For Scott and For Courtney

We all worry about our families. When we hear of a tragic car accident, act of violence, senseless accident, or illness we look at our own and feel how fragile it all is. It is fragile, but what can we do? We can’t go back to save those lost. And we can’t live in fear of losing those most precious to us. All we can do is feel gratitude and love for those we still have, and help support others when they suffer from loss.

My friend Courtney is a mother, teacher, photographer, and blogger at Our Small Moments. As of two days ago, she is also a widow after the passing of her 34-year-old husband. Her children, aged 6 and 8, are suddenly fatherless.

Her life was like any of ours in its ordinariness. Then in December her husband Scott was diagnosed with angiosarcoma of the pleura around his lungs. Just that sentence is mind bending. He had a what? Courtney, Scott, and their young children had to quickly adapt to medical speak as they faced Life With Cancer. His illness was fast-moving and extremely painful. His family stood by his side as he suffered and morphed from robust to weak, from full of joy to full of pain.

Within 8 months he lost his battle, Courtney lost her partner, and their children lost their father.

Once in a while things happen that strike home. This is one of those things for me. I look at my husband. I can’t imagine.

Courtney lost her husband. Suddenly. Out of the blue. She no longer has her partner, her best friend, to go through life with. She no longer has her partner, her children’s father, to share the ups, downs, and responsibilities of parenthood with.

Scott lost his life. He doesn’t get to be there anymore. He misses out on everything that happens to his children from this point forward.

The children lost their Daddy. Whatever games they played and moments they shared – be it in the bath, at bedtime, in pajamas on a Sunday morning – they’re over for those kids at just 6 and 8. From now on instead of a hug and a proud smile from their father, a “Your dad would have loved to see you do this,” will have to suffice.

The enormity of this loss, the unfairness of it, and the complete randomness with which cancer struck at the heart of this family is heartbreaking. Again, I look at my husband. I can’t imagine.

I can’t fix the hole in her heart. I can’t give her children back their father. I can’t take the pain and grief from her as she faces this new and unexpected path. But I can do something to help lift her up and ease her mind. I can help by letting her know that she is not alone in this, that people care.

We have set up a fund through GiveForward to help Courtney take care of the huge medical bills that unfortunately accompany an illness like this. A few dollars and a few kind words from each of us can add up to a tremendous difference in the life of this stricken family. Courtney is suddenly a single grieving mother of two young grieving children. Together, we can take this one daunting stress off her plate.

Please consider being a part of the community gathering to catch this family as they struggle on their incomprehensible journey. To donate, simply click here or on the beautiful image below.

Click here to donate

Getting there. Trying at least.

I’m shaken and constantly on the brink of tears. I feel sort of maniacal and hysterical lately. My nerves are so raw that whether I’m laughing or crying it’s with gusto, and I can change in an instant from one to the other. It’s all just part of the healing process I suppose, but I’m trying like hell to laugh and still find the funny.

Like when I ask my 3-year-old if she can count backwards and, after a moment’s confusion, she confidently turns her back to me and starts counting, “1, 2, 3…” Priceless.

I try hard to focus on my kids and their happiness. Not the kids who aren’t here anymore to fill their homes with noise. Not the kids who have witnessed the unthinkable and need to grapple with the impossible. Not the parents. Not the teachers and their families.

When my mind starts to wander to dark places, I try to come back to the kids right in front of me. I listen to Sally’s ridiculous pronunciation as she sings, “Gingle bells, gingle bells, gingle all the way!” I watch Luke dance, which he does with exuberance if any music is playing. He dances in stores and restaurants, around the house. He cannot help but feel the groove.

As the bus pulls away I try to think about the excitement my little man feels about his big independence. About the conversations he has with his friends which are entirely silly because they are by nature such silly creatures. Not about how I’ve let him out of my arms into the unknown. Not about the casual hugs goodbye that 20 parents gave their kids before school on Friday. Not about the inconceivable conversations his peers in Newtown are having with each other.

If you come here to laugh, I promise I’ll get back to funny as soon as I can. I think most people come here for a mix of laughter and comfort knowing you are not alone. So please take comfort in the fact that if you’re not OK, I’m not either. I have weird mixed emotions of guilt, despair, fear and anger, and slowly I’m finding little bits of humor in there as well. I’m all out of whack, so if you’re out of whack too it’s OK. If you’ve already found your humor again, spread it. We all need it.


Morbid Obsession

If you’re looking for funny, you might want to go here or here or here. This post is not funny.

And if you’re new to my blog, Welcome! This post is not typical, so you might just want to skip it.

I mean it!

A few months ago in the middle of the night, during an episode of insomnia, I came across a blog written by a mom who lost a baby to SIDS. Her writing conveyed her feelings of shock, disbelief, agony, pain, longing. After reading it through tears, I was left with a heavy, heartsick feeling. I kept meaning to return to the blog to post a comment and read more, but I don’t remember what it was or where I found it. Since reading it though, I’ve developed something of an obsession with reading blogs by moms who have suffered similar losses.

It’s horrible. I’ll wake up at 3AM, unable to fall back asleep. At 6, my husband will find me crying in front of the computer reading stories of dead babies, dead children, pain and unimaginable loss. I read about dead infants who never make it home from the hospital. I read about dead babies who are perfectly healthy one moment and then gone the next. I read about dead children who had terrible diseases or terrible accidents. Why am I reading this?

It is not filling me with an appreciation for the life I have, for my healthy living children. It’s filling me with dread. With morbid fear. With the absolute certainty that if some tragedy takes one of my children, I will not be like these women. I will fall apart and never mend. I will not move forward.

I’m not writing this to hear that yes, I would find the strength to move forward. I don’t know why I’m writing it. Is it remotely normal for me to be reading this stuff? I feel guilty reading it. Like I’m rubbernecking at someone else’s crashed life while mine moves on in the fast lane, untouched.

At night when I’m finally not distracted by my own life, these stories, these children and babies, swirl in my head. My heart breaks. I think of these mothers having to face every day. Having to face their neighbors and friends who surely pity them and don’t know what to say. Having to face strangers like me, gawking. How can they possibly survive?

I guess what I want to say is I’m sorry.

To any mother who has had to live through the loss of a child: I’m so sorry. I’m sorry that you are in the position of discovering that you can survive, that life does move on. And I’m amazed. I’m amazed that you are here, living every day, taking care of your other children, getting by.

Sorry for the morbid post. It’s been on my mind lately, since I’ve been reading so much of it. Please, move on to a happier place and leave me to my strange melancholy.