Saturday, January 6, 2018
Today is the first anniversary of the day we held Rowan's memorial service at "Live the Life Church" in San Antonio, and had his graveside service at Hill Country Memorial Gardens in New Braunfels. One year. One year since I watched them lower his tiny Iron Man casket, and his body, into the ground. As I posted earlier, I don't remember breathing at all that day...I couldn't.
To say this day was difficult isn't a big enough word. The anniversaries have been so hard. The first birthday he wasn't here, the anniversary of his cardiac arrest, the anniversary of his death, and now of his burial...you relive every moment...even a year later, they feel like you are experiencing them all again...you just do.
I slept in today. And I woke up like I have every day for a little over a year... for a split second, looking to my right to check on Rowan in my bed. But like every day for the past year, he isn't there. For a split second, you forget, or more like you just don't remember yet. You don't remember that they are gone. You are in that early morning fog, where you are still waking up, collecting your thoughts.
Then, it hits you, like the same ton of bricks that has hit you every day for a year. They aren't next to you. They aren't even in the next room. They are gone from this world. They are in Heaven.
Today the same thing happened. Then, I looked at the time on my phone and I was relieved that I had actually slept until after 10:00 am. It was a gift. I had less of this day to relive...or so I thought.
I went in to the bathroom and took a long hot bubble bath. I stayed under water as long as I could, multiple times. I talked to Rowan. I talked to God. When I got out, I laid on the floor of my bathroom and cried, for well over an hour. I watched the entire Memorial Service from last year on my phone sideways, as I lay there on the ground, wrapped only in a towel, on the floor of my bathroom.
Don't get me wrong...the service was beautiful, so at times I smiled through my tears...Edwin's voice singing "Let it Be" and "I know the sun will rise" from Broadway's Lion King , Kainoa's voice and ukulele playing "Hallelujah", Christa's heart-felt personally written poem "Requited Love", Jen and Lorraine's personal accounts of Rowan (each of them had a special relationship with him, had lost their own daughters, and had received messages from their angels through Rowan), and Pastor Lisa leading the whole blessed service. I laid there and cried, and smiled, and remembered every single second of that day. It was both heart breaking, releasing, and necessary for me. Everyone grieves differently. But this is how I needed to start may day.
Next I met Zoe for pedicures. It was one of Rowan's favorite things to do. Ironically (or not), Anne, who was the last person to do a pedicure for Rowan (blue polish for his special eyes), just one day before he and I left for Seattle for transplant, came up to me. She remembers. She knows. She was there to do my pedicure today. She let me know that she just lost her husband suddenly 2 months ago. We hugged, we cried, and then she did my pedicure, just as she had done Rowan's in June 2016...his last one. It was a blessing.
As I left, I drove past the New Braunfels branch of the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center, I suddenly felt the urge to turn around.. Since Rowan passed away, I have donated platelets nearly every two weeks, every other Monday. The past few months have been so difficult though that I haven't been able to do it. Today, even though I wanted to be sad, I felt Rowan whispering to me "Mom, make the good, c'mon". So, I listened. It was too late in the day, and I wasn't scheduled for platelets but I went in anyway, and I asked them "Do you have time for a whole blood donation at least today?" They did. So I did. The whole time, the staff talked to me about Rowan and his story and his impact. I was so happy that I stopped. That I listened to that little voice in my head...Rowan. I will resume my biweekly platelet donations next month, but today, the day Rowan was buried last year, I gave the gift of life in his memory. He was certainly smiling down.
After the blood bank, I went to the cemetery. I go often... almost every single week. Today was different though. It was the day we placed his Earthly body there last year. So, it was different...special, but different.
I laid out his special "woobie" military blanket from his Texas Army National Guard fellow soldier and friend Sgt. Leal.
I brought several special flowers...Bells of Ireland, Irises, and orange roses. They all reminded me of Rowan and I, and were some of our very favorites.
I also brought the "Rowan's Reach" article from the Express News a few weeks ago, and I read him the entire story out loud. He would be so proud, so happy that his positive message was still being spread. Lisa Krantz, he would give you the biggest hug if he could, and tell you how awesome you did. At times, I had to stop and wipe my eyes repeatedly until I could see the pages of the newspaper again, but I eventually got through the entire piece.
I also brought a special little tin of magnetic poetry words of "Hope", yet another perfect gift from Lorraine Patterson.
When I opened it and started breaking the pieces apart, several absolutely providential words jumped out at me...a sign from Rowan, undoubtedly. Here are the sentences I formed with those words.
I laid on the ground as I ended the day, just as I began the day, but this time beside his grave, not on my bathroom floor.
I cried out to God, I wept to Rowan, I again wanted to sink down into the dirt where I lay. I used to spend nearly every minute of every day with Rowan, by his side at all times. Now, his body being six feet underground feels too far. His soul being in Heaven feels way too far.
I clutched at the dirt and grass, I scooted my blanket over his grave, not just next to it...I cried out...loudly. I wrote in the journal I write in to him every week. I begged him for more signs that I could make it until I get to hold him again.
The sky had turned a beautiful orange as it set...Rowan.
Then it was dark, pitch black, but the bench near Rowan's grave had the reflection of a cross shining on it. It was from the grave of a recent burial, where they had placed a glow in the dark cross.
