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They Are The Same Age

A child’s birthday. This is generally a simple thing in a person’s life. Every year your children grow and get older and you celebrate their birthday. But nothing is simple in this complicated, abnormal, tear stained life of ours.

In two days, on January 17, my youngest daughter will be having a birthday. We are excitedly planning her party which will happen this coming weekend. We love birthdays. We love them even more than any other holiday because it’s the day we met each other. It is the first day we ever laid eyes on one another. They are special. Every child has an original, all their own… birth story. So we celebrate! From the outside looking in, I….we….look just as normal as can be. I am a crafty…okay…kinda crafty…Mom….so I have been hard at work making all sorts of goodies and decorations for my youngest daughter’s birthday party….Carly is having a Harry Potter party. Oh how she LOVES Harry Potter! (Don’t tell her I told you but she kisses her Harry Potter pillow case good night every night!!) We have been filling out invitations…planning the menu…and of course, shopping! She wanted to invite so many people we had to limit her to just the girls….and we are still expecting 20 or so five and six year old children! (What is wrong with me?)

And, just like it has been since February 19, 2014…. there is a sadness woven into this most joyous of occasions. There is an absence we cannot ignore. A voice missing from the chorus of voices singing Happy Birthday….a voice that would gleefully drown out all the others because Maddi loved her sister’s birthday almost as much as she loved her own. There will be a card with Maddi’s name on it….and a gift….Maddi’s name will not be inscribed in her hand writing….but mine. The gift will be picked out….hoping it’s something Maddi would have picked. We feel that last birthday of Carly’s with Maddi…her third birthday….we feel it’s presence heavily as we never really got to celebrate Carly that year….Maddi and I had been planning her party…but we were struggling with money…as always…and had to wait until we got our tax return in…so we happily planned…Maddi loved planning just like Carly and I do…and the party was supposed to be February 22nd. But it never happened. We were, instead, planning our oldest daughter’s funeral that day…writing a fucking obituary….instead of holding a 3 year old’s birthday party. The supplies sit in a tote downstairs…they are too painful to touch…to look at. A tote of what should have been.

But unlike every birthday since that year….there is something different hanging in the air. Each time I discuss Carly’s birthday with anyone…. the words dangle in front of us…. words too difficult to be spoken. Words so difficult to comprehend that the mere speaking of them draws the very air we breath from around us…..the mere speaking of them turns our stomachs….causes tears to swim in our eyes. THIS birthday is the one in particular I have been dreading. How can that be? How can I dread my little girl’s birthday? Let me be clear…before moving on… I do so look forward to Carly’s birthday….I do feel excitement and pride and joy…. I do revel in these moments with her…watching her grow up….Do not mistake my suffering for an absence of love for my little one. Just as it is so often for grieving parents….there is not an absence of joy but an inexplicable mingling of the two emotions….joy and despair.

What is different this year….what magnifies my sadness….my longing ….her absence….is this fact….

In two days, on January 17, my youngest daughter will be as old as my oldest daughter. This seems non-logical. And it is. I was there. They were not born on the same day. Or even in the same year. Maddi was born on June 23, 2006 and Carly was born 4 1/2 years later on January 17, 2011. But yet…here we are. Carly will be seven in two day’s time. And Maddi is also seven. And that hurts in a way that I cannot even understand myself. Maddi should be our 11 1/2 year old daughter….but instead….she is seven. And so is Carly. It’s like a cruel joke in which the punchline is our life. The last rendition of “Happy Birthday” I ever sung to my Maddi was for her seventh birthday. The last number shaped candle that I ever placed on a cake for my Maddi was shaped like the number seven. I have bought her number eight, nine, ten and eleven….but they are placed at a fucking gravestone instead of on a cake. So it’s not really the same.

Now Carly will have spent more time on this Earth without her sister then she was ever afforded with her. Now…on September 15th or so…Carly will grow older than Maddi ever did. And I am so happy to watch her grow….but I am also so fucking sad. This is not how it is supposed to go.

