and i’ll rise up

it’s my birthday tomorrow. well, it WAS tomorrow when i started this but here we are now at 12:31am so i guess we can start playing the song now. let me preface, before i get into any of the meat here: this post is not a plea for “happy birthdays” or “have a great day” sentiments. nobody probably reads this garbage, and that’s ok – i’ve needed to get this stuff off my chest, and it’s been much too long. it’s actually quite fitting that i’m sitting down in front of the computer tonight, for the first time in over a year, to pour it all out on the eve of having spent, no, survived, another year on this earth. well, that and WordPress said my url would be sold to the highest bidder if i didn’t make a move. assholes. what can i say, i’m a sucker for peer pressure.

i’ve survived another year on this earth. another word for survival? suffered. survival is the same as suffering? that’s horrible, and yet pretty spot-on if i say so myself. if you had asked me 5 years ago where i’d be 5 years from “now” the last thing i’d tell you is trying to find myself and the meaning of life after losing seven pregnancies and bearing the sudden death of my sister, my sweet Angie. how is it that i get to take in this air every day and she doesn’t? what is that bullshit about. spoiler alert: i have ZERO answers for any of this. a year later and i’m still as blindsided as the day i started bleeding too much. or the afternoon where i saw my sweet baby with no heartbeat. or the night i got the phone call. and this last time, the morning i was wheeled into the OR for the last time, to sterilize myself so i never had to feel this pain again.  these are moments in time, snapshots in my life, that are forever seared into my being. moments that defined me, and shaped my future.

so what have i learned this last year? what profound advice can i give? i wish i had an answer for you. i would love to tell you “and i woke up to find it was all just a bad nightmare”. these last 365 days i’ve worked hard to survive, to come out alive. i learned my usual suspects are as dependable as can be expected: wine (nice, but fleeting, and those calories tho), ignorance (i’ll let you know how that goes when i snap out of it), and throwing myself into work (when i have a moment from my multiple jobs i’ll fill you in on that as well). but most importantly, i learned time doesn’t heal all wounds. it just makes the details more fuzzy so the images you recall are less repulsive. “time heals all wounds”. i hate how passive that sounds… like, if you wait long enough everything will be fine. fuck that, i waited years and shit only got worse. you want things to get better? take life by the horns and make it what you want. i learned that this year, REALLY learned that. to do so i had to come to some hard-AF decisions. for the last few years, when we lost baby after baby, amazing husband and i wrestled with our visions for our family. and after Angie died, it all became clear (although not right away, that would be too easy): no more what ifs, the shoulda woulda couldas faded away. what remained was the here and now, and nothing else mattered – i learned you had to cherish what you could hold. so i found myself having to let go of my most cherished dream – i had to let go of my heart. the one full of a dream of a beautiful messy house bursting with love, with children’s voices echoing down the halls, hand me downs, and the look in my son’s eyes as he looks at his brothers longingly. my life now had no matching christmas outfits. no rainbow after the torrential downpour. no perfect response when someone asked me “is he your only one?”

i had to let go of all the things i wanted for us… for me. that’s maybe the hardest thing i’ve ever had to do, in my life. harder than saying goodbye to my babies. harder than letting go of angie’s hand. i had to walk away from hope.

letting go of hope brought me to rock bottom.

and in many ways i’m still there. i still have all my maternity clothes packed away in the garage. right next to amazing son’s baby basinet. and the stroller. pack and play. his baby clothes. i still have a onesie i had bought for his brother, a darling little jumper with tags on it that tears at my heart when i come across it. two packages of diapers that “i was going to use for the next one”. i have some of Angie’s clothes hanging in my closet, they are too painful to put on. one still smells like her perfume, i can’t bear to wash it.  these concrete reminders of the intangible hopes for my life that doesn’t exist. one day perhaps i’ll be ready to part with them. will that mean i’ve gotten to the recovery stage? i don’t think so, i think time will simply trick me into forgetting the sharp pain.

that’s another word for survival: recovered. what the what? nope. not there yet. not. even. close. but if there’s anything that’s happened in these last couple hundred mornings, it’s been a survival instinct to make something happen – just DO SOMETHING. make it count, somehow, to someone. maybe that someone is you. or me.

i hope i’m on the road to recovery. i know i’m on some kind of road, my feet are actually moving (and not just because i’m running again although that helps a helluva lot) and though the hope is gone, what has settled in its place (although i can’t put a name on it) lacks the palpable heavy weight of the stress and anxiety i’ve felt these last years. this is my life now, this is what i’ve been given today. today, i’ve been given another day to breathe. given another year ahead of me. and this is the moment to grab it by the horns.  angie would want me to do that.

Snapseed

“i’ll rise up. i’ll rise like the day. i’ll rise up, unafraid.

i’ll rise up, high like the waves. i’ll rise up, in spite of the ache.

i’ll rise up. and i’ll do it a thousand times again.”

