Saturday, March 31, 2012

Spirit Versus Gut

I recently read something along the lines of, "Your feelings will get you into trouble if they're the only thing you're listening to." Basically you can feel like doing one thing, but by listening to your spirit (that is, the part of you that is connected to God, or the universe), you can choose to do another thing, the right thing.

This gets dicey, though. Because when your gut tells you one thing, but your spirit tells you another, you can get torn.

I see this all the time in women especially. We're told how we are so naturally intuitive, that we should always listen to our gut. But sometimes our gut is wrong. Sometimes our feelings are disconnected from reality AND disconnected from the universe.

My gut said not to leave home on Thursday morning. My gut said to stay in the safety of my house, with my husband, our dog and cat, and remain in my comfort zone.

My spirit, however, knew that the right thing to do was to leave with Jeremy and have some couple time away from home. My spirit knew the healing power of this.

So I listened to my spirit. And even though my gut was fighting me, I know it was the right thing -- because Jeremy came alive like I haven't seen him in months.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Perception is Reality?

I had an interesting day of people-watching. In a place full of geeks (more on that to come in later posts), with artists and writers at the helm, it was a very narrow cross-section of America.

It got me thinking about how perception is reality. And how I always thought that was common sense -- you dress as you want people to perceive you.

But maybe I'm wrong. Or rather, maybe that's not the whole truth.

There were so many people there today who looked like they purposefully avoided mirrors. And some, also showers. Some people dressed in meticulous costumes from the neck down, but from the neck up looked like they just rolled out of bed. I am always wondering how people think, what goes through their heads -- I should have been a psychologist, because I am really fascinated by this. And today got my head spinning.

I can usually tell a lot about a person by how they dress, how they talk to me, and how they come across in general. But given my recent experience, I wonder how many people are hurting underneath it all. I don't think anyone can tell I'm broken, but I feel it radiating from my skin.

So I have more sensitivity to people than I used to. The heckler sitting in front of me may be extremely insecure. The girl sitting next to me, with mousy hair and no makeup -- maybe she was abused as a child. The geeky, zit-faced boy cutting in line -- maybe comic books are his only escape from being bullied, and he is so absorbed in that world that he no longer understands this one.

Maybe they're all hurting. Maybe I meet a broken person every day.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Double for Your Trouble

Joyce Meyer likes to come up with catchy little sayings while she's speaking. And honestly that technique does help me to remember her words, so her methods work.

God will give you double for your trouble.

Complain and remain, praise and be raised.

Recently she talked about how God is the god of justice, and he will double what you forfeit if you just keep believing.  Keep being kind when people are mean to you, keep working hard when you hate your job, keep believing things will get better when they are at their worst, and God will see your pain and bless you for it.  He will take what you have sacrificed and give you a double portion of blessings for it.

I love that idea.  But I also think that it is somewhat impossible in my case.  My daughter was the biggest blessing anyone could have ever had.  To double that, to even think of being happier than I was when I had her, seems impossible to me.  Some days even thinking of being close to that happy again seems like a pipe dream.

But I'm going to keep believing, keep being kind, keep working hard.  Not to get double blessings, not even because it's the "right" thing to do, but because it feels good to do so.  I guess I'm selfish in my works.  When I stay positive, when I help others, I feel Scarlett's light again.

Only Way Out is Through

I have been asked several times recently about antidepressants.  Doctors have asked me if I need/want them, friends have asked me if I'm taking them or suggested that maybe I should.  And I totally understand why.  I would probably have the same concerns for someone else in a grieving situation.

I took an antidepressant once before.  And it didn't do a whole lot for me.  It certainly didn't help my lethargy, which was my main concern at the time.  So I got off of them after about 6 months, and haven't had the desire to try them again.

When a person is grieving, their brain stops producing dopamine and serotonin, according to our counselor.  And while antidepressants can help with that chemical production, they don't always do what they're supposed to do.  In fact, Jeremy once experienced a total mental breakdown because of a bad response to an antidepressant -- so we are hyper-aware of how our bodies respond to them.  I tracked every nuance of how I was feeling when I took antidepressants back in 2011.

So understanding the drugs, understanding the grieving process, and understanding trauma response, I have made the decision not to take anything right now.

But in addition to the rational explanation for my decision, I also have a somewhat spiritual reason.

There is a line in a Robert Frost poem that speaks to me right now.  "The best way out is always through."  I need to experience this grief, as horrible and sharp as it is, because the only way out is through.  An antidepressant will not change the fact that I have to go through this.  And as long as I am able to get out of bed in the morning and function during the day, I feel like I can learn so much more from this pain when I have a drug-free head.

I want to learn from this.  I want to know what God, and what the angel Scarlett, are trying to say to me.  And I can't hear them as well with earmuffs on.

To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory. (Isaiah 61:3, NLT)

Beauty will come from these ashes!!!

I feel it in my bones.  It's my first thought each morning.  This pain, this loss, I will find meaning in it.  Life will get better.  Things will get better.  I'll never get Scarlett back in this world, but I will see her in the next -- and I will have wonderful things to tell her.  I will have a lifetime of stories to tell her.

Yes, I hurt.  Every second of every day.  But it is worth it to have had her for 19 months.  And the lessons I know I will take from this are worth all the pain.  I don't want to dull it --  I will breathe through it as long as I can.  I will ask for help if and when I need it, but right now I am breathing.  Breathing through the pain.

This is like labor.  The pain is excruciating, but there is beauty and a whole new life on the other side of it.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Where I Belong

There is a song I've been listening to on the radio lately called "Where I Belong".  And the essence of the song is that the singer believes his home is in heaven, and this is not where he belongs.

I couldn't have put it better myself.  I tell people often that only half of me is here anymore -- the other half is in heaven.  It's a feeling I have trouble putting into words, but I try all the time.  As if describing how disconnected I feel from my life here will help people understand me.

But it goes way beyond a disconnection from this life.  Disconnection is a side-effect of grief.  I feel more like my plug has been pulled out of the socket, split in two, and one side plugged back into my normal life while the other half got plugged into the place where God dwells.

Sure, it makes me feel a little disconnected from my everyday life -- but it also makes me feel more connected to something else.  Something bigger than myself.  The something that has Scarlett's spirit wrapped gently in its arms.  I still feel close to her.  I'm still with her.

I was throwing a load of laundry into the dryer this morning, and I remembered how she always wanted to "help" me with that.  But mainly she would stand in front of the dryer, pressing the button that turns on and off the light inside, over and over and over.  The memory was so strong it felt like if I squinted my eyes, I'd see her.

And that kind of experience happens to me every day.  Many times a day.  I don't know if I'm straddling heaven and earth right now, or if my soul got split in two when Scarlett died.  But either way, half of me is in another place right now.  I don't feel like I completely belong here anymore.

And that's not a bad thing.  I feel more open to God.  I feel like the lines of communication are clear and all I have to do is turn my ear to hear what's going on in heaven.

A woman I met at church recently described it as "having an investment in heaven".  I agree, I have one hell of an investment in heaven.  But I think it goes beyond that for me.  I think I've already got one foot there.

And I also think that it's for a reason.  My focus has been shifted, my life has been shifted, for a reason.  There is meaning to this.  And a year from now I'm going to be writing about how this good came from that tragedy.

Jeremy doesn't like to think this way.  He doesn't want to think that our daughter died to teach us something, he says.  But that's not what I'm saying.  I think she lived to teach us something -- and she lived to learn something from us too.  I think she's got a bigger job than she could accomplish here on earth.  She was here for a reason, and now she's in heaven for a reason.  And in time, the reason will become clear.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Learning to Listen

There are some things I'm naturally good at -- writing, art, understanding technology, history, languages -- but listening isn't one of them.

Listening is a skill I am constantly working on.  I'm one of those people who is thinking about the next thing they want to say when someone is speaking.  I have to consciously practice good listening skills, as my natural tendencies are to communicate.

I've gotten better over the years.  As an adult, I realized this was a big problem and have actively worked to fix it.  I can't say I'm a naturally good listener, but I'm a well-trained good listener.

However, recently my training has been tested.  Though I'm good at listening to people now, I never learned how to listen to God.

What I'm learning right now is not just how to communicate with this holy spirit who has held my hand through the worst days of my life -- not just how to pray, not just how to reach out and be in his presence -- but how to listen to him.  It's a whole other skill-set to learn.