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F@#$ The New Year

IMG_3039So many posts on social media these days say the same thing in different ways….”I can’t wait for the new year” or “New year, new start” or “I hope I can forget this year and have a great new year” and so on and so forth.  And I hate every single one of them. When I think about celebrating the end of yet another year without Maddi I want to scream…I want to grab the pages of the calendar and force them backwards….I want to reverse the hands of time. I cannot celebrate my unwilling thrust into a new year. I cannot celebrate the end of a year that never included my child….everyone around me is so damn happy. So excited to go out and have dinner…and drinks…go dancing…and party joyously as one year ends and another begins. I feel like curling up into a ball and covering myself with blankets and crying myself to sleep.

I look forward to all this year will bring with my youngest daughter….I do. So many times I speak about how I hate the passing of time and a frustrating amount of people will “remind” me that I still have another daughter, a beautiful child that I should feel blessed to be with and should be excited to watch grow up. And that’s the problem….people think that these two feelings are mutually exclusive. They are not. I can sit here….holding my breath…full of joyful anticipation for this new year with my little one. She has an incredible year ahead with exciting developments in her dancing….beginning gymnastics… joining her school’s Destination Imagination team (just like Maddi did)… surely losing more teeth…and so very much more. I am overwhelmingly proud of her and who she is. This does not mitigate the pain I feel as yet another year comes to a close without Maddi beside me.

This is the crux of living as a grieving parent. Somehow unbearable pain…absence…longing…emptiness…bitterness….an unending sadness that settles into your bones and sinks into every cell in your body….can live in the same space as love and joy and excitement and pride and graciousness. When I tell you that I fucking hate the new year….that I wish it wasn’t…please don’t tell me how lucky I am to have my little one…I do know. But it all lives in the same space…it all lives within my broken heart…The quilt of my life has seven years and seven months and twenty seven days of unfettered patches of joy woven with laughter and excitement….and the rest of the patches are woven with Maddi’s absence…with sadness stitched between the smiles and giggles. It’s how my life will always be now. Because there won’t be a time…as long as I live….that Maddi isn’t supposed to be here….there won’t be a moment….as long as I live….that I wouldn’t love her so there won’t be a moment…as long as I live…that I will not miss her and grieve her….because that is grief. It is love…with no place to go. It is love…continued.

Please understand…it’s not that I do not wish for you to have a happy new year….it’s not that I wish that you feel my suffering…because even a person with the deepest of empathy cannot comprehend the truth of losing a child. It’s not that at all. It’s just I, and others like me, need patience and love and understanding….we need to know it’s okay if we aren’t bubbling over with joy for a “new start”….we need to know it’s okay and you will still continue to be our friend if we choose not to go out tonight…or any other night…if we choose to curl up and cry rather then join in the countdown to another year without our babies in it. I am approaching FOUR fucking years without Maddi. In fact…this WILL be my fourth New Years without her….and I fucking hate it. It hurts in a way nothing else ever could….to think of every day in this new year being without Maddi in it…oh she will be there…in the pink skies…in the ladybugs that somehow find their way to us…to the family of four deer stopped just down the road…she will be there…but not in the way a child is supposed to be. And these facts make it hard to breathe…hard to think…hard to focus…hard to smile.

Please know when you say “Happy New Year” and I only smile politely…or maybe I just nod…it’s not you…it’s just this whole “new” year doesn’t apply to me…and all I want to do is scream “FUCK THE NEW YEAR.”

 

 

Parenting While Grieving: Part 3

Yesterday, was Christmas. Since 2014 we have gone….the three of us…to spend some time with Maddi. We bring her gifts….a stocking…. and we sit and cry. We normally are bundled up and wearing snow shoes… it is NOT what we want ….but it is ALL we get now. But yesterday we didn’t go. It was fucking snowing. A blizzard really. Five Christmases ago….waking up to a snow storm on Christmas morning would have just made the day perfect. The sereneness of the heavy snow coming down through the window behind our tree as the girls sat together….opening gifts and squealing with delight. But now it’s like adding insult to injury. It’s shoving salt into our open wounds.

So, today….my daughter and I gathered Maddi’s things….our snow shoes…our gear and headed out to visit Maddi. I talked to Carly about how all of the things we set up for her just a few weeks ago were likely not going to be visible….and would be deeply buried under not only snow but ice. And that I wouldn’t be really trying to unbury them because past endeavors to do so broke several things. She sat in the back seat….listening to her beloved Harry Potter book on cd…with a look on her face of overwhelming sadness. Visits have grown harder and harder for her….and the Winter visits were downright dreadful. She hated them but she was coming along today.

