Saturday, July 21, 2018
I've stared at this Ferris Wheel for hours, moments, days...
feels like years.
I never wanted to get on,
but I wasn't given a choice.
I know it will go up, but I also realize it will come down...
The view must be beautiful,
so beautiful it will hurt.
I won't be able to breathe...
I'll barely be able to see...
I'll want it to come off it's hinges,
to roll slowly into the water...
to sink into silence.
One car at a time,
one click at a time,
one moment at a time.
But it won't do me that favor.
How many cars are there?
How many times will it go around?
How many clicks until I can get off?
I can't tell.
I don't know.
It seems like an eternity.
Is it really as slow as it looks...
Yes, it is.
The fear doesn't go away.
The sadness never ends.
The view just changes (but only a little).
Car by car,
click by click,
moment by moment,
Who knew that a glorious fantastical ride could cause this much pain.
If my only choices were to never get on,
or never be able to get off...
I guess I'd choose the ride.
I'm on the Ferris Wheel now.
or it's raining.
I can't tell which.
Maybe the whole world is crying.
Maybe just me.
It stops at the top.
Please help me God.
The car rocks gently,
then harder with my sobs.
I can't control it.
I can't make it stop.
I want it to start moving again,
but I also don't.
I just want down.
I just want off.
I just want out.
I snap pictures quickly.
Maybe I'll be able to look at them,
and not feel terrified.
Maybe they'll look beautiful...
all I can do is hold on
One tick at a time.
One car at a time.
at a time.
The Ferris Wheel of grief.
(and ridden by)
Wednesday, June 27, 2018
"Flip Flops-part 2": Rowan reminds me to look for the signs...in the sand, at the beach, all around me...
I spent the past couple days at the beach in Rockport, Texas. It's the first time I've been able to go to a beach for two years. I couldn't go back to South Padre Island yet... that was the last beach Rowan was ever on, just before we left for transplant two years ago. But even going back to Rockport, or any beach for that matter, was difficult. Rowan probably stepped foot on sand fewer than ten times in his life, and he wasn't able to enjoy the ocean depths like most of us can (we had to keep his central line out of oceans, rivers and lakes due to infection risks)...but boy did he LOVE being there when he could. He'd skip in the shore up to his knees, run away from the tide, laughing and screaming, build sand castles, write messages to his angel friends in the sand, raise his arms to the sky, soaking up the sun and the breeze, thanking God...loving his life. It was a sight to behold. The ocean is already a miraculous sight to behold... but watching Rowan there...there just aren't words. So few times, yet so many memories, and so much joy.
I almost didn't go this week. I didn't think I could. But I went anyway. I reminded myself how much Rowan loved it. I tried not to dwell on how sad I was that he wasn't there with me this time.
See, the beach has had a lot of symbolism for us over the years. Rowan saw so many signs at the beach in his short life, on his limited visits. He had multiple dreams and visions of his angel friends at the beach too, and he gave messages to their mommies from them.
- The first time he had me write "I miss you Chrissie" in the sand, a rainbow came out shortly afterwards and he cried tears of joy, with his arms up to the sky, saying "She loves it Mommy!" He even told me, "I'm hugging her and it feels pretty." He was barely 4 years old.
- A few years later, he dreamed about Natalie, watching over his younger angel friends in heaven, and he told me that she was the only one wearing shoes. He said they were flip flops. Later we learned that her grave (in Florida) had flip flops engraved on it, and that her mom still had a pair of her flip flops near the door where she had last kicked them off before she died suddenly in a tragic accident. He painted a picture for her Mom years ago, of Natalie's flip flops on the sand at a beach, in front of a beautiful sunrise.
- Rowan also had a dream about sweet Avery, holding her baby brother, and said that her brother was holding a baby boy or girl too. He explained that he wasn't sure if Carter was holding a boy or a girl, that God didn't exactly show him clearly, so he painted a picture to describe it. He painted a larger pink heart (Avery), with a smaller blue heart (Carter) on top of it, and then another heart that was half blue and half pink on top of that one. They were all on a sandy beach in front of a sunrise. He used his thumbprints and pinky prints to make each heart. After we sent the painting and explanation to Avery's parents, they called to tell me just how meaningful it actually was. They were pregnant with twins, a boy and a girl...no one knew yet...but somehow, Rowan painted it.
So you see, beaches have always been special in Rowan's life. He saw signs there. He felt the presence of angels there. God was there. This week I hoped I would see some signs too. I needed to, I really needed to. And I did, oh boy did I...
First of all, moments before I locked the door to the house to leave, I suddenly remembered a gift I had received. Over a year ago, sometime shortly after Rowan passed away, Natalie's mom sent me special flip flops...VERY special flip flops. I hadn't dreamed of being able to go back to a beach yet, so I had them tucked away in my closet...for over a year! but I ran upstairs, and found them immediately. It was meant to be. I threw them in the car and headed south.