When I practice it, when I pray and then I listen, the messages are loud and clear.  I get unmistakable guidance.  I am told that things will get better, to keep on writing, to keep Scarlett's toys, or to just breathe.  That voice is so loud, and so clear, I realize what a poor listener I really am to not hear it even amidst the noise.

And sometimes it's not just God talking to me.  Sometimes he's got a 19-month-old angel at his side, trying to get her message across.

Right when I think I have mastered this skill, I am shown I still have a ways to go.  But I'm learning.  I'm quieting my mind and training my ear.  And I hope God keeps talking to me, because out of all voices, that is the one I want to hear the most.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Rewriting the Negative

Jeremy's sister Jennifer, her husband, and 4 of their 5 kids came to stay at our house this weekend.  And the rest of Jeremy's family stayed at a hotel nearby.  Two of the kids had a basketball tournament just down the road in Thornton, so the whole Mehring clan headed north to our side of the state.  

This morning Jennifer's family went to church with me.  The sermon was about practicing what we preach -- not pointing out what others are doing wrong, but paying attention the actions that we take in our own lives.  What we do is infinitely more important than what we say.  

And I completely agree.  Completely.  And no matter how much I talk here about thinking positively, if I'm not doing it, the message gets garbled.

This blog helps me do just that.  When I am thinking negatively, I start writing negatively.  And I know people are listening very closely to what I say right now, so I pay attention to what I write.  I try to make sure each message has something positive included within it -- even when I am expressing how sad I am.  That process, that rewriting the negative, helps me rewrite the message in my own mind as well.  

You guys help me flip the script just by reading this.

And I want to keep that up.  For you, for me, and for Scarlett's memory.  So tell me, if there is something you want to know, or if there is something you want to express.  

And thank you.  Thank you for reading.  Thank you for listening.  Thank you for helping me rewrite the negative into something positive every single day.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Counting Blessings

Sometimes it's not so easy for me to think positively and count my blessings.  In fact, some days it is a huge effort to do so, and I have to really be conscious of staying out of the "negativity zone".

When it gets difficult, I remind myself that I have Jeremy.  I have him to love me and support me, and to kick my butt when I don't want to get out of bed.  And I have him as a partner in all things -- even, and especially, this loss.

I am so, so lucky to have my strong, thoughtful husband.  And remembering that often snaps me out of negative thinking.  I lost my daughter -- but I still have my amazing husband.

That thought -- thanking God for my husband -- leads me to other positive thinking.  Like how awesome my friends are.

Josey met me in Castle Rock today for lunch and shopping.  And it was great to just be girls together, and to be around someone who treated me like I'm still a mom.

Just because we lost our child doesn't make Jeremy and I any less parents -- but sometimes people don't realize that.  Sometimes people think now that we don't have a child, we want to go out and drink and party and sleep in until noon.  And that is simply not the case.  We're still parents.

When I got home from Castle Rock today, there was a package waiting for me from Allison, my dear friend out in Austin, TX.  In it was a beautiful card, a Thirty-One purse with the word "Inspiration" sewn onto it, and this incredible handmade necklace.

So consider this me counting my blessings today.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Catharsis and Jeremy's Tattoo

I thought I was holding up okay today.  But as soon as Jeremy left to get his tattoo this afternoon, I started falling apart.  By 4pm, I had to end my workday so I could go figure out what I was feeling.

I tell people a lot these days that I talk to God.  And sometimes I wonder if people think I'm going crazy.  I assure you, I'm not.  I just have a lot to say to God right now.  I rant, I rave, I cry, I yell, I curse, I beg.

Today I started by asking him to speak to me.  Tell me what the hell I'm supposed to do.  And after shutting up and listening for a moment, I got the message to get off my butt.  So I started to get ready to go for a walk.  And as I was walking to my office to grab my phone, I passed by Scarlett's room... and started to collapse in front of that door.  I sobbed as I opened the door and went into the room.

Her room was full to the brim.  The only space to sit was in the middle of it all.  So I sat in the middle of her room, and I pulled out some of her toys from a nearby box, and I yelled at God.  For a good ten minutes, I just let it all fly.  I told him I don't want another baby, I just want my Scarlett back.  I begged him for some glimmer of happy times ahead, some hope that I will be that happy again.

As I finally started to calm down, I looked around at the room.  It was so full of toys and clothes.  And I remembered how great Scarlett was at sharing her belongings.  Everyone was always so amazed at that, since she was an only child.  She was just a great sharer.

And I got a very clear message -- an unmistakable knowledge -- that Scarlett wanted to share her toys.

We were going to donate everything.  We couldn't stand the idea of seeing another child wearing her clothes or playing with her toys.  But in that moment, I knew that's not what Scarlett, the angel, wanted.  I knew she wanted us to keep them for future children.

So I spent the next hour cleaning her room.  I boxed up all her toys, pulling out the really special ones to put in a memory box someday soon.  I put all of her clothes in her closet to go through with Jeremy at a later date.  I cleaned out the whole room so it's as neat and tidy as if we were expecting another child to live there.

And it felt so good.  It was cathartic.  I could feel her smiling down from heaven as I stood in that clean room.

So when Jeremy came home with his new tattoo (below), I was on an even keel again.

The bear represents our family, and the rose is of course our dear Scarlett

The Hunger Games and One Month

Jeremy and I went to see midnight premiere of The Hunger Games at our local dine-in theater last night.  It was a fantastic movie and the theater was full, but not packed.

I was worried going to the movie would disrupt my sleep schedule, honestly.  Sleep has been a difficult thing in the last month.  But we got home around 2:30am, and I put on my meditation music and was able to get to sleep pretty quickly.  I even slept through the night and awoke on time for work without a sleeping pill.  My first night without a sleeping pill.

So today marks one month.  It has been one entire month since we lost our daughter.  Sometimes it feels like a million years ago -- and sometimes it feels like yesterday.

Each morning I still wake up sad.  And I have to ask God for help to get my brain in a more positive space.  And each night is a struggle through emotions to get to sleep.

But each day -- each day is getting a little better.  The pain a little more bearable.  The future a little less foggy.  There are still little reminders everywhere, but I'm learning how to smile at the memories a little more, instead of being swallowed by them.

I have hope.  A lot of it.  And it balances the sadness.  It keeps me going.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Me Again, Bit By Bit

Today I went out to lunch in downtown Denver with my buddy Keith Casey of Twilio, HubAustin and CaseySoftware fame.  He's one of my favorite people -- brilliant, fun, and thinks a lot like I do.  I am extremely lucky to call him my friend.

For the first time since February 23, I felt like ME.  Talking about business, coworking, conferences (and how drunk people get at them), and travel, I was me again.

After lunch I took him over to GreenSpaces to check out the space and meet Jennie.  And I remembered how much I loved working at GreenSpaces, and I finally felt ready to go back there.

I dropped Keith off at the convention center and headed back to my home office.  I pulled into the garage and was getting my purse out of the back seat, pulling items out from under the front seat that had fallen out of my purse during the drive, and my hand wrapped around something large and plastic.  I pulled out one of Scarlett's toys.

I don't think there is ever going to be a day where finding something like that isn't going to be a punch to the stomach.  But I look forward to the days when I stop being surprised like that.

So I'm back at my desk.  Finishing my work day.  Trying to get my mind back to where it was a few hours ago. Trying to be ME again.  Breath by breath, step by step, I can do this.

Little Things I Miss

Sleep kisses
When Scarlett was awake in the middle of the night, I used to bring her to bed with me (re-sleep-training was a recent thing with us -- literally until the last month of her life, I would just bring her to our bed if she awoke at night.).  And when she was fighting sleep, and wanting to play, she'd ever so gently put her face over mine and kiss me -- kiss my cheek, my nose, my lips -- until I opened my eyes.

Scarlett was a good eater, but every so often she'd do the normal toddler thing and just not want to eat what she was served.  So as I put a full plate of food in front of her, she'd survey it for a second to decide whether she wanted it or not -- and if she decided it wasn't what she wanted, she'd just throw her hands up in the air and announce, "Done!"  And the fight would commence.

Everywhere, fingerprints.  On all of our mirrors, our windows, dusty shelves, and coffee tables.  I love them and I never want to wipe them away.  I accidentally spilled some water on a plant stand a few weeks ago, and as I was wiping it up I realized I had cleaned up her fingerprints.  I sobbed my heart out.