We pulled up. The parking area was barely plowed wide enough for one vehicle. She started panicking saying that we would get stuck. I assured her we were fine and turned the vehicle off…silencing Harry Potter. Her head dropped. I asked if she wanted to talk. She said “No thank you.” She made no move to get out. I told her if she needed or wanted to say something she should. Tears swam in her eyes…. “Mama I don’t want to. I don’t want to go in there. I hate it here. But I don’t want to make you sad if we don’t go in.”

The words she spoke hung in the air for a minute. I wasn’t sure what to say. I wanted to go in desperately. It’s the closest I can come to my daughter’s little body….her dirty blonde hair…her pink fingernails…her moustache dress…. I wanted to lay forlorn in the snow….on the ground under which she is buried. Dammit. Dammit. Dammit. I didn’t want to force her. My eyes filled with tears. I didn’t want her squelching her own feeling to spare mine.

“It’s okay. If you don’t want to go in…I ….I …can find time to go on my own at some point this week. I’m not upset. I understand. What do you want to do? Do you want to go?” My heart pounded in my chest …we were so close to Maddi I just wanted to go….in.

“Mama…can we leave?”

“Yes. We can”. I opened my door and stood up. I turned toward the cemetery. “I love you Maddi” I shouted against the wind “I love you so much. I am sorry that you are here and not at home with us. I am sorry it’s so cold. I am sorry I can’t warm you up anymore. I will be back soon. I promise.” I held the I love you sign up into the air and shouted I love you again. Clinging to some hope she can hear me….then I got back into the car and drove away….as tears streamed down my face.

It’s so hard. Parenting is so hard …anyways….but parenting a grieving child as you are grieving is next to impossible. It hurts so fucking much. I cannot save Maddi and I cannot stop Carly’s suffering. It feels like the definition of parenting failure. I must suppress my needs sometimes…a lot of the times… so that I can help Carly as best I can. I must listen to her…read her subtle signs…and figure out what is best for us both as I navigate this bullshit life of ours  blindly….they don’t make books about this….there is no “What to Expect When You and Your Child Are Grieving” book….not even a chapter. So you do what you think is right and hope that you are not screwing your child up even more than the loss of their sister already has. I have made MANY mistakes….said and done the wrong things…but I hope …in the end…when she is grown…Carly knows how hard I tried…how much I gave…and how deeply I love BOTH of my little girls.maddi-and-carly2

The Years Get Harder

Recently I met with a friend….a fellow Mother in grief….there’s something about these meetings. No matter how brief….they bring a sense of comfort and support that exists only in the conversations of two broken people. This conversation was about the impending holidays. We concurred that as the years pass the pain does not ease….it does not ever relent. We also agreed that the holidays and the years get more difficult, more painful than the first … despite the popular idea that the first year is the worst and that somehow, magically, the subsequent years are far easier to face.

After this conversation I felt compelled to discuss this. Where does this idea come from? The idea that somehow as your life moves forward against your will…as the moments in time that you had with your child (or really any loved one) slip further away from your present day…that somehow the pain of their absence becomes more bearable….less crushing… is one… I think …. that derives from our culture’s idea that all problems could and should come to a neat and clean conclusion. That if we just cling to hope that everything will “work out in the end.” Our society, in general, prefers a happy ending. It makes us feel like when things aren’t going our way that it will eventually work it’s way out and everything will be all sunshine and rainbows again. This idea does not apply to grief and I truly feel like this is an enormous injustice for the grievers of this world.

I am here to say….that the second, third and now, my fourth years do not “get easier.” In fact, as my friend and I agreed, I believe they are harder than the first in many ways.

