Tuesday, 10 December 2013

You don't know how long you have them...

Yesterday's service for the young man who was my coworkers son was beautiful.  It was a celebration, filled with memories, sayings, favourite things, wishes & hopes.  There were tears flowing, none of which were mine.  Just like every other first, it was nothing like I imagined.   I thought of Conrad, James, Meme & of all of the angel babies I have come to know & more.  I stood stoic, in disbelief that I was there again for another son lost to soon.

The service, in the same funeral home, was in a different chapel.  The turn out was so large that 2 viewing rooms were opened to accommodate all those paying their respects.  The 2nd room was opened just after we arrived & was the room where we held our service.  I had a moment of panic & refused to go in, making our way into the first.  As I stood there, I realized, I had a rare opportunity, to confront that space on my own terms.  

After the service, we saw my coworker & although I expected nothing more then for her to see us, she pushed her way through the crowd towards me & grabbed my hand & gave me a hug.  Here's the irony, we are not close, I don't think she knows about James but somehow a bond between us has formed through her son's passing.  Perhaps it's that I responded with food for her & her family right away, perhaps it's because I asked for no acknowledgement, that I just wanted her to have what she needs & feel supported.  Perhaps its because I look at her in the eyes, once you look death in the face through your child, you can never avert your eyes again.

People spoke of what is must be like to lose a child, lose a child.  I said out loud only once, unfortunately I know.  I said several times to those with children, you have to cherish every moment because you never know how long you have them.  I think that everyday.  I breathe my boys in everyday, feel their warmth as if it might be the last time & wonder how long I will have them for.  They are so special, I worry that their time will be over too soon, that they will have served their purpose before I am ready to see them go.

The sober reality of a parent who has lost a child.

When I entered "the" room, I was alone & it all came rushing back, I could see his casket, I smell his flowers, feel the knee buckling grief & lost my breath entirely.  I acknowledged the pain, felt his presence, nodded in what I felt was his direction & left as quickly as I entered.

I didn't sleep last night, flashes of the Conrad's face in my mind & heavy heart.  The emptiness of my heart without one of my sons & compassion for one more who has to find her way through without hers.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Back to the beginning

There have been so many blog worthy events, I have wanted to check in many times but life drones on & no post.  

Today my chest is tight as I face another first almost 3 years into this journey.  A coworker lost her adult son in an accident late last week.  As if that isn't trigger enough, today is the funeral.  The funeral will be gut wrenching to begin with & I expect to be a waterfall of tears but the service is in the same funeral home as where we held James' service.  

I have gone back and forth about going, talked myself in and out of it several times.  In the end, I just can't abandon a fellow child loss parent.  Yes, our losses are different, her son was an adult but child loss is, is child loss and I need to be there.   I remember holding James service and the feeling of others discomfort, how people chose themselves over us in our time of most need.  I will not abandon her but I know I will be an emotional wreck afterwards.  I'm not ready for this, I don't want this first.  No one ever does.  

Deep breath. Jumping into that black hole of grief head first.  Hoping to remember to breath & sending  gentle wishes to the family mourning.

Back in the place where I last saw your gorgeous face.  Send me strength sweet boy.

Xo mommy 

Sunday, 6 October 2013


A younger relative of mine is flirting with the larger ideologies of our greatest minds.  Altruism & benevolence being two of them.  She posted looking for an honest debate about if these concepts are real & I am reminded of when I too tossed these ideas around, I think I arrived at the conclusion that altruism was not real.

I weighed in on the topic posted, and replied to the question, "do altruism & benevolence exist", yes & yes. As I sorted through my mind, I realized, my belief has changed.  When did I become an optimist?  Before James died, I didn't believe people could change, I never had faith in strangers, believed staunchly in bystander apathy and had begun to work hard to suppress my own instincts to help others.  Wow, reflecting on this, I was living a dark, unenlightened path for more reasons then I am willing to delve into here but sad all the same.  Then, my life was shattered,  everything I believed, all the life lessons learned, everything I had worked for, demolished when James died.  Then came the choices no parent wants to ever have to make.  The ones that we have all made, second guessed, regretted & wished could have been different.  And then, in the midst of the darkness came the light.  The kindness of those who I had all but sold out, strangers.  Strangers from every corner bursting with compassion, love, support, patience and brought the light with them.