It's one of the first things I did when I got there...I walked alone down to the sandy shore, tears in my eyes, talking to Rowan, wearing the special flip flops, remembering how much he loved the beach. They were precious! They left perfect imprints in the wet sand. I stepped again and again, crying tears of joy each time I lifted my feet up to take another step. They are truly a gift that just keeps giving. One foot in front of the other is all I have been able to manage for a year and a half, but these flip flops were reminders, that with each one of those steps, his mark on this world continues...
"Love your Life"
… not just imprints in the sand, but in the hearts of so many.
Pam, I cannot thank you enough. As I told you, at first I was going to say, "You have no idea how much these mean to me", but then I remembered... you do, you honestly, truly do. You lost a child as well. Your angel now watches over Rowan and all of his angel friends, just as he described to me years ago... wearing flip flops in heaven.
Flip flops are synonymous with Natalie to me, just as they were to Rowan. I felt a little bit of heaven this week because of you, because of these priceless flip flops. Now they will forever remind me of our both of our angels. They left this world too soon for our hearts, but their footprints are forever imprinted in our souls, and in the hearts of others as well.
Thank you Pam, Natalie, Rowan, God,
from the bottom of my heart
and the soles of my awesome flip flops.
Rowan kept the signs coming while I was there at the beach in Rockport, bringing a smile to face and tears to my eyes many times in just 2 days.
As I walked the pier, these were both tied to a post... both orange... both God-winks...
As I drove back to the cottage from the beach, I saw this street sign...and when I looked at my photos later that night, I realized that it was an orange house on the corner of that street... so Rowan.
Then, this heart in the middle of the rocks, under the water. Rowan found hearts everywhere! Another God-wink.
Finally, (and I may be the only one who sees this, but I don't mind), some more orange caught my eye as I walked barefoot on the rocks near the water...
And later, while looking at and enlarging the photo, I noticed even more as I zoomed in on the orange spots...
Just above the orange area, I see a handprint under the water, with another heart on the outside edge of the palm... it's like he was waving at me:)
And finally, if you enlarge just the orange spot on the rocks, I see a hippo, facing left, mouth wide open... Rowan's favorite animal:)
As I said, I may be the only one who sees these particular signs, but that's ok. I am the one looking for them, I am the one taking the time to notice them, and I must be the one who needed them.
Rowan always told us, "there are signs everywhere, you just have to take the time to look for them". This week, I did.
Thank you for the reminders Rowan, thank you for the beauty of the ocean God, and thank you Cindy and Duane for the use of your cottage. It did my soul good.
I love you and I miss you Rowan, but I am keeping my eyes, ears and heart open baby.
560 days with Jesus...
I'm one day closer Rowan.
Tuesday, June 12, 2018
Friday was the end of the 2018 Rowan Windham Memorial Cereal Drive at Methodist Children's Hospital, benefiting the San Antonio Food Bank, as part of the National Cereal Drive and the Million Summer Meals for Kids. However, it was about WAY more than cereal...it was about perspective, which if you knew Rowan...makes perfect sense.
The number one thing I have heard from people since his death is that Rowan helped people with their perspective, that they learned not to complain about their problems because of him and his outlook on life. The same is true for me. his mother.
Don't get me wrong...there is absolutely nothing worse than losing a child (at least not that I have experienced or can imagine). Now remember, I lost my own mother 3 weeks to the day that Rowan died, suddenly and unexpectedly. It was the worst day of my life...until I lost my son. A few times I questioned whether I should voice that, wondering if people would think less of me, or think that I wasn't sad about losing my Mom. That is just not the case though. I was devastated...like fall to your knees in shock crying, when my family called me from Ohio to tell me my Mom was gone. But the thing is, I fell to my knees next to my own child's PICU bed. When I felt guilty about not being able to attend her funeral (think about that...I could not go to my own mothers funeral!). I was more than 2000 miles away, Rowan was critically ill, post transplant number two, on dialysis... how could I leave him? And when I asked myself that question I realized, my Mom would have NEVER left my side, EVER. I had my answer. I had perspective.
The cereal drive gave me perspective this year too. Rowan never ate a bowl of cereal in his life, yet we continue to collect cereal for thousands of children in his name each year. Then, Michael Guerra from the San Antonio food Bank shared with us that there are children in our community who actually fail classes on purpose, just so they can attend Summer school and be assured breakfast and lunch each day. Can you imagine? Failing school, forgoing your Summer break, going to school all Summer, just so you can eat. That is the definition of food insecurity, and it is a real problem. Hopefully, we can end it. It won't be in Rowan's lifetime, like he hoped...but maybe it will be in ours.
When Ian and I arrived at Methodist Children's Hospital this past Friday, with our final load of cereal donations, we were shocked (in a good way:). The lobby was filled with the most beautiful assortment of colorful cereal boxes you have ever seen...tons of them! I immediately smiled and said to myself "we got this Rowan", and I just knew that the goal had been hit...just not how far it had been blown out of the water.
We were given our shirts for this year, which were awesome!