-andra day

the end

there is nothing to say.

there are no words.

no words can change what has happened, nothing can change what i am feeling.

i am empty.

i see my legs move beneath me, climbing the stairs, walking here and there, but i do not really move. i am frozen in this spot.

i hear my voice leave my mouth, the words float up into the air. i don’t know what i am saying. i can’t remember.

i am a shell.

i wince with pain changing positions, turning, coughing, shifting. a swift reminder that this nightmare is real. my belly is swollen, it’s scars re-injured. this isn’t our first rodeo, you would think it would be used to this by now. but it hurts nonetheless. however the small bloodied incisions that appear on the surface don’t tell the real story of the hurt that lies beneath.

i can’t make any more tears. i will them to come but nothing happens.

i am empty.

the end started sunday night. i was at a dinner party with amazing husband when the pain began. what started out like cramps quickly turned into that all-too-familiar steady pain, and my old frenemy, rectal pressure.  in the back of my head, i already knew it was coming, i just refused to give in to the truth until it was staring me in the face. i was scared. rectal pressure was the give away in my last 2 ectopics. you see, when blood starts pouring into your belly, gravity helps it settle into a small space between your bowels and your uterus = rectal pressure. i felt like i had to go to the bathroom so very bad, but of course, that was not the problem.

i told amazing husband we needed to leave, and embarrassingly excused myself from the party after only being there maybe an hour. we walked to the car in silence. we had been “here” before, and we both were too scared to say it.  we drove home, and called best friend to come over and talk me down from the ledge. i was panicking. the pain was not abating, it was coming in waves, but not as bad as last time. i tried to talk myself out of it but there were 2 too many sensible people in the room. they were right in arguing for getting to the hospital sooner rather than later so i acquiesced. best friend made some calls to our friends in the hospital and when we arrived they ushered me right into the ED triage (there are bonuses to working in the hospital you frequent).  i explain to triage nurse what’s happening, they know my history from last time so they waste no time and before i can blink i’m in a bed waiting to see a doc. more friends show up in my room to show support. i have the best friends.

i get an IV, blood is drawn, and doc comes in.  i know him (hell, i know everyone in this ED), and when he looks up to see my face he is taken aback. “do you want someone else?” he asks. i laugh. “it’s all good, i know you’ve always wanted to know my insane infertility history.” my blood work shows baby is growing appropriately, HCG is 1557. (wednesday’s result was 327, that’s doubling every 2 days). he orders ultrasound. i ask for pain meds, the pain is not going away.

the pain does not go away, despite multiple doses. morphine. dilaudid. they just lessen it but it never disappears. i know something is wrong. my parents show up. god bless them, they are so nervous.

ultrasound time. i will summarize here, tech couldn’t find anything that showed an ectopic nor could she see anything in my uterus. she admitted with an HCG at that level she wasn’t surprised to not see a baby yet.  incidentally she found a 1.8cm x 1.8cm spot of free fluid next to my right ovary that she attributed to a ruptured cyst.

my sister in law is here now. i am feeling the love but inside i am dying with fear. doc calls on-call OB, they go through my labs, ultrasound results, vital signs, etc. and he says at this point there is no intervention to perform; there is no real cause for the abdominal pain. watch and wait they say. come back if pain increases or you start bleeding they say. plan is for repeat HCG and ultrasound on tuesday.

we live to see another day. i literally said that to husband. i am a fool. we left the ED breathing a tiny bit easier. i prayed to god harder than ever before. please show me mercy. please bless us and this baby. please don’t make me suffer this again.

i couldn’t sleep all night. every turn made me wince with pain. the pressure was growing, and i tried to sleep it off. i’ll be fine. the ultrasound found nothing, it’s going to be okay.  we woke up to start the day but i stayed in bed, exhausted. i had already told boss i was taking today off. amazing husband got amazing son ready for school and as he walked out the door to take him to school told me he loved me and would be back soon.

i figured it was time to get up and moving. all i had to do was make it to tomorrow, tuesday. tomorrow i would know for certain what was happening. i stood up, took a few steps, and the room started to spin. i quick sat back on the bed, took some breaths, and it righted itself. i stood up too fast, that’s all. i haven’t eaten much in the last 12 hours. i walked to the bathroom, brushed my teeth, went downstairs and plugged my phone in to charge.  OB called me, she got the message i was in the ED last night. she was concerned the HCG level wasn’t doubling like it should. wait, what? (she shared with me friday’s result was 1176) and she wanted me to re-do blood work ASAP at the same lab i always go to, and then come right to the office for an ultrasound. i told her i felt a little dizzy and the pain was still there but i could do what she asked. i walked back upstairs to change and i felt the blood drain from my face. something is terribly wrong. sweat started to drip down my back. i need to get my phone, i need to call for help. where is my phone?? 