So as I wondered about altruism, I realized this new found optimism is a result of my son.  Out of his death has come a belief in people.  Strange.  At the time of his death, I would have not believed this could be possible.

As I watched the debate about whether these concepts exist, I thought about all those of us who have had to make horrible medical decisions for our children, chose death for our children, make the choices knowing our children are already dead, and have come to believe that it is we the benevolent.  It is us, the altruistic.  It is us the community of international bereaved parents who are trying to heal & grieving together, healing each other.   Through our blogs, comments, reflections we make each others children's lives matter & there is no greater gift and in my mind nothing more altruistic in the world. 

Friday, 21 June 2013

Flavours of hope

Funny how this journey changes the flavours of life.  Before, when I heard of those fighting illness, I spewed hope, hope that they person would be well & most of the time I believed it would be true.  Today, the sick child I spoke of a few posts ago was confirmed to be fighting a life & death battle with cancer.  My immediate gut reaction, hope.  Hope that he would not lose his battle, not be one of the 10% whose cancer doesn't go into remission, that don't recover.

The family has asked for positive thoughts, prayers.  Those I have in abundance, but I am almost positive that my prayers & hopes and wishes are a different flavour then others.  While others will pray for health, I will pray for death to stay away.  I know they sound close, maybe even close enough to those how haven't walked this path to not notice the difference, but I notice.  I remember being one "them", only in this situation I feel like I have an advantage, I am painfully aware that this fight isn't even and that he can lose.  My prayer for him is to kick the cancer's ass & death's ass in the process, my prayer for his family is that they never have to walk this path.  My pledge is that should they find themselves walking it, I will walk with them.

In the mean time, loving & relishing my living children with gratitude to have them.

Prayers for Gabriel tonight.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Pardon My Grief - Still Standing Magazine

Closure.  A concept that I think I subscribed to in my pre-loss days, although I'm not sure how vehemently.  Closure, a concept that has been prescribed to me by many since James died & I have come to completely rebuff.  I knew loss before James died, but the concept of closure still seemed worthy enough to accept.  But after, well there can never be a time when I can walk away from the empty chair at my table, missing loot bag at our parties, missing T-ball & school pictures on the mantle, missing laughter in our play.

As I have begun volunteering for our local Pregnancy and Infant loss network providing parent support to those new to this journey, the concept of closure re-emerges.  Hearing the the rambling cries of anger and despair in these loss mamas, tears the heart.  I am still shocked to be almost 2.5 year into this journey, feels like forever, but when I write the number it doesn't seem so long at all.  And closure, well, when I travel from this earth to my beautiful son waiting for me at the golden gates & see his face again & feel the weight of his body in my arms, I will have closure.

See an incredible piece of writing and a clip by a genius woman talking about the concept of closure below.    She experienced the still birth of her daughter  I found this inspirational, relateable and insightful.  Completely worth the time it takes to read & watch!

Pardon My Grief - Still Standing Magazine

Missed you at Ewan's birthday party this weekend sweet boy.  Love you, xoxo Mommy

Saturday, 25 May 2013

3 newborns & a sick kid

Have you heard of or perhaps even seen the movie 4 weddings & a funeral?  Well, life seems a bit relateable to that today.

3 babies have been born in last little while, 2 rainbows and 1 long and anxiously awaited.  My heart has begun to genuinely soar for those birthing healthy live babies again, something that seemed forever lost in the days & months following James' death.  Today I can say, I feel joy for them, hope for them, love again.

In the midst of all the joy, we learned a little boy whom we have known for some time, he has gone to the same childcare centres with our eldest and his mother & younger brother have been part of the baby programs we've participated, is sick.  We've learned he has been very sick for about 6 weeks & just had surgery to hopefully put him on the path to recovery.  He fighting & his parents & the rest of us are praying.