Bathroom company
I could never go to the bathroom in peace.  Whether coming in to the bathroom with me, or pounding on the door outside, Scarlett never gave me a peaceful moment in the bathroom.  And I don't care how this sounds, but sometimes now I feel like I need company in there.

Nothing in its place
I once found my cell phone in Scarlett's play oven.  And the knickknacks in my office were in different places every day.  I inevitably left the house without something I needed every single time I went anywhere -- bibs, diapers, a change of clothes, something that I needed would be missing from the diaper bag every time.  And her plastic jewelry -- we would find that under the couch, in the cupboard, in the air vent.  I miss it all.

The Spiderman song
Jeremy introduced Scarlett to the old Spiderman cartoon show and thus she loved the catchy theme song.  She'd run around screaming "Mannnn!" at the top of her lungs, and making the webslinging sounds and motions (squeezing her fists and saying "fffftttt fffttt") and I would get so distracted from work because I couldn't stop listening and laughing.

I don't feel like I took anything for granted other than time.  I knew every little thing was precious with Scarlett.  I just thought I had more time.

We didn't put up a Christmas tree last year.  We were so busy around the holidays, and it was too much of a hassle to keep the dog, the cat and Scarlett out of the tree, so we figured we'd just do it next year when Scarlett was a little older.  That is seriously one of our biggest regrets.

I think time, now, is the most precious thing I have.  I will never take it for granted again.  I will try to never say the words, "I will do that later," or "Someday".  There is only today.  There is always only today.

Surprising Things I'm Thankful For

After a tragedy, you find yourself being thankful for things you weren't always thankful for.  Here are some of my recent gratefulness surprises:

Waking my slumbering husband because he overslept. 
The head-to-toe soreness in my body from a deceptively gentle yoga class the day before. 
The strong Colorado sunshine drying out the yard so fast that planting a rose bush in March was a simple task. 
The 18lb cat meowing in my face at 7am because if I don't get up and feed him RIGHT NOW, he's going to wither away. Meowing continues outside the bathroom door as I brush my teeth.
Getting project after project piled on my plate when I'm trying to close everything out before I leave for a vacation. 
Noises.  Just noises.  The TV on, the vacuum running, dogs barking, cars driving by.
The postal service.  And UPS.  And FedEx. 
The ring I bought being just a tiny bit too small (but now I never have to worry about it falling off of my slim finger).

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Yoga Healing

You long-time readers know I'm a yoga junkie.  I used to go to about three classes a week, in addition to other workouts.  But since I got pregnant with Scarlett, I haven't had a regular workout routine.

One of the things our grief counselor is really pushing with us is physical exercise.  So I have made it a priority to get back to a regular workout schedule.  Part of that process was checking out the newly remodeled BFitness in neighboring Westminster.

So last week I went over and got a tour.  The gym is GORGEOUS, and they gave me a free 7-day pass to check it out.

The drive over there isn't great with all the lights and traffic, so I was on the fence about joining.  And I went to a total body conditioning class there on Thursday which was wayyyy above my ability level (even at my physical peak I couldn't have kept up in that class), so that discouraged me too.  But Jeremy kept pushing me on it, insisting that the membership was worth it.

I was still really iffy until today.  I tried their noon yoga class, and I was sold.

I had forgotten how much yoga improved everything in my life.  My physical health, my emotional stability, my mental acuity -- it helps in all areas.  It felt so good to stretch and push my taut muscles, and for an hour not think about anything other than the pose I was doing.

The only difficult part (other than realizing I had lost some strength), was during the ending meditation.  Being still with my thoughts is really difficult right now, and the sadness started creeping back in.  So instead of meditating, I started to pray.  And it helped.  Letting my sadness go to God made the experience complete for me.

So I am going to sign up for a membership at this gym.  And even if I just go to this one yoga class a week, I think it will improve my life.

Freelance Mania

Recently I posted about how sometimes the best way for the universe to kick its energy into gear in your life is for you to just let go of control.  Tuck your faith in your back pocket, and don't stress about it.  Let the universe do its thing.

A-freaking-men to that.

After Scarlett passed, I made a decision to stop pursuing freelance work.  I have a regular day job that pays well and uses some of my skill-sets, and I have a fun second job that uses other skill-sets.  With Jeremy and I trying to figure out our lives and our direction right now, seeking out new clients didn't seem smart.

The day I started back at work, though, I got a call for an urgent, fast-turnaround, brain-intensive editorial project.  I couldn't say no.  And I'm glad I didn't.  It was the kind of work that let me fade out of reality for an hour here and an hour there, but still used my brain.  Meditative.  I got the project done perfectly in record time.

And as soon as that project wrapped up, I got a call from an acquaintance I made months ago at GreenSpaces. He needed his business site reviewed and rewritten.  So I recently started on that project.

I've had more freelance work in the last two weeks than I have in the last few months.  But the timing of each project worked perfectly with my schedule and current abilities.

So while I thought freelance work would be too difficult to manage right now, the universe thought otherwise.  And hey, God always takes me in the right direction.  So I figure these are all just steps toward better things.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


I felt really spacey today.  And in keeping with the promise I have made my employers, I took it easy.  I worked on projects that didn't require a lot of brain power, and put more intensive projects on hold until tomorrow.

I had to talk to a colleague on the phone and explain a web traffic report, and I felt like such a dork.  I knew the answers he needed, but I had such a hard time articulating it verbally.  Bless him, though, he was generous with me.  He let me take my time in explaining things.

I have had so many people take it easy on me in the last month.  And sometimes I'm not sure they're doing it out of kindness -- I mean, I'm not always sure they're aware of my personal situation.  So I just appreciate it, no matter where it comes from.  And it gives me such faith in people.

Watching the news or reading about current events, it's easy to get down on humanity.  It's easy to think people in general are awful, and the world is going straight to hell.  So the kindness and sensitivity people are showing me right now, wherever it comes from, is so uplifting.

Della, my college pal and creator of Householder's Guide to the Galaxy, called while I was on my lunch break, and we talked for a long time.  She was pulling weeds while we talked, and telling me about all the projects she has in the works to use the hundreds of lemons she and her kids pulled off the tree in their back yard.  And she let me rant, and she let me cry, but she brought me back to reality -- that life will go on.  That she's still going to bake bread, and her daughter is still going to dance to Lady Gaga songs, and I will still be able to call Della when I need someone to kick my butt.

And then Jennie, my pal and founder of GreenSpaces, drove up from downtown Denver and went for a long walk with me after work.  Listening to her rave about how awesome our house is, and how beautiful the trails are right outside our door, made me that much more confident in our decision to stay here.  As Jeremy put it, "We bought this house to raise a family in," and that's just what we're going to do.

Faith.  Faith in God, faith in my marriage and future, faith in people, and faith that life will get better.  I cherish faith in every form I find it -- and I am finding it in so many unexpected forms.

Tell Me Stories

I always prided myself on equally managing all of my roles.

My role of "mother" was the most important, but it was just one of the many roles I play.

In the wake of my loss, my most important role is being redefined.

I am still a mother.  But without a child to nurture, I don't know what that means.

Our counselor yesterday told me that I needed to watch out for tunnel-vision.  That focusing too much on my role as mother is not healthy right now.  She pointed out that I'm also a wife, and a daughter, and a sister and a friend.

One of the things we discussed in our grief counseling session was these forceful memories I have.  I get visions of Scarlett, of how I found her that morning, and they come out of nowhere.  I tried to redirect the image to memories of her alive and happy, but that made it ten times worse.  I would break down and start sobbing because the clashing images made this feel so much more unfair.  So the counselor suggested I redirect my mind to an image that had nothing to do with Scarlett.  Like maybe our honeymoon.  And I admit that it is helping.

And it also helps remind me that my role as wife is so incredibly important.  Jeremy has taken such great care of me since the event, I need to remember that I have to take care of him too.

One of my oldest friends messaged me last night and begged me to lean on her.  She said I was trying to nurture everyone, even now, and she wanted to lend me her strength.

And it dawned on me.  I'm done with people just listening to me.  It's time for me to listen to others.  I want to hear your stories -- I want to hear about Della baking bread, Erin taking up running again, Katie finding a new church, Maya's big move.  Tell me stories.  Write to me.

I don't just want to be the girl who lost her daughter anymore.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Heart Theory

Doc recommended that Jeremy and I both get EKGs done to rule out heart problems that may have been passed down to Scarlett.  I'm happy to report that both of our EKGs came back with no problems.

