I wouldn’t change a thing. I am soaking up every sound, every laugh and every smile.

fun summer nights!

These days, these years, they are the best ones of my life.

I know I’m gonna miss this. ❤️

 

Without the Birthday Boy…

Ten years ago, at this moment, I was in labor. I was 4 hours and 35 minutes away from bringing my beautiful son into this world. I was rocking permanent dents into the carpet of my bedroom with every contraction.. trying to stay quiet in my new rocking chair so my family could rest, elated that my baby boy would soon be snuggling in my arms. No matter how many crazy worries went through my head, I never imagined I would be here tonight without my son.

Josh would be SO happy to be celebrating double digits. And we would be happy to do anything he wanted for his birthday. The January before he died, we started the tradition of decorating the dining room with birthday streamers and a banner and balloons and really going all out in the simple ways that make a kid feel special. I could tell he was a tiny bit jealous of his little sister that day, and I was so looking forward to spoiling him in that same way for his birthday 6 1/2 months later. We never got the chance. We spent the days leading up to his 9th birthday trying to wrap our heads around the fact that our son would not be there to celebrate. Our little boy was dead. Forever 8 years old.

We spent his last few days making promises to him- ways we would celebrate his birthday and spoil him when he woke up. Not “if.” We would help him build the treehouse of his dreams. We would even call Pete from Treehouse Masters if he wanted. I would let him skip the next year of school if he wanted, and just spend time doing everything he had ever wanted to do. We meant every word.

On August 3, 2015 at 5:35 AM, Joshua Quentin Kaye will be 10 years old, but he won’t be here to celebrate, to hug, to spoil. I will do my best to hug and love and spoil whoever I am with- all day. I hope you will do the same. #ThisIsForJosh

Josh at NEWC fence JKF Stamp

 

 

 

 

Almost a Year…

It’s June already. Soon enough, I’ll be marking the one year anniversary of the day he got sick. The day we went to the ER. The day he was transferred to ICU. The day he coded. The day we learned he would never come home with us again. The day we left the hospital without our boy.

Joshua Quentin Kaye was born on August 3, 2005. 10 days after his due date, after only 8 hours of labor. It was the perfect-story labor; a little funny and completely sweet. After several years of infertility, with a big sister begging for a little brother, it’s possible there had never been a baby born who was more wanted and planned for than him. He weighed in at 8 pounds 3 ounces, which was a shock, because he was so skinny- and then they stretched him out. He measured 22 1/2 inches long. He was an adorable string bean. I remember being stunned when he lifted his head off of my husband’s shoulder to look around the room as Andy carried him to me. He was perfect. Much lighter than I had expected- blonde hair and blue eyes?!- but gorgeous. His big sister was so happy, proud, in love. She beamed with joy as she held him. And our family was perfect.

Our boy was engaging and funny from the very beginning. His eyes like gorgeous pools, reflecting love back at everyone who saw him. He loved to meet people, but was happiest at home with his family- especially his doting sister.

Baby Josh, before his eyes turned green.

Baby Josh, before his eyes turned green.

He did everything early. He stacked a set of wooden blocks when he was 5 months old. He pulled himself to standing at 6 months and was climbing stairs a few weeks later. We had to be ready for anything! And he loved to laugh!

When Josh became a big brother at 3 1/2, he was concerned and a little jealous. But, he spent his mornings building giant towers for his “Baby A” and playing songs for her on his harmonica.

We moved to a new house a few months later and when we got new furniture for the living room, our sweet boy mourned the couch he had found comfort on- while nursing, snuggling, napping, and playing- for days and weeks. He was passionate, loyal, sentimental, and connected strongly to things he cared about. Even couches.

When Josh was 5, doctors discovered a Chiari malformation. Basically, his skull was a little to snug for his brain and they needed to perform a major surgery, cutting through all the muscles and bone at the base of his skull, to alleviate pressure on his brain stem and spinal cord. He sat himself up in bed 4 hours after his surgery and was walking around the hospital the next morning. The Chief of Neurosurgery was astonished. This child knew no limits. He didn’t know how to let things hold him back.

Joshua’s friends were happy to have him back at school. He was the planner of games, the peacemaker among arguing friends. And, as his friends have told us over the last 11 months, the boy who stuck up for his friends, stopped others from teasing, listened to what mattered and showed love- always.

He was not perfect at home. He pushed and he argued and he refused to do homework on anyone’s timeline but his own. He got mad when his big sis needed quiet time do focus on school work and wasn’t always kind to his little sister when she wanted his attention. But he made us laugh. He did the cutest little tushy shake you could ever imagine and he would sing along to whatever songs he and his sisters had on repeat with his sweet, sincere voice.

Our silly boy!

Our silly boy!

He was an animal and nature lover. I think a wild lion would have laid down and rolled over for a tummy rub if Josh asked him to. He would spend hours with his friends or little sister, looking for cool bugs or standing still so a dragonfly or butterfly could land on him. He loved to go for long walks and just be out in nature.

