This is Daddy and Madeline. It was taken after his last career flight. She was 5 weeks old and had just gotten home from the hospital after a month long recovery from the 1st of what was to be several “emergency” surgeries. I love this photo and to look and see how precious and adored she was by her Daddy. Her outfit was purchased by her brothers with their own money.
When I first started writing, Life According to John, I was not sure which way it was going to go. I felt I had some great stories to share about Johnny and his theory of life. But as I had written in the section “describing” my blog I had promised you would learn a little about Madeline, Our Sweet, Precious, Baby Girl, “whose too short time with us filled us with wonder.” And yes, I have dedicated some entries to doing just that. Then something happened, I’m not quite sure, why, but I got to thinking too much about it. That is, the should I write this? Is it the right thing to be sharing. I guess I thought “well, it has now been a year, how much more can I write about how much she is still loved, adored, and missed so much the grief still renders us, at times, immobile.” And the answer is, Plenty, I can write plenty.
A horrible secret you have to uncover on your own after losing your child is that it DOES NOT get easier. You do not become OK with them being gone. One Year IS NOT some sort of magic marker. I did not wake up on November 2, 2011, and feel, GEE……. glad that year is over…….. now for the easy part. Rather, on November 2, 2011, the pain was sooo great, the longing to hold her, smell her, and stroke her golden hair left me feeling completely lost and helpless. I was overcome with desire to shut down. I thought NOW, how in the HELL am I going to go through the rest of my life feeling like this. My heart has been broken, and it is too painful to breathe let alone take care of my boys. THAT is what I was thinking ONE YEAR later. I guess it is to become about learning How to go on and find a new future than what you thought you had planned. AND…..how to do this while keeping the rest of your family intact.
Now, we are in year two. I can be going about my day and WHAM, a slideshow of the morning she died starts playing in my head. Getting past being questioned by the police is still too difficult. I play over and over in my head what I could’ve done different that morning. What if? What if? I can still feel my blood run cold and the raw pain being alone in the middle of the ER screaming for her. “Madeline, Wake UP, Please Wake Up!”
Then the incredibly hard part of going to the school to get her brothers. I was not even there. Our Priest took my husband over to the school and their incredibly compassionate teachers stood by them when they heard this horrible news. Those teachers are also pretty much soley responsible for the boys making it through that year. Their caring and compassion went way beyond their job description. In addition to my boys, these teachers have held me up as well. Because if it wouldn’t have been the Little Brother crying under the Christmas Tree it might have been me, as I was finding it difficult to deal with all this grief at once. Mine seemed doable, but watching your children grieve, is something I can not yet put into words.
The thoughts and words that I have written above are the exact ones I have been trying to stifle and keep myself distracted from. Perhaps putting them out there will help. Because along with all the sadness, I have many memories of her 16 months that make me smile and give me comfort and some feeling of joy. I love to remember those times. Singing songs to get her to practice standing or watching Dancing with the Stars while waiting for her night nurse. Snuggling in our chair. The spunk and attitude she had and the smile that melted even the Toughest young Dr.’s in camo over at Walter Reed.
Recently, I had the pleasure of having dinner with a friend that I went from 1st through 12th grade with. I have seen her twice in 20 plus years. Last year and this. Funny how people work in your life. How we went from being Cookson Tigers and then cabin mates at band camp, to her guiding me in my grief is amazing. We were talking about my blog. I told her I thought maybe people did not want to read about all of this anymore and I wasn’t sure what to do. Through the power of Social Media she relayed how surprised she was to read via facebook that Madeline had been born. Then she shared her surprise and concern when no more than a week later she read Madeline was having major surgery and that she had Down Syndrome. And then she said, “and that began the Story of Madeline.” “Amy, she has a story, you are her voice. You should tell it.”
I have decided, that is what I intend to do. Her life on earth was 16 months, but what an incredible life it was. Her death changed us forever but because she LIVED we will never be the same.