This year, a new event was added to reveal day, "Rowan's Breakfast of Champions". I cried when I saw the banner hanging from the table.
It was to honor heroes in our community, both children and adults. It was inspired by Rowan's legacy of "making the good". I knew about it, but did not realize how profound it would be. The set up was perfect. There was a head table for our adult heroes, and 3 surrounding tables for 6 children who were impacting the world in a positive way too. Ian was one of the members on the youth panel, being recognized for the way he has excelled personally and academically, all while continuing to help his little brother's legacy live on in so many ways (Be the Match, Rowan Windham Memorial Cereal Drive, Rowan Jameson Windham Foundation). I could not be prouder of him.
They had a special sign marking my spot at the table too...so sweet:)
The 3 adult champions were Frank Wilson (Head Coach of the UTSA Football Team), Matt Bonner (Former San Antonio Spurs Player), and Manny Diote (Founder of Ferarri Kids).
The children asked each of the adults questions about how their personal experiences helped inspire them and how they made it through tough times.
These 3 men were such amazing encouragers, and gave wonderful advice to the youth, as well as to the crowd. They talked about perseverance, strength, and giving back to your community. At the end of the session, I was able to thank them all for participating, and gave them each one of Rowan's bracelets. I was very emotional. I explained that I missed Rowan so very much, but that I could see him all around that table that day. I saw him in each of them, and in all the good they were making. It was a special moment...an event that I hope they continue to include in this cereal drive.
We had a photo opportunity afterwards, before heading downstairs for the final cereal total reveal. Thank you Manny, Coach Wilson and Matt. You were a great addition to our special day, and tremendous assets to our community.
Thank you to the SA Spurs for posting about the event later that evening too.
The cereal drive press conference was overwhelmingly powerful as well. Robert Lenza, CEO of Methodist Children's Hospital, gave the history of the drive, and explained how Rowan came to be involved. Then they showed a very emotional video of Rowan over the years at MCH. It was narrated with a letter written by one of Rowan's long time favorite PICU nurses, Trudy. The way she explained his compassion was beautiful. I cried my eyes out. He was such a beautiful child, with a heart of gold. They captured his spirit perfectly.
Thank you Mr. Lenza for allowing my boy's legacy to live on through your staff and this event. Thank you to Captain Cereal, Greg, for holding me up as I wept in front of the crowd throughout the video. Thank you Trudy, for caring for Rowan over the years, and for explaining his compassionate way so beautifully. Thank you Nichelle for bring me the napkin so I could wipe the tears from my eyes. Thank you Stacy and Veronica for your obvious labor of love, which I realize involves a lot of labor, but is also extremely full of love. Thank you Cheri for helping promote this drive, and for the addition of the very special Rowan’s Breakfast of Champions. Thank you to ever member of the hospital staff who helped make this cereal drive successful once again this year, and for everything you do to help families and patients like ourselves every day.
What an amazing group of people. Everyone pulled together to help wrap the pallets of cereal and load those trucks...SA Food Bank staff, nurses, doctors, and other hospital staff, Ian and I, members of Gencure's staff, and even children of hospital staff members. It was truly a sight to behold. Awesome teamwork.
Then, while dozens of us were loading up 3 SA Food Bank trucks, even more cereal continued to be dropped off outside, and more texts came in regarding cereal totals that were on their way. So, in the end this year’s total ends up being:
200,000servings of cereal!
The overall hospital winners were:
Division Winner- Advanced Clinicals/IT&S Team: 77,892 servings
Unit Winner- Pedi Surgical: 12,299 servings
Look at these hats that they made! So adorable.
I also want to thank everyone who helped us grow Rowan’s individual memorial donation amount…
Judy & Caleb WindhamCindy & Duane Buethe
Yahan Xie, Classmates & Friends
Jen Salinas, Tamika Haley & Friends
Tessa & Jaxon
Including all of the awesome businesses that agreed to be cereal collection stations on Rowan’s behalf…
Keller Williams Cityview
Gencure/South Texas Blood & Tissue Center locations
Copa Wine Bar
in New Braunfels
Together, along with our own purchases of cereal, you all helped us deliver 9061 servings on Rowan’s behalf. That is nearly 3 times the amount he collected that first year from his hospital room, and it put him next in line this year, right behind the division and unit winners, ahead of all the other units of the hospital! It was a group effort for sure, and we are so grateful to you all.
One of the most powerful moments of the day Friday was when Michael Guerra, from the SA Food Bank, with tears in his eyes, said that because of Rowan’s legacy, he was hopeful that San Antonio just may be one of the first cities to end Summer childhood hunger. What a beautiful day that will be. I hope he’s right. Knowing Rowan's spirit, I believe he is.
Michael, you and the rest of the staff of the SA Food Bank are the real heroes. You feed the community not just in the Summer, but throughout the year, and in times of great crisis. You are the hands and feet of Jesus. Thank you.
I love you Rowan… your light is still shining bright down here. Imagine how many children will have breakfast because you inspired people to “make the good”!