3 newborns with hopes, dreams, potential & love.  1 sick kid with hopes, dreams, potential, fear, prayer & love.  

Praying for Gabriel tonight.

Saturday, 18 May 2013


Hard to believe that this was my 3rd mother's day without James.  He would only be 2 but b/c our loss was so early, mother's day came before he would have been due & after he was already gone.

This year, much like last, was more gentle then the one before.

This year, our first with rainbow Ewan included a beautiful gift.  He is a great hugger, very affectionate by nature.  I have often looked at him or felt him snuggle in & felt close to James, like he possesses a portal by which James is just a little bit closer.   On mother's day he reached out with both hands wrapped his sweet arms around me, buried his head in my chest and squeezed me so tight.  As he let go, I thought, I wish I had stopped & savoured that hug.  Then he did it again only this time I could almost feel 4 hands, little fingers wrapped around my arms squeezing so incredibly tight that it didn't seem like one baby should be strong enough to do it.  The depth of that hug was incredible and it lasted long & strong.  As I breathed in & enjoyed every second of it, I felt as if my missing son had reached through space & time and hugged me with his younger brother.  For a second I got lost in a dream scape where I felt him in my arms & then joy, such joy.   Then reality stepped in & Ewan continued to hug & the tears flooded in.  Tears of joy, tears of absence & tears of anticipation for the next time I can hold my son James in my arms again.

My mother's day was made & broken in a single hug, but I wouldn't trade it or change it.  What a gift, to feel like I am holding him in my arms.  I will dwell in that moment for some time.  Best feeling I've had in the almost 2.5 years since he's been gone, outside of holding Ewan alive & healthy after his birth ofcourse :) .

Love to you my sweet baby James.  miss you xo  Mommy

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

On Ranking Losses - Still Standing Magazine

On Ranking Losses - Still Standing Magazine

I believe we have all felt judged, had our grief ranked & maybe even ranked ourselves at times as we have come to hear other stories of loss, I know I have.  This sentence however, from the above article, literally took my breath away as I read it; "What levels the playing field is the fact that, this side of eternity, not one of us will ever see the faces of our precious little ones again."

Missing you my sweet boy.  xoxo Mommy

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Life in questions

Loss causes you to reflect.  Loss makes you re-evaluate, loss makes you shift priorities, embrace things, reject others.  Loss makes you question, question everything.

I am questioning everything.  As I reflect, I cast my mind back to times, choices, opportunities, career, decisions as far back as my mind will let me go.  I see clearly with hindsight the choices I made with best of intentions that were flawed.   I cast my mind to those who watched me err in my ways and wonder how?

I envy those around me that I see with things I believe were once within my reach, back in time & I wonder how life would be different.

Things that I would never change rush to the forefront.  The things I am grateful for flash in mind, but a sense of regret, resentment for things lost remains.

Questions about the future, conviction to change what I can, learn from past mistakes & hope that I can rise from the proverbial ashes of my life, my son's short life, my life without my touchstone & guardian; Meme.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

James Johnson | | Still Standing Magazine

James Johnson | | Still Standing Magazine

What a wonderful idea, a wonderful tribute to all the babies gone too soon.

How I wish my son didn't have to be part of this, that I didn't have to part of this.  But, I am, he is & there are incredible people fighting to have us not hushed into silence b/c the world is too uncomfortable with babies dying.

Thank you Still standing magazine, thank you Franchesca.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Monster Mommy

When I first came across this article, I thought, I can relate - sort of.

Today I searched this article out because I have become this very thing.  The thing I never wanted to be but recently I can't seem to get a grip on.

I feel totally lost, the grief seems to have gripped me.  My birthday is tomorrow & I am an anxious, scattered mess.  I don't want to acknowledge the day let alone celebrate.  I have been on a reflective streak, almost like I'm having a mid life crisis.  I see all the potential, all the hope, opportunities over the  years & wonder; how'd I get here?  who am I?  I'm not sure if I even like who I've become?