With the first year, there are so many unknowns…..how will it feel? How will we include our missing loved one….in my case….my precious child? Do we buy them gifts and if so, gifts to place by their stone or actual gifts like toys or nail polish? That first year you are in, what so many people have described as, a fog. Nothing makes sense. There are many times you sit in conversation with people….even engaging in deep conversation…. and within minutes or even seconds you haven’t the faintest idea as to what you discussed. You hear and see and smell and touch everything through grief. You are constantly dismayed by how life has just gone on….how the world can spin…how the sun can rise…when your baby has gone on before you. In your head screams thoughts of “How can you just smile at me when my child is gone?” You do things in that first year that in subsequent years you are purely incapable of doing. The first June after we lost Maddi we organized a memorial ride in her memory….while we were moving out of her home…just weeks before what should have been her 8th birthday. I look back and cannot fathom how we managed to do all of this and not just collapse under the weight of it all.  Although the ride continued for two more years following….the planning and organizing…the energy that goes into something so big…such a massive undertaking…became too much. I couldn’t understand why, at first, but looking back I know….that first year I can hardly remember a thing. I was acting purely as a robot…..I was the walking dead…. and as the fog lifted the tasks in front of me became wholly impossible. This is why I think facing the holidays as each year passes….facing each day as each year passes….actually becomes harder.

Without that fog….it’s been said…there would be no grieving parents. We wouldn’t survive that first year….the funeral….the burial….the birthdays ….the pain…the irreparable destruction of all we knew to be our life….if we weren’t in a complete fog. Even though we know it not to be true, a huge piece of our minds and hearts believe that this cannot be reality. No. It’s just a nightmare that we cannot wake from. No. We will see our children come bouncing through that front door again. We will wake up in tears from our horrible dream and go into our children’s rooms and there they will lie and we will kiss their cheeks and say, “Oh thank goodness” and breath a sigh of relief. Reflecting on how we couldn’t imagine how awful that would be.

And as the hours turn to days….the days to weeks…the weeks to months and the months to years…. our painful, irreversible, incomprehensible reality sets in. THIS IS REAL. Our children are not coming home. They will never hug us again. They will never sit under our Christmas tree again. We will NEVER wake from this Hell. THIS IS OUR LIFE. And this is why it’s even harder. We begin to be unable to live in a fantasy that somehow this isn’t real. And it drains you. You realize all you have are memories…and photographs. And you will not get anymore. And it eats you up. You realize that you will never again be whole.

And as all this time passes….your expectations for yourself begin to nag at you. The unrealistic idea that society places upon grievers that you must begin to function again…you must integrate back into polite society and stuff down your sad. Tuck your grief into a neat little box with a bow and save it for only the times society deems acceptable to mourn…the holidays…birthdays…the anniversaries. Other than that we must be like Elsa in Maddi’s favorite movie “Frozen”…we must conceal…not feel. So when we can’t…when the pain pours out like water from a faucet….when we are asked how we are and we feel compelled to answer honestly rather than providing the innocent asker with a more comfortable lie… we begin to feel crazy…weak…like a burden.

And as all this time passes….the world around us desperately wants us to move on. They want to hear we are okay. That it’s easier now. That it’s only really the “big” days that bother us now. They tell us to get on with it. They called us the first year….sent messages of love and support all the time….but the second year…there is less acknowledgement…then the third even less…good friends don’t even send you a quick text to say they are thinking of you on the anniversary…they don’t acknowledge our child’s birthday… I mean “how long will we have to keep remembering this?” ….the first year you get a pass from friends and family. If you don’t want to come…If you don’t want to stay…If you cry the whole time…everyone “understands.” But the years following that first year….the love and patience and support and empathy begins to wane dramatically. They don’t say it but we can see it in their eyes…”Is it going to be like this every year?”….”I don’t really feel like feeling sad today”….

So let me say this loud and clear…for every broken, sad, aching person….for every griever who feels the pressure to get up and go on. For every griever who knows the truth that the first year is not always the worst….and that in many ways the following years are harder. YOU ARE STILL ALLOWED TO GRIEVE. You are allowed to turn down party invitations…you are allowed to forgo the Christmas tree if that is what you want even if it’s been many, many years. You are allowed to have eyes that swim with tears and a face that is stained with them too. If you love someone who is grieving….even if that grief is years long…understand as much as you can. EACH year there are unknowns….NOT just the first year. Understand that we are turning down our invitation because we are taking care of ourselves….we are giving ourselves permission to not be okay…we are giving ourselves permission to feel. If you acknowledged our loss the first year please continue to do so….your support is a gift that you cannot wrap up with pretty paper and ribbon but it has more value than any such gift. Tell us your favorite memory even if you told us a hundred times. We don’t get new memories….so we cling to the old ones.