My doctor spent about 20 minutes just talking to me today at my appointment.  She listened, asked questions about how Jeremy and I are handling things, made sure we were telling our counselor everything we were discussing with our doctors, and just commiserated as a mother.  In all my years, I have never had a doctor just sit and listen like that.  No hurrying off to other patients, no throwing a prescription at it.  She just listened.

The support Jeremy and I have both received from the doctors at the Rock Creek Kaiser facility has been astounding.  The doctors talk to each other, listen to what we need, respond immediately, and reach out to us regularly.  We know they genuinely care.

So the current theory they have is that Scarlett had an electrical problem with her heart.  Something only an EKG would have found, and she had never given anyone cause to request an EKG.

But when I think back, the only scare we ever had with this child was when I was pregnant with her.  At my 16-week checkup, Scarlett had a low heart rate.  But that was the only time that ever occurred -- checkup after checkup, that never happened again.  And the doctors told us it didn't mean anything, that sometimes the doppler/ultrasound caught babies at an odd moment.

And maybe it did mean nothing.  But at this point, it lends credence to the only theory that makes any sense.

New Normal

Sometimes I feel like I'm living someone else's life.  Like this is just a temporary situation until I get back to my life.

I told someone yesterday that a child teaches you how to be selfless and nurturing, and there is no coming back from that.  So I'm lost without a child to care for.

Lost.  Living someone else's life.  Disconnected.  I know it's all normal.  It all falls under the heading of "grieving".

I often get the overwhelming sensation that life will go back to normal soon.  Sometimes that comes in the form of feeling like Scarlett is just being babysat, and we'll go pick her up soon.  Sometimes that comes in the form of desperately wanting more children.  And sometimes that comes in the form of thinking this is all just a bad dream.

But I know better.  I know in my very soul that life will never go back to "normal".  At least not that normal.  Normal has been changed forever.  Normal has to be rebooted.

So when I'm thinking straight, when I am rationally dissecting the sensation of being lost, I know my life is going to be redefined.  I'm just in the waiting room right now.  Life hasn't opened the door and called me in yet, but it will.

And I have no idea what will be on the other side of that door.  But it has to be better than this.  When someone tells you there is nowhere to go but up, this very situation is where that saying came from.

Things will get better.  I will discover a new normal.  It's just a matter of time.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Understanding the Tears

A dear friend of mine told me today that she doesn't want me to have to comfort her right now.  She wants to be strong for me, be there for me, but her heart is breaking and she can't stop crying when she tries to tell me what's on her mind.

And based on things other people have expressed to me recently, she's not the only one that feels that way.

I want everyone to know, I understand.

Your hearts are breaking for us.  I know.  My heart is breaking for others too.

Scarlett's grave has had many visitors in the last several days.  Jeremy and I haven't been there in almost a week, but I imagine it's covered in flowers and teardrops.

Two sets of grandparents visited the grave of their 19-month-old granddaughter this week.  And I am so overwhelmingly sad for them.  I remember their joy when we brought Scarlett around them.  I remember Jeremy's dad's excitement when Scarlett ran to him.  I remember Jeremy's mom's pride when she knitted Scarlett new hats.  I remember my dad's delight when Scarlett brought him book after book, and climbed into his lap insisting he repeatedly read each one.  I remember my mom cheerfully bringing Scarlett new toys every time we visited.

My heart breaks at the unfairness of it.  And I want to be strong for them so they can grieve, too.  Sometimes I succeed at that -- and sometimes I fall apart.

So I get it.  I know how you feel when you talk to me, or read my blog posts or emails.  I know your heart breaks for me, because mine breaks for others too.  And I so, so much appreciate your strength and willingness to be there for me.  But please know, too, that I understand your tears.

Saying It Out Loud

God saved my life.  And he saves it every single day.

These are powerful words -- words I have never spoken aloud before, or had the cause to -- words that I may have just smiled and nodded at coming from someone else just one short month ago.

But I hear these words from people all the time now.  When I tell them that my faith is one of the main things getting me through this difficult time, they tell me, "God saved me too."  And now I wonder why this topic is so difficult, why I never talked to people about spirituality, and vice versa, before this.

I started reaching for a handle on my faith in the months prior to Scarlett's passing, and I can see now with crystal clarity that it was God at work.  Because without this absolute certainty that there is a positive-natured higher power, and that heaven is just on the other side of this life, I would not be alive right now.

Without faith, without hope, without the knowledge that God loves me and wants to help me, I feel certain that I would have just curled up and died in wake of this event.  As much as I don't want to leave my loved ones behind, as much as I want to live happily ever after with Jeremy -- the pain was so intense that I am sure it would have killed me.  But because God was holding my hand, I lived.  I went to sleep each night in my husband's arms, and woke each morning with a little bit of hope.  As the Bible says, Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.

Joy.  I find it in the nooks and crannies.

I find joy in Erin taking me to church today.  I find it in the 3-month-old baby in the arms of the man standing in the pew in front of me.  I find it in Jeremy's whispered, "I love you," as he settles in to bed next to me at night. I find it in the words that stream out of my fingertips into this blog.  And I keep looking for it, because God reminds me to.

I still have traumatic memories of the event of February 23.  I still have subconscious responses -- checking to make sure Jeremy is breathing when he sleeps at night, being afraid to be in the house alone for long periods of time -- but I recognize them for what they are.  Responses.  And I know I can work through them.  I know things will get better.  When I start to doubt, I get a reminder.  A very clear, unmistakable reminder.

And when other people tell me similar stories, of God helping them through a tough time, of God saving them, I wonder why people don't talk about this.

God brings me comfort.  Comfort in knowing my daughter is in good hands, and that I will see her again.  Comfort in knowing there is more to this life than what I experience here on this earth.  Comfort in that there is something positive guiding me.

God brings me hope.  Hope that things will get better.  Hope that the pain will ease.

So if other people have experienced this -- why don't people talk about it?  Why is it only now that people come forward and tell me, "God saved me too."

I wonder if it's because religion and politics have gotten into bed together.  Because you can't be taken seriously if you believe in God, but you can't be relied upon if you don't.  And that makes me even more disgusted at the state of the world.

So I'm going to say this here.  In the open.  I lived because God held my hand when my daughter died.  God saved me.  And he saves me every day.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Little Reminders

It seems like everyone is getting tattoos right now.

Drew, Kelsey and Lisa have theirs done already.  Kelsey had a huge blooming rose tattooed on her upper arm, with Scarlett's name and birth/death dates below in large script.  Lisa had a rosebud tattooed over her heart.  Drew, my brilliant artist brother, designed this one and had it tattooed over his heart:

Jeremy and I didn't notice this at first, but Drew incorporated all of Scarlett's initials -- SRM -- into the design.  I'm still flabbergasted by this one.

Jeremy has an appointment to get a tattoo over his heart next Friday.  He has been wanting a bear tattoo there since we got married.  Bears are special to us because when we had our wedding reception in Colorado Springs, a couple of wild black bears climbed the fence and joined the party.  But now Jeremy wants to incorporate a rose design with the bear as well.

My youngest brother Chad is talking about getting Scarlett's name tattooed somewhere, but I don't have any details beyond that.

Me?  I don't have any tattoos.  And I'm not planning on ever getting one -- it's just not my thing.  Instead, I bought this ruby rose ring from New York artist Emily Shuman:

Ruby was Scarlett's birthstone.  And of course the rose design has tremendous meaning.  It's just a little reminder of an outstanding love.

Everyone seems to be expressing themselves in their own way.  And it's good to see that.  It's good for people to process their memories, and their pain -- it will bring them through this sad time in a healthy way. Some people have apologized to me for their intense reactions to our recent loss, and I tell everyone the same thing...

I know I'm not the only one hurting.  Scarlett was a really special little girl who touched the heart of everyone who knew her.  This isn't just my loss.  This is everyone's loss.  This is the world's loss.  And everyone has the right to grieve, everyone has the right to feel their own pain in this.  The only thing I ask is that no one feel guilty for anything -- because Scarlett wouldn't want that.  She'd look at you with her eyebrows drawn and her little rosebud lips pursed, and give you her best "get over it" face.  So feel your pain.  Grieve.  But let your guilt go.  Instead, love the gifts she gave you, those treasured memories.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Waste of Precious Time

One of the silly things that goes through my head these days is, What is condolence card etiquette?  I mean, Jeremy and I still get cards every day in the mail, and sometimes I let people know I received them -- especially if the card includes a personal letter -- but then other times I don't.  And I wonder if people are going to be offended that I didn't tell them I got their letter.  And then get a grip and stop worrying about offending people over condolence cards.