My poor children are taking the brunt of it.  My lack of control, this feeling of a deepening hole in my chest.  I hate myself a little more every time it comes out.  I am borrowing this term but I have become "Monster mommy".

Reading this article, Monster Mommy & Monster Mommy pt 2 has helped.  At least I'm not alone in the unhinged moments.  Hard to admit I'm so far from the parent I have always strived to be.  Hard to admit I can't relish my living children every second like I know i should, my heart & head just aren't cooperating these days.  Lastly hope that it'll turn around & I won't have scarred my children in the process.

Here are the articles, Monster Mommy & pt 2 both published in Still Standing Magazine.

Monster Mommy
Monster Mommy pt 2

Lost for how to wrap this up...hoping for a better day tomorrow.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Peace at last

Peacefully on March 20th 2013 Meme passed.

Her suffering has ended & we are grateful for having had her in our lives.  She is with family and James now & I hope smiling again.

She has come to me twice since her passing, the night of her passing & again the early morning of her funeral.  She was more like a mother then a Meme and I am heartbroken without her.  She is now with all those whom she waited a lifetime to see again and James who she didn't know was there.

Sleep peacefully Meme, the depths of my love for you far surpass this earthly plain.  I will care for those left behind b/c I know you wouldn't want them forgotten & b/c I could never forget you.

The last lines from my Eulogy at her funeral:

Au revoir chéré Mémé.  Merci pour tous tes sacrifices. On t'aimes et on t'adore, tu seras toujours avec nous.  On t’oublieras jamais.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

The pain maker

Life & death.  They are made to sound like such simple, straight forward concepts, processes.  Automatic in the cycle of life.  I acknowledge they are the starting & ending points, but simple, straight forward, automatic?  I hardly think so.

When life imparts one of  its crewelities upon us, the comments that we all know to well come out.  I've of course heard them all and now I can add a few more.  Only this time, it's about my Meme dying.  She lived a full life, a good life.  Both of these statements are true & I will dedicate my memories to her life the way she lived, not died, but what I find about comments like these are that they distract from the pain of loss even shame for feeling loss.  Just like all the ones I heard and if you've lost a child, you've heard too.  Why are we so driven to avoid, minimize, invalidate loss, grief?  Uncomfortable topic? yes! so?!  Here a woman lived 92 years & we are still trying to minimize the loss of her life.  Just b/c she lived what is socially acceptable and acknolwedgeable as worth grieving, we still try and push it down, ignore the pain of the ones left behind, who will miss her most.  We are a society afraid of death, dying and grief.  

Meme is dying a slow painful death.  I can't help but be angry about how in contrast this is with James' life & death.  He was barely alive, when he died.  His death was sudden, a shocking world altering flash of a moment.  Meme's life was long & her death has been long.  Life is fragile, one more fairy tale to add to the list of things I no longer believe.  I know anyone can die, anytime, suddenly, but I also know the body can withstand the unimaginable and drag out the unnecessary. 

So, this angry post is mostly about death being a crewel beast.  Death is the pain maker and our Society isolates, invalidates and shames us the grieving.  Even when death can mean salvation from pain, when we pray for it to come to bring mercy, it drags its heals.  Crewel, crewel beast.  

James, if she only knew you were there I know she'd hurry to see you.  Stand with the others with an outstretched hand and help her cross over my angel.  The price to keep her is too high.  

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Golden stranger

Compassion.  Difficult to come by sometimes it seems, especially when others are too shocked by or wrapped in their own ideas of how to walk this road.  Compassion, the one thing that has consistently lead me to disappointment in those who I thought would/should but also the biggest surprise by those who I never imagined would/could.

The woman who I mentioned in my last post who shared her loss on a parenting site had another parent reach out to her publicly on this same site to see how she's doing.  Her compassion overwhelmed me.  I know that everyone who read her post has thought of her probably on & off since then, but reaching out probably didn't cross many of their minds.  One kind & golden hearted stranger did and I am renewed with hope.