We must stop telling people it will get easier. It’s just not that simple. You DO learn to carry your loss. You DO learn to live in two worlds….to feel every emotion that a human can experience all at once….you DO learn to allow grief and sorrow to share space with joy and happiness. But NONE of this is easy and some days it is downright impossible…even YEARS later.

And even though I may be “out of the fog” and even though reality has sunk in like cold sinks into the bones on a bitter Winters day…. I still look for her. I still wake up and for a second I don’t know….I still listen for the pitter patter of her feet on our floor. That will never change…I think it’s the only reason we can, as parents of children who have gone before us, continue to move forward. I will end my long winded post with a favorite quote….It’s how I feel about grief…how I feel about still looking for Maddi…how I feel about loving someone in Heaven.

“After all this time?” “Always.” img_2666

And so it begins….My Undoing.

Each year since Maddi was stolen from us, as Winter thaws so do I. As the trees bloom and the days grow longer…I can feel a heaviness lifting from within my heart and soul and mind….much as the branches of the birch trees surrounding my home do as the snow melts away and their outstretched limbs can now reach for sun once again. My breathing deepens….becomes more purposeful less of a struggle.

But….also…as Winter begins. As it’s frozen, deathly grip tightens around our lives….it, too, tightens around my mind. It paralyzes my thoughts. Winter’s beginning is my undoing. Every….fucking….year.

If I could will it away, I certainly would. It’s as if Winter’s icicles have found their way into my brain…poking holes…slowing processes…weakening any sign of strength. I could feel it….a few weeks ago…when we had our first brush with the bitter winds of Winter. It lasted only a few days…cold, whipping winds…sweater weather, if you will. Then it subsided. But I knew it was a foreboding warning. And I could feel Winter’s icy hands making their way into my thoughts. Settling in my chest much as a terrible cold would….but this settling won’t be subsided with medicine or a good night’s sleep…this settling has just only begun. With each cold day and even colder night….the settling goes deeper still. It clouds my judgement. Puts distance between myself and everyone I know…. It thrusts me into darkness…solitude….fear….

I try and talk myself out of it. I tell myself to calm down. That it hasn’t even started yet. I mean, I was just wearing flip flops yesterday, wasn’t I? Or was it the day before? My memory betrays me during these bitter months. I feel isolated…I tell myself it’s in my head…. but just because it’s in my head, doesn’t mean it isn’t real. And this is so very real.

Today it snowed. Not “real” snow….just flurries. I saw it as I was driving. Of course I was fucking driving, right? I saw a few spits of snow here and there. I could feel the anxiety swelling in my chest. Stop it, you crazy person, I think to myself. It’s nothing. It’s nothing! Yah…that’s what you thought that night, too. It’s nothing. Just take it slow. Look where “it’s nothing” has gotten you. My heart beat is now pumping in my throat. I try hard to shut out the thoughts that are pummeling my brain…. I try to listen to Harry Potter and pretend I didn’t see anything.

Then it starts to flurry. Light snow blowing around. Each flake like a pebble being dropped into an already too full bucket…about to burst…and like that, the tears stream down my face. I am shaking. DAMMIT! It’s just flurries…I mean, Christ, the sun is still shining. Why didn’t you feel this nervous that day, huh? Why didn’t you feel anxiety when you put Maddi into your car that day??? My mind screams at me. How dare you be afraid now but how dare you not? Don’t you know what you could lose? Why didn’t you care what you could lose that day? Why was getting from point A to point B more important than Maddi? The thoughts beat on my brain like mallets on a drum.

The flurries subside eventually and we get to where we are going. But this….this is only the beginning. No more carefree trips anywhere for me. Now I will anxiously and obsessively watch the weather….stare at the sky. Now I must look at the percentage chances of snow and base my decision to leave the house on solely that. Now I must disappoint friends, family, clients…. Now the gates of the cemetery will be shut and locked and I will no longer be able to just pull up beside Maddi’s stone to grieve…but park at the far end and walk through row after row of death before I reach the place where we laid her to rest. Now the little sleep I get will become nonexistent.

This isn’t only grief. This is post traumatic stress. This is not only love continued…this is mind altering…soul shattering relived trauma and purpose crushing guilt. I am not me….nor have I been for three years, 8 months and 22 days….but I am even less of me in the Winter. My already distant relationships with friends and family will become more strained….because my constant thoughts are ugly, anxious and guilty.