Because I remember, life is short.  Worrying about what other people think is a big fat waste of time, and something I'm trying to avoid.

Posting on Facebook is the same deal.  I worry if I post something too happy, people will think I'm not mourning enough.  But if I post something sad, I worry that people will think I'm going to jump off a cliff.  And then I quit worrying and post whatever the heck I want and let the chips fall where they may.

Because I remember, life is short. Worrying is a waste of precious time.

I think about death a lot these days.  Death is an old friend.  But he's more comforting than scary.  Death is just a lifting of the veil so I can slide over and see my daughter.  And who knows when that veil will be lifted?  Who knows if I've got a day or sixty years?  But I've got my cemetery plot next to Scarlett, and I've got my sights set on heaven, and I am excited to see those big beautiful blue eyes again when my time here is done.  I worry that people will think I'm morbid when I say these things.  And then I get a grip and quit worrying.

Because I remember, life is short.  Worrying is a waste of precious time.

I've had probably a dozen people offer to go to church with me recently.  I'm sure because they read my blog and know how difficult it is for me to go by myself right now.  But these people are offering to drive in from all over Colorado to attend church with me, and I worry that I'm asking too much of them to accept the offer.  I worry that they don't really want to go to church, that they're just trying to be nice and they're going to think "this is stupid" as they're sitting in the pew next to me.  And then I get a grip and quit worrying.

Because all that time I spend worrying, I could be enjoying all my blessings.  My husband, my home, my job(s), my family, my friends, even this blog.

I couldn't sleep last night, and ended up taking a sleeping pill at midnight.  So this morning was rough.  And as I was lying there trying to make my body move to get out of bed, the bedroom door opened and Jeremy walked in with a huge cup of coffee for me.

I got out of bed, told my husband how incredible he is, and hugged and kissed him.  Now THAT is a better way to spend time than worrying.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Out of the Mouths of Babes

I've been thinking a lot about how the kids we know have handled Scarlett's passing.  And how their response is so different from that of adults.

I mentioned the other day about 6-year-old Kenzie telling me she missed Scarlett.  And the more I think about it, the more beautiful it is.  She simply misses my daughter.  And she didn't question the idea that Scarlett is now an angel -- she simply smiled.

Another friend with a little girl around Kenzie's age expressed a similar sentiment recently.  She told her mom she didn't know what to say to me, and her mom told her to draw me some pictures.  So they came to our house and the little girl gave me a stack of pictures she had drawn.  The pictures were filled with dozens of smiling people, and I knew she wanted my reaction to be a smile as well.  She expressed herself through these drawings and she wanted me to smile at them.  In my greatest time of need, this child just wanted to make me smile.

We have four nieces, three of which are at the age where they understand what is going on.  And their reactions in the first week after Scarlett passed were all very different from each other, but simple and beautiful nonetheless.

The youngest of the three just cried when she saw us.  She just hugged us and cried.  No racking sobs, no "oh poor me", no words.  She just let her tears flow freely.

The middle niece held my hand and told me stories, trying to make me laugh.  And it worked.  She always makes me laugh.

The oldest of our nieces didn't say a word about it.  Later on, her mother asked her why she wasn't reacting to this situation the way her sisters were.  Our niece's response was that she "Knows Scarlett is in heaven.  She saw her walking up the steps to God."  And she couldn't be sad knowing Scarlett was in such a happy place.

So here us adults are falling apart.  Sobbing left and right, shouting at God about how unfair this is, clutching our loved ones tight because the reality of how quickly they can be taken has just hit us in the face -- and these kids just plain miss their friend and are comforted by the fact that Scarlett is in a happier place.

Simple.  Uncomplicated.  Pure.  No doubt, no guilt, no feeling sorry for themselves.

I will always remember the face Scarlett would make when someone was upset about something.  Her WTF face.  And I know she's making that face from heaven sometimes, aimed right at people who are shouting about life being hard and unfair.  Aimed right at me a lot of the time.  Mama, it's time to get out of bed!  So many exciting things to do and see.  So many new foods to try.  So many people to meet.  So many songs to sing.

If a child can teach you anything, it's how to appreciate each day.

Rewriting the Negative

I wrote a post early this morning and scheduled it for publication around lunchtime today.  I don't normally do that.  Normally I either publish it right away, or schedule it for soon after.  But today I scheduled it several hours out.

It was a post about how Jeremy and I wonder when things will get easier.  When we'll be able to be in a group of people and not feel like we need to get home before we unravel.  When we'll stop getting angry at people who appear not to appreciate their kids.  When I can read one of those humorous mommy-blogs that make fun of parenthood and not want to scream at the computer screen that they don't know how good they have it.

I just deleted it.  Because God smacked me on the head and told me to get over myself.

I like to listen to podcasts while I'm in the shower.  Today I happened to listen to a Joyce Meyer podcast entitled What do you want out of life?  And within a couple of minutes, she started talking about getting your life out of "park" and into "drive" -- and heaven forbid if you have it in "reverse", because you can't be what God wants to be if you're looking backward.

And in that moment I knew I had to get out of the shower, rush to my computer, and delete that damn blog post.

So I did.  Then I listened to the rest of the podcast.

She went on to talk about verbalizing and writing down our intentions, being "mouthpieces".  She said that throughout the Bible, there were references to speaking -- God said, Jesus said, the serpent said -- and how we'd better understand how powerful words are.

I, of all people, should constantly be aware of that.  I make my living through words.  But sometimes I get so mired in sadness, anger, even guilt, that I forget how powerful this blog is.  I started writing this blog not only as a journal that I publish in a hardbound book once a year, but also for my friends and family to keep up on my life.  But now it's so much bigger.  I know at this moment, perfect strangers are reading it.  And they're listening to my messages.  And they're either going to come away depressed or uplifted.

I'm not saying that I won't be honest about how I feel here.  What I am saying is that words can shape your life.  Words can shape your week, your day, your freaking lunch hour.  And even when you're feeling negative, saying positive words, or simply reshaping your negative words can have the most profound impact on everyday life.

I miss my daughter.  Thank you, God, for giving me such a perfect little girl for 19 whole months.

I am angry at people who don't appreciate their children.  I have a clear view of the blessings in my own life.

I am sad that our house is no longer filled with happy toddler shrieks, and it feels so empty.  I am so blessed to have been able to buy a house large enough for a family, and to have a husband who wants to fill this home with children with me.

God is being gentle with me right now.  So I am going to try to remember to listen a little more carefully.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Things That Help

I don't know if I'm being directed to all the right things right now, or if I'm just paying more attention than I did before.  But I guess that doesn't matter.  What matters is the right material is appearing in my life.

The Black Widow comic book series, for one.  I read Deadly Origin before my tragedy happened, and I absolutely fell in love with the Black Widow character.  I thought that she was so inspiring. Anyone that can go through what she's been through and still try to do the right thing, still love and still trust, is a hero in my eyes. And she doesn't even have superpowers.

Jeremy had two more of her stories in his comic collection, so I read them this week -- and I couldn't put them down.  I read all 9 or 10 issues in one sitting.  The Name of the Rose hit me particularly hard.  Black Widow's character feels like home to me.  I recognize the pain she holds close to her chest -- the tremendous loss, the perseverance that she will live another day, the hope she clings to.  And oddly enough, she's got dark red hair.  Could a more perfect character have come along?

I can't read books right now.  It's too hard.  My mind wanders to horrible places.  But comic books... I can read those easier.  I don't know why.  I never really enjoyed that medium before.

Another thing that has been helping me deal is the album Current, by Sarah Macintosh.  I've never listened to Christian music before.  But Josey saw her live in concert at a church in Colorado Springs last year, and recommended her to me.  Current was released shortly after Scarlett's death, and I have been listening to that album non-stop (along with Lindsey Stirling's violin music, which touches my heart very deeply right now).  Sometimes I put the song Joy Comes In on repeat, because it's such a strong reminder that things will get better.  And I'm memorizing it so I can sing it as a lullaby to the children I hope to have in the future.

A new gym just opened a few miles from our house.  It's one of those fancy gyms with two saunas, a cafe and  a massive selection of classes.  I got a tour today, and I think after I try it for a week I will be getting a membership.  I don't mind being around the children in my family right now, but going to a local rec center full of kids is just too much for me to bear.  So I think this gym will be good for me.  It really caters to adults who are serious about their health.