The timing couldn't have been more perfect, her post came the day after this poor mother buried her child.  She shared a video of her daughter Charlotte that was played at her service.  It is 24 mins in length and I have not watched yet but I will.  She also shared that she is 20 weeks pregnant.  To the others I know this seems like a blessing, but to her, I know how double edged this sword can be.

I reached out to her as a fellow baby loss mom but also as having had a pregnancy after loss.  I also publicly commended her for her bravery on sharing this painful journey so openly & cheered the heck out of the woman who was so incredibly thoughtful to reach out to her.

For me it was these random acts of kindness that give me hope in a time of darkness when everything seemed the opposite of everything I thought I knew.  I realize now that it didn't feel like hope back then when the world was numb, gut wrenching or seething with anger, but it was.  My wish for her is that someone, something touches her in a way that can bring her some hope too.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Shouldn't she have something else to do?!

I spent a wonderful Saturday night with some dear girl friends.  The kind you don't see every day, but when you do, you laugh from that genuine place in your gut.  I love them with all their faults & they mine.

Most of us are part of an online parenting board where moms & dads can post questions, look for recommendations  reassurance.  It is meant to be a safe & mutual place for discussion and at times debate.  A number of weeks ago, a mother posted that her 21 month old daughter had died suddenly.  She didn't know what to do or how to carry on.  Her first few words did not provide warning of the heart wrenching reality she was introducing to the group.  She received almost 300 replies, most of which provided sympathies and horror at what this mother was facing.  A few posted they had similar experiences, inviting her to contact privately.

Our conversation on Saturday evening touched on this post.  I did not bring it up, it took me almost a week to be able to open this page up.  Reading her post & all the messages sent me onto my own roller coaster of emotions.  The topic came about as we were talking about some of the stories that we had all read & sharing our takes on them.  The sentiments began as a post we had all seen, it quickly became something shocking, I shared that I thought it was incredibly brave and then one shared that she felt it was inappropriate.  Her comment was, "shouldn't she have something else to do then post online on the day her daughter died?".  I quickly jumped in and asked what she should do sitting alone in a house that is silent and without the sounds of her child?  She sat for a minute and acknowledged she hadn't thought of that, but still felt like it was wrong.  It became clear at that point that the others were uncomfortable with the topic & my sensitivity to it.    The topic changed before I really had a chance to take it further or say anything else.

While I am still upset by such a narrow minded and thoughtless comment, they all know we lost James and even after my sharing that I was very affected by the post, the comment was made.   I keep coming back to the place where I know this is out of ignorance & I would hope she would never be put in a position to really understand, but how privileged she is to not have to understand.  I am hurt if I have to be honest.

How ironic, 2 Saturdays in a row, one with women I hardly knew, some with similar experiences & the next with women I know well & hold very dear & a conversation that felt like a little salt in the wound.  I guess I am lucky to be able to live a world where James exists, especially in social conversation.  I just wish it still didn't burn & sting quite so much to remember only to have the doors of conversation slammed shut when the heart & mind are pouring & I have to pretend like I am not still in the middle of that conversation.

Missing you angel.  Love, Mommy

Monday, 25 February 2013

Weight of loss

It's funny how something, someone can sit on your shoulder so to speak everyday of your life.  They say that with time, pain eases & that little by little the memories will fade.  Funny thing is, when a person has been around for a lifetime, in my experience this is true - you never forget but a day and eventually days can go by without thinking of them.   You never forget but the weight of the loss, lifts enough that time can pass where memories live in the background as life seems to go on.  The irony is that the one person who I had the least amount of time with, who's lifetime was the shortest of all the others, is the one I can't go a few hours let alone a day without thinking of.  His life is the most significant, the one that will never fade into the background, the one I will never go a day without his life being on my mind.

On the weekend I sat around the table with a group of women I hardly knew, but was grateful to be there.  The mood was light, we all gushed about our living children & without warning a brave & heartbroken woman bared her soul & brought this very rarely talked about community to the forefront.  Her story she shared, obviously still very raw, and then the entire table of women scattered.  Most went for a cigarette, those of us that remained spoke about it.  People I didn't know knew James had died, acknowledged him, our loss & others spoke of their losses.  I sat there, raw from the emotion of the story, the return to my own rawness & a little bewildered that 5 minutes previous we were 10 women with children in common & now we were women with living children & dead children too.  Funny how polished we all were before but how the cracks appeared when the veil of secrecy came down.  When the others returned, the topic was forgotten, not spoken of again.  Today, 3 days later, I am still raw.