it was downstairs. i had to walk down the stairs, holding onto the walls, and nearly collapsed and fell. i crawled to the kitchen, got my phone and crawled onto the couch to lay down. i called amazing husband and asked him to come home right away. he could hear the panic in my voice.  i text best friend to please come over and bring her blood pressure cuff. i need to know if i should call 911 or if i could make it to OBs office. i wanted so badly to believe everything was going to be alright. i was a fool.

within minutes they both were at my side, my blood pressure was fine and i told them what OB said. husband wanted me to go to ED but i convinced him i was alright and we should do the blood work and go to her office.  i’m not sure how i managed to stay upright for the next hour, walking and functioning, while i was bleeding into my belly. we waited an hour in OB’s office to have the ultrasound. for an hour i watched belly after belly walk in front of me, listened to these women ooh and ahh over their stats, and the only thing that saved me from face punching them was the fact i would’ve passed out if i stood up. i even had the pleasure of walking into the ultrasound room to see a nice healthy 13 week old fetus on the screen. congratulations to the chick who laid on this table before me. fuck off.

the tech inserted the probe (aka dildo cam), it had suddenly grown cactus spikes on it. i cried out in pain. and in an instant i saw a ton of black areas on the computer screen. black = fluid. she sighed, and that was enough to confirm our worst fears. we had lost the baby. there was about 400cc of blood in my belly. i couldn’t hear anything else. my ears plugged up, my eyes filled with tears and everything went black. amazing husband put his arms around me, his tears falling onto my face, and we were swallowed up in grief.  i said i couldn’t do this again God, what did i do to deserve this?? 

i was whisked to a room to speak with OB. i heard things like “emergency surgery”, and “remove your tube” and “dangerous”. i didn’t hesitate: i told her to take it out, that way i would never be in this situation ever again. i won’t ever do this again. you won’t be able to do this to me again God. we headed across the street to the ED to be admitted for emergency surgery.

the rest was a blur. more IVs. more blood work. more pain meds. doctors. anesthesiologists. surgeons. friends. tears. more and more and more. again, you think i’d be used to this already, but it was another lesson in pain. each time is exponentially more difficult to bear. the OR suite was frigid, i was shaking uncontrollably (chills and from fear) and the tears wouldn’t stop. they were going to take my baby. going to take my tube. the mask was placed over my face. “take some deep breaths”. everything went white.

some hours later i woke up, groggy and queasy. quickly scanned my surroundings and with relief looked over and saw amazing husband right next to me. he had tears in his eyes. we stared at each other silently.

it was the end.

there was nothing to say.

and here i am today. in a paradox. i am filled with emptiness. i move but i am frozen in place. i breathe but am not living. i am here. but i am not. whatever did i do to deserve this. where is god now?

#momofboy

honestly, i don’t even know if they were brothers. or boys, for that matter. they very well could’ve been all girls. but likely, they were a mix of sister and brothers,… after you lose as many as i did, chances are that 50% were probably girls and 50% were boys, right? because,… odds. but i’ve always dreamed i’d be a mom of boys, and for this reason i told him he had brothers.

i always dreamed i’d be a mom of boys. #momofboys was to be my forever hashtag. i envied every single one of the women who added it to their shocking-yet-hilarious facebook posts of boys doing stupid crap. i knew what i would do: i, too, would post it proudly at the end of every single one of my IG perfectly-filtered posts of my two sweet tiny “men” loving on each other, or maybe wrestling in the yard, or standing awkwardly in matching little league jerseys.  i’d be able to join that elite club of moms who wear lululemon activewear 24/7 at the baseball fields, while they scratch their heads marvelling at these crazy humans. i would easily fit in, throwing out comments like “i know right? i can’t keep these two from killing each other!” and then laugh that perfect “i’m just kidding, they are angels” laugh. while i silently wanted to down a box of wine, yes, a box, and hide in a corner.

i always dreamed i’d be a mom of boys. i pictured the early months where my older one would lovingly gaze at the baby in my arms, doting on him and wanting to be my helper… my big boy.  i envisioned myself chasing them all over the house, in one hand a bottle of 409 and a rag, and the other perhaps legos left on the stairwell needing a home, or some half-eaten snack discovered hiding behind a chair. i would have to wrangle them to stand still for the christmas photos, annoyed the entire time because we can’t get the f*cking shot, but later on that night chuckle to myself with a full heart at the comedic scenes that unfolded earlier.  a full heart who’s only problem that day was too many tiny humans needed extra love and hugs in that moment.