Anyway, this is just my experience right now, that the right things are coming my way.  Just another example of how the universe works -- it sends you what you need, when you need it.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Sometimes it feels like I'm dreaming.

I realize that's the "denial" stage of grief.  Or rather the denial side of the pendulum.  Our counselor says traumatic grief works more like a pendulum.

And it's been like this since the moment I found my daughter cold in her crib.  The shock registered in my brain as, "I'm having a bad dream.  I'm going to wake up any second now."  And I kept thinking that, even as I answered the emergency personnel's questions.  And the policeman's questions.  And the coroner's questions.  I kept thinking I was going to wake up.

In the days that followed, that notion that I was dreaming faded a bit.  Reality stepped in for a very short period of time.

Then I started feeling like Scarlett was the dream.  And Jeremy has shared this exact same feeling with me.  Sometimes it feels like those 19 months were a really great dream, and now we're awake.

This sensation, of being awake from a really good dream, did not help my ability to fight depression.  I struggled with wanting to go to bed and never get up.  Never wake up.  Just keep dreaming.  I am proud to say I fought that with all my might, and Jeremy helped me every step of the way, and I won that fight.  I have gotten out of bed every morning.

But still, that sensation of dreaming comes and goes.  Sometimes the dream is that Scarlett is gone.  Sometimes the dream is that Scarlett was here.  I glimpse reality between the dreams.

No More Wasted Time

A few days ago I responded to an email from a friend who is both a yoga teacher and a writer.  She expressed to me her amazement that I can (at least appear to) stay positive through this experience.  And she felt that if she were in my shoes, as in touch with her spirituality as she is, she would still respond negatively.  I wrote her these words...

You know what's kept me strong -- besides my incredibly supportive husband, that is? My spirituality. God has literally been holding my hand through this. And when I think about God, and what a great gift he gave me, and how he is caring for Scarlett now in heaven, it eases the pain a little. And I know, with absolute certainty, that I will see my daughter again. It is the most comforting thing to KNOW that.  I never gave much thought to the actual logistics of my faith until now. But there it is. It's impossible to be negative when I see magic all around me. When I have the love of my husband, the compassion of my friends and family, and the knowledge that there is just a thin veil and such a short amount of time between me and Scarlett. This life goes by in a blink. Fifty or sixty years from now (hopefully), I'll be crossing over to meet Scarlett, and I want to tell her great stories of how she inspired me.

I meant every word.  This life is so damn short.  I have such a limited amount of time to show Scarlett what she meant to me.  I'm not going to waste a single day on whining about how life sucks -- because I don't want to have to explain to my daughter that her life, and her death, were for nothing.

Emotional Contagion

We stayed in a hotel in Colorado Springs last night.  We thought maybe the change of scenery would do us some good.  And our room was absolutely gorgeous.

I had come down to the Springs for a work gathering.  I worked in the office for the afternoon, and saw some of my coworkers face-to-face when usually we're a virtual team.

I loved seeing everyone, but I admit it was hard when so many people's first words to me were softly spoken.  "Are you doing okay?"

Because there is no good answer to that.  Sometimes in that moment I am doing great!  And when that question is asked, I am reminded of why they're asking.  Sometimes in that moment I am having a rough time, biting back tears or trying not to scream at the ceiling.  And when that question is asked, it makes it that much more difficult to hold back the flood of emotions.

So I give a general "I'm hanging in there."  Or "One day at a time."  Because, in general, that is true.  And I don't necessarily want anyone invited into my head at any one particular moment -- because I do believe some people would go catatonic if they got a glimpse of what's going on in my brain right now.

I figure this blog is enough of a peek behind the curtain.  If you want to know the details, you go here.  If you want to know when I'm having a rough day, you go here.  I can hide behind this computer screen and let it all loose and I don't have to worry about listening to the symphony of sobs.  I can speak uninterrupted.

Sometimes when I'm having a particularly bad moment, one of those moments where it feels like my heart has been doused in acid and is leaking out of my chest in chunks and ooze, I worry about being physically near people.  I can't help but think if they get near, they'll feel this pain radiating from me.  Like the horror of my experience, the traumatic memories that force their way into my brain at the oddest moments, are a part of my electromagnetic field and they are contagious.  And I don't want anyone else to ever feel this way.  Ever.  Ever.  Ever.

I realize that's all in my head.  I know my emotions don't infect people.  But you'd be amazed at the crazy thoughts that your brain comes up with when it's trying to move through a trauma.

I have to say, though, that I feel an element of immunity from babies.  I mean, I don't worry about infecting them with this pain.  Like their innocence will protect them.  And especially when I hold them, my worries fade fast, and it's as if their innocence infects me.  Holding my friend's month-old baby Ocean at dinner last night, traumatic memories faded and I could just be.  There was no sense of desperation, or not wanting to give her to someone else to hold, or being nervous holding her -- I just held the baby and I was me.

Monday, March 12, 2012

I Dare You

I'm in one of those moods.  Those "I dare you" moods.

I dare someone to say something rude to me.  I dare someone to complain about anything.

I don't get angry much these days.  And I don't like feeling angry -- it's absolutely the most destructive emotion.  But I know it's natural and I have to let it happen sometimes.

Unfortunately Jeremy is not the best person to deal with me when I feel like this.  He battles anger a lot.  He always has.  So he doesn't always understand why I want to fight this emotion down, when it's a natural response for him.

Jeremy and I are good at balancing each other out.  That's one of the things that makes us work so well as partners.  But when we're both angry, one can't help the other.

Luckily my anger tends to go away fast.  I hope this time is no different.

Joy of Dance

I went to a NIA class with my friend Kirby up in Lafayette last week.  I used to attend that class as regularly as I could when Jeremy and I lived in the area, but I haven't been back since we moved to Northglenn.

This teacher is particularly good at bringing an element of spirit to this rather rigorous style of working out.  She incorporates a lot of tribal music, Irish music, and other types of music with deep, earthy drum beats that make you want to stomp your feet and reach for the heavens.

At one point, toward the end of class, she told us to freestyle a bit to this great Irish jig. And as I was skipping around the room with half a dozen other smiling ladies, I suddenly felt this rush of joy. Tears welled up, and my heart swelled, and I took a deep breath as the tide of joy washed over me. It was so freeing, and so absolutely needed.

I get it now. When people say that dancing makes you happy -- and I don't care if they explain it away with serotonin production and biological brain response -- I get it. Skipping around that room to Irish music, I felt a little bit of heaven.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Peace of the Right Words

A couple that we are close friends with, along with their two young daughters, came to visit us this weekend from Colorado Springs.  At one point Saturday night, 6-year-old Kenzie was sitting next to me on the couch. She turned to me and said, "Um, Miss Jessi?  I miss Scarlett."

It was as if the world paused for that moment.  I felt all eyes in the room on me.  But as I keep experiencing lately, the right words came without trying.

"I miss her too.  We all do," I said.

"Yeah.  I just miss her," the little girl responded.

"But you know we'll all see her again someday."

Kenzie looked at me quizzically.

I said, "Scarlett's an angel."

Understanding washed over her face, and Kenzie smiled and nodded.

Being on this side of a traumatic experience is a bit like being a public speaker.  Everyone is watching you, waiting to hear what you have to say -- not just to hear your wisdom, but to make sure they are in the right place, and in a way to see if you are as human as they are.

I was always terrified of public speaking.  Heck, even conference calls made me nervous.

Now the right words seem to come without effort.  And most of the time, I am able to speak without breaking into tears.

More and more I find myself saying just the right thing to just the right person.  I feel a spirit moving through me, turning my exhalations into reassurances and messages of peace.

I feel so incredibly lucky to have been born a writer.  I want to capture this peaceful energy so I can disperse it, and the written word is the perfect conduit for that.  I hope I can capture it all -- if not in this blog, then in the emails I write back to people who are reaching out to me.  And maybe someday in a book.

This energy, spirit, force, whatever, is moving through me for a reason.  And it's not just to help me cope with this tremendous loss.  I believe, with all my heart, that it is meant to help others as well.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Better Days?

I had a long talk with God today.

For the first time in my entire life, I look back at a period of time and think, Then is better than now.

I guess I've been blessed in that each year of my life has always been better than the last.  I have never had any regrets, or wished I was back in time.  Until now.

The last 19 months of my life were the best I've ever had.  And I want them back.  I want to go back in time and live them again.  For the first time ever, today is not better than yesterday.