Do you know, though….that if I had to live like this until I die….but I could have Maddi back…. I wouldn’t ever complain again. I wouldn’t ever talk about it again….if I could just have her back.

If I could just have her back…img_4922

Fu@#ing Pumpkins

(I feel that at this point if you are a reader of my blog you know I don’t filter my mind…my words. That being said… this one is laden with swears…you have been warned.) That’s all it took. Fucking pumpkins. I went to the store yesterday. Fucking Walmart. I had to pick up a few things for my little one’s Halloween party coming up in a week. Googly eyes…skeletons…glow in the dark little bats…you know, fun Halloween stuff. I turned the corner and saw all this cute, sparkly Halloween décor…. and thought, I should pick out a few new things for Maddi. I held a sparkling, smiling pumpkin in my hand that said “Happy Halloween.” And that is all it fucking took. That’s it. Right there in the aisle…one of the main aisles, wouldn’t you fucking know it… I lost it. My eyes welled with tears. They streamed down my face. Why? Well…I thought to myself, “I should pull out her Halloween flag and vampire duck…and…oh my god… Halloween is in a week and I haven’t decorated for her yet. Can I go today? No. Fuck. I can’t go all fucking week…by the time I decorate Halloween will be almost gone.”

Time had slipped right through my fingers. I have been so busy…with what is right in front of me…and you know what, she is fucking not…she is not right in front of me anymore. And decorating for her….just….slipped my fucking mind. It wasn’t like I have forgotten her or that she won’t be here…or that memories of Halloween gone by haven’t been dancing painfully beautifully through my mind for weeks now… but that doesn’t fucking matter. I FORGOT. I FUCKING FORGOT. And here I am… at home…. because I had to work in town…and now I have to take care of home…because it’s right here in front of me…and SHE’S NOT. And I scream at the top of my lungs….cry until I can’t fucking breathe…because my soul can’t take this sad anymore. I have to pour it out. I cry everyday but this type of sad…it builds and builds and then it just gushes out…out of the gaping wound that is my broken heart…And it’s not fair. And it’s not right. And it shouldn’t be her. She should be right in front of me…. reminding me… “Mama we need to get my costume” …. “Mama…are we carve that pumpkin?” But she’s not.

I don’t get to see her run door to door with her sister… three times I did. This year will make four years that Carly has done it on her own. That means she has spent more time here on Earth without her sister than with her. Do you know how fucking bad that hurts? I don’t get to help her pick a costume…help her put on some fancy makeup. No. I get to make painted rocks and painted pumpkins…and I get to sit with her…at a fucking GRAVE…not one set up for Halloween…but one that is always there… a stone I can’t tuck away until next year…. but one that sits there in the Earth marking the days that she lived here on Earth…one that screams out the day she left. A stone that screams my truth. My child died.

I am tired. Not the kind of tired that sleep will ever help. Tired of time slipping away. Tired of the world going on…moving on… Tired of watching other children grow….and not ever knowing who she would be. Tired of aching arms…tired of my little one’s tears for a sister whose memory is fading from her mind and it’s breaking her heart…. Tired of being on the outside looking in…Tired of missing Maddi…I just want her to come home. I just want to take it back. I just want to wake up from this living nightmare.

I am tired of putting pumpkins next to headstones. But I won’t ever stop doing it. Not until the life drains from me. Not until I take my last breath. But dammit…. I fucking hate cemetery pumpkins. I just want normal ones. I just want Maddi.

Maddi and Carly HalloweenMaddi and Carly Halloween2Maddi and AlizaMaddi Halloween2

My Daughter’s Name is Madison

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You knew her when she was just a little thing. You came to my baby shower. I have pictures of you holding her…all swaddled in pink. You know her name. Her name is Madison Charlotte. How dare you refer to her as that thing that happened?!  Granted…maybe that thing you were referring to was actually her death…but even still…THAT is not just a thing that happened. You did not come to Madison’s wake. You didn’t stand in line in the freezing cold as almost nearly 1,000 people did that cold February night. You didn’t hug us….with tears streaming down your face….and tell us how damn sorry you were. You didn’t come to her funeral either… you didn’t hear her best friend talk about how much she loves Madison…or the story about how Madison let all the fish go back into the lake when no one was looking. No. You did not. You did not come to our home. You did not send us a card. You did not send us flowers. You did not call. And then…nearly four years later…you see me. And…you didn’t know what to say… Well…let this be a lesson for anyone who doesn’t know what to say when you see someone who has lost a child…or has lost anyone for that matter. What happened today…what was said….is how NOT to speak to me or anyone else.