i always dreamed. that is the take home message. i dared to dream. dreams are important, they are extensions of your heart, your psyche. representations of your deepest desires. you should have dreams, it’s healthy to dream.  as a 20-something and even early-30-something you believe your dreams are absolutely within your grasp. this is your prime time, these are your years to find yourself, find a partner, and find a purpose in life. many women dream of having children. it’s innate: i am woman, i make the babies. we are born to create life and carry it. but we aren’t prepared, at any age really, to hear that we are broken. i wasn’t ready to hear it. and then hear it again. and again. there is no manual, no self-help book, no script to follow when you learn firsthand, that your body is more likely to kill your babies than nurture them.

there is no lesson in life harder to learn, than losing your own child.

i always dreamed i’d be a mom. and with that, a mom of more than 1 child. my dreams actually did come true – i am a mom of more than 1 child. seven children, to be exact. but only 1 that lives and breathes today.  i never thought i’d be the mom i am today.  the one who doesn’t talk about her other children. do you know how hard it is to answer the question “how many children do you have?” or “is he the only one?” … you don’t go “there.” you don’t freely open the jagged raw discourse of miscarriages and emergent surgeries.  it happened the other day at his after-school program. the director was telling me how much she enjoyed having him and his funny personality (cue proud mom moment) and followed it up with “will you guys have another?”.  you never go “there” with people, they aren’t buying tickets for your crazy train. so you smile politely and say “no, he’s all we ever wanted.” which is true, he is everything we hoped and prayed for. i don’t talk about my children that died. i write about them, sure. i try to honor them in whatever way i can. but i actively avoid leading any conversation with “let me tell you about my miscarriages”. that’ll ruin a good time, every time. i keep them locked away in a necklace, next to my heart.

i never thought there was the right time to open up pandora’s f*cked up box of pain. and then i told him about his brothers.

it was so natural, the way it came out. i had no intention of telling him at this age (5)… he’s too young. he probably was/is. i’m sure i’ll regret it somewhere down the road. but his question was the same one he’d asked a million times over and i’d always put it off, or distracted him so as not to have to answer it. it’d be bedtime, and we would be laying in his bed, cuddling. the conversation light, maybe talking about the events of the day (what happened at karate, who went on time-out today at school, because allll the kids know who went on time-out), or what lie ahead of us in the coming day. i’d stroke his face lightly, and sing to him gentle lullabies. his hand would reach for the locket around my neck, and he would hold it between his little fingers, bring it close to his face and inspect its contents.

over and over he’d ask me what’s inside the necklace. over and over i’d tell him “your brothers”.  i never could lie to him about this, i wouldn’t deny their existence, especially not to him. they were real. whether they took a breath or not, they lived… they existed. to me, to us at least.

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amazing son, my babies, and the angel wings on which they fly

12/4/2011

3/14/2012 (my rainbow baby)

2/8/2014

10/30/2014

4/9/2015

11/30/2015

1/5/2017

he’d ask why his brothers were around my neck to which i’d always reply “it’s how i can keep them close to my heart.” cue tears on three… two… one… there is no rulebook for this. usually he’d be satisfied with that and we’d go back to singing, or cuddling. tears would stream from my face like rivers, but i’d manage to keep them hidden from him. i’d kiss him goodnight, he’d nod off and hours later i would cry myself to sleep. i never shied away from telling him he had brothers. i just wasn’t forthcoming about where they went.

but not this night… on this night he was not satisfied. “why are they in the necklace and not here with me? i wish they were here with me.” and he looked up at me with these big brown eyes, eyes that pleaded with me to make a miracle happen. to somehow produce a sibling out of thin air. he’s asked for a baby brother or baby sister a hundred times over. but this time was different. choking back tears i decided in that moment to tell him, it just felt “right” when it never, ever, feels right.

“your brothers were too tiny to live with us, i loved them so much but God wanted them to be with Him instead.”

the big eyes only got bigger, i could see his mind racing. “my brothers died?”

shit. should i have said that? i can’t take it back now. i nodded. and followed it up with “dad and i prayed so hard for you, we wanted you so badly and God answered our prayers.”

“i wish i had a tiny little baby brother, but it’s okay.  you and dad wanted me real bad and God gave me to you. He wanted my brothers with him so he could love them. He and Tía Angie can take care of my brothers.” dagger meet heart.

oh sweet boy, you are wise beyond your years.