Missing you angel & hoping you are ready to receive Meme.  She is coming any day now.

xo Mommy

Friday, 18 January 2013

2 years ago

Re post from on year ago.  I couldn't say it any differently, except that we are now 2 years from that fateful time.  The time that changed us, rocked our family, called into question everything we thought we knew about life & left us with a huge whole in our hearts & in our family.

One year ago today was the beginning of the end

James - I can still remember feeling you move inside me.  These are the times I cherish.  I cherish you.

Missing you & ready to remember & celebrate you, Mommy.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

I have been doing really well.  I guess the slew of things going on have kept my mind busy, distracted you might say.  But it has always been there.

There is a little girl, Aurora, she has the same birthday as James & she was born in the same hospital.  Her mom I have come to know each other through another friend. Seeing her has always been somewhat bitter sweet but time has found a way for me to endure & even enjoy seeing her on most occasions   I have never shared our story with her or the connection that our babies share, we just aren't close enough for me to open my heart up to that.

A week or more ago, she mentioned her daughter's birthday party - she was inviting Jeven to attend.  At first my heart screamed NO!  I had to take a breath & collect myself, my emotions, my logic.  My mind wondered what kind of party we would be holding if things were different.  Our birthday celebration this year, while beautiful & meaningful, is missing the sounds of a 2 year old laughing, playing, fighting with his friends & brothers, the sweet smell of cake, fruit, juice and gifts.

I managed to put all this into perspective & decided that the party wasn't on James' birthday & that Jev would have a blast so why not? and moved on.

This early morning as I was stealing a few quiet minutes to look online, I saw this same mom posted a link to a photo book she has completed for her daughter.  As I looked through it, read her captions, it hit me.  The book is beautiful, all the pictures, the wonderful memories, the years to come with milestones.  These are painfully missing and I am strangled by them.

I should be busy making final preparations for his birthday party, instead I am trying to hold myself together to get through one more day, find a distraction from the pain, the hole in my heart.

James, in my mind I imagine your face, smile, laugh, personality, sense of humour, naughtiness.  I imagine the parties and adventures we would share all together.  I hope you can see them in my mind & feel the joy I have even being able to imagine them.  I hope you can feel my hugs & kisses through my tears for these are the things I yearn for most. I hope you feel through my pain, the depth of my love & how it grows despite the space in time.

Missing you always angel, Mommy xoxo

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Almost 2!

It's almost that time of year again.  Your second birthday is just around the corner & I have been trying to wrap my mind around the reality that you were here & gone 2 years ago.  The holidays are over, seasonal colds/flus are ravaging our home & I am keeping busy trying to take care of your brothers all the while just slightly choked b/c I am missing you.

Your papa & I are celebrating our 5 year wedding anniversary on the 19th & heading to Niagara falls for a few days.  We've decided to bring you with us.  Niagara Falls is such a special place for our family that we want a piece of you there with us as we celebrate your birthday on the 20th & forever more.  We will be pouring some of your ashes over the falls so you will always be with us when we visit. We'll also be sending you balloons with our special messages again this year.  We'll sing you happy birthday and share some cake too, your birthday is a special time for us & we hope the angels make it special for you in heaven too.

I'll be making donations again this year in your memory, some the same as last year, others not.  I'll also be compiling a play list of music that reminds me of your little face & huge impact on my world.  I'll hopefully figure out how to post it here.

Unrelated: An angel mommy has been reunited with her angel baby.  While i was sad to hear she had passed on, leaving her husband and young daughter, I remembered that she was reunited with her baby girl.  This is my dream, to see you James upon my passing but I know I have much to still do here.  Rachel, I hope your journey to Gabi was swift and that you are at peace with her in your arms once again.