I have been there at night since, but tonight was the first time that I had ever seen that cross reflect on that bench next to Rowan's grave. It was another sign...Rowan.
As sad as I was today...as monumental as it is to lay your child to rest, or bury their body in the ground...as many tears as I shed today...I kept hearing Pastor Lisa's voice throughout the day... "Rowan wasn't buried...he was planted!"
She was right, so very right. Every one of the "Rowan-isms" that we each recall or remember, is a seed that he planted in our brains and in our hearts. Rowan made this world a better place while he was here...but we can continue to make it better by living the way he did, by thinking the way he did.
"Make the good."
"Love your life!"
and all of the other words of wisdom we heard from our special boy, our angel.
Tonight, I will go to bed missing his physical presence in my life, feeling to the right for his body in my bed, listening for his breathing, or waiting for his pumps and monitors to alarm. But I will try to remember (once I am fully awake tomorrow, and the nightmare becomes reality once again), that while he is physically gone...
"Rowan wasn't buried...
he was planted!"
Thank you Pastor Lisa for that message, for the impact you had on Jalene's life, on Rowan's life, and on countless others, like mine.
Your message from Rowan's service one year ago today...got me through today, one year later... and so many days since.
Rowan would love the irony of that and he would explain God's perfection in that.
Saturday, December 30, 2017
As you may well imagine, this Christmas, decorating a tree did not feel the same...no, it wasn't the same. However, rather than just not doing one, we decided to do two trees instead. Zoe and Ian decorated one tree for our whole family. That is the tree we put gifts under.
I decorated a second smaller tree with all of Rowan's special ornaments, and the beautiful commemorative ornaments that so many of you have gifted us over the past year.
It was a labor of love and remembrance. I cried as I decorated it. I called some of you as I hung your ornaments. I placed his multiple musical stuffed hippos that played "I want a hippopotamus for Christmas..." under his tree, and his stuffed Christmas hedgehog, and Jingle, the Christmas dog. I also put his original Elf on the shelf, "Rick", under the tree. I didn't move him around...he just laid there this year.
It was the best I could do.
It was... just enough.
I guarantee there was not another tree like it in the world.
It was full of Bigfoot ornaments, Iron Man ornaments, and Hippo ornaments.
It was so distinctly Rowan's tree...
and it was beautiful!
Yes, last year the beautiful Tablizo family had bought him a chef coat, French fries, cotton candy...
and this perfectly Rowan inspired "Love Life" Yeti ornament...
Love and appreciate your thoughtfulness so very much!
Rowan's friend Charlotte made him an ornament this year to put on his tree...
Lorraine sent the most beautiful commemorative ornament...
Sherry sent ornaments in memory of her sweet Melissa, reminding us to "choose joy"...
Lorraine also sent a sweet "Max" bull mastiff angel ornament which definitely belonged on Rowan's tree. Ian then painted it to look brindle, just like Max's coloring...
So many special ornaments were sent to us, some from compete strangers, or left on our doorstep anonymously, like this one...
We even received this precious handmade ornament this week all the way from Ireland! Thank you so very much. We were blown away at the detail.
These two simple ornaments were ones that Rowan made with his occupational therapist and I last year, while he was in ICU. I remember how difficult is was for him to place each rhinestone and sticker. It was just days before he died. This year, they hung on his tree, and were anything but simple. They will always be two of the last things he ever made...they are priceless to me now.
This light up ornament hung in Rowan's hospital window on multiple Christmas's. It was supposed to let Santa know how to find him, when he wasn't at home. It always worked:)
The most precious and priceless ornament of all, was this one...Rowan's final handprint, in silver paint, on glass, made just hours before he passed. I am so grateful to the wonderful staff at Seattle Children's for helping us create keepsakes like this. I've laid my hand over his print on this ornament countless times. It makes me feel like I am holding his hand again.
Thank you for that gift.
This ornament was gifted to me from one of Rowan's favorite PICU nurses in Seattle, along with a beautiful letter. She gave it to me in his final hours. I had almost forgotten about it. But after I decorated his tree this year, I suddenly recalled that she had given me an ornament and a note, in a plastic hazardous medication "caution" bag :) I went in to Rowan's room (something that is very difficult for me to do), and I found it in a box almost immediately. Thank you Camy.
Finally, I decided that I should add one ornament to Rowan's memory tree each year myself. I don't want to ever feel like his memory is only in the past. I want him to continue to be a part of our life and the holidays. This year I chose a Charlie Brown ornament. Rowan and I spent more holidays in the hospital than not over his 10 years, which meant we celebrated those holidays in the hospital, which meant we made our own traditions there over the years. I grew up watching all the Charlie Brown specials during the holidays, it is something Rowan and I found comfort in too, especially when we were in the hospital. I still have all of his Charlie Brown character toys on the side of the bathtub. This Charlie Brown ornament spoke to me this year... it reminded me of our traditions, of making the best of holidays in the hospital... it reminded me of Rowan and I snuggled in his hospital bed together, year after year...Christmas, Thanksgiving, Valentine's Day, etc., watching the Charlie Brown specials together.
I'm not sure what type of ornament I will buy for his tree next year...but this year, this one was perfect.
Love you and miss you sweet boy. I hope you liked your Christmas tree as much as I did.
Zoe and Ian picked it out by the way;)