“yes sweetheart, Tía Angie is up in heaven playing with your brothers.”

dear God, if you’re listening, and you too Angie… please give them all a big hug for me right now. and please give me the strength to bear this. this mom of boy can only take so much right now, and i don’t dare tell him his wish will never come true.

long overdue

i stopped writing. i did. i’m not apologizing for it. it was a mandate, direct from my soul. i retreated into a shell of denial and waved the white flag. just couldn’t bring myself to spew about being “there”. you know, the dark, painful place called “this is your life now – deal with it.” and besides, if i had written, every post would have been the same: i am lost. i don’t understand why this happened. i can’t move on. and on, and on, and on.  being “there”, stuck in this place… it’s awful.  this place doesn’t just suck. it threatens to kill you, slowly, day by day. i can see why (and how) people fall into depression and lose years of their life after a traumatic event. how can you not? your world is suddenly flipped upside down, and yet you are somehow supposed to be able to cope effectively with the loss, (effectively, being the key word here) and also somehow move forward. what in the actual fuck, who can do that? with no training, with no prep work… there is no manual for what to do when your sister suddenly dies, no cliff notes on how to not only keep your head above water but still be a mom, a wife, an employee, et cetera. i could barely remember how to drive to work, the rest of it faded away.  i didn’t know how to deal, and i couldn’t share it with you as i simultaneously tread the dangerous water and held my breath.

there is no rule book for this. there is only time. lots and lots of time.

time to let your mind wander to those places it shouldn’t: the couldas, the wouldas, the shouldas. the what ifs. time to contemplate all the things you suddenly regret now. i should’ve visited her more. i really wasn’t as busy as i thought i was, i could’ve made time for her. i should’ve made time for her.  what that really means is i should’ve made her more of a priority. i am a shitty sister. i wish i had known her better, like… the real her.  towards the end of her life (that is so hard to say, it’s as if i’m talking about a 90 year-old lady) she started sharing with me real grown-up things, like her fears, her stressors, her dreams. things that surprisingly blindsided me. for a long time i guess i had only known the happy-go-lucky angie. angie didn’t have “fears” or “worries”… she laughed those things off, she scoffed in the face of danger. she was sunshine and rainbows, all day every day. she never wanted to bring anyone down with her own crap, because her mission in life was to build people up and shower them with love. there’s no room for your own shit when you are showering people with love. and in the last couple of years, as she allowed me to see her vulnerability, i tried my best to shower her with love and support, just as she had done to me a million times over. i wish i had been able to support her better. in the seemingly infinite time that has passed since she died, i regret this almost on a daily basis.

i would’ve complimented her more. on her beauty, her one-of-a-kind style. she, like most women, struggled to take compliments. she hated her cuban nose. i can remember clear as day as a girl my grandma offered to pay for plastic surgery to reduce its bridge. in fact, she may have repeated this offer many times over.  so i can see why she had a complex, maybe, just a little? she complained about her butt. ok well, what woman doesn’t complain about their butt.  too big, she’d say. you’re cuban, i’d reply. it’s in your DNA. no getting around that. i wish she was here right now, i’d tell her she’s perfect. big nose, big butt and all.

i wish i could’ve done something to prevent her death.

there. i said it. it’s what we all naturally try to do… look back in hindsight and play the coulda woulda shoulda game. only this particular game gets real dangerous, real quick. because before you know it, you allow guilt to grab hold of you and wrap its hands around your neck.  my brain knows for a fact no one could’ve stopped angie from dying that night. but my heart is non-sensical, purposefully illogical and flighty. it whispers to me that perhaps something could’ve been done, something, anything, and the outcome would’ve be different. maybe if i could’ve done those things i would instead be sitting across from her at a table, staring into her big brown eyes, watching her raise a venti quad soymilk hazelnut latte with 3 pumps to her brightly-colored lips. i would hear her raucous laugh, echoing around the room. i could reach over and place my arm around her shoulder and squeeze her tight.

this game can get real dangerous. i don’t like to play it. in fact, i try very hard not to. but i did, for a while there, and it was not a good situation. i was detached from my life, my family. i couldn’t concentrate on anything, it was like i had amnesia. i “slept” like crap, nightmares all the time. i’d wake up like a zombie. it took months before these things started to fade away, and i watched others, some of my closest loved ones, succumb to this game. some are still in this game. and it’s almost as hard to watch as it was to hear she was dead. because this mind fuck, these coulda woulda shouldas, sap you of everything and leave you nothing in return. they leave you a heap of tears on the floor, they scream in your ear “you weren’t good enough for her, you didn’t deserve to have her”. and when you’re in that nightmare of grief and loss and depression, you don’t have the ability to discern the truth. you believe those words.

it took an epiphany for me to realize something had to give. i was having a breakdown in my room late at night (one of many) and suddenly i felt as if she was right next to me, watching me. i could see her face, feel her there… and she was so sad, so heartbroken that i was grieving her loss so violently, and blaming myself. and it hit me, angie would never want that for me, for anyone. in fact, she’d probably yell at me (while giving me a hug, because that’s what she did) and tell me to cut it out. i don’t know what changed in that moment, but i felt a switch inside. i had this revelation, and somehow was able to forgive myself for the self-imposed guilt and let go of it. it’s okay that angie’s death is traumatic and weighs heavy on my mind and heart, but i realized in that moment, for whatever reason, that it can’t be my everything anymore. mostly because it would cause her pain and i can’t do that to her. i won’t do that to her.