I walked into your place of business…unaware you still worked there. It wouldn’t have mattered had I known…I still would have come in… There were many people…looking back…because in those moments…the worst moments of your life…you hardly care who is there….faces blur…the I’m sorrys bleed into one another… but there were many people who I expected to see and hear from and never did….and although it hurts….I don’t hold a grudge. It is what it is.

But today I walked into your place of business… and there you were. At first there was a “Hey!” and a bright smile. Then…. you looked at me and then at my daughter and you said… with awkward hand gestures, “I…uh….know about that thing that happened but…uh…who is this?” You were referring to my little one. I swallowed hard. THAT FUCKING THING THAT HAPPENED????!!!! The words screamed in my brain. THAT THING THAT HAPPENED???!!! I took a breath…. “This is Carly. Can you say hi, sweetie?’ Now my gaze was fixed on Carly….I couldn’t look at you. Had you really referred to the death of my precious daughter…the death of Madison Charlotte…as that thing that happened? You did and you didn’t stop there. “I’m sorry about that bad thing that happened to you. I heard about it…well, it’s actually funny how I heard about it…my best friend is neighbor’s to someone related to your husband’s family. It’s funny I heard about it that way. Funny.” My heart…at this point…is pounding out of my chest. THAT BAD THING THAT HAPPENED???!!!! Can you not bring yourself to say the words? Can you not bring yourself to say her name???!!!! You think it’s fucking funny how you heard about it. Are you fucking kidding me? I couldn’t say another word. I just stared at you. And then down at the counter. You took my order and walked away.

I wanted to scream at you. I wanted to shout out, “Her name is Madison and that thing you are referring to was her DEATH!!!!! And NO it’s not fucking funny how you heard about it…NOT AT ALL. There is not one god damn thing that is funny about losing Madison. NOTHING. And the fact….the fact that you KNEW and you still didn’t come. You still didn’t send a card. You still didn’t call. There is nothing funny about that either. Like I said, it is what it is. Did your absence change my perception of you? Yes it did. Does that mean I hold a grudge or expected some kind of apology from you? No. No it does not. So for anyone wondering how that could have gone….I have a few thoughts.

First…understand….I don’t expect…if you did not attend her services or reach out to us at all…I don’t expect an apology. We all handle grief in our own way….so maybe you just couldn’t. I accept that. But with that being said….

SAY HER NAME! Do not refer to my daughter….my beautiful, intelligent, funny, kind daughter…as an it… or that thing that happened… She was not and is not…an “it.” She IS my daughter…my child… and saying what this person said was far worse than saying her beautiful name. Her name is like music to me. It’s like the beginning notes of a lilting tune…one that each time you hear it brings…it brings you uplifting joy and crushing sadness. Understand that saying her name is not reminding me she is gone. Not a moment has passed in 3 years, 7 months and 20 days….that the painful reality of Madison’s absence doesn’t envelop every breath I take. Saying her name only reminds me that she is missed by others.

If saying her name is too hard for you… then say nothing. Do not refer to her passing as that bad thing that happened. Do not laugh about how you found out about her passing. Just have a basic conversation. And continue on with your life…and leave me the hell alone. What you said today…I will never ever forget. And now I will hold a grudge. Now when I see you…my stomach will knot…. the words will replay in my mind… and I will make it a point to avoid you if I can. They say sticks and stones may break my bones…but words will never hurt me….this is just one more untruth. Your lack of action 3 years, 2 months and 20 days ago didn’t sit well with me….but your words today hurt me much more deeply.

Madison Charlotte. Your loss…your death…was so much more than just “a bad thing that happened.” And you were…and will always be…so much more than an it. You are our everything. We love you more than words could ever express….and will miss you until our last days.

Until we meet again…my love…Madison Charlotte.