And as I was explaining this to God (we talk a lot these days), I got a distinct message from him.  Things will get better.

And I responded, You've set an extremely high bar for yourself.  You have a hell of a lot to outdo to make things "better".

But the feeling didn't fade.  I still got the sense that things would get better.  That I, that we, had better days ahead.

I can't imagine how life could possibly be better than the last 19 months.  But I hope a year from now I am referring back to this blog post and saying, "Here's how things got better."

Friday, March 09, 2012

Reassurance and Senselessness All in One

I got a call from Scarlett's doctor today.  I'll call this incredible woman "Doc" from now on in this blog, because she really deserves her own special place here.

Doc was as devastated as our family was when Scarlett passed.  Jeremy and I wondered if she blamed herself, or thought that in some way she should have been able to prevent this.  But now we realize that our little family held a special place in her heart ("we were the most relaxed, natural parents she'd ever met, and Scarlett was such a delightful child"), and she grieved for our loss.  But rather than doing the typical doctor thing and going distant from the trauma, she took it upon herself to find out what the hell happened.

Doc has been calling the coroner's office every few days, insisting on updates.  And she called us today to say, finally, that they are about to report Scarlett's death officially as "from undetermined causes".  They are waiting for a couple more tissue samples to come back from the lab, where they were trying to see if maybe there was some sneaky bacteria that had caused this, but it's a slim chance there will be anything more to report.

So Doc tells me on the phone today "I want you to know that I will remember your family for the rest of my life.  And I am going to do everything I can to ensure your future children are watched closely."  And she went on to detail her plan to harass one of her colleagues in cardiology, because she thinks maybe a heart arrhythmia is what caused Scarlett's passing.  This arrhythmia can only be seen by an EKG -- so normal checkups don't find it.  And it's really a best guess.  There is no way to determine if Doc's theory is correct.  However, she is going to talk to this cardiologist to get his opinion about whether it was a possibility, and to set up a plan to care for our future children.  From prenatal monitoring to scheduled EKGs, Doc is going to be on our family's case from this point on.

I can't tell you how comforting, reassuring, and just darn NICE that is to know.

However, she insisted we shouldn't worry.  She said there is absolutely nothing anyone could have done to prevent Scarlett's death.  She said this kind of thing is so insanely rare that we shouldn't worry for even a moment that it will happen to future children.  I think she wants to do our worrying for us.

Jeremy and I adore Doc.  She's been such a blessing to us.  We are so lucky she was Scarlett's doctor, and we absolutely want her to be the doctor for any future children.

So this call was reassuring, in that she confirmed Jeremy and I couldn't have done anything to control this situation.

But at the same time, it makes this situation even more senseless.  Like this really was an act of God -- no human cause can be found.

You know what they say about angels, though.  They're hard to find, and God has to select each one by hand.

Perfect Poem

We get at least two or three sympathy cards in the mail every day.  And they are all touching and heartfelt in their own unique and beautiful ways.  Today we received a card from one of my long-time coworkers, and it had the most perfect poem inside.  I want to share it.

Near a shady wall a rose once grew,
Budded and blossomed in God's free light,
Watered and fed by the morning dew,
Shedding it's sweetness day and night.

As it grew and blossomed fair and tall,
Slowly rising to loftier height,
It came to a crevice in the wall
Through which there shone a beam of light.

Onward it crept with added strength
With never a thought of fear or pride,
It followed the light through the crevice's length
And unfolded itself on the other side.

The light, the dew, the broadening view
Were found the same as they were before,
And it lost itself in beauties new,
Breathing it's fragrance more and more.

Shall claim of death cause us to grieve
And make our courage faint and fall?
Nay! Let us faith and hope receive--
The rose still grows beyond the wall,

Scattering fragrance far and wide
Just as it did in days of yore,
Just as it did on the other side,
Just as it will forever-more.

A. L. Frink

Baby's Room

I sat in Scarlett's room this morning.

We have been putting all of her things in there.  It's full of toys and clothes, strollers, car seats and stuffed animals.  Her easel is in there, with her artwork still on it.  Her unfolded clean clothes are in a basket just inside the door.

And I sat in the middle of the floor and just cried.

Every time I walk by that door, about 20 times a day, I fight the urge to go in there.  I am so afraid of sinking into this pain and disappearing, I never let myself go in there.

But our counselor this week encouraged me to do this.  I told her my fears and she told me that I would not go comatose, that I needed to experience this grief or it would multiply.

So I sat in Scarlett's room this morning.

I thought I would collapse.  I thought maybe I would just curl up and die.  I thought there would be some violent reaction.

But everything felt so familiar.  Like none of the time since her death had passed.  Like just this morning she was pushing that damn plastic Dora chair across the tile in our kitchen, chasing the dog while Jeremy and I said "Bugs, please stop chasing Tyr.  Go put your baby in your stroller instead!"

There was no disconnect.  Everything felt normal.  Familiar.  Like I couldn't get my mind around why it was all locked away like that.

So I just sat in there and let the tears come.  And I survived.  I didn't collapse.  I didn't go comatose.  I didn't die.

And I've decided I don't want that room to be a mausoleum.  And I don't think I want to put another child in there, or make it into a guest room.  I think maybe, eventually, when we're ready, I'll move my office into that room.  I don't know if that's smart.  Or even right.  It's just what I'm thinking at this moment.

And every moment is different.  So I take each with its own respect.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Ghostly Presence

Apparently the Scarlett Angel has been visiting people.

The smoke alarm in our master bedroom AND between our master bedroom and Scarlett's bedroom went off synchronously -- both with brand-spanking-new batteries in them -- for just a couple of seconds.  On two different days.  And it hasn't happened since.

The door to the room where she slept at her Gramz and Grandpa Z's house mysteriously closed itself.

The stereo in my mom's car is being randomly set to songs with roses in the lyrics.

She is visiting her Grandma Mehring's dreams.

Maya smells roses out of nowhere.

And I hear her all the time, stirring in her crib just down the hall from my home office.

Sometimes it hurts that her presence is still echoing around us.  But most of the time it feels good.  Like she's just reminding us that she's never far.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Sad Day

Today was a sad day. It was a difficult day. Jeremy and I both felt it, though there was no specific reason why.

A few weeks ago we took Scarlett to get her passport. It was in preparation for a trip we were planning for July. That passport arrived in the mail today. Needless to say, that amplified our sorrow and anger.

I know we're each going to have our difficult days. And we'll never really know when they're coming. So we're trying to find coping mechanisms that work.

So far, we cope best together. A couple of hours apart is all we can muster before we desperately crave each other's company.

So once again I am thankful he is home with me. I don't know how we would survive if either one of us had a job outside the home.

But that is fate, or the gracious hand of God, or the universe taking care of us. Whatever you call it. I'm thankful for it.

And I'm thankful for my husband, my partner, the one whose strength and love gets me through and whom I can in turn care for every day.

Encouraging Verses

I have always been a spiritual seeker, and in the last few months I have started going to church and reading the Bible.  Mostly in an effort to find my spiritual comfort zone, but at the time I started, I also wanted a safe place for Scarlett to interact with other kids.

Now that it's just me (Jeremy is not a spiritual person in this way), I am still going to church for spiritual comfort -- but also in remembrance of happy times, in honor of the spiritual force that gave Scarlett to me in the first place, and as a message to Scarlett that I will never be far away.

I still have a lot of questions, but they are being answered one by one.  And though I don't think I'll ever be one to start quoting scripture at every turn, I did find this page of encouraging Bible verses to be amazingly uplifting.  And I just had to share.

Encouraging Bible Verses - Encouraging Declarations

Scarlett's Gardenia

Scarlett's gardenia is blooming!

Reflected Compassion

One of the great gifts of humanity is compassion.  But not only the fact that we possess that trait, and we can turn that into a mechanism to comfort one another in a time of crisis, but also that the reciprocation of compassion magnifies it.

I realize that compassion is greater in some people, even in some cultures, than in others.  I'm blessed to live in a society where compassion is common and somewhat expected.  I do not, for an instant, take that for granted.

We have received so much compassion over the last two weeks, and we find ourselves reciprocating automatically.  Part of it is that we don't want to have everyone sobbing on the phone when they call us -- but more than that, compassion calls on us to ease the suffering in those around us.