there is nothing anyone could have done to prevent her death. if you are reading this and you too feel the self-imposed guilt, i beg you to let it go. nothing good comes from it, only more pain and unnecessary punishment. she would want you to let it go.

i’m trying to be strong. the holidays are coming and i’m tempted to crawl back in the hole. i miss you so much angie. getting this all out is so very long overdue. i’m not even sure this passage makes any sense. i’m dusting off the cobwebs and taking baby steps. it feels good to get this stuff out. and since it is Halloween for a few more minutes i’d like to share with you one of my favorite Angie costumes, naturally self-made. i can’t explain why it’s my favorite, hell, i’m not even sure what she actually was going for… monster? yellow zombie? regardless, she rocked it and was so proud of it because she made it with her bare hands. of course she did.  and although the hot pants probably didn’t help to minimize her butt, i wish i could tell her she looked amazing and not to change a thing. i love you angie. ❤

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your day

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i’m supposed to call you in 26 minutes. when the clock strikes midnight. it’s what i do. i am “the first” to wish you happy birthday. it’s a silly family fake competition, with an origin no one can really remember. we all race each other to be “first.” but there are serious rules, you can’t just say the words ‘happy birthday’. you have to SING. the. whole. song. and the honoree can dole out bonus points for vibrato and enthusiasm (aka volume). as everyone calls over the course of the birthday they are naturally met with disappointment when they hear they weren’t first. because being the middle child, i am fiercely competitive… it’s how i got noticed as a child. i am the first to call you. pretty much since we started this competition. until today.

i instinctively reached for my phone like i’ve done this time year after year and it hit me that i won’t sing to you in, now, 20 minutes. your name is still there in my phone, on my favorites list. i can’t bear to delete it. i can’t erase it, and sometimes i almost call it in those fleeting moments where i forget reality. when i’m walking down the street and see something that makes me think of you and i want to share it with you. and then i am snapped back into the harsh present like a thunderclap.

the thought of your birthday has been giving me such anxiety these last few weeks. i’ve been dreading it with all my being.  it’s here so soon. i am not ready for this. this day was once devoted to celebrating you, full of happiness and love and opportunity to connect… and now is replaced with a harsh reminder of the loneliness and disconnect. your birthday without you is cementing the blocks around my feet. i can’t escape this reality. we are all broken without you. i am watching us all unravel and we are powerless to stop it.

this hurts. so. much.

8 minutes now.

you are a constant in my head. i see you everywhere. the lanky girl at the coffee shop with her hair in a messy up-do carrying a giant bag. the tattooed girl in the produce aisle inspecting her fruit. and when i can’t find you in the semblance of others i am forced to channel you through the little bit of tangible memories i have left within my grasp. hidden under the blanket late at night i play your music, where no one can see the tears roll down my cheeks. i pull your plaid shirt out of the closet and run my hands over its sleeves, and breathe it in. it’s been worn so, the fibers are beyond soft under my fingertips. and then if that’s not enough self-inflicted pain i start going through the pictures. i have to. because as time goes on i fear i am forgetting things. i’m not adding any more memories to replace the ones my tired mind loses track of and i panic.

it’s here now. it’s april 13. you took your first breath 34 years ago today, it doesn’t feel that long ago. i’m certain you made mom and dad cry tears of joy with your deafening cry (setting the tone for your inability to regulate the volume of your voice). i can imagine they marveled at your big brown eyes, your chubby little body. and as you grew we all marveled at you. you were the most beautiful soul i’ve ever known. and just 2 months ago took your last breath. i remember my papí used to say when you are born you are given a book to carry.  the pages in the book are the blank pages of your life, for you to fill with your stories. and at some point, your story will be finished. it was much too short, angie, the book you were given to carry. true, the pages of your life were filled with such beautiful stories, their color spilling from their edges. i was so blessed to be a character in some of those stories, allowing your color to seep into my own pages. you had this gift of brightening everyone you touched, you made us all better humans. but your book deserved to have more blank pages for you to fill. i don’t think i’ll ever be okay with this.

i miss you with everything within me. i feel as if i’m missing a part of my body, my leg or something, and i am being forced to learn how to walk without it.  there are no words that explain how badly i want to hug you again. catch your warm gaze, see your smile. or whisper “horses horses horses” in your ear and send you into a laughing fit. this. is. so. hard. it’s getting harder every day. we were supposed to grow old together. there were so many things left undone. if there is any shred of peace it is having no regrets of words left unsaid. we never allowed that to happen. i knew how much you loved me and i did the same.

i love you. so very much.

today is your day, and yet it is also so much like every day of the last 2 months. today, like every day, your absence will weigh heavy on my mind. today i’ll be looking for you, like always, in the cool breeze, or the sun on my face, trying to find you and know you’re with me somehow. but today, like no other day, i wish i could sing to you like i used to. you know i would if i could… i would belt it out at the top of my lungs just to make you smile. and you best know i would be first. ❤

a little bit of love left

sometimes it’s the innocent words that hurt us the most. the most harmless thoughts become real words that float out our mouths into the air, and cut the deepest. they have no motive behind them, no malice or aim to injure. but they are daggers to the heart.

