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;)
Monday, December 25, 2017
The holidays are not the same anymore...they just aren't. I wish I could lie to you and tell you they are, but they aren't.
The baby of our family, our youngest child...the only one who still believed in Santa...isn't here anymore. He's in heaven.
That changes everything.
Don't get me wrong, we rejoice for Rowan.
He is having "Christmas with Jesus", just like he was often comforted picturing his angel friends doing.
But us, down here...we miss him so immensely. The magic is missing from our Christmas plans. The joy is gone.
There was no elf on the shelf this year.
We did not leave cookies and milk for Santa, or a note asking him to find Rowan in the hospital (as we had to, more years than not).
We did not leave carrots and sugar for the reindeer.
We had a tree in remembrance of Rowan, but there were no presents under it for him.
We celebrated Jesus' birth, but we mourned the loss of
Sunday, December 17, 2017
I don't know whether to call it a build up, or a count down, when you approach the first anniversary of your child's death. There is anxiety, post traumatic stress, memories, nightmares, savoring the final moments, longing for more time... an entire whirlwind of emotions.
I have felt like a cyclone the past few weeks and even months as December 15th came closer and closer. Of course I dreaded it's arrival (though I wish there was a word for worse than dreading something). In some ways I thought it was a milestone I would never even make it to, so that tricked me into thinking there might be some sort of relief once I did. At other times, I felt guilt that I would still be here and he wouldn't, a year later.
Our family has the added component that Rowan died on his sister Zoe's 22nd birthday, and just 5 days before his brother Ian's 17th birthday. December 15th will always be Zoe's birthday, but we will never escape the fact that it is the anniversary of Rowan's death too. We have to learn to celebrate her, and mourn and remember him, simultaneously. Then, recover from that in just a few days, and celebrate Ian. December 20th, will always be Ian's birthday. All of my children are important, precious, loved, special. We want them to know and feel that, despite the tragedy of last year.
December will never be the same for us though, it just won't.
This year, the first anniversary, we tried to escape, to distract ourselves, to "get away"...and we did, to an extent. We asked Zoe where she would like to go, what would she want to do, especially since last year she spent December 15th flying emergently from San Antonio to Seattle with Brian and Ian, to be there with me as her little brother was taken off life support. How do you get that out of your mind as a young adult...as any member of the family?
Zoe chose New Orleans this year (one of Rowan's favorite places to go). She wanted us to be on Bourbon Street on December 15th, her birthday and Rowan's Heaven day, toasting to him with Jameson (his middle name). So that is what we did. We took a mini-vacation. We didn't even tell very many people we were leaving town. This time was for our family.
We did enjoy each other, and our trip. We had Lucky Dogs, shrimp and grits, gumbo, bread pudding, and beignets (Rowan was never allowed to eat any of those foods on Earth, but we bet he's getting his fill in Heaven). We stayed at a nice hotel, and each had spa treatments (thank you Tessa!). The city was beautifully decorated for Christmas, we heard lots of great street musicians, saw a wedding party celebrating and listened to a second line band outside our window one night. We met up with one of Rowan's best friends and heroes, who eventually became one of his pallbearers (Love you Matt!).
I brought Rowan's blankets, wubbys and a stuffed animal that we each had given him, for us to sleep with at the hotel. We toasted him, we laughed, we cried, we remembered him...but we still celebrated and had fun with Zoe and Ian. Ian had his first street corner Lucky Dog and his first Hand Grenade (shhhh;). Zoe had bread pudding from 6 or 7 places for her birthday over the course of the weekend (also shhhh;).
But, I don't know what I expected to happen after this trip...after December 15th, 2017 had come and gone.
I don't know what I expected...
but let me tell you what I felt today coming back into our empty home.
Nothing had changed.
Rowan still wasn't walking in the door with us.
We didn't carry him in sleeping from the car either.
His little footsteps still aren't heard.
His giggle isn't here.
Before we go to sleep, we won't all say prayers together, the 5 of us.
He won't be in my bed with me tonight.
I still won't be able to sleep without the sounds of his pumps, machines and equipment.
I won't wake up with his arm across my neck.
I won't carry him downstairs asleep in the morning.
I still don't have another tomorrow with him.
He is still gone.
These are forever the last pictures I have of him with each of us on this Earth (that I am willing to share) in my phone, on my laptop...
One year later... I don't know what I expected...
It isn't easier... it's just not.
I tried Zoe and Ian, I really tried,
and every year, every month, every week, every day,
sometimes hour by hour or minute by minute,
we will all have to keep trying.
That is all we can do...
until we are all together again...
***maybe tomorrow I will be able to post pictures of the fun we did have in New Orleans this past weekend. But tonight, walking back into this too quiet, too empty house, my heart hurts too much. This is raw, this real, but this is what it feels like one year later, at least to me***