I can tell when I'm on the phone and someone is attempting to say the right thing, that they are about to collapse into tears because they feel so awful for us.  And my words come automatically.  "We were so blessed to have had her.  We are so blessed to still have each other.  Jeremy and I are focusing on each other, taking care of each other, and we will get through.  Be happy for us that we had such an amazing 19 months with our child, and that we have those memories forever."

And the words seem to comfort in just the right way.  The response is always "I was so worried about you guys, but now I see you will be okay."

People have comforted us in too many ways to count.  And all I can do right now is write these words, and say these words, but they have the power of all that compassion behind them.  These words magnify back all the love that we have -- all the love we had from our daughter for those 19 months, and all the love we have from the people around us now.  And I know people can feel that.  I can see it in their eyes and hear it in their voice.

We don't want people to be sad.  We don't want to see pain in their eyes when we come near.  We want to make everyone okay.  And we make an effort to make people okay.  And that, right there, is all the compassion we received, reflected back tenfold.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Sometimes Thank You Isn't Enough

Letters. Poems. Cards. Food. Artwork. Company. Text messages that simply say "I love you". Keepsake boxes. Chocolates. Flowers. Shared memories. How do you thank someone for these things when they literally keep you in motion? There aren't words.

You would think I, of all people, would be able to write the correct words. But nothing seems like enough.

I miss my daughter with every single breath I take. But the love around us combined with the love Scarlett gave us keeps me going, even when the ache threatens to drown me.

So just thank you. Thank you. You friends, you family, you distant former colleagues and friends of friends who just heard our story and reached out to strangers -- thank you. You have shown us a world of generosity, a side to humanity we didn't know existed.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Grief is the Price of Love

Grief is the price of love.  I saw that statement in a poem today and it absolutely echoed something Jeremy and I have been talking about.

Grief is absolutely crushing.  And traumatic grief can come after you at any moment, like a mugger in an alley.  But as painful, scary, and startling as it can be, it is also worth it to have had what we had.

If we had to experience this loss all over again, we would.  In a heartbeat.  Just for another 19 months with our daughter.  Hell, for another day with her.

Grief is a price we are paying.  And it may seem steep to all of those around us witnessing our experience from the outside -- but to us, the price simply equals the value of the intense love and happiness we got.

The Grand Design

After the events of February 23, everyone started seeing glimpses of a Grand Design.  Little things that, had we known to look for them, would have added up to the end event.  I'll share some of them with you here, so you can see as clearly as I do how there was a spiritual force at work here.

Scarlett got to see all of her grandparents and most of her aunts, uncles and cousins in the two weeks prior to her death.  Jeremy was able to bring her down to Colorado Springs for a day two weeks prior, where she attended the twins' swim lesson and ate dinner out with the Mehring family.  And the weekend prior to her passing, Jeremy and I celebrated Valentine's Day together in the mountains, so my parents kept Scarlett overnight that weekend.  Not living in the same town, Scarlett seeing that much family in such a short period of time was unusual.

Josey, one of my best friends who lives in Colorado Springs, had been trying to come up to visit us for months.  But something kept stopping her.  One of her children would get sick, or there would be a snowstorm.  Two weekends before Scarlett passed, however, Josey and her youngest son Connor were able to come and spend a weekend with us.  Josey got to spend more time with Scarlett than she ever had before, and Scarlett got to play with her little boyfriend Connor.

The weekend Scarlett spent at my parents' house, when she started making noises that Sunday morning and my parents went in to get her up for the day, they told me she was staring out the window with her arms out, saying "Hold you?  Hold you?"  It was only when my parents spoke to her that she noticed they were in the room with her.  Who was she talking to outside that second-story window?

The night before Jeremy left for Utah, Scarlett wasn't feeling well, so she was snuggling on my lap in the living room way past her bedtime.  I asked Jeremy if he thought I should try to make her go to bed, and he said "No, let's snuggle her some more tonight.  My ultimate fear is that she'll choke in her sleep."

The night she died, about an hour after I put her to bed, I had the monitor sitting next to me and I heard Scarlett yell out "NO!"  Just once.  No other noises, no crying, so I knew she was just sleep-talking.  Now I wonder if she was telling the angels she wasn't ready to go.  Because a couple hours after that, she started crying and I went in to comfort her the last time of her short little life.

And that night, I wavered on bringing her to bed with me.  We were sleep-training her, because we had a habit of bringing her to bed with us when she awoke in the middle of the night, and we were trying to get her to go back to sleep in her own bed.  And I wavered because she had just gotten over a stomach bug, and Jeremy was away -- but I held strong.  I didn't bring her to bed with me.  But imagine if I had.  Imagine if I had brought her to bed with me and I had found her passed away in my bed with me the next morning.  I would have gone the rest of my life thinking I smothered my child in my sleep.

When my dad lost his mother, he was 23 years old.  She died slowly of cancer.  And he has told me the story time and time again how her last night on earth, she saw an angel in the doorway of her hospital room.  So I believe sometimes when life is reaching toward death, some people can sense it.  Some people can see those angels, or at least sense the other side is close by.  And I think Scarlett was one of those who could see the angels as they gathered.

With how everything played out in the two weeks prior to February 23, I see the design.  I see how carefully each piece was set into motion.  Like tiny cogs in an intricate clock, every piece worked as designed.  And when the clock struck the right time, my angel was lifted ever so gently.  Ever so quietly.  Leaving only positive memories and happy days in her wake.

I tried to go to bed by myself last night for the first time since this happened.  And for an hour I was okay.  I read a graphic novel Jeremy had bought for me.  But suddenly I was overwhelmed with missing Scarlett and I started sobbing.  And just as suddenly, I had a picture in my head of the face she would make when someone was crying.  It was what we called her "WTF" face, and the thoughts behind that expression were unmistakable: Why the hell are you crying?  There's nothing to cry about, you crazy person.  Cut it out.  

And I burst out laughing.  In the midst of those tears I could picture the face she would be making at me at that moment, and it made me laugh.  I got a hold of myself, went downstairs and asked Jeremy to come watch TV in bed.  And there were no more tears.  I went to sleep in my husband's arms, and I think I even dreamed.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Every Day

Keep going.  One step at a time.  It's all a process.  Breathe.  She deserves more than this.

They're all mantras.  Words I say to myself when I start to feel like I'm going to collapse.  When I start to think of how inviting sleep is.  When I stop being able to speak, or I speak but the words are empty and not reflecting what is going on in my head.

I can talk about her.  I could commiserate with Jennifer today about the challenges of nursing an infant.  I could laugh about how early Selena got her teeth and say I was so lucky that Scarlett's teeth all came in right on time.  And it's like a mental block immediately goes up when I speak her name.  A defense mechanism, I guess, so I can carry on with life and not let her memory disappear in my sorrow.

But always later I think, maybe they expected me to cry when I spoke about her.  I think actually a lot of people expect me to cry.  But I can't always cry.  I can't go on with life if I can't speak about her.  I do hope people understand that.

I have wanted to go to church every day since I lost my daughter.  It helps to be in the presence of spiritual people -- as if heaven is a little bit closer to me when I am around them, and thus Scarlett is a little bit closer to me.  But I haven't been able to bring myself to go alone.  Jeremy offered to go with me, but I know how much he thinks there is no god right now, because in his opinion if there was a god these things wouldn't happen.  So as much as I appreciated his support, I couldn't take him up on it.

So my parents came up and went to church with me today.  And it was really good for all of us.  After the service, I went down to the front and asked for prayers.  There were a lot of shared tears, and I know the prayers were lifted up to the right ears.

When I arrived home, the entire Vargas family was here.  All five kids and Jen and Frank.  Our house was loud and full and it felt wonderful.  I don't like it when our house is quiet because it often fools me, just for an instant, into thinking that Scarlett is asleep in her room and we have to be quiet so we don't wake her.

I know I need to take some classes.  Go to the gym.  Learn a new instrument.  Get out of the house and distract myself from my emotions for periods of time.  And I will do these things -- but I don't know when.  Right now it takes all of my effort to breathe.

So every day a little step forward.  Every day another breath.  Every day a little closer to reaching for normalcy.  Every day a gift that I am trying not to take for granted -- because we have all witnessed how quickly, how quietly, a life can slip away.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Ruby Rose Hair

When I called to see if my stylist could squeeze me in this morning, I just planned to get a streak of scarlet in my blond hair. But when I arrived, it didn't seem like enough.

I've been a blond since the day I was born. But this new color feels good -- as if it's an aesthetic representation of the new me I feel on the inside.