“mama, are you still sad because tia angie is dead?”

the not so subtle reminder. the now-5-year-old easily senses i am dying inside, as i lay next to him in his bed, and try to get through our nightly rendition of “somewhere over the rainbow.” i can’t stop the tears as they pool under my eyes, my voice cracking. i beg the song to hurry up, but as i sing the words their meaning strikes my rawest nerve more than every before.

“someday i’ll wish upon a star, and wake up where the clouds are far behind me”

my voice breaks, unable to finish the line. i look down at the sweetest face staring up at me… deep breaths… he asks me again. when Angie died i didn’t hide it from him. i couldn’t. i was woken from my sleep with the worst news imaginable, and instantly he knew something was seriously wrong. i filled every inch of the house with the sound of pure uncontrollable anguish, unable to control myself. he ran into my room, in tears, utterly confused and terrified as to what was happening. “mama what’s wrong? what’s wrong?” i laid on the floor, wailing until the breath stopped coming from my lungs. when i could make words i managed to tell him i was so very sad because tia angie died. and i hugged him tight, showering him with tears while i wailed. and he wouldn’t let me go. i’m fairly certain i scarred him for life.

yes sweetie, mama is still sad that tia angie died.

in the immediate week following her death we talked about death and dying a lot. he was coming with us to San Francisco for the week to get everything ready for her service, and to visit with family flying into town. it would be impossible to avoid talking about death when it would be surrounding him for the next week, so we ventured into unknown territory. i thought he would have so many questions but he really was most fixated on the $64,000 question… why did she die? i felt he was old enough to understand that death is a part of life, so i told him “at some point our body doesn’t work anymore and we go to be with God.” because that’s typically what happens to people, right? our physical body craps out on us and BOOM… do not pass Go, do not collect $200. but this was different. she wasn’t sick, her body wasn’t weak. and yet she left us regardless. so when he asked, i did what many parents do when they don’t have the answer: i lied to him. i lied to him to protect him from the terrifying reality at my mind’s forefront everyday: we may never know the why or the how. the reality is that i will have to find peace with the unknown, and i don’t know how to do that.

death terrifies me, that’s totally normal right? my fear comes mostly from selfish reasons: i am not ready to leave my loved ones, and i sure as hell don’t want to be separated from those i love. losing angie at such a young age has further emblazoned into my psyche the fear of dying. it terrifies me to know i will never know when my number is called until the moment is upon me. i agonize over her last moments that night… did she realize she was dying… please God, i hope not. did she suffer… i can’t believe i think these things. there is something seriously wrong with me. she was alone… was she scared… usually by this point i am sobbing hysterically, pleading with God that all these answers be “no.”i am seriously sick, i can’t help but feel these painful questions bubble up. my heart is so pained with the unknown because it leaves the door ajar for these unimaginable, tremendously awful thoughts. after drowning in that pain for  a while i manage to shove them down, out of sight, and remind myself that she would not want me to obsess like this, she wouldn’t want me to think these thoughts. it will just make me crazy. if i’m not already. but every now and again they return, uninvited.

i suppose i shouldn’t be surprised he keeps bringing up death, he had more exposure to it in 1 week than most do in years. exactly one week after angie passed away we lost my Oompa (my Dad’s dad) at the ripe age of 93. i loved my Oompa (and i know how bad this sounds) but i wasn’t sad over his death… mostly because i was incapable of grieving anything other than angie, but also because for years he had been telling us “i’m ready to go!” (as in, “upstairs”). he’d even not-so-subtly point to the sky when he said it. he had lived a long life, longer than he wished to live, and finally gone on hospice not even 2 weeks before angie’s death. we as a family chose not to tell him of her passing because we thought it would only hurt him (and he struggled with some mild dementia already, would he have to re-live that over and over?). looking at this picture now, i wonder what went through his mind when she was the one welcoming him into the party in the sky… i can imagine a good amount of confusion, then a chuckle under his breath, and a comment to the effect of “got any new tattoos since the last time i saw you?”