When Josh was 6 1/2, he heard about mass dolphin strandings on the Cape and he asked if we could go and help. It was winter and the beach where the dolphins needed help was 2 hours away. He insisted that we find a way to help, so we called IFAW to find out what they needed most and then planned a fundraiser. Joshy spent hours cutting out pictures of dolphins and making a poster to bring to school. He told all of his friends and teachers and raised over $1000 for IFAW. He was so proud when he received a thank you note from, then president of IFAW, Fred O’Regan.

Joshua loved to build. He used to get so frustrated when I said no to buying actual bricks and mortar so he could “build stuff” in the back yard. He settled for Minecraft and hand-drawing plans for furniture, buildings and tree-houses. When I told him about Habitat for Humanity one night, he couldn’t fall asleep. The thought that he might be able to help build a real house for someone who needed one was too exciting!

He never felt like he was too young to do anything, but he was definitely too young to die.

Joshy squishy face JKF stamp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Post Published on Babble.com- Why I’m OK with a Messy House

I’m honored to have a new piece published on Babble.com today.

I’d love it if you’d read it and share it with anyone you think would find it helpful. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below- how much do you stress about keeping your home neat and clean?

M❤

Taking Down the Tree

Josh's ornament
We’re taking down the tree.

The tree that I delayed putting up. That A practically had to beg for this year. That we cried, decorating.

That Josh would have loved and sat near and gazed at with such joy.

The first tree without him.

We have lived through our first holiday season without our boy. Should I be relieved?

I’m not.

I feel like it would be better, easier, if we had melted down. Exploded. Imploded. If the world had just stopped.

It hurts more, somehow, knowing that we can go on without him.

Trigger Warnings & Facebook’s Year in Review

About a year ago, I read an article about high school and college students wanting trigger warnings for material on the syllabus. I was irritated and thought it was unreasonable. I understood that if someone had PTSD or had been raped, that certain material may trigger some awful memories and emotions. At the same time, I assumed that these students participate in the real world to some degree, if they are able to sit in a classroom and do homework. If that’s the case, these students are probably watching TV and skimming Facebook timelines, where they will see movie trailers, commercials, headlines and video clips that may cause similar distress. My conclusion was that if schools agreed to label the reading list with trigger warnings, it would become a never ending list. The best literature is often packed with the hardest things in life. Reading some of the things might be hard, but working through the book may be good therapy. Or not. Student’s choice at that point.

This past week, as each Facebook friend’s Year in Review popped up, I felt a little kick to my gut every time I read the words “It’s been a great year. Thanks for being a part of it!” In fact, the first time it popped up, I felt a little hurt- how could someone close to me say that it had been a great year? My son died on July 7 after a nightmarish 13 day battle with E. coli. It was sudden and shocking. We watched our child suffer in ways no person ever should and we witnessed things that replay in our minds every day, like nightmares on a movie screen as we try to live without him.

Trigger Warning
So, when I read a Huffington Post article yesterday, saying that Facebook had apologized to a dad who lost his daughter this year, I was torn. I feel for the guy. I know how jarring it was to see the automated prompt, with my boy’s smiling face in the middle and confetti all around. I knew what the last 6 months of my year have looked like and I didn’t want a replay. But, I did not have to look! I think the app was a great idea- it’s fun for most people. It wasn’t fun for me. It wasn’t fun to see everyone’s happy year end while mine sucks. But, that is my life right now. I don’t expect a trigger warning on Facebook, or on the radio before an ad for Whole Foods, where we bought the ground beef that made Joshy sick. I don’t expect companies like Folger’s to change their emotional commercials so that they don’t highlight, for me, the fact that I will never wake up at my adult son’s home and tell his children stories of his childhood. I can’t expect to avoid seeing adorable, blonde boys playing with sisters and friends, searching for bugs, walking their dogs. I shouldn’t expect to avoid the feelings that follow the most traumatic events and the biggest loss of my life.

Sometimes, life is hard. Sometimes it sucks and is unfair. Sometimes awful, unthinkable things happen. We can not expect the world to think of every terrible possibility and walk on eggshells to avoid triggering our nightmares. We must do the best we can to work through and live on, hopefully remembering the happy times more often than the worst.

Finding Joy When It Doesn’t Feel Easy

So, I’ve decided to take BlogHer’s NaBloPoMo challenge for December and post every day. The theme this month is joy- fitting for the season, right? It just so happens that it is the word I have chosen as my mantra these last few months, in hopes of more than just getting through.

This used to be my favorite time of year. This year, it is (as you might expect) very hard. Kicking off my holiday shopping at a fundraiser a friend’s store was having for our school, I found myself wiping tears away so I could see the toys and games. Shopping for the girls and seeing things Josh would have wanted was incredibly painful.
Having Thanksgiving with family, a little extra space at the table, was pretty awful. Hearing holiday music and seeing festive lights on the drive home was even worse.

Here, in this bright and cheerful season, my heart is struggling to feel the joy that usually comes so easily. I find myself cringing when the neighbors switch on their lights and my body tenses when I hear my favorite Christmas songs. It seems impossible to celebrate anything without the boy who brought us so much joy.

And then I hear his sisters laughing. There can be joy with pain. And pain with joy, I guess. This is our journey…

Where do you find joy?