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we all had death on the mind. the weeks that followed were rough, with many nights spent sobbing and wandering the house aimlessly. no amount of effort could hide my own collapse into darkness, my son saw it. his little ears heard so much, more than i wished. as a parent you never want to burden your child with your own pain. your job in life is to protect them, not hurt them. to know i may have hurt him just adds to my heavy heart.he was reminded on a daily basis that his mama was more than sad, she was broken. maybe that explains why he continues to innocently cut me deep with the reminders that my beautiful sister is gone. maybe those painful memories are just as much in his brain as they are in mine. or maybe he doesn’t know how long i’ll be sad, so he keeps asking. i can’t bear to tell him “forever”.

he can tell i am struggling. i try to finish the song, having to whisper at the end because my voice is broken for good. he sits up in the bed, and turns to look at me with his big dark brown eyes. they have the same eyes, so full of expression. his plump little cheeks still make him look like my little baby boy but what comes out of his mouth is anything but…

“you know what mama? tia angie was young but her heart only had a little bit of love left in it and that’s why she had to die.”

he rolls over to snuggle his little teddy bear, wrapping his arm around mine in the process as if he is the one comforting me. the tears stream down my face like rivers. it was so matter-of-fact. it hits me… he is right, that is the answer. her heart only had a little bit of love left in it. she had given her heart to everyone else, and left nothing for herself. i may never have a tangible explanation for the loss of my angie, but i hope i may find a shred of peace with this one. at least for tonight.

particles

i am starting to see the dust settling… the particles fall slowly through the air, they appear weightless in the air… before they reach me they are harmless. they are the motions, actions, decisions of everyone else in the world moving on with the exception of me. i am still here, in this dark place. i am safe in this hole, nothing can touch me. i see the dust settling, and i blow it away, it cannot reach me. i am “moving on” and yet my feet go nowhere. i sit, emotionally stagnant in this place, even though my physical body navigates through the world. my heart sits in a place stuck in time, a place where life was how it used to be. before it was turned upside down, when things made sense. when angie lived. when i could hear her raucous laugh, feel her embrace. i want to stay here forever. i am living and reliving everything i can that brings her closer to me. i pull out all the photos, i spend all night wracking my brain for memories. i listen to her favorite bands, i even gently cradle her clothes in my hands, run my fingers over their threads and breathe her in. this is all i have left of her. and i see the dust settling. the world moving. and i refuse to move. i see the particles… they are weightless, harmless, and yet they come to rest like a suffocating film on my mouth.

nothing prepares you for this. i can’t breathe. how i’ve gone a day without crying is a miracle and out of nowhere comes the inevitable collapse and torrential downpour of tears. i am supposed to move along. how. sometime tell me how to do this. the day in and day out. i wake up. why, why am i allowed to wake up? why me? why not her. i have no answers for any of this. and perhaps even if i did, would it ease the pain? nothing will bring her back. answers will not give me any more precious time with her. and yet i agonize over not knowing the “why”.

ironically i create these particles. my physical body navigates the world. i go to work. i push papers around and send empty emails. i beg the clock to hurry up. i just want to be home, let me surround myself with amazing husband and son. those are the only things that matter. day in and day out, i go through motions. i move. i “move on” and yet i don’t. i create the particles that ironically try to suffocate me.

and i am not the only one suffering, i know this. i am reminded of it with every beat of my heart. this constant reality cuts nearly as bad as my own pain. at least with my infertility grief, the pain was in limited in some ways to just me and amazing husband. this is a whole new level of torment. everyone is wounded, everyone is cut deep, exsanguinating before me. i watch those i love the most crumble into heaps on the ground. i wish i had the strength to lift them up off the ground, but my own knees are untrustworthy. how can i help anyone, i can barely get out of bed myself. and so i watch it all fall apart. i watch the destruction ensue. there’s no stopping the aftermath of this. angie’s death has blown my family into pieces and all i can do it watch the particles float weightlessly down to the ground and create a damage far more excessive than you could ever imagine. how do you get through this?

i can’t move. i want to stay here forever. don’t uproot me from this place, i will blow away the dust until i am out of breath. i will. i cannot leave, i cannot leave her here. i need her. i need her close.

 

“the atlantic was born today and i’ll tell you how…

the clouds opened up and let it out.

i was standing on the surface of a perforated sphere

when the water filled every hole.

and thousands upon thousands made an ocean.

making islands where no island should go.

oh no.

those people were overjoyed; they took to their boats.

i thought it  less like a lake and more like a moat,

the rhythm of my footsteps crossing flatlands to your door have been silenced forever more.

the distance is quite simply much too far for me to row

it seems farther than ever before

oh no.

i need you so much closer.

i need you so much closer.

i need you so much closer.

i need you so much closer.

i need you so much closer.

i need you so much closer.

i need you so much closer

i need you so much closer.”

-death cab for cutie

transatlanticism

i love this photo. it’s angie just being angie, no intense makeup or silly expression.

just her and her little sonny boy.

just her day in and day out.

i miss her so much. words don’t even come close. i need her closer.

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